The Shortening MMO Retention Curve

Psychochild writes:
"Raph Koster has pointed out that big MMOs follow fairly predictable growth curves. The fact there's been a drop so far so fast means that curve has gotten shorter, or the curve has changed dramatically. Neither is a positive sign for traditional MMOs."
I wonder if Koster's famous graph from 2007 was the last point in history in which the model worked. 

I stayed with WoW raiding through 2006 despite generally low satisfaction because where else was I going to go?  LOTRO wasn't out yet, nor had EQ2 completed the Rise of Kunark era revamp that made it accessible to solo players.  If solo play was a substantial part of your gaming, it was WoW or bust through mid-2007. 

I've never seen hard numbers for what happened over the summer of 2007, but Blizzard made a dramatic shift towards "accessibility" starting in the fall of that year.  I don't think it's a coincidence that this change in emphasis coincided with Blizzard's first real competition for the solo demographic and their revenue. 

By contrast, a dissatisfied customer today almost certainly has one or more alternatives (unless, of course, they're focused on open world PVP, sandbox games or other things that don't fit in the "theme park" model) - as Psychochild points out, this includes increasingly high-production-value single player games.  Moreover, recent history suggests that it is very rarely a good investment of your time and money to stick with a game that launches in an unsatisfactory state.  Games that ship unfinished are very likely to do poorly enough to force layoffs that ensure that they never get finished. 

It's easy for us talking heads who spend time writing about games on blogs instead of playing games to admonish our peers for failing to "support" innovation.  In reality, we're customers, not investors, and it is very unlikely that our one purchase, or even several hundred purchases, are going to make or break a game's success in a way that shapes future development.  As a blogger I might prefer to see any and all games succeed, but as a consumer I can't in good conscience recommend throwing money at something you aren't enjoying just because it has some trait you would like to encourage.   That may indeed be a non-positive sign for the market, but I don't see it changing anytime soon.