Earlier this week, Jagex announced that RuneScape Mobile is now available to the public in the form of an Early Access title. Of course, this came with a few caveats—the game is only available on Android devices and only to players who have a monthly subscription.
The game will likely follow the same path of Old School RuneScape (OSRS) when it released on mobile last year. That is, after a short delay the game will be accessible to iOS owners as well as free to play users. But, will RuneScape Mobile share the success of its older sibling? Will it do enough to revitalize a stagnating playerbase?
A Model For Success
When OSRS launched on mobile devices last year its population wasn’t doing so hot. That’s not to say that the game was hemorrhaging players, rather it wasn’t able to pull in new ones—it was a stagnant game. According to MisplacedItems, the game was holding steady around 50,000 concurrent users up to the release of OSRS Mobile.
The game saw a small boost in players right around October of 2018, then a subsequent explosion in the weeks following the game’s handheld debut. The number of concurrent users skyrocketed, shooting up to nearly 200,000 at any given time.
Of course, this incredible success was short-lived. Casual players slowly left the game, but the port to the small screen worked. Today, the typical player count for the game is around 90,000 (depending on the time of day). OSRS has laid out a path to success and shown that this strategy can work.
RuneScape Is A Different Beast
Of course, just because it worked for one game doesn’t mean it will work for another. RuneScape has a considerably smaller population, hovering around 30,000 concurrent players. The game has also had its fair share of ups and downs over the years, and has unfortunately fallen prey to microtransactions in recent years. It’s gameplay is very similar to OSRS—that is to say, a grind-fest—but features updated graphics, in-depth combat, and a new world to explore. However, it is missing one huge component that allowed OSRS to thrive. Nostalgia.
Much of the appeal of OSRS on mobile was jumping back to a world that many players had explored years ago. To many, it was a trip down memory lane. The game is virtually unchanged from its heyday, which allowed old players to hop in without missing a beat. RuneScape Mobile? Not so much. Few people carry nostalgic memories of the game. While it might be superior to OSRS in many ways, it doesn’t pull on the heartstrings the way OSRS can.
Expect A Population Bubble
In the end, RuneScape Mobile will certainly bring new players to its world. Instead of pulling in old players looking to relive the glory days, it will grab mobile gamers looking for a solid MMORPG experience. It’s a genre that is rapidly growing, but the current selection is fairly weak. Outside of OSRS and Lineage 2 Revolution, mobile MMO gamers don’t have much to choose from. RuneScape Mobile should give them exactly what they are looking for: a PC MMO experience in the palm of their hand.
Come 2020, however, competition in this area will be stiff, as heavy hitters such as Black Desert Mobile, Lineage 2 M, and Warhammer Odyssey are all projected to launch during that time-frame. RuneScape Mobile is getting the jump on these high-profile titles. Only time will tell if it can hook enough players to survive in the long run.