Still Eve Online hit the 500.000 subscriber mark - after 10 years. Compared to World of Warcrafts 11 million Eve must be a failure, right? 10 years and only 500k subsribers?
Well it isn't - as it solely finances CCP's Dust514 f2p PS3 game (thats a lot of abrev right there) and also finances their Vampire game in development.
Why Eve is so important is that it is a sandbox. A nice interview what this means to your player base is found here, and it will push away some of you who might just have thought trying the game:
You will hear that CCP doesn't do anything against scammers or even Ponzi schemes within the game. So beware, space is a dangerous place as its inhabited by the most dangerous creature known to man: himself!
So back to topic: Sandboxes are important as they seem to be a solution to the content dilemma MMO's have. Developers never catch up with the speed of players consuming content. So making a sandbox is an obvious choice.
The funny thing is that MMOs then come around full circle as they started out being sandboxes: Even Ultima Online was one, and one of the best.
The problem is that sandboxes are not understood by many developers. The easiest thing you need to learn is the hardest: let it go. Do not control. Something the designers of todays quicktime event games have a hard time to adapt to. Or managers. Even worse.