We all rather enjoyed putting together Eurogamer's Top 50 Games of 2005 over the Christmas break. When we got back to work, we decided we'd send around a few quick questions to some of the developers involved and talk a little about their games, hopefully grabbing their attention before they'd had time to fall back into the rhythm of proper work. First to write back was Jack Emmert, creative director of Cryptic Studios. Cryptic's City of Heroes and City of Villains placed joint tenth in the top 50 list. You can read our comments about them in the 10-6 breakdown.
I believe that every new massively multiplayer game increases the market size rather than cannibalises from a base set of subscribers. Certainly, some players of City of Heroes left in order to play World of Warcraft, but WoW brought in a slew of players who'd never experienced a massively multiplayer before. Those players inevitably will try out new games, like City of Villains! I also believe that each successive massively multiplayer game raises the quality level of games. City of Heroes introduces a lot of popular new features, WoW built on that, and then City of Villains learned some lessons from WoW. I'm sure this trend won't stop anytime soon.
Superheroes and villains are all about action and combat - so yes, it was a conscious decision! We knew that part of our game had to come first and foremost. Players don't want to role-play a normal life in City of Heroes/Villains - they can already do that when they're not at their keyboards. I'll quibble a little with your assertion, if only because City of Villains introduced base building in the franchise. Super Groups building bases are about as "second life" as you can get in a game that's all about comic book heroes and villains.
Being able to change something that's annoying in the game. In City of Villains, I play-tested a particular Strike Force (a long series of adventures) and I could get the things I didn't like changed immediately.
Probably trying to ensure that the wealthy and powerful didn't end up manipulating the rest of the populace.
Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.
Just need to steal one, of course! Super Villains can't just buy one...