And Then There Were Two: What can we learn from Rift's recent announcement?

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor May 22, 2013

Normally, I like to walk slowly into my articles and let people ease into my points. Not this time, though. In the wake of last week's news regarding Rift, it seems there are two notions that are on most people's minds.

WoW and EVE will go free-to-play “soon-ish,” too: FALSE

Now that Rift is making the transition to free-to-play, that leaves, in my estimation, just two major MMOs with a mandatory subscription fee. Yes, there are others, but these are the two biggies, and the ones that most often get the “When will it go F2P?” treatment.

I don't see it happening in the foreseeable future, for either game. EVE Online is still, against all odds, growing, so why would you mess with what works? Though not a F2P switch, we all saw what happened when someone tried too much with a reasonably successful sandbox in Star Wars Galaxies, and there's no way CCP would want to go down that road.

And World of Warcraft, while down, still has 8.3 million players. Similarly, Blizzard's not going to risk that kind of substantial revenue unless they are 200% certain a F2P switch will make even more money, and the game's not at the point yet where such a switch would make that unquestionably automatic.

If either game starts to seriously backslide, or if new management comes in that foolishly thinks it can do better than the last team, then maybe we'll see one of those games take the plunge. But it's not happening for years, if even then.

The subscription model is dead: TRUE
Except for those games “grandfathered” in, I think this one is true. I have a hard time seeing any significant MMO in the future launching – and, more importantly, sticking with – a subscription model.

Reports of Rift's level of success are all over the place, but it seemed to be reasonably stable. Still, as mentioned above, companies don't make this move unless they think they can make more money with the new model than they did with the old. Trion Worlds clearly thinks that way about Rift, which leads you to believe that it wasn't doing as well as might have been hoped.

It lasted two years with a sub fee, which seems like an eternity these days, after games like Star Wars: The Old Republic, DC Universe Online, The Secret World, and TERA abandoned theirs a year or less into their life cycle. (Star Trek Online also went about two years before making the switch.) There's just no reason for anyone to look at the current MMO market and believe that a monthly subscription fee is sustainable for a new, unproven game.

Not that some folks might not still try. If I had to, I would guess that The Elder Scrolls Online will launch with a sub fee, because ZeniMax thinks it has a sure-fire winner. And if I had to venture further, I'd guess that it will go free-to-play in less time than the two years it took Rift.

Smaller, specialized games, particularly sandboxes like ArcheAge (also under Trion's banner) and Camelot Unchained might still require a sub fee, because people who like those kind of games don't have as many options and are more likely to pay a premium for the exclusivity that a subscription offers. And who knows what Square Enix's plan is for Final Fantasy XIV.

But as a rule, I'd be wary of any game that says it's launching with a mandatory subscription fee. Chances are, it's not going to last.

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In this article: RIFT.

About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (23)

sniperman248 9 years ago
hahaha, don't say World of Warcraft won't do it anytime soon, they losing subscribers by the dozen now each month, because of their horrid decisions and outdated graphics, wake up and smell the coffee World of Warcraft is not perfect anymore, with less than 8.2million subscribers reportedly they are not sailing a good ship, World of Warcraft would be better off at a B2p model any day rather than a P2P model for several reasons.

View 1 reply
Inflictious 9 years ago
Just got to point out in your sentence.
" Games like Star Wars: The Old Republic, DC Universe Online, The Secret World, and TERA abandoned theirs a year or less into their life cycle. (Star Trek Online also went about two years before making the switch.) "

TSW should Not even be in this article.( Yeah i understand the dropping of the Sub) But unless you shell Out 30$+ There is No way any one can log into it without Paying Atleast Once..
.All the other game's ..Yes they are total F2P without ever shelling out a dime ..
Tsw Has not even gone that route Yet!

F2p site ..stick to F2P game's ;) TSW is Not !

Karnaga 9 years ago
Where came all the prase for f2p titels from?

Every each and last f2p mmo has mostly very big real money parts. Lockbox keys, char slots, bank space, backpack space and so on. I like to pay 10-15€ per month for a good mmorpg. F2P games are NEVRER F2P no matter what is told.
I like to give a monthly fee to companys who do a good job and publish contant and patches and do something about balancing. In many F2P games you lack those services.

F2P is something great to look into a game. For Example i played Runes of Magic about a week after i saw the ingame store and calculated the amount of diamonds i had to buy i laughed my ass off and let it be.

The next Thing: P2P goes F2P. It's okay to change the payment modell of a game that lack players or is dieing. More ppl will play the game and maybe it get back some life. On the sad side F2P games are the playground of trolls and a**holes who talk trash all day long.

After all i am a fan of P2P games after all this is th best method to controll my consuming behaviour :D .

Ruov 9 years ago
if you play long enough you can play eve online without having to pay for the sub by buying plex with isk(in-game currency) and exchanging it for game time.

neokiva 9 years ago
i would say that eve online conceivable wont ever go free to play (heck it just had it's 10 year anniversary where it rewarded players that have been with the game since day one with an vet station and a frikken nvidia geforce titan gpu each) wow is more likely then secret world and elder scrolls online ff xiv reborn and blade and soul will launch buy to play if not free to play.

M-16 9 years ago
jason, you're such a good writer that it's pure pleasure to read every article you write, including this one. This article has so much truth in it.

