The vast majority of MMOs over the past few years ditched their old subscription-based business model practically without stopping to ask 'why'. The allure of getting players in on the ground floor ended up overriding long-term planning in many cases, often leading to messier games.
Trion Worlds' Rift went free to play back in 2013, and has continued to expand in terms of content ever since, despite a steady decline in players. In an attempt to bring back some of the old-school MMO crowd, Trion Worlds will be offering a similarly old-school, subscription-based server for them soon.
The MMO scene is changing, slowly but surely. Burnt out on Rift? Check out some of these other choice picks while you're waiting on the Prime servers to be brought online.
As described in Trion's 2018 road-map here, the subscription service, dubbed 'Rift Prime', will start out as effectively a 'vanilla' server, plus some quality of life improvements. Much of the content of the game will be locked away at first, and while levelling and progression will be faster than on the F2P servers, the focus for players sounds like it'll be on completing monthly milestones and achievements together.
Trion Worlds hope to reward Prime players with many cash-shop-only items as rewards for regular play, and will heavily de-emphasize the importance of the secondary storefront for players who are actively subscribed - that means no lockboxes, among other things. There are some other very nice gameplay tweaks set to apply to the Prime server as well. In what feels like a nod to Guild Wars 2, your character's stats will be scaled down to older areas (no more casually one-shotting bossses, sorry), but rewards will scale up to your true level, meaning that you can adventure almost anywhere and still feel rewarded.
Over the course of months after launch, they plan on unlocking more and more expansions and zones, letting players explore further outwards and progress the main story arc of the game, and eventually - and I quote "eventually come to an end in spectacular fashion" suggesting some kind of planned end-game event leading to a server reset, and beginning the whole story arc anew. There will also be some manner of long-term participation awards that carry over to other servers.
In all honesty, it sounds rather nice, although I wish the level-scaling aspects were applied to all servers, subscription or otherwise. For that matter, I'd love to see it applied to all MMOs, as it opens the door for much more cooperative play, effectively capping the party at the level of its lowest member, but rewarding everyone as if they were playing in their ideal zone.
Rift is currently free to play, with the Prime subscription service opening sometime later this Spring.