Planetside 2 was originally going to be a free-to-play graphical update to Planetside
SOE president John Smedley revealed at the Planetside 2 community panel at Fan Faire, being held this weekend in Las Vegas, that the game announced as Planetside 2 this weekend started off as just a graphical update and a shift to a free-to-play business model for the original game.
However, once the team started working on the project, Smedley revealed, they got so excited about its potential that they decided to scrap their plans and make a full-fledged sequel instead. That's why the original teasers for "Planetside Next" talked about release dates that have long since passed at this point--they were originall talking about a simple graphics revamp.
Once the decision was made, SOE started to work on building a new graphics engine entirely from scratch in-house to support it, and the modest graphics and business model upgrade became the impressive Planetside 2 we're currently drooling over.