Bringing a beloved MMO like RuneScape from PC to mobile without upsetting the rhythms and economies at play must have been a delicate operation. But it seems Jagex has pulled it off – and you can be sure that the game’s passionate fanbase would let the UK studio know if it hadn’t.
Released on June 17 2021, RuneScape has followed predecessor Old School RuneScape over to mobile intact, with Appmagic data suggesting that Jagex has earned $10.2m from 1.4m downloads of the game to date. Its mix of subscription and IAP means that Appmagic estimates a cumulative ARPU of a whopping $6.71 too.
Indeed, Jagex tells us that 40% of RuneScape players are now playing on mobile, one year after the game’s launch on iOS and Android. “About half of that number play purely on mobile, and the other half play on both mobile and desktop,” says RuneScape product director Matt Casey. “We’ve seen players settle into a routine pretty quickly.”
Casey tells us the idea of a mobile port had been discussed internally for years before the project was greenlit – with the community’s blessing, of course.
“We talked about doing a kind of ‘RuneScape Pocket’, a ‘RuneScape Light’ or a mobile-first version of the game,” Casey tells us. “And what we actually found was that all of the players that we spoke to wanted the entire game in a way that they could play seamlessly between a desktop and then on the go. That was really, really important to them.”
Casey says the conversations to bring RuneScape to mobile started around 2017, with players testing an early build at annual community gathering RuneFest as far back as 2018. Lead developer on RuneScape Emma Hall describes “a big learning curve” for the team when it set about making the 20 year-old MMO work on mobile in earnest.
“A huge, huge part of developing content for mobile is obviously that accessibility and ease of use,” Hall tells us. “A thing we iterate on quite regularly is, you know, making the fonts more legible, making things easier to click…those are things that if you haven’t done them well, they’re actually really, really annoying.”
Fortunately, says Hall, the rhythms of the RuneScape experience lend themselves to almost idle game-like engagement. “Runescape has always been the game I think a lot of people will quite fondly call their second screen game – it’s something that they can do whilst watching a film, watching Netflix or whatever. And I think that really resonated with players when we brought it to mobile.”
The only major change to the actual game content was a new tutorial, which gets new players into the game more quickly than the desktop version. And it has been a good way to re-engage the huge number of lapsed players who have signed up to RuneScape over the years but have churned out for one reason or another.
“RuneScape’s a game people tend to come back to time and time again,” says Casey. “We do see that behaviour quite a lot, and mobile has been a great way to sort of recapture that. In terms of a new audience and players that hadn’t played the game before, we have found it harder to hold on to those players, because it’s an unfamiliar experience. What was a bit of a surprise was the volume of new players we did see initially, but it was really great to speak to and get a lot of feedback from those new players as well.”
With both RuneScape MMOs now on mobile and a spin-off, Melvor Idle, also on app stores, Jagex clearly has the taste for more on mobile.
“We definitely think there’s more opportunity to bring the RuneScape franchise to new audiences and new parts of the world through mobile,” adds Casey. “Whether that’s in the form of the full game itself or it could be other types of genres we might explore – there aren’t any specific titles we can refer to at this point but I definitely think we’ll be exploring new areas in mobile, and we also want to look at other platforms as well.”