The situation with MMOs is not a matter of "people accepting mediocrity", it's the realistic state of the industry.
And before you hit me with "ohbutGW1wassogreat", I found GW1 to be boring and bland, mediocre at best. It's no paradigm of greatness. It was a niche title, and 7 million sales with redundency since they count campaign sales seperately PLUS an Asian release, doesn't make it less of a niche.
And the impermanence isn't a problem. The scripted impermanence is. That is not the result of it being an MMO, but a result of certain design choices.
As I said, GW1 was niche, I agree, but it did extremely well for a niche game.
Final Fantasy XIV for example. Or Mass Effect 3. Or the recent SimCity debacle. Many of the post-WoW MMOs fall in the same boat and it usually ends with apologies and high profile firings.
But it always starts with an Internet uproar that cannot be missed. And we never saw that with GW2 from the GW1 community.
We do agree that past MMOs were indeed garbage and I can understand the desire to see MMOs evolve into something better. But that evolution is not likely to happen quickly in the field of AAA-level games. It will most likely happen in more niche games that I mentioned to El Duderino where risk is more acceptable.
Now that I think about it, GW1 started as a niche game, didn't it? A weird co-op RPG that so confused reviewers when it was released. GW1 just happened to catch on and grew far beyond being a niche market. That is very a rare thing and I don't think it can be easily reproduced no matter how hard anyone tries. In fact, it might be impossible to do that anywhere but in a small company. And ArenaNet was no longer a small company by the time GWEN came out.
Yes, GW1 was a niche game, ANet attempted to create the "CoRPG" genre, which turned out to contain one game. However they could have made GW2 that too, kept progressing. I'm fairly sure that they would have sold tons on release if GW2 was GW 2.0 so to speak. They chose to not do that. With the influx of new people into the company from other studios that previously made (failed) MMOs, as well as large parts of the GW1 talents seemingly leaving, it was probably an obvious choice to make an MMO.
That doesn't mean that it wasn't unfortunate, though. I would much prefer another CoRPG.