Jagex launched an experimental promotion this week called RunePass. Needless to say, it hasn't gone well. RunePass has been called everything from a cash grab to the beginning of the end of RuneScape. Unfortunately, this narrative has been driven home by posts on Reddit and YouTube videos. In fact, some players in the community ran to grab their pitchforks with one hand while threatening to cancel their subscription with the other before Jagex even had a chance to put a statement out. In typical Jagex tradition, the launch of this promotion was failed both in its timing and its explanation. This resulted in the fumbled PR response and ultimately trotting Mod Osbourne out to do a live stream that looked more like a hostage video. Nothing can set the community off quite like micro-transactions can, and it's easy to see from statements that were taken out of context why some players have a real problem with RunePass. This month let's all have a tall glass of settle down as we take a look at what RunePass is and what Jagex says they want to accomplish with it.
RunePass is a progression achievement focused promotion. That means you have to work through certain achievements to progress through the pass and get rewards. There is a free pass and a gold pass that gives better rewards including a legendary pet. The gold pass costs 400 rune coins and can be purchased from Solomon's General Store. The RunePass is similar to the currency collecting or bingo card events we've seen over and over the last few years. At first glance, it doesn't seem any different than any other promotion Jagex has thrown out there so why is this one getting such a different response from part of the RS community?
The biggest and most credible criticism of RunePass is that Premiere Club members should have received the gold tier for free. This is 100% true and I agree with this sentiment. Why then did Jagex choose to not do this? The answer boils down to it being an experiment. In an effort to minimize variables as much as possible Jagex chose not to give it to Premier Club members so they could accurately see how the promotion was being engaged in. This was a mistake, but it wasn't a mistake that was made in order to get every last dollar out of your wallet. Limiting variables is an important step in any experiment but Jagex in this situation should have either controlled for that data or just thrown out Premier Club participation altogether. Unfortunately not doing this gave some of the vocal minority a foothold on bashing Jagex's nearsightedness.
The next major criticism is that Jagex included a paid path but there is no way to receive the same rewards without paying. It is true that lately, Jagex has been including a way to obtain promotional rewards without paying. The currency and bingo card events are good examples of that. A player can buy treasure hunter keys and have a chance to receive an item that speeds the whole process up. The fact that a cosmetic item is only obtainable from purchasing Rune Coins is not new. In fact, players have repeatably said they are fine with cosmetic MTX. The problem this time is players thought that Jagex had moved into a direction where the items could also be obtained through gameplay. In these players eyes, this is the worst case scenario because you not only have to pay but you also need to put in gameplay to get the items. When it comes to a skilling outfit then, of course, it should have an avenue to obtain it through gameplay, however, we aren't talking about skilling outfits here. In fact, cosmetic items are the best way to make something like RunePass work. The way someone is dressed affects no one else's game. FashionScape is a very real thing and players take a lot of pride in how their character looks. This is where Jagex can make some additional revenue and not cause too much commotion. Games like Fortnite and Overwatch have been doing this for some time and been very successful at it. Oh, and did I mention bonds can be bought with RuneScape gold and redeemed for Rune Coins? So uh, ya...
Lastly, there is the argument that Jagex just raised membership. This is true but the two things are completely unrelated. RunePass is an experiment and Jagex probably never thought about the optics of releasing RunePass so soon after a rise in membership cost. Once again the folly comes by not realizing that some players would consider this a cash grab. The most damaging criticism of all wasn't Jagex's fault at all. In their live stream where they were responding to RunePass a J-mod who was unfamiliar with the issue had stated do you want smoldering lamp promos or RunePass? This was then transcribed and there was no context for the statement. Many players took it as Jagex saying you are getting one or the other rather you like it or not. This actually wasn't what the J-mod was saying at all. He was talking about it being an experiment and which kind of promotion players preferred according to their engagement, however that statement added gas to the already raging fire. Finally, there are some players that just hate MTX of any kind no matter the circumstance. All I can say about these players is at least you are consistent and while I don't agree with that position I can respect it. Those are the major criticisms, but what is Jagex saying in response?
Jagex has repeatedly said that RunePass is an experiment and we may never see it again. They also have expressed that RunePass could replace treasure hunter promotions, Dailyscape, and currency/bingo events. The critics either tuned out by this time or just ignored this part because it doesn't fit their narrative. This is the most important statement Jagex has put out about the whole issue. The players can help develop this in a way they are most comfortable with and is most beneficial to all parties. Jagex has acknowledged that they would include Premier Club if RunePass was to move forward. They have also said they should have provided more information about RunePass before its launch. Those are wins for the players and we can achieve more wins if we provide the kind of feedback that can be constructive instead of flaming.
What we should be pressing Jagex to do is make RunePass's free track more lucrative. Make the paid pass cosmetic only. Make the pass replace Dailyscape and Treasure Hunter for the entirety of the pass's duration. Premiere Club gold members should get the new passes and the old gold passes for free and silver premiere club should get all the current gold passes while bronze could pick a certain number of the gold passes. There are many ways to improve RunePass if we can be constructive. My fear is that now RunePass will be considered a failure and we will be stuck with treasure hunter for the foreseeable future because of a knee-jerk reaction by some in the community.
I want players to remember that Jagex has been working hard to give us updates that we want. By all accounts, they have been doing pretty good this year. As a community, we can't jump all over them when they make a mistake, especially one as small as this. At the end of the day as players you want Jagex to make money and be a successful company. The alternative is not having RuneScape. If Jagex can find additional revenue through things have no detrimental outcomes for the game then we need to suck it up and give Jagex a pass. Until next time, Happy RuneScaping.