Trion Worlds Brings Rift To China

Game-maker Trion Worlds is revealing its global ambitions — it just announced a partnership with Chinese Internet company Shanda to release Trion’s online roleplaying game Rift in China.

The game had a successful launch in the United States and Europe last year, winning a bunch of awards, attracted 1 million registered users in its first four months, and supposedly bringing in $100 million in revenue. Trion CEO Lars Buttler says he sees Asia as the company’s “next great frontier,” one that he plans to conquer through the Shanda deal and another partnership to launch in Korea. In fact, Buttler says that across most financial metrics, the new agreement is the largest deal ever to license a Western game in China. (However, he declined to share those numbers.)

There have been a few other success stories, like World of Warcraft, but for the most part, Western games haven’t had much success in China, Buttler says. Naturally, he thinks Rift will be a different story.

“So many people are afraid of China,” he says. “We think they are amazing. They can teach us, they can be great markets for us.”

As for what will make Rift work when others have failed, Buttler says represents a unique approach to gaming, one that combines the high quality of traditional gaming with the rapid iteration — for example, he says Trion released seven “massive” updates to Rift in the first nine months. That gives the games a “live” quality that should attract Chinese gamers and also makes piracy less attractive.

Boiling down his reasons to be optimistic, Buttler says, “Rift is great, we listen, we can innovate quickly, we will innovate for Asia as quickly as we do for [the United States].”

The Chinese launch date will be announced later.