Sometime around the end of 2008, Jagex was brewing up social plans to try and change the face of the company; not for game publishers, other companies, or investors, but for its players. As we have seen from the past eight months, Jagex has definitely made several improvements and additional features to how it presents itself to the players of RuneScape. Jagex has gone from a closed nut to a blossoming flower flowing with information. Whether it is internal features like development diaries, third-party social networking sites being utilized, such as Twitter, or partnerships with fansites, Jagex has most definitely begun to become hip.
We are going to explore how Jagex came to the conclusion that contact with its players is far more positive towards the future than their previous strategy of having content locked down to such an extent that the only way to figuring out what they were going to release was to spend many hours deciphering the secrets behind NPC's like the Chaos Elemental for ourselves. So enjoy this desperately needed new insight that has been dispersed in Jagex’s public relation updates.
If there was one identifiable turning point to how Jagex viewed its players and how it wanted to connect with the bulk of them, it would definitely be Mark Gerhard’s passionate decision to become much more involved and direct to the players. Geoff Iddison served Jagex through a tough year of changes from late 2007 to 2008. RuneScape experienced many changes in this period of time, most likely brought by Iddison in defense of the rumoured credit card companies threats Jagex to eradicate" real-world trading, or suffer a consequence. After these supposed threats, Iddison’s primary role was fixing this problem for Jagex, and making hard decisions that would keep Jagex safe long enough to fix the problems existing in RuneScape.
However, Iddison’s resignation was surely a sign that 2009 would be a time to improve older content, and polish all aspects of the game. This was the adoption of Mark Gerhards new purpose, to fix the problems that the aggressive war against real-world trading caused, which not only harmed the players, caused "unnecessary advertising for subscription to members", but other things dropped into the game by the former CEO. Thus began the improvements not only to the game, but player contact and communication.
December was the month that Twitter boomed into the a popular internet phenomenon that it is today. Jagex saw an opportunity in front of them, a new tool to help them in expanding their player communication. Skip ahead three months to March, and we see where Jagex intended, or will intend to take Twitter. We see a progressive utilization of Twitter, far beyond what any game studio has been using Twitter for, with tweets about in-game events hosted by players attended by Jagex moderators, hints to hours-away updates, clues to long-term updates, tweets about development diaries, or forum contests, Jagex was truly revolutionizing their player communication. Jagex has even been answering questions and putting forth a homely sense of humor on Twitter, as well as releasing hints about Mechscape, communicating and giving exclusive content to fansites. Without going further, Twitter is the second initiative Jagex took to be more direct and open with its players and fanbase. Let us continue where we left off.
As said before, the third, contacting, communicating and giving exclusive content to long-term fansites. We first saw this with MechScape related fansites, receiving concept art from Jagex about the upcoming MMORPG. Eventually, however, no need for however Tip.It announced a partnership with Jagex. When this partnership deal was made, the forums stirred with confusion, especially around April 1st, but it turned out that Jagex had either become larger risk takers in roulette or had finally, after such cruel years of being stone walled from Jagex, opened its gates to fansites. So now, because of Jagex's outreach, Tip.it is receiving exclusive content like interviews, concept art that is in development, or implied to be released content—grand, isn't it?
And finally,there is a fourth strategy Jagex is using to become hip—involvement in clans. With the introduction of the Jagex Clan Cup, it just became clear where changes priorities lay. Unlike other game-developement studios, for a long time Jagex showed no interest in becoming involved in player-run clans, let alone fansites. Over the years, Jagex has lent a hand or two, with the Wilderness Capes or Clan Chat being released, but never formally incorporated clan events into the game itself. The Jagex Cup showed a great leap in player communication and support.
So what we see is Jagex prioritizing how they need to improve their game, but utilizing new ideas and expanding player communication. Jagex's mindset must be along the lines of, "why not show the players how hard we are going to work to improve and polish old content and give them insightful information by including them in the projects that we are developing? As we can see from Jagex's decision to branch out across social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, and a myriad other outlets, that Jagex is truly trying to evolve their relationship with the community.
Over the past eight months, we have seen a company infamously known for their quietness and cold-shoulder, change into a social network utilizing company that is not afraid to give exclusive content to fansites, include its players in the development process, or opening up to clans by hosting a tournament. The real question, or rather, dilemma, is whether or not we still would have had the content we have nowdeleted this part, even if we had not been pre-informed or if the interviews had never been conducted. We have experienced eight months of a new face of Jagex, but have we really appreciated it? How many times have we been given clues about future content and deciphered it well before the content came? Now the majority of our content has become spoon fed through development diaries, interviews, and exclusive content from fansites.
Either way you want to look at the situation, Jagex has been a more player-run company and it is clear that this strategy is working for Jagex. We continue to have aggressive and consistent Twitter updates, and increasingly common development diaries. Perhaps it was for the good that the Behind-the-Scenes clever clues and twisted words have been replaced by to-the-point information in these diaries. However, it is still clear that Jagex has become hip. Jagex has seemingly taken their public relations a higher level than some highly-funded game studios, all while not having an official public relations department themselves.