It’s counter-intuitive, but I think SEMC managed to provide fairly good core gameplay all along. Not all releases were exactly equal in terms of balance, but most were enjoyable.
The actual issues have been technical all along, be it the match-maker, server stability, net-code related, plain old bugs - you name it. All of that impacts your gameplay, but it’s different departments altogether.
Now they are minimizing what they’ve been traditionally bad at, which is the out-of-game-experience. But that plays a huge role in player-retention, as Hazeleyes mentioned.
If you look at other MOBAs, man… I remember the sort of statistics I could access from within the client, even during SMITE’s beta. I could click a hero and see my win-rate in different game modes, all sorts of stuff. That actually prompted me to play and practice, get better, made me feel involved.
According to Nivmett, SEMC deems that sort of thing a waste of resources.
Coupled with a much better social aspect, that’s what keeps people coming back to MOBAs. And it’s what AoV and other contenders seem to excell at.
So why not look at what they’re doing right? Keep doing what you’re good at (and that very much involved lore), and improve the areas that are lacking.
Instead they’re dialing back on all accounts, and just give up on half of the equation.