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A lot of good companies degraded when they saw the money Blizzard made with WoW. They didn't make MMOs because they enjoyed making or playing them, but they actually hated MMOs, but saw how much money there was in the business.
Anyone remember Ultima Online? That was decades ago. That was when EA wasn't all about the money. EA helped make UO, a truly great and probably the best MMO to date. People still talk about it to this day...ITS STILL PAY TO PLAY and...ITS STILL A SUCCESS. More successful than EA's recent MMOs.
Then remember SWG? Yeah so do I. While I personally enjoyed UO more (always liked fantasy), SWG was amazing. Then SOE, a great company at the time, completely changed it. Again, they saw how much money they "thought" they "could" make...in the end, it was a disaster for them. Then SOE re-made it into SWTOR...they took the recent changes of SWG and made it a bit more modern and added a linear story that has nothing to do with MMO. Didn't really work out for them and SOE turned it into a free to play game like the rest of their games.
Even Everquest was more of a sandbox (or maybe its better classified as an open world).
Then of course Asheron's Call was amazing, more niche than EQ and UO. But the developers of AC LOVED their game and the genre. They really wanted to make it great. Then their new MMO, just made for cash and numbers.
the point is...these companies used to be great, they loved MMOs and they really wanted to revolutionize the genre. heck, these companies even let their developers play their MMO. I remember talking to developers in UO and SWG (not GMs, actual developers...in chat)...now these developers never play the MMO. When was the last time you talked to a developer in a game where you didn't have to contact them for a support question? Probably back in the classic days.
So like the title says...why did MMOs become about the money and numbers? What happened to the love that went into them? In the old days, they never cared how many people played the MMO...as long as the ones who played it enjoyed it. Now they are factory made, no love at all...just feels like your playing a machine.