You’ll Never Take Us Alive: Epic To Buy APB?

The BBC mention the possibility that the remains of APB may be purchased by Epic. This actually squares with the reports from where Les Able of Begbies Traynor said that despite 300 parties having interest, none of the shortlist of six were “comfortable with buying it as a live operation.” So, APB is dead and there’s certainly six places on that list for Epic. Some more information, speculation and thoughts on the APB close follows…

Epic denied to comment directly on the possibility, with Dana Cowley speaking for Epic saying that “Mark [Rein of Epic] absolutely loves APB, and everyone here loved what they saw” and noting that any discussions would be confidential.

In some ways, Epic makes a lot of sense, for a couple of reasons. Rein was actually the first person to give impression of the game in a hands-on state back in 2009, where he raved about it to VG247. Example quote: “It’s hard to describe. It’s everything you’d expect that sort of game to be. If the Rockstar guys ever made an MMO out of the best version of Grand Theft Auto, this would be it.” So he certainly liked it back then, so perhaps still sees a future for it.

However, there’s also another possible thing of interest to Epic. They’re not just a games company, of course. They’re also a technology company. There’s certainly technological aspects of APB which, I suspect. would be attractive things to add to their own engine-tech business. This may or – more likely – may not square with speculation that Jones has relocated to the US in a move-in with Epic.

In other APB related news, before the actual forums died, reader Kadayi pulled the list of goodbye messages from the team from it, republishing it in our comments threads. You can read them all there, but here’s a couple which stood out…

“I truly wish we had the chance to continue to craft APB into the vision we had for it. It has been a long & difficult journey but ultimately rewarding to have had the chance to try something bold and different. APB holds some great memories, from the last night of the beta, to the clans and individuals who amazed us with their creativity and sense of community. I am so sorry it had to end so quickly but hopefully the good memories will stay with us all for a long time. Thanks to all the team for the years of hard work, and to the players who contributed so much.” – Dave Jones

Please spare a thought to all the thousands of brave men and women of San Paro who despite knowing the odds, still dared to cross the street. They will be sorely missed.. – Johann van der Walt (Software Engineer: Living City)

“Working on APB was rewarding, frustrating, amazing, depressing, exciting, and overall, surreal. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, but enjoyed it all the way. I hope the players enjoyed the time they had despite the short comings, and will remember the game in a good light for what it was meant to be, not quite what it turned out to be. Now just to get started on that Xbox version…” – Jon McKellan (the guy who did the loading screens)

“Press F to apply for Jobseekers Allowance.”- Ben Hall (Development QA)

“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 polarisation 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. Although still again among our players APB brought out both the poles in human behaviour. I bore witness to raw hatred and fury, arrogance and mean spirits but I was also delighted to experience the kindest side of human nature as players came to the aid of others when in a tight spot or they created works of art with the tools provided.

In all APB was a fantastic experience with an incredible team and it is one that I will always cherish and has added to who I am. Thank you everyone involved from our excellent players to our incredible dev team.”- Conor Crowley (Senior QA, System design assistant, Tech support, in-game support, Overall CS, 1 man Publishing QA team, Tea Boy, Morale Officer)

“I’m sad to see the project go. Of all the games worked on, APB was probably the one with the most potential. I genuinely believe that given more time, we could have turned APB into the game we all wanted it to be. I.d like to thank the community for all their support, the good times had playing against them, and for the amazing (and often hilarious) user-generated content that created. I’d also like to thank the rest of the team for all of their hard-work, and for generally being great people to work with. ” -Bryan Robertson (Gameplay Programmer)

I actually got enormously angry about APB last night. It’s one of those situations where everyone loses. The developers are out of work, yes, but I’m far more worried about the consumers. APB strikes me as something that needs to be talked about by the MMO industry. A standard motif in developer talks on MMOs – and even more traditional boxed games in extreme cases like Valve has been “we’re not selling boxes – we’re selling services”. As such, surely, this implies the developer has a duty to plan and design the company to operate in such terms. To run a company in such a way that it collapses so shortly after release, annihilating the game from existence is something which I’ll be happy to describe as openly immoral. And, if you want a realist capitalist spin on than, something that’s actually damaging to the long term health of the industry, in terms of undermining player trust with a purchase. Once burned in such an obvious, enormous way – a purchase simply removing itself from existence in a matter of 3-4 months – then you’re feeding (entirely justified) cynicism and suspicion. If APB’s fall doesn’t lead to an ethics-related speech at GDC/Develop, I’ll be sorely disappointed in the industry.

Another problem with APB is simply how it seemed a game which got overtaken by the times. Comparisons to Hellgate has been made, but the key similarity isn’t trying to do something in the action-MMO area. It’s trying to tie a new business model to a game which simply doesn’t seem to demand it. In the time it took to be developed, the idea of paying for this stuff seemed somewhat quaint. To pay for a box and playing time, for an experience which doesn’t seem that different than Counter-strike where you have to drive a bit when you respawn. In a world which is over-taken by Free-to-play MMOs and RPG-elements worked into more traditional team-based shooters, there wasn’t much point in APB. Whatever Unique-selling-points it had had been consumed by the competition in the time it took to make.

And this is without even getting to the quality of APB. It will be picked over for the next five years by industry minds, trying to draw lessons from it. And it should be. It’s a game which managed to be a disaster on so many levels, from marketing to pricing to consumer relations and – ultimately – a total failure to the consumers. There’s 130,000 pairs of teeth gnashing today, and I hope that if someone does pick up APB, they do something thoughtful for them.

Just as a final note, I’ve seen people still quoting this bit of the old press release…

“The figures reveal 130,000 registered players, with the average player playing for 4 hours each day, APB’s unique business model sees paying players averaging $28 per month, a combination of game time and user to user marketplace trading.”

And quoting it as “130,000 people paying 28 dollars a month”. To state the obvious, if APB had 130K people paying 28 dollars a month, it wouldn’t either be going out of business or having trouble finding a buyer. If you actually pick at the sentence, you need to see the difference between “registered players” and “paying players”. It’s particularly deceptive – and clearly deliberately so – but it doesn’t necessarily conflate the two. The paying players are paying $28 a month. It says nothing about how many paying players there are. There could have been a couple of guys who’ve paid, with the remaining 129,998 players paying nowt.

