We’ve all heard the news by now: RIFT’s going free-to-play in less than a month. No big surprise; everyone’s wondered for a while, F2P is like a “second launch” that most MMOs enjoy, and RIFT had the structure of RIFT lite and the shopping cart in place. Still, this news gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up from me.
RIFT is one of those games that while I may no longer be playing it, I have nothing but fond affection for it. It’s a highly polished, full-featured MMO that deserves a healthy-sized audience. I have no idea how many people are still subbed, of course, but I don’t think it was in danger of dying any time soon. A F2P switch doesn’t always signal a hail Mary survival throw, but sometimes it’s just a good business decision to bring in more players and make more money and ensure a longer lifespan for the title.
I’m impressed that RIFT launched and survived over two years as a sub-only game in this current MMO climate. People predicted RIFT to go F2P a long time ago, and Trion stuck with the subs (and quite aggressive marketing techniques) up until now. The sub was something that stuck in people’s craw, because it forced players to make two tough comparisons when deciding to stick with RIFT or not: Is it worth paying for RIFT when I can get so many other MMOs for free? Is RIFT worth the same (more or less) sub price as World of Warcraft?
Now those questions are moot. The sub barrier will be gone (but the sub itself is still an option) and we’ll see how RIFT can compete with the rest of the F2P pack. I predict that it’ll do just fine for itself.
In terms of the details of what’s free and how Trion’s going to be making money, I am quite pleased to see that there’s not going to be any silly SWTOR-like restrictions on classes, souls, and content. The base game (1-60, not including the expansion which must be purchased separately) is free and that’s all there is to that. Awesome. Instead of hobbling the game and making you pay to un-cripple it, the devs are taking the philosophy of giving the game away and then making money from extras (and those who still wish to sub).
That’s when we get into some of the murkier elements. Most of the cash shop mentions are generally fine — cosmetics, boosters, mounts, expansion souls, and so on. What has a few folks worried is that RIFT will also be selling gear, although there’s a limit on how good of the gear this is (the devs are promising that the absolute best still will come from dungeons, raids, etc.). This I don’t like so much. Even if it’s not “the best”, it still offers a significant shortcut and toes the “pay to win” line. Maybe you’re okay with games selling gear, but I’ve long ago decided that that’s where I draw the line in my acceptance of F2P offerings. It undermines progression (as gear is tied to in-game quests and activities) and can offer ways for PvPers to get a leg up on the competition through the virtue of the dollar.
That aside, it’ll be interesting to see how REX will combat gold sellers and create a new economy in the game.
Free-to-play isn’t enough to get me to come back right now, as my plate is more than full. But if you’ve never given RIFT a try, seriously check it out. I spent well over a year in that game and loved a great deal of it.