RuneScape is an extremely popular MMORPG that has been characterized as one of the most influential videogames within its genre for its amazing 19 years of life, which demonstrates its continued success. This MMO developed by Jagex has always known how to renew itself in order to maintain its high number of players despite the years.
But, one of the most characteristic elements of RuneScape is the enormous amount of diverse markets that have emerged in its world, which have converted this MMORPG into one of the greatest commercial exponents within its genre.
The Economy of Runescape
Since RuneScape introduced systems like The Grand Exchange or the Treasure Hunter, it was acquiring an increasingly complex economic structure, but avoiding directly affecting its gameplay of exploration and adventure that offered from the beginning. Another longstanding and abundant business within RuneScape is that which specializes in marketing the important elements of this game through external websites where players who own RuneScape gold for sale, or items to trade, abound, so if a player wishes to save the time and effort required to get valuable items, they should only buy RS gold or RS accounts in order to do so.
Despite the fact that RuneScape’s native businesses are based on microtransactions that do not demand much investment from the player, this MMORPG is full of cases where players have spent an incredible amount of real money within their virtual world, and among all those cases, in the past year 2019 occurred one of the most curious and exaggerated of all videogame. This case is about the RuneScape player from the UK who spent almost 50,000 pounds (about 62,000 USD) on micro-payments in just one year, but this surprising situation involves more elements that will be better explained below.
Microtransactions and Loot Boxes
Some time ago, the internal business models in online videogames started to attract the attention of the British parliament, which decided to determine the addictive impact that microtransactions and loot boxes have on the psychology of players. After this, the British Parliament reiterated through a report that it was totally necessary to put in place a regulation on the business models within videogames due to their lack of transparency. The videogames that have attracted the most attention in this investigation have been Star Wars: Battlefront 2, NBA 2K, FIFA and, as expected, RuneScape.
This UK report on immersive and addictive technologies details the case of a member of the public whose adult son accumulated considerable debt due to microtransactions within RuneScape. This player is reported to have spent over £50,000 on these microtransactions in just one year.
This debt has caused significant financial damage to the RuneScape player’s family. Moreover, Jagex was unable to take “direct action” in response to the parents’ concerns due to what they call “data protection issues. The UK report also details the way in which Jagex organizes the monetization of RuneScape, thanks to the consultation of Kelvin Plomer, an expert in this area.
According to Plomer’s statements, RuneScape players can potentially spend up to £1,000 a week or £5,000 a month, which equates to $1,200 and $6,200 respectively. That entire amount is managed before the Jagex limit prevents them from making any further purchases, and it appears that this limit is designed to prevent extreme fraud, which indirectly means more debt for the spendthrift player’s family.
Luck of the Loot
Many RuneScape players report that much of the microtransactions within this MMORPG are entirely a loot box system, as these payments are mostly required in the Treasure Hunter, a system with treasure chests that offer a random loot within them, and the keys to open these chests are purchased with real money. However, what give players the most incentive to buy the keys are the considerable advantages that the content of the chests can give their users over other players, which remains a subject of controversy among RuneScape players.
Due to all of the above, the UK government issued a series of recommendations in its report that dealt mostly with the regulation that Loot Box systems should have on videogames, where it is specified that these should be governed under the gambling law of this country, due to the “long term damage” that these mechanics can cause. They also mention that “The videogame industry has not sufficiently accepted the responsibility to understand or prevent this damage”.
In short, the regulation of microtransactions within videogames is still a topic of debate where some indicate that anyone decides what to do with their money, and others that totally discredit this business model, since they promote pay to win.