While not as clear, you may also wonder whether they’re also cheating on the “registered players” and “average player” terminology. As in, the latter is people who are actively playing the game and the former is simply the number of people who bought the game. They don’t necessarily square.

We never reported it when it broke, because it was so obviously wrong if you think about it for a second and totally falls apart if you read the press release closely. However, that people are actually still spreading this disinformation means I want to actually make it clear in case anyone picked it up from elsewhere.


  1. Rob Hale says:

    In order to make back any significant amount of the investment that was spent on APB it had to be a million seller on day one. It wasn’t. In fact by my calculations they would have needed nearly 4 million sales at the launch price to cover the costs of development nevermind keeping the game running and paying for further development.

    It couldn’t have done anything other than fail in that situation.

    • Dhatz says:

      if they used any creative people to make the game it couldn’t fail, ossified brains don’t produce great products no mmatter the pay.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Or it would have needed a company with a lot of money, like Blizzard who can afford to make a loss at first.

    • bob_d says:

      I don’t think they used all the money for APB, a significant chunk went to myWorld. Even so, we’re still taking about sales numbers that, if not actually impossible, would at least be very highly improbable. They were expecting sales that one could only rationally expect if it were a sequel to a hit game by a developer/publisher that’s had multiple significant hits in the past (e.g. Blizzard/Activision, EA, Ubisoft).

  2. Rii says:

    The saga of APB is a rare demonstration of the vacuity of so-called ‘intellectual property’ from the other side of the fence. Having received money from consumers, the producer acknowledges no obligation re: the provision of its product to them. Conversely, having obtained a product, the consumer need acknowledge no obligation to its producers, i.e. to pay for it.

    • Nick says:

      Not really, no.

    • manveruppd says:

      Yeah, that IS the problem with the “services” model, EULAs, and copyright legislation as it stands.

    • bob_d says:

      @ frightlever: We’re not talking inductive logic here, but “turnabout is fair play.” (Or perhaps, Is turnabout fair play?) That is: we’re talking about a relationship, and given that one party has legally been given all the power yet apparently no responsibilities, can we (morally) argue that this is a fair relationship and the other party must abide by the rules (that they never agreed to)?

    • Rii says:

      For my part I’m saying that this is the way things work. RTW are perfectly within their rights to do what they’ve done, and folks are perfectly within their rights to play games without paying for them. Folks need to get over the idea that they own anything or deserve anything from anyone. The ownership relation is a highly orchestrated system of significant pragmatic value to society, but it is nonetheless mere fiction, with no moral qualities attendant thereto.

  3. Griddle Octopus says:

    You have to say that the business model was pie-in-the-sky as well. $101 million of investment that expects a large return would require around 2 million sales at $50 a pop just to recoup their initial capital – the monthly fees, less running cost, would have to go towards the investors expected return.

    • Kadayi says:

      To be fair the $100 million funding was for more than just the development of APB.

    • bob_d says:

      More like $25-$35 a pop, since they only get 50% (at most) of retail sales price and perhaps as much as 70% from Steam. So if the game really did cost $100M, they’d to exceed Starcraft 2 in sales to break even. It didn’t however, so they only needed a highly unlikely number of sales to stay afloat.

  4. ExRTW says:

    Kieron, your beef is exactly the same as that of us former employees, the thing that grates most of all:

    As such, surely, this implies the developer has a duty to plan and design the company to operate in such terms. To run a company in such a way that it collapses so shortly after release, annihilating the game from existence is something which I’ll be happy to describe as openly immoral.

    And there it is. There was a clear and deliberate decision to run the company past the point of financial return, in the vague hope that it would all be ok. This disposessed players of their service, and employees of their rightful pay and severance. The decision was taken by a small group of men who would be alright financially whatever happened, and they absolutely failed to give a shit for those who would be unable to make their mortgage payments should they be laid off with no notice, no last months pay, and no redundancy, and failed to give a shit for those players who sunk time and money into a game only for it to die prematurely.

    It WAS an immoral act.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Yeah, absolutely. I really hope it gets a proper GDC examination from someone. It’s shameful.


    • spinks says:

      Hope this isn’t out of order, but if laid off employees aren’t getting their due pay and redundancy, take some advice from the local CAB (or union if you have one). Even if they go into receivership, you should be able to claim something from the national insurance fund.

      Also, good luck.

    • Ravenger says:

      I feel for the devs who haven’t been paid. I’ve been through an identical experience when the developer I worked for suddenly went into administration and closed down, leaving us with only statutory redundancy that had to be claimed from the government.

      I reckon I was owed around £6,000 of pay, holiday pay and redundancy money, but didn’t get anywhere near that, and it took weeks to come through. Luckily by that time I had a new job.

      It seems to me the aim of administrators (and this is only my personal opinion, based on my own experience) is to extend the administration process out as long as possible, eating up as much of the remaining company capital via their high administration fees. It took four years for the administrators of the company I worked for to wind it up, and I was lucky enough to get £300 back of what I was owed. Most of the money went on admin fees.

      I wish all the redundant developers the best of luck and success in finding new jobs.

    • Andy says:

      “There was a clear and deliberate decision to run the company past the point of financial return, in the vague hope that it would all be ok”

      I’m afraid this is an absolute requirement of Capitalism. Resources are infinite, we must consistently borrow, invest, and grow. We can pay it all back later, one day…the money is coming…..soon……….

    • manveruppd says:

      My guess is (and in no way do I think it was justifiable, just trying to work out why it happened) that management knew well in advance that they were in huge amounts of trouble, but hoped that if the game sold a million copies on day one then it would’ve been easy to get further investment to stay afloat, and thus wrest victory from the jaws of defeat. Of course the game didn’t sell well so that didn’t work.

      I don’t know the ins and outs of it of course so I might be out of line, but I’m fairly sure there must’;ve been an easier way to secure that money, such as by partnering up with a publisher. Of course that might’ve presented problems with RTW’s investors, who obviously wouldn’t have been happy if a publisher got the lion’s share of the proceeds which they were expecting. It may be that private funding made it difficult or impossible for RTW to also secure publisher support, but I can’t help but think that there must’ve been some way out of this.

