The system used today, according to my opinion. I'm fairly certain this has been said before.
It's pretty obvious why this keeps happening, yet people continue to defend new games while "journalists" talk about just how amazing they are (news flash, ad revenue). Publishers control game development now, not the developers. And from what I have seen, this has been happening since WoW introduced MMO's into the mainstream general audience. Note that I am not blaming this on WoW, as WoW itself was unique and creative for its time. Also note that MMO's are not the only genre this applies to (just look at Call of Duty). Here's the formula:
1) The focus is to get an extremely large amount of money at release (or actually prior to release) and then move on. Any money made afterwards (cash shops, etc) is chump change compared to what they make in initial sales. This applies to the other pieces of the formula. Do you ever wonder why EVERY MMO offers a pre-order (which is ALWAYS full price for the game, making it NOT a pre-order, but a purchase) in order to give access to "closed beta"? Come on...it's so obvious. They now are charging FULL price in order to play the game "prior to release". This is not beta people, this is release. Beta has become release. Anybody who cannot recognize this is...well...ya know. Why are they doing this? Let's list a couple of reasons.
a) It creates an excuse for developers themselves. The game is actually released, but because it has the title of "beta", gamers will defend it and developers can use it as an excuse when the players realize it's trash. This is why I laugh at anybody who defends a game with the argument "But it's beta! They'll fix it later!". No, if you want to use that argument, then the game better be in its alpha stage.
b) It creates a feeling of "Oh I have to be the first in the game! I have to play it before anyone else or I'll be behind!" This increases sales. Nothing more to say here.
2) Produce game as quickly as possible: The more games they can churn out, the more money they make and the faster they can throw some of those developers onto a new project. Remember that hype, fake journalists, false advertisements, and false promises build up an extraordinary fan base and boost the initial sales tremendously. And INCREDIBLY, people will still defend those developers when their next game comes out, even if they lied about the previous one. This piece I really don't understand fully, I guess it all comes down to people being rather ignorant in general. Then, once the gamers realize how little the game offers, revenue slowly decreases as players leave. But don't worry! They're working on the next one!
3) Sacrifice almost all creativity and uniqueness, yet add JUST enough to keep interest, in order to appeal to the generic masses (aka, the WoW crowd). Sadly, this has been the death of MMOs and some of my favorite genres. It's very simple to understand. If you don't appeal to the masses, then you won't make as much money. Ever wonder why we will never get another incredible Ultima Online or Dark Age of Camelot? Because it's too "hardcore". Because it doesn't resemble WoW. Because it won't attract the kids (which are the majority of gamers I believe, no offense to them). There's not enough demand for games like that. The trick is to add just enough of something slightly different or unique to use as your selling/hype point.
All-in-all, the formula isn't going to change unless people stop supporting it itself. I don't believe this will happen any time soon, as game defenders on this forum are a sure sign that people will continue to follow it. This formula doesn't necessarily mean all the games are utter trash to EVERYONE, as people have different standards. But I'm sorry, I come from an age where every MMO was extremely unique and creative, and my standards are far too high for the junk that is constantly released today.
Lastly, if you're someone who feels the same as me and are displeased with every MMO these days, just give up like I did until this system comes to a hault. And to those who still support the system and defend the games, if you want more variety, then simply stop buying the games and we will most likely get that. Save your money or support Indie developers (who aren't controlled by large publishers).