APB Purchased By Free-to-Play Company?

By John Walker on November 11th, 2010 at 3:36 pm.

Is it true THIS time?

Mediocre subscription MMOs don’t die, they just go free-to-play. And so it seems that after the high-profile collapse of Realtime Worlds, following the release of MMO flop APB, the game is looking likely to re-emerge some time toward the end of this year. GI.biz reports that the K2 Network, owners of F2P service GamersFirst, is paying around £1.5 million for the intellectual property. This is currently unconfirmed, and K2 declined to respond to GI’s newshound sniffing, so maybe this could go the way of the Codies rumour from last week, or September’s erroneous Epic gossip. Call me cynical. But if it’s happening, it’ll be a way for fans of the game to re-enter its world, without the completely daft gametime-purchasing system + micro-transactions that accompanied the game’s launch.

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48 Comments »

  1. Meat Circus says:

    That’s some pretty impressive tech for £1.5m. Screw the driving and shooting, it’s all about the paper dolls.

  2. Brumisator says:

    Realtime world’s story is a sad one, APB could be fun as a F2P game, or F4P, or P4F…what’s the corect abbreviation anyway? F4P sounds dirty.

  3. Sarkhan Lol says:

    Stabling alongside such classics as 9 Dragons is probably more humiliating than the bankruptcy.

  4. Srekel says:

    As an ex dev of APB I could never really understand why the paying model was considered so bad (not to mention “completely daft”). I realise that the marketing team, or someone, did a blunder when they said that it wouldn’t require a subscription model nor micro payments (or something like that), and thus had everyone believing that it would be free. And then when it wasn’t free (shocker) the internet rage was on. Which is sort of understandable. But the system itself, where you pay based on how much you play, or if you wish, just like a regular subscription fee… felt entirely reasonable to me.

    Also, unrelatedly, I tried logging in to my account here at RPS but kept getting logged out for some reason.

    • kwyjibo says:

      People aren’t willing to pay a subscription fee for a team deathmatch game. A leviathan such as COD may manage it, APB certainly didn’t. You’d have thought after the massive Hellgate fuck up, people would have noticed.

    • Zyrusticae says:

      The problem is that the game never felt worthy of having a subscription fee. What were people paying for? That the game itself simply wasn’t any good probably didn’t help matters any…

    • Dude says:

      I think the biggest mistake was that people felt you had to buy the time, either a classical monthly subscription or pay-as-you-go. This hurt a lot with the free to play rumour that was going around (they should have said more clearly that it won’t be free to play)
      The marketing completely failed to address the fact that you could generate enough income in game buy selling stuff (if you were good) or APB dollars to get point and pay for your sub. Most people I knew in my clan had 2-3 month already paid just by selling stuff… So this was a way to sell the game to hardcore gamer, I mean if you play enough you going to have money, so you could invest in your sub…
      I think that concept didn’t reach a lot of people that would have considered the game if they knew…

    • Jockie says:

      Yeah, it was a perception versus reality thing, I believe Dave Jones said in an interview somewhere that it would be possible to play for free. Which somehow translated to articles saying APB will be free to play, which translated to a lot of disgruntled gamers feeling betrayed by the pricing announcement.

      On a side note, It would have been free-to-play for me for at least three months, by taking advantage of the RTW points system on launch, so Dave Jones was entirely correct (except the game died of course). I think the system was just misrepresented before it was announced, which left a lot of people feeling cold.

    • Epsz says:

      The pay to craft thing was a real pain for the people who wanted to sue the game just to create cool items, too. It felt like you were paying twice, once for the materials and a second time for the act of crafting.

    • Tei says:

      I played APB a lot (about 400 hours, lol). I managed to make soo much in-game money, that I was able to easyly buy APB points with that money, and use that money to buy 30 days of play. I could theorically play for free. So yes, was possible to play for free.

