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Developer Jagex’s free-to-play RuneScape massively multiplayer online game is 12 years old, but its age didn’t stop it from leading the studio to its most successful year ever in 2012.
The company generated over $76 million in profit based primarily on the strength of RuneScape’s continuing popularity and new titles, Ace of Spades and Carnage Racing.
“2012 was a pivotal year for Jagex, and today’s figures are a real testament to the whole Jagex team who have continues to over perform year after year,” Jagex chief executive Mark Gerhard said in a statement.
Jagex also revealed plans to partner with South American Internet-service provider UOL to help RuneScape break into the Brazilian market. UOL will handle the exclusive publishing of that game in Brazil, the largest market in South America and one with a growing middle class.
“International expansion has always been a key focus for Jagex and has largely been going on at a community level from the ground up without overt marketing,” Jagex chief marketing officer David Solari said. “We are now in a position where we have an excellent offering, which we believe is perfect for the South American market. To ensure we capitalize on this opportunity, we are thrilled to be working with UOL as our primary partner to give the game the support it deserves.”
In addition to English, Jagex previously localized RuneScape into French and German. Now it is preparing it in Portuguese for the Brazilian audience. The developer is currently porting RuneScape to an HTML 5 engine. This will enable players to access it from many mobile browsers, which will effectively turn it into a mobile game.
Success after a decade of RuneScape
GamesBeat had a chance to talk with Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard over e-mail about RuneScape, mobile, and the the developer’s future titles.
Gerhard explains his studio’s success as luck mixed with hard work.
“We certainly had a bit of luck on the way and the harder we work the luckier we get,” said Gerhard. “Happily, we’ve also managed to build a long-standing reputation for creating the world’s best online games and for providing an unbeatable community experience for millions of players globally. In the past, we have kept a relatively low corporate profile, allowing the quality of our games to do the talking.”
That’s worked out well for Jagex so far. RuneScape’s 2001 release makes the MMO ancient in game years, but Gerhard points to his team’s constant innovation to explain its continued growth after more than a decade.
RuneScape is on to its third iteration. That includes updated visuals and a more streamlined interface.
“[Innovation] is the only way to survive in this industry, and naturally always doing the right thing for the long term of the game is vital no matter the short-term pain,” said Gerhard. “Just as importantly, we actively listen to and engage with community too.”
Jagex also releases a ton of new RuneScape content every week. The developers add an average of 200 new quests, activities, or features every year.
“RuneScape is the only game in the world I’m aware of that has 12 years’ worth of collective content, rather than being incorrectly perceived as a 12-year-old game,” said Gerhard.
RuneScape goes mobile
Traditionally, players accessed RuneScape through a browser on their PCs, but that’s going to change with the game’s new HTML 5 engine. They can now have RuneScape with them wherever they have a smart device.
“I believe, when it launches, RuneScape 3 will be the most ambitious HTML 5 project to date,” said Gerhard. “Our new HTML 5 client is truly at the bleeding edge of technological advancement in browser gaming. It allows for a more accessible, immersive, high-fidelity, cross-platform experience.”
While gamers could play the game on smartphones, Jagex is optimizing the title for tablet devices.
“We feel the tablet market is much more appropriate, both with reference to its maturity and usability for a game like RuneScape,” said Gerhard. “And we hope to release the game on tablets late Q4 this year or in early 2014.”
Finally, Jagex has some new titles in the works. The developer is currently working on Transformers Universe MMO set in the world of the popular Autobot and Decepticon toys.
“We are lucky to have an excellent team working on the game who are dedicated to creating a game worthy of the Transformers brand,” said Gerhard. “It’s looking great and impressing everyone we’ve show it to so far, although we still want to do a lot more before we open it to the public later this year.”
Gamers can currently sign up for the beta release on the game’s official website.