I think we've all heard by now that Jagex, despite their name, only care about the money in their pockets. It's being said about every time a change is made that players think will turn the game for the worse. But the fact that it may be a bit overused doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't valid. Actually, there are numerous incidents that happened recently which suggest that Jagex is indeed more money-focused than it's good for the game.
Of course a business orientation in itself doesn't have to be bad. If it yields more money, it means that more money can be invested into customer support and content development. The problem arises when the game itself is pushed into the background and short-term profit expectations rule the course of action.
When Mark Michael Gerhard was appointed as CEO of Jagex, one of the first orders he gave was to scrap all video adverts. According to his words, they were “[...] simply wrong, not in the spirit of the free game, absolutely wrong.”1 And indeed my greatest hopes lie on him, as I hope he realizes what storm they are sailing into, and that he manages to steer away from it. For all that has been done to get the people at Jagex more in touch with the Runescape Community – the reintroduction of BTS, frequent Q&As and more Forum presence – I personally feel that they somehow have lost the grip they had over the recent months. Rarely have I seen so much negativity so widespread over the forums. It’s not simply a dislike of a certain update, although the updates certainly still play a role. It feels more like a general attitude of not being comfortable with the way Jagex is taking, spread out over different aspects. And more often than ever have I heard the words: “Jagex only cares about cash”
But what’s behind it? What exactly has changed?
At the forefront obviously stands the wilderness and free trade update. When the poll was published, it was said that there was new tech available against real world trading and macroing, which made the proposition possible. However, a soaring number of bots (Very roughly estimated to comprise around 20% of online players at any given time)2 and a generally very lenient way towards botters(Stat resets instead of permanent bans3, the possibility to buy your account back if it was banned4) don’t make this look very likely. The only thing that apparently has changed that China recently outlawed goldfarming5. Back in 2007, the wilderness was only removed when credit card fraud actively endangered the future of the company6. The large number of bots may have contributed, but it wasn’t the decisive factor. I think it’s similar this time. Bots were an argument against the reintroduction – but they weren’t the decisive factor. What counted apparently was the fact that the consequences of real world trading do not threaten the company as much this time. What impacts bots and RWT will have on the game itself doesn’t matter. Or, as you might say: Jagex only cares about their cash.
It’s not only about the bots either. Unless you are deaf or blind, you should have taken notice of one of the numerous events that happened to accompany the wilderness reintroduction. Not even regarding the some of those who voted “No” feel like they are constantly being taunted about having lost the referendum (Such as being told you are not on the “roll of honour” if you try to tag the Facebook picture with an account that voted “no”7), even a number of those who did vote in favour of returning the wilderness are getting tired of it8.
To put it shortly, there is one word that describes almost all recent actions of Jagex: Desperate.9 Desperate to grab the attention that Dungeoneering couldn’t, despite the hopes they had about it.
Another indicator for this would be the third bonus XP weekend that just has been announced despite growing opposition. This isn’t an article about that, and I don’t want to turn it into one, but I think the fact that even the third time it’s still members-only should show that generating profit is a large part of the motivation to offer this weekends.
But there’s still more to it. There are more news that maybe aren’t publicly known, but they’ve been floating around – It’s the fact that Andrew Gower, Paul Gower and Constant Tedder have left the board of Directors10 and have been replaced by four investors of the Raine and Spectrum Equity Group11. Maybe you now understand why my only left faith lies in Mark Gerhard – The founders have lost interest in it, at least enough to concede their position as directors to foreign investors who may like Jagex’s business model but have no general passion for the game itself. In other words: It looks like money rules again.
But where exactly does this money-hungry attitude come from? Is it just that investors want to maximize profit? Or does Jagex have financial problems? The scrapping of MechScape was a huge hit that cost millions of pounds12. It was said that the loss was paid from cash reserves, but it’s still a lot of money.There are statistics that might help us understand what’s going on at Jagex HQ.
If you look at the graph displayed here:
You will see that profits of Jagex have still been rising last year. With the reintroduction of the wilderness, this is hardly going to change this year. But at the same time, new employment is stagnating:
Obviously the money has to flow somewhere. Where to?
Into the cash reserves emptied by the MechScape incident? Are they preparing for another failure of a project, with Stellar Dawn of the mysterious FourthScape which seems to be under development13. Or into the pockets of the investors and shareholders? Alas, I don’t work at Jagex and I don’t want to turn this into pure speculation. Within the range of this article, I’ll have to stop at that.
What I do know for sure is what’s been apparent over the last months and of which everything I have named are symptoms. The attitude at Jagex is somehow changing and I’m pretty sure it’s for the worse.With RuneScape, Jagex has an awesome game which a lot of people like very much. I can only hope that they won’t turn their backs on it for short-term profit – or rather, that they realize they’ve been going into this direction and turn around – before it’s too late.