|Gilthy Goblinworks Executive Founder|
You guys are talking like budgets are exact targets that will tell you when a project will be done. As a software developer, I can tell you projects almost always go longer than expected. At the outset, they expected their ~$4 million budget to get them to a self-sustaining project. IE, subscription revenue would maintain the staff and continued growth.
There possibly also was the hope that out-of-the-box middleware could have brought them further than it actually did. And while I do have long-time experience in developing software, it's all in the corporate/business area, not in games development, but from my experience most if not all middleware packages come with their own caveats.
But MMOs are never "done". They aren't like single player games that get released, maybe one patch, and are forgotten. They are living games that need constant development, improvement. They are never done. Show me a done MMO, and you'll find it is dead.
Or barely alive. Take a look at Guild Wars (the original); it's running fully automated these days, with no development going on. And there's still some people there having fun in there (most of it is instanced anyway, so if you run it solo or with a group of up to 8 friends it could be a fun thing to pick up).
Edit: And it's hard to knock WoW off the pedestal, because it has had 15 years of continuous development at this point.
Indeed. And the idea that "WoW is bleeding subscriptions" might be correct. A better way to look at it is that WoW has become exceedingly swingy in subscriber volume: a well-targeted new expansion (like Warlords of Draenor was at the launch, and which Legion might become) could well drive the subscriber numbers up to over 10 million again, if only for 2-6 months (until people feel like they are "done"), and that might repeat with the next major patch and expansion. Remember that far over 100 million people have played WoW by now; it's a game on its own, not something to compete or compare with. And it brings in enough revenue to support its major amount of support in both developers as well as community people and servers.