There is abslolutely no reward or interest in fighting against/being beaten by anonymous opponents which have otherwise no personal connection to the player. I love quake, command and conquer, etcetera, but only in the same way as I love chess, and I would never even contemplate playing chess against someone I had never met in person, because that would be boring; a soulless challenge, so pointless that I may as well play against a computer.
I very much disagree. I like having a consistently large player pool with which to compare my play. Many of the people you play in online games have already gotten good enough to beat or compete with the best computer opponents. Facing a human player, in my experience, provides a new and unique challenge, even if you can't see their face.
There are also often large gaps in skill between friends that play games. The discrepancies between friends gets taken away when you play against a large player pool. Who cares if you're best at a game between 4 people? How about in the top 1% of 500,000 people?
I love to play with my friends, but I love it even more when we can play against an anonymous online multiplayer base. In CoD, for example, we can work together as a team and find a position together against incoming forces. It makes it even more real. Almost like real war.
I'm not sure what makes your challenges inspring and meaningful, and what makes mine soulless and pointless, but I have more fun with online multiplayer games than with games that don't connect. When I'm home alone late at night, and the house is dead silent - lonely even - there's something eerie about playing bots -- add the online part, and suddenly it fills the house with *just a little* more presence.
Some people become obsessed with online games, and perhaps I can see why it would be a diversion, but I am willing to bet that the vast majority of people are only interested in playing games against the people in their own existing social circle, and could not give a damn about massively multiplayer, always online bullshit - and that to lump every gamer in that crowd would be a disastrous folly.
Be careful where you lump every gamer. There's a reason why many of these games actually have a
and why EA is willing to bet on it.