As many of you may know, Mod MMG recently made a news post as a response to community feedback regarding microtransactions. First off I would like to say that I appreciated this news post because it is not often that Jagex confronts these kinds of issues with a rather lengthy post on the front page.
Anyhow, in the news post MMG addressed the communities concerns regarding the Squeal of Fortune and Solomon’s General Store and attempted to explain why there existence in the game is necessary and that Jagex is not breaking any promises previously set by the company. He then made two points in order to try and defend microtransactions in Runescape via the Squeal of Fortune and Solomon’s General Store.
The first point he wanted to make was eliminating any speculation that these microtransactions are to gain “profit(s) in the short term” before Runescape dies off, presumably in the near future. He claims that not only are these microtransactions not a ploy to turn a quick profit, but they are allowing Jagex to grow their resources to better the long term future of Runescape. Now I’ve read several comments saying that MMG is just saying these things as any other CEO would, solely to make the company look good. Personally I am willing to, although not completely wholeheartedly, put my faith in what MMG is saying here. If Jagex needs more revenue to expand its staff and advance the game, I am completely fine with that so long as they take the right steps and do it properly.
MMG’s second point focuses more on the content of the Squeal of Fortune and Solomon’s General Store, and this is where I began to disagree with him. His claim that they are not and will never sell experience or gold may be technically true, but with the ability to convert every single reward from the Squeal of Fortune in to coins, I don’t believe he can still legitimately make that claim.
However, I feel that the biggest problem with the Squeal of Fortune and Solomon’s General Store is not touched on in this post. That problem being how much emphasis Jagex has put on the Squeal of Fortune and Solomon’s General Store in comparison to actual game content. Here are some examples of what I mean. Since the news post on April 2nd when the update allowing players to buy spins was released, there have been 150 posts made on the Jagex news page. Of those 150 news posts, 23 of them were dedicated solely to an update to Squeal of Fortune or Solomon’s General Store and 11 of those have come in August and this first week of September. In contrast, 22 posts have been related to an addition of content to Runescape or the Evolution of Combat Beta not related to Squeal of Fortune or Solomon’s General Store. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that this ratio applies to how much work is being put in by Jagex, but as a player it certainly comes across as if they care just as much about people buying spins or cosmetic items as they do game content. Even many of the posts about new content update have ended with a section reminding players about the spins or cosmetic items they can buy. Although I would rather have this scenario where the updates to the Squeal of Fortune or Solomon’s General Store come as a footnote rather than their own focused news post, it is getting to the point where there isn’t a content update without an update to one of those two things. You have probably also noticed the “adverts” that have been recently added in to the game upon log in advertising promotions for membership, the Squeal of Fortune, and Solomon’s General Store. Some members have complained, saying that members have always been promised an ad free game, and that this is violating this. Now, part of me disagrees with this, as it is simply Jagex updating you on what they have put in to the game in game in addition to the news posts. I know that a significant part of Runescape’s population doesn’t read the homepage, so I think these in game advertisements are a great way to get at that group of players. Here is where the problem arises: these advertisements have only been centered around buying membership, spins, or Solomon items, never about any other in game content. So let’s put ourselves in the shoes of one of these people who doesn’t read the homepage on a regular basis. Are they necessarily going to know that in the past month the God Wars Dungeon was remastered, a new hunter Distraction and Diversion was added, and the quest Some Like it Cold was released? Going off the fact they don’t keep up with the news posted on the homepage, the answer is no. But, does that same person know that Sizzling Summer is going on and that they should make sure and continue to buy membership? Did they know when all cash prizes on the Squeal of Fortune were being doubled meaning it was a great time to buy spins? Are they up to date on all the additions to Solomon’s store almost every week? Thanks to these in game advertisements, the answer to those questions is certainly “yes.” Now like I said, I like these in game advertisements as they are a good way for Jagex to reach that audience that doesn’t keep up with the home page, and further remind the people that do. But why can’t they be more about content updates than convincing people to buy membership, spins, or Solomon Items? On Tuesday when I log in after an update, I want one of those advertisements that says, “We just Remastered the God Wars Dungeon, go check out all the new drops, stunning visuals, and changes in boss mechanics!” Then on a second but smaller note, point out that this upcoming weekend, all spin packages are being doubled for a limited time. I don’t think anyone could make a case against these in game advertisements if they were done in such a manner that focused more on game content, and less on microtransactions and membership.
Looking at the type of content Jagex has been promoting via the homepage and in game advertisements, it seems as if they care more about getting players to buy memberships or make these microtransactions than they do getting people excited about the game updates that are the reason people keep playing the game. Jagex claims that they are the #1 Free to Play MMORPG, yet they advertise membership and microtransactions just as much if not more than the game itself. I for one have not purchased any spins or items from Solomon’s General Store and I most likely will never do so. What I will do is pay membership every month so long as Jagex continues to update the game, heck I have so much to do already I would probably stay a member even if the content updates did slow down, but don’t get any idea. That being said, if these membership promotions and microtransactions are here to stay, then so be it. But remember this: Runescape is about training your favorite skills, going on adventures and quests with your friends and favorite NPCs, fighting other players and monsters of all different levels, and many other endless activities that can be found across Gielinor. Overall, it is about spending countless hours on a game you find fun. It isn’t about spinning a wheel so some Goblin can give you a prize or playing dress up in your own personal changing room. Sure, who doesn’t like getting some extra items or lamps or making their character look cooler than they ever did before, but that’s not what Runescape is about. I think somewhere on the way that idea got lost to many of those at Jagex. Sure these microtransactions may allow Jagex to further Runescape in the long run, but if that Runescape continues to focus more and more around spinning and buying cosmetic items for your character and less about why we play Runescape in the first place, is their elevated presence on the home page and in the game even worth it?
EDIT: After watching the Q&A with MMG and Daniel Clough I was happy with the answer that Clough gave to questions on how Jagex plans to advertise for Squeal of Fortune and Solomon’s General Store going forward. Although I think this has been a bit delayed, I hope that he follows through with this plan and in the very near future.