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Online world of Uru shut down for ‘business reasons’

Wed., Feb. 6, 2008

For the second time in four years, the ambitious online world Uru fell victim to corporate accountants.

Uru, developed by Spokane-based Cyan Worlds, has been shut down by game publisher GameTap after one year.

About 30 Cyan workers were involved as designers and visual artists on the game.

Rand Miller, CEO of Cyan, said it was too early to say what the company’s next step would be.

“We are figuring out our employee situation and the possibility of running Uru servers ourselves,” Miller wrote in an e-mail.

A GameTap official said the decision was “made for business reasons” but did not elaborate. The company would not disclose how many players the game had attracted. GameTap is a division of Turner Broadcasting, itself owned by Time Warner, Inc.

Ricardo Sanchez, a GameTap vice president, posted an online message saying, “despite the great Myst Online experience coming to a close, Cyan is still a very valued partner of GameTap, we are on excellent terms and we look forward to continuing our relationship in the future.”

Cyan Worlds first created Uru, also known as Myst Online: Uru Live, back in 2003. French online game distributor Ubisoft agreed to distribute it, but it shut the game down in February 2004.

In early 2007, GameTap resurrected Uru.

Players paid monthly fees to GameTap to participate. Unlike popular war games or first-person shooters, Uru drew fans who enjoyed its rich locales and complex storylines.

It relied on players creating online avatars – game representations of themselves – who then interacted with other characters and players in the game universe. The goal was for players to work together to solve assorted online puzzles.

Miller and Cyan first established their credentials with the breakthrough game Myst, created in 1993. It became the fastest-selling videogame of the 1990s, spawning the sequel Riven.

Even before the decision by GameTap, Miller had been realistic that Uru might not survive a second season under the wing of Turner Broadcasting.

“I’m a bit pessimistic about it surviving,” Miller said. He noted that the game depended on a publisher giving it time to grow and develop its audience.

“It’s really hard to string it along with little bits and pieces.”

In the past two years Cyan also created a second business unit at its north Spokane offices. That group, numbering about 40 workers, provides quality control and testing for other game development companies.

The decision by GameTap doesn’t affect that group, Miller said.


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