Ultimately this is a business decision, to best support RIFT moving forward into the future. We’re on the cusp right now of RIFT’s 5th Anniversary, and we’ve got great stuff planned for 2016. But that stuff takes engineers and designers and CS and QA and a whole lot of other folks.
-Trion Worlds, on their voidstone plan
Free to play must really be an incredible pain in the ass as a developer because, if nothing else, players will literally assume you mean “free” when you say “free.”
And, seriously, if you’re going to start in with, “Well, “free” doesn’t really mean “free” because…” just stop right there. The idea was to provide content that players would feel was worth paying for. If enough people aren’t paying, maybe it isn’t your player base that is the issue.
Or, maybe it is.
As we saw last year with the PlanetSide 2 “really struggling” post, some players are just never going to spend a dime on your game, no matter the incentives, if you are giving it away for free. Some are poor. Some are cheap. Some just like the challenge of the limited free mode. And some, I am sure, just want to take advantage.
You can get angry about this, spit nails, and use words like “entitled” all you want, but it was the company which made the game that set the payment terms, not the player. If you are going to blame the customer for taking you up on your offer, looking in the mirror for the real guilty party is all I can suggest.
As noted in that “really struggling” post, no amount of incentives will induce some players to pay. And if you cannot induce people with the carrot, well, there is always the stick. And so Trion is making a change and removing the ability to unlock new equipment slots introduced with the last expansion through a long but free grind, thus forcing players who want to get the unlock from the cash store or by subscribing. Sounds like a paywall.
Yes, there is a work around still. Trion’s statement goes on to make the claim that you could earn the in-game cash to buy a REX, the sort-of Rift version of EVE Online’s PLEX, wherein you can use in-game currency to subscribe, more quickly than you could grind out voidstones in order to unlock those same slots, all of which makes you wonder why they would bother.
Oh, right, somebody had to pay real world money for a REX for it to get on the market, and creating demand for REX will increase its value in-game, which makes it more likely that paying players will buy more.
So the slot unlocks remain free for some, so long as somebody out there is paying. A somewhat porous paywall, but a wall all the same, and possibly a harbinger of things to come.
I’m really neither here nor there on whether this change is an outrage or a reasonable adjustment. Even World of Warcraft has their WoW Token offer which they push vigorously enough. So is the old Rift motto getting more or less true as time goes by?
Posting this is more a matter of noting how the F2P MMO market is continuing to evolve as the difference between competing games seems to diminish. The trend will no doubt continue.
But still, it isn’t like Trion is doing anything really outrageous like, say, putting lock boxes inside of other lock boxes. That requires a whole different level of “customer focus.”