I have been involved in the gaming community/communities for several years. I have become very familiar with many developers, have become friends with some, and have been able to travel and write for many good people. I am telling you, if there is one hobby/part-time job that will allow you access to it's inner-workings, it's playing MMORPG's. Needless to say, after these years I have a pretty good feel as to what the community, spread throughout hundreds of games, does and feels. I am not claiming to be anything but a good estimator, but I pull from quite a few sources. And let me tell you, game to game to game, the community acts in pretty general ways.
Here are some myths that, if judging only by certain game sites/forums/blogs, spell out doom for the MMO industry. First of all, let me say that a good general rule (one that most community managers know about) is the 1 in 10/ 10 percent rule. That rule says that only about 10 percent of your population visits forums, writes about your game, or gets involved with the community. You will find variations on this rule, but it's usually about the same everywhere. A site like mmorpg.com represents that 10 percent, spread throughout many games.
1) A game has failed once it has reached a certain number of players: No, it hasn't. A game has failed when it cannot be played. As long as a server is open, that game is doing more than thousands of games that never got to the point of release. Also, if the game had a several year run and then got down to 10k players, consider the entire history of the game or you are only looking at a small part of the picture.
2) MMORPG's are less innovative than the games of the past: Actually, they are more innovative than ever. If you do not think so, you are only familiar with a few or several larger games. Saying this would be like judging a genre of music based solely on it's most popular artists. I would like to say that Hip Hop, for example, does not innovate. But that would be stupid, considering all the garage-practicing Indie Hip Hop bands that will be the next generation or are busy playing live.
3) MMORPG's are less fun now-a-days: This usually comes from some blogger or podcaster that...get this..does not play those older games anymore and instead plays games that are out now. It might sound cool to call yourself a "vet" (despite MMO's short, short, short history) and to think of the original EQ as the best game ever, but I for one do not want to go back to one hour loading times and bug ridden horror-fests.
4) Loot didn't matter back then, and communities were closer: If you think that a player that spent 2 DAYS raiding after a nice sword was freer with his love and his gold than a player that was able to get his in several hours in a less buggy game, then you either very naive, very naive or very naive. Just because we had to sometimes rely on other players for buffs or transportation does not mean that every time you went up to a player providing a service he or she went: "Hi there! I hope all is well, would you like an absolutely free teleport?" The transaction DID go that way many times, but nice things happen these days as well, I assure you.
5) RMT/Cash Shops/Micro-Transactions have ruined MMORPG's: No, they haven't. It didn't happen in EQ2, WoW, EVE, LotRO, or any other game (almost every single one of them) that has had some form of "You give me money, I'll give you something extra." Players that say that games have been ruined were fine with RMT when they bought an extra account (RMT) extra character slots (RMT) XP Potions (Cash Shoppery) Server Transfers (RMT) Hairstyle/Name changes (RMT) or that shiny limited edition box-set that gave you (you know what's next) special items in exchange for your real life money.
Here is the truth:
Most players are playing. Most players are not writing blogs, posting on forums or hosting podcasts.
Game are more innovative, trying new things and adding more functionality all the time.
There are more games that run on cheaper systems and need lower system specs then there were in the past.
There are more choices as to how to pay, and for how long, than there ever were.
Connections are faster, and computers (even cheap ones) are faster. This has made for better looking games that can be downloaded within hours, if not minutes.
Communities are larger, so the proportion of bad-talk is larger. Also, you have a more-varied playerbase that didn't grow up on PC's like we did, and are still discovering forums, blogs and podcasts.
In other words, the land of MMORPG's IS all sunshine and rainbows. Things are freaking WONDERFUL. I think well all get burned out once in a while, and we all get a little angry (well, some VERY angry) once in a while. Most of us are very passionate and intelligent people. Nerds are wonderfully tolerant of others, and come in all shapes and sizes. But one glance at how much money MMOs made last year will tell you that we are all pretty happy in this community. So next time you are visiting some popular forum or gaming site, and it seems like every post is a complaint or whine, remember that while those players are writing their complaints, most are simply having fun in a game.
Now, I need to go log in. This writing stuff is taking me away from my game!