In the last couple of years, Jagex has significantly boosted the number of tradable discontinued items, also known as “rares.” In June of 2012, Jagex released the Fish Mask, a rare which was obtainable via the Squeal of Fortune (the predecessor to today's Treasure Hunter). Since then, a number of items such as the Christmas Tree Hat, Black Santa Hat, Crown of Seasons, and Cloak of Seasons have been added—all rares. Just a few days ago, Jagex added a new set of rares as part of the Christmas Holiday event including: rubber turkeys (main-hand and off-hand), Christmas scythes, and Holly Wreaths. While seemingly innocuous, these rares are damaging Runescape’s already fragmented and fragile community, and their releases should be curbed significantly.
Firstly, when a new rare is released, it should be equally accessible to all Runescape players—not just those who can afford to pay for Treasure Hunter keys or those who are extremely wealthy and can buy bonds which buy aforementioned keys. Any and all rares should have equal acquisition opportunities across every player, so that a player wealthy in real life has no advantages over a player who may be in a tough spot. In the most recent update with the Christmas rares, players have a chance at a rare once they gather 1,000 Enchanted Snows and turn them in to the Head Elf in Burthorpe. There are two ways to get this snow. The first is by the Treasure Hunter, where you can win hundreds of Enchanted Snows per key. The other way is to grind combat or skills, similarly to how one acquires Ghostweaves.
The problem is, it is unreasonably difficult to accumulate a significant number of snows by skilling/combat. Let’s do some math. One gets snow every five minutes or so, or roughly 12 times an hour. He or she gets between 5 and 15 Snows every time. For the sake of argument, let’s say I want to get these rares, and assume I get the maximum number of snows per five minutes, which means 180 snows per hour if I get extremely lucky. To get 1,000 snows at that rate, I needs over 5.5 hour of continuous grinding or skilling to get enough snow for one single chance at a rare. If I can get 2x Snow on the first two weeks from either combat or skilling (on the first and second weeks, respectively), that still means almost three hours of skilling for each (low) chance at a rare. True, I can get 750 or 250 snows as a member and nonmember, respectively daily, but that is easily overshadowed when compared to Treasure Hunter Keys. A single Treasure Hunter key can yield 450 to 1800 Snows. If someone buys 10 keys, chances are that he or she will get thousands of Snows, tradable for additional chances at the rare. Chances that I do not get, because I cannot buy keys. This disparity only grows as more keys are purchased. Also keep in mind that 180 Snows per hour is assuming I get the MAXIMUM number of Snows every five minutes. Personally, I get 180 Snows per hour killing elves…during 2x Snow. That means only 90 Snows per hour on a normal week, and 10+ hours per chance!
In addition, newer players and/or players who have-some-money-but-not-much are giddy from the opportunity to get a rare, so many buy them, thinking they will rise forever and get rich. This causes inflation of prices. Other players, seeing the exponential growth of the rares’ prices will purchase them too, further inflating the prices (not unlike the prelude to the American Great Depression). Unfortunately, they eventually crash, and the wealthy who control the market with hundreds of these rares will dump them first, earning tens or hundreds of millions from the inflation, and the people who only have one or two will sell too late, having already lost millions. This leads to profits by those already rich at the expense of those in the midgame and new players. Despite this trend appearing every time a new rare is released, many new players are so enthralled by the possibility of getting rich that they continue to fall for it. Thus, the rich get richer.
Most importantly, new rares also divide the fragile and already fragmented Runescape community. Not only does the wealth gap between the rich and the poor inevitable widen, splitting the community along in-game wealth lines (the “haves” and the “have-nots”), the community also segregates along real-life wealth lines. Picture this:
Player 1: “W00T! Got this new Holly Wreath! ZOMG!”
Player2: “Jagex slave! You just bought your TH Keys!”
Granted, there’s already a divide between supporters and opponents of Treasure Hunter, but every little division matters. This is like the Shooting Star Distraction and Diversion; mining one or two stardust may not have any outwardly visible effect, but right-click and check progress, and the percentages will drop. With the Runescape community already so split (think: R.S.3 “noobs”, “true” R.S. players, etc., legacy, EoC, etc., etc.), we, as the community, cannot afford to let the community splinter any further.
With such a low number of truly new players entering the game (granted, based on anecdotal evidence, but almost certainly true), we certainly don’t want to give an impression that they cannot get promotional rares easily unless they buy keys, or that they have to grind hours to get a chance at rares, or that they’ll be stuck as a “noob” forever if they cannot buy those coveted rares, right?