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The Almighty Buck Games

APB To Close Mere Months After Launch 185

Posted by Soulskill
from the ran-out-of-gas dept.
APB, the action MMO created by Realtime Worlds and launched at the end of June, will soon be closing its doors. The game was very expensive to make, and news of the studio's financial difficulties has been circulating in the wake of disappointing sales numbers and reviews. Today, less than three months after the servers went live, community officer Ben Bateman announced that service will be discontinued shortly. One of the developers said, "In every way APB was a dichotomy. I have witnessed the project alter from a fragile and delicate entity used to show the world the depth of our vision through to the sturdy beast we released to the public. There were the unusual errors and crashes which are to be expected, but it worked. Once in the hands of our community I have never seen something elicit such a polarization of people. It was dismissed as overhyped and broken or else taken to heart to be loved and cherished, buoyed on by a fanaticism I was proud to have played a part in bringing to the world."
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APB To Close Mere Months After Launch

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  • Cheating was rampant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:17PM (#33603106) Homepage

    I loved the game, but cheating was rampant from day 1. After a couple weeks, I couldn't tolerate it anymore, as it literally seemed that you HAD to cheat to complete your missions.

    It was fun otherwise, and was looking forward to coming back to it in a year ( after they got the cheating under control ).

    • by mdm-adph (1030332) <mdmadph&gmail,com> on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:38PM (#33603402) Homepage

      I think you're missing the deeper gameplay mechanics obviously secretly built-into a game based around a life of crime...

    • by Frigga's Ring (1044024) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:52PM (#33604394)
      Depends on what you mean by cheating. The match making system drove me up the wall. I only lost against people 5x my rating because they out-geared me. But that's all I was pitted against because they purposely lowered their rank (rating determines your gear, rank determines who you fight, rating goes up as you play, rank goes up or down if you win or lose) to they could fight newbies.

      And honestly, the weapons and cars are all that changed. At rank 1, you were robbing stores and stealing cars. At rank 500 you were robbing the same stores and stealing the same cars. The game failed because it was hollow gameplay.
      • by lymond01 (314120)

        And honestly, the weapons and cars are all that changed. At rank 1, you were robbing stores and stealing cars. At rank 500 you were robbing the same stores and stealing the same cars. The game failed because it was hollow gameplay.

        Next you'll tell me that Soulfire was just another Rusty Sword...

        • by vux984 (928602)

          Next you'll tell me that Soulfire was just another Rusty Sword...

          The merchants paid more for the rusty sword. ;)

  • Again?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Boona (1795684) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:18PM (#33603118)
    Hellgate London (with Founders), Tabula Rasa and now APB ... The next time I purchase an MMO I'll let you guys know ahead of time so you know that it will fail.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Dyinobal (1427207)
      Make sure you buy Cataclysm.
    • HGL was your fault? Dammit, Boona. Keep your damn dirty hands off Star Wars: The Old Republic or so help me, I will lead a cadre of basement dwellers to your door with torches and pitchforks.

      *This hyperbole is not intended to convey actual threat. Kindly do not prosecute.

      • by lgw (121541)

        Any Star Wars themed MMO is so tainted by cultural memories of SWG that it's already cursed, even if Boona does stay away. (Sadly, I too have a HGL lifetime subscription).

        • Do not mention SWG in the same breath as SWTOR again!!! Sony destroyed it... can't blame SWG for Sony's ineptitude.

        • Nonono, Bioware is a panacaea for problems related to RPGs. Drs. Muzyka and Zeschuk are the cure for what ails Star Wars MMOs. </fanboy>
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Mathness (145187)

      Please stay away from Hello Kitty online, pleeeease.

      ( I actually miss Tabula Rasa. :( )

    • I alpha tested Hellgate London and closed beta tested Tabula Rasa... Makes me kind of sad they aren't around today. Got the collector's edition of HGL too. Came with a mini comic I believe. I loved HGL, still play the single offline mode. Don't know if I can get the Stone Henge patch for that though.
    • by crossmr (957846)

      Hellgate is coming back.

