Rift: Planes of Telara is the newest MMO to boast a million potential players as it gears up for launch. Now the question is: Can it keep them?

It might be a bit hard to imagine, but it wasn’t too long ago – less than a decade – where the idea of an MMO having a million subscribers was a delirious pipe dream at best. If the big dogs like EverQuest and Final Fantasy XI couldn’t do it, who could? Well, we all know the answer to that question, but ludicrous success of WoW aside, the million-man-mark remains an unreachable goal for many MMO developers.

Both Age of Conan and Warhammer Online topped a million players when they launched – however, those numbers soon dropped sharply, and dreams of being Warcraft‘s “number two” were broken. Now, however, there’s a new challenger to the million-player ceiling: Trion’s Rift: Planes of Telara. Trion announced today that there had been more than a million Rift player accounts created, as servers went up for the game’s “Head Start” period in advance of its official March 4th launch.

It’s good news for Trion, certainly – it demonstrates a healthy interest in a new MMO (and perhaps more significantly, a completely new IP that doesn’t have the ability to stand on the shoulders of the Conan or Warhammer franchises) and should give the studio a momentary cash-flow injection to help recoup development costs.

On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that the game has a million subscribers willing to pay monthly to play it, since the first month is free – thirty days from now, we’ll find out just how many of these Rift adventurers think the game is worth digging into their wallets. If Trion can weather the initial fallout and keep the game’s subscribers steady – or even growing – then it will have succeeded where Conan and Warhammer failed.

If you’re still interested, you can still sign up for the Head Start – as well as a limited-time, discounted Founder’s subscription plan – at the game’s official site. As we’ve seen already, the game is quite competent if not entirely original in style. It might just be worth it.

But I still can’t see the “We’re not in Azeroth anymore” tagline as anything but tempting fate. I really can’t.


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