Please tell me in the history of MMOG's where focusing on one game in the long-term has helped keep an MMOG at the same subscriber levels. UO? Nope. They gained probably a year or two with the addition of Fellucca/Trammel, but now, 8 years after release, it's limping along in its original market and trying to prop itself up by sucking up to the Asian market.
You see the reality completely detached from relationships of cause and effect.
If something happens it's because it has a cause. A product may become obsolete for a concrete cause, not because there's a rule set in stone that dictates this. If a product is left on its own, it will be replaced. If a product is kept up to date, it won't be replaced. Since mmorpgs are paid over time as a service there is no need to replace them, if not to difersify the offer, which is good but is not always happening (see EQ -> EQ2, Shadowbane -> Shadowbane2, AC -> AC2, DAoC -> Warhammer etc..).
What is happening to UO confirms my points, not yours! UO is dying because they cut the resources from it LONG AGO. From my point of view, in order to GROW the subscription base of a game over time, you need to reinvest in the product all the money it produces. You think this happened to UO? What is happening to the game is the result of those choices. It's the direct consequence of a reason, of a cause.
The example of UO confirms the trend of every other product. As the resources shift to different projects and the developers themselves stop to care about the game -> the game starts to die. It happened with EQ, it happened with DAoC, it happened for Turbine and so on. It will happen to Blizzard as they'll try to do WoW2 or another mmorpg. It happens every time a company stops to believe in a product and is seduced by something else.
I believe, on the contrary of you, that is possible to constantly GROW the subscription base of a product. Eve-Online is the only example I know about of a whole company completely dedicated to the project. All the money they earn are reinvested into it. This is an extremely niche product. It has an awful newbie experience, it directly push players away by HIDING its qualities behind pure boredom and all the rest. Still, it reached 60k a week ago. It is now released from two years and has kept consolidating its subscription base constantly.
I believe that this result that they achieved is the DIRECT CONSEQUENCE of their choice to support the game. Without that support and ACTIVE work on the game, the subscriptions wouldn't be at 60k. Because the success of a game, guess what?, depends directly on the work you do on it. Not on fanciful lifecycles. Shadowbane has its selling point on a complex PvP sandbox exactly like Eve, it has a way more popular setting and, still, it has 1/6 of the playerbase of EvE. In fact the development of the game is lagging as one of the worst examples between all the mmorpgs.
You can criticize what I say and I even appreciate and share some of the points you made, but what I say is that the downward trend of the subscriptions doesn't depend on "magical rules". It depends on the development itself. I'm stating something that isn't even an opinion. It's logic.
Of course a continue investment and development isn't enough, on its own, to bring directly to a growing subscription base. Because then the work you do must be good work, not just "work" and stop. I believe this good work is always rewarded. ALWAYS. You are never wasting resources. I don't know where Eve-Online will go since I cannot be sure that what CCP will do will be always "good work". But I believe that if they'll continue with this trend and keep adding interesting systems and radically rediesigning and upgrading parts of their game LIKE THEY ARE ALREADY DOING, they'll see the subscription raise. Without lifecycles to menace that trend.
DAoC, EQ, UO and other games that are declining are declining for a reason. The resources have been cut and the development constantly choose short-term solutions that consequently hurt the game in the long term. DAoC is losing subscribers and will lose more in the next 6 months because instead of addressing the problems of ToA, they removed it. Refusing to face those problems, refusing to acknowledge them. Instead of DEVELOPING the game they have chosen to retreat. To go back. Not only the development is swamped. But it's going back.
The buffbots, ToA and, now, the Isle idea are ways to DODGE the problems of the game. Are ways to REFUSE to solve the problems. These solutions work in the short terms. Because they are workarounds. Becuase they are bandaids. The lowest common denominator here is the fact that ALL THESE SOLUTIONS ARE TEMPORARY. The launch of the three new classic servers is positive because it brought back players that left after none of the problems of the game were solved and brand new shitty solutions were introduced. Short term this is a GOOD solution -> they see more subscribers.
Long term this will make them lose more and more subscribers. Exactly because the solution is temporary, exactly because the new three servers are killing the population of all the other servers. And because the game didn't step forward, it moved backwards to undo the fuckups that they still refuse to accept (see the quotes
). The Isle will be again short term good. Long term it will make the gameplay dull, it will remove the unique qualities of the RvR and the players will start to ask themselves: "Why the fuck I'm playing this game if it has become a bleached version of the BGs in WoW?" And they'll leave because DAoC hasn't anymore UNIQUE to say. Because the development has stopped and because everyone at Mythic is now looking with greedy eyes at the new cash cow that Marc Jacobs bought recently.
If DAoC will lose more and more subscribers it's because of the development that has kept choosing these short-term workarounds. Mythic DESERVES to lose subscribers because this is what they chose deliberately. All that is happening (less subscribers as time passes) it's because they set the premises for this to happen and NOT because there are unavoidable Damocles swords on the heads of these games.
Mythic itself is the Damocles sword on DAoC. We are now on the "long term". It's time for Mythic to see the result of their choices. To reap what they sowed.
You can unload the responsibilities on god, destinty, odd marketing rules or whatever. But the fact is that they are losing so much subscribers as the result of the poor choices they did along these years. Now they are so short-sighted that they aren't even able to understand that what is happening is the result of what they did at that time.
Lifecylcles are myths. Both UO and EQ had growing lifecycles of five years and more, DAoC two, SWG six months, Shadowbane four months, Horizons one month. Other games died as they started or shortly after. Eve-Online two years and growing steadily. WoW is pure sprint.
There is no fancy rule beside the direct quality you are able to offer. All these products have no set rules. They aren't organic. They do not expire. The lifecycle is purely the consequence of the work that is done of them. Nothing else. When the work stop or when the developers stop caring, the world starts its downward trend. All the rest is about myths and superficial points of view.
Ultimately, the games are left to polls