I think I've seen the future, unless Blizzard pulls another clever ruse to change the up and coming trend. Like with the LFD, when the end game was getting more and more frustrating due to finding a group for heroics.
I mean the players getting cockier and less class-clever along the time. Sure, Blizzard has stated that 30% of the people running the trial continue beyond that, but what about the next hurdle taking the people off the grind? It's not the levelling, not at all. It's the -now a bit softened- hit of hitting the level cap. Suddenly the railroading stops and you are faced with the gearing grind, no direction, only requirements.
And after that, when the new player has gotten into heroics (too much too soon IMO), s/he must start to wonder why people call her/him noob. Isn't dps supposed to pull and kill? Isn't healer supposed to beat the living daylights out of the mobs, competing in the dps meter? Doesn't 4.5k Gearscore mean you are a great player?
I learned a couple of days ago that my GS is a bit over 4.8k, and I'm not going to change that unless I get myself to raid. I'm content with the two set bonuses I have, both in Devastate, which is the bread and butter for the current tank. Naturally -as we're talking about warrior tanks- this is just a part of the rotation, but still, Devastate is the skill of the month, or at least as long as the PvP people get to the point that it has to be nerfed, like our Warbringer and Shield Slam were. I can see that this isn't going to take long.
The more people are ushered up at the constantly increasing speed, the more complete newbies will surface. People who haven't had to learn their class, or do not have to understand the mere basics of their class. For dps, anything goes, as long as they deliver the damage.
It's not that simple for us tanks, nor for the under-appreciated healers, though. Why? We have to live with the cocky, full of themselves dps'ers, who cannot take a single thing without reverting to a litany of abbreviations.
Hunters stacking INT and SPI, rogues pulling, mages blaming the healer after they get killed (but no wipe)... The seeds of destruction are already planted, and as Cataclysm is aimed both for the old gamers and for the new audience, we will see even more of the same. Or even worse.
This can be seen already at the cap: Already the LFG ICC10 announcements require achievement, spec and gearscore. Even the latest raid weekly on our server, Anub'Rekhan was called for with the requirements I mentioned! Naxx starter raid, with this gear composition you have at lv80? As far as I know, the current, newly dinged lv80 has better gear than the ones who cleared Naxx the first time it was introduced in Northrend. And now people are skipping Naxx, Ulduar and even ToC to enter ICC directly.
Thinking this from the newbie tank point of view (my point of view, newbie because lacking raid experience), I cannot see a new aspiring tanks emerging. They will most likely be alts or new mains of players who have seen the game this far already and are willing to sacrifice their sleep for others.
You see, running as tank -or a healer- through random heroics isn't a task for faint hearted.
So the future I see is bleak because of the players that will come to the game. Not because of the game itself, but because of the clueless players who whine the game to be changed to something that suits them better. You know, the know it alls who cannot play their class, even if you drew a roadmap to it.
Eh, maybe... like me?