Well, that was pretty gloomy, wasn't it? "What a pessimistic grouch." "Talk about seeing those old school games through rose-colored glasses." "I'd never play a game like EQ1 in this day and age!"
I'm not trying to sound naïve here. Do I really think there's much of a demand for highly social gameplay like forced grouping, travel that would eat up half your login session, or manual auctions anymore? Not at all. Like I said, the older hardcore audience is shrinking day by day, while the casual and solo-hungry audience is growing.
I'm simply concerned that at the rate we're going, MMOs may become nothing more than singleplayer games packaged with glorified lobbies. I think most people would consider MMOs to be games where massive quantities of people play together, not solo, in the same persistent world. This solo trend really is a redefinition of the genre.
That said, not all is lost. Many current MMOs seem to be striking a kind of balance between multiplayer and singeplayer content.
WoW may be a predominantly solo game from level one to cap, but the endgame raid content and PvP can only truly be experienced by those who group. It seems like Star Wars: The Old Republic may be following suit with their heavy focus on story. Finally, you may be able to reach the level cap solo in both WAR and Age of Conan, but can you do much sieging without the help of allies?
The lone wolf, Darkfall, seems to put a very strong emphasis on group, guild, and alliance play all throughout the game, but of all the current MMOs, it kicks things more old school than most.
Two upcoming titles sound like they're also making strong social and multiplayer efforts. The destiny campaign quests in Aion supposedly become unsoloable once you hit level 20 and the Abyss PvPvE zone sounds like it will encourage grouping because there's relative safety in numbers (from gankers). Mr. Shwayder also claims that Copernicus will bring the social back, though he wouldn't reveal the secret sauce just yet.
MMOs have improved and refined themselves a lot since their inception and I'm sure it will continue to be the case as we move forward. Hopefully, developers will always remember their roots and give both introverts and extroverts a fun and viable experience. It is called Massively Multiplayer after all. Giving your players options is a good thing.