The Jagex Factor

CEO on MechScape, RuneScape, Stellar Dawn, rivals.

Jagex employs over 350 people and claims not only to be the UK's biggest developer and publisher, but to be second only to World of Warcraft in the MMO genre with browser-based fantasy adventure RuneScape.

Mark Gerhard, a man who owns two APC vehicles [apparently these belong to the company -Ed] - one of which we're sitting in for this interview, is the man in charge of Jagex. He's certainly outspoken. We talked in Brighton this month about his new world-beater MMO Stellar Dawn and everything besides.

Eurogamer: Jagex has the arrogance of a company doing well. Million-pound failures are shrugged off. What happens when the golden RuneScape carpet is pulled from under you? What happens when the money stops coming in?

Mark Gerhard: Well I mean, look: Jagex isn't about RuneScape and just RuneScape. We really a multi-product company. I can assure you that there's no arrogance anywhere within Jagex's fabric. I suppose with success comes a certain confidence. Very often it's in the early days of any studio where you doubt yourself a lot: it's fun for me but will it resonate, will other people want this?

We've had years and years and years of trying things, and some work and some don't. Our precision when we make a decision on content, gameplay, mechanics, aesthetics, is more assured. But I certainly don't think there's any arrogance.

We know the reality is that games come into and go out of fashion. While I certainly have a great deal of confidence and great expectations for what RuneScape will do in the future, at the same time we're innovating by making massive investments in products and things like that.

Eurogamer: How much money does RuneScape make?

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Me, in one of Gerhard's two APCs, doing the questioning. Picture taken by Dan Griliopoulos.

Mark Gerhard: I'm not going to comment on that.

Eurogamer: Does it make hundreds of millions a year?

Mark Gerhard: No, it doesn't. It does well; we've been very blessed with it. People like to focus on the revenues but the most important thing is that profits are the side effect of a great game, and that's going to be true of anything we do. It's never the reason for doing it.

Eurogamer: You say "a great game", but Eurogamer wasn't bowled over by RuneScape - certainly not to the 10/10 degree of World of Warcraft. Are we gamers a bit snobbish towards browser games?

Mark Gerhard: You're right, there might be a residual prejudice, because the standard of browser-based games is actually s***, in terms of aesthetics and complexity and everything else. We deliberately don't refer to browser-based games; we stick with online games. A big thing for us is we offer RuneScape as an applet in a browser and as a client to download now. It's still tiny, 5MB or something like that.

There is a certain snobbery about online games and the possibility that they can't be as good as downloaded games. RuneScape certainly bucked that trend.

Another point on World of Warcraft is that they came out four years after us. They had the benefit of hindsight. With Stellar Dawn we have the same benefits. Stellar Dawn will set a higher marker and be more comparable, if not better.

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