Welcome back to the weekly news review! I have to say first of all that the couple days "off" from the blog were useful. In the past when I tried to maintain a blog, the "need" to constantly try and update it was one of the factors that led to me giving it up. This time I'm trying to treat it more casually and it seems to be successful. But let's get to the news!
EA Gives First Look at SW:TOR Subscriber Numbers
We got our first "official" statement from EA this week regarding the status of Star Wars: The Old Republic and its initial subscriber numbers. They report 2 million copies of the game sold and 1.7 million subscribers as of Feb. 1. Of course as the old saying goes, there are lies, damn lies, and there are statistics. So these numbers mean different things to different people depending on your point of view on the game. The naysayers point to the fact that you need to enter a credit card or game card number just to use your "free" thirty days, so these numbers can't be an accurate figure of actual subscribers. And the supporters claim this indicates an 85% retention rate for players outside those thirty days. The truth... as always lies somewhere in between. The most reasonable analysis I saw (and forgive me, I lost the link) suggested that the "actual" subscriber number is probably in the neighborhood of 1.3 million currently. That sounds like a pretty good conclusion to me. As I said in a post a few days ago, EA can't fudge too much here, being a publicly traded company. But they probably are "spinning" a bit in terms of people who renewed past thirty days.
That said, the question then becomes, what does 1.3 (or 1.7) million subs mean for the game and its long term health? Well first off, this automatically makes SW:TOR the #2 subscription based MMO behind World of Warcraft. This was pretty much expected. I don't think anyone outside of diehard fanbois thought SW:TOR would touch WoW's numbers right off the bat. Since SW:TOR did not launch in Asia, it is more fair to compare its numbers to WoW's non-Asian base, which most people estimate in the 3-4 million range currently. So rounding things off, we could say SW:TOR has about a third of the number of players as WoW in the territories they "compete" in. Again, I think this is a good comparison and starting point.
Where does SW:TOR go from here though? I have to say I am still pessimistic on the game in the long term. I will elaborate more tomorrow in my post summarizing my week at 50, but suffice to say I don't think this game has "legs."
RIFT Joins the Free-to-Play Revolution........... Sort of.
After stating previously that the F2P model doesn't work for RIFT, Trion Worlds announced RIFT Lite this week, which is in essence a carbon copy of WoW's "introductory" system. You can play up to level 20 and access the starting zones and capitals of each faction, all for free. This on the heels of the announcement last week of Trion converting several servers into "trial servers," which many (myself included) saw as a way to "spin" the need for server consolidations in the game. One thing you have to give Trion credit for is they are pretty damn good at public relations, much better than you would expect from a smaller studio on their first major title.
So is RIFT Lite going to draw more people into the game? Hard to say. Since I already have a RIFT account and several level capped characters, it isn't an inticement for me to return, since it would preclude me from accessing those characters. But that said, I'll give the game a little "plug" here. If you are looking for a good themepark MMO, RIFT is probably the best one on the market currently. Other games have things in their favor; the long term stability of WoW, the voice acting and story of SW:TOR, etc. But RIFT is the best "total package" out there right now. So if you haven't given it a shot yet, now would be a good time to take it for a spin.
Gaming Under Fire Again
In a story that never really goes away, gaming is under attack again for its "destructive" potential. First-person-shooters and MMO's are both singled out for attention in this recent study summarized over at Gamespot. Here's the link to the study itself if you are inclined to look at the actual data and conclusions. This is both a big story and a non-story as far as I'm concerned. These kinds of studies with their alarmist conclusions have been around since the earliest days of gaming. I still remember when DOOM came out and everyone was convinced it would turn kids into violent killers, that school shootings would go through the roof, etc. So it is no surprise to me that twenty years later we still have people predicting the "downfall of civilization" because we like to play games.
I'll say what I've said before... people vulnerable to addictive and destructive behaviors are vulnerable to ALL kinds of those behaviors, and people like that should probably stay away from DOOM or WoW... just like they should stay away from the blackjack table or the Jack Daniels. To single out gaming when there are far more dangerous and destructive types of behaviors is irresponsible and distracts us from areas where we can make better progress in terms of helping people who have these kinds of issues. Gaming makes a convenient target for people who want something to "blame," but much of that blame is misplaced.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend and I'll see you back here tomorrow for my look back at my week at 50 in SW:TOR!