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Rift is Triple-A and Here to Stay! August 16, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Rift, World of Warcraft.
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David Reid, who previously said that he knew where World of Warcraft’s missing subscribers were hiding, came out this week with some comments on the state of the MMO industry, including some subscription numbers for Rift.

Not a dye nor a floor wax

I am not sure if he made the Dr. Evil face when he said it, but Rift apparently has ONE MILLION subscribers customers, making it the number two subscription based western MMO after World of Warcraft.

That is not only quite impressive, but it is a great indication to MMO fans that the genre isn’t dead or headed completely to the realm of Free to Play.

It also bears out the contention that many people have made, which is that MMOs are no longer rare birds, and merely offering a 3D world is no longer enough to assure success.  EverQuest could afford to make lots of mistakes.  There alternatives were pretty slim back then.

Now, though, MMOs are everywhere.   Go look at that chart again!

These days, an MMO needs to execute well and play an aggressive game.  Rift certainly came out of the gate more polished than most games and Trion has played the recruitment and retention game very hard from day one.

This aggressive posture has lead some to believe that Rift must not be doing well, and they might well be forgiven that point of view.  Certainly, in the past, game companies have waited until things have gone sour before trotting out the inducements that Trion has offered up, from free copies of the game to generous price breaks on subscription plans to free server merges (at least under specific circumstances).

But if Rift has a million subscribers customers, clearly they have been showing all the right moves.  This is a game that, I must admit, comes across as “yet another fantasy MMORPG” to me.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the the fantasy segment of that chart is the most crowded segment, which makes it all that more difficult to succeed.

So to make it to the million subscriber customer mark is (still) a big freakin’ deal.

Of course, I said “if” they have a million subscribers customers.  I have no evidence to say that they do not, just that past experience with David Reid being a less than reliable source of information. (I know a former Massively Editor-in-Chief who is still spitting nails about that one.)

Let’s hope that at Trion Worlds he is on solid ground and that Rift is succeeding as well as he represents!

That would be good for the whole genre.

[Edit: As somebody pointed out in the comments, Mr. Reid said "customers" not "subscribers."  They still may very well be in second place behind WoW, but the number of subscribers might not be a million.]

Comments»

1. saucelah - August 16, 2011

Technically he said one million “customers” rather than subscribers. I’m not sure if it’s significant, but it could be a way of subbing box sales for subscription numbers.

I do think the game is doing alright though — most gamers aren’t flying to 50 and burning out on T2s in three months like Syncaine.

2. Aufero - August 16, 2011

No idea if Reid is exaggerating (again) but Rift server population felt pretty solid when I drifted off a couple of months ago and stopped playing. It really is Yet Another Fantasy MMORPG, (which is why I stopped playing after I’d run through all the content and seen most of the class mechanics) but it’s a polished fantasy MMORPG with a few decent new takes on old ideas. Certainly as good as Blizzard’s last expansion, which was its competition at the time.

We’ll see how those numbers survive the launch of Yet Another Sci-Fi RPG (a genre branch that isn’t anywhere near as crowded) in a few months.

3. unwize - August 16, 2011

Also, they had a really cheap deal at launch for a 6 month sub. Mine is still running, though I’ve hardly played it in the last couple of months. Will be interesting to see how things are looking in a few months time.

4. elkagorasa - August 16, 2011

Sadly most likely they are basing those numbers off the free-trial subscriptions given away everywhere. It’s sort of like saying FarmVille has 5million customers.

5. Paul - August 17, 2011

Rift does not appear to be declining. That in and of itself is a success for a game that has tried to do what it has tried to do.

6. Wilhelm Arcturus - August 17, 2011

@saucelah – You’re right! It is easy to mis-read things like that if you’re not careful. I’ll fix the post.

I’ve worked with marketing enough in the past, I should be able to spot weasel words better than that.

7. Genda - August 17, 2011

I only have the evidence of our guild, which flipped over to Rift in a big way. On most nights there would be 10-20 people in the Rift Ventrilo channel. Now there is never more than 3.

So maybe if they ARE growing still, it’s just with an insanely high churn. They have clearly lost Casualties.

8. SynCaine - August 17, 2011

“That would be good for the whole genre.”

How? Because we need more games that get WoW-ified in beta or a patch after release? So we can get more games that basically pull a 180 after people have bought in? Sorry, but considering niche (ie: real) MMOs have never relied on WoW-clone success to matter, another WoW clone dying would be just fine.

And as has been mentioned, anyone who took advantage of the pre-release (not in Azeroth yet) deal is still technically a ‘customer’ of Trion’s. I’m in that group, as are a few others I played with. Let’s see what they say once we are 6+ months in.

9. sente - August 17, 2011

Good for Trion that they are doing well with the game. While it has a number of nice features and seems to be well executed, the “another fantasy MMO” part does not an urge for me to log in and play.

