EQ2 was released 20 days before WoW, peaked at 350,000 subs (less than 50% of EQ1s and declined from there), it also wasn't innovative.
LOTRO did ok (peaking at 575,000 with F2P), but wasn't "successful" by WoWs standards and has an incredibly strong IP.
Rift again has done ok, and has certainly churned out more content with less devs and less players than SWTOR, but again "successful" compared to WoW? No.
Yup G is right
EQ2, while a much superior game then WOW, is not considered a market success. It had stronger then WOW numbers for first few months (mostly because it was a much nicer game to look at, plus it had original EQ followers trying game) and then WOW changed its marketting direction and rest is history. EQ2 however failed to reach the numbers that was originally projected for it.
LOTRO gets mentioned alot by people that dont understand the genre. *shrugs* I dont see any developers or industry people talking about it or imitating it in any manner though. Guess success here is in eyes of beholder.
RIFT was a complete and utter flop in its first year and anyone claiming differently is crazy. Rift couldnt maintain subscribers for more then 2 months at a time and after the first year was up they had used up pretty much their entire potential subscriber pool. RIFT however listened to the feedback and has huge design changes in this most recent expansion, changing many core design from what launched.
Strangly enough I was a fan of Rift and beta tested it and bought pre order, and was gone 6 weeks later as had seen and done all the content (both sides). Much like everyone else I knew that played game. Trion is betting heavy on the new expansion that they can draw subscribers back to RIFT.
Fact is no title since before WOW (WOW had nothing new either, was rehashed stuff with bad graphics and dumbed down game play) has been all that creative.
RIFT gets a nod for RIFT content. While done before it was done excellently well in RIFT.
Really the last game I can think of that really shocked the MMORPG genre (and was successful) was DAoC with their RVR system.
EQ2 did great with mentoring, crafting, houseing, and seasonal events. But game wasnt overly successful in the long run.
The thing is, devs dont really need to reinvent the wheel.
They just need to stop looking to copy WOW and start looking at what was successful before WOW and why.
This genre started in 1991 on AOL and has hosted a ton of successfull titles long before Warcraft was made (forget WOW, first MMORPG was released before original Warcraft released).
There is ALLOT of great ideas from different titles over the years.
Devs just need to take their blinders off, stop guzzeling the WOW kool Aide, and look at what makes a great game!
WOWs success isnt that hard to figure out.
Make a watered down product
Hire some popular celebrities to name drop the product while on Letterman and Leno and Conan
Make some very creative advertisements that make people remember them
Culture fads will do the rest for you
WOW success really isnt about great game play.
Its like McDonalds, over a billion served, and maybe 1% of the billion will say its the best burger ever.
McDonalds is to burgers what WOW is to MMORPGs.
Low grade product/high grade marketting
But if your trying to make a great game that will have a loyal following to it
Then you need to do your homework and look at everything not named WOW and get feedback from experienced and knowledgeable customers.
RIFT just took a step in that direction and im really hopeing TOR does as well soon (sooner the better)
Said it before and say it again
WOW was and is the WORST THING to ever hit the MMORPG genre and were STILL trying to recover from its long lasting effects.
Besides, why would anyone come to TOR/RIFT/Who Ever for a WOWish game experience when they can goto WOW and all its expansions and updates for the genuine experience?
The genre is not looking for the next WOW
Its looking for the next great game
The two are NOT the same thing