Will Genie Solomon Prove a Goldmine for Jagex?

by JoHarrington

It was inevitable that Runescape would transform into a Nexon clone. Runecoins sees real world money cashed in for cosmetic game items.

I was attempting to do my weekly food shop in the local supermarket. The first text came somewhere between the lettuce and the cucumbers.

By the time I'd reached the cheese counter, I'd received seven text messages, three 'phone calls and lots of strange looks from people around me. Various Runescape players were keen to tell me the same thing. Jagex had introduced yet more micro-transactions into the game. Was I going to write about it?

In case you're wondering, I bought some Y Fenni and a nice bit of mature Cheddar. *pauses in writing this to respond to yet another text* Yes, I am going to write about it!

Buy Runescape Membership!

A few days before Solomon was introduced into the game, membership and Squeal of Fortune cards appeared on Amazon.

Runeshark Announces Solomon Teaser

No big Jagex launch for this latest bite at the micro-transaction cherry. It was largely left to players to spread the word.

The Solomon teaser picture had been out for days.  Amongst the recipients was Runeshark, whose excellent YouTube channel was highlighted on the front page of Runescape. 

Simon and James were probably responsible for getting the teaser out to more gamers than any other outlets put together.

In comments, chat rooms and forums across the internet, Runescape players tried to guess what it was all going to be about. There was little more to go on than the image itself.

The artwork was reminiscent of the detested Yelps.  Was this going to be another Squeal of Fortune

Runeshark certainly thought so.

Runeshark: Introducing Solomon... Latest SoF Scam? or Maybe Not? - Friday Fanmail #28

A Genie CALLED Solomon? Really?!

Apparently no-one in Jagex is paying much attention to Islamic lore then.

Along with the rest of the Runescape playing world, I watched the Runeshark video. 

The more charitable of my friends suggested that Solomon might be a key figure in the upcoming Olympics tie-in, the Gielinor Games.

We all looked miserably at the artwork.   But another association was ringing in my mind. 

Solomon was quite patently a genie.  Even the brief blarb released with the teaser image stated that. But isn't that a terrible name for one of the jinn?

It is, if you have ever read the Qur'an.  Genies were basically enslaved and exploited by King Solomon.  They were set to degrading tasks and suffered utter humiliation.Their jobs included making 'ample coats of mail'. Any genie who refused to comply was tortured, usually by burning in molten copper.

The genies were so in thrall to increasing Solomon's wealth, that they continued working until Allah saved them.

Qur'an 34 recounts how Solomon died while leaning on his wooden staff. Because his eyes seemed to be staring at the genie slaves, none of them realized that his supervision was over. They went on, amassing riches for the monarch, until Allah sent a worm into the cavern.

The little worm gnawed away at the staff, until it could not hold the corpse anymore. Solomon crashed to the ground and  'the jinn saw plainly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have tarried in unabasing torment.' (Qur'an sura 34 (Saba), ayah 14)

There's also another famous story involving Solomon and a genie. This one was recounted in another Arabic tale Thousand and One Nights. 

The genie Ashmedai is abducted from his home and tightly bound by Solomon's Vizier. Ashmedai is then dragged into the court and thrown at the monarch's feet. Solomon demands that the genie declares his faith in God.  Ashmedai refuses. Solomon forces the captured genie into a bottle, then seals it in God's name.

The bottle is cast out into the ocean, where it washes up on various shores. Everywhere he goes, Ashmedai sees some sign that Solomon has been there before.

A little like Jagex and Nexon then.  The associations did not fill me with confidence. 

Books Which Discuss Solomon and his Genie Slaves

Essential reading for those who vaguely remembered something about Solomon and genies; and thought it would be an appropriate name for one.

Is Solomon a Good Name for a Genie?

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Solomon the Genie Brings Runecoins to Gielinor

No ostentatious, in-your-face, tacky launch here. Just an unobtrusive button at the bottom of the screen.

After all the calls and text messages, I feared the worst. 

I'd already been told that Solomon was all about using real world money to buy in-game items. The bullet-points from each conversation were extremely similar:

  • It's an in-game shop;
  • You can't use gp to buy things, only Runecoins (which are bought with real world cash);
  • You can only purchase cosmetic items;
  • No XP or gp in the store;
  • 'x' player is leaving when the latter turns up in the inevitable future update.

Everyone I spoke with assumed that Solomon will eventually allow bought advantages in Runescape.  Such is the lack of trust in Jagex after Squeal of Fortune. 

Though, in fairness, the main ire is directed at their investors, Insight Venture Partners.  Jeff Horing and his team are widely viewed as the real Solomon behind the Jagex genies.

With such knowledge, I logged in to see for myself.

Image: Solomon's Store in Runescape
Image: Solomon's Store in Runescape

In truth, it wasn't bad.  There are no loud, billboard type advertizements flashing up at any given time.  It's not in your face.  Solomon has been so unobtrusively added, that I had to ask a friend where to find his store.

Once I clicked on the tiny button in my icon toolbar, I instantly froze out of the game and had to reboot.  But, on the third time of trying, I was in a fairly tastefully applied store.

It is all cosmetic and beautifully so.  I found a couple of things in there which I wouldn't mind wearing myself.

Image: Revolutionary Mask in Solomon's Store
Image: Revolutionary Mask in Solomon's Store

It allows some players to swan around looking richer and more dazzling than everyone else. But Runescape always did.  I've looked, wished and dreamed about my own Godsword, when I was running around in rune.

In many regards, had this store arrived before Squeal of Fortune, then I feel it would have been whole-heartedly embraced by all.

