Simply, MMOs aren't dead.
This is the author's expectation:
The hype before a new game, or as somehow a game starts to get a critical mass of players. The feeling that this may be it, maybe this is the time that people stick with it and we can put down roots like we did before. Maybe this time we can play together. It’s happening! It’s happening!Firstly, new game hype is for mugs. It messes with your expectations. There is no need to get involved in betas, headstarts or any of that nonsense to enjoy an MMO. Generally it pays to avoid the first couple of weeks, which are buggy and blighted by queues. Next you'll get the bot influx and exodus of the players who decided it wasn't for them. Once that phase is over the MMO starts, you're left with the people who want to play.
I am in a multi-game guild and there are people still playing ESO. They. Love. It.
Secondly, the idea that ALL your MMO friends, that you have probably collected from many games, will all find a single game that they will love and settle down in for "life" is, frankly, hilarious. Yes, there is an element of:
Maybe the target audience is just too old and has too many responsibilities to feel any obligation, however so minor, to a game.But the main issue is you've drawn together a group of disparate people and banded together over a shared love and that doesn't last forever. It doesn't last forever in anything, anywhere in life. Age is a major change catalyst, you tend to increase your responsibilities whether that be a job or caring for someone (kids/parents).
I played MMOs to be social, to achieve things with friends, to be part of a community, but I’ve realized that these things don’t exist any more, or not for many of us.The fact is MMOs are as social as they ever were, the problem is you have set boundaries and expectations. If you arrive in a new game with a pre-formed guild then you are, in fact, deliberately isolating yourself from the "community". If your guild all quit the game "de jour" you CAN still find people playing that share your interests and enjoyments. The question is do you want to? Is it that, really, you're not that social and making new friends is actually too much effort?
Lastly, and most importantly, MMOs aren't a lifestyle choice when you're an actual grown-up. Anyone that started playing an MMO in their teens or twenties and, 8 years later, still expects to feel that exact same level of immersion is a fool. That's eight more years of experience of the real world and that changes your perspective.
A simple confirmation of this is to go back and watch an episode of a hallowed 80s cartoon. I'm pretty sure you'll think it's crappy. It probably won't hold your attention. Does that make it bad? No. Does it mean cartoons are dead? No. It means your expectations are higher.
Or how about playing at school with your friends? I remember playing games where my imagination created an entire world that we inhabited (we liked D&D). If I went outside and played like that right now people would think I was mentally ill*. But if you go and watch some kids playing in a school yard (be circumspect) they don't look ill. They look the total opposite.
So, the fact is, MMOs aren't dead and they probably haven't really changed that much but how you perceive these games, how you interact with others and your expectations change every single second of everyday.
MMOs cannot compete with real life.
* I don't think people who do LARP are mentally ill.