In lieu of hearing a simple announcement regarding an arrival date for Patch 2.3, we received some other big news yesterday along with that patch date announcement. Yep, RIFT’s going free-to-play on June 12th, which is also when 2.3 will be opening its doors (and Dendrome). Most of us saw the hints of this move coming months ago in between the layoffs at Trion, the addition of the in-game shop, and Scott Hartsman’s departure. Yesterday’s news still came as a surprise to many of us, however, especially given the timing of the news.
Bill “Daglar” Fisher mentioned yesterday that the team had been planning this move for more than a year, but despite the fact that the team pushed one-year subscription plans during the launch of Storm Legion, veteran players were only given one month to absorb the F2P news. Many one-year subscribers are understandably feeling a little let down by this move, especially considering the fact that some are paid up with over 300 days remaining on their accounts.
There’s also the fact that Daglar admitted the following in a recent MMORPG.com interview:
“So why now? To be super blunt, if we could have made the transition to this model earlier last year we would have. This has been in the works for quite some time and we wanted to finish Storm Legion before we could really dig into the conversion.”
While Trion Worlds, undeniably, is a business and must think in business-minded terns while making decisions such as the one to delay the announcement of F2P until after players had tossed down one-year subscription plans and purchased Storm Legion, there’s a certain type of trust many players had with the company that they didn’t share with other gaming companies. For many, this trust has been essentially shattered after yesterday.
Trust issues aside, I also personally think that the playerbase should have been given more notice on this massive change to the game we’ve made our home in for these past two years. One month really isn’t a long time for such a bombshell announcement, especially when there are aspects about the F2P move that remain unclear. All in all, RIFT‘s move to F2P has provoked a wide mix of both negative and positive emotions and mixed reactions. Having different pricing options when it comes to choosing how to play a game is always nice, but the fact of the matter is that F2P often carries a stigma that results in one glaring fault– loss of quality.
RIFT‘s frequent content updates, while awesome in the past, have definitely suffered lately. It’s possible that our updates may pick up again once the game goes free-to-play, but the team will always need designers and artists working on new ideas, items, and graphics for the in-game cash shop. Our weekly updates will become cluttered with cash shop deals and sales on top of the bug fixes that may or may not be a bit lacking.
The truth remains to be seen on whether or not this will be what actually happens, of course, but most games that go free-to-play after a certain period of time tend to take on qualities that mirror a giant shopping mall rather than a game that’s simply wide open and ready to explore. F2P games tend to lose a lot of the simplicity that MMORPG fans enjoy about games that feature monthly subscriptions. Monthly subscriptions seem to be slowly becoming a thing of the past, unfortunately, but for some of us, that simple and non-market-y feeling of knowing we pay for what we get upfront was part of the allure of RIFT.
A sizable portion of veteran players also feel that the announced F2P model lacks incentives for veteran players to continue paying a monthly subscription, especially if they are already decked out with level 60 characters who are done with most of Storm Legion‘s current notoriety and currency grinding. The Patron boosts are fairly underwhelming and seem a little more suited toward up-and-coming level 60 characters and players who are still leveling alts.
Now, thanks to Trion not telling us all the details about the system just yet, there may be some worthwhile perks included in the Loyalty/Veteran Rewards crossover (including ways to use the new cosmetic weapon system that is being added to the in-game store) that should be announced soon. For now, we know that we’ll be receiving a one-time compensation of Loyalty and Credits, which is a step in the right direction. Unless something changes, we won’t be receiving a monthly Credits bonus if we choose to keep our subscriptions active, which is something Daglar touched on in a ginormous forum thread yesterday.
In many F2P games, this monthly allowance of credits/coins/tokens is what makes a continued subscription worthwhile. It also allows players who prefer the P2P system to experience a bit of the “pay and forget” simplicity that’s missing from the standard F2P system while still giving them some freedom to pick up random cosmetic shop goodies. While Daglar doesn’t think a monthly Credit allowance is the way to go, he does admit that the team is entirely open to feedback when it comes to improving the veteran Patron system. This is one positive, at least.
Another positive– or negative, depending on how you look at it– is the fact that while Daglar admitted in Reddit yesterday that the in-game store will feature gear with stats on it, he also clarified that the gear being offered will only consist of leveling gear as well as a “variety of dungeon gear” for level 60. No raiding gear or raid crafting components will be offered in the store when the F2P system launches. Presumably, this “dungeon gear” will consist of expert dungeon pieces or equivalents that offer new players and alts a way to grab all of the Hit and/or Toughness necessary to dive right into the raiding foray.
Some players are for this idea, since it will let new players experience RIFT‘s endgame experience quicker, but others feel that any gear offered with stats on it is a slippery slope that edges dangerously close to pay-to-win. If Expert gear is being offered now, what happens two raid tiers later down the road? Will early-tier raid gear also be offered in the shop then? I definitely agree that the ground seems a little slippery when questions like these can even be asked, but unfortunately we won’t know for sure until we see the system for ourselves and take a look at the items in the shop, the costs of the items, and hear Trion’s definitive plans for future additions, Loyalty rewards, and how exactly FEX will be controlled.
From the sounds of it, we’ll be able to preview the in-game shop on the PTS in the weeks to come. That’s when we’ll know more. For now, all we can do is offer our feedback, hope Trion listens, and decide where we stand. It’s a bombshell, all right. Let’s see where the pieces fall.