Old School RuneScape players revolt after new big money owners say bots are fine, actually, devs furiously walk it back and say they banned 7 million bots last year

A warrior takes on a hydra in keyart for Old School RuneScape.
(Image credit: Jagex)

Old School RuneScape developer Jagex is trying to quell player discontent after a strongly negative reaction to comments about the proliferation of bot accounts seemingly made by the company's new owner: CVC Capital Partners. 

CVC bought Jagex earlier this month for £900 million, a splashy acquisition that, naturally, caught the eye of the Financial Times. A source close to CVC told the paper that "bots are part of the RuneScape ecosystem, they just are," and went on to say that the goal was "a sort of equilibrium of players and bots" in the game. "If a player is sufficiently committed to pay for three accounts, and have an account and two bots as part of its ecosystem, then so be it," said the FT's source.

Players took that as an indication that—so far as CVC was concerned—bots were going to be left to get on with it so long as their owners were paying. As is the case in pretty much any MMO, bots are a persistent problem in OSRS, with automated accounts easily out-farming, out-trading, and out-performing the game's human players—nabbing spots on the game's hiscores table—in a way that's both frustrating and despair-inducing. Hearing that Jagex's new owner's philosophy was essentially to throw in the towel sparked a community uproar.

A thread on the OSRS subreddit titled "'Bots are basically okay' - New Jagex management" quoted the FT article directly, and attracted nearly 3,000 upvotes and over 1,000 comments. They're all, well, pretty much of a piece. A representative comment from user Thaloman_ reads "I guess everyone's worst fears are basically confirmed," and told a story of how they had stumbled across an obvious bot that they reported to Jagex multiple times to no effect. "The [bot] account is now maxed, and I certainly won't be," surmised Thaloman_, "Not spending hundreds of hours of my life doing something that people can do in basically 0 hours without consequences."

The reaction in the Reddit thread was fierce enough that Jagex moderators had to step in to attempt to calm people down. Jagex mod Ayiza commented that "the article does not accurately reflect our strategy". Continuing, Ayiza wrote that "Since the news of the acquisition came about, many of you have been saying we’re not banning bots on purpose… That just isn’t true and would not be good for the game," before breaking down some statistics surrounding bot bans to highlight both the scale of the problem and Jagex's commitment to fighting it.

A few of those stats, because they really are eye-watering: OSRS banned 6.9 million accounts last year and has banned an average of 67,000 accounts a week so far in 2024. Additionally, around 900 billion gold pieces are removed weekly from the OSRS economy as bots get banned and yanked from the game. The scale of the problem is kind of staggering, even if you know—as most of us do—that bots are an enduring problem for any and all MMOs.

That post went some of—but not all—the way to calming fans down, with numerous comments in response thanking the mod for the response and statistical breakdown. Now, presumably in an attempt to amplify the post's rift-mending powers, Jagex has put out "Bots, Bans and Appeals: An Update," a post on its blog that goes into a bit more detail about Jagex's anti-cheat philosophy and which includes the stats mentioned above.

I won't go through the entire post, but suffice it to say that—without referencing the furore induced by the FT article—Jagex reaffirms its commitment to ongoing anti-bot strategies and notes the delicate balancing act of fighting back against botting without impinging on player experience. For instance, the devs could institute all kinds of delays to make automation not worth the time, but that would impact the people playing legitimately, too.

The post also reveals one more wild stat: of everyone banned so far in 2024 (67,000 accounts a week, remember) Jagex's appeals process has only found that 38 bans were applied incorrectly.

But it'll take more to convince players. While some are cautiously optimistic, many seem to be adopting a wait-and-see approach to see what effect Jagex's new management has. Of particular note to some OSRS fans was the fact that the Jagex post was signed "The Old School Team" rather than the name of a particular mod, which was taken as a sign that no one was willing to stand behind the message therein. "Impressive word count with no value," reads a comment from bagy_ on the OSRS subreddit, "That's the business speaking, not our mods."

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.