Pete at Dragonchasers scales back the hype. Green Armadillo over at PvD expresses concerns about Rift’s still-under-wraps endgame. Syp thinks it may be time to cool it with all the access. From what I’ve seen so far, Rift is nice and polished, and I figured it’d make a very strong entry. Its Xfire and Raptr numbers over the Super Bowl weekend appear to predict just that. But how long will it stick around as a major player?
This is exactly the same trajectory Warhammer Online appeared to be on in the same position relative to its launch, and during its own highly successful beta. The game’s apparent success in that period masked deep problems in the progression, in server balance and in the endgame. After the launch the whole was shown to be a house of cards that fell apart at a touch. Over a million boxes sold in the first month or two, and now, a little over two years later, it’s going down to two servers – one more than Vanguard.
As GA points, out, Trion is keeping its endgame cloaked under the NDA of a “simultaneous alpha,” happening alongside the “closed” beta. Just like Mythic did with Warhammer. This may be because they want to hold some things back for launch, lest everyone have played the game out just as retail copies start to move. Or it may be – and the pessimist will suspect that it is – because there are still big issues. Veterans of Warhammer, remembering the hype and the amazingly fun beta, as well as the subsequent collapse, might be more apt to find themselves among the ranks of the pessimists.
Rift is a neat game, and I hope that those pessimists will prove to be wrong. And there’s reason to think they may be, since Trion has been nothing if not agile in responding to issues with substantial improvements to the game. Even if there are issues with the parts of the game that beta players have not yet seen, they’ve given us some reason to trust that they can be addressed quickly, before they become a blight on the majority of the populace, advancing at a slower pace than the hardcore.
For me, though, I have to think that Syp is right; Rift is teetering on the edge of overexposure, even aside from the fact that beta players may have already seen too much of what the game contains. I don’t say over-hype, because almost all of the buzz is coming out of the player community, rather than from some bombastic dude at Trion spouting nonsense about how awesome the game is. But some folks are starting to feel like the buzz is reaching unsustainable levels.
I fall into the latter camp, even though I didn’t get nearly as far as many did during the beta events. I reached level 12 in Beta 3, level 21 in Beta 4, and didn’t have the heart to play more than an hour or so in Beta 6. (Beta 5 was mid-week, which is just bad for my schedule.) I felt like it was a lot of fun, but also that I’d seen just about everything that the game had to offer. So I’m right where I was weeks ago: I won’t be buying Rift at launch, although I’m certainly not saying never.
If I had to predict, though… I think Rift is going to sell 750K copies, maybe even more if Trion manages server populations intelligently, as Mythic failed to do. Short queues are better than empty servers, and you have to plan for two or eight or sixteen months down the road, not just for now. And if the endgame doesn’t turn out to be a bucket of fail, and if 10% of the population (the most vocal 10%, naturally, as well as the fastest-moving,) doesn’t run dead out of content inside the first month. The real test will come in week 5, when the gratis 30 days runs out. Will folks keep subscribing after that first month? If they do, there’s a great chance they’ll stay and entrench themselves in the game for the long haul. If not, back to WoW they’ll go.