Gamasutra had an interview with popular MMO developer and Jagex founder Andrew Gower in Q&A: Behind RuneScape’s 1 Million Subscriber Success. If you don’t know, the largest MMO isn’t World of Warcraft but Runescape. Although WoW makes much more money in subscriptions. Runescape has many more people playing.
The developer created Runescape as a personal project. It was basically a MUD with graphics. It slowly evolved into the freely available MMO with subscription-exclusive content that you see today.
When asked about the demographics of the players, Gower said that Jagex doesn’t collect such information.
We’re actually more focused on our product than marketing
It’s counter-intuitive to think that an incredibly successful MMO was made without focusing on the marketing. If you have a business, you’re supposed to think about marketing before you make the game.
I haven’t played Runescape in a long time, but I do remember spending quite a few evenings developing my mining and cooking skills. Adventuring with friends was fun. And perhaps it is that network effect that makes it so successful. Once those friends stopped playing, I stopped playing. When your customers are enjoying themselves, they’ll call their friends to get them to join. You don’t have to spend your time telling people about the game if they are already finding out about it. If no one played Runescape and the developers still wanted to commercialize it, they’d probably spend more time on marketing than they do now.