There's a bit of a disclaimer I need to put up before I begin this write-up. While I'm not someone who dislikes RIFT, I have found that I am most likely not the target audience for RIFT as a subscription game due to the availability of its competition to provide more excitement for the same or lesser amounts of money.
Trion Worlds has to be one of the most outstanding companies in the MMO world today in terms of treating customers right, however, so while I expected RIFT to shift its revenue model eventually due to market forces and feedback, I didn't expect the degree of clarity to which they maintained a particular vision for their revenue model shift.
That said: RIFT will shift its revenue model to fit the free-to-play profile when June 12 rolls around.
One of the things that irked me about some games is the shady-seeming maneuvers they institute to earn money from customers. Whether it be requiring payment to acquire basic functions that seem standard to a modern game or psychological tricks to get you to buy something on impulse, it's not exactly a wonderful feeling to be cognizant of.
RIFT appears to follow Wheaton's Law when it comes to selling things. With a tagline of, “No Trials. No Tricks. No Traps,” Trion Worlds has made it clear that they're aiming to be the best AAA MMO that exists with a cash shop that adds value to the game experience rather than detracting from it.
From what I've read, RIFT does this by providing everyone with an all-access pass to enjoy the game. The content they've already created is accessible for new and old players, though new players have fewer character and bag slots, and Storm Legion souls will most likely be available as part of a Storm Legion expansion purchase.
Cosmetics and fluff items such as pets and mounts, will probably make up most of the store.
One interesting wrinkle to the discussion of RIFT's revenue model shift is something called RIFT Exchange (REX), which looks like a spin on the PLEX of EVE Online.
As RIFT's producer's letter notes, “Initially purchased with real money, REX is an item that grants store Credits to your wallet when consumed. Before being consumed, it can be traded between players or sold on the auction house. REX offers an avenue for free players to earn Credits, but the in-game currency price is set by players, not us!”
I suppose that makes it more like the Dilithium Exchange or Astral Diamond brokerage of Star Trek Online or Neverwinter though, but I digress. The point of the system appears to be the removal of gold sellers' power to influence the game, and I certainly do hope it works.
I think the thing that will make the fans of RIFT rather pleased is the patronage system, which is essentially subscriptions whose benefits are very favorable for people who want to go all-in for the game.
Patronage enables a number of perks. Greater currency gain, PVE reputation gain, PVP experience and reputation gain, and RIFT-specific token currency gain. Better still, daily XP boosts, a 10% mount speed increase, and the ability to, as far as I understand it, instantly summon services from wherever you may be sweeten the deal further.
While Patronage isn't new (Fallen Earth has multi-tiered subscriptions with benefits), the range of benefits are very generous, and I wouldn't be surprised to see new players converting into subscribers if they enjoyed the game world. Better still, Patronage isn't tied to subscriptions, as you can also purchase Patron Passes that bestow these benefits in 3, 15, or 30-day increments.
The Bottom Line
While we'd need to see more of the offerings in-place for the game's shifting model, Trion Worlds certainly knows how to turn what would otherwise be a “OMG RIFT IS DYING” moment into something to be excited about (Premium Super-Dimensions please!).
I look forward to slaughtering some Guardians when June 12 rolls around. Coincidentally, that's also the Philippine Independence Day, and on that day I shall be free of the need to subscribe to enjoy RIFT at my own pace.
Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and ArcheAge columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.