You know the more I think about it the more I can't help but think there is a slight fallacy to the argument that just because it's popular doesn't mean it's good. It's often used to describe some aspect or overall ideology of a MMO.
I say that if something is popular, then it is good. The only caveat being you may not like it. For example I don’t like World of Warcraft that much but it’s widely popular around the world. I prefer the Warhammer Online. Does this mean that everyone who likes WoW is somehow only caught up in viral marketing of its popularity or do they genuinely think WoW is a good game? Well more than likely compared to the competition they feel WoW is the best game for them. For one reason or another… or one feature or another WoW offers them something they think is “good”. Me on the other hand I don’t think those features are good. However that doesn’t mean WoW isn’t good.
I think a great example (note not an analogy) is the Sundance Movie Festival. A lot of great movies come out of there that barely make enough to cover the cost of production. The reason is that a lot of people don’t want “those” types of movies. They don’t want something artsy or extremely surreal and thoughtful. They want simple escapism.
I think that is where the misconception occurs. People think that because WoW is popular and simple it is only popular due to viral marketing. While that may be a portion of the case it remains popular by retaining those subscriptions. That means every gamer that plays feels that WoW is BETTER than every other MMO on the market because they remain with WoW for one reason or another. Sure they may make excuses why they still play WoW but in the end they still play WoW.
What does that mean? WoW is popular because it’s good to the most people. Warhammer Online is good to a much smaller group of people.