A year ago we were running off to play on the new Rift server that Trion Worlds launched in order to harvest some of that sweet, sweet video game nostalgia so many of us seem to harbor.
Called Rift Prime, it was going to bring us back to they heyday of the Rift saga.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Little did we know that it was something of a last gasp move for Trion Worlds, which would sell its assets to Gamigo in October before being dissolved.
And the whole thing seemed to kick off pretty well. The server was full of people. The original content was fun. Off we went.
However, while it was charming to start with… there was plenty of fun and memories… it didn’t seem to be able to sustain itself. For retro servers like this, the timing of content unlocks is a key aspect, and Trion waited a long time before getting on to the first expansion. That was a mistake. The next expansion didn’t unlock until early October of last year, long past the point when most of the returning players had run through the content and wandered off.
Then again, the first expansion was Storm Legion, which broke the game for some people, myself included, something I wrote about at the time, and was criticized by even those who felt loyal to the game. To my mind, Storm Legion did as much to kill Rift’s momentum as anything. There is no mere coincidence to my mind that Rift went free to play less than nine months after Storm Legion launched.
Somebody pointed out to me in a comment thread that lots of people were there at the Storm Legion launch. And that is true. There was a lot of hype for it. I was there. But there was also a lot of hype, and huge sales, around Warlords of Draenor as well, and not too many months down the road the WoW subscription numbers were dropping so much that they stopped reporting them altogether.
So I don’t think it is entirely unfair to say that Storm Legion killed Rift, at least Rift as we knew it.
And I guess it has done it again.
A couple of weeks back Gamigo announced that they would be shutting down the Rift Prime server Vigil. And the target date is tomorrow at midnight.
There is, of course, a plan up in the forums as to what will happen to your characters.
The Vigil server will be going away. It won’t be merged into another server. Characters will be moved to the US trial server, Reclaimer, and you will be able to transfer them to any other live US server from them. Tough luck if you want them on an EU server however.
Also guilds, and things in your guild bank, all of that will disappear. Better log in if there is something you want to save… though you do have to subscribe to get access, so it had best be worth that expense.
There are more details about what happened to souls you purchased and so on at the link.
As for lessons, I suspect there are some to be had here.
First, I think there is always an audience for this sort of retro server. At least a day one audience. Nostalgia, the memories of the good times, will sway people.
A good chunk of those people won’t stay for long. Login queues and such are usually done in a week, if not sooner.
Second, those that remain will consume the old content at a rate well beyond how it went at launch. When they run out of content and tire of alts, they will wander off as well.
Third, some games are better suited to the retro server thing in general and keeping people in content specifically. EverQuest, 20 years old with 25 expansions, is perhaps the ideal case; big fan base, lots of nostalgia, no end of content. EverQuest II is okay for content, it just lacks the fan base of the original. LOTRO may find itself a bit lacking, with the Siege of Mirkwood a likely barrier for some. World of Warcraft doesn’t have a lot of expansions, but it has a huge crowd ready to return for WoW Classic. Rift however… Rift has a reasonable fan base, probably more in the EQII range overall, but it is there. It just has the Storm Legion problem.
And so it goes. Come Monday Rift Prime will be a bit of MMO history.