      And I can’t help but contrast this behaviour with George Broussard, who, when he saw that 3DR wasn’t salvageable, sold off both DNF and the whole Duke Nukem IP, just to make sure that the game gets released and the character goes on! RTW, by contrast, seemed to take a “from my cold, dead hands” attitude to APB, ultimately letting both themselves and their consumers down.

    • bill says:

      Would these be the same people who have already started a new company and bought MyWorld?

  5. Jacques says:

    Hellgate was a good comparison.

    • bob_d says:

      My thoughts exactly. Although they had operating money that lasted beyond the actual game release, the company did exactly the same thing at the end, too. They ran out of money and didn’t tell the employees as they were hoping (in vain) that they could secure more investment money. Of course, once you’ve already sunk $100M into the project and it’s not making much money, investors aren’t exactly lining up at the door. In Flagship’s case, despite the bosses telling stories about paying the employees out of their own pockets, the employees were owed substantial back pay that they never saw, just like with RTW.

  6. Tei says:

    I think most MMORPG games are mediocre as a game, and is more a alternative form of enteirnament, somewhat like tiny chatrooms.

    60 million dollars is a very expensive way to build glorified chatrooms.

    Lots of fools are giving mountains of gold to see what exist on the other side of the rainbow, and the lucky bastards that is taking the money, have a 200K montly salair.

    In a way, this is a scam. I can talk to Sony, and promise a “unhackable DRM”, and get 50 million dollars to create it. The Sony exects will love me, and will give me the money, I will get a huge salary, I will built the DRM, and it will be broken within hours of release. Is easy to scam these people.. but is a inmoral thing.

    [b]Maybe engineers sould learn to say NO wen a executive ask to build something very expensive that is ultimatelly a machine to waste money. Being that a new DRM system, or a MMO service[/b]

    • Howl says:

      “I think most MMORPG games are mediocre as a game, and is more a alternative form of enteirnament, somewhat like tiny chatrooms.”

      Most MMORPG’s are mediocre games. The question is why do developers think they can release mediocre games, that happen to be based in persistent online environments and magically expect them to succeed?

    • Zogtee says:

      “The question is why do developers think they can release mediocre games, that happen to be based in persistent online environments and magically expect them to succeed?”

      It’s the dream of money for nothing, I guess. If we release an MMO, it might be the next WOW! Gamers buy all kinds of shit already, so they’ll fall for it!

      Also, I’m getting tired of APB apologists who are quick to take a snipe at WOW. If APB was so bloody good, it wouldn’t have died on it’s arse like this.

    • Grot Punter says:

      What about people who take snipes at WoW, not because its a horribly designed game (which it really isn’t), but because of its effect on the MMO section of the games industry?

    • Zogtee says:

      “What about people who take snipes at WoW, not because its a horribly designed game (which it really isn’t), but because of its effect on the MMO section of the games industry?”

      What effect is this, then? Blizzard has been successful because they offer a highly polished game that appeals to a shitload of people. It’s not like it’s an attack on the industry and I don’t expect them (or anyone else who is successful) to suddenly go “Oh noes, we’re having an effect on the industry. We better quit now, lads!”. If anyone wants to be successful in this area, they need to follow their example and offer a polished product that appeals to people, and not boot a half-finished game out the door, hoping it will still make money. Blizzard and WOW do their thing and they do it well. What others do is not their responsibility.

  7. P7uen says:

    ” from where Les Able of Begbies Traynor”

    I was reading normally and at this point suddenly thought I was having a stroke or something.

  8. Dreamhacker says:

    This is a good example of the sheer insanity (mentality?) of a server-client game model. When I buy a game, I want to buy a product, not a service. I want to be able to play my game not just today but tomorrow, regardless of what happens to the developer/publisher/server-owner.
    Even for an MMO, where this system is (for obvious reasons) required, the game is entirely unappealing for me, because I know the game won’t last.

    Long story short: Games requiring authentication by a server = SICK FILTH

    • Starky says:

      I disagree utterly – I don’t mind games as a product, or games as a service, so long as it is clear which one the game is.

      Obviously games as a service try to charge more money over time, so they must offer me a LOT more than a product game does – APB didn’t.
      WoW and Eve (and other successful MMO’s) do, like them or not they are an experience you just cannot get in a product game.

  9. Rob Hale says:

    Even if the game had 130k players paying $28 a month it would have taken over 2 years of that to pay off $101mill of investment. A number which would be far larger after 2 years of running the game.

  10. Tei says:

    This video shows a group of investors jumping into making a MMO:

  11. Zoso says:

    The numbers are flat-out weird; I blogged a bit about how they could possibly break down, entirely hypothetically given the intentionally vague terminology, and about the only way I could get anything approaching an average of 4 hours and $28 per person would be (i) people logged in, AFK, 24/7 for the first few weeks making stacks of money unlocking achievements for time spent in the clothing/car customisation screen, and (ii) including the $50 box cost, averaged over two months, in the spend.

    • Starky says:

      I’d wager the second, the 28 per paying customer is probably taking their cut of the box sales and including it in the pay per player.

      Initial cost + Any points purchace / 3 (months) = misleading high spend figure.

  12. DiamondDog says:

    Kieron, on your point about this kind of failure breeding cynicism in customers, hasn’t that already happened a long time ago? We already have a long list of disasters, although not on the same level as APB. I became cautious of investing my time and money in an MMO long before all this happened. Warhammer Online was my last big mistake.

    Having said that, as a set of consumers we seem very willing to accept something that’s sold to us broken with the promise it will be fixed. I know there are many arguments on the validity of releasing a game that still needs work on it, but I still find it strange how some games get a free pass while others are criticised. For me the price of a game is a decent chunk of money and I’m increasingly unwilling to spend it on what is sometimes a developers experiment. It’s why I have such a disdain for the first Assassins Creed game, I felt like I was playing a tech demo, just a rehearsal. Obviously the difference is I can still actually play Assassins Creed whereas people who spent money on APB no longer have an actual game to play on.

    I think you’re dead right to use the word immoral in the context of a developer failing its customers in such a spectacular way. It’s feeding on the idea that gamers will just jump onboard with anything in the hope it will get better in the future.

  13. Jerry says:

    This sounds totally legit.

