More and more I am coming to believe that MMOs are where IPs (Intellectual Properties) from other mediums go to die.
- MXO: (Shut down) The last we will probably ever see or hear of the Matrix universe.
- STO: (Currently F2P) the last vestige of the discarded "Prime" Star Trek timeline.
- DCUO: (Currently F2P) The last of the old DC Universe before they discarded it.
- Other IPs. I know there are a few more, just can't bring them to mind at the moment.
- Now, perhaps, SWTOR: George Lucas has already said he will not make another Star Wars movie. With the exception of some "expanded universe" media and this game, this IP has passed. Everyday we see people on other parts of these forums begging BioWare to do more to keep us playing. Sadly, EA has made their investment back and then some. They no longer have to care.
I think sometimes that not being a creative force in the IP makes the MMO company not care so much and having sold out, the originators of the IPs lack the creative control or no longer care either. So the IP is used to make loads of money selling games and subscriptions until the last drop of blood is gone from it and it is truly and finally dead.
You're right... many do end up ending, failing, or going to F2P. However, if that IP (Intellectual Property) recouped its development costs to date, then it is/was a profitable endeavor.
Personally, I think we are on the verge of a market shift when it comes to MMOs and perhaps other games. There seems to be more distinction and confusion than ever with regards to whether game-makers should appeal to PvErs vs. PvPrs, or casual players vs. "hardcore" players (btw, I don't have definitions for what is casual vs. hardcore, just using common terminology).
I wish the MMO market would split into more niche markets... one theme park market and one sandbox market. This would probably help developers make games that are more appealing directly to their player base.
In fact, if I were a game company, I may consider developing 2 MMOs simultaneously, one that was primarily PvP-focused and another that was PvE focused (each could have elements of the opposite, these are just focuses). When it comes to technology (video games are no exception), you either innovate or lose to the competition.
Just my thoughts.