RuneScape, a free-to-play multiplayer online (MMO) game that holds the Guinness world record for being the most popular MMO game worldwide, was launched in India on 8 October. The game, developed by UK-based Jagex Game Studio, has 175 million accounts worldwide and 10 million active users. Jagex has partnered with Indian gaming portal Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd for the Indian launch.
RuneScape is set in a medieval European magical world called Gielinor. The game involves conquering kingdoms, fighting monsters and undertaking quests. The gamer or character needs to accumulate “skills” to be able to move to the next level. Skills can range from combative ones, such as mastery of the sword, to more non-confrontational abilities, such as cooking. Players can chat and interact with each other through a secure network. The added appeal comes from the game’s ability to emulate real life with random events, witty dialogues and humour.
Rob Smith and Rohit Sharma, the chief operating officers of Jagex and Zapak, respectively, spoke about RuneScape and the Indian gaming market. Edited excerpts:
What are the demographics of the Indian gaming market like?
Sharma: Worldwide the gaming industry is set to reach $68 billion (around Rs3.2 trillion) by 2012, which is bigger than the music industry and even Hollywood. The Asia-Pacific region contributes to 40% of this revenue. Right now China and Korea feature in a big way but India’s catching up. Zapak already has 6.5 million users in India.
Three warriors and King Black Dragon.
Are these users mainly from the four metros?
Sharma: No. The metros give us 45% of our users, the rest come from the class B and C cities. We have 70 game-plexes around the country and, in our experience, the B and C class cities get us users much faster than the A class cities.
Why is this so?
Sharma: It’s hard to pinpoint reasons. But I think one of the reasons could be that gaming may be an aspirational activity for them. Also, in B and C class cities there are fewer entertainment options, hence, game-plexes turn into cool hang-out zones.
Why did you choose RuneScape?
Sharma: In the gaming industry, MMO games are the stickiest form of games. And RuneScape is the stickiest of them.
RuneScape was first developed in 2001. What took Jagex so long to come to India?
Smith: We came here as fast as we could. Before entering any market we need to make sure the infrastructure is in place and also find ourselves good partners.
Will you be adapting the game to local languages?
Smith: That is not an immediate possibility. The free game itself has 15,000 levels, translating so much material for a country like France or Germany where only one language is spoken is itself a daunting task. I can’t imagine how that could be done in a country like India where you speak so many languages.
You are offering the paid subscription for Rs150, which is half the subscription charges in the US. Would this be profitable?
Smith: The idea is to engage more and more users. Pricing it low makes it more attractive. If we can get the number of users that we’re expecting, then revenues shouldn’t be a problem.
Do you have plans to port RuneScape to game consoles as well?
Smith: RuneScape is too complex a game to be able to make it available on a console. Right now it works best on PCs, laptops and netbooks. We’ll need to work a lot on it and simplify it to make it available on a console. We’re not thinking about it now but it’s a future possibility.
‘RuneScape’ was launched on 8 October.
What about parents blaming online games for children reading less?
Smith: I think it’s more about changing mediums of expression. A game like RuneScape has multiple storylines, you’ve got to follow the programmed storyline to be able to play the game. Besides, MMOs are based on role-play and that’s something similar to novels, I guess.
So would MMOs be like living in a book?
Smith: You could put it that way.
Free and paid variants of RuneScape are available on Runescape.in.