I've heard this idea that people these days don't have as much time to play as they had in the early days of MMOs. I've also heard the counter argument that people, on average, actually do have just as much time to play. This is all revolving around the question of whether or not the modern MMO player would play a game that requires longer sessions and/or has slower progression.
Ok, here is what I think: People, on average, DO, have just as much time to play as they ever did. However, they are no longer willing to spend their time doing things they don't enjoy and most especially they won't spend their gaming time doing something they actively dislike.
In the early days of MMOs a large percentage of people were willing to do things they didn't like for two reasons. The first reason was simply because it was all new to us. We were going through all of this for the first time so when we ran into a part of the game we didn't care for we were much more likely to stick with it anyway just to see how things played out. The second reason people used to be much more likely to put up with the "crap" parts of games was purely the lust for shiny pixels, or more accurately for character progression.
So here is the problem for anyone who wants to go back to those early game designs; neither of those two things will hold people anymore.
1. We are not new to the genre anymore. Even young people who are new to MMOs are more informed about it all than those of us who were the noobs of all noobs back in the early days. We've all "been there, done that" and when it becomes apparent that a game has some crap we don't like we are not very likely to put up with it just to see where it all leads to.
2. The lust for pixels no longer has the power over most players that it had in the early days. Again we've "been there, done that". We've all scratched and clawed to get that shiny bit of phat lewt which is great for a short time until it becomes obsolete or we quit the game. The knowledge that it is all just temporary is much more present in our minds than it was way back when and so the lust for loot has lost much of it's hold over us. This being the case the vast majority of people are simply not going to endure a lot of miserable crap that is not fun at all just for the sake of getting some upgrade which they know is only of fleeting value.
So, I agree with the people who say that players (on average) have just as much time as they ever did. But I don't agree with people who say that this means all of the "old school" game design can work again. Some of it could be brought back and probably work out but the most miserable, un-fun parts of it will never work again well enough to hold a player base large enough to keep a game going for a respectable amount of time.
To sum up: it's not a question of how much time people have to play it's the fact that people are less willing to tolerate unenjoyable game play today. The average player today, when confronted with a choice of enduring game play he/she does not enjoy or quitting the game, is much more likely to say "screw this" and quit.