Somebody recently mentioned to me that RuneScape is soon entering it's thirteenth year of existence. A milestone indeed. And while some people have doubt about it's future, there is hope. However, while I indeed firmly believe that our game does have quite a few years left, it will depend on a couple of things.
Like any teenager, it's recently gone through a lot of changes. These changes were necessary in order to become a more complete specimen, able to function better and fulfil whatever role society allows it to. But some of these changes brought problems of their own with them.
Problems like the commercialization of the game. While deemed necessary and in the case of Bonds even desired, there has been one major element missing in making RuneScape become the success everyone desires it to be.
There's a reason why people use this gif to describe what it's like to play RuneScape these days:
New players aren't coming in nearly as fast as they should be and evidence of this can be found everywhere. It used to be hard to get into worlds 1 and 2. Servers in general would rarely dip below having 400 people on it. There are very few people below level 100. The starting area (now in Taver-thorpe) is void of crowds, except for maybe at the bank. The list goes on.
I don't blame people these days for skipping straight past the PCs and laptops required for RuneScape, and opting instead for some sort of console to satisfy their gaming needs. It's a logical trend as the internet gets accessed ever more through mobile devices as well. Not only that, but RuneScape's long, long, LONG road towards the endgame material just doesn't appeal to new customers anymore.
So until RuneScape eventually does come to your Xbox and iPhone, who is going to play it in the mean while?
With the currently dwindling population, it appears as word of mouth isn't going to cut it anymore. Even if you break the first two rules of Fight Club RuneScape at some party, someone will respond with "That old game with the really crappy graphics?". See the problem with RuneScape is that the people who once played it have quite literally outgrown it, and are pushed away by big changes, even when they are necessary. But that is only half of the story.
The other half comes in the form of this picture.
First of all, can we please stop this Brony coup from happening? There's a reason why many cultural references have been removed from RuneScape. It's the same reason why the Romeo and Juliet quest has been replaced. That reason being that, at some point anyways, someone at Jagex decided that the Lore of the game was enough to stand on it's own, and didn't need help from the outside.
Second, like any true teenager, it doesn't really know what it wants. On one side you've got the ever awe-inspiring storyline of the new God Wars, allowing you to participate and even steer events that change the history of the world that RuneScape inhabits. And on the other side you got these "Little Phonies" that belong in the category of crossbreeds between an adorable cat and Monthy Python. Whether RuneScape sees itself as a serious player, or something that thrives on its own self-deprecating cuteness, they really can't have it both ways as they are mutually exclusive.
Moreover, the pace of the game is too fast for anyone to be expected to keep up. You might want an iPhone5, but you only got the iPhone4S 3 months ago and now you are no longer considered to be "with it" because you have an obsolete model. It's the same in RuneScape as even with near-weekly updates, it is still too slow to go where the market forces take you. If a movie comes out, you can't create any relevant content to accompany it, because people will have moved on to the next thing by the time the developers are done.
So the responsible thing to do is to rely on your strengths.
It does happen to be so that RuneScape has developed one that can cure almost any prejudice that currently sits in the mind of most people that have indeed heard of the game. Imagine the following scenario:
You're at home, eating your crappy TV-dinner with the wife and kids when suddenly an ad pipes up. It's for a game, but it doesn't say which one. It shows that what you see is only actual gameplay footage (not even cut-scenes, and if you have decent graphics capabilities you know that RuneScape looks pretty awesome these days). Your kids are getting excited, and they want it for Christmas. Then it says "Playable directly from your browser". That's great, now you can avoid the yearly recurring utter and total collapse of society during Black Friday (November 29th this year). Finally, at the end it says you can play it all for free, and only after that it shows you that it's RuneScape.
Now I'm not saying that this ad is any better than that of World of Tanks, or the one from that Night-Elf Mohawk game, but it certainly gets people's attention. Especially when RuneScape is about to become available on the earlier mentioned devices.
As I said, it's not too hard to get RuneScape back on track again. I'm just wondering what's holding the people up that have to make it happen. Maybe all they need is a little parenting.