Column: Jagex, RuneScape, And Increasing Prices

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When I was in school, RuneScape was always known as that little MMO that anyone could play. You didn’t need a powerful computer, not to mention it had a free to play mode in an era when most western MMOs carried a mandatory subscription. Add on to that the cheap price of membership, five bucks, and it was the only game many of us too young to own a debit card/have an income could convince our parents to subscribe us to.

I’ll be interested to see how Jagex’s revenues are hit by the latest announcement that membership prices will be rising again, now that they will be nearly twice the price of the game’s original monthly cost and just five dollars short of your typical subscription MMO.

1. Price Increases And Content Train

Yes, RuneScape isn’t the only MMO to ever increase its subscription price, but it is the only AAA MMO to have regular (every two to three years) rate hikes and I’d be willing to venture that it is the only one to double its price over nine years. You could argue that the RuneScape that exists today offers a whole lot more than the RuneScape that was $5 back in 2008, and frankly I’d have to agree. Even at $9.49 a month, RuneScape offers a ton of varied content with a release schedule that dwarfs its competition. A schedule that requires a lot of moolah to run efficiently.

This coal consuming train is also brought up whenever Jagex addresses the, shall we say, aggressiveness with which the game’s Treasure Hunter and Solomon’s Store RMT is being promoted. Mark Gerhard told us that the game cannot be sustained on its subscription price and still churn out the weekly updates. In spite of this, the subscription price has continued to rise.

The unfortunate reality is that Jagex is in a no win situation here. Reduce update frequency to lower overhead and you’ll have players feeling that the value of their subscription is going down. Keep everything as it is and you exacerbate the problems of development costs and the necessity of aggressive cash shop marketing.

2. Wasting Money

And while we’re on the subject of wasting money, I really hope we don’t hear about any new Jagex games this year (omitting Block N Load). I’ve talked this subject into the ground, but the question still remains as to how many times does this company need to mismanage a game before they get the idea down?

With RuneScape as the big money maker, it also stands that a good amount of that money is going to fund Jagex’s other projects, which Mark Gerhard admitted they weren’t taking seriously enough. I’ve talked about this to death, so I’ll just link to the earlier article rather than going over it again.

And for the record, it would be irresponsible of Jagex to not invest money in new, experimental projects, and having games wind up getting cancelled is just a part of doing business. You have to spend money to make money, as they say.

That being said, I’d like to see Jagex invest their money more wisely. Their recent projects can be summarized as “this is a thing, let’s do this thing too,” with the end result being 8Realms (city builder), Funorb (mini-games), Transformers Universe (MOBA), and now Block N Load (Minecraft-style) and Chronicles (Hearthstone).

3. Solomon, HTML5, And More

Which is to say, RuneScape hasn’t been without its missteps. We learned at Runefest last year that the HTML 5 client that Jagex had been looking at wasn’t going according to plan thanks to a lack of cooperation from browser developers, and would be scrapped in favor of a dedicated client.

There also seems to be a wholesale clearing out of Jagex’s cash shop. This month has seen a massive sale on the Solomon’s General Store cash shop, but you might not have caught the part where all of the items that are on sale (57 as of my last count) will be completely discontinued and removed at the end of the month.

The good news is that this is coming out of an attempt to reduce clutter in the cash shop, as noted in the forums:

Solomon’s store has somewhere in the region of 350+ different items, so it’s simply time we took a look at the stock and had a bit of a clear out whilst giving you a heads up and chance to get them at a large discount before they’re gone.

4. So In Conclusion…

I can’t help but conclude this the same way I did when Jagex cancelled 8Realms and fully committed themselves to making Transformers Universe all that it could be…Boy I hope this doesn’t happen again.

Boy I hope this doesn’t happen again.

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