  • I'm shocked (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:18PM (#33603128)
    I am so surprised they didn't make any money, mostly because I have never heard of "APB"... was their entire marketing plan built around word of mouth advertising?
    • Re:I'm shocked (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chad Birch (1222564) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:36PM (#33603366)
      No, their entire marketing plan was to hide as much of the game as possible until release, and then ban everyone from reviewing it until a week after it came out [rockpapershotgun.com].

      Seems like it was a ridiculously mismanaged project, there's a good series of articles on a former employee's blog here: Where Realtime Worlds Went Wrong [wordpress.com]
      • No, their entire marketing plan was to hide as much of the game as possible until release, and then ban everyone from reviewing it until a week after it came out [rockpapershotgun.com].

        Oh, THAT game! Yeah, I'm not buying that game. That game could be about all the things I geek out about having sex with each other, and I wouldn't buy it if the publisher had so little faith in their product that they were trying to prevent people from talking about it.

        Being ashamed of your product is never a good sell.

        • all the things I geek out about having sex with each other

          Curse your turn of phrase! I was baited into considering this scenario and things were going fine until I started thinking about the humanities... and the horror... PhDs who write treatises on economics, politics, and philosophy are NOT attractive. Ever.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Fascinating article, thanks.

        There were 300 of us, some of us there for years, and we spent over $100m. The problems had to run deeper than that.

        I'm pretty sure that having you don't have to look deeper than having 300 people working on one game as being the root cause. Games depends on quality, not quantity. An infinite number of code monkeys just produce an infinite amount of poop.

    • I don't know about marketing, but their business plan sucked balls. Wasn't this the game that required you to buy the initial game, then pay monthly fees, and then you had to listen to and see in-game advertisements on top of all of that? I'm not in the least surprised that this game failed.

      The "polarization" mentioned in the summary was most likely a polarization between people that didn't want to see advertisements after they'd already paid for a game and people that don't mind having advertisements thr
    • by ArcadeNut (85398)

      Agreed. The only APB I knew of was this one:

      http://www.arcade-museum.com/game_detail.php?game_id=6795 [arcade-museum.com]

  • Woah, economics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fnkmaster (89084) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:19PM (#33603136)

    130,000 players, spending $28/month, that's about $48M/year gross revenues. If nobody could figure out how to buy that asset out of bankruptcy, spend a couple mil a year on servers and bandwidth, pay a few people to administer it and create ongoing content and turn a profit, that's baffling to me. There must be more to the story than that, like they simply were unhappy with the bids they were getting because they were valuing it based on crazy metrics, or the amount they spent to develop it in the first place. Weird.

    • I know little of this market and less about this game, but will those 130k players stick around in perpetuity? It's not as if a game subscription is like having electricity. Is it possible that there are informed forecasts that predict that there will be vastly fewer subscribers in short amount of time?
      • by Fnkmaster (89084)

        Well, obviously they have no obligation to stick around, but usually once that many people get sucked into a game, it takes a while for them to get sick of it and leave. But yes, I am completely aware that this isn't a magical perpetuity.

      • I would bet good money that they will have vastly fewer subscribers in a very short amount of time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by alen (225700)

      salaries, rent, servers, electricity, etc

      50 guys with an average cost of $100,000 per year is $50,000,000 per year. not everyone makes $100,000 per year in salary but when you figure in health benefits, taxes and other employee costs it's about right.

    • by alen (225700)

      other than my bad math there is also cash flow. in finance classes i learned that it's easy for a fast growing company to run out of cash. revenue and profit is not always cash since you may get the cash months after the revenue is recognized. but in the mean time you have bills to pay that have to be paid in cash right now.

      if they spent too much on developement and didn't have enough cash to cover their debt, salary and other costs while waiting for the cash to be paid that would do it

      • Re:Woah, economics (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Haffner (1349071) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:01PM (#33603712)
        Probably the executive level guys did the math, and found out that between maintenance staff and servers, there wasn't a whole lot of extra cash that could go towards paying their 200k+ salaries, and decided it would be better to give themselves a nice bonus than to continue with the game.
    • by dunezone (899268)
      They might have had 130,000 on release or the first month but that doesn't mean they retained them. The game was complete garbage, even if someone were to buy it out they would have to invest a good amount into it just to put some actual game play into it. How do you revive a game that is pretty much seen as a joke from the gaming community?

