When it comes down to it, there’s really only 1 reason for why they decided to turn SV into a melee-spec. They were on their way with Legion class-development and with the new philosophies and the increased focus on individual spec identities, in their minds, MSV made perfect sense. They didn’t care what most of the then-current hunters wanted or why they had chosen to play the class, the devs wanted to add a melee-spec, and so they did.
They came up with excuses as reasons to why they decided to remove RSV, reasons like “it did not have a niche of it’s own”/“it was underdeveloped”/“it was sort of like MM, but with more traps or different arrows”.
These reasons sound good and all, until you actually take a step back and look at Hunter class design up until WoD. Until you think of what the intent was with class and spec design up until the changes intended for Legion.
Let’s take a look at these aforementioned “reasons”.
RSV did not have a niche of it's own(relative to other hunter specs)?
Sure it did, it focused on augmented shots and enhanced traps. It focused mostly on non-physical damage, dealt to the enemy at a steady and concistent pace(DoTs).
Something that was the literal opposite to what Marksmanship was doing, both thematically as well as mechanically.
For the record, “physical damage” within the scope of WoW, means damage dealt with a focus on the point of impact or the kinetic force gained from a projectile fired from a ranged weapon, or by the strike of a melee-weapon.
RSV was underdeveloped?
In what sense? Sure, ofc it’s design as it was up until WoD wouldn’t have been enough for Legion and it’s changes to design-philosophies. But since when was that a problem? They could just’ve done the same to this spec as with what they did to all other specs, going forward.
By “modern” standards, if RSV lacked certain depth or distinguishing features, then just…add those?
RSV was sort of like MM, but with more traps or different arrows?
No it wasn’t. Like I’ve already touched on before, within the scope of the general class design of Hunters and what specs actually are, RSV was the literal opposite to MM, both thematically as well as mechanically.
Besides, this clearly wasn’t an actual issue with the devs since well, like others have already said, current SV shares more with BM than RSV ever did with MM…
To summarize, the devs wanted to add a melee-spec to the Hunter class because in their minds, it was an easy way to meet the criteria set for Legion and future class design/development.
They did not care about then-current Hunters or what could’ve been done to further the design and gameplay tied to RSV.