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Jagex ownership structure - what it means


crazyfoxxy

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There has been much discussion about the SOF and other ‘sell-out’ decisions that Jagex has made of late, so I figured that I would try to make some sense of why these things are happening and what it means to the serious Runescape player.

 

In January 2001, Jagex first released Runescape (now referred to as ‘Classic Runescape.’) The program was based on a game that Andrew Gower had created in the late 1990s called ‘Devious MUD’ with MUD an acronym for ‘Multi User Dungeon’ or ‘Domain’ or ‘Dimension’ depending who you ask. Long story short, Andrew sold Runescape in December 2010 to Insight Venture Partners and Spectrum Equity Investors for 88 million pounds (143 million dollars.) I won’t belabor this point, but TBH I consider Gower to be a sell-out on the order of a man who would sell his daughter into prostitution. Here’s a link to an article from earlier in the week where Gower is honored for being rich.

 

http://www.develop-o...Times-Rich-List

 

Clearly, this is what was most important to him. BTW, hit the gym broheim.

 

Insight is a venture firm with something like a 10 year investment horizon; Spectrum is private equity firm with something like a 5-year investment horizon. So what this means is that both firms are looking for a ‘liquidity event’, either in the form of a private sale or initial public offering of stock – in other words, they are in it for the money. The basic playbook for these firms is to cut costs, pump up the revenues and get out – I am guessing by about 2014-2015.

 

The problem, and this pains me and my thousands of RS gaming hours to say, is that Runescape along with the entire world of MMORPGs is slowly dying. Here’s a couple of charts that illustrate the point:

 

http://siteanalytics.../runescape.com/

 

In March of 2011, Runescape had 2.16 million unique visitors. A year later, the site had 1.26 million uniques – a 42% drop. Now I’m sure that the Bot-Busting played a big part of this, but ouch – that doesn’t look good to potential future investors.

 

http://users.telenet...arts/Subs-1.png

 

This second chart looks at subscribers, so the effect of the Bot-Busting is largely normalized for as most goldfarmers are free accounts. On this chart of paying subscribers to MMORPGs, Runescape is the little flat line at the bottom with the delineated circles. In 2008, Runescape peaked with about 1.1 million paying subscriptions, but since then there has been a steady decline. Currently Runescape has only about 900,000 paying subscribers, last amongst the big games. Theories abound as to why this is happening, but I think it has a lot to do with the proliferation of console games like COD or Halo where avatars can skill up over time and players can play on-line socially together. In the early 2000s, this was what MMORPGs offered that was special, but it’s not special anymore.

 

So what has Insight done to make the Jagex look appealing to future buyers in the next few years? Well, shortly after they took over and Andrew left the board, they brought back Wildy. The return of the PKers and free trade also welcomed the return of the bots which soon overran gameplay in many of the traditional goldfarming venues with a vengeance – like Red Chins. But what did it matter to Insight if botters return? After all, they will be gone in a few years. I’m sure this wasn’t a hard decision for them to make.

 

We have also seen a massive easing of the ‘grinding’ nature of certain skills – witness this week’s Runecrafting update as a way to make previously unattainable capes attainable for the non-nolifers.

 

And of course the Squeal of Fortune has arrived. SOF is also Jagex’s initial foray into the realm of micro-transactions, one of the most successful ways that on-line games further monetize their player-base. The moment when private equity and VCs took over Jagex, micro-transactions were inevitable. What surprised me was the vile way they have tied the application to gambling. To me, what Jagex is doing with SOF is no different than RJ Reynolds marketing Joe Camel to children to sell more cigarettes. A special place in hell awaits both groups of executives who greenlit those decisions.

 

I don’t mean to sound all ‘henny penny the sky is falling,’ but I think we can expect more changes to the game that may or may not appeal to longtime players. We have been sold to Wall Street and may have to hang on for a while before a long term investor with a ‘growth’ outlook comes along and starts to care of us players again. I plan to ride it out though. I think there is enough of the old Andrew left in the game that it is still great. And perhaps Insight will remember that too, hopefully sooner rather than later.

11 Comments


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Don't forget that The Jagex Group was registered in December 2011. That could mean a broadening of horizons, along the lines of what happened with Quest Software. Just adding it into the mix.

 

Nice work here. I wish I knew what was going to happen too.

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Don't forget that The Jagex Group was registered in December 2011. That could mean a broadening of horizons, along the lines of what happened with Quest Software. Just adding it into the mix. Nice work here. I wish I knew what was going to happen too.

 

Thanks for the link. Fascinating stuff, but troubling when I think about it as a player.

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How long did this take you?

I agree with you though. Jagex is going down and I am like this; quit; come back; quit; come back.

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Great article and surely very close to the truth...sadly.

 

I'm more lenient with the Gower's brothers...They were students when they started that, sure they made some money from the game, but an offer of $88mil should be pretty hard to ignore. Beside, I'm pretty sure IVP would have gone along the way "we inject cash to develop RS and many other games, hire more people, bla bla bla...everybody happy..."

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I don't know why Andrew would sell his shares (or whatever) to such a greedy company. Yeah, $88m is a LOT of money, but Runescape is HIS game, and now it's going down the toilet as a result of Insight Ventures. He could've sold it to another company with a love for the game, rather than a love for the money from the game.

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I don't know why Andrew would sell his shares (or whatever) to such a greedy company. Yeah, $88m is a LOT of money, but Runescape is HIS game, and now it's going down the toilet as a result of Insight Ventures. He could've sold it to another company with a love for the game, rather than a love for the money from the game.

in the real world people with love for the product tend to have way less coin than those who care about the money :/

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I bet he saw it going into the toilet from a long way away and wanted to get out while he could still make some profit. Runescape was a business venture for him, after all, I don't know why people get upset that he makes decisions like a business man.This is the real world. We can't all have the high morals to put the rants and desires of some online community over our own lives and fiscal stability. :P

 

I understand that, but it was his creation. I sure as hell wouldn't want something I started to turn into complete shizzle :/

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I think 'shizzle' is a funny word.

 

Maybe Andrew Gower had a crystal ball, maybe not. One of my VC friends even suggested that he could have been pushed out, which can happen to entrepreneurs even if they have controlling interest and they structured the deal poorly.

 

I'm just disappointed that he initially decided to take cash from a firm that clearly had no intention of growing Jagex. And either Andrew knew that or he should have known that.

 

People are entitled to make money and I'm glad he made heaps from Runescape. IMHO though, he could have still made lots if he had kept control of the company, albeit measurable in 'only' 10s of millions and not 100s of millions. Instead he tossed us to the wolves. Now that’s shizzle.

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Instead he tossed us to the wolves. Now that’s shizzle.
This is an online Java based game we're talking about, right?

 

Oooh, I see what ya done there: Yes, I'm a nerd :)

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