I think your stretching a little in your article. First your correct by stating that DDO is a niche game. Yes its PnP roots boast a healthy 20 million users, but that would be like stating that out of the probable 200million worldwide computer game players, only 6 million or 3% play WoW. Thats actually a pretty impressive number, but in the world of DDO where I would guess that only about 100-150,000 players currently actively subscribe with a slow growth mark that it really hasn't broken any records nor is it going to be beating on WoW's door.
I do not believe DDO was marketed against WoW myself. It's gameplay style is more akin to CoH/CoV/Guild Wars. It does not have the depth of having a crafting system or a PvP system at all or those who wish to do so. Now for me I think the absense of a PvP system is great since you "should not" see player balancing each and every month resulting in players getting upset about nerfs to their class each and every update.
But I think the lack of things to do, and really any social interactions aside from grouping does hurt the arguement of competing products. That is not to say the game is lacking as the developers stated that some genre norms would be broken with DDO.
If Turbine can get content out the door in the same fashion as EQ2 with their adventure packs, free content, expansions. I think DDO will start to be more of a contender as new content in WoW has sincerely lacked since its launch 18 months ago when compared to games like EQ2, or any of Turbines other works with their monthly update schedules.
After playing through the beta I can't say DDO is a game I'd be willing to pay for. I think they really missed the mark by not marking this like Guild Wars (one time fee for the game, no monthly, pay for expansions). The forced grouping, lack of PvP and crafting makes logging in for less than 2 hours a waste. While the grouping system is good, by the time you find a group, get a quest (no quest sharing in this game), and run to it you can kiss 30 minutes goodbye. You only get XP by finishing quests (or components of quests) and the best XP is in the longer dungeons. So anyone playing for any length of time at night will run the longer dungeons exclusively, making it hard to find someone for a "quickie".
I think this game should have been marketed towards the same group that would have played the PnP game --- groups of friends getting together a couple of times a month to play. When you're gaming with friends, its more about the social aspect and less about what I play (for me that is). And I'm not cheap, but I wouldn't spend $230 a year to play this game over $50 for any other multiplayer game. DDO just had nothing to hook me.
I agree that DDO isn't for the casual player due to the long quests. I will also give in to the fact that WoW is a little more friendly right off the bat. The difference being is that for anyone who plays a decent amount of time (instead of 30 min. spurts) at the end of the day for a couple hours DDO is a much better game. This is because in WoW you hit a point where you can't do anything fun or new at all once you hit 60 save for 40 man raids. You hit a huge curve in time played where if you dont log on for 5-8 hours (as opposed to 2-3 in DDO) you don't achieve anything at all. I don't know if anyone here has done 40 man raids...but they can easily last 5-8 hours nightly and are not as fun as they ought to be. It's like a 3-hour slot machine where you don't know all of the people who might win. In DDO yes you are forced to group, I agree. But at least you aren't forced to find 39 other people in order to do anything fun.
I will say that I was a avid D&D player in my youth, and was originally very interested in DDO. While waiting for DDO to come along, a friend got me into Eve Online, and I must say, for a 3 year old game, it seems to have everything that the reviews of WoW and DDO all say are lacking. I think I'm definately going to stick with EvE for the time being. As much as I like fantasy, EvE just seems to be much more entertaining.
DDO is a great game, but the lack of solo is what led me astray from it. After playing it for 3 months, it was too hard to get the guys I normally game with to play. I play "normal" DnD about once a month and have been playing it on and off for 30 years. That gets me my fix.
Additionally, the way that experience is not awarded until a dungeon is complete is also a distractor as some of the modules are long and if you have to log out, you're SOL for any experience.
I went back to WoW.
To get me back to DDO, the experience would need to be awarded as you go and allow the dungeon to scale for an individual (supposedly this is now being added for a few areas like the harbor).