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After hearing chatter for days regarding Rift and it “dying,” I feel it's about time to give out clarification of the server population and mergers that happened in October of last year, as people are often misunderstanding what it means to the game and what it signifies.

By far, the biggest arguments players have for how they know Rift is dying are that the servers merged and there are fewer, and that the relative populations (Low, Medium, High) are lower than they were before. Neither of these things can be used to show Rift's death, however, as you have to take into consideration the following things:

  • During each server merger, the capacity of each server was also increased. This meant that less servers were needed to hold the entire population, so it makes sense to bring some of them down
  • One of the reasons for bringing about a merger was to bring all players on to a single mega-wargroup. This means that queues were all merged, both PvE and PvP-based
  • The relative populations are based on the new capacities, not the old ones. For example, what could still be considered as “Low” now might have been “Full” before (without data on exact numbers it's hard to tell though)

Essentially, what the mergers (and events surrounding it) did is increase the numbers of players able to be on one shard, as well as help bring all of the servers together in a single war group. This isn't really a sign of its death, but more of a change in structure (much like the merging of factions done before). As time goes on, things change. And with the still-steady updates to the game, I don't see any real proof that anything bad has been happening. And for the record, if the argument you see is based on the down-sizing of Trion's team, read the Trion lay-offs article for more information on how this is normal.

Update: with the recent news of Rift going free to play, it has brought up some new insight as to what is going on. It is still important to realize, however, that we do not know for sure what the motives of the subscription change actually are. There are many reasons a company may move from a paid to a free to pay (with cash shop options) model, including:

  • Subscription numbers are down. Less members staying in the game means less income when dealing with a model that only gets money from retaining players. With new games being released, the number of players is expected to be spread among many different games, as we all get burned out at some point and want something new and different
  • They have come up with the conclusion that by using a free to play model, players will end up spending more money in the game. This has shown to be true time and time again, because people are much more likely to throw money at a game if it is their own choice, rather than being forced to by the publishers. It may seem a bit odd that it works out so well, but it makes sense being that we, as people, love having choices. This is especially important with our finances, and things can happen to where you may not have enough to keep a subscription going for a little while. Not pulling you from the game as a result brings a huge amount of respect from players like myself, as it keeps there from being punishments for what may happen to you in real life
  • The release of Defiance has gone well enough that they have decided to move Rift over to a similar model. Defiance is a buy to play game, so there are no fees or anything once you have made the original purchase. There are downloadable content packs that are expected to be released, but the content that they come out with is all voluntary. You do not need to get any of them in order to enjoy what Defiance has to offer, and it has been said not to impact your ability to keep up with the story of the show and the game. Rift's free to play model seems to resemble this, in that it has been stated that most of the game is open absolutely free, and the parts that are not can be obtained by simply purchasing the Storm Legion expansion. Past that, there are no new fees, although there are new benefits for keeping an active subscription going
  • Trion could be experiencing problems due to Defiance and End of Nations. Both of these games have had a pretty fair amount of criticism, and it is more than possible that these are creating a monetary leak for Trion. Of course, without knowing what their income and expenditures are like for any of their games, it is hard to make an accurate judgement. We could be wrong and they could be doing better than they hoped for, despite the problems the games appear to be facing

When it really comes down to it, we do not know for certain what Trion's motives are for making this massive change to the game. We can keep guessing all day long and make assumptions, but there are only two possibilities for any of them: true or false. Without having enough information given to us on a regular basis, there is no way of really knowing whether we are on the right track or not.

One thing is for certain though: Rift, if it is dying, should be resurrected once the free to play model goes live. Rift has gotten surges of players in the past when Trion offered up free weekends and free “unlimited trial” play up to level twenty. Opening up the rest of the game for free, and without even having a time limit on it, should really break open the doors. This leads to some concerns about how the servers are going to handle the population, as well as how long it will stick around, but free to play models of previously subscription based games have historically shown that they can renew interest in older subscribers, as well as keep people coming back for more.

Without the subscription cost hanging above your head, it is much easier to sit back and enjoy the game, even casually, without feeling as if every minute not in the game is money you are throwing at it with no benefit. This is the best part of it to me, and it allows me to play multiple games without having to keep adding on another $15 per month for every game I want to play. This can add up quick!

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