Horizons dev files for bankruptcy protection

Massively multiplayer game creator restructuring debt, in talks over buyout offer.

Artifact Entertainment, creators of the Horizons: Empire of Istaria massively multiplayer online title, has applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to allow it to restructure its debts, but has assured customers that there will be no disruption to the gameplay of the MMORPG title.

Earlier this year, Artifact was forced to go through two rounds of redundancies and a payroll cut, with the present difficulties apparently brought about by a failure to reach an agreement with a "key vendor" of its game - presumably the game's publisher, Atari.

The firm is now in discussions regarding a buy-out of the studio, according to a statement issued today. "[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," it reads.

Horizons was launched at the end of 2003, and currently offers online play in North America, Europe and Asia. The game service will continue to operate as normal while the company seeks a solution to its financial difficulties.

The problems faced by Artifact underline the high risks involved in launching a product into the MMORPG market, which is dominated by a small number of major players such as EverQuest, Lineage and Final Fantasy XI. Several MMORPG projects have been cancelled already this year, including Microsoft's Mythica, EA's Ultima X: Odyssey and Games Workshop's Warhammer Online.

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