I think I've mentioned before that I really enjoy Sanya Weathers' blog about running communities for MMO games, and in her latest post, she makes a great point about stability and expecting it from the games we play.
The example she uses is Xbox Live, which isn't technically an MMO, but does, as she says, constitute a "massive, multiplayer experience." Microsoft has had trouble over the holidays keeping it up and running, and now they've decided to give out a free download to compensate players. How, says Sanya, can they be surprised at this point that they'd have a surge of users over the holidays? Isn't it common knowledge at this point not to play MMOs when a new expansion comes out or when new users show up in droves?
But then she shares the real insight: this shouldn't happen any more. MMOs are no longer a niche business, something we should have to suffer hardships just to play these games. As she says, "it's time to expect our toys to work when we plug them in."
Of course, any IT guy will tell you that downtime is unavoidable-- accidents happen, and predictions are just predictions. Anyone expecting anything to work all the time is going to get disappointed. But at this point, if you have a game (or a system, or a service) that is supposed to be "massive," you have no excuses when everybody shows up to play.