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Bring 'Em Back Live

Richard Aihoshi Posted:
Columns The Free Zone 0

While I've yet to see any form of official confirmation, GamesIndustry.biz reported last Thursday that according to unspecified sources, K2 Network, which operates the GamersFirst portal, is the new owner of the All Points Bulletin IP. According to the story, the purchase from Realtime Worlds is a done deal, and we can expect to see an announcement this week. The site notes a price of approximately 1.5 million pounds ($US 2.4 million) and says there's a possibility the game will re-launch by the end of the year, presumably as a free to play offering, although this isn't explicitly stated.

It's probably been five or six years since APB was announced. Conceptually, it always had great potential, but for a long time, there was little information forthcoming, which gradually raised serious question marks about the project. For a fair while, I thought there was a pretty good chance it would die without launching. That feeling turned out to be only somewhat pessimistic; live service lasted only a few months.

I didn't play it during that time, but from various people whose opinions I can generally rely on, I got the impression the game could be a lot of fun despite having some serious flaws and issues. This may help explain why the players' reactions seemed quite polarized, with some thinking it was highly enjoyable, but many unable to find enough redeeming qualities to compensate for its shortcomings.

If APB is indeed returning, I wonder about its prospects. The stated price may seem like a bargain beside estimates that the project burned through $100 million or more. With its far smaller investment, K2 can much more easily turn a profit. However, changing the business model to F2P would only address one of the aforementioned flaws and issues. The others involve things like gameplay, accessibility and security, none of which will get better without additional spending.

There's also a question as to how much the title's troubled development history, its mediocre reviews and its rapid demise as a subscription release will impact its marketability. Will the resulting negative image keep gamers away even when the barriers of initial purchase cost and monthly / hourly fees are removed? My feeling on this is that it largely depends on how much APB is actually improved. Obviously, the bar in terms of surviving longer than the first time is pretty low. As to whether its second incarnation can do well enough to become a significant factor in the MMO shooter segment, which is growing and larger than some might think, your guess is as good as mine. Since the recent months have seen no shortage of rumors about various titles switching over to F2P, I can't help but wonder how many others are reasonable candidates, and which will be next.

I was also reminded of another short-lived subscription offering that I considered great fun at times despite some significant and ultimately fatal flaws, Auto Assault. When I was in the appropriate mood, which was mentally tired and not wanting to think very much, I greatly enjoyed jumping into my vehicle and tearing around the countryside blasting away at most things that moved as well as quite a few, like buildings, that didn't.

Sometimes, I'd do that for a couple of hours or more. On other occasions, 10 or 15 minutes of blow 'em up was all I wanted. And fairly often, but not every day by any means. So, when it became clear the game wouldn't last long charging by the month, I remember wishing it would change over to F2P. How feasible would that have been? Was the possibility ever considered or even brought up? I have no clue; I never asked anyone in a position to know at either NetDevil or NCsoft.

What I do know is that I have yet to find anything since that fits this particular aspect of my preferred play mix. Will APB? My initial impression is that it won't, at least not fully. Even so, there's always the chance I'll enjoy it for itself. As I've said before, I'm no longer keen to put 15 or 20 or more hours per week into a single MMOG. I'd rather play some of this and a little of that according to how I feel at any given moment.

So, I'm pleased that it appears APB will get a second lease on life, and am looking forward to checking it out. Now, if only some publisher would buy and bring back Auto Assault. :p


Richard Aihoshi

Richard Aihoshi / Richard Aihoshi has been writing about the MMOG industry since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. He has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.