Monday, August 27, 2012

Most Threatened By GW2: Rift?

Wilhelm has an interesting post about current events in Rift that got me thinking about the week's major release. While Blizzard is making their traditional obligatory response to the Guild Wars 2 launch by rolling out a new patch tomorrow - there is a tradition to uphold, after all - I'm wondering that WoW may not be the game with the most to lose this week.  When you look at what distinguishes the remaining MMO's - and in particular the surviving subscription games - I'm much more worried for Rift. 

My personal experience in the world of Telara was that it was technically well executed but very dry solo.  Where the game shined was in groups, and I spent more time leveling with other people than I have in any other MMO before or since.  When I read over accounts from people who have stuck with the game, it seems that most have done so because their friends or their guilds have chosen Rift precisely because it is at their best when enjoyed in good company.

Now, in Guild Wars 2, you have a game that was supposedly developed under a philosophy where the first question was always how systems would affect players' ability to cooperate.  Servers and levels, probably the biggest barriers between players, are functionally gone.  The subscription fee is gone, and with it the constant financial incentive to quit the game.  Tapping mechanics that cause other players in the area to become competitors rather than collaborators are gone.  Open world events that encourage cooperation are in.  Ironically, Blizzard dodges a bullet by having a major competitor choose not to tackle WoW head-on, while Trion's model is most similar and most in the crosshairs. 

The Trion Response
Wilhelm says that his Rift server got pretty deserted during the GW2 prelaunch events, which is certainly anecdotal and probably a common experience around the MMO world this week.  However, the approach that the GW2 devs had planned was no surprise given the game's lengthy and relatively public development cycle.  Thus, Trion has had time to respond. 

Within a few months of GW2's anticipated release, Rift has added a popular auto-mentoring system (much like GW2's approach), removal of faction barriers to grouping (which GW2 intentionally never had), and a new world PVP system (albeit with some kinks) to join longstanding features like free instant server transfers and cross-server groups.  And yes, incidentally, a discount on a year-long subscription paired with an expansion - a move that Blizzard tried at the SWTOR launch, when it was widely regarded as a transparent attempt to lock in revenue before players canceled their subscriptions to go play a new game.  The fact that the competitor lacks a monthly fee can't help that math any. 

I don't expect Trion to fold anytime soon.  Even so, they may have as much riding on where the dust settles after this launch and their forthcoming expansion as any other game on the market. 


Liore said...

Actually, I think RIFT is in a great position to profit from GW2. What does GW2 not have? Coordinated end-game PvE. What does RIFT excel at? You guessed it!

(My biased opinion is that RIFT is also much better coordinated end-game PvE than WoW, and almost certainly more challenging and hardcore for those who miss that.)

The vast majority of my guildies who just picked up GW2 say they plan to level and then do WvW while using RIFT to fill their max level PvE needs.

Paul said...

My guild in Rift fell apart just before SWTOR came out, when half of them left for it.

The relatively more hardcore endgame of Rift also contributed to this. I think the raid leader was just sick of learning another set of complicated dance moves, and hoping all 20 people don't mess up.

Anonymous said...

I got to thinking about this too last week, when I wrote about how I still plan on getting the Rift expansion but will probably be holding back until next year when I've gotten WoW, GW2, and TSW out of my system. While everyone is talking about WoW vs. GW2, I've been thinking too that perhaps Rift is the one in the most precarious situation here.

Basically, Rift can't compete with WoW when it comes to the sheer amount of PvE content the latter has, and when it comes to Rift's highly touted dynamic events...well, let's face it, GW2 excels there. At least for me, that's why Rift is on the backburner. I do look forward to Storm Legion when I finally get time for it though.

seanas said...

Man, I've just finished writing a long comment over at Wilhem's place in answer to his post. Can I copy-n-paste it here? No?

The short answer, for now, is that I think everyone with any get up and go has got up and gone, as my dad used to say. Rift suffered population drops with the various GW2 BWEs, and I'd be surprised if there was anyone still remaining who thought all of a sudden 'why, I'll try that'. Rather, most people who were thinking of going went forst to D3 or TSW, and from *there* left to GW2 - I know of several guilds that have moved or merged because of this, and who have gone via TSW to GW2; I don't know of any suffering *now* from GW2's launch.

