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RuneScape's official legacy servers 'a major part' of business, says dev

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Embracing the old can pay off

Old School RuneScape, a version of the browser-based online multiplayer game that preserves its original gameplay, has grown into an integral part of developer Jagex's popular game, product manager Matthew Kemp said. In an article published on LinkedIn, Kemp details how the officially run legacy server has found success with both players of the MMORPG and its developer.

RuneScape's Legacy Mode launched in 2013, months after Jagex launched a major reworking of the game called Evolution of Combat. Kemp recalled a bevy of longtime players asking the studio to give them the option to keep playing the game in its pre-updated form.

"Even though we were quite certain about the initial surge of interest these servers would get we wanted to test this so we asked our players via a poll if they would play," he wrote. "When half a million of our customers said they want to play it... we kind of had to do it."

Jagex then released Legacy Mode, based on the 2007 version of the now-15-year-old game. While this option was introduced at the majority of players' insistence, Kemp described the "rivalry" that persists between those devoted to the legacy servers and those who choose to play the overhauled version of RuneScape. That's corroborated by fan threads on forums like Reddit following Old School RuneScape's launch, with players decrying the release as a developmental setback.

More than two million members

Despite some dissent from both players and developers alike, Kemp wrote, Old School RuneScape has become what he called "a major part of Jagex's business." The legacy server hit one million players eight months after its launch, the company confirmed in October 2013.

Kemp updated those numbers, saying that "we have seen just short of seven million players log in with over two and a half million becoming members." Although he describes some roadblocks experienced by the development staff since Legacy Mode's release — including "community tribalism" and divided opinions of fans and developers alike on the existence of the feature — he ultimately concludes that the officially run legacy servers have been a boon to the long-running game.

The legacy server discussion comes on the heels of recent controversy in the community of another fantasy MMORPG: World of Warcraft, whose largest old school community was shutdown by Blizzard Entertainment last week. Unlike RuneScape, Blizzard doesn't run any official servers using older versions of World of Warcraft, nor does it sanction private servers that offer players the option.

Nostalrius, World of Warcraft's biggest private legacy server, disconnected players for the last time this past Sunday, many of whom memorialized its final moments in pictures and videos.