Interesting. On my old blog, i had this post about being supportive of the few (and getting even rarer) companies who bring MMORPGs to us- at that time, it was about Trion’s up-to-then unknown imported game. Today, i’ll return to this topic in regards to Rift’s new expansion Starfall Prophecy- this post started its life as a comment on Psychochild’s blog, but i felt like it was getting too long. TLDR would be: “don’t hold a grudge”.

Trion once was that highly respected company- everyone cheered when the news broke that they’d be publishing ArcheAge. Then something bad happened and now they’re struggling – reputation wise.

Here’s the thing, though: what big MMO devs/publishers do you know? Blizzard? Cancelled their latest MMO in favour of a lobby shooter. Daybreak? Ha, well, they seem to be downgrading lately. Turbine? Already on their way out. Funcom? Is struggling and needs to do something other than MMOs to actually earn some money.

Now, we can have all the business model talks or how exactly each and every company developing MMORPGs went wrong, but i’d like to state something else:

I feel Trion is on the right way.

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When i take a look at the past and how free-to-play evolved from its first popular incarnation in 2009, a model that, by the way, resembled buy-to-play more than the later incarnations of “all content is free”, i see one thing: developers trying to figure out how to make a living without charging us for their games. If that sounds absurd, that’s probably because it is. Those western companies who embraced this model are in trouble now- and it’s not because of pay-to-win.

In my opinion, the “slippery slope” isn’t one, at all. They all started with what they deemed fair to players as well as developers- they have to earn money, after all. My guess is that they began realizing that this wouldn’t suffice- for microtransactions to work, there need to be customers willing to buy that costume or hat for 5 dollars. So they began introducing more intrusive items into their cash shop. In hindsight, SWTOR probably did right with treating their f2p version as little more than an extended trial.

So now we can see how Daybreak (with Landmark) and Trion are moving away from free-to-play, away from giving out content for free. Atlas Reactor is a buy-to-play game, and the newest expansion in Rift, the Starfall Prophecy, will be a buy-to-play expansion; or let’s call it a DLC.

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They’re trying something new. Of course they can’t take away all that intrusive stuff they introduced before, as players who paid for that would get upset if they did. They can’t change Rift or Trove to b2p completely. Again, this is my opinion, but i feel as if Trion is trying to improve their reputation- of course they’re not doing this because they want a pat on the head but because they feel they can earn more money this way.

Still, i feel like holding a grudge- on Trion for their AA shenanigans, NC Soft for closing down CoX, Daybreak for Star Wars Galaxies or EQ Next, Perfect World for selling some stuff at outrageous prices or even Funcom for the launch of Anarchy Online (wtf? The Secret World launched just fine)- really isn’t all that productive.

Turbine will be on their way out of the MMO business, i feel like Daybreak is on its way out and Wildstar might just be. Sure, we can hope someone picks up where they left, but it seems unlikely.

I do think MMORPGs were blown up a bit more than what was good for them (i guess content creation is one of the more expensive parts of MMO developement and themeparks rely heavily on that) and the new actors in the market (Crowfall, Camelot Unchained, SotA, Chronicles of Elyria or whathaveyou) might have something that’s worth pursuing, but i can’t really shake the feeling that what they offer is actually a step backwards- or maybe it’s just another turn of the wheel in this market. It might be a good sign for things to come, taking a step back and re-evaluating how MMORPGs can work- but that’s still no reason to abandon the old guard.

When they learn and change things up to the better? Well, i guess we should give them another shot. Rift isn’t your game? Fine, don’t spend money, i am strongly against “supporting” companies just for the sake of supporting them. But if Rift is of interest but Trion managed to scare you away with earrings you could only put on if you bought the last expansion? Don’t let that hold you back on the new one.