It's not the Wild West anymore.
What's happening to MMOs is nothing more than the inevitable acquisition, assimilation and exploitation of a new resource. It's a process that happens as surely and inexorably in entertainment and the arts as it does in agriculture and industry.
First come the explorers, followed swiftly by the the pioneers. For a while, anything goes. Then the frontier moves on and what was wilderness becomes hinterland, then suburbs, farmland, stripmines. It happened to the novel, to jazz, to movies and rock&roll. The process gets faster every iteration.
|Giving it away is easy when no-one's paying anyway|
It's a slow process and guerrilla resistance persists, but the Internet is being reeled in. The whole concept of "free" was so attached to the Internet's brand that in the end it turned out it was easier to change the meaning of the label than to pry it off. "Free" means a lot of things online now but it rarely means you don't pay.
MMOs are in a strange position when it comes to the changing face of internet access. Unlike just about everything else, MMOs were something you always did have to pay for. In retrospect that looks like a bizarre historic accident, where producers fell into the role of service-providers by default and compounded their mistake by giving the service away for a pittance.
|Without pollution we'd have no sunsets|
Well, it worked for a while because, as Wilhelm says, there was an Implied Social Contract, and, crucially, because the producers and consumers all came from the same culture. That lasted as long as it took for the word to get out that there was serious money to be made. Until WoW, in other words. Which, of course, charges a subscription. Because it can.
That brought in people whose dream was making money, not making worlds. They all tried to ape it and most of them ended up looking like monkeys. What works for WoW hasn't worked for anyone else because no-one really knows why it works for WoW. It shouldn't. It just does.
|So wild! So free! So pull him before someone else does!|
You can rant and rage and wave your shotgun all you like. You can go down fighting but it won't keep them off your land. Or you can trim your beard, hang up your gun, put your feet up on the porch-rail and relax. The hard work's done, now you get to live in this world you helped make happen. Or you can move on again, over the horizon, find somewhere new and start the whole thing over again.
You can't stop progress, as they used to say when I was a tiddler. And as Johnny Thunders would have it, you can't put your arms round a memory. Don't try.