Gaming News: Earth Eternal for sale, Layoffs at APB dev, Spellborn closes down, Rage runs on an iPhone, Valve trademarks DotA, Digital Sales chart for the UK

Not a week of good news for the MMO milieu with various layoffs and closures hitting the headlines. Usually when a game is being run down, it won’t be a surprise to anyone who was paying attention because they will have noticed the ever decreasing numbers (and interest).

Even so, some publishers will keep the servers going right up to the end. SOE in particular has a reputation for supporting (for some value of support) less popular games like Vanguard. Compare that to Zynga, who took flak a few weeks ago for closing one of their less popular (but still hundreds of thousands of players) games without any warning at all.

On the subject of new games, there is also a rumour that Atari is set to announce a new Neverwinter Nights based MMO, from Cryptic.

Plus we are knee deep in convention season with Gamescom next week in Germany looking to be the highlight of the summer, with representation from Blizzard, Arenanet, Bioware, et al. (Anyone planning to go to that?)

Earth Eternal for sale, APB not for sale

Earth Eternal, the cute anthropomorphic animal based game, is on shaky ground at the moment. The developers, Sparkplay Media, are closing down due to having run out of money. The CEO’s letter is particularly poignant:

I’m sorry. I’ve failed you despite my best efforts. I’ve never worked harder in my life, but it wasn’t enough. Things that we planned on happening didn’t, and things we didn’t plan on happening did. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail and I don’t want to try to shift responsibility to anyone but myself. There’s really nothing I can say other than I am very very sorry to have let you down.

So here’s hoping they are able to find a buyer.

Rumours this week were also flying about Realtime Worlds, developers of APB (the Grand Theft Auto MMO-alike). They announced layoffs of 60 staff, the entire team of the MyWorld project which was only announced last month.

The rumour that APB was actually for sale were denied, but it’s never a good sign to see so many people go. The developers commented in reponse to the rumours:

“As we’ve announced we had to restructure the company to make it so that we can focus totally on APB.”

“APB is still going strong and we fully intend to support 100 per cent. In fact we have a cool announcement coming this afternoon, so keep your eyes peeled.”

Chronicles of Spellbourn, a game I rather liked in beta, is definitely in the process of closing up shop. The game has been in limbo for the last few months, after changing payment methods to free to play didn’t solve any cashflow issues. But now it has been announced that the servers are to shut down for good in September.

Rage! On an iPhone! And on everything else in September

Fans of shooters will likely be looking forwards to Rage, id’s next title which is due for release on all platforms on 13th September.

John Carmack wowed the crowd at Quakecon last week by demonstrating the game running on an iPhone 4. I’m now intrigued by how a shooter could work on a touchscreen machine. Surely if you can aim by touching, that rather takes the effort out of the whole thing and turns it into a straight forwards whack-a-mole? cnet aren’t sure about this either but fact is, this was presented as a cool demo rather than a release candidate. (Carmack did comment that the lack of buttons on the iPhone presented a hurdle. Maybe he’ll be happier with the new PSP phone …)

The PSP phone, incidentally, sounds like a dreadful idea to me. We all know how well the Nokia NGage concept went. Not. Sure, Sony Ericsson know a few things about phoned but so did Nokia. We’ll just have to see if they can lever their game console expertise into the design mix and come up with something people want to use.

In other action/gaming rumours, Valve have filed a trademark for Defence of the Ancients which presumably signals some intent do do something with the popular IP which was originally developed as a mod for Warcraft III.

Come to think of it, WC 3 also spawned tower defence as a genre (OK, apparently there were tower defence games before that but I think the WC mods made them much more prominnt) so it has a lot to answer for. I wonder if SC2 mods will also generate entire new genres of games.

Digital Download Sales Charts for the UK

I thought this was an interesting post about moves towards generating more accurate digital games sales charts for the UK. The key is that the publishers involved (so far: Ubisoft, THQ, Sega, NCsoft, Mastertronic, Kalypso Media, Midas Interactive and Square Enix) are going to include sales data from third party resellers such as Steam.

It’s still early days, but good to see some movement on trying to track PC sales more accurately. Because anyone who has been into a game shop recently will know how little of the shelf space is given to PC games these days.