EQ2 and WoW are both coming up on their respective five-year anniversaries. Both games are planning expansions that will include new starting areas (and substantially more in WoW's case) in the hopes of helping out new players and encouraging new alts. Meanwhile, both games are planning revamps to the way they handle their racial traits, changes that will be retroactive to existing characters.
However, the two games have taken slightly different directions with these revamps.
WoW and The Goblin Racials
When fans got to play the new Goblins at Blizzcon, the Goblin racial abilities drew some attention. The famed merchant race will always receive the best possible faction discounts, even if they don't have the requisite reputation with the vendors in question. Goblins will get remote access to their banks, and a rocket belt that can be fired to shoot enemies or propel the Goblins themselves forward.
When players saw these racials, the reaction was immediate jealousy. These tricks simply sound cooler than the abilities that other races get. Meanwhile, the new Worgen will have the game's only cosmetic disguise, as the Worgen can suppress their curse and return to human form out of combat. No worries, the devs assured us, all races will be receiving similar revamps to their traits.
(They also let it slip that they were reversing their prohibition on paid race change transactions. When they announced the faction change service, they claimed that it would permanently save your original race to prevent you from changing factions twice to end up as a different race.)
The thing that strikes me about these racials, though, is how deliberately they are focused on flavor. The list for the goblins did include one passive combat bonus, a 1% haste increase, and I'm sure there are situations in which the other racials might affect a battle (e.g. the rocket jump and flag carriers in battlegrounds). Overall, though, if the goblin racials are the model, WoW may be in for racials that focus on flavor over function.
New Traditions in EQ2
EQ2's racial trait revamp is actually going in for the next patch, and Feldon has helpfully collected the info from the test server. I could go on for paragraphs on how this affects various characters (indeed, a previous draft of this post did just that), but the bottom line is that SOE has made a very deliberate choice to homogenize the racial bonuses.
The current system gave out unique combat abilities to each race - some were mostly novelty, but some gave those particular classes a major advantage in group content. All of these abilities get the axe in the name of balance. Now each race gets passive stat bonuses aimed at certain class roles. They're balanced, but they're boring - my fire-breathing Sarnak can no longer breathe fire (and, as a priest class with a spell list focused on healing, having that extra attack skill was actually useful).
You may be even less amused if your race didn't get bonuses for your class and/or had existing bonuses removed. More to the point, one of the things that I really liked about EQ2 really early during my experience there was how every race could be every class. Now, the system says that each race should be one of two archetypes.
(Also note that no races were allowed to get both the tanking and melee DPS traits, because that combination would allow tanks to double dip, so almost all of the big strong races got stuck with the tanking and healing combination. Barbarians, Dwarves, Trolls, reptilian but no-longer-fire-breathing Sarnak, Ogres, and Frogloks all differ by a handful of non-balance-affecting innate abilities, and all are pigeon-holed away from melee DPS.)
The danger of perfect balance
In the end, neither company really wants to force min-maxers to pick specific races by handing out unique abilities; Blizzard made that mistake with priest racials and EQ2 is hoping to correct that situation today. It's possible that Blizzard's more flashy traits will be a step backwards in this regard, creating new must-have flavor of the month combos.
Then again, I feel like SOE has illustrated the danger of going too far in the name of balance. I've held off making a Wizard in EQ2 because I didn't like the two races with the best racials, hands down, for the class. After all of these tweaks, the same two races that I wasn't excited about (High Elves and Erudites) end up right back on top because they were allowed a special synergistic enhanced set of mage and priest bonuses. You'll never perfect balance, but you can take out a lot of fun in the attempt.