I think I have an idea as to what causes the WoW Tourist Phenomenon.
People aren’t willing to stick through a lull in a new MMO when they can simply return to WoW with their preexisting characters and often times relationships. All new MMOs have some sort of growing pains; combine that with the fact that everyone has to level up a new character again and you open up a lot of possibilities for situations that feel grindy, not fun, or just unappealing when you compare them to your previous MMO. WoW has gone through its growing pains, the game runs very well and it’s a testament to Blizzard’s dedication to the game.
When people hit a bump in the road on a new MMO they immediately question their motives for playing. Is it worth it? Will it last? These questions ring loudest in people’s heads as they run into adversities in new MMOs; be those intentional hardships or technical ones. No MMO regardless of the amount of quality, polish, or effort put into it can overcome this long term draw that WoW creates.
I said this on Keen’s blog and he took it as some philosophical paradox; however I don’t think that even WoW could unseat it’s self at this point. MMO gamers want a new MMO, but they seem to be too impatient to suffer through any hardship or growing pains. Until a MMO can sustain a LARGE player base in order to make improvements the way WoW’s player base has allowed it to nothing is going to compete.
Blizzard has essentially created a market where no gamer is willing to move on and no developer can afford to improve their MMO past launch because they can’t sustain sub numbers.