I was surprised by a recent community highlight article about the unpopularity of raiding. Some people were also surprised by this, but not so much because it's shocking, but because it's such a staple of MMOs these days... one that I think a handful of us are getting tired of.
In the old Asheron's Call days, "raiding" wasn't something constantly forced on you. You didn't have to run raids several times a week and come out empty handed. As a matter of fact, because of the game's loot was randomly generated, most "raid items" were simply an above average item with unique art. Often they could be given away, though sometimes not (unlike in WoW, items dropped on death, though a few didn't). Sometimes an item didn't drop on death, but that only made it kinda crappy. Essentially, more often than not, "raids" led to fluff items (like house items or shortcuts to popular places) or items that gave your character a small advantage (which didn't mean a whole lot since the level cap in that game wasn't something you were expected to hit... at all).
From the sounds of it, you may think that raiding wasn't very popular, and, in a sense, you wouldn't be wrong. Raiding was non-instanced, so you could zerg an encounter. The respawn was fast compared to the week long timers we deal with now. Often, you'd spend a few hours at the raid spot waiting for your turn to get the item, or if on a pvp server, fighting for that right. Some where along the way, developers got the idea that it was more fun to go in week after week to get items than to go once, stand in line, and be done with it.
In AC, raiding was primarliy done for fun, a concept competely foreign to theme park MMOs. Encounters usually included the terrain you fought in or the way you got into a dungeon. For example, one dungeon might have fast spawn times, so you'd be under constant attack as you slowly made your way to the bottom, trying not to get overwhelmed by mobs while looking for a special mob, not much harder than the ones you were fighting, but sheer numbers alone would make it a night to remember. Other raids involved epic journies across the world, collect parts from various dungeons in order to unlock a dungeon so that you and your friends could ALL get a special item. Granted, it may have been near useless, but since the game had housing, you should show it off. It was true prestige, since the journey there often took a decent amount of coordination, not months of running the same bosses over and over again.
Darkfall, a newer sandbox MMO, also has "raids" in the form of gigantic monsters capable of easily slaughtering unwary travelers. They don't sit in dungeons waiting to be killed, but roam the map. Yes, they have certain areas they prefer to hang out in, but it's not uncommon to be found by them as a new player or veteran simply trying to go from town to town. Because they're out in the world killing travelers, there's some incentive to kill them, and the rewards aren't too shabby. Saddly, like in WoW, it may take awhile to be "done farming" them, but the large amount of cash they drop can be divided up (cash having decent value in Darkfall, meaning there is some incentive to participate). Again, unlike WoW, these large monsters aren't primarily used as loot pinatas, but by and large for fun. It's a good change of pace and gives players bragging rights.
Much like "quests," theme park MMOs have turned a sandbox concept that was about fun and prestige into a simple grind. The amount of work raids take in order to essentially be "normal" is neither fun nor worthwhile for many of us. Few video games aside racing and puzzle games put emphasis on repetitive game play and call it a feature. Even then, games like Mario Kart have enough fluff and variety involved that the gameplay is fun. Losing in Mario Kart only wounds your pride. Few people, such as my brother, honestly get upset when they spend a night losing in that game. It's mainly fun, no matter who wins or loses. No one leaves wipe night in a new raid and says, "That was fun!" except for raid/guild leaders who know they have to keep morale up.