The situation was highlighted in the UK Parliament’s recent report on immersive and addictive technologies, which includes a subsection on RuneScape. It mentions “a member of the public whose adult son built up considerable debts” of around $62,000.
“For example, bank statements showed that in one day the individual spent £247.95 ($309) by making five separate payments” to developer Jagex.
As noted by Kotaku, RuneScape players have been complaining about the game’s aggressive microtransactions since the “squeal of fortune” update in 2012, which let players pay up to $99.99 for wheel spins in exchange for armor, money, or experience points.
“Outrage over microtransactions in Runescape isn’t a new thing,” said one of the game’s players. “There is just an overwhelming sense of ‘this company really doesn’t care about us’ when they keep, keep pushing these promotions after many years of being told to stop, or at least tone down, without any signs of interest from Jagex.”
Jagex said that about one-third of its revenue comes from microtransactions, while two-thirds come from an alternative subscription model. Its director of player experience said players “can potentially spend up to £1,000 ($1,247) a week or £5,000 ($6,238) a month” in the game but claims only one person had hit that limit in the last 12 months.
If you want to try a version of RuneScape with fewer in-game purchases, check out the Old School incarnation—a separate entity that’s an official recreation of the game’s 2007 state. It’s available now on desktop, Android and iOS.