RuneScape has a new sheriff in town or, should I say, warden. We were all introduced to the new executive producer for RuneScape this week, Mod Warden. Mod Warden put out a message to the community and introduced himself on stream this week. Already some players have been less than enthusiastic about this new hire. They seem to have latched on to a statement in his message to the community that said RuneScape can’t survive on membership alone. We’ll talk more about that later. This month I want to take a look at this new hire and show why we should be giving him a chance and why he may be exactly what the doctor ordered.
RuneScape’s monetization model has been a mess in recent years. It seems Jagex takes one-step forward and two steps back. As players, it’s hard to understand why this is. Not only that but we, as a player base, often felt like we are being bled dry. Then on top of all of that, it doesn’t feel like Jagex has responded to our concerns in any meaningful way. The frustration is understandable, but let’s take a moment to think about how we got into this situation. RuneScape is eighteen years old. When RuneScape started the subscription model was new and innovative, but times have changed. Over the years, the players have demanded more content, better content, more modern graphics, and the list goes on. For the most part, looking at RuneScape’s entire lifespan they have delivered as much of this as they can. At the end of the day, all of these things cost money and what happened in the gaming industry at the same time? A new model of monetization started catching on, one in which Jagex had no idea how to implement or make work. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop them from trying though and we’re all familiar with the results. MTX was born and so was Jagex’s version of the loot box or random chance micro transaction. The results of this have made the players distrust Jagex and made Jagex look like any other greedy gaming company, however, a new day might just be dawning. Enter Mod Warden.
Mod Warden has worked for Epic Games, Blizzard, and Bioware on titles such as Fortnite, Overwatch, Star Wars The Old Republic, Eve Online, and Mass Effect 2 to name a few. These are all hugely popular games and are very successful, but that’s not all they have in common. All of these games (with the exception of Mass Effect 2) have a good monetization model. Overwatch and Fortnite have both been held up as MTX done right. SWTOR has a very innovative monetization model as well. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with Eve’s MTX model. The fact that Jagex was able to land someone with this kind of experience and talent says a lot about their commitment to change. Believe me, someone with this kind of experience doesn’t come cheap and Jagex has obviously put their money where their mouth is.
Now let’s take a look at the message Mod Warden put out. Mod Warden said many good things in his message like, our monetization needs to make sense, it needs to be balanced, it needs to fit in with the game and be fun and that he would be testing different approaches to see what the best one will be. He also said he didn’t want to be reactionary or make false promises and that he wants to rebuild the trust in the community. I haven’t seen any posts talking about any of these things, what I have seen is a lot of posts where people are talking about one line from his message in particular. In an effort to be transparent, he said that RuneScape can’t survive on membership alone. Guess what he’s right. Nearly half of RuneScape profit last year came from MTX. You can find more details in this month’s article by Shane, Examining Jagex’s 2018 Financials. I don’t care who the company is they can’t lose half of their revenue. It simply isn’t realistic. The problem isn’t that MTX exists it’s how it’s implemented and that is what Mod Warden is here to fix. As I said before if we want the improvements to the game we’ve been asking for, membership is not enough for that. Look at this week alone, we got an oddments rework, which if successful, could pave the way to replace the hated treasure hunter. We’ve also seen a new treasure hunter promotion that deals with cosmetics only and it’s been well received and hailed by the players as treasure hunter done right. You don’t think these things are coincidence do you?
Here’s the bottom line, money talks, and bullshit walks. If you are someone that does engage with MTX and you think this is the right direction then show them that and buy now. As consumers, we speak with our money. Withholding it only goes so far, but if we spend it on the things we like to see, that has a bigger impact.
I know this is going to be hard for RuneScape players to hear myself included, but change isn’t always bad. We need to give Mod Warden a chance before rushing to judgment. Remember that just because you don’t like a fact it doesn’t make it not true. MTX is helping all of us get the things we want in-game. It all comes down to how it’s done. I firmly believe that Jagex is trying to dig themselves out of this hole or they wouldn’t have invested in someone like Mod Warden. Now it’s on us to welcome him and see what the man can do. Until next time, Happy RuneScaping.