Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thoughts on Rift

Over the past few months there has been a lot of buzz about Rift. Lately that buzz has started to swing back around to a predictable backlash. Green Armadillo and Ardulf have great posts about it up, and I think there are some legitimate concerns. However, I also think that predictions of a WAR and AoC style disasters are likely overblown.

You can be almost certain that Rift is going to lose at least half their players by the end of the first month. WoW but with better graphics, more flexible class designs, and Public Quests doesn't sound to me like it's going to be very sticky with "WoW tourists" (a meme I hate, but I think it may apply here). Even if Rift is a better game, for many players I think WoW has too much social inertia for a game competing in the same genre to overcome in the long haul.

That said, I don't think launch Rift is going to be broken like WAR and AoC were. Many commentators seems to assume that the crash and burn the latter games did was some inevitable consequence of trying to compete too directly with WoW. However, I would say those population implosions were a consequence of horrifically bad launches, not some sort of law of the genre. As long as Rift doesn't launch with an absolutely stupid number of servers, crippling their long term population and thus the PQ style Rift system, I think it's going to be a much better game than either AoC or WAR was at launch. Rift will surely lose a lot subs in the first month, but I doubt we are going to see it collapse into a singularity. I'm thinking more like a steady 200K-300K subs by the spring (i.e., EVE or LoTRO rather than Vanguard or WAR).

Despite my conviction that Rift is going to be at least "pretty good" when it launches and do "at least OK" on subs, I have no intention of being there for launch. I'm simply glutted on fantasy MMOs. If I want to play a fantasy MMO, I already have characters in WoW, LoTRO, DDO, Wizard 101, and EQ2X up and running. Between them that is an amazing diversity of tones and play styles. Short of those, I'd be more inclined to fire up Dark Age of Camelot, Allods Online (it really is fun for about the first 20 levels), or AoC (it's a lot better now than at launch). There's even Guild Wars and Vanguard, neither of which I've ever played and I can try for free instead of paying $50 for a box. Regardless of how pretty or spiffy the "next big fantasy MMO" may be, I just don't need another one right now.


  1. I am pretty much in the same situation; I cannot say that I have an urge for a new fantasy MMO at this time.

    I am curious to see how Rift will be doing 2 months or so after launch. The environment and community always tend to be slightly different from when a game has been released for a while - be it tourists or just that the polulation is more spread out in the world and what they may focus on.

  2. I think it's very likely we'll see a huge drop in players after the first month. In some ways, it does seem sort of like the "law of the genre", almost like that's just the way it is with all new MMOs. To some extent, I think it's true, but you're right, a poor launch exacerbates the problem by speeding up that exodus.

  3. I hate to be so pessimistic (especially on your blog) but I'm starting to regret preordering Rift. My taste for MMO has waned dramatically in the last month and I don't think this will reignite that fire. I couldn't even work up the desire to log into the most recent beta event.

    My current plan is to see whether the first month hooks me. But in the meantime, I'm cancelling the subscription so that I don't automatically pay anything after my 30 days are up.

  4. I liked it this weekend. I'm in for Rift, for 3 months at least.

  5. @Sente: that's certainly the question, isn't it? I'm guessing more than the 10% or so that WAR and AoC managed will still be around, but it's hard to say.

    @Mmogamerchick: WAR was practically a case study in how to lose a ton of money on an MMO. The crazy number of servers they launched with was a bullet in the back of the head to a game that was already limping. I'm hoping that Rift won't go down that hard, and so far it doesn't look like it will.

    @Anjin: sounds like a good plan to me. Maybe the launch week excitement will hook you in for a while. If Rift was at least set in space or the old west (to name two random non-fantasy genres) I'd be a lot more excited. As it stands, I think I'm really ready to move on to other styles of MMO.

  6. @Stabs: I'll be looking forward to endgame impressions on your blog in that case :-)