As suddenly as autumn showed up in my country by drenching me and flooding pretty much every basement in my street in a matter of minutes, Jagex introduced Bonds. Seeing how people reacted to previous commercializations of RuneScape, I was fully expecting people to hit the proverbial fan all over the forums. However, the outrage was minimal, and riots were non-existent. To say the least, the lack of outrage surprised me, so I went to find out more.
On the tin, you buy these Bonds with cold hard dollars, euros, pounds, etc., and in return, you receive an in-game tradable item. You can then trade the Bond to other players or redeem the item for fourteen days of Membership, 8 Squealing Spins, or 160 RuneCoins. Trading the Bond to another player who cannot buy the aforementioned products themselves makes that particular Bond untradeable, but it can be made tradable again for a fee equal to ten percent of the Grand Exchange trading price. So far so good, and the concept sounds like a wonderful way to involve more people in more of the game.
However, the necessity of Bonds was deemed important enough that an in-game pop-up was released with a message from MMG himself. Usually, his in-game announcements mean something is about to happen that we're not going to like very much. Of course, the advertisement is exaggerated greatly, and though the phrase "Everybody benefits from Bonds… except gold farmers!" is technically true, anyone with a critical eye can see that the statement does not carry much weight. See, Jagex tells us that the main reason why Bonds are so necessary is that Bonds will put goldfarmers out of business. Unfortunately, despite the "One Week In" report's claims, goldselling companies are not hurt by Bonds in the slightest.
Some numbers from Jagex might help clarify the scale of the problem:
- About half of all players have, at one point, bought RuneScape gold.
- Over a million accounts have been banned this year alone for transgressions involving Real World Trading.
- About seventeen billion (17,000,000,000) RuneScape coins or eight maximum cash stacks are generated every day by goldfarmers alone, which causes massive inflation.
That last one is not actually true. A conservative estimate suggests that those sums of money would require about 2,000 bots running around 24 hours a day earning at peak rates. While there are indeed bots still present, they are usually not run by goldselling companies. Where all this gold comes from and how to get rid of it will be featured in a follow-up article, so stay tuned for that.
Back to Bonds. If you already did business with gold selling companies to obtain gold cheaply, you will probably continue to do so. On top of that, should you and other such players want Bonds to obtain RuneCoins or Membership with, why spend more money to buy Bonds directly when they can buy RuneScape gold with which to purchase Bonds? Not only that, but players determine the price of Bonds, while the price of black-market RuneScape gold is determined by the companies that produce the gold and deliver it. The companies can always undercut the price of gold from Bonds, especially when there are bots run by five cents/day Chinese slave labourers.
Moreover, most people that would normally never purchase gold now have the opportunity to improve their bank by spending some real-life cash. You can insert whatever metaphor regarding gateway drugs here, should the point not be obvious enough already. Soon, competitiveness, greed, or a misguided rush for levels and items will kick in and people will start looking for a cheaper source of gold.
That said, the ability to get membership with gold you have saved up or to gift your friend some RuneCoins (no one will buy redeem Bonds for Spins at the current price) is still awesome, and if Jagex advertised Bonds as friendly gifts instead of a method to undermine goldsellers, I might have actually given the update a thumbs up.
The success of Jagex's plan all depends on someone, somewhere, putting a steady stream of new Bonds on the market, which might be a problem in the long term. But putting goldsellers out of business is about the long term. If the goldselling companies keep their prices low enough to entice people to use their services, Bonds will become less popular as a method of RuneScape gold income. The demand for Bonds will remain constant, which means that Bonds will increase in value, making them popular again. The yo-yo effect of economics will mean that players will only buy Bonds in sufficient numbers if their gold price is very high. People will prefer a decent, steady gold return for their cash, rather than buying an item which may crash the next day.
An indirect consequence of this whole new scheme might also be that Jagex's income source is going to be lopsided. More players might now be able to "buy" products from Jagex, but the actual revenue at Jagex will be more erratic, coming from fewer sources. For more discussion on this side of the topic, I strongly recommend reading the accompanying article, which my old colleague from the Times wrote!
To conclude, I think you will agree that these Bonds are long overdue for their benefits. More people will in the future be able to enjoy as much of the game as possible, providing a platform for expansion in many directions (I hear RuneFest tickets can be bought with Bonds?) However, the notion that Bonds can undermine the goldselling companies is ridiculous in its current state because goldsellers will always remain competitive. Economics will teach you that if there is a demand, someone will provide a supply. RuneScape gold is no different, which leads to the conclusion that Jagex should have directly sold RuneScape gold long ago, and is now stuck with a problem that I'll attempt to solve in the next article as well. Then and only then can the derpy bot named a8jk13tjkp from the advertisement truly say, "Bleep-Bl00p, my business is screwed!"