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APB "plug to be pulled" as no buyer emerges

Thu 16 Sep 2010 4:04pm GMT / 12:04pm EDT / 9:04am PDT
Development

UPDATE: Epic linked to last minute purchase of game; Dave Jones to continue on project?

The Realtime Worlds saga is drawing to an abrupt close – with administrator Begbies Traynor this afternoon confirming industry speculation that the "plug is about to be pulled" on its APB title after failing to attract a buyer.

Despite interest from 300 interested parties, none of a final shortlist of six were "comfortable with buying it as a live operation," Les Able, spokesperson for Begbies Traynor, told GamesIndustry.biz this afternoon.

Able added that "staff had been told what the position is", and the online multiplayer title would be shut down imminently, although "negotiations with the service provider" were ongoing. GamesIndustry.biz understands servers could be switched off as early as tomorrow.

The administrator now intends to begin a new "marketing process" to try and sell on the game assets and IP. An official announcement has been made to players.

The game, whose commercial failure has been blamed for the Dundee studio's demise, had been maintained by a core team since administrators were called in last month.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz today, a source close to Realtime Worlds said: "Despite all the talk, no buyer has been found so it looks like the plug is about to be pulled. We've heard that it could go tomorrow".

The rumours were corroborated by a second, independent development source this afternoon, at which point the administrator was contacted.

In anticipation of the move, GamesIndustry.biz has learned that APB has been removed from the Steam online retail service. The product page link now re-routes to the Steam homepage, while Google's webcache shows the game was on sale as recently as 10th September.

Realtime Worlds is also no longer selling the game or 'RTW Points' via its website, the latter used to purchase items within the game.

The studio has continued to issue updates for the game, with the most recent posting on the official website detailing a new patch due to be rolled out today.

Administrator Begnies Traynor stated last month: "APB will continue as a live service in the US and Europe during restructuring with full game and community support continuing during this period."

The restructuring firm further released user data it said showed "healthy numbers" which "reflect positively on APB" as it sought a buyer for the online multiplayer action game.

But it is understood that all negotiations failed to attract a committed investor.

APB is said to have 130,000 registered players, spending an average of $28 per month.

GamesIndustry.biz revealed last month that Realtime World's other major title in development, Project MyWorld, was set to be acquired along with core staff to form a new Dundee studio, in a venture understood to be fronted by Psygnosis co-founder Ian Hetherington.

Asked about this status of this deal, Begbies Traynor said it could not comment as there was a "confidentiality agreement in place".

UPDATE: Epic Games has emerged as a possible contender to make a last minute swoop for the title, and while a spokesperson for the company remained coy on the opportunity, the move wasn't ruled out, either.

"Mark [Rein] absolutely loves the game, everyone loves what they saw," Dana Cowley told the BBC. "We've got our hands full of Gears of War 3, Bullet Storm and the recently announced Project Sword. If any talks like that are going on, then they would be confidential."

Fresh speculation - if any move does go ahead - links original APB creative director and former Realtime Worlds figurehead Dave Jones with a move back to the project under Epic's banner, no doubt fueled by his move to the US and close friendship with Rein.

28 Comments

James Prendergast Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
That was pretty short notice for players.... Bet there'll be no refunds.

Posted:4 years ago

#1

Jordan Woodward Studying Interactive Games Design, University of Gloucestershire

79 0 0.0
Was only a matter of time really. Nice waste of my money there :(

Posted:4 years ago

#2

Chris Murphy Community & Live Manager, Ubisoft

46 17 0.4
This really is a shame. The project was massively ambitious and it was refreshing to see someone with the balls to give it a go. Much of the industry seemed to be willing it to work but in the end it just wasn't to be.

Best of luck to everyone that is/was with RTW.

Posted:4 years ago

#3

Daniel Vardy Studying HND IT, De Montfort University

90 1 0.0
i found out last night, but was told it would all be going down next week. in all fairness the game was very good to play, although i think it was more of a marmite thing

Posted:4 years ago

#4

Dale Broadbent 3D Artist

4 0 0.0
Going through something like this is really tough for those involved. In time, though, they will succeed as individuals as they go their separate ways. Good luck to everyone involved!

Posted:4 years ago

#5

Simon Arnet

54 3 0.1
In the end of the day, it comes down to the metacritic rating of weather it get's higher than an 80% or not. It's really sad to see the Game Industry in this situation, APB had potential and the creativity behind it was there. Perhaps with a little better management and new age techniques they could have succeeded(not pointing fingers mind you, everyone tried there best). If this game had even been released a year or two ago it probably would have done far better. People seem to be polarized by scores. Take Two Worlds for instance, I played it. It was not a great game, though it did seem to have some heart and soul in it.

Posted:4 years ago

#6

Chris Dye Co-owner www.captainscifi.com

3 0 0.0
I just hope the staff all land on their feet. good luck guys

Posted:4 years ago

#7

Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
What a terrible waste. Best of luck to all those who will be left hanging.

