As a long-term player who began playing during RuneScape Classic and has continued throughout the years, there have been many incidents that I have experienced in my time. From game-breaking bugs such as the Falador Massacre, the removal of Free Trade and the Wilderness, to the most distressing but equally as important, like the slow decay of RuneScape due to the implementation of microtransactions (MTX). It is rather upsetting to see a game with this sort of history retaining such a loyal player base, despite there being arguably better games in the genre. But, for how much longer?
For those fortunate enough to remain unfamiliar, Hero Pass released September 4, 2023, and was one of the most abhorrent MTX-riddled, FOMO-seeking updates that had been released in some time. RuneScape players at this stage of their lives are used to playing a game that is chock full of MTX that go far beyond cosmetic items and into the realm of pay-to-win mechanics. Jagex stated that Hero Pass would be unlike the above, but rather would be a system that would not induce the feeling of FOMO and would be accessible and able to be completed by the average player. It was not.
What players received instead was an intrusive, annoying system that was inescapable. No matter what you did in-game, Hero Pass would pop its ugly head up. Premier players received far greater benefits than regular paying members, and the sheer amount of time needed to complete the Hero Pass itself was considerably out of reach for the average player. Many players immediately went to complain online as it felt like nothing more than an insulting cash grab.
The backlash to Hero Pass has been unprecedented. Players flooded all social media platforms en masse to rightfully complain, long-term players quit, with many notable players moving to Old School RuneScape instead, made more obvious by the lower concurrent player drop. This made it impossible to ignore and eventually, the elusive Mod Keeper made a statement on the issue.
Since then, Hero Pass has been altered considerably, and it is far less intrusive and FOMO-seeking than it was at the initial launch. Most importantly, Daily Challenges will soon be returning. However, Jagex has stated that the Hero Pass consultation process is going to take six long weeks. That’s quite an extended period of time. It also makes it clear that they have no intention of removing Hero Pass from RuneScape. So, take that as you will, as it is a clear indication of their overall priorities. One can hope that seeing this backlash means that Jagex may take a different path going forward, or even allow for more transparency going forward. Especially in regard to the monetization strategy. If there even is a strategy beyond bleeding the game dry.
The above comment from the RuneScape subreddit is one in which the consensus is shared within the greater RuneScape community. The consultation process is clearly superficial at best, almost like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound and hoping for a fix. Over time, RuneScape has been slowly transforming from a rich world that stands on its own, to a microtransaction-filled hellscape. Imagine if Catelyn Stark emptied her pockets to buy enough XP to survive the Red Wedding. For many players, it’s too little, too late.
How long can one call RuneScape the main version of the game when Old School RuneScape has more active players? What does it say about RuneScape when the majority of players are playing an older version of the game? Sure, there are plenty of people who prefer the challenge of yesteryear, but having a game that has a solid player-focused team behind it and isn’t riddled with MTX makes a huge difference.
Every time there’s a significant content update for OSRS, the players are informed and multiple polls are run every single step of the way to make sure that this is something that the community wants. This is incredibly clear with the upcoming OSRS skill, Sailing. On the other hand, RuneScape lacks tremendously in this area. It appears as if the sole goal of Jagex is to shove as many MTX elements into the game as possible before players have had enough. And when that happens, as in right now, they then discuss it with the community and act as if they are working for the betterment of the players, as opposed to just changing it enough that the pushback ends, and the status quo is resumed. In the end, there is no doubt that we will receive a Hero Pass that is better, but if you polled the community in advance, it more than likely wouldn’t have been implemented at all.
All Hero Pass has done is further divide an already fractured community of players. This is clearly evidenced by players quitting for good or moving to OSRS. This is unfortunate as RuneScape desperately needs the players. Oftentimes, it feels empty. Sometimes you can play without seeing another player at all, and even if you did, there’s a good chance that they have public chat off and wouldn’t even notice you. It is a sad truth that in 2023, RuneScape doesn’t bring anything to the table that other games don’t already. It’s riding heavily on nostalgia. Most players at this point have been playing for years, and if you lose them, you lose it all. So, why risk it? If you love and value the game, wouldn’t you be working on improving and sustaining it? It seems all Jagex wants to do is slowly burn it to the ground. You thought Dungeoneering leeches were bad? That’s exactly what Jagex is doing with microtransactions and the players.
It’s not something that I am ready to accept. This game has always meant a lot to me. I personally have such fond memories of my beginnings with the game. I can clearly remember my cousin introducing me to it and leading me from Varrock to Lumbridge. It felt like a journey back then. I remember waiting for my turn to talk to a Banker. As well as spending hours killing chickens for the feathers. Of course, I’ve also experienced many enjoyable moments since then as it’s been a rich and fulfilling journey. But it’s not just about me, as many people have played it in their time. When you push the MTX nonsense aside, it is an incredibly rich and enjoyable experience.
But where do we go from here? Jagex has shown us time and time again that the RuneScape communities’ sole purpose is to line their pockets. This Hero Pass controversy has lasted all month and will be lasting at least another. This time has been taken away from actual game updates. It’s such a disappointment. I love RuneScape, but I’ll be lost in Final Fantasy XIV for the time being.