On the 23rd of June 2011, Jagex introduced yet another mistake. This time, however, they’ve not made a little error of judgement or slipped up trying to genuinely make the game better. Instead, they’ve made a mistake that we at the Times, and most sentient RS players, have been warning them of for aeons.
They’ve added another gimmicky, superficial feature, this time in the form of the ‘Members Loyalty Programme.’ It’s always a sign that Jagex have lost the plot when it starts to adopt the same technique as coffee shops and supermarkets to maintain user interest. How often do you see EA or Bungie offering these sorts of schemes? The answer is never, because these people actually know how to maintain user interest with their games. I see this latest addition as a sign of desperation on Jagex’s part.
The MLP (as it shall be referred to henceforth) is the cheapest of cheap updates. “The concept is simple,” writes Jagex, “Being a member earns you Loyalty Points that can be traded for rewards, including an array of new clothes; brand new and exclusive emotes; and, perhaps most exciting of all, an arsenal of gameplay enhancing auras.”
“Some rewards are just too glorious to fit into your existing inventory and so Loyalty Programme members will also enjoy an additional equipment slot created for exclusive Loyalty Programme auras.”
“Only current members will receive enough Loyalty Points to immediately make the most of the new equipment slot. To take full advantage of this and all the other rewards available, subscribe today!”
Perhaps it was a little lazy of me to copy and paste in this manner, but I wanted to demonstrate a point. Having read the above, can anyone honestly say they were excited by this update? Does anyone truly believe this was an update made in the interest of enhancing the gameplay experience of paying members?
The intention is purely to attract free players to the members’ game, and encourage current members to keep paying (especially when summer ends), with the enticing prospect of yet more content. I’ve never seen a lazier marketing ploy by a developer. Jagex are not offering these loyal customers of theirs anything new in terms of deeper gameplay, or anything even remotely as good; in a nutshell, they’re offering people who pay over extended periods of time the ability to make their avatar literally roll on the floor laughing.
It's true that most of us enjoy getting new items and emotes, such as through doing holiday events, but, generally, these are things that all players can do, regardless of their ability to pay. Granted, skill capes (and many other objects) remain the reserve of members, but then again they've never been free; all players have always been able to get items and emotes from holiday events. At least, they could; these days, even holiday events have extra bonuses for members (only preceded by the Wintumber Tree). It’s as if Jagex are trying to slowly cripple the free game to lure people into paying.
Indeed, rather than the ‘Year of Clans,’ 2011 seems to be the ‘Year of Crass Marketing.’ Aside from the aforementioned memberisation of holiday events, Jagex have introduced a new batch of wretched capes, also member exclusive, that a majority of people wrote off as a poor way of maintaining player interest. The same trick doesn’t work twice in most cases. The recent inclusion of vanity items, as covered in a past article in the Times, is another blatant money-grabbing scheme by Jagex.
In a past article, I wrote in favour of the Gnomecopter Tours, which advertised P2P content to free players. Back when the Tours were a part of the game it was dubbed “unethical” to advertise P2P within the free game. Personally, I find Jagex’s 2011 strategy far less ethical; whereas the Tours simply advertised to free players, Jagex’s 2011 updates devalue the free players’ game. In essence, the Tours tried to lure free players into membership, whereas these recent updates try to force them into it.
All companies have the right, or rather obligation, to be as capitalist as they please. But Jagex do so in such an obvious, poorly thought out, and frankly useless way, that I do not blame the myriad people who criticise them. They are a games developer, but they seem incapable of understanding that endless content in isolation gets old pretty soon, especially when much of it is a poorly disguised rehash of past content.
At the end of the day, I do not believe for one second that many people will fall for this, especially in the light of all the aforementioned money grabbing tricks Jagex has already used this year (such as the vanity items, changes to holiday events, etc). The MLP is just as transparent as those that preceded it. Not even Jagex’s abysmal trailer they produced for this update could distract from the stench of faeces. I hope that the fact that, at the time of writing, said video has 1,443 likes and 1,125 dislikes is an indicator that the userbase is weary of these useless new ‘features.’
This current cycle of heaping content on content is unsustainable. Unless Jagex actually starts to try to increase their revenues in the way most other games companies do – ie, by actually adding to the game experience, rather than expanding in a thoroughly superficial way – then people will tire and people will leave. Those who decide to pay out of their asses – will it be £30 or £60 for a single emote, who knows? – for these silly gimmicks will tire of them in the end, too. Like the Sybil, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.