Pretty much everyone remembers the big dot-com bust that happened a few years ago. Everyone wanted to jump on the Internet bandwagon, investors threw money around like Mardi Gras beads and all the young techinical folk lived the high-life. But few of these Internet companies actually produced anything useful, companies went bankrupt and the bottom fell out of the market.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the resurgence of the industry. What's different this time? The difference is that instead of simply tossing together a slick website and expecting people to throw money at you for nothing, service, content and community have become the focus. First you deliver something useful / informative / entertaining... then the money rolls in. Sites such as YouTube and Flickr are excellent examples. They provide a great, free service, that provides an incredible amount of content to anyone who wants to browse through it, and in turn, an online community is created and supported. In the previous dot-com days, a wesbite with half the features would have tried to charge fees for this sort of thing. This is what the Internet was meant to be, not some guy who wants to make several 'competing' websites to sell tires (I actually worked briefly for someone who was doing exactly this!)
How does this relate to MMOs? Well basically, we're in the burst bubble period of MMOs. There were a few big hits, they got some decent media attention, and suddenly, there were thousands of companies throwing together craptastic games and expecting the public to pay for them! The public answered by sending many into bankruptcy. Too many for me to name here. Half-baked derivatives, shoddy game and interface systems, lack of features and content and such brought these games to their knees... and rightfully so.
So is the MMO industry ready for Phase II? One where the community is the focus rather than the publishers? I certainly hope so. It looks like a lot of interesting games are on the horizon. We'll just have to see if they take the time to deliver a content-laden, community-oriented game, or if they instead push out yet another unfinished MMO onto the already bloated market.