Wasn't it that there were 130,000 registered players, but the undisclosed number of paying players averaged $28 per month, rather than all 130,000 paying this average?! I really don't believe that they couldn't have found a buyer if the online model really was averaging over $3.5 million per month, even if it is a little early in its lifecycle to cite monthly figures.

Posted:4 years ago

#8

Jonathan Lindsay Creative Director, Playomic

17 0 0.0
Hope the Epic games thing comes through for them, though I question the decision to keep the same management team - they had several years and 100 million dollars and failed, perhaps a fresh management team would be wiser.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jonathan Lindsay on 17th September 2010 1:48pm

Posted:4 years ago

#9

Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator

954 183 0.2
Hopefully Epic can make something of this.

Posted:4 years ago

#10

Pedro Engana Studying Information Systems and Computer Engineering, Technical University of Lisbon

15 0 0.0
I was in the beta, and didn't like the game too much, so I didn't even buy it.
But I do hope epic goes for it, if for nothing else, then for the fact that is quite sad to see a game with good potential die out in 90 days

Posted:4 years ago

#11

David Stenow

22 0 0.0
This whole affair will surely hamper investments in MMOs in years to come. If the market appeared risky before, now unless The Old Republic or FFXIV does exceptionally well I doubt we'll see many new titles announced until the next console cycle (which will surely be better suited for the MMO design) or Blizzards secret project, whichever comes first.

It's sad to see such a innovative vision for a game fail, too. The idea of an MMO without fantasy or science fiction elements is compelling, but it seems hard for RPGs in general to break free of it's pen-and-paper roots of dragons and spaceships.

I'm not sure what Epic is up to here. I can't imagine them being interested in keeping APB running, and the IP isn't very strong. I realise that Epic aren't a public company, but is the fact that their VP loves APB really enough for them to be interested in buying a ship that's already more than half-sunk?

Posted:4 years ago

#12
@ David I suspect there may be VC investment dampening, but for other players and forms of investment , MMO is a lucrative cash cow esp in China/Korea, Russia and US

Posted:4 years ago

#13

David Stenow

22 0 0.0
I guess - the character creation in APB was impressive.

Good point, maybe I'm a bit too hung up on the Western markets here. I'm not familiar with the business models of MMOs in Asia apart from some idea that WoW substitutes montly subscriptions with some kind of pay-as-you-play system that's tied to internet cafés - is that a more or less profitable deal for the publisher?

Posted:4 years ago

#14

James Finlan Studying Information Systems, University of Manchester

62 0 0.0
David Jones is a good guy, hopefully he will get a second chance to make it work.

Posted:4 years ago

#15
@ David - there are many complex and advanced pricing and free to play or fremium models employed in Asia, which are slowly being adopted (as suitable) or to limited effects in the West.

The limited effect can be due to - cultural, gamer mindset and slow uptake and marketing and various parameters that make such Models not quite so viable in the west yet. This includes, running the Brand that produces MMOs as a service (and no longer as just a game).

The other aspects to look into are lowered overheads (of a non retail product) vs digital advertising/word of mouth and licensing issues. In russia and Asia, these can have very interesting contrasts to the existing western model of MMO development, pricing, payment and gameplay feedback loop.

Its all really very fascinating, and the end result is with regards to APB. They gambled big. Some major mistakes occurred and the net result was it didnt turn out as projected/expected to the misfortune of all. IF the option to do it all again arose, would doing it differently have helped? I dont know. but perhaps it would have provided sufficient time to make amends and prolong the game IP.

Posted:4 years ago

#16
Would be an excellent move for RealTime. Epic need an HQ in the UK!

Posted:4 years ago

#17

David Stenow

22 0 0.0
@ Dr. Wong - is freemium a commonly accepted term for free-to-play models or a typo? It's brilliant in either case.

Posted:4 years ago

#18
in Free to play, there may be additional Premium content.

Posted:4 years ago

#19

David Stenow

22 0 0.0
Of course, and I'm a big fan of the model. I saw that the term freemium was 4 years old, so I guess it just had passed me by completely.

I realise that culture is a major factor in why free-to-play MMOs are more accepted by the players in Asia and Russia, but is there a difference in investor attitude as well? With games being as hit-driven as they are, wouldn't the lack of immediate profit from first month retail sales to balance the huge development budget scare investors and publishers? Premium content is here to stay (just ask Kotick), but can publishers pass up on the allure of $50 a unit that they're used to? Right now I get the impression that free-to-play in AAA titles in the West is mostly for the later parts of a game's life cycle, such as in the recent case of LotRO.

Posted:4 years ago

#20

Daniel Vardy Studying HND IT, De Montfort University

90 1 0.0
there are some problems with freemium though, one is that people see it as a way of making the best players the ones with the most money. theres a fine line between giving people premium content and giving them an easy way to victory.

i think the APB model of pay-per-hour might work better in the future. i know many people who see paying for hours as more rewarding to them.

