While we all know that the statistics for botting weren't pretty, we haven't closely observed the root cause. Some argue that it's community, others argue that it's gameplay. It could be seen as both and as neither, since both sides of this argument apply. But, what if instead of gameplay or community, it boiled down to an underserved fanbase? Consumers, regardless of if they're receiving a good for free or not, will move on to another good that satisfies their needs better. Could it be the case that RuneScape isn't meeting the needs of its F2P fanbase anymore?
Let's take the numbers in. At RuneFest, it was stated that 60% of RuneScape's active player base was botting, and of that, 90% came from F2P. I realize that there is going to be a lot of statistical noise and uncertainty from these numbers, as these numbers don't tell us anything about which percentage of that 90% were legitimate players that felt unloved, or RWT/Gold farming/throwaway accounts. Even so, with those numbers, it's clear that there is a problem in F2P.
Jagex isn't keen on updating the free-to-play version of this game very often, and from a short-term profit standpoint, it makes sense to give the lion's share of updates to Members. Updates cost money, and Members bring in money consistently, so to whomever has paid their dues gets the perks. However, this only intensifies what is becoming apparent: F2P is an under-served fanbase. There hasn't been much new content for them in quite a while, and what they do have isn't exactly entertaining.
In light of the revelations from the ClusterFlutterer update and the game's active player counts since, I believe that the majority of F2P doesn't feel that Jagex is meeting their demands for entertaining and engaging content, even if they are let into the conversation (voting, posting suggestions, etc). If you liken botting/RWT to piracy, then it isn't a surprise as to why it grew so much over the years - so much so that Jagex can claim its first true victory only now.
An under-served fanbase ceases to be under-served when their needs are met. As a consequence, illegitimate access to content also drops as well. What could Jagex do to meet the needs of F2P? It isn't a cheap solution: start investing into the free version of the game. Offering updates that help balance gameplay in F2P, or alternative ways of training skills, could entice more players to stick around, allowing them to enjoy the game they're playing.
This may not solve any problems right away, but it gives the F2P game some much needed attention, variety, and fresh content. It also reduces the incentive to cheat, as there would be different, entertaining, and engaging alternatives to playing with existing content. Reducing the incentive to cheat here is key; in spite the success of CF, bot makers and RWT companies will be keen to get their illegitimate businesses back.
It is my belief that Jagex will make more revenue in the long term by providing incentives for newer players, rather than have them face a dull grind, or listen to the constant subliminal message, "Buy Membership!" If Jagex doesn't identify the needs of the under-served F2P fanbase in time, we will not have seen the last of cheating, be that botting or RWT. Or worse - the same community that gave Jagex widespread success will turn their back, and find more compelling games to play.