Realtime Worlds enters administration [update 2]

Realtime Worlds enters administration [update 2]

By Rob Crossley in Cologne

August 17th 2010 at 4:01PM

Business handed to corporate rescue firm; "170 staff cut, with 50 staff left to save APB"

Famed Scottish studio Realtime Worlds is on the brink of closure with the company entering administration, Develop can confirm.

Studio sources say the business has been handed over to its new administrator, the corporate rescue firm Begbies Traynor Group.

Realtime Worlds now has a deadline to find an investor that can save the firm from liquidation.

If no willing investor is found, Realtime World’s final game will have been All Points Bulletin – an ambitious, five-year gamble that attempted to merge the sandbox action genre with an MMO monetisation structure.

That gamble, which convinced investors to supply at least $80 million to the studio, failed to pay off.

Rumours of studio breakdown surfaced just weeks after APB launched to market. Sales have been poor and server capacity – built to house huge volumes of players – has barely been scratched.

The fate of APB remains unclear, for now, though Develop has heard the title will live on - likely in the hands of another company.

The news has led to an emotional outpouring from former developers and connected individuals, responding to the news across Twitter.

One source said 170 staff have been laid off, with 50 kept on to support APB – though this has not been confirmed.

Develop’s earlier report - that Realtime Worlds has axed its US office - is now virtually confirmed with multiple accounts of its closure across Twitter feeds.

[Update 2: Realtime Worlds' new administrator is, for now, looking to rescue the US business It is thought that a skeleton crew remains.]

Official confirmation on the fate of APB remains elusive.

The sharp turn of events at Realtime Worlds brings to light the bleak, cut-throat nature of independent game development.

After Crackdown (2006), faith in Realtime Worlds hit its peak, and its newest project was widely anticipated.

The studio slaved over APB for nearly five years, yet in the space of weeks the game was stung by mixed reviews, as well as a controversial payment model and, to top it off, unpopular PR techniques.

After the release of APB, Realtime Worlds initially fought against the paralysing truth - that few were playing the game.

The studio pledged to release a patch that hoped would improve the game and draw in more players.

Soon after, Realtime Worlds announced its next game, Project MyWorld; a title which, in what seemed to be in a moment of desperation, was revealed to the public and potential publishing partners.

Publishers declined to sign the game and the once-impervious dev powerhouse began to find itself stranded.

Sixty staff were laid off from the Project MyWorld job. Studio boss Colin Macdonald tried to rally the rest of his team by telling Develop that the outfit would hold firm.

He added: "I just want to say how hard this has been for everyone. We’ve prided ourselves on building a fantastic calibre team – and a very close-knit team, and it's regrettable to let even one of them go.”

Today Develop was told by too many trusted sources not to run a story that Realtime World's US office has closed, before talk of administration broke.

Realtime Worlds opened in 2002. It developed Crackdown and APB.