Any old player who may have regularly checked the World of Warcraft forums may remember the age old rant suggesting that casual players be given a place within the game world. The tides have changed my friends, and they've definetly got their way.
I started playing the game in December of 2004, and continued to play until the release of the first expansion, and although I had never quite obtained the absolute best of everything from raiding and PvP I still enjoyed the idea that there were things out of my grasp that I had to work and spend time to achieve.
Burning Crusade was then released in 2007 and that killed most of my interest in the game, mostly because they added stats to the game that rendered all previous endeavers totally useless and with the raising of the level cap I could see the game was going to become an expansion based carrot-chase for years to come... so although I had friends beginning to come to game, I decided against purchasing it.
Although I chose not to purchase BC I still don't feel it was the complete downfall of World of Warcraft. I have just recently recieved a copy of the expansion pack to go back and see how the game is doing now.. and at first I was hit with the nostalgia of logging onto level 60 characters that hadn't been played in 3 years. Then I was hit by the realization that basically all personalization of the in-game world is gone and now the quests and gameplay that I had once spent hours slaving over now has been stripped down to it's very basic mechanics.
You want to do a dungeon? Hit a button and get rewarded for doing a random one! You want to do a quest? Sure, here's a map detailing exactly where it is and how to do it, but as if that's not enough.. we'll even point out to you which enemies are quest related when you mouse over them.. you know, in-case you couldn't read and couldn't understand that they were the right one. You want to do raids and get the best loot the game has to offer? Sure, bring your 9 year old brother along so he can get some too but make sure that half your group doesn't randomly disconnect or you might have an issue on the end boss!
It's not that I wish Blizzard would make the game designed solely for hardcore players, with no attention given to casual players. The game simply is losing features and things that made the experience more enjoyable. You have new players coming to World of Warcraft, playing for a few weeks and being max level in a fraction of the time. Flying mounts have essentially killed all aspects of world PvP with very few exceptions being in contested popular questing areas ( for the whole 2 hours you are in the zone before you've passed it's usefulness ). Players are rewarded with mounts and great quality items at lower levels for almost no cost, and those levels are now quicker to obtain.. literally all reward of leveling is dumbed down.
Activision-Blizzard has fully realized their potential to make money and expand the market for World of Warcraft as best they can, even if it means literally changing the game to the point where it is almost unrecognizable to it's returning veterans. There seems to be such favor placed to the game's new playerbase, the people who complained about any sort of skill-gap the game had once had. They are changing the game to the point where literally non-gamers can achieve top tier after a short period with the game. Perhaps it's not yet to a point that bad, but it's on it's way. They have begun to add 'harder' versions of the dungeons and have spoken on doing more in those areas, so perhaps at some time end-game may become a more difficult and rewarding challenge once more skilled players reach 80 and soon 85, but the core game will still continue to be stripped down and whored out to the increasing population of gamers requiring instant-gratification in their modern games.
This is an increasing gaming trend however, and with every new MMORPG announced, we see modern deriative gameplay slowly become the norm. With the exception of very few, I can think of almost no modern MMORPGs that don't borrow many casual elements from games like this, and personally I think this industry is abandoning the people who made it famous. This was a game I once held in high regard and loved as a fairly serious player, this was the game that broke my early teenage bank to continue to fund and pump hundreds of dollars into, only to be denied by the developers in favor of their new and broader market.