MMOs currently have the lowest barrier to entry of all time. The overwhelming majority are free-to-play without even a box price. Plenty of them are browser-based, so they don’t even require a major client installation. City of Steam doesn’t even require an account, letting you log in with just your Facebook account. The barrier to entry is basically ground level.
The barrier to commitment, however, is much higher. Consider a free-to-play title. Even though you can try out the world, and essentially start the game without the slightest obstacle, think about the time commitment it would take to “get to the real game” starting from scratch. When most MMOs were subscription-based, once you payed for it, you had essentially committed fully. Since the switch, the expression of commitment is rather vague.
Now that money is no longer an issue, I find that MMO players today have to carefully budget their time between the myriad of massive titles. Even if a new game is totally free, people may still not pick it up simply because there’s no more time for it. You may try out the first few levels, but do you really want to dedicate all that time to throw yourself into the game with wanton abandon?
For most titles, the answer is NO. Sure, it may have almost as much fun stuff as whatever else you’re playing has. But unless it’s overwhelmingly better, and your friends are willing to move with you, you won’t make it past the “trying it out” phase.
We no longer ask, “Is it worth subscribing to?” but, “Is it worth committing myself to?” instead.