    Crashing developers puts project up for sale. 2 months later it announces it has failed to find a buyer and is shutting down everything. 1 day later Epic announces interest in buying.

    What a cheap fucking way to look like the hero. I imagine any minute now they’ll release a statement saying awwww we tried, but it was just not possible.

  14. whaleloever says:

    Someone I know knows someone who worked on APB. This may sound like tenuous bullshit, but the figures he quoted to me were 9,000 people actively playing it a month after release, and this dropped to 3,000 after six weeks. Like I said, possibly tenuous bullshit, but it’s believably tenuous bullshit.

  15. Kadayi says:


    “I actually got enormously angry about APB last night.”

    I think that’s misplaced anger if that’s the case. Get angry at the (mis) management of RTW instead. It’s important to acknowledge that distinction. Reading the blogs the fundamental problem seems to have been a case of major staff bloat at RTW and the inherent problems of large organisations attempting to operate cohesively on projects. Throwing more people at a problem is rarely if ever the correct solution at the end of the day (work smarter, not harder). On average the most people a person can actively carry in their heads is about 150 (and that includes close friends and family..forget all that Facebook 250 ‘friends’ BS). When a team size extends beyond about 80 or so you’re well into the situation of not everyone involved knowing everyone else (or having time for them), and that’s never a good thing when you’ve a collective goal, because you’ve fragmentation and cliques.

    • qrter says:

      Why is Gillen’s anger misplaced? He’s saying he got angry about APB, not at it. Surely that can only imply he’s angry at how the whole situation has been handled financially, which further implies he’s angry at the management..?

    • Kadayi says:


      Because RTW situation is more than about APB perhaps?

  16. Anglocon says:

    Considering that Realtime Worlds went into administration about 7 weeks after the release of APB it really looks to me that they did not have the money in the bank to keep this thing running for even six months after launch and were desperately hoping to sell enough copies on day 1 or impress potential buyers with the income that APB was getting to bale them out of the mess they were in.

    IMHO the real victims here are 130,000 gamers who parted with their hard earned for this wreckage. Gamers who bought the kool aid that was being pushed out by the gaming press (PC Gamer I am looking at you here) who spewed gushing previews of APB left right and centre for twelve months or more before it came out. What is it games journos did RTW pay hard cash for these previews or did you just recycle their press releases?

    I followed APB quite a bit over the months and it was only a month or so before release that the glowing previews started getting replaced with “concerned” previews as the journos started backtracking.

    I hope this acts as a lesson to everyone who jumps into an MMO on day one without the likes of a major pedigree and fantasic reviews behind it. Your £35 might be heading straight down the toilet.

    • ExRTW says:

      When we went into administration we had debts of £3 million, according to the administrators. We coasted to the launch on fumes, clearly. When you add that the latest $21 million investment came barely 6 months before APBs launch, you can see the rate we were burning cash at the end.

      From an insider’s perspective, there were plenty of cautionary notes in a lot of the previews well before release, mostly pertaining to the fact that barely any gameplay had been seen (this was deliberate). Most of the guys I speak to think our PR was an absolute fucking disaster, from about a year before release to the train wreck itself.

      I take your point that the players have an absolute right to be hacked off, I’d just say that from the inside it certainly never felt like we were getting unmitigated good press. We (deservedly) were not.

    • Kadayi says:


      “Most of the guys I speak to think our PR was an absolute fucking disaster, from about a year before release to the train wreck itself.”

      Agreed. I think they never successfully got across that APB actually was Vs this GTA MMO expectation that was constantly being proliferated.

    • Optimaximal says:


      You can’t level such criticism at print & electronic media for simply giving a game an enthusiastic preview.

      Firstly, you have the fact that such previews are often canned, designed simply to show off portions of the game, often under supervision from the creators. If said previews looked like a lot of fun, then there’s your preview.

      Secondly, it’s a failing of the consumer if they blindly pre-order based on early previews and don’t consider cancelling, even at the 11th Hour, if the product quality seems to be heading south.

    • manveruppd says:

      @ExRTW: £3 million is actually not that much debt for most companies with 300 employees, but I agree, steps should’ve been taken (though I don’t know if that was possible) to secure additional funding well before that.

      I disagree with you about your PR though: you SHOULD have shown your gameplay. Yeah, the driving was terrible, the shooting was clumsy (unforgivable for a company that made TWO 3rd-person shooters before this!), but it was STILL fun regardless of the fact that it was so bad! I’ve compared it to paintball before on these comment threads and I stick to that: playing paintball doesn’t make you feel like a supersoldier, because most of us are quite slow, can’t aim, don’t have good peripheral awareness, and are using shit paintball guns. APB doesn’t make you feel like a supersoldier either, but, like Paintball, it’s fun regardless.

      If you’d shown it then at least you’d have lowered the expectations of people who wanted a shooter as tight and responsive as your typical FPS (something which, I expect, and correct me if I’m wrong, you wouldn’t have been able to offer however much time you had to polish the game, because of the size of the maps and number of players in them).

    • Kadayi says:


      More than anything APB really required a beefy pc to run it effectively. During beta I was chugging 17 – 24 FPS most of the time in the action districts on a dual core, with a 9800 GTX+. Swapping upto a i7 2.8 but with the same GFX card and I getting a more than acceptable 50 – 60 FPS.

    • qrter says:

      On a PR-disaster-related note, I was absolutely baffled by this bit of information on Luke Halliwell’s blog:

      As another example, I’ve heard people complain that we should have considered the business model for APB much earlier on. The truth is that we did – we had it figured out years before release – we just decided not to tell anyone, and inadvertently gave gamers the impression it was going to be free to play. They weren’t too happy when they found out.

      That’s just.. amazing.

  17. Calderwook says:

    I’m one of the afore mentioned consumers that’s out of pocket. I enjoyed APB despite the flaws and was quite good fun when played with a group of mates. But we new that it wast going to die but I didn’t expect it to be so soon. I got about 25 hours out of the boxed game plus the extra time for pre order etc so I don’t feel too short changed. I just popped my head in and the servers are still up but its a ghost town with barely 250 people on line. I hope that something good comes from the ashes but it will make me bit more hesitant with future mmo’s

  18. Alan Moore says:

    Rob – think the point about financial viability is limited to its viability as an ongoing concern, rather than recouping the $100MM spent on it. Clearly that’s unlikely to happen, but the sunk cost is irrelevant to the administrator who is trying to recoup as much as possible from what is there. If it were bringing in a reasonable sum then it would have been sold as a going concern – the fact that it hasn’t is probably because the income is much lower than has been implied.