      On a side note, had they focused more on the game play and not their stupid character editor they might have survived. The character editor was probably the most poli
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by whodunnit (238223)

      *my ac post got downranked for some reason.. so logged in*..

      I'm not sure where they got those figures, but they were dead wrong. At any given time the past two weeks, there were maybe 300 people on my server. And there were only 2 NA servers. So.. 600 people in the entire country playing.

      Also, they had an in game way, to sell in game cash for RTW points which you used to pay for the game. So after buying the game I never put another cent into their pockets as I could sell a nights's worth of

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Most people were NOT paying $28 a month. If I recall, it was like $7 for 20 hours of gameplay in the "action zones". The areas where you socialize, design cars/clothes/characters, find guilds were in social zones where your subscription time wasn't used.
  • MMOs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hibiki_r (649814) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:24PM (#33603210)

    And this is why making an MMO is just as risky as making an online shooter: The value of your game to other players is proportional to how many people play it. If you don't build a large player base quickly, the game will have no staying power, and will be abandoned quickly: It's boom or bust. Realtime just didn't make that great a game, so they went bust.

    A pity: They went ahead and built a game nobody played, while the Crackdown franchise was handed to a team that built a sequel that was worse than the original in almost every way. I'd have much rather have a quality Crackdown 2 than the two games we ended up with.

    • by Galestar (1473827)
      I would rather this than the other way around, where companies can still turn a profit even when making garbage games. Just sayin...
    • by Avatar8 (748465)
      You touch on a point of player personalities.

      Whether or not the game has staying power, so many players out there now want the instant gratification. They'll burn through a game's content in a few days and expect the developers to create more overnight. I've watched this trend from Ultima Online in 1997 through present day with World of Warcraft. You have the "gimme now, I'm bored, I'm done" crowd and you have others that explore, achieve, socialize and flesh out the depth of the game. The double-edge swor

      • by Haffner (1349071)

        I think WoW got it right with their 2 weeks or level 20 cap, for free. By level 20, you get to experience a couple of primary factors in the game, like pvp, different zones, dungeons, etc. and it was plenty of time to decide whether or not you'd enjoy leveling to max. Of course, it gave no insight into arena or raiding, but no one decides to start playing WoW and spend 100+ hours getting to max level just to do max level stuff. While that may be the main draw, I highly doubt there is anyone who would enjoy

    • by tibman (623933)

      I agree with you but EVE-Online is still a tiny MMO and going for 6 years (i think?). The game is brutal but people who enjoy it really do become fanatical about it. The key to their success, imo, is they work within their budget and continually upgrade the game (for free). Soon we will see the first spin-off with Dust 514 that will create a console FPS being fed in-game money, weapons, and targets from the original mmo. They will be linked in a meaningful way. Though i'm mostly waiting for ambulation.

      • I agree with you but EVE-Online is still a tiny MMO and going for 6 years (i think?).

        Tiny by what measure? Peak play time on Sunday usually has 40-45k accounts logged in [eve-offline.net]. Sometimes as high as 55k.

        Paid account is somewhere around 340k, which is quite decent. The 2nd qtr 2010 QEN [eveonline.com] (sorry, it's a PDF link) gives that hard number towards the bottom of page 8.

        300k+ is pretty big in the MMO market. Tiny by WoW/Blizzard standards, but then what isn't?
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:26PM (#33603232) Journal

    (sidles over to the article)

    TFA doesn't say WTF APB means either. Apollonius Christ. ROTF man I hate abbreviations (IMHO). LOL ;-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jobias (739907)
      Yes, it means All Points Bulletin. It's a cops versus robbers MMO, hence the name.
    • by Loonacy (459630)

      The actual name of the game is "APB".

