The first graphical MMORPG was The Realm in 1995. Every MMO to follow would stick to a fantasy setting until 2001 when Anarchy Online released. As we jump forward 9 more years, the landscape hasn't changed much. MMORPG.com's list of games reveals that 63% (245 of 389) of all MMORPGs belong to the fantasy landscape. Why is this the case? The easy answer is the lack of demand, but it's not the complete answer.
During the world cup, I published an article about every soccer MMORPG, whether it be more action oriented or a more strategic web based style. Between feedback and research, it became pretty obvious that "soccer MMORPG" was not the term that usually came to mind for these games. Yet for the most part they fit the definition as well as an Everquest or Warcraft. If people want to play soccer they Google "soccer video game" or rely on games like FIFA and Winning 11 to sufficiently brand themselves. The problem is that these games were originally developed to be played live with a friend or against a computer. On the other hand, soccer MMORPGs were developed to be played with thousands across the internet with a healthy dose of addictive leveling-esque features. People that have taken to these games really enjoy them but for the average gamer MMORPG means World of Warcraft, orcs, and elves at best and is an unknown term at worst.
This means there is some sort of a disconnect between the right audience and the game itself. Gamers need to realize that anything is possible to be elevated to MMO status. We live in a technologically advanced world where everybody is connected to everybody else on an almost constant basis. It's these connections that are the greatest evolutionary step in gaming. Eventually, I think everything will be able to be considered a "MMORPG". Games like Battlefield are offering persistent character development. I don't think persistent worlds is a long way off as clamoring for realism grows, especially in the FPS community.
It will be a matter of time before MMORPG loses it's current meaning and evolves into something greater. Gamers playing Call of Duty and World of Warcraft will have similar access to thousands of people and will offer experiences more similar than different. If you are interested in a quick look at something else then here is short list of high quality action MMORPGs. That term might be a misnomer today but in a few years I think it will be pretty standard for these games.