Rift On A Downward Spiral?

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.

11 responses to “Rift On A Downward Spiral?

  1. Thing is though he mentioned hours played. A 20% decrease then might be mean a lot of things. . I think to see the bitching you have to look at the PvP players: on the official forums they are quite angry about how the pvp is, and they might be the ones leaving.

    I think if there’s PvE problems, you’ll see them the third month. The population needs to get to cap and do endgame before things can be seen.

    • Dblade – I’ve yet to see ANY game where the PVP players on the forums aren’t bitching and angry about how the pvp is, and loudly announcing that they’re leaving. It seems to be part and parcel of being a “PVP player” on forums. On the whole, I’d say that the atmosphere on the official forums is moderately toxic, but the general vibe in-game is a lot better.

      Note – I’m not claiming all PVP players are whiny jerks… just that all of the whiny jerks self-identify on forums as PVP players (except, I supposed, for the ones in self-proclaimed “world class pro raiding guilds”).

  2. Thanks for the linkage…and @DBlade….I am with you.

    I actually predict a 6 month breaking point. Rift will go either Aion/EvE/LOTRO and continue to hold subs due to continued effort on the part of Trion for development or go AoC/WAR and continue to bleed due to no updates and broken mechanics.

    Screaming fail after 30 days? Childish.


  3. > Screaming fail after 30 days? Childish.

    Yeah, but inevitable. You can set your watch by predictions of doom on *insert game here*’s forums.

  4. “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.”


    My main character get to level 50 two and half weeks ago. Last two weeks I am completing some story quests, trying the raid content (but not the raid instance, there are raid rifts for do), doing expert dungeons for get the T1 gear (only 2 pieces so far, and I need T2 pieces for do the raid instances…), doing achievements, hunting collections, doing the crafting dailies for gain plaues (I have two plaques, I just need one more plaque for buy a recipe and taht thing don’t drop, I am getting mad!), waiting for more guild members get to level 50 for we build a 5 member expert dungeon group (and maybe a 10 man rift raid group, we ever can dream), and I need try some puzzles, but I really have no time…

    And I just created an alt last week, currently at level 27, for I try dwarf cleric… the dwarf warrior will need wait…

    And they added new rewards to the world event, I need get 400 crystals for buy tinket.

    And I am not trying PvP, no warfront until now, and I see some guild members that like PvP, it is easy to build a guild’s PvP group, but I simply prefer not try it…

    So… I guess I will neeeeeeeeeeed a lot of time for hit that proverbial wall.

  5. We’ll have to wait for SW:ToR and, possibly, GW2 for a clearer picture, but I’m pretty much of the opinion that WoW will prove to be the high-water mark of the Western Subscription MMO. If Rift settles down to several years of six-figure subscription numbers, sitting in a ballpark with LotRO and EVE, that will be a success. The idea of any MMO growing like Topsy the way WoW did seems increasingly unlikely.

    Of course, there are many non-Western, non-sub model MMOs out there with much bigger playerbases than any of the above bar WoW, and Western ones at that. How many players has Runescape got these days, for example? Or Dofus? Or Free Realms? But as hobbyists we are mainly focused on a particular subset of “AAA” titles, promoted, released, sold and advertised in a particular way, and for that type of MMO, sustained subscriber numbers in seven figures seems quite hard to imagine.

    As for how Rift is going down with it’s current audience, I entirely agree with you. There’s a strong subset of commenters who seem to be heavily invested in failure for Rift, but few of them seem to have played it. We don’t have many of the usual vituperative betrayed lovers spitting bile at the once-beloved who betrayed them, although it’s early days for that.

    More inportantly, the global channels in-game are still cheerful, optimistic, helpful and positive, by and large. I play on two servers now (Guardian and Defiant don’t mix well on the same server in my opinion) and I was pleased to find that my second server is almost as pleasant as the exemplary Faeblight. If people playing Rift currently are getting fed up, they are mostly keeping it to themselves. I literally can’t rememember playing any major MMO that has had such bearable global chat so consistently. I’ve put fewer people on ignore and turned the channels off fewer times than ever before.

  6. A mainstream MMO lives or dies from the quality of it’s PvE game, not it’s PvP. A lot of players will never mess with PvP in the first place. Even the most ardent of PvP enthusiasts have to get to the level cap and into the “good” PvP somehow. I’m really not hearing complaints about the PvE in Rift. Certainly what I experienced during my free weekends was very well done, at least technically.

    What naysayers predicting doom for Rift seem to always forget is that WAR and AoC had really obvious crippling flaws. When the stats on your gear don’t do anything at all at launch, for example, your game has issues. When you have to launch with two of your classes missing, your game has issues. When no-one can get any of the public quests (the centerpiece of your PvE experience) done two weeks after your game launches, your game has issues. When DX 10 support is listed on the box, and it’s not actually implemented yet, your game has issues.

    Rift has nothing so obviously wrong with it. In fact almost everyone agrees that it’s polished and enjoyable. I really think we are seeing the next LoTRO/ EVE level of success at the very least. Perhaps even something in between those games and WoW in the long term..

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  8. Standards are pretty low if peaking in the first month and only dropping off 20% in the second in “spectacularly low”.

    I know it’s hard to remember this, given how many failed MMOs we have seen, but the successful MMOs actually _grow_ after launch. Pre-orders and launch day do not see them as big as they’re ever going to be. I know we’re mostly talking about the hallowed games of yore, here – EverQuest, Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call, Final Fantasy XI – as well as really just WoW and EVE of the current generation.

    But really, is a growing audience so much to aspire to, that a slowly shrinking audience is to be called “spectacular”?

  9. If RIFT holds out to 6 months before deflating, I believe it will have made a tidy profit. If they keep pushing out content, it could last well beyond that. We’ll see.