    • RakeShark says:

      I’ll offer a different opinion from the audience that looked at APB and said “Meh, I’ll pass.” I’m a MMO player, but I do not play WoW or other likewise mainstream MMOs, free-to-play or otherwise.

      First off, your primary error was relying on player goodwill and intelligence to understand the situation regarding the payment model. Never EVER assume your potential customers are intelligent and loyal, because in this industry the mobs can turn from excited to vengeful the moment you pop a previously unannounced part of your service, especially so close to street date. Educate early and often, so there is no confusion when features are rattled off.

      Secondly, when a price tag is attached to the amount of time you can play, there comes an expectation that the product will have content to justify that price tag. While the concept of “craft to play” is an interesting way to get players to invest time and effort into the game, ultimately there needs to be content available at launch to satisfy customers who do not apply to the crafting lifestyle, as there are FAR more consumers than producers in any market. Several MMOs before you have been released with a dire lack of initial content, and they have suffered setbacks. Cryptic Studios and EA Mythic come to mind as examples. Players will sink time into a product that have oodles of content that take vast amounts of time to complete, but if content is either shallow, repetitive, and/or can be fully completed within the month of launch, you have under-served your customers, and many will leave despite any pleas and/or reminders that content is “Coming soon just as soon as we get our feet!”

      I’ll admit, I might simply be part of maybe 10%-20% of the audience you advertised to, but that 10%-20% could have meant the difference between limping along and full on Dark City “SHUT IT DOWN! SHUT IT DOWN… FOREVER!”

    • The Tupper says:

      The game looked too similar to GTA 4′s multiplayer for me to consider paying a subscription.

    • Stromko says:

      It wasn’t just subscription + cash market, you had to buy the game at full price to start playing. It was one hand in my wallet too many, for me.

      But really I didn’t buy it because I just didn’t like it. I was hoping for a relatively flat-power curve skill based shooter like Planetside in a fresh new setting, instead it was more like an RPG with tiered power levels. There was really no point in trying out different combat roles, just level until you get that AK-47 lookalike and you can outkill shotguns at pointblank and sniper rifles at long range.

    • HopefulMike says:

      Look man, as a CBT and release player of the game I want to thank you for creating that masterpiece. Sure, people could poke at the small issues that were on the “patch-up later” list and give you bad ratings but I saw through it. APB was a refreshing breeze in the whirlpool of been-there, done that.

      As for where you went wrong the community was part of your downfall in thinking that it would be F2P. You weren’t just dealing with MMO veterans who know how to cope with payment plans. And lastly, you released way too soon. You released an unfinished game and it was the untouched bugs that kept people from paying and gave you the bad ratings and reputation.

      And if you read this, I’d like to wish to you the best of luck in finding a new job, if you haven’t already.

      Thanks for the times, memories, and all of the spectacular things you helped me make.

  5. kwyjibo says:

    Free to Play is significantly less fucking retarded than RTW’s stupid business plan. I mean, a subscription for a team deathmatch game? It wasn’t even an MMO, the thing wasn’t persistent.

    The customisation feature (the only thing that was praised) should work well with a microtransaction model and you’ll be able to reach a lot more markets with the F2P model.

  6. Premium User Badge

    KindredPhantom says:

    I hope they adopt a Guild Wars type model of F2P. So you pay to unlock decals for the designer or different clothes and cars etc or they use a Quake Live type subscription to it.

  7. uNapalm says:

    Whether subscription or free to play the fact remains that it still an absolutely awful game.

    • Premium User Badge

      KindredPhantom says:

      Did you play APB?

    • uNapalm says:

      unfortunately yes

    • Premium User Badge

      KindredPhantom says:

      So did i, i also played it from early beta. I quite enjoyed the game though i did find it frustrating at times and got fed up with it after a while.

  8. ExRTW says:

    Even I’m getting sick of APB stories at this point :)

    Srekel, the business model was insane. Insane. You can’t charge an ongoing cost for a team based shooter (possible mitigation for customisation diehards notwithstanding) in a world where Halo and CoD are free, offer more map real-estate (even if more heavily instanced), and are becoming more and more persistent every outing.

