Two years after it launched in 2011, fantasy MMORPG Rift went free-to-play. Now developer Trion Worlds is bringing back subscriptions with Rift Prime, a brand-new server with sequential progression and a lot less free-to-play nonsense. What an excellent idea.
A lot changes when an MMO goes free-to-play. Suddenly a relatively clean user interface is defaced with flashing reminders that there's stuff to buy. Many a rich fantasy world has been cheapened by pop-up advertisements for loot box sales and other special offers. Gathering areas once filled with majestic fantasy avatars slowly fill with characters wearing novelty T-shirts, silly hats and other "premium" gear. It ruins the atmosphere.
This is TERA, which used to be one of my favourite MMORPG games. Trying to go back hurts.
What if players could pay a monthly fee not to have to deal with all of that bullshit, like a sort of on-going "remove ads" button? It doesn't have to be every server - if that were sustainable a game wouldn't go free-to-play in the first place. But a single server free of loot boxes, annoying ads, and people flying to the level cap using experience potions and other pay-to-win items?
That's what Trion Worlds is doing with Rift Prime. From the official blog post:
Our goal for RIFT Prime is to provide the experience that many of you have requested: no lockboxes, a significantly reduced store with more of the current store-based items obtained through gameplay (or removed entirely) - plus the excitement of sequential progression through RIFT's content with monthly milestones and achievements.
Players will pay a monthly subscription to access the Rift Prime server, a newly-created realm where everyone starts off from level one. Instead of dumping all seven years of new content on players at once, new content will be added at regular intervals, keeping more players at the level cap and making it easy to keep up while fostering a strong sense of community, another thing often lost when a game goes free-to-play.
Other free-to-play MMORPG devolopers should definitely take note of Rift Prime. It sounds like an excellent way to reward the most dedicated players. It might take a bit of work and a lot of money but hey, they can always sell more goofy crap to the free-to-play folks.