Here Ryan Dancey comments on the effect of MMORPGs on table top RPGs.
Also, I think it is really hard to argue that people aren't leaving tabletop RPGs for MMOs. Any study of MMOs points out how many people are ex-TRPG players. The reason for this is that of the 5 types of people who like TRPGs, 2 of them are better served with MMO tech, and 2 are neutral, leaving just 22% of the audience who can only get the things they really like from the tabletop game.
This statement is partly based on this study of roleplaying games.
There are five broad catagories outlined in the study
The first four are found to represent 22% of the market and the mixed category 12%.
From my own experience in gaming throughout the years. Power Gamers are a lost cause to Table-top roleplaying. Back in the day, I used to run into this type time and time again but the combination of MMORPGs, First Person Shooters, and to a lesser extent LARPS have sucked this player out of the general roleplaying market. One reason is that they thrive on human vs human combat where two players give it their all going against each other.
Thinkers are also a bit of a lost cause as well. This is mostly due to time issues. The fact that RPGs are played or progress at a glacial pace compared to MMORPGs. The computer of interface of a MMORPG can hide a lot of complexity which this type of player can try to figure out. MMORPGs can allow you to try out different combinations of attributes at time of your choosing rather than waiting for the next session.
Better served by tabletop RPGs are the Character Actors. The interplay between referee and player and with other players fuels interest. When thriving in a area, LARPS are the real competition for this player. In LARPS there is little to get in the way of your acting a role. MMORPGs are used as well but the limitation of the technology often makes these activities ephemeral.
The last is the Storyteller player. Here the Tabletop RPG reigns supreme over the MMORPG. I view this as an unfortunate choice of words because what attracts the Storyteller player is not the "story". But rather the continuity and the dynamics of interacting with the setting. The story is what emerges from the players interacting with the setting refereed by the GM.
This is something that MMORPG have yet not being able to do well due to the technology. Either they turn everything over to the players. Or they have one more storylines that you work through from Level 1 to Max level. After the second or third time through, MMORPGs players attempt a variety of quick leveling schemes to minimize play in this area of the game
The idea is NOT that Storytellers are playing for a beginning, middle, and end. Instead there is a starting point. A series of climaxes, and then a point when all the characters goals are fulfilled. This is where a campaign ends if no other non-game factor comes into play.
In some businesses catering to one segment of a market usually is a bad idea by causing your customer base to shrink from what is natural for your product. However the nice thing about focusing what interests the Storyteller is that the plot (not story) can be tweaked to appeal to the other types of players. You can add in opportunities for Power Gamers, Character Actors, and Thinkers to shine all the while keeping the person most interested in tabletop engaged.
This is one of the main reasons why I am interested in developing the sandbox campaign settings. Because the key is to have a large toolkit of "bit pieces" that you can combine for a specific session. Sure everybody like making their own stuff but since we have to referee a whole world it is never enough. At some point a player will go left instead of right and leave the referee scrambling.
While great referees can just effortlessly come up new material most, like me, need a little help. Also having prepared material often allows you to focus more on the other aspect of refereeing. The key is to have a good toolkit.
I think there is a good opportunity in supplying referees with these "bit pieces". One of the reason I like being involved in the Old School Renaissance is that it gives me an audience where I can try out different ideas than what has been done before. We will see how it works out.