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APB "plug to be pulled" as no buyer emerges

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.

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Johnny Minkley

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Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.

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