Unsurprisingly, the hating of loot boxes has become common practice. Countless examples appear every day showcasing their evil. Today is no different. The British Parliament investigated the effects of microtransactions on vulnerable individuals. The report found one gamer put his family at risk by spending over £50,000 on RuneScape.
Bank statements showed that in one day the individual spent £247.95 by making five separate payments to the company. The resulting debt caused significant financial harm for both the player and his parents.Parliamentary Report, Section 3.62
The State of RuneScape
RuneScape’s microtransactions were once cosmetic only. Players could purchase cosmetics for their summons or equipment. A long time ago, RuneScape didn’t have microtransactions at all! In 2012, the Squeal of Fortune was added. This allowed players to purchase spins that dropped pay-to-win items like XP. Many players were irritated as this effectively ended RuneScape’s previously thriving leaderboard culture. Getting a 99 stat was no longer considered an accomplishment.
In 2014, Jagex would replace the Squeal of Fortune with Treasure Hunter. Whilst different in appearance, it was functionally identical. To emphasize it’s stupidity, popular RuneScape YouTuber A Friend came up with a plan. He purchased 60,000 keys for an extraordinary $13,300. Using the EXP lamps received from Treasure Hunter, he maxed an account in record time. This would take regular players thousands of dedicated hours. A Friend finished with just 3 days of playtime on his account.
RuneScape’s core problem lies in its ownership. Whilst Jagex technically owns the RuneScape license, Jagex themselves are not independent. Company founders Andrew and Paul Gower sold the British development studio to various conglomerates. Chinese investors Hongtou, who acquired Jagex in 2016, have aggressively pushed RuneScape’s monetization.
I once believed that certain studios could amend their business models themselves. I was wrong. We’ve reached a point where the government needs to step in. Predatory loot boxes and microtransactions won’t slow down until laws make them. We are past the point of giving the industry the chance to repair itself.