I enjoy Diablo 3 despite all its warts, but until they actually get the RMT component of the game working, it seems a little early to call it the Next Phase. Given all the accounts being compromised, I'm not sure how many players are going to want to enter that particular dark, forbidding forest.
As people have corrected me here, D3 is no MMO. It's not even an MMO to the extent Guild Wars might be (i.e., a hub where you're among many players, and then you go adventuring in small instances). Most companies can't afford to run a battle.net, and probably would be hesitant to rely on an RMT transactions auction house as their main forum of revenue to cover the costs. Heck, even Blizzard itself can't seem to run battle.net properly or really comes to grip with their security issues (or their players' security issues).
The writing seems to clearly be on the wall in terms of monthly fee MMORPGs, but I would attribute that more to Turbine/WB starting the ball rolling with LOTRO, and then nearly everyone else lining up in lockstep. Or to the fact that other than WoW, people just don't seem inclined to pay monthly fees on a truly massive scale (several million subscribers) to anyone else. And once publishers see this, they just gradually give up on the fees and try to make the game survive as an F2P (see STO, Champions, Age of Conan, City of Heroes, DCUO, the upcoming Planetside 2 etc.).
I'm not convinced F2P is necessarily a gravy train. But if it works, if more big budget mmorpgs can survive or even thrive as an F2P, and don't have to go to the same graveyard as Tabula Rasa and others, then more power to them.
As far as SWTOR goes, I see it as a "qualified" success. It has, by all accounts, retained more than enough subscribers to be profitable. Is it a "WoW Killer"? Are all
the millions who played at launch (like me) all still loving it and want to play it for years? No -- imho, EA probably didn't expect quite the churn rate SWTOR has so far. In my case, I just abruptly "fell out of love" with it, I didn't leave it for another mmorpg. But mmorpgs are a marathon, not a sprint. Lets see where it is a year after launch. Two years after launch etc.
My take on "next phase" of mmorpgs isn't so much the payment scheme as the basic gameplay. If nobody's really going to find a way around mmorpg server-client infrastructure limitations and deliver gameplay that's more compelling than bashing 50 some odd hotkeys in various sequences, to do the same sorts of quests over and over, then I think I and many others just won't bother anymore.
It's been 13 years since Everquest. Newer gamers maybe don't drag that same baggage to the experience, but I think many of us older types simply aren't interested in doing the same stuff, no matter how many new coats of paint are draped over the experience. I've already said that in other threads. I won't beat a dead horse on the subject.