I've seen the many "where's the new content?" threads in these forums. This is nothing new, to be honest, as content additions seem to be 1 of the most requested items in any themepark, story based MMO.
Many developers have tried this method and pretty much all have not quite hit the mark. I've even seen this with WoW and Bliz with their 100 man dev team as my son plays WoW, blows thru the content (expansions) that it took Bliz a year to create, in less than a month or 2 and then unsubs for the next "shiney" until Bliz gets out another expansion, doing it all over again. SOE tried this also and couldn't keep up with most all of their line-up. Funcom did the same exact thing here also with ***.
It seems that devs teams will work their tails off, for months and even sometimes as much as a year, to get content out only to have players blow thru it in a matter of days and then be back on the forums looking for something to do, threatening to unsub if their unsatiable appetite for content is not met, and then doing so when just about ANY dev team can not meet the demands.
Raids, instances, STFs (whatever you want to call them), will only work for a short time period also. Running the same content over and over and over has the same effect. The want for something new. STFs are further problemized by the fact that the equipment is bound on pick up thereby taking out even running these things to bolster the in-game economy.
The Foundry, it would seem, has about the same effect of SWGs "Cronicles". Players can come up with some decent ideas for content but they lack the ability to add the loot drops, end rewards for the reasoning for playing these. Only devs can do this and for good reason, balance. Imagine if a player could design a shield and the problems that would cause.
I think Cryptic took some of this into consideration at launch with the "Genesis" development. However, it appears to me that Genesis is limited in it's tools and this could be where we got most of the copy/paist development we have/had at launch that people complained about such as explore missions that now need a revamp, according to Cryptic.
Cryptic, there is another way or 2 even. How about some "sandbox" type of development allowing players to make their own content in game and to feel like they "live" in the STO Universe? There are very few "world" development items/areas included in STO. But along with the sandbox, players would need some reasoning to even look there. There are very few and far between long-term goals for STO such as the year+ it took to unlock jedi back in old SWG or the 4/5 waistpack in the current version. Some of this type of development would help also for player retention and boredom. Along wih the "old trusty" sandbox, then the content additions might be more welcomed and less where's the next content addition the exact minute some new content is released.
Jackalope, right after STO launch, stated in an interview that he wanted to add sandbox to STO. I still believe it is needed, Jack. There simply has to be a reason to log in once you've leveled. Some of your players are just not going to re-roll 100 times over to keep playing and paying.
I think the issue with STO is that it started content-lite - as most MMOs do now. Since Beta most of us have been asking for more content. Unfortunately Cryptic chose to focus most of its energy on more game-play features rather then content. We asked for new content and we got Difficulty Sliders. We asked for new content and we got Replay. We asked for new content and we got Diplomacy System. We asked for new content and we got the Foundry. We asked for new content and we got Ground Combat revamps. That's not to say all the new features have not been cool and have not added much fun to the game but I have to believe that if any one of the 4 Seasons had been all new content rather then new game-play features that players would have been far happier and that far more would still be here playing rather then having left for other games.
Unless your game is focused entirely on PvP content is the key to keeping people around.
I think, underneath your analysis, is the true problem; MMOs require either a plethora of content with short development cycles, or sandbox gameplay that encourages the players to "build" the world they play in.
In the first example, the game launches with heavy content (a couple of months or so against "hardcore" gameplaying), then the team switches into content-driven development to keep players satiated. Of course this kind of system would require a very solid base upon which to build, meaning the game would have to be grade-A at launch. We know STO was not, and there is no argument out there that can say STO launched as well as it should have. Therefore any content-driven development for the Cryptic team would just be catch-up in an attempt to get the game to where it should have been at release. Let's assume that the past four season updates have brought STO to where it should have been at launch (which we can make a good argument that it is now). All this means is that old players are still feeling lost for content while a new player might see a good game to pick up and keep playing. The damage has been done by this point and so the shift for Cryptic should be to encourage new subscriptions with a sort of "rebirth" campaign that highlights everything that's been done to STO since launch (something I think they're doing).
The second example is more akin to SWG, though I'm not going to get into what worked or didn't work for that game. At any rate, a more sandbox style of game encourages players to create for themselves, be it in the form of crafting, territory control and faction warfare, PvP accolades and leaderboards, story-driven PvE up to a point where the player then "finishes" the story and moves on to doing something in the world they helped to right or wrong. The onus is on the player to find something to do, but the key there is that the game provides ways for them to do this. STO, in my humble opinion, has not a single sandbox element in the game. Everything is repeatable and with zero risk. Risk provides that adrenaline that keeps players excited, and for crafters this could mean a crafting system with chance built in (****) and death penalties for just about everything else. But of course with risk comes reward, which encourages the player to take the first step. STO crafting is just an item exchange in disguise, exploration is just a randomly-generated mission from stock of scripted missions, and there is no player-driven enterprise in terms of the war. All of these things, we're told, are on the drawing board, but like above, it would seem the damage has been done and these are features that should have shipped with the title.
In the end, it's a could have / should have situation where hindsight is 20/20. But I think, seeing the failure of many MMOs recently (failure being a value applied to any game that does not meet the success of WoW--which of course is a stretch), it should make us wonder if the days of MMOs are numbered or if a serious rethinking about what an MMO is and should be is in order.