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Free Realms is "insipid" - Jagex

No "joie de vivre", says RuneScape boss.

Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard has called Sony's free-to-play MMO Free Realms "insipid".

"I'm probably going to upset people from Sony," he said during his Develop speech in Brighton this afternoon. "There was a short period when Free Realms was slated to launch that we went, 'Ooh, ah, this could be scary for us.' And scary because in 2005, Sony nearly invested in our business. Instead, John Smedley said, 'I can do this myself.'"

"That was the thing that worried us the most, because we felt they'd looked up our proverbial skirt: they knew the business model, develop plan, everything - inside out. And with the mighty budget of Sony we would have some serious competition.

"The thing that saved us was that Free Realms was perfectly designed by committee. It was 100 per cent micro-transactions, 100 per cent subscriptions, 100 per cent male, 100 per cent female. As a result, it was neither fish nor fowl; it didn't resonate with anyone, didn't have any identity.

"It was, I guess, largely insipid," he added. "Gorgeous graphics and everything else, but it didn't have have the joie de vivre."

In trying for everybody but catering for nobody, Free Realms sauntered past 10 million registered users in just one year. Even Sony's John Smedley - the man who turned down Jagex - was "pleasantly surprised" by its commercial performance.

Nevertheless, in RuneScape, Jagex owns what the Guinness Book of Records calls the world's most popular free MMO, with over 140 million registered users counted so far. Gerhard considers RuneScape second only to World of Warcraft.

Jagex this week announced its new MMO Stellar Dawn, a science fiction game risen from the ashes of canned project MechScape.

Look out for Eurogamer's full interview with an unrestrained Mark Gerhard soon.

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Robert Purchese

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Bertie is a synonym for Eurogamer. Writes, podcasts, looks after the Supporter Programme. Talks a lot.