Penguin Random House is to take its interactive narrative gaming experience Black Crown offline at the end of this week, with creator Rob Sherman conceding that "the economics do not stand up".
The online narrative gaming project, with Sherman's story set in the shady Widsith Institute, launched in May 2013. In its first three months 6,000 people signed up to play the game, with around 5% of those paying money for in-game currency.
However Black Crown will be taken offline this week, with the main game becoming unplayable and the website redirecting to Sherman’s website Bonfire Dog.
Written material hosted on sites like Tumblr will remain available.
In a blog post about the end of the project, Sherman said he was “saddened, in ways that I will always find difficult to articulate, that The Black Crown Project will no longer be playable in any meaningful form”, but that he had been fully consulted and endorsed the decision to shut the platform.
Developer Failbetter Games could not continue maintaining Black Crown "with its ring-fenced code, unique features and separate, demanding bug queue", given that it did not produce much revenue, he said.
Sherman commented: “It is no great shame or secret that Black Crown was not a successful project financially. The amount of speculation, trust and liberalism that went into its production unearthed a distinct optimism in me…But, taking all such things into account, it remains a simple fact that Black Crown was an experiment in creativity and commerce, in which I believe I delivered on the former but not on the latter. In its current incarnation, Black Crown will not make any of us any more money. It is not a populist piece, and the economics do not stand up. I stand by the decision made, and will defend it.”
Digital publisher Dan Franklin told The Bookseller that the game was an “experiment”, and added: “That was the first iteration. We have created a lot of stuff there. There are other ways we could render it. We were very happy with the audience it got. It really appealed to a gaming audience that crossed over into the tech space.” Franklin is talking to Sherman and “thinking about how we repurpose" some of the content. “We have seen it as a piece of IP that could live somewhere else,” he said.
Franklin added that the project had provided a platform for Sherman, who is currently the British Library’s interactive fiction writer in residence.