This week’s normal blog post has been supplanted, sadly, after news broke of Realtime Worlds going down earlier in the week. I was intending to write a post anyway, after the news that 60 people were to be trimmed as a result of their Project Myworld not finding an investor, but the urgency wasn’t really there. It looked that ostensibly things were being wound down in some kind of graceful way, which, while sad, is just the nature of the beast. Everyone knew that the large team that had been ramped up to deliver APB would be unsustainable, given the absence of a large income stream from that game, or anything else signed. It was always going to stand or fall on APB’s quality, and that was apparent a couple of months ago now. But we gave them the benefit of the doubt.
That was late last week though. Come Tuesday afternoon, news surfaced that there had just been a company meeting to announce that the administrators had been called in. And not in a graceful, let’s wind things down sort of way. In an almighty, we’re all out of money, and by the way you’re not getting paid for August sort of way. While that’s not unprecedented (when VIS went down, they at least had the courtesy to do so immediately after a pay-day so no-one did any work that wasn’t going to be paid for; but DC went down with unpaid wages), I don’t think it’s ever forgivable. But the difference was, those other studios had been operating milestone to milestone for a long while, burning through their cash. RTW had their investment up front, they knew what money was coming in, and when it would stop. To go under leaving unpaid wages (and word is, a bunch of trade debt as well) is to me a massively negligent failing of those in charge.
The whole affair smacks of senior management, knowing they’d burnt through all their cash (and let’s not forget, that’s over $100m), and yet continuing to operate. APB had run over its development timescale, that was public knowledge, but if they didn’t have enough money to operate beyond its launch, this mess should have been sorted out when they realised what was going to happen. I’m sure they thought that to do so would further damage the APB launch: who would want to invest time in an MMO if it looked like the developer was going to go bust even before launch. That doesn’t excuse screwing over your employees: they chose to gamble everything on persuading new investors to save them. And since they’d already failed to show that they could deliver on the sort of projects they claimed to have expertise in, I don’t know how they thought anyone would believe them.
I’m sure there will be more details and analysis from those who saw this mess from the inside. Even last week, this RTW person let go in the MyWorld redundancies put an insightful but damning post over on Rock Paper Shotgun. I’ll come back to this one once more of the details have become clear. Sadly, even if a phoenix company does ride from the ashes (again stirring memories of DC and their similarly resurrection), it will be a dim shadow of what RTW once was. While there are still several good businesses in Dundee doing alright, the heart has been cut out of the industry, both in Dundee and in Scotland in general. We’ll lose a lot of good talented people, because there is no-where else with the capacity to pick them up. Again, Scottish development will take years to rebuild, if indeed we ever manage it.
Next time, I think, will be a rant about development budgets, and how they’re hurting us all.