If you weren't a designer, but a hardcore WoW raider, do you think you would think the game was too "casual" these days?
Quite possibly. I have this theory that, when you're a really elite hardcore gamer, what you really want - what drives you - is that sense of competition; really having that gap between you and the less skilled, and more casual. That's what drives you, and that's not different no matter what game you're playing: WoW, Counterstrike, Warcraft III, games like that. You strive to make the gap as big as possible.
So I certainly think that there is that sense that "Hey, I remember back when I had to walk uphill to school in snow both ways, and other players don't have to do it as hard as I did!" There's naturally going to be some resentment, but in the bigger picture, it doesn't diminish their accomplishment at all. They're still better and more skilled - but the gap has changed.
That's from an interview with Rob Pardo of Blizzard, that I've had open in a browser tab for days, but have only just got around to reading. I think it's a really telling quote in light of our recent discussion about the state of WoW.
The short of it is this: Blizzard is interested in providing you with challenges as hard as they have every been, but not in pandering to a sense of extreme superiority over others.
Now you can argue about how well Blizz are doing at providing that challenge - and it seems to be clear that there's a certain segment of the market they're not pleasing at all - but it seems very clear that vast differentials in gear and access between the most committed and the average players are a thing of the past.