Well this is awkward. GamersFirst, an operator of free-to-play online games, announced today that it has acquired the rights to the 2010 flop of the year, All Points Bulletin (APB), and will re-launch it on a freemium revenue model later next year.
GamersFirst is essentially betting that switching All Points Bulletin, which was formerly on a monthly pay-to-play subscription model before it shut down in September, to a free-to-play model that makes money off the sale of virtual goods like weapons, will save the game. What GamersFirst may be forgetting is that APB’s developer, Realtime Worlds, chewed through $100 million before shutting its doors.
Simply making APB free for everyone to play isn’t a guarantee that gamers will flock back to the game. All Points Bulletin was universally slammed by critics. And that’s not because it was on a pay-to-play model — it simply wasn’t a good game. The game only garnered a score of 58 out of 100 after 42 reviews on Metacritic, a site that aggregates reviews into a single score. And even if gamers do pick up the game once again, there’s no guarantee the game would actually begin making money.
Some games have seen success shifting from a subscription-based revenue model to a free-to-play model. Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online, both games released by Turbine, are the most notable. Lord of the Rings Online’s revenue doubled after Turbine introduced microtransactions to help speed up character progression, and Dungeons and Dragons Online’s revenue went up by 500 percent.
But that’s mostly because the games were actually good, according to game critics. Lord of the Rings Online had a score of 86 out of 100 after 40 reviews on Metacritic, and Dungeons and Dragons Online had a slightly less-than-stellar — but by no means terrible — 74 out of 100 after 33 reviews.
Realtime Worlds previously created Crackdown, a third-person shooting game that took place in an open world urban environment and let gamers participate in all sorts of mayhem. Crackdown ended up being a cult hit, and picking up a score of 83 out of 100 after 75 reviews on Metacritic. The company built its staff to more than 250 employees and worked on All Points Bulletin for more than five years, only to find out that nobody wanted to play it.
So far there is only one successful subscription-based online game left. Activision Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, one of the most dominant online games in history, has around 12 million players that pay $15 a month to access the game’s persistent world. And again, that’s simply because World of Warcraft is widely considered to be a fantastic game. The game received a score of 93 out of 100 after 57 reviews on Metacritic. World of Warcaft has been so dominant that it has forced many other subscription-based games to go free-to-play.
GamersFirst says that it has around 30 million players across 160 million countries playing its games. I guess it can only hope that those same gamers are more forgiving than the rest of the world was to APB the first time around.