When Rift first dropped on the MMO scene it was heralded as the second coming; another in the long line of prophesied Warcraft killers because it supposedly wasn't another Warcraft. It was more serious. It didn't have just talent trees. It had better graphics. Excreta goddamn excreta. The more jaded amongst us, however, weren't buying it and now it's more like Warcraft than ever.
What does that mean for the cheapskate in all of us? Well, there's the obvious of course:
"RIFT Lite is our free trial program, allowing any user with a Trion Worlds account in good standing to access the first 20 levels of RIFT. This means that new players, former RIFT free trial players, and even former RIFT subscribers can access the first 20 levels of RIFT for free. You can find more information on RIFT Lite at www.RIFTgame.com/riftlite" -Rift Website
But there are further reaching implications to this marketing move beyond the obvious; implications that will undoubtedly benefit you the gamer... Assuming you aren't already sucking down Old Republic like the MMO crack whore you are. Long story short, MMO companies don't give you free stuff out of the goodness of their hearts and it took Warcraft over six years to implement this same policy of marketing desperation. Rifts has done so in less than one and I'm still holding to my prediction:
Rift Free to Play.
While my timeframes may leave a bit to be desired, the writing is on the wall and Rift is progressing down the f2p curve rapidly. Warcraft still holds a large subscription base no matter how much you want to hate it. Old Republic is devouring market share. And come this summer, it gets a whole lot worse once TERA Online and Guild Wars 2 launch. I've always insisted there's room enough for more than one quality MMO in the market place, but that quality MMO simply isn't Rift. It's a mediocre clone at best and I'm having a hard time seeing it survive through the summer under a subscription based model.
Bad news for them. Good news for you?
Maybe. If you can pry yourself away from games that are actually good.