In the longer term? What does GW2 have to offer the player still happy with Rift? Dynamic events? Those are the strong point of Rift now. Adventuring without breadcrumbs (no need to call it questing any more)? Rift's IAs do that already, and Storm Legion is being built around them. 3-sided PvP? Have it, and *with* the kinks already worked out. End-game activities (not just raiding)? That's Rift's *other* strength - things to do at level-cap.

GW2 as a threat to Rift's business model? Again, I don't honestly think so. GW2 has dramas and crises ahead of it in the future as it rolls out its F2P structure - some proportion of players *always* throw up their hands and leave when F2P offerings get deployed; those will find their way back to a sub game... such as Rift or WoW. The rest, staying with the F2P game? ANet have managed one new game in 8 years; how often do we think they're going to update content for GW2? Seriously? By the time Storm Legion launches (November-December) enough people will have worked their way through GW2/ MoP/ RoR that Rift will gain on the roundabouts what they lost on the swings.

Bhagpuss said...

"Technically well executed but very dry solo" sums up Rift perfectly. I had a really great time in Rift throughout beta and for four months from launch, because the world was full, invasions and rifts popped constantly and the open-grouping and raiding mechanics that Trion perfected worked brilliantly.

Over time, however, two things happened: the population bubble moved up in level, leaving all the game below level 50 largely empty and Trion through most of their weight behind developing and expanding an EQ/WoW style dungeon and raid end-game.

Things they've added, like Instant Adventures and constant events with Dailies exacerbate the problem from my point of view. I enjoyed Rift for the ways it was unlike WoW, not the ways it most closely resembled that model. By the time I ran out of steam with Rift and reverted to a free Rift-lite account, which in itself I now rarely use, Rift had turned into an MMO with little left to offer me. I'd done and seen everything that I wanted, had a great time and was done.

I think it's largely true that guilds that are safely embedded in Rift's end-game and find it to their taste won't collapse because of GW2. I think, however, that they will find recruiting new blood increasingly difficult. GW2 is just a better (a much better) iteration of all the things Rift claimed it was going to put at its heart but ended up sidelining.

All the open grouping mechanics in GW2 are smoother, more organic and more inclusive. The events scale much more convincingly and will better survive the inevitable upward movement of the population bubble. Mentoring is baked into the game from the beginning and is automatic. A level 6o passing through a level 30 area will be the right level for the content there whether he chooses or not and from personal experience I'd say he's likely to forget what level the areas are - it works rather seamlessly.

Most importantly, though, Tyria is orders of magnitude more rich in detail and content than Telaria. I was a big booster of the unappreciated detail that Trion put into their world and it has wonderful touches and great beauty, but it's like good sketch compared to the finished oil-painting that is GW2.

I think Trion will be able to hold most of its existing playerbase, which as Seanas says has already boiled off most of the uncommitted. What I question is who is going to come and join them? Who will replace the inevitable burn-outs that that style of end-game famously produces? With both a box cost and a subscription and 50 levels(soon to be 60) of dryish, largely unpopulated content to get through before the "real" game begins, the barriers are so much greater and the rewards so much smaller, at least in the short term.

Like MMOGC, I have changed my buying plans for Rift. I was so pumped up for the new housing system that comes with the expansion I'd decided to buy it and re-sub. After three days in GW2 I can see that if Storm Legion appears this side of Christmas it won't be worth my buying it because there's no chance I'll play enough to justify a subscription. If Rift was F2P I would buy the expansion on release, because I could dip in and out when the mood took me. With a sub, I need a window of 2-3 months to make it worth buying the new content and that window is nowhere in sight.

I want Trion to do well and I want Rift to survive and prosper. If that can happen with a subscription cost, fine. I'll pay that sub as and when I have time to use it. I will be surprised, however, if Rift doesn't introduce some form of Freemium model long before this time next year.

Anonymous said...


Looking at GW1's expansion roll out before work started on GW2, Anet was rolling out a stand-alone expansion every year for 2 years then ended with a real expansion the 3rd year because their current engine couldn't support what they wanted to do. Anet's already stated that the architecture is in place to add new dynamic events on the fly and they may hopefully go back to creating expansions annually.

Therefore, I don't think the majority of the GW2 community has much to worry about as far as running out of content.