In today's edition of Unexpected Developments in Decade-Old Browser Games, it turns out that Shandong Hongda Mining Co. Ltd., a Chinese mining firm, has made a deal to purchase RuneScape developer Jagex for $300 million. DealStreetAsia reports it as a done deal, while a post on the RuneScape forums describes it as a “potential” acquisition. Either way, the obvious question in my mind is, why?
There's gold in them there browser-based RPGs from 2002, apparently. But is that really what's going on here? Neither report digs into the motivations behind the overture; DSA says only that the acquisition “is part of Shandong's plan for business transformation even as it aims to enhance its outbound M&A [mergers and acquisitions] experience.”
Even so, a ferrous metal mining firm in Shanghai buying up a UK-based videogame studio whose best-known work is 15 years old is, unquestionably, a bit odd at first glance. But RuneScape, despite its age, is a multi-tentacled free-to-play beast, and my guess is that Shandong sees it as a turnkey entry into a market that's very lucrative, especially in Asia, and also entirely distinct from its core business.
For gamers, the relevant bit is that even if the deal goes down, nothing will change. “Put simply, our plans, including the launch of NXT, Zeah, Chronicle: RuneScape Legends, God Wars Dungeon 2, and RuneScape: Idle Adventures, remain on track,” the studio wrote. “It is business as usual across Gielinor!”
Update: Jagex has sent us a statement indicating that reports that the acquisition has been completed are incorrect. "Jagex has entered into a non-exclusive, non-binding arrangement for a potential acquisition," it said. "The negotiations surrounding the acquisition are ongoing and it remains very much business as usual for the Company."