Great MMO Company Collapses of Our Time – RealTime Worlds

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RealTime Worlds

  • Game That Destroyed Them: All Points Bulletin (APB)
  • Studio Launch Date:  Early 2002
  • Studio Closure DateSeptember 2010
  • Invested In By: Private investors
  • Estimated Money Blown: Over US$100m
  • Cause of Death: Spending all the budget before the game had even launched, poor internal management and studio culture, having too much money

RealTime Worlds (RTW) was founded by Dave Jones, who was also involved in the design and development of the original 2D Grand Theft Auto, Lemmings and a number of other well-regarded titles. Based in Dundee, Scotland, RTW had managed a hit with Xbox title Crackdown that managed to successfully fuse Grand Theft Auto’s cars and gunplay with the super-powered being genre.

A group of APB characters

APB’s character and car customisation options were incredible. Unfortunately, nothing else in the game was at that standard.

RTW’s next project after Crackdown was All Points Bulletin (APB), which planned to take the best of GTA’s open world, shooting and driving mechanics and blend it with a massively multiplayer first-person shooter, plus an incredibly flexible character and vehicle customisation system. On paper, this sounded like a sure fire winner and RTW was able to raise over US$100m for the project.

But this influx of cash made RTW ill-disciplined and complacent – they were hiring fast and success was certain, so things weren’t being managed well internally. RTW’s company culture meant that costs weren’t being monitored or that there were checks in place to ensure that the right things were being invested in. Internal departments jealously guarded their own territory while ignoring anything that was outside of that area, such as Customer Service not reading submitted bugs on beta forums because that was Community’s job… but Community didn’t deal with bugs, because that was Customer Service’s job, so the bugs were left unresolved.

Finally, there were issues that APB just wasn’t fun enough, but it was believed that (as had happened with Crackdown) things would fall into place right before launch. As such, capital reserves were spent to the point that RTW had little in the bank when APB launched on 29 June 2010 and attracted around 130 000 players. Things didn’t fall into place and sales fell short of expectations. RTW had also started up another internal project called MyWorld that diverted resources away from APB, and this was the first area to see redundancies, but a mere 80 days later RTW was placed under administration – the fastest MMO launch-to-collapse that the industry has seen to date.

RTW’s assets were sold off, with K2 Networks purchasing what they needed to get APB operational for £1.5 million, meaning they bought the title for roughly US2c on every dollar RTW had burned getting to that point. APB Reloaded operates today at GamersFirst under a free-to-play model.

3 thoughts on “Great MMO Company Collapses of Our Time – RealTime Worlds

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