The Daily Blink has a good description of the hardcore raider mentality.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this applies to all of the so-called “hardcore raiders”but it surely applies to the vocal portion of the bunch. While not being specific to WoW (the entire Mac culture is based on this), this mentality is certainly most prevalent in that field given both the longevity of the game and the sheer mass player base.
For a very long time, MMOs were designed around these people. Hardcore players were the only players and raiding was what you did. This was the essence of late Vanilla and TBC. WotLK introduced a softer raiding cycle (minus Ulduar) making it available for many more people. The game also took off like wildfire due to the horizontal gameplay options at 80. Let’s not kid ourselves, it took 4 years to get to that point. 3.3 introduced the LFD tool, which completely changed the way MMOs were played and gave WoW it’s highest subs ever.
But the vocal minority moaned that LK was too easy, the game had been too simplified. Not that the players had gotten better, no, never that. Baron Geddon was technically a harder fight than Synestra….get out of town. Long time players got better at playing, new players did not. The skill gap between players increased dramatically as the game progressed and the numbers got bigger on gear and stats. A 5% difference at level 60 was exponentially increased at level 85. It’s much easier to balance a game around 500DPS than it is around 50,000.
So Cataclysm launched with a higher difficulty bar. Hardcore players, with more skill, went through it fairly easily, with the fastest clear times of all time. They complained that it was still too easy but better than LK. Regular players hit a wall and after a couple months, quit. Blizzard even tried lowering the bar with LFR for players to give it a shot. Some regulars stayed but a lot simply left. Servers are empty now and the subscriber numbers are artificially boosted due to D3 pre-purchases. They should drop by about 2 million next spring, unless MoP hits it out of the park.
Do I blame the hardcore for the mess they put the game in? Absolutely. They are an extremely small minority (<1%) yet think the entire game should be balanced around them and only them. You beat the game, you learned all the tricks and mechanics. There is no challenge in the game that you cannot overcome now, other than an artificial number wall. That wall is completely impassible for anyone other than you, essentially making the devs spend resources on 1% of the player base.