During the last week alone, various corporations within the United States announced the layoffs of over 100,000 employees. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has settled firmly into the low 8000 range, down from the mid 13000 range as recently as mid-2008. Billions of dollars have been lost in the United States, and the tie-in to global markets has caused complete anarchy in foreign markets. Banks, insurance agencies, and corporations whom invested in the once super-rich US Housing Market saw their fortunes disappear, and the resultant downturn on those very banks (alongside their bad credit foreclosures) has led to billions more lost in the banking industry, alongside countless thousand jobs. Even mighty Dubai, heralded as the next Camelot six months ago, has seen an unprecedented downturn, complete with oil and natural gas suppliers reporting (brace yourself) losses.
In short, everyone is getting hit hard in the wallet. Stability has never been so valued nor scarce, and people, like corporations, have taken drastic actions to reduce their cost structures.
This brings us to that which is relevant to the annals of all things Tip-It in nature; for the moribund nature of our market is certainly not something that people come here to think about. What is consequential within our community is forecasting how this economic downturn will affect RuneScape. If you’re fourteen, for example, you have no ability to directly affect this situation you find our world in, but rather look through the window in hopes of determining what this means to you.
Quite simply, this downturn could take subscription rates and log-in rates in any direction. Let’s consider the following:
- There is no question that many young players are funded through their parents. For parents, the true value of this game is difficult to substantiate, as it is not something they experience aside from an annoying line item on their credit card bill.
- Conversely, as people look to cut spending, RuneScape could be viewed as a very economical alternative. With more expensive console systems with associated expensive games, a parent would certainly rethink purchasing hundreds on a console, games, and online access in lieu of simply paying a $5 monthly rate to placate their game-thirsty child.
- For others, times are so difficult that high-speed internet access may no longer become possible. With cable subscription rates being VERY costly, consumers could steer towards more economical DSL lines. This could be boon or bane for Jagex, as RuneScape may be that solution which can be supported on DSL alone (as competitive World of Warcraft may simply be too much for such a connection to process).
My expectation and contention (and please feel free to argue) is that over the next few months we will see a moderate decline in subscriptions, along with a shift in player demographics. Older players (like yours truly) certainly will not stop playing, because other forms of entertainment would be both less satisfying and more expensive. Younger players, on the other hand, will be victims of their place in the family food chain, and in tough times will see their say in the matter taken from them. RuneScape will also likely GAIN overall market share against competitors, as those same youths can make a better argument to retain their five-dollar subscription (or comparable price) than their WoW playing counterparts, who currently tax their parents at a more noticeable rate. Ultimately, the MMORPG universe will come through this economic downturn quite successfully, as they have instituted a product that is by and large very low cost, highly entertaining, and sufficiently addictive.
Of course, many felt that quality banking institutions such as Lehman Brothers or Bear Sterns were bulletproof, so take this prediction with a grain of salt.
Now is the time to prognosticate. Look into your crystal ball. What do you see on the horizon? How will this near-catastrophic economy affect our tiny electronic universe?