Trion Worlds: RIFT Free-to-Play has “Far Exceeded” Expectations

Published on July 23rd, 2013

Key was not to “piss off” existing players according to senior design director Simon Ffinch.

The number of players which joined after the MMORPG went free-to-play earlier this month “far exceeded” Trion Worlds’ expectations, according to a new interview with senior design director Simon Ffinch.

Trion Worlds: RIFT Free to Play has “Far Exceeded” Expectations

RIFT's adoption of a free-to-play model was inevitable, as it is with other MMORPGs out there. It's just a matter of time...

GamerZines asked the charismatic developer how much RIFT’s audience expanded when the game went free-to-play on June 12th, and even though he was hesitant to give us hard numbers he did have this to say:

“We just wanted to remove the barrier to entry that we had in RIFT. It was like opening the floodgates, it was pretty amazing,” Ffinch revealed.

“All I’ll say is that it [the free-to-play transition] has been really exciting, and has far exceeded our expectations and continues to do so. We thought we were going to see a lot of people leave, that were going to be upset by it, but I’m happy to say that didn’t happen.”

When any game goes free-to-play, it’s almost inevitable that existing subscribers get annoyed by the core changes made to their game and the tidal wave of more casual-minded players heading to servers, but Ffinch told us that wasn’t the case with RIFT.

Trion Worlds: RIFT Free to Play has “Far Exceeded” Expectations

That said, RIFT maintained its subscriber-only status for over two years which is longer than its competitors TERA and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

“First we already had a large and loyal player base, and we didn’t want to destroy that.  They were there playing and enjoying RIFT, and we wanted to make sure they could continue to do that. We didn’t want to upset them and we wanted to pull in a lot more players. MMOs are more fun when there are more people,” RIFT’s design director explained.

 “We did do it [the free-to-play transition] the right way and that didn’t piss off our players. We’ll take some credit for that, but I also think the industry has changed. Free-to-play doesn’t mean what it used to. You still get people who cry, “Oh my god, the sky is falling” when free-to-play is mentioned, but it’s far more accepted that this is the way games should be going forward.”

Long time RIFTers will no doubt notice that now every zone, especially the starter areas, have become absolutely crammed with new adventurers exploring the world, and that’s exciting for players and it seems developers as well.

“Wherever I go now [I think], ‘Oh good grief there are people crawling all over the place!’ We love our game, we’ve got a passionate team, and [we] just want to continue making great content.”

Trion Worlds: RIFT Free to Play has “Far Exceeded” Expectations

RIFT's free-to-play model is one of the most generous on the market, with few, if any, barriers to entry.

And that’s something Trion Worlds will continue to do, not only with more updates but also a new unnamed digital-only expansion which will feature new souls, PvP dimensions, a level cap increase, a new water-themed realm to explore and other components yet to be announced.

“One of the things RIFT has always been really been good at, and it’s something we work hard at, is having people play together. Even if you don’t talk to them which for some reason, we don’t know what it is, these people who play MMOs don’t want to talk to each other. They want to play with a lot of other people, but god they don’t want to talk with one another! So we make it really easy, you just click a button, join group and then you can leave if you want. So [we have] a lot of group play and that would really suck if half of it was stuck behind a pay wall,” he told us.

“If I’m with my friend who can’t afford the expansion and I’ve bought the expansion that blows, so we decided right from the beginning; no, everything will be free, all content will be free.”

Obviously that promise doesn’t include visual customisation items like gear, costumes and mounts sold via RIFT‘s in-game store, and the four new souls introduced in the Storm Legion expansion, but still there’s no monetary hurdles stopping free players from starting their adventures in Telera today, hitting max level and exploring all the quest content that last year’s expansion added to the game.  That’s something other free-to-play MMORPGs like Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Lord of the Rings Online would certainly do well to take inspiration from.

Expect more insights from RIFT‘s senior design director inside next month’s edition of FirstLook magazine, but until then you can find the latest issue of FirstLook below:

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    1. Posted by ShinChuck on August 17th, 2013, 07:00

      “We did do it [the free-to-play transition] the right way and that didn’t piss off our players.”

      I hate to sound bitter, but they did a lot to piss off their existing players. For one, they, after some waffling, openly admitted to pushing longterm, year-long-plus subscriptions *while they were trying to go free to play*.

      When subscribers complained about the length of their subs remaining and the lack of benefits for being subscribed, they basically said, “Deal with it, we think it’s fine.” It was a fight just to have a store discount as part of the subscriber benefits, and things like stipends or account-based purchases are “off the table”.

      Smaller things, like the promised weapon-wardrobes, promised to the players for nearly two years, were finally unveiled… as cash shop items. Ditto for things like additional professions and character slots.

      I understand it’s a changing market, and Trion felt it necessary to do this to survive. I don’t fault them for that by any means. It’s just a bit insulting to run to the media and say “We did it the right way, and we didn’t piss anybody off” when the debates, arguments, rage and blogs are there to say otherwise.

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