dedelman - Really enjoyed your post. I think you're right, but that you've also missed the two bigger issues.
To maintain HBD (or any site/game like this) two things have to be working. Bring in new people and retain the ones you've got.
This game as never been well marketed. It's a How To Not Sell Your Stuff On The Internet tutorial. Top reason for that, currently, is Fox doesn't care & never will care. I'm sure they could do better. They have no compelling interest. It's too niche of a game to ever impact their bottom line. I have no doubt the user base could be grown 10x from what it is now. And even then, it would be a rounding error to Fox. Unless HBD is put into the hands of decision makers & investors interested in $2-4MM in annual sales and a profit of $400K - $1MM, there never will be the marketing effort made to grow the game.
Fox misses what was obviously the machine that could have, with just a bit of good marketing, gotten 10X the number of people into HBD. Moneyball (book and movie) was a HBD wet dream most businesses will never see in their lifetime. I didn't see a single HBD ad or promotion tied to Moneyball. That hype lasted years, on & off, and now it's done. Never to be repeated. They had Brad Fukin Pitt as their poster child & didn't do anything with it. Forgive me if I don't hold out a lot of hope over their possible upcoming WS promotion.
The second issue is the game takes a lot of hours -- I argue too many -- every day of the year to compete. Sure you can play if you check in every few days. And you can take a vacation for a week your team MAY not fall apart (unless you miss coach hiring, or FA signing, or you have a few extra inn games and your Ps run out of gass...)
But you're at a HUGE disadvantage to Mike, who clearly is never off line more than a few hours (and I mean never as in 24/7/365). No travel. No vacation. No time with family. No job that sometimes has responsibilities and take more attention. No finals week. Etc.
I'm not picking on Mike. I think he's a nut & I argue with him in the Suggestions Forum, but more power to him. Fox couldn't pay him enough for what he does for free. If he’s not getting any sort of money, comp, or kickback from Fox/WIS, he’s naive.
And he's a WAY at the edge outlier. In any version of HBD that involves strategy, he's going to have an advantage.
The reality of the game as it's played now, IMO, is the ability to invest time is TOO MUCH of an advantage. And that directly results in people leaving. I believe this because that's what almost all of them have told me on the way out.
There are specific aspects of HBD that could be changed that would result in a game that still closely simulates MLB and still rewards good strategy & smart play AND would take a lot less time or allow for more flexible time to play the game and compete.
Until HBD is out of Fox's control, I don't see how that's going to happen. It would take computer programmers. And it's likely whatever servers the game runs on would have to be reconfigured to support a different kind of interaction. Given all of the things Fox can and does invest in, and the ROI they can get on other opportunities, even 10X HBD is peanuts.
Not that they’re asking me, but it seems obvious Fox would be increase their profits and rid themselves of an insignificant property if they sold HBD, probably all of WIS, off to someone with a passion for it. Someone who knows how to market & can hire competent programmers could make Fox more money that HBD/WIS does now by increasing the user base and running ads, promotions, and contests for Fox’s other properties.
If any of you have a few million burning a hole in your pocket, you could probably pick up an under performing property at a reasonable price.