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RuneScape 3 "Hugely Successful" - Should Pay To Play MMO's Be Scared?

Could Jagex's good news challenge studios still insisting on subscriptions for MMOs?

It's been a month since RuneScape released its third version of the free to play MMO. Yesterday, development studio Jagex announced that the launch was "hugely successful", claiming that 300,000 new players have joined the game, and a further 100,000 players reactivating dormant accounts.

Since its creation in 2001, the game has seen 220 million accounts being created - a Guinness World Record - and a nomination for a British Academy (BAFTA) Video Game Award.

Should Pay To Play Be Worried?

Free to play MMOs are often viewed as a business model that sacrifices content quality for price and accessibility. Companies using this set-up hope to reel in the Benjamins from tempting players to pay for extras once they've become established within their virtual worlds. As most are aware, there are a tonne of mediocre to dreadful free to play MMOs out there, and are often a cheap and lazy way to make some easy money.

Sometimes a resort to changing from a subscription model to free to play happens when some titles don't do critically and/or financially well, hoping that the increase in accessibility will perk things up. Others, like EverQuest, switch due to general entropy of playersdespite prolonged acclaim.

However, RuneScape, with its accolades and fevered gamer dedication, having been designed from its very conception as free to play, is a beacon for highlighting just how potentially brilliant free to plays can be. Not to mention games like Lord of the Rings Online finding that the switch to free to play bolstered their coffers and number of players for what was already a highly acclaimed game.

With this announcement, companies like Square Enix, Blizzard Entertainment, and Bethesda, the studios behind Final Fantasy XI: A Realm Reborn, World of Warcraft, and the upcoming Elder Scrolls Online respectively, will no doubt find the mantra that subscriptions mean better quality and success sorely challenged.

Holding the Fort

Yet, even despite its rocky launch and beta problems, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has well exceed sales expectations. Furthermore World of Warcraft, especially after the Mists of Pandaria expansion, sees little signs of tiring or in need of resuscitating its fortunes.

So as long as these behemoths still stand and flourish under their current guises, and if Elder Scrolls Online is just as successful, it'll be a while until a solid verdict can dictate the future of how MMOs will be funded and presented. But RuneScape is certainly a thorn in the side of the traditional model and perceptions.

To play RuneScape visit www.runescape.com.

Published Sep. 7th 2013

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