This week, we’ve seen the newest feature of Jagex’s seemingly endless array of monetization schemes — Solomon’s General Store, offering cosmetic items, emotes and similar objects in exchange for Runecoins, which can only be obtained by buying them for real world money.
Initially this created the expected outrage in the forums but there were some cautiously optimistic voices. While some spewed about how Jagex have officially started real-world trading (where one has to wonder what the Squeal of Fortune is supposed to be), others have seen the opportunities Mr. Solomon offers. It’s quite an interesting update actually. Right now, it doesn’t change much. Players can now buy costumes in addition to the experience lamps from the Squeal of Fortune. But in the future, Solomon’s Store could turn out to be an update we all love — or that everybody loves to hate. It all depends on where Jagex is going with this.
Right now, admittedly, it doesn’t look good. Keen eyes have already seen how everything currently sold has the note “Duration: Unlimited”, which obviously hints to non-permanent buffs being sold in the future — what could this be but experience boosts and similar? Add on to this the decision not to have any more Bonus XP Weekends 1) in a time when it doesn’t really suit Jagex to remove marketing gimmicks and it seems like we’re only a step away from a full-fledged microtransactions store with an even bigger impact than the Squeal of Fortune.
I’ve already written in an article before how I dislike the Runescape community’s tendency to go up in arms about every single move of Jagex’s that doesn’t suit them. Do you still remember how players complained that the Loyalty Store was real-world trading? How the Katana’s stats of an Iron 2h were such a massive boost for certain pure builds? Nowadays, with 200 million gp prizes on the Squeal of Fortune that certainly looks ridiculous. But this means more than the issue gradually getting worse. It also presents an opportunity.
Jagex is dead set on gathering more money. Why exactly this is the case remains mostly speculation. It could just be the investor’s greed as some like to think, or Jagex could be in deeper financial troubles than we know. Last year’s financial reports 2) seem to be pointing into that direction with a substantial decrease in profit. Some may say that Jagex still makes far enough money to be able to avoid microtransactions, but such a decrease in profit is indeed a big negative sign and it’s always advisable to act sooner than later if you notice a negative trend. According to the report the decrease stems from some investments into marketing and the development of new games, so it could potentially mean a positive turn in the coming years, but we don’t know where exactly the money went, and from what we’ve seen Jagex doesn’t exactly have a lucky hand with new products. Mechscape being cancelled with a loss of several million pounds 3); Stellar Dawn, its successor, being paused long after beta sign-ups were accepted, with the beta not opening in the coming nine months 4) 5) and a drought of information up to that point. FunOrb is being left to rot, 8Realms was closed due to a lack of interest 6) and War of Legends isn’t exactly a big hit either. The Transfomers MMO they’re currently producing for Hasbro 7) seems to be their biggest — and only — chance right now. Should that fail, will Jagex be in a bad position. They cannot rely on Runescape forever, but it seems only natural that they’re trying to maximize their profits to have a comfortable cushion for future enterprises. It is understandable, even if not popular, that they’re veering down the path to microtransactions which promise to be a money-spinner. They already increased membership prices, but they can only do that up to a certain degree. There was already muttering last time and far from everybody is willing to pay more to have Solomon, Yelps & co. out of the game.
But I wanted to talk about positive opportunities. Now, admittedly, the chances of what I have in mind happening are slim, but not nonexistent. It depends on a number of things: how much influence Jagex has, how much influence the investors have, how dire their financial situation is, how much profit they make with Solomon’s store compared to the Squeal of Fortune and how seriously player opinions are taken for the longevity of the game.
As said before, players have complained about pretty much every marketing update so far. But there are undoubtedly those more and those less liked. I don’t think there’s much debate that the Squeal of Fortune is the one liked the least. It was the first — and is currently still the only one — to provide a serious advantage. Just the removal of buyable spins would a huge step. The hope is that if Jagex makes enough money off Solomon’s store, they may be able to be convinced about removing buyable spins in order to appease players. As players usually have a limited amount of money to spend on a game, a removal of buyable spins could mean more money going to Solomon’s store instead, with a reduced loss for Jagex. It can of course be questioned how many players, who buy spins for fast xp, will spend their money on costumes instead of not spending it on Runescape at all, but I think it’s worth a try. The boost for Jagex’s PR would be quite considerable as they could pride themselves for listening to their community even if it’s negative for their cheque.
Jagex is standing on the line between love and hate. It’s their decision where the next step goes now.
1) QFC: 16-17-281-63874749