Elementalistly over at Lowered Expectations took another look at the numbers of Rift on the tracking services yesterday, and had a number of interesting things to say. As often happens, my response to that bloated and swelled until it became a post of its own.
The spark for his discussion was a comment over on the MMORPG.com forums, to the effect that Rift’s numbers are down 20% from peak, so it’s obviously deflating. Of course, as he and various commenters in the thread point out, this was predicted even by the most ardent fans of Rift of whom I am aware. The dropoff after 30 days is just something that happens. Mr. Knucklehead then further posits that Rift will probably be at “50% of peak” by next month, in an amusingly epic failure to understand what “peak” implies – that the numbers will be less than that at all other times.
To me, a 20% dropoff (not after 4 weeks but 6, mind,) along with reports of persistent server queues even to this day, seems spectacularly good. After two weeks of Warhammer Online you could feel players flowing out of the game. Remember, you can stop playing before your sub runs out, and many did just that, myself included. A loss of 20% (measured in playtime,) implies very strong ongoing performance in terms of retaining players who are actually active.
Maybe a lot of Rift players are becoming unhappy with the game. But usually, that’s reflected in player crosstalk; for Rift, all I see is the usual complaining from the usual quarters, and if anything, not a very large amount of that. There’s a certain… I dunno, tone that’s present in the crosstalk when a game is shriveling, a near-unanimity of opinion that it’s headed in the wrong direction. We saw it with Vanguard and WAR, but I’m just not seeing it here.
Too, we should consider that Rift’s first-month sales were way, way higher than anyone expected six months prior to launch. It’s my considered opinion that, 6 weeks in, the people at Trion are still shitting their pants with glee. Sure, some folks got bored and went back to WoW or whatever other game they’d drifted in from, but everyone – absolutely everyone – knew that was going to happen.
There’s still room for things to go south, of course. Trion could screw something up, introducing some ill-considered mechanic that breaks the game. Or people might start to hit a wall at the edge of the current endgame if Trion fails to push new stuff out fast enough.
But Trion has already pushed out a major update, with a big new world event and a new raid zone. Admittedly, this was in the works even before launch, and its release was timed specifically to encourage those folks on the edge at the 30-day mark to stick around, but that itself is a good sign – having future content waiting in the wings is one of the factors that illustrates that Rift was actually ready for launch, unlike some (and by some, I mean almost all) other titles, regardless of what you may think of the game as a whole – and I didn’t go wild over it, although I thought it was well put together and had fun with it while I was playing.
Moral of the story: MMO forums are filled with idiots.