Jagex the developers of the legacy hit MMO Runescape is put into the hot seat as the UK Government continues to investigate the issue of loot boxes as a form of gambling. During this investigation, they pointed out Jagex directly as one of the prime examples of the gaming industry utilizing loot boxes.
The UK government produced a report recently on microtransactions, lootboxes, and free to play games and within that report was some interesting tidbits about Jagex (They’re based in the UK, so it makes sense they were profiled in the report). The report is titled “Immersive and addictive technologies” and what I found most interesting is that 1/3 of all of Runescape’s revenues come from Microtransactions. As someone who keeps an eye on Oldschool Runescape this was surprising, as Oldschool Runescape has a much larger playerbase than regular Runescape and doesn’t offer many microtransactions (the only one I can think of is bonds which can be used to extend membership time). Regular Runescape, on the other hand, has countless pay 2 win microtransactions, which likely makes up most of this 1/3 figure.
“Jagex told us that it generates about one-third of its revenue from microtransactions, with two-thirds coming from an alternative subscription model.119 The company’s director of player experience Kelvin Plomer told us that players “can potentially spend up to £1,000 a week or £5,000 a month” in RuneScape, but that only one player had hit that limit in the previous 12 months.120 The company’s reasoning for setting this limit seemed to stem from fraud prevention, rather than out of a duty of care to prevent people spending more than they are able.121 Jagex does allow players to “request deletion of the account or suspension of the account or a payment block”; however, crucially in the case of the parent who contacted us, for data protection reasons it can deal only with account holders and so was unable to take direct action in response to the parent’s concerns. –Source“
Perhaps more surprising though is the sheer amount of gambling that happens within RuneScape. The same report highlighted how players would gamble literally thousands of dollars worth of in-game currency in “stakes” (Runescape duels, the outcomes of which are largely dictated by RNG):
“In-game wealth can be purchased from Jagex’s website with a credit card: visit https://www.runescape.com/bonds to see for yourself. These same bonds can be sold to other players with great ease, fetching nearly 20 million units of in-game currency: http://services.runescape.com/m=itemdb_rs/Bond/viewitem.ws?obj=29492. With the newly acquire ingame wealth, players can stake the coins against other players for 50/50 odds, doubling their money or getting none in return. The follow video shows multiple “stakes” of 20+ billion units of gold (white prism worth 25 units each), worth several thousand pounds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-PSvpqInI0. Without breaking in-game rules, you can purchase “coins” with real-life money and gamble it with other players. Breaking in-game rules, you can purchase “coins” with real-life money, gamble them, and sell it to 3 rd parties. –Source“
There are also dozens of sites online which seem to facilitate gambling using Runescape currency. Players can play Poker, Blackjack, and other casino games using Runescape gold. I’d rather not link to such sites, but a simple Google search for Runescape betting will reveal dozens of them. Jagex seems to be turning a blind eye to all of this, as they’re profiting from players getting addicted, losing money, and buying bonds to continue their addiction.