    The great, blue flashing warning sign should have been that Bobby Kotick, a man who would put a subscription on his employees use of a toilet if he could get away with it, has decided that even Call of Duty could not yet sport a sub, despite all it offers. APB is a much much worse game, and has almost as little persistence. Charging for playtime was insane, though I guess financially unavoidable.

    • DrGonzo says:

      It’s actually 6 quid a month to play Halo, but it’s marketed very well and people don’t even think they are paying to play it.

    • Delusibeta says:

      And the 360 versions of Call of Duty games, and Burnout: Paradise, and every other friggin’ multiplayer game on the 360.

      That’s a Microsoft thing.

      (Not that I think it’s worth £40: hell no.)

    • Stromko says:

      It’s easy to forget that X-Box Live costs money to get all its features, their payment department likes to lurk in the background and despite what their FAQs say you can’t even quit online. If you ever have to sign up for X-Box Live, I’d recommend those pre-paid cards so they don’t get ahold of your credit card number– having to cancel your bank card just to stop paying for a superfluous service is a pain.

  9. Noterist says:

    £1.5million? I’d be amazed if that’s all it costs to pick up.

    Surely you could recoup that kind of cash easily without investing anything into the game. The business model’s probably going out of the window, but equating that cash to subscriptions would only require 50k people playing for 3 months at £10 per month. A longer term goal, say 2 years to recoup costs and you’d need just over 6k people playing monthly.

    On top of that the tech must be worth a bomb. They done good business, yup.

    • DrazharLn says:

      There are also non-trivial running costs for MMOs.

    • Noterist says:

      Obviously, so the maths isn’t great … but it would take some mighty mighty running costs for this not to look profitable.

  10. Metalfish says:

    The customisation tech was/is brilliant, and the background story isn’t completely terrible. Sort out the driving and “actions” (progress bars, ugh) and /most importantly/ figure out a way to give players some PvE and you’re back on target to something that might make some money.

  11. jeremypeel says:

    Neat. I hope this happens, then I might actually play the thing.

    (On a side-note, I’ve had a ball pegging it around the Shire with parcels on LOTRO this afternoon; never would have happened without the free-to-play model.)

  12. Premium User Badge

    Gabbo says:

    If they can fix some of the issues, I’d jump back in. I still have some of my initial 50 hours of gameplay left ;)

  13. Lobotomist says:

    I find it impossible they would sell APB for 2.5 million dollars.

    It took 100 million to make the game. Individual tech in game is well worth 20$ alone.

    Take for example : Character creator. I am sure you can sell it for 5 million dollar easily.

    Crazy. Impossible.

    Heck. If I walked in bank today. I can get a loan for 2.5 million dollars easily.
    A modest apartment in Europe is worth more !

    In fact. I am sad i didnt en quire for APB price, bacause I would buy it. (and i am just a simple flash designer)

    Seriously. 2.5 million dollars. Impossible!

    • Premium User Badge

      KindredPhantom says:

      The 100 million wasn’t just for APB, it was for the whole studio including the social game MyWorld.

      But yes, the tech behind the game is worth more, i am quite surprised it wasn’t picked up by Epic Games who know the engine and so could license the tech.

    • DrGonzo says:

      What the hell are you talking about? How could you easily get a loan of £2.5 million. Business loan’s are not necessarily easy to come by, just gone through the process of getting one.

  14. Lobotomist says:

    Its £1.5 (2.5M$)

    Dont know for business loan. But I could get apartment loan for that sum.

    And I am sure i could get investors as well.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Well isn’t society fair. Took months of effort for us to get £2000 of investment for our business.

    • Lobotomist says:

      I know thing or two about business.

      If you would let your investors know, you are buying 100.000.000 $ worth of tech for 2.5 million.

      I am sure you would have the money yesterday

    • Lilliput King says:

      Where do you live, Lobotomist?

