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Why RIFT Has One Million Subscribers and Other Games Don’t

Gamasutra has an article up today revealing our the first concrete subscriber numbers for Trion Worlds’ RIFT. In it, Vice President, David Reid, reveals the following:

He first turned to Rift, the company’s first release from March, which he explained now has over one million customers and is the “second largest MMO in the West.”

First off, I think we can all let off our collective sighs now. If you listened to blogs and forum posts you would think that the game is dying. RIFT having over 1M subscribers not only tells us that it is the “second largest MMO in the west,” it also tells us that the game has increased in popularity since it launched in March. Very few other games can say that nearly six months down the line. Relative to other major releases, RIFT’s pre-order numbers were fairly modest. Steam picked up quickly, almost surprisingly so, but let’s be honest, RIFT was no Warhammer Online, SWTOR, and certainly wasn’t boasting about breaking any records. It flew under the radar for almost its entire development cycle only to come out of the corner swinging and show everyone else how it’s done.

Second, and IMHO, much more importantly, these numbers show that Trion has figured out what it takes to create a successful post-WoW MMO. They’re not part of the pre-release, sell lots of boxes, fade off crowd that virtually every other MMO is a part of. What’s the difference? It’s certainly not the gameplay. Though rifts are dynamic and interesting, and the polish is high-end, what you actually do breaks down into the same things we’ve been doing since Everquest: Make a character, kill lots of monsters, get loot, level, and raid. Not revolutionary but familiar and with a Trion coat of polish. That’s not a knock.

No, what their success shows us is that regular, quality updates are what keep people around long-term and keep new players coming in every day. Why don’t people unsubscribe? Because there’s always something new to look forward to. And those updates make players from other games excited and wonder what all the fuss is about. It keeps Trion in the news cycle, always with something new and exciting and in response to something players have asked for. It keeps them on top of balance, and bug fixes, and player suggestions. Their update schedule has quite literally pushed them to the forefront of the MMO consciousness when every other game falls into the obscurity of quarterly updates.

I guess the question at this point is if TOR and GW2 have learned this same lesson. It’s always been my fear that full-voicing and ultra-long production cycles make for longer wait times between patches. Can either of them match this pace? GW2 maybe, hopefully, but TOR almost certainly not. Both of them better try to one-up WoW, though, because if they don’t, Trion made sure they’re going to look slow as snails by comparison.

 

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  1. Stabs

    We always knew there would be a dip at the end of the first month and that the long term future of the game would rest in how they progressed after that. It seems they’ve married the big launch splash of WAR and AoC to the steady subscriber growth of Eve. Well done Trion!

    One slight nit: is “one million customers” definitely the same as “one million active current subscribers?”
    Stabs recently posted..The unbearable darkness of online communities

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      This is a good point. It would be nice to get some clarification there, but I doubt he’d break the image he created with his original quote.

  2. Paul

    Customers != subscribers. I think it probably means 1 million box sales.

    I doubt their number of current subscribers is much over 500 K, if that.

  3. Liore

    This is a good point. As a player of RIFT I’m slightly biased, but I think the other effect of frequent content updates is the feeling that the devs are.. looking out for us more? Benevolent leaders? I have no idea what it’s actually like behind the scenes but that’s my perception, and it’s definitely something that Blizzard has been lacking for the last couple of years.
    Liore recently posted..Appearance Tabs: a round of pants for all my friends!

  1. Why RIFT is number 2

    […] on the announcement that RIFT has 1,000,000 customers, making it the number 2 MMO behind WoW, and how and why they’re achieving that: What their success shows us is that regular, quality updates are what keep people around […]

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