  19. le disaster says:

    Oui! Oui!

  20. Dean says:

    I wonder, it’s generally agreed APB was a bit broken, or at the very least, not a great game.

    But does that matter? Would it have made any difference at all?

    RTW went tits-up so quickly, had they sold twice as many copies they’d have probably only lasted twice as long. 12 weeks then. Can reviews and word of mouth really change things that quickly?

    I mean, this was a PC-only, online-only game. Even if it had been the mutt’s nuts I’m not sure RTW would have extricated themselves from this.

    • ExRTW says:

      I tend to agree. Our costs were far too high.

      Initial sales projections, a few months before launch, were around 800k-1 million copies sold (seems laughable now). RTW itself was on the optimistic end of that scale, EA were more cautious. Those figures got lower as we got closer to launch. Pre-sales figures obviously put the shitters up management, as all kinds of doom and gloom started leaking out. I don’t know what pre-sales were, but I heard a figure of around 30k.

      Final sales were 10% of the initial sales projections, which were themselves considered not-over-optimistic. Seems fucking laughable now. What a total bubble we were in.

      On top of this, I believe APB is a very expensive game to run from a server and bandwidth point of view. We only got about 80 players per CPU, and the bandwidth requirements for the physics-based gameplay and all the (admittedly parameterised) customisation data were steep. So we needed strong ongoing revenue.

      The final nail in the coffin is the game’s clear lack of ‘stickiness’ to a majority of it’s players. It’s a pick up, play and forget about type of game for most people. Hard to say how much all the negative publicity of the administration has affected the player retention rate, but most of us always felt the game lacked content to keep people playing and paying.

      Like some kind of reverse anthropic principle for MMOs, we seemed to get almost every important variable and constant for MMO survival wrong!

    • Kadayi says:

      I think that’s a fair point tbh. The business model was sketchy to say the least and despite being an advocate for the base game itself (pretty good fun as a team based tactical shooter despite the usual release bugs and game play balance issues), there wasn’t a hook to it that made a pay to play model viable in the long run.

    • manveruppd says:

      @ExRTW: speaking for myself, news of RTW’s impending demise did indeed make me want to play less. It’s no fun playing in a doomed world. And I noticed that there were FAR FEWER instances on the list of districts (as in less than half what there were a week before) just after the news broke.

  21. PhilJC says:

    Admitted a dry/dull analogy but perhaps the MMO market should take a leaf out of the insurance industry – insurers are required to have financial reserves capable of meeting any claims that arise – be it during the policy term or twenty years down the line. Swap claims for obligations (i.e. maintaining servers) and you have a model for online gaming regulation that will prevent these situations from arising.

    Obviously you would not expect a game developer to run a game for twenty years but if you make them declare a reasonable lifespan (printed on the box) of how long they guarantee the game to run the consumer can decide whether to take the risk (or not). They back this up by putting £X amount in a separate bank which is untouchable except to fund the maintenance costs.

    There is obviously issues that I haven’t covered (i.e. how do skint indie developers get in on the scene, who enforces the untouchability of the money, etc etc) but I’m sure someone has the brains to work it all out.

  22. RQH says:

    It seems like, if you’re going to call your game a service, you ought to design it as a service (and I think this is the lesson free-to-play games are taking.) Someone opens a restaurant (as a roughly appropriate example), they don’t charge you a huge fee the first time you enter. They (hopefully) spend their initial capital in such a way that the day-to-day income of people paying for their service (or the microtransactions of the meals) can cover both the day-to-day operations and the start-up costs (which would be the equivalent of the boxed-copy in this rough metaphor.) Now, of course, there are all manner of problems with games where the design becomes about getting people to spend money, but as a fundamental approach, the free-to-play plus transactions model seems to hew more closely to the idea of game-as-service. Wouldn’t someone who put $50 toward the restaurant’s building, without knowing how well the restaurant’s going to do, or how many meals they’re going to get at that restaurant before it shutters up be considered an investor?

  23. ExRtwPlusOne says:

    Kieran, ExRTW : There will never been an accurate GDC examinatio or post mortem, the whole situation with RTW is confused with untruths, hearsay and outright lies spread by their management internally and publically for many years. That pattern will continue from them. RTW senior management were wholly masters of the companys fate and they spectacularly failed with nobody else to blame. One of the many problems within RTW was always a culture that errors were someone elses fault, they purposefully refused to look at or learn from their own mistakes due to a belief that they always made the right decision or always did the right thing – they kept calling themselves professionals! HAHA! Despite their very intelligent developers telling them otherwise, they refused to accept that people with maths degrees and phds didn’t understand money or its management. It was shameful and eventually people just got bored of the argument, threw their hands in the air and silently waited for the inevitable implosion (if they hadn’t already quit).

    Crying shame for staff and friends involved. They deserved better than being treated like they have.

  24. gogolpoe says:

    the biggest issue is who pays for the excess debt? this is not a game development issue, but an issue of moral hazard. because its likely the PE firm that lent the money securitized the loan to RTW from a bank (likely some TBTF bank). so in essence its taxpayers who will pay for the disgusting mismanagement of millions.

    its a broken system. those who make the failed decisions of ‘vesting’ in the project (ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS), get off with a nice cushy salary/bonus with no recourse to there failures. likely the suits will get off with a hand job from a ‘who they know’ who is willing to hire them for another ponzi scheme.

    utterly disgusting. and its not uncommon (outside of the gaming industry) its shitty business as usual).

  25. Pijama says:

    Now you bring a very important point here, Kieron.

    In all my years of gaming, I never seen some worry regarding “industry ethics” or whatever you may decide to call it. The maturation of the medium in material terms didn’t bring a proportional maturation of perspective, it seems.

    That brings all sorts of shit to happen.

    First and foremost – this launch. What the hell? Letting it happen in such state because of tremendous incompetence was worse than not having launched at all – and being fucking irresponsible to the employees who would be shafted vigorously afterwards.

