Blood pressure is usually tested on routine physicals at the doctor's office. It is often a reflection of your health. So, what is Runescape's blood pressure?
Taking the Blood Pressure
When Shakespeare penned those words he probably wasn't thinking about applying the phrase to computer games, but the fact remains that nothing escapes death. People, elephants, car engines, and even planet Earth will eventually face a dark demise. Runescape does not escape that fate. And not many people are denying that.
The reason I bring this up is because there are many out there that think Runescape is dying. And there is some reason to believe that. For example, as I am typing this (on a Friday night) there are only 40,000 players online. If you began playing years ago, you are probably more used to having at least 100,000 players online. These numbers make the situation obvious. With this being said, it is interesting to note Jagex’s comments, or rather the lack of comments, about the player decrease. Jagex hasn't really made a public statement solely addressing the decrease and steps that are being made to counter this issue. Jagex also has seemed a bit off the mark when it has made remarks about activity. In a July 2012 interview, Jagex CEO Mark Gehard stated that there are “hundreds of thousands of people playing at any one time.” Also, in a recent news article a Jagex employee stated that Runescape was “as strong as it’s ever been.” What does he mean? If he means more people have 99 strength than ever before he might be onto something, but if he’s talking about the game’s activity he probably hasn’t been getting enough sleep.
Despite that, it is quite clear that activity has decreased. But let’s remember that Runescape was hugely popular several years ago. If you were in middle or high school in the mid-2000s, probably most of your friends had at one point wandered through Tutorial Island, although many probably wouldn't admit it. Is it possible that Runescape is just having a dip in popularity and not actually on the way out soon? Possibly. People making the argument of Runescape’s coming death (many of which are also trying to deride the game’s recent content) usually pull out the Google trend for Runescape.com as evidence. In case you are not familiar with it here it is. By the way, this graph may make things look worse than they are because it looks like the game has no activity when it clearly has plenty.
At first glance it looks like the game is dying and has been for some time now. It’s pretty tough to argue with that. Since the peak (December 2006), Runescape has overall been heading down. And let’s not forget that similar games, such as World of Warcraft, have also had a decrease in activity. But even with this graph there is some optimism for the game. If you can get over the massive decrease in activity you may notice that towards the end of the graph the decrease in activity has come to a trickle. In other words over the past year and a half there really hasn’t been that much activity decrease, at least with actual players. The elimination of many bots has led to a decrease in perceived activity but the decrease in regular players lately has been inconsequential.
Does this mean I am saying Runescape isn’t dying? Not necessarily. But if it is dying it is dying a lot slower than people make it out to be. In the past year and a half or so Runescape has lost 3 of Google trend’s activity points. For comparison, between July 2009 and January 2011 (also a period of a year and a half) Runescape lost 43 of Google Trend’s activity points. Those who plan on attending Runescape’s funeral shouldn't plan on taking time off from work anytime soon.
Of course, as loyal players of the game for years, we don’t want Runescape to be a so-so game, even when it comes to activity. We want Runescape to return to its glory of the 100,000 player days. Anything else is too depressing. So how exactly does Runescape retain its glory? Well, the answer to this isn't too easy. If it were it would have already been done. Many of the improvement ideas floating around in my opinion will not be the magic bullet to Runescape’s problems. I of course have ideas of my own but I’ll save them for another editorial. In the meantime, I hope we can get back to fishing rocktails and mining ores without having to worry about looking for coffins for our characters. For now, anyway.
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