When Empires Die (co-written by Azerin)
Azerin, a discreet but astute Pioneer of the Dual Universe, has made a forum post within the thread about the reasons why MMO empires come to fail:
"I haven't played EVE, but I've been leading gaming communities for the last 14 or so years. Generally speaking, most communities or game branches I've seen died out because of boredom, in-fighting, hopelessness, or game death. This includes the big communities of 300-2000+ active members.
Boredom is a simple cause, it builds up over time, much faster if the game is shallow or otherwise uninteresting. For the community I'm in, our ESO and Division branches were examples of the latter, while our Planetside 2 branch has been going for years, passing off leadership if any of us burn out. Large multi-game communities aren't immune either, as they may be unable to find a game that can hold their interest for the long-term; looking at you, DU!
In-fighting can have a number of sources, but most commonly it's an argument between authoritative figures on policy or action, or disruptive individuals not being dealt with. It's uncommon for all of the major players in a community to play nice for years on end, I myself have argued at length with nearly every leadership figure in my community. Arguments and differing opinions are common place, but you'll find the successful communities are all very clear about their direction, and for everything else, they've got their discussions down to a science. It's natural to have varying opinions and styles, good communities foster acceptance and make use of what these people have to offer, but if a member is unable to fit in or their attempts to sway opinion are biased or hostile, appropriate action needs to be taken. Inexperienced leaders are often too hesitant, or in some cases, too aggressive or distasteful in their response, both of which can lead to further in-fighting. It can be ugly, emotionally charged business, which is one of the reasons why I've taken to saying "Systems are easy, people are not".
Hopelessness is a bit of an interesting one, and probably highly relevant for games like EVE, where there are significant investments involved. I'm referring to the widespread sense of loss or depression following failure, or the realization of pointlessness or impossibility, whether or not that's actually the case. It's important for any community to have direction and focus. Smaller goals will likely change as they're met, while larger aspirations might shape the community's identity. When these fall through it can be depressing, it's up to the leaders and core members of the community to pick up the pieces and begin progress towards the next goal. If they fail to do this, the hopelessness will spread and gradually push the members away. From my experience, it's uncommon to find people with the mental fortitude to weather major incidents on their own, as they not only need to tackle their own feelings about the matter, but what all of their friends are saying, and the challenge of finding a new goal and meaning to strive for. I suspect this is what happened to those EVE guilds after the bloodbath, they chose to give up rather than start anew.
Then there's game death. As the influx of new players dies down recruitment becomes more difficult, and over time the old players will pick up and leave. Sometimes you'll see communities disband while they still have active members, but often times loyalty will keep most of them there until the end. This is how my first community died, 5 years of great health followed by 1-2 years of decline, after which I decided to pull the plug.
None of these need be a quick death. Communities with more resilient core groups can linger on for years, perhaps even making a comeback if the game is healthy and circumstances change, but usually they die quietly as the core members leave one by one."