In a bold move, Jagex revamped the Welcome Screen and implemented the RuneScape Lobby on 3 March 2010, titling the update "RuneScape Lobby/Login Changes". The first thing players see after they load the game applet, is the option to choose between the Free-to-play and Pay-to-play game modes, two options to register, as well as a comparison between the Free-to-play game and the Pay-to-play game. After choosing their game mode, they can then login and enter the RuneScape Lobby; which displays their respective Player information, World select, Friends Chat, Clan Chat, and Options.
"As you don't need to enter your password to go from the lobby into the game, this should make things much more convenient when you want to change worlds or take a short break." - said Mod Hope, employee of Jagex.
Players who login simply to chat and stay connected with friends and the community, and not play the game, are supportive of this update. It also makes it more convenient to hop frequently while playing (be it doing a spot of star-hunting or runite ore mining) as the new update means that they no longer need to re-login their username and password every time they hop worlds. Another benefit of the update with the ability to access their friends list beforehand, players may then find out which worlds their friends are in and join them.
On the other side of the spectrum, many players (including myself), both Free-to-play and Pay-to-play, have noticed the login screen change, and not in a positive light.
Some players view this as a marketing ploy; others view it as shameless advertising. Should players click on the option for more information, they see an entire list of reasons why they should sign up (with the list going as such: No hidden costs, Chat, Quests, World size, Fullscreen mode, Player-owned house, Creature companions, Password protection, Remove adverts, Bank space, and Activities), with the Pay-to-play game beating the Free-to-play game hands-down.
Free-to-play players who have made a conscious decision to not become paying members dislike having to see the advertisement every time they play the game. This is true for Pay-to-play players to a larger extent, as they are '''already''' paying for the game.
Fingers now point to Jagex, what is going on?
This is not the first occurrence of such an incident. There was a point of time when free players trying to login had to sit through a short clip of two Arcanists blasting each other with fireballs and such. Similarly, the Gnomecopters were in the game for a while, showing Free-to-play players previews of members-only areas. Both features eventually resulted in their subsequent removal.
Some of the older players might remember Geoff Iddison, who resigned in January 2009 for unspecified reasons, and was subsequently succeeded by Mark Gerhard, the current CEO of Jagex.
In an interview during May 2009, Mark Gerhard commented on what he perceived as the problem with Iddison's approach, which he thought was being too concerned with making money. This was both through constantly encouraging free players to pay the membership fee, and by employing the most lucrative forms of advertising (namely video advertisements, such as the one mentioned above). He described this as "simply wrong, not in the spirit of the free game, absolutely wrong".
"The problem was, a year or so ago, there was -- let me say confusion, as a subtle word -- as to what part of the business was important. I expect the CEO’s focus was just sort of on the profit and loss column, and all of the attention was sort of on "members members members and members conversions" and getting free players to convert to Members by putting members hooks in the free game. Unfortunately that had a really negative effect on the community, as you've taken what was an epic entirely free game and turned it into a sort of demo for the members game which was never the idea.
So unfortunately we had a year where we did that. One of my first orders of business in February was ripping that part out. There are various things we did to "monetize" the free players. Such as serving long-standing free players video ads. Something like 10 or 15 seconds. Which whilst profitable was simply wrong, not in the spirit of the free game, absolutely wrong."
Mark Gerhard had said when he took over as CEO in February that video ads "generate significantly more revenue than other adverts", but that they were "annoying to the point it was putting [free players] off playing", which is why he scrapped them immediately.
Here we see a strong stand against advertising from Mark Gerhard, one which is met with strong approval from many players.
Mark Gerhard is consistent as well, as seen from a recent Q&A, on 28 January 2010, he states: "You will notice that we never overtly promote or try to "sell" membership to the community, as we don’t want to cheapen the free game or make people feel obliged to sign up as a member."
Yet, despite being Mark Gerhard's leadership, we have another incident of such advertising. And the disapproval has not gone unnoticed by Jagex. When asked about the advertising, Mod Hope said, "I am afraid I can't really comment on this as the decisions behind it were/are not mine to make. I will, however, pass on your feedback."
In summary, what can Jagex do about this? Well, the most obvious solution to this would be to remove the advertising in the Login screen. No need to remove the Lobby, just the advertisement. If they did this, the whole issue would be solved, plain and simple. I've always been an ardent supporter of Jagex; I have never actually ranted or gotten upset over any particular update. This, as you can see, is not a rant on the update; it is an editorial that presents my view on the issue. And I am hoping that the decision to have that advertisement in the login screen was a simple and careless mistake, or is history repeating itself?