    Then we have the people who buy it and realize that they too acquired an awful product. They become unhappy, end up being suspicious, and go back to World of Warcraft. Innovation suffers.

    And last but not least, there is also the capitalist side of the equation: these guys besides not giving a shit about the medium, development or their consumers are going to seek different manners to recover lost capital – therefore withdrawing it from the gaming market. And even that our perception of digital entertainment seems to be very happy-going, damn it, this is still an industry and it is subject to all consequences and factors of political economy. That means that if shit happens there and capital diminishes, we get lower wages, unemployment, longer work hours, lesser benefits, so on and on.

    Honestly? Time to get some fucking regulation going on, and bring in the trade unions.

  26. ExRTWPlusOne says:

    One more thing, Kieron, great article. Youre the first person to start digging beneath the public bullshit like those player numbers. Keep going to find more gold.

  27. Wrex says:

    When i played the game, i felt sad. I was on the closed beta, (the group of “SS” or SharpShooters. RTW mentioned us to not use that SS abbreviation). So, when i played, i allways had at least 1 friend playing with me, most of the time i had 2 or 3.

    The game mechanics sucked, especially driving. The driving was done so badly, RTW said it was only to avoid cheaters. If you wanted the car to turn left, you had to press ‘A’, then the info went to the server, server had then to respond to you that you may turn left and only then you could turn. And the car was a single block, it was nothing like cars usually are these days in games.

    There was a problem with cheaters, bugs, memory leak issues, massive minimum requirements for hardware on the game. After that, my APB gameplay was raging most of the time. Something was allways bad, there was a problem for server registering your shooting(really!).

    My thinks were that if RTW would have made those bugs go off, it would have gotten much players. Oh, and i was disappointed, when RTW said that there is no other micro-transactions on the game, only the gametime, and then i heard about the VOIP ads..

    Of course, the content in APB would interest people for just 3 monts max, there wasn’t much to see or do. Only grinding, which eventually turned to not work so well because of the bugs. A thing that i noticed myself, that playing on the European servers would mean that there would be 8-14 year old kids squeaking on voip and god*&#¤% russians who doesn’t understand english at all. There was some in beta too. I just hate playing with them, they cannot communicate.

    Thanks for reading. This is my experience about APB.

    Wrex (EU-beta Sharpshooter)

    • Howl says:

      The game mechanics were dreadful. I still don’t understand, 10+ years on why we are seeing MMOs with bad foundations. AoC, EQ2, WAR, Tabula Rasa… The list is huge. All incredibly clumsy, tedious game engines. 5 minutes with any one of those games was enough to know they were going to suck. What’s the point in spending millions on elaborate worlds and ‘content’ when the process of consuming that content isn’t fun? I’ve never stepped foot in a dev studio but surely you would have a core team of people refining and iterating your core game mechanics until they are a joy to use, before you waste resources employing people to build a world on top? Had APB handled like Dirt2 + BC2 it would have sold like hot cakes.

      It doesn’t matter how many hours of content APB had, or how innovative the character customisation options were. All those art and sound assets? What a terrible waste. I had abandoned it before I even used up my 4 beta hours.

  28. Kid A says:

    In semi-related news: GAME are still selling full-price boxed copies of APB in both branches in Kingston, and neither manager was aware of the fact the servers had shut down. They also both said they couldn’t remove the game from their shelves until they got the okay from higher up.
    I have come to the conclusion that 90% of GAME employees know NOTHING about videogames. (I went in to browse, and one of them came up to me, in the middle of the PC aisle, and tried to sell me a FIFA 11 pre-order and a Kinect pre-order. NOPE.)

    • Thermal Ions says:

      EB Games here was doing the same thing with Hellsgate more than a month after it shutdown.

  29. Torgen says:

    Had Epic (or anyone else) bought APB as an ongoing concern, they would have also inherited the $100 million debt, wouldn’t they? It only makes sense to wait for it to fold, then buy it from receivership the next business day.

    • Tei says:

      More like buying APB help to pay the debt, but maybe the debt is around 4M, you don’t know (I dont know).

    • Pijama says:

      Not necessarily. Moral hazard + pissed off investors can be quite a thing.

      In these cases, it is best to settle a deal with the ones who backed the project before (investors, IP holders, creditors, publishers, etc) rather than face some seriously tense litigation.

    • ExRTW says:

      The $100m is a sunk cost, it’s gone and no one is getting it back. It’s not debt, it’s the money the investors spent.

      I think it’s pretty revealing that no one wanted to run the game as an ongoing concern, despite writing off the development costs.

    • Kadayi says:


      Principally it’s to free them from any obligation to the existing user base, esp with respect to RTW points etc. From a business perspective it makes sense tbh.

  30. MrWolf says:

    This game has enormous potential to be a ridiculous amount of fun. They just need to shake the suck out of it.

  31. Radiant says:

    Great piece.

  32. Platypus says:

    GAME: link to
    HMV: link to link to
    Zavvi: link to

    All of them still have APB on offer. The only one of the big 5 UK game retailers, which stopped selling APB, is link to

    They might not accept newly placed orders for APB, so I wouldn’t accuse them of anything yet, but, on the other hand, they might, out of ignorance or greed, still take your money and send you a glorified coaster.

    • Kadayi says:

      I think it’s fair to say that it will probably take a few days for the world of retailers to catch on to the news I doubt there is anything malicious in it.

  33. mondomau says:

    *Taken from my post on EvilAvatar*
    As one of the ‘suckers’ ‘duped’ into paying for this game (30 odd hours on the PTW test servers, a lot less on the live version, once I’d realised they hadn’t actually fixed most of the things that were wrong), I’d just like to add a few points:

    APB, despite RTWs vague allusions and the suggestion of the early videos wasn’t really anything like GTA – The actual released product was closer to a crippled counterstrike clone (eerily similar community too) with a wonky matchmaking system, broken stat balancing and the ability to play ‘dress up’ with your avatar.

    The really sad thing is, it was getting slightly better (albeit painfully slowly) – the last couple of patches were addressing some of the core gameplay issue. it was just too little, too late – something that might have been mitigated if they had lowered the ridiculous pricing and encouraged a stronger community.

