RIFT goes free-to-play, promises 'no tricks, no traps'

RIFT announces freetoplay,
Trion Worlds has just announced that fantasy MMO RIFT will be headed free-to-play on June 12th. Though former studio reps were once adamant that the game would remain a subscription MMO, the team has apparently decided it can better compete in a F2P world by being F2P. The hybrid model will include an optional sub with fully free content like dungeons and questing; consumables, cosmetics, and even gear will make up the cash shop.

We asked Creative Director Bill Fisher to explain the whys and wherefores of this decision. Check out our interview after the jump!

[Updated: The official site has also posted a handy chart to show you what you're getting at different tiers.]

RIFT goes freetoplay, talks
Massively: Why is it time for RIFT to go free-to-play? Are subscribers dropping? Did the expansion not do well? Does your market research see better profit potential in F2P? Or is it perhaps a combination of the above or something different entirely?

Bill Fisher: We have been seeing feedback on this subject since the inception of the game -- and not in a negative light. We have received all kinds of in-game feedback reports, passionately written emails, and gathered data from exit surveys over the years. This was one of the most requested, if not the most requested, feature from the community.

We know that the business landscape has changed over the years. In the old days you could pay for these sorts of games by the hour. I don't think anyone reading this really wants to go back to those days.

We've had this in the works for quite some time -- and you could see some of the original inkling of this with the RIFT Lite program, which was a smashing success for us. There has certainly been a stigma over the years regarding free-to-play games, but that stigma is going away every day as more top quality games are released with quality F2P models that don't gouge the user but instead provide fun environments and good value.

Did Defiance's launch and business model cause Trion to re-evaluate RIFT's model?

No, the RIFT team has been looking at this sort of model for quite some time.

Former executive producer Scott Hartsman was vocal in his support of the subscription model for RIFT. Did the studio want to go F2P for a while now but was holding back due to Hartsman's leadership?

No one at Trion ever tried to hold us back as we started investigating a free-to-play model for RIFT last year. It's been really positive every step of the way.

The biggest requirement with this change is that we had to come up with a model that fit RIFT and that gave real value to our users when they decided to spend their hard-earned cash. I think what we are offering is pretty amazing.

Free-to-play didn't help RIFT to survive in Korea, and Chinese media reports that it's having a rough time there as well. Is this a worry for the rest of the world, or do you see the Western market as more accommodating for F2P?

We have built a free-to-play model that we feel is great for the users that we know best: the Western market. Our market isn't necessarily any more or less accommodating than others. Doing a conversion like this and doing it right really comes down to knowing your market and how people interact with your game.

RIFT goes freetoplay, talks
So break it down for us: What will the free portion of RIFT's F2P include, and what will be monetized?

All of our content is available completely for free: every quest, every chronicle, every dungeon, every continent, every level, and every raid. You can level to 60 without spending a dime. You can earn the best gear in the game without giving us a credit card. No tricks; no traps.

The RIFT Store will have a variety of boosts available to increase your XP gain or token gain -- but these are just accelerations of things you can already earn. We will also be offering mounts, costumes, treasure boxes, storage space, more role slots, more wardrobe slots, and a slew of services.

We will also have gear for sale. Our guidelines for gear on the store are generally as follows: The best gear in the game must be earned and high-level items on the store must also be available to be earned in-game.

Will there still be a subscription option? Will there be additional incentives to subscribe if so?

We are renaming our subscription option to Patron status. Patrons will receive a variety of benefits including daily boosts they can activate as well as convenience features such as summoning trainers, bankers, guild bankers, and more.

It feels as though RIFT's once-legendary speedy updates have slowed down as of late. What does the near future look like for RIFT's development aside from F2P?

We've been working on Update 2.3: Empyreal Assault alongside our transition to free-to-play. This patch has a ton of content. We are finally unlocking the Dendrome (full of new level 60 quests), as well as adding new dynamic content known as Strongholds, a new Chronicle, a new 10-player Sliver, and even open-world raid bosses.

Getting everything lined up for 2.3 has been quite task. Folks are already starting work on 2.4, which includes two new 20-player raids and much more. In other words, we are still going to be cranking out content! We want to keep adding content and systems to keep the game fresh and keep people interested.

For those not playing RIFT right now, what's the best reason to give this game a shot when it goes free-to-play?

RIFT is hands down the best MMO that you have never played. If you don't want a complete AAA MMO experience for free, then I can't help you.

Thanks for sharing this with us!

When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!

This article was originally published on Massively.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.