RuneScape well placed to expand onto consoles, says Jagex CEO

RuneScape – the low-tech, high-density browser-based MMO – is poised to expand its audience to consoles, says Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard. The reason the move hasn't happened sooner is because of politics at play between console gatekeepers Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. The title, whose in-game stock exchange commands its own economy, had to remain free-to-play – and audiences couldn't be segregated by platform. But now, Gerhard says the game is “well placed to be on all devices soon, so we can have a global community...”

“People get [Runescape] for free,” continued Gerhard in an interview with Develop. According to Gerhard, charging players an admission fee for RuneScape would’ve been like “shooting yourself in the foot.”

But the notion of uniting all players in an unrestricted One World Userbase is still one to which Gerhard says encountered a lot of resistance. “All three said, 'we won’t let our console play online with any other',” explained Gerhard, referring to Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo.

Still, Gerhard sees no technical reason why this should be the case: “It’s not a game where any extra computational power from the consoles will help. It would have been the same experience on all consoles – in fact everything would have worked through the cloud. ‘But yeah’, they said, ‘we cannot let the Microsoft community play with the Sony community’. Okay fine then, we said, we just won’t do it.”

Without going into specifics, Gerhard remained optimistic about a happy ending for a multiplatform RuneScape. “I think they [Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo] will open up their platforms a bit more, liberate them a bit more. It’s just a matter of time... But we’re well placed to be on all devices soon, so we can have a global community.”

Often looked down upon as a poor man’s MMO, RuneScape continues to thrive through the free-to-play boom with millions of users around the world. You can find out more about RuneScape, and who’s still playing it in our interview with the lead designer Mark Ogilvie.

Aug 30, 2011