In the wake of a furious backlash from players, Runescape developer Jagex has admitted that it "messed up" and is making major changes to the recently-announced Hero Pass to remove all the "controversial features" that touched off the uproar.
The announcement of the Hero Pass, a new monetization system that was meant to exist alongside Runescape's existing subscription fee, did not go over well: Angry messages flew on the official Runescape forums and subreddit, players claimed they'd quit the game and cancelled their accounts, a review bombing campaign was launched on Steam, and a video on the whole mess posted by YouTuber Asmongold attracted more than 1,200 comments.
Jagex initially tried to quell the unrest and ride it out, saying in a September 6 blog post, "We've been listening to and discussing your feedback on improvements you want to see for the Hero Pass experience." Now, however, it's thrown in the towel.
"We messed up," Jagex said today. "The launch of Hero Pass alienated and frustrated many in the community. You’ve told us, amongst other things, that it was too pay-to-win and you'd lost important aspects of Daily Challenges.
"We made a significant misjudgment and we are sorry. We need to reflect on that and learn from it. That also means we need to take more time to listen and work with the community. How and why that happened is for another time, what's most important right now is what we're doing about it."
Jagex said it is going to "urgently" patch the game to remove the "pay-to-win" features that players are particularly angry about, after which it will take time to "digest your feedback in detail and engage in a community consultation to drive a thorough re-design and re-development of Hero Pass." In detail, that means:
- Disabling the purchase of Hero Pass levels or Underworld Emblems. This has been hotfixed today.
- Hero Pass Content Buffs will be removed entirely. This will happen as a cold-fix next week.
- Hero Pass XP Buffs will be moved out of the Premier rewards track, to be available to all members and to be earnable only through gameplay. This will happen as a cold-fix next week.
- The Premier Pass rewards will therefore only be cosmetics and consumables
Also importantly, the Daily Challenge system that was removed from the game will be returned, and will be kept separate from the Hero Pass, so players who don't have the pass can still take them on if they want. The Hero Pass will also be re-balanced so its rewards will be easier to obtain.
Jagex said it's making these changes rather than removing the pass entirely for three reasons: Because it's faster to address individual problems than to remove an entire system that's interlinked with other parts of the game; because "hundreds of thousands" of players are already taking on Hero Pass missions and it wouldn't be fair to simply erase their progress and rewards; and because Jagex remains optimistic that it can redesign the pass in a fashion similar to the Yak Track promotional events (which the Hero Pass replaced) that the community can support.
The player reaction to the walkback is jubilant: A thread about the latest update posted on the Runescape subreddit is stickied with the tag "Supreme Victory." But it's not belligerent triumphalism you might expect: Many of the comments are complimentary toward Jagex for addressing player complaints quickly and comprehensively.
"I'm genuinely shocked," redditor CatsAndFacts wrote. "I'd love to know how many accounts unsubscribed over this. It had to be significant enough for this hard of a backtrack."
"I'm seriously impressed they didn't just listen to nearly all of the feedback, but are actually returning daily challenges," Rida_Dain wrote. "Not being able to buy levels of the hero pass will actually make it less MTX then yak tracks. Unbelievable."
"I'm impressed with the quick and decisive turnaround. Thank you!" redditor 5-x added. "I hope Jagex works with the community to make hero pass a better successor to yak track that everyone will be happy with."
And on Twitter, too:
Well, you can't make everyone happy.
It will take some time for all of the changes to be implemented: Daily challenges, for instance, may take a couple weeks to return. Jagex said the immediate goal is "to tackle the most immediate pain-points," so it can then take more time to make deeper changes.
"For the long-term changes, we intend to not rush, to allow for a re-think of the design, and have the space to work closely and iterate the design in consultation with the community," Jagex wrote. "We hope this will rebuild some of the trust we know has been damaged in the last week."
Runescape players who paid for the Premier Pass—the paid reward track of the Hero Pass—and are unhappy about the removal of rewards can apply for a full refund from Jagex customer support.