June Guest Article – Jagex and Fan Sites: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

posted by on 28th June 2010, at 2:10pm

I’d like to welcome everyone to our first guest article. We hope for these articles to become a chance for you, the readers, to get a different perspective on something that would not ordinarily be covered on Informer. Finally, these articles are all going to be written by fellow community members. You can send us your own guest article by following this process. Without further ado, our first guest article is from Brad. – Shane

I’ve been playing Runescape on and off for the best part of 6 years now. Since I started playing I’ve also dabbled with many other MMORPGs and while trying to compare these very different games is in many ways impossible, it is quite easy to compare the different companies that run these games and their general attitudes towards the communities that the success and popularity of their games nourishes. Jagex seems to have had a rather ambivalent relationship with the wider Runescape community for a long time In the past they always seemed to view all fan sites with innate suspicion, as if they were “the enemy within”; less a helpful and productive influence for their game, more a corrupting and vile dominion.

Nothing frames this attitude better than when, in early 2006, after a negative Tip.it Times article about the unscrupulous banning of accounts Andrew Gower rather pathetically flounced on to the Tip.It Forums and threatened to sue. The article was removed and an equally pathetic grovelling apology from Tip.it followed. While no doubt a talented game designer and programmer, it’s clear Gower’s strengths do not lie in public relations.

Now this unpleasantness to fan sites seems to have changed when Mark Gerhard (Mod MMG) joined Jagex in early 2009. He stated from the outset that he wanted to reach out to the Runescape fan site community, and at first it seems as if the attitude had shifted somewhat. Jagex began to give mentions and retweets to fan sites on their twitter account and seemed on the whole more friendly and less like a confused grizzly bear lunging with menace at anything it doesn’t quite like the look of.

And this new friendly attitude seems to have come to a head when in 2009, and subsequently relaunched in April 2010, Jagex announced the “Fan site Support Program”. Brilliant! Right? I mean we’ve come from attempted lawsuits over a negative opinion to Jagex actually extending an olive branch and offering to “support” fan sites! Well… not quite as good as it would appear on the surface. They have chosen to categorise fan sites; Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum respectively. There are certain criteria for each level and you as a site owner are expected to follow certain “rules” to maintain a certain category.

The big step up point for most fan sites would be going from Silver to Gold. What Jagex offers you in terms of support at Gold is far superior. At Gold they say they will offer you:

  • The website will be officially recognised by Jagex and included on the recognised fansite list
  • Support with events (advertising on the forums, the official Jagex Twitter account and Facebook)
  • In-game JMod support with events (when possible)
  • Syndicated staff interviews
  • Syndicated concept art
  • Occasional exclusive staff interviews
  • Occasional exclusive concept art
  • Occasional merchandise from the Jagex Store for competition giveaways
  • Access to the hidden fansite admin forum on the official RuneScape forums
  • Advice on search engine optimisation
  • Possible invitations to Jagex and Jagex’s future events

Where as at Silver level you only get:

  • Occasional feedback and announcements from the fansite support team
  • Support in removing RWT/gaming adverts from your site (if applicable)

Big step up. But what they expect you to do to obtain that level is rather a big step for most small to medium fan site owners. You are expected to expunge all adverts that contain links to other games, which they say “will push players away from the game and their fan site”. Oh no. We seem to have just taken a massive step backwards in reconciling Jagex’s attitude to fan sites. And they demonstrate their understanding of the fan site community is, while much improved from 2006, still very lacking.

Jagex are displaying that they seem to believe that exposure to any other kind of computer game will drag people away from Runescape and lose them money. They now clearly do not see fan sites as demonic influences, but more as potential advertisers for other game which will draw away players and lose them money. An improved perspective perhaps, but equally as deluded. Take RSBandB for example, we have a Non-Runescape Gaming forum, even if we relented and agreed to remove all gaming adverts would Jagex still think that as we promoted discussion on other games we wouldn’t deserve Gold status? Or what about our Non-Runescape gaming events organised by the events crew? They’re actually encouraging people to play other games. If Jagex have such an issue with mere adverts I’m willing to bet they’d ask us to remove both of those community components before they were willing to bequeath us Gold status. Like it’s some curious mark of the “pure” fan sites.

So that begs the question, is it worth it? If we were really forced to rip out vital components of our community just to satisfy Jagex we are worthy of them throwing some more information and the occasional trinket our way, Would it be worth it? No, it is not. No community dedicated to a certain game would be enriched if all other discussion of other games was banned. It’s just fools logic. People will play other games, that doesn’t mean they’re going to ditch Runescape, and just because Jagex may lose some subscribers here and there, it is foolish of them to think that is because they’ve been tempted away by adverts of other games that players have seen on fan sites.

Worse than this blatant ignorance is the fact that Jagex are, unwittingly or otherwise, creating a group of predator monopoly fan sites, fan sites that to start with are so large and have such a large user base that they can afford to bow to Jagex’s whims and earn the top statuses without jeopardising any source of income to pay their running costs, for which they will get infinitely greater exposure and perks and thus massively increase their already large user base. While smaller to medium fan sites who are run by people who may struggle to meet their server costs every month are being told they must restrict a big source of their income to get any kind of recognition from Jagex. It’s a vicious cycle that seems set to nurture the Goliaths of the fan site community and indefinitely harm those smaller to medium size ones.

It’s clear, Jagex, that we still have a long way to go before you truly understand the finer points of your community.

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