  15. blank says:

    Why are people constantly railing on this game for imagined faults?

    Yes, the payment system was terrible. Yes, the progression system was terrible. Yes, the matchmaking was terrible.

    But the gameplay? The game itself? Was one of the best in recent memory. Now, I can respect that people have different tastes, but this game certainly was not objectively “completely awful”. Hate the real problems, don’t try to justify anything by hating the rest.

    The game was almost entirely devoid of the lag that I expected it to have (again, those with lesser connections might have had a different experience), the driving was great, the shooting was better than I expected, although not great (I completely disagree with the “no headshots” rule). And the feeling of riding around, on top of the world, with a couple of friends, that the game gave you was amazing.

    The problem was that some people (and unfortunately, those people included most reviewers) couldn’t look past the badly executed parts and see the absolute gem that was dripping with huge gobs of potential. Instead of giving the game a chance to rebalance itself, people left it in droves, and I will concede that the game was left deservedly.

    Why would I concede that? Promises. Specifically, “no subscription” promises, “problems from beta will be addressed” promises, etc. etc. etc. Add on top of that the absolutely ridiculous voice chat advertisements and a payment system which deliberately makes you buy more than you need, and you get a recipe for disaster that prevented me, a self-described fanboy from the beta, from buying the game.

    Even then, what are we telling the game industry in letting this title fail? That ambitious projects that don’t fully deliver will be trounced into oblivion. If we keep doing this kind of thing as consumers, I say goodbye to seeing anything out of the triple-A club that’s not “Call of Duty 37″.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I’m not sure how much useful debate you’re going to get when you open by calling people’s negative experiences of a game “imagined”.

    • Starky says:

      Indeed, maybe I did just imagine the horrible feeling gunplay (guns seemed weak, inaccurate and just plain poor), and really crappy driving (floaty, unresponsive and laggy) when I played it – yup must have.

  16. Coillscath says:

    if the headline is true, why won’t somebody buy Tabula Rasa? <:(

    • Coillscath says:

      Meant to say the first sentence. D’oh.

    • blank says:

      @Colliscath

      Tabula Rasa, now THERE’S an “ambitious project that didn’t fully deliver”. The similarities between that situation and this one are kinda spooky.

    • Coillscath says:

      @blank

      I would have preferred that game go free to play than suddenly get put down like it was…

  17. pupsikaso says:

    Fingers crossed for relaunch. I just hope whatever changes the RTW team made in those last two months will be enough, because I can’t trust any F2P company to have a competent enough in-house team to make proper changes to the game.

  18. M.P. says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I was absolutely gutted when they announced their pricing model, as, along with everyone else, I’d been led to believe it would be sub-free (Guild Wars-style). I almost didn’t buy the game as a result, but when I did, I discovered that it was in fact REMARKABLY GENEROUS! I played for 2 months and I didn’t actually pay a penny – the timer just didn’t seem to run down that quickly!

    I did top up my gametime once, but I did it entirely with RTW points I’d earned off the marketplace: I spent 10′ making a suede jacket, 5′ making a paisley shirt, and 2 hours making a Pacman theme tune on the in-game sequencer one Sunday, and selling those kept me in gametime for the duration, even though I played almost ever night! I crafted all those items just for my own amusement, not to sell, and only decided to put them up for auction for the hell of it, but when they sold I just made more copies. They’d only net me puny amounts of RTW points each time, but combined with the 100 points we started out with it was enough for a top-up, and I reckon I could’ve sustained that easily if the game kept going, so it’s quite possible that a large percentage of the playerbase kept playing and playing without paying a penny!

    That so many people just didn’t get how generous that price plan is purely down to RTW’s atrocious miscommunication with the press and public. In fact it was very, very fair.

  19. BuyWoWAccount says:

    So what’s it gonna be like? Will the game be free to play now?

    Buy WoW Account

  20. Pyrotic says:

    OMG please let it come back that game was and still is the most amazing game to this day IMO