Goodbye FreeStyle Street Basketball
September 18, 2008
As of September 25th 2008, the FreeStyle Street Basketball service will be closed.
Sierra Online would like to thank all of our players again for their time and efforts on behalf of the game. Over the past 16 months we have had almost a million gamers sign-up for accounts, hosted two dozen events, and even competed in the world championships at Jeju Island in Korea. Thanks to you, FreeStyle Street Basketball has been a great success and it has been a privilege for us to know all of you.
Goodbye and Good luck!
The FreeStyle Team
While this is unfortunate news for anyone in North America that enjoys this game, the lack of explanation is somewhat suspect. Why would Sierra Online be closing a game as popular as FSB, which generates as much money as FSB does with such a small price to pay to maintain it (there were only a few GM's, they didn't spend a lot of money on updates because the game very rarely featured updates, games were not hosted on a central server but on the player's machines, etc)?
One possibility is that the overseas developer of the game, JC Entertainment, is growing and wants to publish the game in the US for their own direct profit rather than using Sierra Online to mediate the publishing process. This would explain the sparse updates over the past few years - JC Entertainment may have been bullying Sierra Online to give up the rights by withholding updates, forcing Sierra's increasingly agitated customers to sit and watch as the overseas versions offered more and more new content for its players. This exact phenomenon occurred a while ago with international publisher Gala-Net and Korean developer Yedang. I recently had a chance to speak with a head GM for Gala-Net on this particular project, and I brought up the situation with Sierra Online and JCE. In response to this explanation, he replied: "I wouldn't be surprised... a lot of Korean companies are trying to publish on their own in the US."
The other potential (and, in my opinion, more likely) explanation for this lies in the recent merger between industry behemoths Activision and Vivendi. Ben Fritz of Variety has this to say about the merger:
I've had numerous sources tell me that development teams on all of Vivendi's games now have to essentially pitch their projects to Activision executives. Until the merger is technically complete, work proceeds as usual, but once it's over, Activision will start making some decisions. And it seems very unlikely that everything at Sierra will keep going as it has been.
Sierra Online is owned by Vivendi, and thus FSB will have to "justify [its] own existence to [its] soon-to-be corporate masters at Activision." Judging from the results, it seems that the pitch didn't go so well.
Hopefully, JC Entertainment will find a way to publish another North American version of the game, or perhaps an international version. For the time being, North American players are flocking by the hundreds to the Phillipines version of the game, which will hopefully alert the game developers to the devotedness of North American players. These players have devoted quite a bit of time and energy into the game itself, and lots of players have dumped considerable amounts of money into the game as well. These customers are furious with Sierra's lack of compensation or explanation, and, in my opinion, they are absolutely justified.
also i made a totally bomb fried egg sandwich which i ate while typing this it was delicious aight peace