This month my Informer writing procrastination paid off. As I was sitting here and freaking out about not having anything particularly interesting to write about the day before my article is due – BOOM! Mark Gerhard drops a bombshell out of nowhere in the form of a 3 minute video that changes a major stance on something Jagex has struggled with for a long time. In the war against gold sellers, this may have been the equivalent to an atom bomb. Introducing Runescape Bonds – an in-game item that can be bought with real money to trade for… well, anything really. As an ever blunt yet supportive critic of Jagex, I can tell you that this is a good move and will ultimately, if perhaps after a few hiccups, be the saving grace of the game economy. In a single word, it’s genius.
For anyone who doesn’t understand fully, let me break it down. A Runescape Bond is an item that you can buy for real cash ($5 American or equivalent for other nation’s currency). That Bond can be used to buy 14 days of membership, 8 Squeal spins, or 160 Runecoins for use in Solomon’s Store. Because it is an in-game item, it can be traded or gifted to another player, which they can then use to gain either of those three benefits. This also means it is tradable for GP or items as well, meaning it has GP value and can be sold on the GE. If a player chooses, they can buy these bonds and sell them for in game cash. Yes, that means you can buy GP for real money.
Why would Jagex do this, after they spent so much time and effort in trying to prevent this from happening? As MMG explained in his announcement, their research from Botwatch found that nearly 50% of players buy gold with real money from gold sellers. Clearly, the player base still insists on buying gold, despite it being against game rules. Jagex simply had no other choice. In order to stop gold farming and gold selling, they had to give a legitimate option themselves.
Gold farming has plagued every MMO since their existence, and up till now, most developers have invested heavily in preventive measures to try to slow this from taking place in their game. The flaw with this is that you will always be a step behind in trying to stop it from happening. Jagex’s only option if they ever wanted to truly stop gold farming bots and gold sellers was to cut out the middle man in the process and sell an item with gold value themselves. This allows Jagex to make the transactions safe, stop any scamming and account hacking that takes place by gold farmers, and most importantly, stops real world crime and credit card fraud going on from third party gold websites.
The best part of Bonds is the safety nets in place, which are twofold. First, seeing that it’s an item and not outright gold, the value can fluctuate. Bonds have an intended use: for buying membership or Runecoins or Squeal spins. What that is worth in GP to players is up to them. Secondly, there is a “tax” that has to be paid if the Bond is to be traded again, which keeps hoarding and manipulation to a minimum. The tax to make them tradable – 10% (presently around 1M) ensures that you really only end up with 90% of the value of the bond, so if you used this as a means of buying gold it banks on the fact that it is desired by other players wanting to use it for Runecoins or to pay for membership. As it stands, 20M for roughly just under a month of membership may or may not be worth it to players – but the great part is that players decide. Even if bonds were to ever go down to 1M gp, that’s 5 real dollars for 900k after the tax taken out. And that’s the genius of it – a bond’s value is only worth what an original buyer (the person paying real money) is willing to pay for how much they can sell it for in game (someone buying it in game with GP).
It’s all there, upfront and in the light, with checks and balances in place. Undoubtedly, there are many people who think this is a bad idea and will ruin the game – just reading though the topic on the RS forums minutes after the announcement will tell you that. I’d like to address some concerns that I’ve read in the multitude of topics since Bonds were released.
“Jagex just did this so they can sell gold themselves!”
Yes! That’s the best part! Jagex is finally able to “sell gold” and make profit for themselves, while at the same time making it safer than some potential scam/criminal website. Gold sellers have no right to profit from intellectual property owned by Jagex – it’s their game. That in itself is criminal, but when you couple that with credit card fraud that knowingly went on, it makes everything safer and stops funding… whatever gold sellers did with it.
And that’s not the only reason they did this. There’s other benefits as well. The game economy itself benefits because if there’s no third party gold selling, there’s no bots farming it. All the GP used in trading and selling bonds is already in game and was earned by players. The Trade Tax also creates a money sink, which will further strengthen the economy.
It also allows players more ways to get membership. If you have piles of money you will never spend, you can basically buy yourself membership with your GP alone. Players can also gift membership or Runecoins to someone that otherwise wouldn’t be able to get them for whatever reason. Remember, someone had to have paid the real money for that bond, so Jagex already got their money, despite how many times that Bond is traded, gifted, or sold.
“Why not just continue to ban those who buy gold?”
Botwatch has done an amazing job, especially as of late, in finding and banning bots even within hours of their use. We’ve already seen the player base shrink due to the amount of bots that existed, which does indeed mean Jagex lost revenue, and they further lose revenue whenever they ban gold farmers. But if you start to ban the real players that just don’t want to grind for gold, you start to destroy real players that won’t just turn around and shell out another 7 bucks like bots will. It’s not conducive to destroy half your player base. If you keep throwing out rotten apples from your barrel, eventually you’re not going to have enough apples to survive off of.
“This won’t work, buying gold from other websites is a lot cheaper”
True, and this is a genuine concern – one that has been exacerbated by a plummet in Bond value only hours after their release. The facts are that you can pay a third party 5 bucks and get double if not more the amount of gold than selling a Bond. The point here is that there’s now a legitimate option that players can use other than giving your credit card number to a random person over the internet. My real life financial security is worth more than the savings in gold. Prices will stabilize once players stop flooding the market in their attempts to get millions in GP quick. This is just like any new item’s release in that there’s always a crash when released. Bonds are no different and this just shows that the system is working just as intended. The Bond well will dry and prices with go up, possibly to the levels that third parties sell gold for. It all depends on what the Bond buyers are willing to pay for their spins or membership.
Bonds have the best chance to do what Jagex intends while solving so many problems at once. Bonds are a single stone in a sling that slues the giant amount of damage that gold farmers did to the economy, in game resources and value, and overall integrity of the game. At the end of the day, you have to give players what they want and the ability to buy gold is what they wanted. It is a major flop in Jagex’s stance, but one where their hands were forced.