    Believe it or not, I’m not actually bothered about losing the game time – I’d all but given up on the game anyway, bar the occasional visit after a new patch. But I am VERY pissed off with the picture that seems to be emerging in the wake of the fallout from RTWs demise – that there was pretty much a deliberate decision to run the game on more or less zero funding and implement a lunatic and illogical payment scheme to try and cover the gap in as short a time as possible. That the failure of this scheme led to so many developers losing their jobs and us losing a game that, while not perfect, was OK and that we FUCKING PAID FOR, while Dave Jones has apparently jumped ship to Epic with (potentially) the broken remains of APB (i.e. the IP) for future exploitation is utterly unacceptable.

    • mondomau says:

      I should just point out that I am aware the ‘Dave Jones Signing on with Epic’ and ‘Epic buying APB once it’s dead’ elements are still speculation. But I’m horribly cynical.

    • Jockie says:

      I can’t see why Epic would have any interest in APB outside (as suggested by Kieron) certain tech innovations and changes to the unreal engine.

      APB doesn’t fit in with epics recent MO of a firm making predominantly console games for huge mainstream audiences. Hell Cliffy B was one of the more recent devs to go on record claiming that the pc as a platform is dead.

      So Epic to purchase critically mauled, niche, failed once already, pc only MMO?

      I really doubt it. I wouldn’t be suprised if they took on Dave Jones in some capacity though, or pilfered some of the cool stuff like customization engines or audio streaming, assuming they could get it at a reasonable price.

    • DrGonzo says:

      But Mark Rein recently went on the record to say that Cliffy B was wrong and that PC isn’t dead and Epic will be supporting it in the future. So I don’t think anyone can really guess.

      I could see that Epic could make a new, but similar game out of the engine, better organised that doesn’t require a subscription, like Guild Wars. Possibly an Unreal Tournament 4?

    • Sam C. says:

      Some of the ex-RTW folks have said that the payment plan was in the works for quite a long time, and that it was a mistake to not let people know how the payments would work earlier, so I don’t think it was a last minute decision.

    • Jockie says:

      RE: The payment scheme, it actually worked out a hell of a lot better than it sounded on paper for me, though that may have been due to my extensive beta experience.

      Essentially I bought the game, knew how to get some pretty funky items (that I didn’t want to use personally) quickly and then put them for sale on the dreaded points marketplace. They sold beyond my wildest dreams and I would have been able to play for free for the next four months. So in a way Dave Jones’ “It’s possible to play for free claim” was true, I know people who had enough points for a few years play saved up.

      It was a mixture of poor PR and quotes being taken out of context that caused a furore over the payment system. People zeroed in on the “possible to play for free” part and via chinese whispers it became ‘free to play’. Which understandably caused an outroar when the buy hours or sub truth of the matter became public knowledge.

    • bob_d says:

      @Jockie: The willful misunderstanding was worse than that; I recollect seeing (unnecessarily vague) statements along the lines of “it won’t be based on the traditional monthly subscription model” that were interpreted as “entirely free to play.” Once that irrational expectation had been created and was left unchallenged, they were screwed. It would have been far better if they hadn’t been coy, or even said it *was* going to be subscription-based, and then later unveiled the other options.

    • Starky says:

      I don’t think anyone thought it would be utterly free to play, I think we all expected something like DDO – where it would be free for basic access and basic gameplay, but they’d sell other things. New weapon skins, hair cuts texture/decal packs, vehicles etc. etc…

      That with the market place for in game designs using real money (from the players) with them taking an auction cut.

      I remember talking about that with a friend thinking they should have a system where someone designs say, a car design as unique – which means when they sell it the design is deleted from the creators account – sure thy could remake it, but they’d have to do the work again from scratch, they could not just copy it.
      That way things like tattoo’s and such might retain some value.

      A bit like Eve’s isk for gametime program, allowing people to fund their game utterly with in game work.

    • Jockie says:

      @Starky, you guys may not have thought it was going to be free, because Rockpapershotgun readers are generally capable of reading what is written down rather than simply seeing what they want to. But the APB forums etc were full of people talking of being lied to and betrayal etc

    • poop says:

      they did basically not reveal their model at all while dropping hints that it was free, and when you consider how terrible and instanced the game was where it very easily could have just have a server browser or matchmaker it really did feel like gouging

  34. Lucas says:

    The first APB video with moving vehicles killed my interest in the game. Auto Assault had this problem too (it was essentially Diablo on wheels). Why make a vehicle centric game if you don’t care about good vehicular gameplay design? Handling matters, and I’m not asking for realism, but interesting tradeoffs. I like GTA as much as the next gamer, but the GTA-alike trend has been ruinous for proper vehicle action/sim games which are almost entirely absent this generation.

  35. Jimbo says:

    I find the idea that this game was somehow going to come good eventually to be laughable. The game is fundamentally flawed at the structural level.

    As soon as they decided the ‘100 players on an action server, most of whom you can’t interact with’ structure, this game was done. Every $ they spent after that decision was made might as well have been burned. You don’t need the benefit of hindsight to see this – just trying to explain this structure to people has always been met with an overwhelmingly negative reaction. The game could have been polished to perfection and it still would have failed.

    I don’t think it’s really a matter of it being overtaken by time either. WoW was already out and making zillions the entire way through the development of APB. Guild Wars came out not long after WoW iirc. It couldn’t have been made any clearer to RTW what does and does not justify a subscription. Guild Wars wouldn’t have worked with a subscription back then, and neither would APB.

    For APB to succeed as a subscription-based game it needed a WoW-esque level of ambition in terms of structure. It needed thousands of players permanently based in a single seamless city. If they concluded that this wasn’t technologically possible with a real-time combat game, then they needed to just forget the whole idea and make something else.

  36. Seedygonzalez says:

    After reading today about EPIC having and interest in APB and getting some info from a RTW insider about David going to work at EPIC, we all know APB will be back soon enough and that the old RTW staff will not get much happiness from the fact they all built the game but EPIC are going to continue to deploy patches, and work on the hard work that RTW as an entity in Dundee actually made. Man I am so fukin gutted that APB is no more (for now). I really have no interest in the staff, its the game i want to play, and i have been waiting for for so long.

