The question they ask is how much a game like WoW should 'cater to new players'. Well, I think we can agree that, assuming unlimited development resources, games should cater a lot to new players. The question is just what that means.
Apparently Blizzard looked at their statistics and concluded that a lot of players leave because they die. And thus Blizzard decided to prevent them from dieing while alone, if possible for the first 80 levels.
Now, I am not sure about this. I personally agree with Gevlon. He commented
When I first played WoW, I sucked, obviously. I still remember how much I was unable to navigate in the quilboar maze in the tauren start area. But I never thought that the GAME is bad, I knew that I'm bad in it.You can see his expectation here. I actually share his experience in the quilboar maze. When navigating the (cute, little) maze, neither Gevlon nor I assumed that we shouldn't have to die. That's why dieing wasn't frustrating for us. Instead, it was a simple feedback about what works and what doesn't. That's learning.
Dying kept our minds busy. It satisfied our curiosity and the goal of mastering the maze may even have become more desirable. Most people react with some kind of stubbornness when they fail at something early and even repeatedly. That is just a part of the reaction and it doesn't last forever, but it is there.
But, of course, this can change. If a new player enters a game and expects to not die, then he will feel that dieing is frustrating: And he might add: "boring and without meaning, because I can run back to where my corpse is, anyway." And he would be right as well. It's all about his expectations. If Blizzard could shape this expectation .. and they can ....
And so I slowly start to believe that Blizzard has some kind of plan here. It's not so much about improving retention of new players, but rather about controlled escalation. They deliberately escalate the players' expectations so that players find other games less fun. They deliberately spoil us. They tear down their rules faster than anybody else, and thus gain a competitive advantage. Can this be true? Maybe I'm just paranoid ...
Recommended read: The self-made irrelevance of the RPG