The studio that gave me the most entertainment over the the last year was definitely Turbine. I discovered DDO during the spring, and had one hell of a time there. The real time combat, abundant traps and puzzles, and stupidly deep character development system make it a serious breath of fresh air compared to most fantasy MMOs. They have been updating it like crazy, with significant new content being added every two or three months. The solo game may effectively end in the mid levels for many classes, but you will have an incredibly unique experience getting there.
I also have to give props for Turbine for having the guts to switch their most successful sub based MMO over to FtP. Where DDO was on life support and had little to lose from the conversion, LoTRO reportedly was north of 200K steady subs. Potentially setting an audience that big on fire was a risky move, but it really seemed to pay off for them.
Finally, Turbine gets huge credit with me for not being afraid to make major updates to core systems that were unpopular with the players. Yesterday's patch removed radiance from the game and included a major revamp of the legendary item system. Both changes were also preceded by "me culpa" dev diaries that I found incredibly refreshing. If only all studios were as responsive and transparent. Under this year's DAW theme, communication, I think Turbine has really taken the cake this year.
In the gonads of stone department, I also have to give honorable mention to Blizzard. Love or hate Cataclysm, a major redesign of the core leveling game was a gutsy move. Just based on social inertia they could have coasted on their old leveling game and still likely had the most profitable MMO on earth for years. But they thought they could make it better, and in this blogger's humble opinion... they did.
Finally, I also want to give a shout out to SOE and EQ2X for value. The silver membership in EQ2X is pretty much the best bargain in modern MMO gaming. You get access to something like 3/4 of the entire game for absolutely free, and for a mere ten dollars you unlock enough features to make for a highly playable experience. You end up with 6+ months of top shelf full featured MMO gameplay for less than it costs to sub to most MMOs for a month. I have whinged about aspects of their payment plan in the past, but the silver member ship on it's own is an absolutely fantastic deal. My fun-to-cost ratio in EQ2X was off the charts.
Finally, thanks to Blue Kae for reminding me about DAW and Scary Booster for organizing it.