    • by eulernet (1132389)

      Wasn't that "Anti Pirate Bureau" ?

      Just kidding...

    • by Avatar8 (748465)
      TFA nor the website tell what the purpose of the game is either. After reading the "city history" I gathered you can choose to be a cop or a criminal.
    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      Aka "The police put out an APB on soandso".

      It means all points bulletin, but the name of the game is APB, not all points bulletin.

      It's cops and robbers man.

  • by ceriphim (1530579) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:31PM (#33603310)
    From the website:

    Realtime Worlds Points are a virtual currency that you can buy, right here, for cash. You can spend these RTW Points on lots of cool stuff, including gametime. It costs 280 Points for a 20 hour chunk (which never expires), and just 400 Points gets you unlimited access for 30 days.

    Guess that "never expires" part isn't entirely accurate now. Or, if it is, not useful.

    Just for giggles I clicked on "Purchase 400 Points" and got a server error...

    Adios APB!
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Guess that "never expires" part isn't entirely accurate now. Or, if it is, not useful.

      The points didn't expire, the game did :).

    • by Haffner (1349071)
      I wonder if there's some legal fun to be had with the points that "never expire."
  • $100 million in development costs?!? A business plan that requires more than 130,000 registered users to succeed? They must be doing something wrong. Develop a simple, basic framework and go online with it as soon as possible, add more content later and keep adding on. Let users create their own content. Offer free trials to get people hooked. Granted, your development and support costs are probably going to run you $1 million a year regardless, but it looks to me like their business plan must have been wil
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      That's about 1000x harder than you present it. First off if people get bored early, they leave, and you go bankrupt. If the tools don't work to create content, you get bad press, and people don't play your game, and you go bankrupt. Free trials only work if there looks like a worthwhile world to explore, or you get thousands of people adding to your sever load, who don't pay you anything, and you go bankrupt. Simple frameworks are boring unless you are really good at building tools, and that's pretty ha

    • by Wiarumas (919682)
      Good luck trying to retain players with a simple, basic, unfinished game. It would have to be one pretty novel idea to compete with the finished, polished, down-to-a-science industry's giants.
    • by yurtinus (1590157)
      Clearly, so when are you releasing your next MMO?
    • Develop a simple, basic framework and go online with it as soon as possible, add more content later and keep adding on. Let users create their own content.

      User content is generally going to be crap. Unless you have a staff that can wade through it and pull out the 10% that isn't unbalanced, god-mode, stupid, non-canon, or simply crap.

      There needs to be enough content there so that people have things to do, and preferably a decent selection of things to do. You need to appeal to a broad range (the PvP
  • No worries, you'll still have the orginal APB [wikipedia.org].

    • by Shrike82 (1471633)
      This was a hell of a game, and I was kind of disappointed when I discovered the MMO was almost totally unrelated.
  • I have never seen something elicit such a polarization of people. It was dismissed as overhyped and broken or else taken to heart to be loved and cherished, buoyed on by a fanaticism I was proud to have played a part in bringing to the world.

    That's exactly what Hermann Göring said during the Nuremberg trials.

  • Wow, if you try to go to the announcement [apb.com], you get directed to an apparently broken age verification page. At least, I can't figure out how to get past it to read their own announcement.

    No wonder they're going out of business. :-P

  • I bought the game before it came out because what I read about it intrigued me. I saw gameplay footage and stuff and it looked awesome. So I bought it in preorder for $10 less and for some additional gametime. I was so happy that there was finally an MMO out there that didn't expire your gametime. I'm not a prolific player so I hated the idea of being charged $14/mo, every month, even if I didn't log in once. Since my school was starting, I decided I'd play a bit and leave the rest of the time till lat
  • by interval1066 (668936) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:10PM (#33603864) Homepage Journal
    The developer's quote sounds like they were on a humanitarian mission to cure cancer or bring world peace. It was a game that failed. Games are expensive to produce. Movin' on...
  • Full acountability (Score:4, Insightful)