I do regret that I signed up for a 6 month subscription to the game, since I played perhaps less than 2 months – and this was not even with their special offer at launch, but later. Subscription is still valid for another 3 months I think.

10. Wilhelm Arcturus - August 17, 2011

“That would be good for the whole genre.”

“How? + (straw man based argument)”

No, by proving that success is obtainable at a level beyond the “niche within a niche” scale of games like Darkfall without having to go to a cash shop model.

And, as an extra bonus, Trion has given us a new number to argue about. What exactly constitutes a customer? Where on the range between “current subscriber” and “anybody who ever gave us any money” does this mythical customer lie?

11. bhagpuss - August 17, 2011

I’ve played Rift virtually every day since launch (and all the betas). The servers I play on are pretty much as busy now as they have ever been. I look at the server list every day and based on the Low/Medium/High ratings displayed I’d say population is consistent and stable.

Given that I play off-peak as a Brit on U.S. servers, I think it’s impressive that even in the middle of a weekday there are more servers at Medium than Low and that at weekends everything bar two or three of the late-added PvP servers are Medium or High.

My six-month sub must be about up. I shall be re-subbing for another six.

12. SynCaine - August 17, 2011

“No, by proving that success is obtainable at a level beyond the “niche within a niche” scale of games like Darkfall without having to go to a cash shop model.”

Pretty sure EVE has been proving that every month, for about 7 years now. And again, how is showing that if you clone WoW well enough, you can get 1m ‘customers’ (I do agree on the fun fact of wtf that means) a good thing? Is the genre starving for more WoW clones? Or do you see someone looking at Rift, and getting inspired to create the next UO or SWG? Because I don’t.

13. Wilhelm Arcturus - August 17, 2011

“Pretty sure EVE has been proving that every month, for about 7 years now.”

Which is pretty much off topic, since I am talking about launching new games in the post-WoW world. EVE pre-dated WoW last time I checked.

As for what it shows, if you choose to narrowly define the success of Rift as being only applicable to WoW clones, which is the straw man you are setting up, then I am unlikely to convince you that it means anything in a general “premium subscription MMOs are not dead” sense.

And I am a bit confused by the direction of your comments. You seem to be implying that successful WoW clones are no big deal. But being able to say “I cloned WoW basics and yet was able to differentiate enough to get a million whatevers” seems to me to be a pretty unique success.

And who will it inspire and how? I suppose we shall see.

You seem to only want to acknowledge the very specific lesson of “clone WoW, print cash,” which hasn’t really played out all that well for most potential contenders.

I was trying to take the broader view, that if you get your shit together, know what the hell you are doing, and can avoid the trap of trying to be all things to all people, you might be able to pull off successful premium subscription MMO, even one in the vein UO or SWG. But if your target is just to remake WoW or UO or SWG, then you are probably doomed right there.

14. SynCaine - August 17, 2011

I’d argue Rift being as successful as it is right now has more to do with the Blizzard interns screwing up WoW than with Rift being the first game to really clone it right. If Cata had kept people interested longer than a month, would WoW really be down 1m subs and Rift announcing 1m customers? Somehow I doubt it. Just like I doubt Rift (assuming it even holds up this long) is going to be flying high come SW:TOR or whatever the next big WoW-clone is.

EVE is relevant because while it was released pre-WoW, it RIGHT NOW has 300k+ subs. Those 300k prolly don’t care how old EVE is, they care that it’s good-enough to remain subbed. They also don’t seem to care how great Rift is, which I would also consider significant.

In your last paragraph, you give Rift way too much credit. It has just as many, if not more design flaws than a game like LotRO. If LotRO had it’s own Cata when it was released, Turbine would be talking customers rather than total characters created (remember that).

15. Wilhelm Arcturus - August 17, 2011

I don’t know. LOTRO’s UI on day one seemed to be actively working against me, enough to make me not want to play the game no matter how hard I gritted my teeth. They took about a year to get that squared away.

While Rift was in beta, which is when I played it, it seemed to have all that sort of nonsense tamped down. Rift, from the outside, seemed to have to deal with the bigger, but more success related issues along with the usual “but this game isn’t exactly what *I* want” routine and the level cap, out of content issue.

The thing with EVE is that the lesson you could quite easily take from it is “if I work hard, maybe in 5 years I could have an MMO with 300K subscriptions!” (Probably fewer customers, given the multi-account thing is so popular.) That isn’t something you can bring to an investor who isn’t just totally sold on your game idea. And that probably isn’t enough. Ask Curt Schilling.

Meanwhile, somebody who runs a tight ship and can get a million whatevers in six months, as Trion did, is worth studying to see what they did right.

I will grant you though that Rift’s success, whatever it is, will no doubt prove to some that cloning WoW is a viable business plan, I just think they will be missing the point.


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