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Tuesday, 23 January, 2001, 17:20 GMT
Game over for BarrysWorld
BarrysWorld logo  BBC
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

The dot.com crash has claimed another victim. Popular online gaming site BarrysWorld has announced that it is closing down.

The site, which claimed to have 300,000 regular users, has run out of money and has gone into voluntary liquidation.

Staff are being laid off and the site will cease operating from the end of January.

BarrysWorld is the latest to feel the effects of the fall in dot.com stock prices that has left investors wary about putting more money into online ventures.

Funding squeeze

The administrators of the hugely popular gaming site unveiled the news in an open letter to site users and investors.

Unless a rescuer comes forth soon, the gaming site will cease trading on 31 January. The company has already been put in the hands of liquidation specialists Fisher Partners.

In contrast to many collapsed dot.coms which failed to attract and keep customers, BarrysWorld had a devoted and loyal fan base.

It claimed that 300,000 people regularly logged on to fight each other in online games such as Counter Strike, Half Life and Quake.

Many fans joined together in teams or clans and challenged other groups in tournaments.

Venture capital

"It is not about the failure of anyone here," Ade Brownlow, chief executive of BarrysWorld told BBC News Online. "The stock market has tarnished anything that's vaguely internet or game-related as a dead loss."

He said BarrysWorld had a long-term business plan that it had been keeping to, but the change in stock market sentiment had scared off investors that would have provided funds to keep it going until it hit profitability.

The British gaming site started in February 1998 and for the first few years of its existence was run by hobbyists. It only received its first injection of funds last year.

In April, venture capital company 3i provided 1m, and guaranteed that a further 2m would be forthcoming.

Half of this was to come from 3i itself and the rest would be found from other partners.

Ironically BarrysWorld ran out of money at a time when it was starting to set up systems that were beginning to bring in more money.

Pay-per-play

Mr Brownlow said a service that let game clans book servers on which to play was regularly over-subscribed. Other fee-paying services were soon to follow, he said.

Regular users of BarrysWorld signing its online book of condolence expressed shock, sadness and disbelief at the news, saying the site would be sorely missed. "It is hard to believe such a well-built community could end like this," said one.

Fan David Stockdale described the closure of BarrysWorld as "the biggest set-back this community has ever seen". Another regular Tom Steinberg added: "It was the best manifestation of an internet community in the country."

The open letter also contained a plea for any potential rescuers to get in touch. Mr Brownlow said he was aware that some companies had been in touch with a view to acquiring BarrysWorld but could not say whether any would resurrect the service.

Many research reports and analysts have cited games and the communities that grow up around them as one of the areas likely to survive and be profitable.

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