Yeah a fairly recent and controversial change in the law in the US made this (fairly outrageous situation) possible, but I understand California has in some way rejected it.
(Ah I see this is actually noted in the link!)
To be fair you missed it by um, 12 years, so I wouldn’t feel too bad. The Golden Age of MMOs is really 1999 (EQ & UO) through to about 2007. In this period, 3D MMOs were still wonderfully new and exciting, having to take risks because there weren’t easy choices, still trying genuinely new things, and not having hard-fixed ways of doing things. The peak years are perhaps 2001-2004, when a multitude of brilliant and different MMOs co-existed. WoW heralded the beginning of the end, not out of malice, but out of it’s sheer success. However, if it wasn’t WoW, it would have been someone else, I’d suggest.
WoW came out in November 2004 (I know was there on the morning of day one, buying our copies, in a Target in the US with my now-wife), and whilst games continued to try new things for a while, it quickly became clear that the things WoW was doing were making it into something of unstoppable juggernaut, and that the easiest course to at least moderate success for your MMO was to essentially imitate WoW and just add a bit.
What’s funny is nothing WoW did was really actually new. It just put all the pieces together with a strong IP and good accessibility (by MMO standards). All the stuff people often attribute to WoW, like GCDs, proper hotbar combat, formalized tank/healer/DPS roles, questing-to-level, instanced dungeons and so on had been done before (particularly by 2002’s Earth & Beyond and Asheron’s Call 2), but in games which were, for various reasons, less popular (E&B was accessible but had a dull setting and poor presentation, AC2 was a buggy, unstable mess, even by the low standards of MMOs).
I hate saying this, too, but 2007/8 was probably the last year WoW was one of this sort of wild-and-wooly MMOs too. Wrath of the Lich King arrived in 2008 (yes really, that long ago, WoW players!), and with it, the beginning to standardizing and balancing and QoL fixes and so on, all of which made the game vastly more pleasant to play, particularly day-in, day-out, but which gradually steered it away from being as much of a world as it was, and into even more theme-park-y territory (and it was already very much a theme park MMO).
So then we got what you might call the “Silver Age” MMOs, ones which were often well-designed, but heavily influenced by WoW, and not trying things as differently as they might, and in 2014/5 AAA MMOs largely stop being a thing. Elder Scrolls Online, WildStar and the rebooted FFXIV are pretty much the end of it. There hasn’t been a single new AAA MMO released in the West (possibly not even in Asia!) since then.
Now we’re in another age, post-MMO, where many games have MMO elements, or are MMO-like, but missing the MM bit largely. ARPGs and MMOs are sort of blending together, too, as internet service as got so much better than the necessity for a different gameplay model has sort of faded away.
There are a ton of unreleased or backer-only early access, non-AAA MMOs floating around, but I suspect most will eventually just fade away. It’s a pity, because some, like Crowfall and Camelot Unchained, look pretty great, potential-wise, but there you are.
EDIT - Totally personal aside but I feel like what MMOs have largely forgotten is how to make themselves relaxing and fun, rather than intense and stressful. A good example of this is WildStar - not referring to the endgame or other elements, but the normal combat with normal mobs. You basically had to be absolutely on-your-toes, performing split-second dodges and so on, which would be fine in an action game you play for an hour or two occasionally, but doesn’t really work for an MMO where you’re supposed to be playing for hours on end, most days, and this is pretty common in MMOs now. Gone are the days where you could carry on a typed conversation whilst playing.