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.
Very thoughtful and good post. My two cents...
MMOs HAVE to appeal to a wide market to be successful due to the cost of development and operation. But SWTOR could have done that. A little more focus on some good PvP warzones... have 5 to 8 of them so their is always variety AND make cross server ques functional and they could have kept a large part of the PvP crowd at least. But with no sign of cross server ques coming anytime soon and no sign of server mergers, PvP is dead or dying fast.
PvE was done well in this game in my opinion. They focused on the leveling process first... fully voiced was awesome leveling. It is just the end game material that needs work and that is to be expected. You can only create so much content so fast. It takes time to develop a PvE Operations, Dailies, etc content level to make end game always fun.
Anyway, I welcome more of the communities thoughts.