APB Finds A Buyer
Realtime Worlds’ ambitious open-city shooter to relaunch under new free-to-play model next year.
Free-to-play specialist GamersFirst has confirmed that its subsidiary, Reloaded Productions, has bought the IP rights to APB, following the game’s closure in mid-September.
APB was developed by Dundee-based Realtime Worlds, which closed on September 16, having failed to find a buyer for the game and its operating structure, which had taken over $100 million in outside investment and had only launched six weeks earlier.
Rumours originating with a source close to Gamesindustry.biz last week suggested that GamersFirst owner K2 Network had paid $1.5 million for the game, which includes IP rights and all source code, but not any of its original networking infrastructure. But though it will not disclose the actual sum, the rumour is "exaggerated", according to GamersFirst chief operating and technical officer Bjorn Book-Larsson in an interview with us.
As a result of the sale, says Paul Dounis of company administrator Begbies Traynor, all outstanding wages and holiday pay claims from former Realtime Worlds staff will be met in full.
But why didn’t GamersFirst buy it before Realtime Worlds went bankrupt? "I guess because we didn’t want to!" says Book-Larssen. "We didn’t find out until late, but also we weren’t interested in the company as a going concern. IP rights is a very different transaction."
Book-Larsson is keen to differentiate the model under which APB was originally managed from the way GamersFirst will run it: "It initially launched as a retail game, trying to get revenues up front from retail sales, and then you could either buy subscriptions or game time in 20-hour chunks. We think the game was brilliant in some areas, but there were a few that were really problematic.
"One was imbalance of the game itself. Another was the actual monetisation model. Selling game time isn’t a good idea because in this case it discourages people from sticking around. If you show up in this game with several friends, they will start dropping off if they don’t pay for the additional time. In our model, we let everyone play the game for free, but you can’t access some capabilities if you don’t purchase them through microtransactions."
As such, GamersFirst will be doing some work to rebalance and refit the game before its relaunch in the first half of 2011 under the name APB: Reloaded. APB‘s original development staff has now dissipated and work will be carried out by GamersFirst’s LA-based team. " Theres’ lots of Unreal Engine talent in the LA region, but we’re keen to stay connected to the original staff, for consulting and other opportunities in the future," Book-Larssen says.
"We anticipate we’ll be doing a fair amount of balancing, mostly around how weapons will interact with each other," says Book-Larsson. "And we expect some refitting. We expect to release one of the patches they never had the chance to release, which will do some improvements to the game. Specifically, we will add some designs that we need for it to work as a free-to-play game. That means we need to encourage people to stick around to pay for certain enhancements. So it will require some code modifications to do that."
Players will be able to buy guns with better capabilities without having to earn them through play over a period of time. This, says Book-Larsson, counters a major issue with the balancing of the original game before one of its final patches, which gave experienced players guns with much higher ranges than newbies. "As a newbie, you were told what gun shot you and that you couldn’t acquire it unless you were willing to die for another nine hours. Now, you might be shot by a gun, and you can go and get it. It changes the dynamic. Some people for free will want to grind through it to get it for free, and others can just get it."