Posted:4 years ago

#21

David Stenow

22 0 0.0
Even more after reading the briefing on <a href=http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2010-09-13-money-games-tencent-tagopt-brief-feature-type-research>Tencent</a>, I'm inclined to agree. I think we'll see a situation where only the market leader (Blizzard, for the time being) will be able to have a fixed subscription fee in the West. This should be beneficial for the consumers, who can percieve a higher value for the money they're paying, as well as for the publishers, who will be able to reach larger segments with deals that attract the non-hardcore.

Posted:4 years ago

#22
One must not forget the new paradigm of gaming as a service.

eg. much like satellite and cable subscriptions, a regular service package + additional digital bundles - thus allowing access to X amount of games/MMOs can be really attractive.

Posted:4 years ago

#23

Ben Bateman Community Development Manager, Green Man Gaming

5 0 0.0
It's a great shame. It'll be sad to see both the game and studio close. But who knows what the future may hold? I'd like to think that we haven't seen the last of APB or at least some of it's technology (Customisation Suite).

I often see a lot of comments like "I played in the beta, it was rubbish" or "I played it for X amount of hours and the matchmaking/combat/driving was appalling". While I wouldn't contest this, it's a shame that these people didn't see the amount of progress APB made in the short 2 months we had. We fixed a lot of the issues and the game was set to grow into something everyone had always wanted. Hell, we planned to release a new district ruleset the day we unfortunately got shut down. But we didn't, so there are plenty of lessons we can learn from this.

In the meantime I've found a coulple of 'concept' videos. These show some of the possible directions we were exploring with APB. I encourage people to watch them, they're pretty cool.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHPy0ktI4Ms - Cover system
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JifyuznCMj0 - Post processing effects and HUD.

Thanks to everyone for the support and comments they have left for everyone at Realtime Worlds!

Posted:4 years ago

#24

Phil Elliott Project Leader, Collective; Head of Community (Live Team), Square Enix

163 29 0.2
"I often see a lot of comments like "I played in the beta, it was rubbish" or "I played it for X amount of hours and the matchmaking/combat/driving was appalling". While I wouldn't contest this, it's a shame that these people didn't see the amount of progress APB made in the short 2 months we had. We fixed a lot of the issues and the game was set to grow into something everyone had always wanted."

This is an interesting point and certainly something I've seen mirrored in other big online games - the expectation of what a beta should be has changed radically over the last few years and now is barely a 'test' at all, but a free trial for potential customers... because the impressions of users have changed.

It's tricky for developers, therefore, to open up projects to a wider audience, because although there's a need to load-test and all the rest of it, as soon as a user gets a glimpse of gameplay, they're judging it up against persistent worlds they're already playing/paying for.

I've seen it with fantasy MMOs in particular, where only a couple of days after open beta people are pouring scorn because it's not up to the standards of World of Warcraft, for example - and that's making life very difficult.

On the one hand, it's interesting to see just how finished Blizzard's games actually are before any kind of non-NDA'd beta comes around (ie, 99% polished, frankly) - while on the other it sounds like some of the issues with APB simply should have been ironed out before the public got a sniff.

Of course, the need to release for financial reasons often means that such a process is sub-optimal.

Posted:4 years ago

#25

Jonathan Lindsay Creative Director, Playomic

17 0 0.0
@ Phil Elliot

Blizzard can certainly afford to wait until their games are 99% polished, they have plenty of money in the bank. The question is, should RTW have been able to release apb with an equally high amount of polish, considering how much money they had in the bank? 100 million is a lot of money, I would love to know where it all went. I doubt very much that it all went on development wages, though I guess we'll never find out.

Posted:4 years ago

#26

Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship

196 329 1.7
- $20 million on MyWorld.
- $X million on RTW Korea (smallish studio working on spin off stuff, none of which came to fruition. Studio was eventually canned).
- A fair chunk of change must have been spent buying out the Webzen publishing deal. No idea how much, probably several million dollars.

Hard to know how much was actually spent on APB proper in dev, hardware and marketing costs. Probably closer to $50m than $100m. Still too much for the game that eventually arrived, sadly.

@Ben. Those videos are cool, particularly the second. Had that been implemented, it would have gone a long way to sorting one of my own complaints about the game, namely the lack of impact in combat. Shame :(

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 20th September 2010 1:02pm

Posted:4 years ago

#27

Daniel Vardy Studying HND IT, De Montfort University

90 1 0.0
to me, APB felt more like a shooter than a MMO. it disappointed me that the only thing to do in the game were missions, it had been said quite a few times throughout the games life in closed beta and retail that the game needed something else such as a proper CTF district. it was a shooter and yet not many elements of shooters were taken onboard.

i highly doubt Epic would be buying APB as a game to re-release and maintain. the only thing of value for them would be the IP. the designers and creators within the game would go very well with some of their future games if they so wish.

Posted:4 years ago

#28

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