However, after World of Warcraft released, like all hobbies that generally start out as a form of art, the success of WoW shifted the focus from an expression of art to a medium of exchange. Take a look at the music industry or the movie industry. In the early days, music and movies were a form of art, an expression or message that served a purpose. Yes, they too were also entertainment but before all the rave and hype entered the genre they were a form of art that allowed artists to express their concerns, emotions, or experiences.
Though it wasn't long before the music and movie industry turned in cash cows and shifted their focus on the commercialization of entertainment and no longer were they about talent and expression. Instead the industries took the route of simplifying and producing movies or music that were easy to follow, such is the reason why you see a lot of remakes, superhero, action movies, or better yet a music artist who is nothing more than just a pretty face.
Many MMO players believe that the art of MMOs are dead, that sandbox and free-roam are the thing of the past because they do not generate millions or even hundreds of thousands of subscribers, therefore, the concept of the sandbox or art of MMOs or even video games are not fun or amusing. I on the other hand, disagree with this idea. I believe the sandbox free-roam or art expression of video games are and were still fun for consumers and successful.
But from a business perspective the goal is always to maximize profits and before World of Warcraft came MMOs were a form of art and was a place where multiple players could enjoy the RPG aspects of their character, and depending how free or sand-boxy the game was, character or player development was limited only to the player's imagination. A player was capable of doing many more things then than they are today.
When WoW came out the video game industry saw its huge commercial success, netting in hundreds of millions of dollars. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before all the industry's capital went into the WoW-Like-Easy-To-Play MMORPG where everything pretty much became linear, repetitive, and un-creative, similar to today's music and movie industry. And since all the capital investments are going to these WoW-esque like games the old school type of games have dwindled or died off. Today not many of them are produced, they don't get much funding if any at all, nor do they get many updates.
Unfortunately, today gamers and MMO players are stuck with these re-hashed watered down video games that were made specifically for the masses with limited freedom of choice and game-play. All this for the name of commercialization and profits rather than the art, expression, or experience. There's a reason why there are a lot of video games in the 1990s through early 2000s are great games and will stand through the test of time. A majority of the video games back then were made and developed by small studios who had the focus of creating amazing games by delivering great game-play, story, and music, all ideas that were expressed to gamers in the form of art.