RuneScape is a fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that was released in 2001. Over 200 million accounts have been created with RuneScape, and it is recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest MMORPG. RuneScape takes place in the fantastical world of Gielinor, where players work on honing 25 different skills and acquiring gold. RuneScape’s economy is extremely large, for a game, and with that comes the problem of deflation.
The basic premise behind RuneScape is that people spend time with their virtual character in order to increase that character’s skills. Once that character’s skills have been improved, they are then able to perform more advanced tasks. Things like mining, wood cutting, fishing, crafting, and fighting are all skills that characters can upgrade. Characters can use those skills to obtain items, and those items can either be sold on the worldwide marketplace or traded to another player.
Every time you sell something in the marketplace, you receive golden coins in return. These coins can then be used to purchase new and better items. It sounds like a whole lot of fun, but the problem of deflation has become a real issue. This deflation doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the supply golden coins; in fact it is the increasing commonality of certain items that has increased the buying power of the golden coins. I am specifically referring to something called Rune armor.
A large element of RuneScape is focused on increasing the fighting ability of your character so that you can fight an assortment of monsters. The more challenging the monster you defeat is, the more rewards you receive. Part of fighting is that characters are able to be equipped with a variety of different armors. Now, of these different armor sets, Rune armor is and has been the strongest of all. Subsequently, the demand for Rune armor has always been extremely high, and because it was extremely hard to smelt, this armor was always very rare. However, as aggregate skill of the RuneScape community has continued to climb upwards, more and more individuals have learned how to smelt Rune armor, and thus the supply has drastically increased. Something that used to cost 1 million coins now only cost 30 or 40 thousand coins.
So, I predict that in the very near future, if it isn’t already happening now, officials at Jagex (creator of RuneScape) will see a drop off in subscribers. I say this because, one of the primary draws to RuneScape was that you had the ability to differentiate yourself from your peers. RuneScape gave people the opportunity to be better than everybody else. At this point though, the rarest of items are becoming the most common, and there is no real distinction among the players. I feel this doesn’t bode well for the future of RuneScape. I think that if Jagex institutionalized some sort of price floor in relation to Rune armor, the subscription drop off would be much less severe. This could go one of two ways, either weaker players would be motivated to upgrade their character’s smelting abilities because they could no longer afford Rune armor, or the weaker players would become angry that they could no longer afford said armor and would leave the game. I think Jagex should give it a try anyways, social experiments are always fun.