There are more WOW players then you can shack a player crafted stick at these days. I'll be the first person to say Blizzard definitely has their "ducks in a row". The phenomenon that is WOW has shaped (and is shaping) MMO culture as we speak. But how is that change manifesting.
I have a coworker that plays WOW. He's a cool guy and relatively intelligent from what I can tell of the conversations I've had with him. Since we both work in game retail, I asked him in the beginning what kind of genre of games he played. He said he usually only played games on the computer. I responded by saying,” Okay...Do you like shooters then?" He said he'd played Counter Strike for a while, but he was really into World of Warcraft. He proceeded by asking me if I played it, to which I told I had tried it, but felt like it was missing some key elements that I had enjoyed so much in previous MMORPGs. He then asked me,” What are MMORPGs?".
Yes, WOW is opening up and expanding the MMO industry by bringing people who previously would know nothing about the genre into it. The problem is 90% of these people think WOW is all there really is. Yes, they know that there are other online games out there, but consider them likely inferior and unimportant compared to WOW, calling them WOW clones when in fact WOW is cloned from them.
A prime example of this took place this evening when I struck up a conversation with a grocery store clerk after he had found out I worked at the local game store. When I asked him what he played, he said "Oh, I play a lot of WOW. Do you play WOW?" I told him what I told my coworker, that I tried it and that it just didn't stick with me. "Well, if I could get you into some of the high level dungeons I could show you what a fun game it really is!" he said quite enthusiastically. I told him I had played games in the past online that were a lot more fun and I begin to describe one of them, but cut it short as I saw him just kind of zone out. Seeing that I was finished saying whatever it was I was saying that had nothing to do with WOW he bid me farewell and I did the same.
I get the strong sense that I am talking to the members of a large syndicated and brainwashed cult that are constantly trying to gain more members, but mentally resisting the notion of online gaming outside of WOW.
Diversity is the spice of life, my people. Hopefully, all those playing WOW will soon start to branch out and begin their realization of the fact that the MMORPG genre is more then just a single play pin filled with busty Blood/Night Elves and slack jawed Orcs...it's filled with other kinds of Orcs and Elves too. ;)