Some commentators have been fairly gloomy when looking back at 2010, pointing out that Star Trek Online was virtually the only new MMO to launch last year and not faceplant almost immediately. The massive win of STO over the competition in Massively's end of the year poll has even been cited as evidence that the majority of MMOs released in 2010 stunk. While it's hard to deny that some 2010 MMOs launches like APB and FFXIV were utterly disastrous, that line of reasoning assumes that STO is merely a mediocre MMO that would never be noticed in a normal year. That's certainly debatable.
STO is actually one of the more original big budget MMOs I've tried, with a lot of interesting mechanics I haven't seen anywhere else. The character advancement mechanics (including ship customization) are flexible and surprisingly deep. In addition, the contrast between ground and space combat is stark. Vehicle combat in too many games feels like combat on foot...only in a vehicle. Ship combat in STO feels like a Star Trek ship-to-ship combat sim. Finally, it's not a fantasy MMO; in itself refreshing in a market that was already glutted with fantasy MMOs years ago.
Regardless of whether you think 2010 was a bad year for new MMOs, I'd argue that it was a fantastic year for established MMOs. Dungeons and Dragons Online really hit it's stride, offering up tons of new content over the course of the year. It sucked me in for a good three months; this practically became a DDO blog for a while. Wizard 101 also got lot of new content, including a new gardening system that Tipa did some great write-ups of. LoTRO converted to a FtP model, and according to a recent interview the revenue of the game has tripled since they made the switch.
Everquest also II launched their free to play server, by most accounts greatly increasing their playerbase and revenue (though SOE has released no hard numbers that I'm aware of). It certainly hooked me. I got further this time around in EQ II than I ever did in my previous three attempts, likely in no small part due to joining the guild that Ardwulf started. The game itself is also more polished and engaging than it's ever been. Further, say what you will of their overall pricing scheme, ten dollars for a silver membership is an amazing deal. You have an enormous full featured MMO available to you forever even if you decide not to pay a dime after that.
Finally, Cataclysm launched in December and became the fastest selling PC game in history. Agree or disagree with the massive revamp of the game that accompanied it, that's an amazing achievement.
I had a ton of fun bopping around random FtP MMOs in 2010. While several new MMOs certainly failed to make it off the runway without bursting into flames, overall I'd rate 2010 as an exciting year to be an MMO enthusiast.