I was thinking about this last night, when I was goofing around on several MMOs. While I'm sure that some will disagree, it seems that right at this point in time we've got a lot of really good MMOs that we can sample and play as much as we like.
From MMOs based on known properties (ranging from Star Wars to Conan to D&D) all the way to new designs such as The Secret World, it seems that we're in the middle of an MMO F2P/B2P explosion. Yes, the basic MMO design hasn't changed too much since the EQ and early WoW days, but how it's implemented and for what property has.
As much as some people want to complain about how the F2P and B2P games make their money*, the fact that they not only are able to survive but put out new content has to be heartening. Look at a game such as Age of Conan: after a huge launch, it was pretty much written off and/or left for dead after the glitches and the "Tortage vs. the rest of the game" experience. However, it just finished it's fifth anniversary after having spent the past few years as F2P. The Old Republic suffered from the "nothing to do" syndrome after a toon reached max level**, but after it went F2P Bioware has not only provided new updates and content but has seen a stabilization in subs and a rise in players.
The F2P/B2P models aren't panaceas, and I'm not altogether certain they are the wave of the future, but what these two models do provide is choice. Don't think WoW or Rift is brutal enough? Go try adventuring in Hyborea for a while. Need more Cthulhu? There's an entire game devoted to that feeling of dread and despair (The Secret World). Tired of killing Sith? There's a Klingon D7 with your name on it. Or maybe you want the feel of returning to an old haunt like the Forgotten Realms? Or an even older haunt like The Shire? Or maybe you just want to be an angel for a little while, such as in Aion.***
And that's not even touching games such as Guild Wars 2 (and the upcoming Wildstar).
I think it's pretty safe to say that I'd have burned out on MMOs in general if there weren't such a variety to play with these days. It can cause problems for me when I get into an instance or a battleground, but in general I really enjoy the variety of worlds to play in. My only regret is that I can't pay these companies more for their work (budget, you know). But I do what I can.
Is it too much to have someone look at the old Darklands video game and create an MMO based on that? Now THAT would be cool.
*I was thinking of the Ten Ton Hammer article on how much they hate the lock boxes for Star Trek Online, but the reality is that those lock boxes and those announcements in-game are no worse than seeing hundreds of sparkle ponies in WoW.
**As well as a lack of grouping tools, etc., that players had become accustomed to. Remember, even Blizzard tried to mix things up in Cata by having players find the entrance to the instances before they were allowed to queue for them, but what happened was that players would simply avoid the instances they didn't like (/cough Stonecore /cough).
***Now that I think about it, an MMO based on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series would be pretty cool. My kids are presently working on an RPG for Percy Jackson using the Savage Worlds system and the Super Powers Companion books as a starting point, and I'm sure they're not the only ones out there who have had that idea.