The MMORPG genre - especially in its traditional form - may not be dead as some people claim, but it is certainly in a major impasse. There is little to no infusion of fresh blood into the scene, and the big moneymakers are still the flag-carriers of ages past, which are all well past their primes and by some measure: on their way out. WOW - which is having its latest expansion, Legion, released in a few days - is obviously still a moneymaker sticking to its old-fashioned, subscription-based monetization model. Others, like Elder Scrolls Online and DC Universe Online, are clinging on to life, having adopted a hybrid, free-to-play model. As far as the big picture is concerned though, the genre is definitely hurting and - like the RTS genre before it - it looks headed to the dustbins of gaming history.
What is the problem though? One of the driving forces of this MMO decline stems - rather paradoxically - from the very popularity of the genre, which gave birth to scores of low-quality games, clones of successful titles and clones of clones, which have diluted the quality and created a culture of free content, that came right back to bite the legit titles where it hurt most: in the wallets.
This is why titles which cost tons of money to develop are nowadays free...Star Wars: The Old Republic" comes to mind here, which cost northward of $200 million to develop and which is now free to play. While the free premium content is definitely a short-term plus for players, it is an entirely unsustainable model from the point of view of the industry.
The MMO clone-culture had another major victim as well: the quality of the story and at the end of the day, of the game-play. Let's face it: most of the dime-a-dozen/free MMOs have their players hacking away at generic monsters for what seems like eternity, for no discernable reason whatsoever...