“Keep in mind that there’s a fundamental difference in the way of thinking and the way you need to design games if you do take them free-to-play.
Take a free-to-play game or a social game, where the business is all about – the social games’ word for it is, ‘going whaling’. The idea is you have a paying player subsidising the play of, potentially, dozens or hundreds of other users. And so you have to be willing to create a game that has the ability to make huge sums of money from relatively small numbers of people.
Once you decide that you are going to enter the whaling business, it’s a different mindset and a different set of goals you’re designing for entirely.”
This morning RIFT announced that it’s going free-to-play. Trion, I am disappoint.
I’ve been a RIFT subscriber since the day it launched, back in 2011. I haven’t actually been playing the game that entire time — sometimes I am playing a lot, sometimes I am playing very little — but even when I wasn’t playing I felt comfortable giving Trion and RIFT money for being an awesome game and an awesome company.
Admittedly much of my response is an emotional one. I like games that emphasize virtual worlds and being social, that have group problem-solving, and a healthy amount of content that takes a long time to finish or requires a high degree of concentration. I know this makes me something of a dinosaur amongst players, and today’s announcement feels like another sign that my kind of game is a thing of the past. I don’t like that feeling, obviously.
I have other, more logical reasons to dislike this decision too!
1) As Scott Hartsman says in the above quotation, being free-to-play changes how a game is developed. You no longer have to worry about producing regular content updates, something RIFT was previously famous for, to justify subscriptions. Instead, the monetization goal is to tune your content to encourage cash shop purchases. I find the former to be much more in my favor as a player than the latter.
2) Trion has already said that they will be offering boosts and gear in the cash shop. (On Twitter they even implied that some of the gear will be equivalent to higher tier dungeon and PvP gear.) And herein lies my fundamental dislike of cash shops: they are all about giving people ways to not play the game, rather than making the game good. Buy gear, buy housing, buy XP boosts, buy gold — it’s like you don’t even have to play the game at all! Creating a game that people will spend money to avoid playing seems like crappy game design.
3) F2P encourages transient players. In my opinion, there is a reason why the free-to-play model and the “3 month MMO” problem started trending at the same time.
I accept that what I’m looking for in an MMO is not what most people are looking for in their game. While I’m glad that many folks are loving the current marketplace, I miss feeling like part of that. Such is the price of being old and opinionated and stubborn, I suspect.