    by psyph3r (785014) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:31PM (#33604120)
    At least they can't blame this one on piracy.
  • why it failed (Score:2, Informative)

    by luther349 (645380)
    apb was hyped to be gta online. what we got was not a gta world it was not a open world only time you ever saw another player was when you did this missions or in the social area but never just walking/driving around the map. going pay to play in this market was also a frigging bad idea. so there was no committing random crimes no world of gangs messing with your day. pretty much everything they hyped this game to be was a lie.
    • by Comen (321331)

      Dont know what game you played, there is constantly people running around on the servers I play on.
      I was addicted to this game, sure it had cheaters and some terrible missions, but the game was funt o play and I enjoyed beating the cheaters with a good team you could beat anyone.
      It definitly needed to be tweeked and some new misisons and gameplay mechanics, but the game looked good, played very well, I had some of the best fire fights in a online game ever and I have been playing FPS games for a very long t

  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:44PM (#33604296) Homepage Journal
    if it is any good like you say, it will even prosper and become prominent.
  • by RomulusNR (29439) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @06:06PM (#33605104) Homepage

    I don't know about all this so-called marketing. The first time I heard of APB was at PAX East back in February. They had 8 stations set up logged into the game. They had one emotionless, utterly uninterested guy talking about how awesome the game was, who occasionally threw a T-shirt into the huge crowd amassing around their booth. He would then taunt everyone else by saying "the best way to get a shirt is to play the game".

    Except NO ONE GOT TO PLAY. Well, a couple of people did. They'd get about 5 minutes on the station, which was enough to walk around a little, and... find nobody else. Then, when they got off, the stations would be taken over by booth staffers, who would dick around with the stations for 15 minutes or so.

    The best way to get people to play your game is to LET THEM PLAY IT. When a crowd of people are surrounding your booth, interested in playing a game that has no legacy to spur familiarity or loyalty, you should make sure they get to play it. Especially if it's as awesome as you say (hearing the music being played by people driving past, etc.). And you should provide a decent playzone or sandbox where they can actually do useful things instead of ooh and aah at your now-industry-standard graphics.

  • by grapeape (137008) <`moc.rr.ck' `ta' `7epopm'> on Thursday September 16, 2010 @07:33PM (#33605882) Homepage

    Sounds like greed and poor decision making has been rampant at Realtime since it started, with Crackdown they wanted a multi-game deal before the original ever shipped, then when MS was ready to deal on Crackdown 2 (2 months after launch) they passed and made it sound to the press like it was MS's fault for taking a wait and see approach saying MS was taking to long. When MS handed Crackdown 2 to Ruffian, Realtime expressed their unhappiness with MS not waiting until APB was done. Between the charging full price for a game that had no demo or trial, a monthly fee with additional in game purchases basically required to even be competitive and buggy as hell final product did anyone really think this game had a chance?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by whoop (194)

      Gamasutra [gamasutra.com] recently ran a story from an ex-employee that summed up how to not make an MMO.

      "Fun never seemed to be a criterion for what they were doing; managers with little clipboards would go around and tick off things, saying 'OK that's done' and moving on. There was never any consideration for whether or not what had been done was any fun."

  • One of the developers said

    ...
    There were the unusual errors and crashes which are to be expected ...

    Well, "unusual" and "to be expected" seem to me to be at least somewhat contradictory.. (Though I suspect he means crashes due to some weird combination of hardware & OS they hadn't tested on.)

    But still, such errors and crashes _shouldn't_ be expected.

  • Holy crud. 300 employees worked on that thing.

    I worked a couple of MMOs that went flop before I got out of the industry. This has got to be a new record for simply the size of people working on it (MMOs, I mean, not game shops in general).

    I worked on an MMO project that was released under Atari some years back and we had, what, 60 people max, with a considerable amount of them just being customer support goons.

    Another project only had 30 people, and we published after two years. Granted, that company wen

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