Here’s a fact that will surprise no one: People like getting free stuff.
Video game publisher Trion Worlds and gaming community Raptr recently joined forces to promote the free-to-play (F2P) relaunch of the struggling massively multiplayer online role-playing game Rift. Using the Raptr Rewards loyalty program, Trion gave away free copies of Rift and in-game items to the social network’s more than 18 million players. The two companies then worked together to analyze player data collected since first announcing the F2P transition in mid-May.
Not surprisingly, these numbers are pretty great.
Trion Worlds says the number of daily active players jumped 300 percent after announcing Rift’s free-to-play transition, a 133 percent increase over several other major online titles at the time. Once the F2P transition completed in June, players who had been inactive for more than 14 days came back at a rate of 900 percent. Trion also says the game’s overall revenue increased more than five times.
A MMO finding success after going free-to-play is nothing new. Back in May, Electronic Arts president of labels Frank Gibeau revealed during an earnings call that Star Wars: The Old Republic more than doubled its monthly revenue after making the switch. But what is unusual is a publisher teaming up with a social networking site to promote such a transition. Jim Butler, Trion Worlds’ senior director of global marketing, says the partnership was invaluable.
“I think the one thing that it’s helped is just in visibility,” he said. “You know, instead of Trion going out there and saying, ‘Hey, look at all the cool stuff Rift is doing.’ Now we’ve got Trion and Raptr going out there and saying, ‘Oh, my god, look at all this cool stuff that Rift and Trion are doing.’ It just increases our reach for everything that we’re doing.”
The promotion was undoubtedly beneficial to Raptr as well. Director of marketing Donnie Wang says the site’s Rift community more than doubled in size after the rewards program launched.
“It was definitely interesting to really try to help Rift not only engage both their existing and lapsed players but also trying to reach out and getting new players to come into their game before they were ultimately going to make that switch to free-to-play,” he said.
Acquiring new players and reacquiring old ones is a constant battle for MMOs. There’s a natural ebb and flow to subscriber numbers, Butler says. Every disruptive event, whether it’s a new console launch or a rival’s content patch, impacts it.
“One of the things about MMO gaming is that a lot of gamers play multiple games,” Butler says. ”What happens is there’s kind of a cycle, a method to their madness, where they’ll come back and they’ll play Rift and then suddenly they’ll go off and play their other MMO, the one that is their deep, dark secret, and they’ll play that because that game had a new content update or whatever else. Then they’re waiting for something else to happen to bring them back to Rift or yet another MMO that they play. So, you know, acquiring and then reacquiring is just part of the natural process by which the MMO business goes.”
While Butler believes Trion would’ve had great success with Rift’s relaunch with or without Raptr, he says their partnership made everything better, and the publisher plans to keep working with Raptr to expand the rewards program to more of its games.
Wang also believes the partnership is a natural fit. The two companies share a similar philosophy, he says, a player-first approach to community building. “Developers shouldn’t necessarily think first about how to monetize off of their players,” he says. “Think about what’s best for the player first and then the money will come later.”
“That’s the big secret in getting players back,” Butler says. “Listening to the community, giving them what they need, giving them what they want. And starting the cycle all over again.”