Anyone ever watch a TV show that has a great run, but doesn't have an ending? I just finished the whole series Las Vegas, only to find out that the last episode is a cliffhanger. ARE YOU KIDDING? I GOT ALL INTO THE SHOW, THEN THIS HAPPENS? UGH!!! I'd gladly pay ten bucks for just one more episode! Which of course, that brings me to some thoughts on Mechquest...
Long post incoming... which should surprise no one.
It seems like this exact same topic comes up at least once a month. Every time, people seem to want the same things: more quests, more permanent content, more storyline advancement, etc. Every time, it boils down to the same thing: more content, and more staff to produce that content. But the question always remains- why put more staff onto a project that doesn't draw revenue?
Rather than looking at MQ as an endless game akin to an MMO, I think it makes more sense to look at it as a single-player RPG that delivers a finite amount of enjoyment for the money you put into it. Think of it this way- for a typical console RPG, you pay $50 for about 20 hours of main-game content, and maybe 5-10 hours of post-game bonus content if you're lucky. With MQ, it costs $20 to get about 20 hours of main-game content, and a slow-but-never-ending stream of post-game bonus content. From a business standpoint, Artix has already provided me with a fair quantity of product for my money, so their business with me is done. Anything beyond that isn't earning them profit, and their resources could be better spent on other customers.
So rather than asking what kind of free content the MQ staff can keep providing for us, I think the better question is what kind of new content we would be willing to buy. New mechs alone aren't enough; I already have a Primo Jameson collecting dust in my hangar, because there's no content that really warrants using it. New weapons aren't much better either, since we've already beaten all the bosses.
One potential selling point I see is to promise actual story progress. The endless soap opera format might work for an MMO, since story isn't key to enjoying those games. For a finite RPG like MQ though (and for tv shows, grumble grumble), people want to see actual ENDINGS. It's hard to grow attached to the MQ story because you never know what to expect or when to expect it. Most people won't follow a story blindly for a year without knowing what came before or when to expect the next part. However, if I knew that a particular story arc was going to contain exactly 5 installments spaced 3 months apart, you can bet that I'd be a regular player for at least the one year it takes to finish that one story.
For example, someone who joined this year would know that we had to rescue Xaria, but they'd have no idea how she was captured or why she's important, and probably won't stick around to see if/when she gets cured. But if she was captured in January, confirmed alive and almost rescued in April, led the war against Lagos in July, actually rescued in October, and cured the following January, you can bet I'd be hooked to MQ for that entire year, regardless of my level. I'd also probably be more willing to buy the related NG rares in the process, since I actually care about the story. And of course, the concurrent storyline that starts in June would keep me playing after the Xaria story reached its ending.
The other big selling point I see is high-level bonus missions. As of now, the staff is already creating the SC Extreme challenge series for long-time players. I'd guess that after Necryptos-X A-D are finished, by then we'll have enough wormhole missions to start a new section of Wormhole-X challenges. All that is fantastic, but I don't think it's enough to motivate people to buy new NG mechs. I know this might not be a popular decision, but I think it might be worth trying to push a pay-per-mission model, akin to DLC packs in modern games. A small cost, like 1000 NG, for a dungeon of overpowered enemies and a credit shop with a good reward (ie those SCMM re-releases people have been clamoring for). That way we're not only paying a fair price for new content, we also have incentive to actually buy top-level weapons and mechs.
And erm, now I'm headed out to do some shopping for the day. I'll probably edit this later. >_>