CoReTechS 9 years ago
I'm ready to subscibe monthly to a Game like TheElderScrollsOnline because of the popularity of the other Games (TES1/2, Morrowind,Oblivion & Skyrim). I mean it sold good and the features about TESO are good on the paper...well we know how hard ideas are to realize but i think Bethesdta (ZeniMax Online) will do it well :D

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Cacalips 9 years ago
The company promised it would never happen. Kind of like how WoW promised they would never create panda race (they teased the idea in an April fools joke and then publically announced it would never happen as it "does not reflect the lore of world of warcraft)... BUT! but... There is a master to all of this design. And his name is greed. A small loyal group can easilly support a mmorpg, but when you sign up and create your business model around board members that deman more than overhaed costs, you have to have a director that calls the shots, Marketing director. He surveys the markets and pushes things out the door. If MOBA is hot, he will say "You turn this bitch into a MOBA or you shut it down" (usually shut down, and recreate new game that feeds the masses).
In this case it is F2P. There are revenue models, but they are skewed. For example, I paid more in F2P models in the past like Runes of magic, PWI, etc. but nothing on TERA, AION, eTC, and I am playing more today than before, and so are allot of other people. That is, more people are paying less (or demanding less to be paid) but shelling out if it tickles their fancy to be loyal fan. There is more fancy tickeling to get to wallet (and always the ones that have cash to spend easily). So why not sign an IP contract with say ohhhh.... COX cable, they deal you 1 million in a bet "your game will get more people to subscirbe to internet". It works, and these behind the scene contracts actually TRIPLE pay the game over, and your subscription is nothing but hooker and prostitiute cash in VEGAS...that is the ideal situation anyways. What is happening with Trion might be they cancel the cocaine and vegas and have the Korean management pay em out. Several ways to sell your soul to the devil...OK OK, so where does that leave us? Another F2P title, and the blind argument "I wont get the same customer service now that it is free" DERP. WoW had the worst when I was engaged over 2 years of credit card service...paying gives you no butt wiping priviliges. It is a scheme. The only thing you should be concerned about is your fun ration vs, what you are actually doing. Are you actually progressing in a non torturous way and can get into end game equally and paying only to support cosmetics or loyalty? THAT is a successful F2P. Otherwise...heads up, it is not a RIFT...ITS A TRAP!

MarMoar 9 years ago
I'm a Final Fantasy Nut.. FFXIV:ARR WILL have a sub fee ranging from $9.99 to $12.99 and IM GLAD. Although F2P games to get content u really cant argue a game making 12 bucks a month from each player when it has over million players isnt going to make better an more frequent content? Please:\

Gamer X 9 years ago
Jason your pretty awesome in mmo articles and what you said is true and I feel like the monthly sub fee idea won't stand too ... after thinking a little latley ... I thought like 10$ for a monthly sub you can even buy a p2p game and have it without a sub fee and it could be even better ... so yeah new mmos coming need a new idea and I completly agree with you jason good job.

Humor 9 years ago
It was already talked about in one of their Dev Video's/Interviews that Elder Scrolls Online would start out subscription based. I've found this after hours of searching for the Elder Scrolls Online 20 minute leak beta video. Had success too, downloaded it and everything.

Sadly, but so very true (as of now). The Elder Scrolls doesn't really deserve to be Sub based. I say this simply because it's not incredibly visually appealing, of course, sacrifices have to be made when turning a single player game into a massive game, so it's not surprising that the visuals aren't the greatest (yet, still Beta). What has me disappointed the most, is the element of the First Person view they "wanted" to create so very badly, but there's no animations when you go to first person view (weapons, hands, etc.).

I'm still going to Sub to Elder Scrolls Online, just because I feel it's probably one of those mmorpg's where you'll literally have endless things to do, and for some reason I'm still giving my support to the Elder Scrolls series.

We'll see what happens in the future though. Hopefully after that awful 20 minute leak, and massive amounts of players just saying "Meh" to ESO, the devs will think long and hard about how they make their next steps with their game.

boney 9 years ago
TESO shouldn't be pay to pay in all honesty, but free to play would be a mistake, buy to play is the usually the most attractive model for MMORPGs as far as I know. One example being Guild Wars 2, which was quite successful (Not saying I really liked the game, it wasn't that great). If TESO does become sub based, I'll wait a half a year to a year to see if it ends up working at all. TESO is gaining a lot of hatred already from strict single player ES fans, they really shouldn't risk minimizing their community to paying a monthly fee. But that's my opinion, whether they become as greedy as Blizzard is, isn't my concern.

dagudman 9 years ago
Jason, you are a god at writing MMO articles.

zakena 9 years ago
Good Article nicely written!

Mörkö 9 years ago
I'm happy that TESO will be pay to play, at least first. Sub fee games tend to be much, much more better than games that are developed and released as F2P. Just look at games like TERA, LOTRO, SWTOR (failed with all those restrictions), RIFT etc. those are much better quality games than any other game which was free to play from beginning. So I'm really waiting for TESO and ArcheAge and I will definitely buy both and if they are not worth to continue subscribe I will just wait till they move to F2P model at least the game is going to be better if they start as pay to play model.

View 2 replies
Okofire 9 years ago
And in EVE Online i was in bounty ladder ( top 10 most wanted with many money on their head )

Okofire 9 years ago
Didnt read.
Time to read little.

View 1 reply

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