Let’s talk about Rift free-to-play
A couple of weeks ago, Trion Worlds dropped a bomb on all its fans by announcing that Rift, its popular fantasy MMORPG, is going to switch its commercial model from P2P to free-to-play on June 12. Even if rumors about Rift giving up the P2P model were in the air from a while ago, having to guess we would have bet on the B2P as new business model seeing how well it is working with their other MMO Defiance. However, it's sure that this big change is an important event and an alarm bell for the whole MMO gaming world as Rift was one of the very few AAA MMORPGs still running the P2P model. Could this be a sign hinting that the subscription-based commercial model is really doomed to die? Are we going to see a F2P version of WoW too? Or will the king manage to survive? We will see, but this is another story, this time let's talk about the new free-to-play incarnation of Rift!
Just by giving a quick look at the free-to-play version explanation page it's easy to see that Trion has carefully planned everything without leaving anything to the chance; everything about the switch is explained clearly and in detail.
The first two questions that pop into our minds reading about a P2P game going F2P are typically the same: is this game going to become a pay-to-win? And if we are not paying, are we going to play just a mutilated game, more like an extended trial? Usually developers and publishers tend to avoid especially the first question, as it’s not uncommon to see powerful or unbalanced items in their games’ shop. However, Trion actually goes straight to the point making things clear, as you can read on their page about the free-to-play promotion:
“RIFT will not become "pay-to-win" with this change. The best items in the game will always have to be earned in Telara!”
Brutally clear and - we have to admit - extremely appreciated as this reassures us a bit and makes us hope for the best.
Regarding the second question, apparently they are not going to cut out any content for the free-to-play players, giving to the Patron players (more about this later) just boosters and conveniences. Moreover, there will be some small starting differences between the veterans (players who purchased Rift and Storm Legion) and the free players, but only related to the starting character slots and bag slots (2 characters and 3 bag slots for the free version, 6 characters and 5 bag slots for the veterans). Obviously, players who own Storm Legion will keep the souls (classes) introduced by the expansion, but besides this, there are no other restrictions of available classes. Excellent.
As we said before, there will be the option to subscribe for a premium account called Patron membership and is described as “the best way to get the most out of Rift”, but let’s see what kind of benefits this will give to the players. Patron players will have access to:
- 15% more currency earned
- Daily XP boost
- Instant access to Banker, Guild Banker and Trainer through Patron summons
- Daily boost to the Tokens gain (such as Plaques of Achievements and Marks of Ascension)
- Mount Speed 10% faster
- Daily boosts to PvP XP and reputation gain
- 10% discount on all purchases made with Credits in the Rift Store
- Priority Queue
- Daily boost to PvE reputation gain
- Veteran rewards which increase the more you subscribe
In our opinion this does still gives a bonus to some players that others don’t have, but it simply doesn’t create too much imbalance.
The Rift store is receiving an overhaul as well, and will be further expanded with mounts, gear, boosts, companion pets and more.
In addition to all this, the change to the free-to-play model will see the introduction of the REX system. REX (short for Rift Exchange) is a new premium currency which will be available for purchase with real money in the Rift Store and which can be traded, auctioned to another player or consumed in-game for Credits and Loyalty, giving the free player a chance to get some Credits. The whole REX system seems a more complex version of the Guild Wars 2 Gems System, and even if giving players the chance to trade and play with both premium and regular currencies seems a great idea, balancing a system like this whilst trying to avoid messing up the whole game’s economic system is an extremely delicate and difficult. However, Trion seems to know this all too well, and doesn’t forget to add to their website explanation page an honest “As with all features we add to RIFT, we'll be carefully monitoring REX and making adjustments based on your feedback and findings.”
So, Trion is going to take this big step in less than 10 days and we are extremely excited about that. With this change, Rift is easily going to be one of the best and most complete free-to-play AAA theme-park MMORPGs out there (if not the best). Ultimately, it’s going to offer a commercial model which seems extremely fair and attractive, and from which a lot of other free-to-play games could learn something (yes Mr. SWTOR, we are talking about you too). Trion has shown everyone that for the company it’s important to listen to the player feedback and that they think you don’t need to be too greedy to be successful. We will soon see if these choices will turn out to be right, but from what we can see right now, knowing the company and the game, we would bet on a flourishing second coming.