I've done some reflecting on my Rift review and while I still fully stand by my assessment for the game as a whole, I wanted to express in more detail why I see something like Rift running alongside WoW to be a boon to both games along with any games that come out after.
Anyone who understands basic business knows about the importance of competition. Without it, those who currently control the market have free reign to adjust their prices and products to whatever their hearts desire. Wal-Mart tended to operate like that until Target finally started to give them a run for their money. Electronic Arts was loathed by everyone as THE evil gaming publisher until Activision came along and gave them someone to actually compete against.
Thus it is my hope that Rift's success will punt WoW's Developers into better action to keep their own MMO alive, kicking and improving in quality. As they do that, I can see Trion and Rift adding to their own game to keep it moving and competitive. With these two moving like that, it should punt Bioware into action to give us The Old Republic as a winning game to stand up to both of these current products, not to mention Arenanet and Guild Wars 2.
I'm not sure how my tone was interpreted in the Rift review, but I meant it as honest praise. Rift's built on WoW while simultaneously working to make their own way. It's an example for other developers to follow.
The biggest problem with the majority of release MMOs is that they either do one of two things, either they cut the cloth too close to WoW and fail to attract the playerbase needed to continue the game, i.e. Warhammer Online; or they try something so drastically different that it utterly fails in execution, i.e. Star Trek Online or All Points Bulletin.
Rift cut the cloth close enough to WoW that the concepts and gameplay are completely familiar while simultaneously setting themselves apart. As I said in the review, it's a lateral step for MMOs, however it'll lend itself well to the overall evolution of MMOs by giving a new branch of inspiration for future developers.
So what does this ultimately mean for we humble gamers?
Indeed, a concept extremely old but still important to our culture as gamers. The ability to have more than one MMO to choose from is outstanding. And more importantly, because there's so many out there, it makes putting out a quality product all the more important.
Let's say there's now real competition in the fantasy MMO department between WoW and Rift, that means the fantasy MMO market is fairly sewn up right now. That just means that Guild Wars 2 will have to shape up and put on its best suit if it has any intentions at all to get a piece of the market. As it was so painfully demonstrated by Final Fantasy 14, it is extremely easy to crash and burn an incompetently put together MMO.
Choice also lends itself to what I call the "Darwinian MMO Progression". If an MMO comes out that you don't like, simply don't play it. If it comes out terrible, don't play it. Many, many MMOs have come and gone over the years, the vast majority of them becoming footnotes in gaming history. But the pursuit of the brass ring of player base domination is becoming what drives MMO developers.
Although what drives MMO publishers is the pursuit of the almighty dollar, but that's another topic. Even then, recent developments have shown that even big money-backed projects can completely collapse.
What it ultimately comes down to, though, is play what you want, really. Rift players, don't look down on WoW players for playing WoW. WoW players, don't get angry at Rift players or angry at Trion, play WoW. As for everyone else, keep playing the games, keep lighting up the forums with INTELLIGENT debate, I'm looking at you stupid whiny posts, and make the Devs put out the best possible product they can.
If we don't who will?
Game on and take care.