Developing, launching, and running a massively multiplayer game is an expensive and risky pursuit, and Artifact Entertainment, developer of Horizons: Empire of Istaria learned that the hard way. Following two staff reductions and a payroll cut this year, the company announced that it has filed for voluntary reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to restructure its debt. Artifact was quick to point out that there will be no interruption to Horizons gameplay.
According to the press release sent out today, Artifact was unable to reach an agreement with a "key vendor" of the fantasy-themed massively multiplayer role-playing game, suggesting that the developer ran into problems with Horizons' publisher, Atari, while trying to alleviate its financial problems. Calls to confirm this scenario with Artifact Entertainment had not been returned as of press time.
The press release also indicated that a full sale of the company may be a possibility. "[Artifact] is also in active discussions with other gaming industry players, with due diligence underway by a seriously interested company that may make an offer to acquire the assets of the company," reads the release.
While Artifact consistently reiterates that Horizons' service will continue as normal, the move casts doubt on whether it will be able to continue expansion and development of the game world, an important part of the game experience according to Artifact president David Bowman. An FAQ posted on the game's Web site says that new content currently in development will be released in the next two months. However, both the press release and the FAQ note that if the sale of the company's assets goes through, the buyer will retain staff to "maintain operations" in Horizons. Nowhere does it state that the studio will continue to develop new content for the game.
Horizons: Empire of Istaria launched at the end of 2003, and it lets players play as humans, elves, or even dragons as they battle an undead invasion. The game currently supports play in Europe, Asia, and North America.