    If EPIC bring it back to life im going to play it for ever… if they dont.. well ill find another game and you know what ill talk to people about APB for ever.. as far as i am concerned i have no real interest in David or his empire. I want to play APB and so do thousands of other people.

    To ditch the game now is an EPIC piece of shit… its actually a realisation that it isnt gamers who rule the gaming world, its the wank stained governance of out society that has killed off RTW.. the new game will also fail if the owners dont really listen to what games want.

  37. Mario says:

    @Jockie: “I can’t see why Epic would have any interest in APB outside (as suggested by Kieron) certain tech innovations and changes to the unreal engine.”

    That’s more than enough, especially if they’ll manage to get it on the cheap. After all, nowadays Epic is a technology company, not a game company. They just happen to develop technology used for creating games, but games aren’t really central to their business model anymore. Yeah, one could be fooled by their occasional game they release here and there, but the purpose of these games is to showcase the tech rather than to stand on their own merits as games. Take, for example, Gears of War. It was created as a showcase, not just for Unreal Engine 3, but for Xbox 360 as well. It had “You don’t have the technical expertise but want to create shiny graphics? License out engine and you could be a AAA developer too!” written all over it.

  38. porno izle says:

    Hellgate was a good comparison.

  39. Krumm says:

    I hope Epic does buy this game out. I only played for 3 weeks and i agree, the game was flawed. But, the game wasn’t so flawed that it couldn’t be corrected. Also remember, APB was at one time supposed to be released for the XBOX 360 and PC. If this game to the 360 I would certainly play (even with a monthly fee) till the servers were closed…again.

    • ExRTWPlusOne says:

      It’s time to put the 360 version myth to bed. There never was one (another lie see) and to do one would have taken even more years of effort because the way the game was technically architected needed ridiculous amounts of memory. Yes the long term plan was to make a console version one day but everyone knew it was nonsense and people didn’t listen. It never existed and all the tech guys i spoke to reckoned it was impossible.

  40. Symce says:

    I’ve been following this trainwreck for a while, but I still can’t wrap my head around the insane amounts of money being burned. It really was immortal and not-well thought out to pump so much cash into an project that wasn’t guaranteed to make it’s money back.

    When you think about it, such cash spending could’ve been expected by larger companies or companies that had a few succes-stories already, but not an relatively new (?) or at least unknown one.

    For a game that has been in development for the amount of time as APB has, it was still sorely lacking in playability, which leads me to believe that it was A: rushed to it’s release date because of the apparent money problems, and B: there was a lack of experience of the entire company as a whole.

    All in all it’s one helluva train-wreck, and one can only hope that with this and Hellgate london in mind developers will be a bit more mindful with their spending-sprees on new projects.

  41. Xolo says:

    Something died in me with that game. It was the same with Planetside, Neocron and Matrix Online. All of those game had minor, and depending on your perspective also significant flaws. But all of them tried to do something new, and in that regard also too much for the mainstream market. Everyone SEEMS to be tired of all the sequels and rehashes, but if a truly unique game comes around the corner it usually get smothered in shit because of balancing issues, bugs and mechanic problems. Well, when we downloaded the first version of CS over dual.isdn, believe me, there were issues as well.

    APB was terribly unique and frighteningly original. It was the best game i have played in 28 years of gaming and i played them all. It was never something for the mass market though. Even with proper documentation the learning curve was almost as brutal as the one in planetside. It was impossible to solo, unless you were playing a dick, like cloaker in planetside. No teamwork made a team of seasoned FPS Veterans look like scrubs against four actual scrubs that had a squadleader and discipline.

    Many of my friends that i play with for many years now were truly saddened that it happened. And many of the naysayers that were trolling the forums had to realise that they actually loved the game as much as we did but were frustrated by its problems. But man of them were grossly exaggerated and the reviews a farce. Not only were most of the reviews full of factual errors, but no one actually “got” what the game was about. It was compared to many things and there were pointless discussions about being an MMO or not.

    The gaming world has changed a lot in those last ten years. The achievement and progression illusion has become as worse as most of us predicted, and genres and gamers so tied up in their comparisons that it is hard to even make a mechanic in a game unique.

    But i gotta go back to the servers now as long as they are still up. for anyone that uses the launcher its offline, you can start the game via its exe. And enjoy it for maybe the last weekend.

    After that im gonna do a proper writeup on hindsight about the game from the inside perspective since beta day one. I would love if there maybe even would be a room on RPS for it, if its not the total shit. The game deserves some attention for everything it has done well too. Because it has, otherwise there wouldnt be dozens of adults sad like their lost their puppies that its gone.

    • Kadayi says:

      “No teamwork made a team of seasoned FPS Veterans look like scrubs against four actual scrubs that had a squadleader and discipline.”

      Agreed fully on that score. Plain truth of the matter is the game play is unforgiving in the same way that clan match level counterstrike is. The team that tends to win is the team that works cohesively, and can adapt its play style to counter & neutralise the opposition on the fly. The great thing with APB is that although the missions might be the same, how they play out rarely repeats itself because of the size & scope of the levels, coupled with random intervention. It’s a game that operates at a breakneck pace. The fundamental problem with most of the reviews is that pretty much all of them just approached it as a singular experience at the end of the day. Now that’s not to say that some of them didn’t have valid criticisms (the launch build wasn’t ideal in a lot of ways), but it’s fair to say most of them failed to understand the games target audience. The fault for that can probably be placed on PR failing to clearly put across the titles ambitions, but in a way given the circle jerk of ‘OMFG GTA MMO want!!!’ hype doing the rounds whenever there was an APB article I guess it was almost as futile as Canute attempting to turn back the tide. Massive expectation (followed by angry internet man fury) for a game, that APB never was also killed it.

  42. Dimension says:

    I coincidentally am also another 28 year gamer who agrees with Xolo. I have been waiting a number of years for a game that held my attention like APB did.

    APB was a great game, but massively hard on newbies.

    I was practically screaming at a video review of the game as I watched the reviewer make remarks that weren’t even true. You couldn’t simply learn this game in a few hours. You could know the basics, but much like counterstrike there is a massive learning curve to be successful.

    There are few of us who could see the massive amount of work that went into this game.

    I am sad to see it go. I hope it gets brought back in some fashion.

    I had 12,000 RTW points which was good for 3 years of game time…