Players want Jagex to make money as much as their investors do.  More profit means a better game for all.  A better Runescape equates hours more fun for the gamers addicted to it.

Unfortunately, it didn't come before Squeal of Fortune, so the precedents are casting a long, dark shadow before Solomon can even become established.

Real world trading had always been a no-no; in-game gambling had been discouraged. Then came Squeal of Fortune.
Runescape U-turns into aggressive real world trading with Insight Venture Partners' Jeff Horing at the helm.

The Future of Runescape: Maple Story or Eve Online?

Both MMORPGs dabbled with the Nexon business model with polar opposite results.

Jagex and Nexon are both in the money-making stable of Insight Venture Partners.

The investors are undoubtedly thrusting Jagex along the business route laid down by Nexon. This involves players exchanging real world money for virtual currency.

Nexon Cash can be spent inside any game created by Nexon. Anything from cosmetic items to things fundamental to progression are on offer.

Runecoins is Jagex's equivalent of Nexon Cash. (It possibly IS Nexon Cash, under a more appropriate name.)  At the time of launch, on July 17th 2012, only cosmetic items are available for purchase with it.

There are two major precedents for what might happen next.  In the Nexon funded game Maple Story, everything worked out fine. Players grumbled, but ultimately put their hands into their pockets and paid out. 

With the game successfully ridden with micro-transactions, Maple Story then pushed their game-cards.  Booster packs and a raft of real world accessories became established.  It all made much more money than mere subscriptions ever could.

It seems obvious to me that this is the model which Jagex is following.  Time will tell, but it's followed the same path so far.

On the other hand, CCP Games also tried the same thing with their game Eve Online. It nearly ruined them. 

Unlike the Maple Story players, Eve Online's members protested practically en masse.  Cancelled subscriptions brought the CCP boardroom into crisis talks. Eventually a meeting was held between executives and a group of spokespeople for the players. 

The upshot was a public apology from CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson and a lot of back-tracking on the micro-transactions.

Runescape players have the examples of both Maple Story and Eve Online before them.  It's really up to them whether they surrender or stand up. 

Jagex, with Insight Venture Partners leaning on their staff behind them, will want as many micro-transactions as they can feasibly fit into the game.  In their business model, there is no merit anymore, only money.

Runescape Membership Game Cards

Choose between 30, 90 or 180 days subscriptions to Runescape. There were SoF cards too, but you'll have to find them yourself.

The End is Nigh for Squeal of Fortune?

The introduction of Solomon could possibly indicate the insidious 'Facebook tactic'.

The social networking site Facebook has frequently employed a cat and mouse tactic to introduce an unpopular change.

First it is foisted upon users in its entirety.  The inevitable uproar ensues and Facebook bows to pressure to remove whatever it is.  But not all of it.  A watered down residue is left behind, until people are used to it. 

Then another part is slowly added to that base.  Within a few months or years, the entire change is cemented into place with barely a murmur against it.

It's a good tactic; insofar as it does work.

Runescape players were always going to be against micro-transactions.  For its entire history, Jagex were too.  The rules of the game had to be altered to facilitate it; and executives like CEO Mark Gerhard had to pretend that they'd never publicly referred to such monetization as 'a stealth tax'.

By adding something as horribly offensive as Squeal of Fortune first, then anything that follows won't seem as bad.  If Jagex removed SoF tomorrow, then Solomon might just be accepted.  It would be the lesser evil.  But from the point of view of the boardroom, it would be an unparalleled success.

It would have placed micro-transactions into a game, which built a whole ethos around swearing it would never countenance them.

And perhaps that was always the plan.  After all, Squeal of Fortune's Yelps was introduced to us holding a genie's lamp. 

Image:  Yelps holding a magic lamp.
Image: Yelps holding a magic lamp.

Do You Like Solomon's Store and the Introduction of Runecoins?

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More Runescape Articles

On April 27th 2012, I was invited to look behind the scenes in Player Support at the company responsible for Runescape.
US firm Insight Venture Partners now owns the majority of shares in the British company Jagex. What will this mean for the future of Runescape?
Do you know fans of the MMORPG Runescape who have just had a baby? Check out some related clothes for this future gamer.
Updated: 03/19/2014, JoHarrington
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lobobrandon on 07/26/2012

No clue :)

JoHarrington on 07/26/2012

Oh! I was familiar with their games, just didn't know the name of the company. I wonder if the money trail would go anywhere near Insight Venture Partners or Nexon.

lobobrandon on 07/26/2012

Zynga has the same kind of pay to buy stuff in game - it spoils all their games. Basically they rule Facebook games. All the most popular ones such as - Mafia wars, farmville, citiville, Texas hold em poker and so on.

JoHarrington on 07/26/2012

I'm not familiar with Zynga. What happened there?

lobobrandon on 07/26/2012

Ya I hate it when things go that way, they're beginning to remind me of Zynga now :P

JoHarrington on 07/26/2012

Jagex are doing their usual wall of silence about the issues, but they've plastered the site with Squeal of Fortune adverts, updates, oooh! Isn't it great? type stuff. You have to dig into the detail to get the reality.

lobobrandon on 07/26/2012

Yes, it is :) Hadn't heard about it at all. I still do check out their FB page but didn't notice anything about it.

JoHarrington on 07/26/2012

Is this the first that you've heard of it, Brandon? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

lobobrandon on 07/26/2012

A lot has happened out there in 6 months! That's all I have to say, not venturing back into the game anytime soon.

JoHarrington on 07/22/2012

Jay - My support is at the top of page 129 of your thread.

Spirit of RS - My support is on page 36 of your thread.


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