Since you're so keen for a debate, i'll answer some of your questions. You may or may not agree and that is fine, we are all entitled to our own opinions. Without further ado...
That's all well and good, but everyone who says that always avoids the most relevant question:
If you play for the grouping, why do you need to get more than the solo player?
If you play for grouping, you're playing with the MMO spirit and what MMOs were created to do - have people playing together. MMOs were always about grouping up and adventuring together, before WoW came along. Rewards should be doled out to those who understand what a MMO really is and don't log on to solo their way to cap. Talk to your friends on MSN and play Dragon Age or something if that is your intention.
Another reason is because incentives are needed so people don't fall into the solo attitude. If you're not rewarded with anything outside of the social aspect, alot of players will forsake it which makes finding groups harder and a pain in the ***. This isn't something I want, World of Warcraft did it and the game suffered, but i'll talk about that later.
Nobody ever answers that with any kind of argument that holds water. The best anyone has ever come up with is a sob story about how hard it is to find a group and how much of a risk they're taking putting their success in the hands of others and blah blah blah...in other words, rational justifications.
It holds plenty of water. If you'd played EQ, FFXI (before solo got popular) and a variety of other old school MMOS you'd understand how fun proper grouping can be. You'd understand that it is in your best interest to build on a community and grow together, not alone and just "chatting". My apologies if you've been around that long, but I truely don't see how anyone who has could find focusing on solo'ing advantageous.
MMO stands for massively multiplayer online. If you've got a couple of thousand people online, I'd say that covers the "massively" part. It also covers the multiplayer, since you're sharing a persistent virtual world with those people. And online, well, that's pretty much a given.
It isn't a literal meaning. Anyone who is worth their weight and has been with the MMO scene for a long time really understands what an MMO is. An MMO is a game where many players come to get together, socialize and kill monsters. Learn about each other, run into people and strike up friendships in the game. Play in pug groups and get to know people over the course of a few hours. It isn't a place for "Joe Solo" to log on and chat to his friends while he plays the game all by himself. You have Facebook and single player MMOs for that, or crafting and gathering.
But what happens is someone like you comes along and makes ridiculous statements to the effect that "multiplayer" by default means "group" and if you don't want to group, MMOs are not the genre for you.
I believe a true MMO involves heavy focus on grouping and I believe that if you don't enjoy that then MMOs aren't the genre for you, maybe something like WoW would be more suited (a solo game, not a true MMO).
I paid for the retail box just like you. And if SE ever gets around to charging for monthly subscriptions, if I'm playing it's because I paid my monthly sub, just like you. And when the developer says they're aiming to make the game accessible by solo players and casual friendly and someone like you comes along and says solo players don't belong, you find yourself in the unfortunate position of holding an opinion directly to the contrary of what the devs have said they envision for the game.
I think its quite clear the game isn't very friendly for solo players. If I was SE i'd be telling people my game is solo friendly too, even if it wasn't, to secure more box sales and subscriptions. It isn't unheard of for companies to spin PR, in fact it happens daily. If it ever does become too solo focused though, i'll simply leave to a proper MMO.
Multiplayer can mean any number of things. It means I can chat with people in game. It means I can exchange things earned through playing the game with other people. It means the world is full of other players running around hear and there in a way that adds a sense of life to the game that's awfully hard to duplicate in a standalone offering. And it can mean that you group together with other people to fight and take on enemies that would be impossible to kill solo.
These are all great features of an MMO and I agree with you, however at the core and heart of all great MMOs should be compelling group content. Focusing on single player content makes the game lifeless and boring. Unfortunately putting solo'ers on the same level as people who group constantly changes game mechanics in such a detrimental way it ruins the group game. I really don't believe you can have the best of both worlds otherwise solo'ing becomes far too attractive and the prefered way to do everything (See WoW)
Bullsh*t. As soon as Blizzard added the dungeon finder feature, people were running dungeons like crazy through all level ranges.
We have a different definition of grouping and i'll try to clarify it for you. WoW dungeon finder =/= grouping. Click a button, join a "group", never touch the chat and power through a 20 minute experience. That isn't true MMO grouping. True MMO grouping is messaging people on your friends list or starting a pug, constructing a party and shooting the **** while you wait for other people to join. Making your way out to a location to get started, asking group members if they need anything while you're in town, letting people know what crafting classes you have so you can help them out when you meet, talking about strategy and group synergy before you get started, talking about which mobs to fight, possibly changing plans of XP gains aren't high enough, talking to others about how your day was then rinse and repeating the next day or whenever. That is my definition of grouping.
Some community. "You can do what you want as long as we approve, even if you're not hurting anyone.
All I can say mate is that if you'd been around as long as I had and seen how compelling grouping and forming these communities and friendships can be you might understand where i'm coming from.
However, I am confident that in your reply you'll still be adamant that having a solo option is the best way to go about things so I won't trouble you any longer.
Ultimately I think FFXIV is perfect for forced grouping. Do your crafting or your gathering while you feel like being solo, then get together in a group if you feel like fighting. Everybody wins.
PS: This post was not intended to debunk or argue with your reasons. This is my opinion, that is yours. Neither of us are wrong we just have our own preferences and vision for what an MMO should be.