We called APB Reloaded one of the best free-to-play MMOs available—in 2013. It's chugged along since those long-ago days, although its last listed update on Steam came out in mid-2016, and while the player base has slowly, steadily declined over the years, its average concurrent player count is still hanging in around the 500 mark. That's not bad for a game of that vintage, particularly one that doesn't have a major publisher behind it.
And it may be about to get some new life. Game publisher Little Orbit, which took over the Kickstarter train wreck Unsung Story last summer, announced today that it has acquired GamersFirst, the parent company of Reloaded Productions, and all the games it owns. CEO Matthew Scott acknowledged that APB Reloaded needs a lot of work, but promised regular communication with players as that work progresses. "Good, bad, or ugly, I will share where we are at," he wrote.
The first 30 days will be dedicated to updating privacy policies, the code of conduct, and terms and conditions. Social pages will be cleaned up, a new forum launched, and "a significant change to our banning and cheating policies" will be announced. After that, the focus will turn to new content, including—hopefully—a new mode, maps, clothing, guns, and vehicles. A new competitive matchmaking system is planned, as is a transition to Unreal Engine 4.
"This is a long process that involves a massive rewrite of several core systems and a lot of art migration. I know that this has been talked about extensively in the past, and it has been a sore point with the community for a while," Scott wrote.
"It’s going to take time. We need to start by unifying the PC version on Unreal 3.5, and then moving to Unreal 4. Personally I don’t think Unreal 4 is going to have a big impact on the look or speed of the game. It may not even be noticeable to some. But for APB Reloaded to have long-term viability, transitioning to Unreal 4 is something we need to do."
Can APB Reloaded be brought back to some kind of relevance by a new publisher? The fact that it's been able to maintain any sort of player base in the face of quiet indifference (I suspect that quite a lot of people assumed that APB Reloaded went under long ago) is a testament to its durability, and it didn't end up in that "best free-to-play MMOs" for nothing. It may not be the most obvious candidate for a revival, but a free-to-play, low-key GTA Online-style experience might just work.