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Runescape: The Power of Nostalgia

By Alexander Francione; For the Clock
On April 17, 2017

Runescape: The Power of Nostalgia 

Alexander Francione

For The Clock 

Runescape, a game many kids born in the 90's will remem- ber. Runescape is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), developed in 2001. What started out as a small project that was developed by two brothers, would eventually grow into the largest free-to-play MMORPG, setting a Guinness World Record. With over 200 million accounts created, Runescape will be immortalized in the gaming industry. It brings players into a fantasy world where they can fight demons, chat with their friends, and complete quests. It is free, but also offers membership, a perk where players pay a monthly fee and get constant updates and a large portion of content that is inaccessible to players who are only free-to-play.

With time moving forward and a game so popular, change came with it. Runescape began to expand and adapt to modern times. With its original simplistic and pixelated design, graphical updates ensued, slowly phasing out the charm it once had. One reason that Runescape became so popular was that it needed no downloads and you could play it in your internet browser, but with the graphical changes, that was no longer possible. Along with graphical changes, they also implemented

an entirely new combat system that took players by surprise, alienating their loyal players and forcing them to learn a game-changing mechanic.

The biggest blow to the community was in 2008 when Jagex, the developer of Runescape, took out free trade and the Wilderness, during a peak time in the game's history. Free trade allowed players to exchange items with one another for profit. Jagex implemented a cap that restricted players from making profit off of trading, which is a major aspect of the game. This was done to combat Chinese gold farmers; people who earn gold in the game and sell that gold for real money. To not cheat the system, Jagex removed the Wilderness, a place where players can fight each other in hopes of obtaining the other person's items. The Wilderness was a potential exploit that worked around the trade cap. The update didn't consider what players thought of the update, and the removal of in-game features led to in-game riots. People gathered in various towns located in the game, encouraging everyone to abandon the game until they bring back the features.

With the number of players slowly diminishing overtime, Jagex looked for a solution to fix their player problem. The company decided to bring back an older version of the game, while still operating the continuously evolving version of Runescape, now referred to as RS3. A member of staff found an older archive of the game from 2007, a time when Runescape was at its prime. In 2007, Jagex opened a separate client, Old

School Runescape. Operating as a separate entity, it gave players what they wanted: low-resolution graphics, simplistic combat, free trade, the Wilderness, and would be polling potential updates to players before implementing them. Jagex learned their lesson from history and now requires a 75% approval in polling for a decision to move forward. Although it was initially pay-to-play, in 2015, the game became free-to-play, completely recreating the original Runescape feel.

Nostalgia is something most commonly seen in Hollywood, with reboots and sequels galore. They try to cash in on a soft-spot in people's hearts for things they once loved. Some reboots are met with success, like Star Wars or Transformers, and others fall flat, like The Terminator or Ben Hur. Jagex tapped into a successful market of 20-something year old’s who spent countless hours on Runescape when they were younger to having jobs and the ability to afford membership, while living out their nostalgic dreams, while simultaneously recruiting a new generation of kids who want a free computer game to play. With player trackers available, it shows Old School Runescape now has roughly double the number of active players that Runescape has currently. In a time where consoles rule the gaming market and popular MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft rule the market, Jagex tapped into something special that set itself apart from everyone else and tapped into the nostalgia market successfully. 

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