I'm going to level with you. I'm unhappy with JaGEx right now. I'm not going to lie; I didn't expect them to change course. I'm not stunned or at a loss of words from the recent hiscores update. While a decision to make the hiscores members only might have taken ten minutes, the implementation and coding did not. Time spent developing the hiscores would have been lost had JaGEx changed its mind at the last minute to scrap the entire thing. For better or for worse, this new website is a reality and we have to deal with it.
As you are all well aware, I completely disagree with the course JaGEx has taken. As a customer I'm going to vote with my wallet and I will not be paying for any more subscriptions to RuneScape, at least until JaGEx includes all players in their hiscores. JaGEx has taken its free player base for granted for too long. By marginalizing the business model that has brought them so much success, JaGEx risks killing its entire game. I hope I'm wrong. RuneScape has been a game I've enjoyed the past five and a half years, and that I still occasionally enjoy (when my schedule permits). I hope that RuneScape survives, if for the very least, communities built around the game can still exist and thrive. Until then, I'll stay F2P.
Having gotten that out of the way, we have a new tool. The new hiscore gives us a new metric into how RuneScape is doing financially. As shown time and again (sometimes flaunted in free vs. member debates), 90% of RuneScape revenue comes from paying members. JaGEx's new hiscore now filters out all inactive players; we now have an accurate estimate into how much revenue RuneScape is generating each month. It takes 15 levels total and an active membership to make it onto the hiscore, currently there are about 675,000 players which fit that description.
This new metric will be key to measuring RuneScape's health. It will provide a faster feedback on the game than the year end reporting that Jagex does. It will also have the advantage of being averaged over a short time period unlike a measurement of the current number of players in game (free or members). I submit that averaging the total number of active players on the high score over a year, multiplying that number by some constant will give a number very close to the revenue provided by year end reporting, much better than the current number of players in game could ever hope to. Here's why the new metric is so good:
15 levels in members takes no time at all (As every new account starts out with 34 by default), we can assume that all current members are represented. A member becomes inactive (removed from the hiscore) 14 days after membership lapses, so the number in the hiscore overstates the actual number of subscriptions by about six weeks (four weeks since last payment means expired membership, plus two weeks grace period). Combining these two factors and one can make the educated guess that the number in the hiscores is a bit of an overstatement. Another hidden variable is the amount of revenue different players in different countries through different payment methods provide, including exchange rates. The last variable that is difficult to estimate is the ratio of players paying the old rate versus the new rate (£3.20 vs £3.50). These variables are near impossible to estimate, but given the large number of players, they should average out.
Regardless of how overstated the current number of subscriptions is, we now have a number that correlates the health of RuneScape much better than the current number of players online. The current number of players online is just a snapshot of a time frame. Over the course of 24 hours, this number can fluctuate by 40-50,000 or more. Even if the number was averaged over 24 hours, free players would still be included. Even the free players were accounted for, it still wouldn't give an accurate number of how many subscriptions RuneScape took in that month, as different players play different amounts during different times of the year. Even if all these variables were taken into account, one would still end up with a number similar to the active members on the hiscores. Lastly, if the current number of players online were used to measure how popular JaGEx's anti-bot measure was among players, we might wrongly assume that most players quit over it.
This metric is a discrete number that represents paying members. While 80% of players might have disagreed with making the hiscore members only, or 90% of players wanted the wilderness back, there is no way of knowing how many players quit RuneScape over the hiscore or how many rejoined due to old player versus player interaction. We can now mark dates of updates and changes to the game and see the effects long after they've been implemented, much in the way we track the price of lobsters to the number of bots. We'll no longer have to check the number of threads on the RSOF to see how many players will quit to know that accurate number six weeks later.
This new number is as close to real time as we can get. This new number estimates the number of subscriptions received over the past month. We no longer have to wait for the year end to see JaGEx's financial data to understand how RuneScape is doing. We'll know of a decline in the game subscribers long before JaGEx tells us it'll have to close servers and in a much clearer sense than the current number of players online. We have a new quantitative metric to judge the success of JaGEx.