There’s only been one multiplayer game with a strong marketing push in recent times that launched with less fanfare and consumer interest than Battleborn, and that happens to be Boss Key Productions’ Lawbreakers. The game is more lifeless than a gutted fish floating sideways in a gas station toilet bowel partially filled with an indistinguishably brownish-yellow liquid.
Nevertheless, head-honcho from Boss Key, Cliff Bleszinski, isn’t convinced that Lawbreakers needs to sell its soul to the monetary model known as the devil of deliverance: free-to-play.
In an interview with Gamespot, Cliffy B., told the outlet that the studio is considering going free-to-play, but he doesn’t want to deal with the sleaze that comes with making a game free, such as rented weapons and loot boxes…
“I’ve got a decent business sense. Especially when it comes to this industry. It’s gotten me fairly far. And under the assumption that games are expensive, 60 dollars is a lot of money. Even 100 dollars for all the special editions that you see coming out. And I was of the belief that $29.99, it’s a little bit over … It’s pretty much an impulse buy. And did it help? Did it hurt? Should it have gone free? Maybe. Would we consider experimenting with that in the future? I wouldn’t remove it from the table. But, I just … I don’t want to get down into sleazy free to play, as much as I want to keep this game afloat and with our, like I said, our fledgling community, I don’t want to get into Candy Crush type-tactics ’cause I just won’t be able to sleep at night and I don’t sleep well to begin with.”
It’s a long-winded response that basically admits defeat… not as much as the player-count on the Steam Charts, though.
The real issue, however, is that Lawbreakers was yet another diversity-laden hero-shooter. It stepped into a market already dominated by Blizzard’s diversity-laden hero-shooter, Overwatch. The big difference between the two is that Blizzard’s game launched during a time when the company focused more on promoting a family-friendly gaming atmosphere themed after Pixar movies, but did so with a bunch of hot and sexy waifu bait. They also wisely avoided promoting any identity politics ahead of release, saving all of that nonsense for later.
First of all, Boss Key failed insofar that they had no recognizable or cool heroes that gamers wanted to care about. Next, the game failed because the push for the whole diversity shtick was moot; black, lesbian, feminist gender studies graduates don’t play video games, and they’re not even a sizable market to target. Yuppie, Marxist, Antifa, male-feminist journalists (and probably rapists) also aren’t real gamers and they also aren’t a sizable enough market demographic to help make a game sell.
Catering characters and themes in games to meet tiny market demographics are a death knell for a game, as evident with the poor sales performance of games like Battleborn, Agents of Mayhem, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider and Mass Effect: Andromeda.
It’s pretty obvious that Boss Key should have either focused on luring in gamers with a hard-nosed set of characters that appeal to the obvious straight-male demographic, identical to the way Master Chief and Marcus Fenix appealed to male gamers, or they should have tried adding in females that straight males found attractive and that females would actually find sexy enough to cosplay. Otherwise your game is just another generic shooter targeting no one, which is exactly what happened with Lawbreakers.
Cliffy B., however, tells Gamespot – through an almost defeated grasp on the reality of Lawbreakers’ failure – that if they launch the game in Asia they may have to go free-to-play anyway, even if he’s not for renting out guns and creating a pay-to-win atmosphere…
“[…] yeah, I wouldn’t rule it out in the future, especially if we consider rolling the game out … Well, we’re considering in the future, rolling the game out in Asia. It’s one of those things that you almost have to do that in Asia, so we’ll be considering doing that, maybe one of those things if we do it there, would it make sense to roll it back out to the states? Possibly. But, I don’t want to start doing gun rentals any time soon in game.”
Here’s the thing: if you’re making a hero-shooter then the game’s success or failure is entirely dependent on the cast of characters — and if you’re so “woke” that you aren’t going to consider making those characters for the majority of the core demographic? Well, then your game is already going to fail, because hero-shooters live and die based on character appeal.
Now if you’re making a breakthrough game with a disruptive gimmick, you can make whatever characters you want, but ensure that you’re making a game no one else is making, sort of like DayZ, Stardew Valley, Starbound or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. At that point, you can make whatever characters you want, but you need to guarantee that your gameplay stands head and shoulders above anything else on the market.
At the moment, Lawbreakers has a middling verticality gimmick set atop a mediocre shooting mechanic with completely forgettable characters. Much like how Battleborn was stillborn at launch, the ambivalent-inducing features of Lawbreakers made its launch primed to be nothing short of sales-forsaken.