So the question here is: Will APB's unique elements and unusual business model find success? I certainly hope so. If it does happen then it could mean a lot of changes for the industry. I'm getting ahead of myself though; let's take a step backwards.
I've been thinking on the three aspects essential to APB succeeding and in my opinion they're marketing, first impressions and critical acclaim. I've listed those in order of importance, although each is pretty integral to the game's eventual fate.
With Electronic Arts publishing through their EA Partners arm, I feel like APB should be pretty well off in terms of marketing. For reference, just look back to the marketing blitz seen for Brutal Legend last year -- TV ads and web ads were everywhere. Granted, they also had some star power in Jack Black but overall the game got lots of attention due to EA's marketing strength.
Brutal Legend also had lots of style going for it, and the same can be said -- and to a pretty huge degree -- about APB. The whole Grand Theft Auto-meets-MMO-without-subscription-fee angle should appeal to a supremely wide breadth of people. Although, I really hope the marketing focuses on the customization and the idea of celebrity just as much as it focuses on the awesome urban combat.
First impressions relate partially to marketing but also to any potential demo or trial period offered early on in the game's life. A lot of MMO developers and publishers don't seem keen on the idea of putting a trial out too soon, as though doing so means the game is somehow lacking. However, for most people (i.e. console gamers, even though APB is a PC game for now) a demo is quite literally a deal breaker when it's not present before or at release.
Of course, without a demo, impressions are going to fall to word of mouth and review buzz.. Both of these things are fairly abstract and tend to be impossible to measure. Although, unfortunately, Metacritic and Gamerankings are the go-to for a lot of people looking to find a snap judgment via averaged review scores. On the positive side, I feel pretty certain that APB will do well with critics, because it appeals so well to all kinds of play styles; whether you're into designing characters and cars or just want to become top dog on the battlefield.