Given all of these factors, I'd say the chances of APB performing well both critically and financially are pretty high, even if that slightly pessimistic part of me wants to worry regardless. And, assuming APB is actually successful, how could this affect the MMO industry? Well, it wouldn't happen immediately but after a year or two the fallout would eventually begin to flutter down from the sky.
Over the last few years there's been a shift in business models from the standard $15-a-month subscription towards microtransactions. Many western MMOs have incorporated them into their business models somehow, and other newer games have begun to rely on them almost entirely. The success of APB (and potential follow-up success of GW2) will definitely add some much-needed subscription model variety into the industry, which is never a bad thing. Don't get the wrong idea here, I'm not saying that microtransactions will die out by any stretch of the imagination. What I am saying, however, is that game companies will begin to consider the GW/APB model more earnestly as the culmination of several MMOs asking for a dollar or three here and there begins to weigh on players.
Last year CrimeCraft took a stab at the whole "Crime MMO" concept, although in my opinion it was a very flawed (i.e. very little content and overall lacking execution) design relying far too much on microtransactions on top of a $50 purchase. APB is quite the opposite insofar as business models and content goes. The customization elements alone will eat up days of my life.
We've seen the copycat effect before in the industry with World of Warcraft, where games with a very color-by-numbers design approach stumbled release after release. So I won't be surprised when some post-APB "me too!" games come along.
Assuming these games put their own unique spin on the urban setting I'll probably give them a stab. Although, what APB should really be teaching the industry is that developers can take their own path. They can create something familiar in setting (GTA) that's still fresh to the genre in terms of mechanics (true third-person shooter + powerful art creation tools + persistence) to find success. I'd be crazy to say all developers should follow that formula, but it sure sounds a lot better than seeing a ton of GTA-like MMOs hit the market for around four or five years.
The reason behind this whole op-ed is that, frankly, I'm ready for something new and exciting that isn't World of Warcraft. I'll always love the game and Cataclysm does look fun, but it's long since been time to move on from that era of gaming. The year is 2010, we've got a new decade in front of us and a whole lot of promising MMOs to lead the way into brand new obsessions and water cooler discussions. I'd be incredibly happy for APB to be leading the pack this time in 2011, and honestly I think most other people would be too -- even if they don't quite yet realize it.