The War Against Rift?

This kind of thing was all over the place yesterday, so I’ll just point you to the Massively article and launch my own take on the matter. The basic premise is that other developers are pushing out news yesterday in particular and probably over the next couple of days as well to counter the explosion of interest in Rift with today’s opening of headstart and the upcoming launch on Tuesday. In particular:

  • Blizzard pushes out the first load of 4.1 patch info.
  • Funcom announces the upcoming launch of a pair of full-loot, free-for-all PvP servers for Age of Conan.
  • Warhammer’s account management page sees the “Cancel Subscription” button mysteriously disappear.
  • Mortal Online launches a 14-day trial.

Granted that this all makes 2/24 a busier news day than most. And the WoW news is bigger by far than the other stuff, so I’ll focus on that first.

Does anyone seriously think that Blizzard’s announcement of the return of Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman, two old raids being retuned for five level 85s, constitutes news that stands a chance of deflecting interest in a new and very shiny game about to be released, and about which interest is surging? Does anyone seriously think that any significant number of WoW players read the news today and thought to themselves, “Well gee, I was going to check out Rift, but since two old raids are coming back as five-mans in a couple of months, I’ll just stick with WoW instead?” Does anyone seriously believe that anyone at Blizzard actually thought this?

As someone who’s elected to go back to WoW instead of hopping into Rift at launch, that’s just fucking preposterous.

Sure, the people in charge of pushing news out to the public are struggling to keep their own properties atop the news cycle. But that’s true all the time, not just when a competitor is launching and therefore is going to occupy that position anyway. The smart thing to do would be to wait until the flow of news is at a low ebb, especially for a low-visibility title like Age of Conan, for which news of almost any magnitude is going to be inevitably swamped by the flood of New Shiny items anyway. Much less for Mortal Online, a game that almost nobody cares about or is playing, and which even at launch came and went like a fart in a hurricane.

Minor news regarding WoW, or significant news regarding minor titles with which Rift is not really competing, is just not going to compete with a big release infosurge. To think that it is would be ludicrous, and therefore the idea that such is being done as part of a calculated effort on the part of Blizzard, Funcom or Star Vault is a de facto accusation of stupidity.

The Mythic item is kind of a different story, as Rift is very threatening to WAR’s already extremely tenuous position. But Mythic says it was just a glitch and I’ve always found that, as the saying goes, “never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by ineptitude.” And ineptitude is pretty much Mythic’s modus operandi.

8 responses to “The War Against Rift?

  1. SOE clearly made some adjustments in relation to Rift’s OB, Headstart and Launch schedules. Various dates were shifted on the luanch of Fippy Darkpaw and the DOV expansion and a number of loyalty reward programs were instituted. I don’t for a moment think any of this was stuff they weren’t going to do anyway, and Sony often move or miss their own deadlines, but for anyone playing Rift, EQ and EQ2 concurrently, as I am, the timing is clearly more than coincidental.

    If anything was surprising about it, it was that the counter-marketing was pretty well-targetted and appropriate. I didn’t get the impression SOE were worried about people leaving altogether, more that they wanted to give people reasons to leave their SOE accounts running even if they are also trying Rift. Lots of things that just need to you to have the account active and to log in once a day, for example, so you can play Rift and still not miss out on your EQ2 goodies for when (inevitably) you drift back later on.

  2. I’m sure a lot of people will squee about the new (old) WoW content but this is content that was in the game until recently and sat there unused because no one was interested.

    At some point I may well browse the dungeons, I like WoW, but I’m very underwhelmed by the Rift counter-measure. “Hey guys, remember those dungeons you were too bored to run? We put new loot in them so you get to run them again! Ain’t that great?”

    I’ve been playing Rift all morning and it’s been totally smooth. Rift battles are incredible, it looks like a RTS more than a MMO as dozens of turtle back heroes sweep in to counter the odd monsters. We’ve battled fire elementals, drunken hallucinations satyrs and goblins so far. Done a bit of crafting which is very nicely done and bombed through a few quests too. Very little sign that anyone playing is not having a great time.

  3. “druken hallucinations satyrs”…

    remember to drink all their wine, that really piss them off…

    [I am not joking… that rift you can really drink the satyr’s wine and they get mad]

  4. That the WoW news is so underwhelming is the point. It wasn’t even something Blizzard pushed out in the US – MMOChampion dug it out of PTR notes on some Asian site.

    As for SOE, the only action that’s remotely plausible as a response to Rift is the launch of the EQ progression sever a couple of weeks ahead of when they’d originally said, and the number of people likely to be retained by such a move is minuscule compared to the kind of numbers Rift is now looking at. DoV was set at its current date back in December. The loyalty stuff, which SOE has a very long history of doing around expansion launch, scarcely even made the news.

    I suppose if you want to think that the marketing people sit on this stuff just so they can time it some it interferes with other people’s launches, then okay, but in this case I think you’d have to admit that they did a spectacularly bad job of it. The idea that you announce stuff when there is more competition for the top spot in the news rather than less strikes me as beyond silly and well into idiotic.

  5. We categorized it as an opinion piece specifically because this connection was speculation — interesting, but no way to prove it one way or the other. Do I personally think game companies try to counter-program releases with big announcements of their own? Sure, because we’ve seen it in the past, especially from Blizzard, and it’s not a dumb thing to do. You want to keep the new shiny from getting 100% of the attention, so you give your players a reason to stay excited for your game. It’s not going to stop anything, but it can help take some of the sting out of it, IMO.

  6. @Syp: I hadn’t actually meant to imply that the Massively piece was promulgating the idea, although I have to say that it reads that way in retrospect. I meant merely to point to that article as the center of said discussion on the subject.

    However, that companies do not react to the actions of other companies is not at all what I’m saying – you can think of multiple examples on the part of Blizzard alone, and so can I. But they don’t (or shouldn’t) react with trivia, and something like, say, the suspicious timing of WotLK’s release in relation to WAR’s, or the swift incorporation of one of WAR’s signature elements into WoW, are both at least an order of magnitude bigger things than the relaunch of two crusty old dungeons that haven’t even been gone for very long, and that nobody ran when they were.

    The EQ progression server is interesting – I think the same logic applies to it, in that it seemed to be comparatively modest news, but it took off to a much greater extent than I (or most others, I think) expected. But I don’t think it was an intentional countermove to Rift.

  7. “went like a fart in a hurricane” made me laugh. Well said indeed.
    Back on topic, I think that companies do try to counter their competition with one publicity stunt or another. Unfortunately, sometimes there is just nothing sensational to announce.

  8. No-one ever accused SOE’s marketing department of competency!

    I’m off this moment to play Rift so I don’t have time to dig out all the exact details of changed dates, but as someone who was playing EQ, EQ2 and Rift Beta all through the relevant period, my memory is that several announced SOE dates were changed relevantly just after Trion announced their dates..I know I discussed it with Mrs Bhagpuss at the time and she said that SOE’s transparent attempts to keep her playing EQ2 had made her more, not less, inclined to play Rift instead.

    I’m still playing on Fippy Darkpaw when Rift brings the servers down or if I’m in the queue though!