Agents of Mayhem tanked in sales. It came out on August 15th and has basically stalled in moving copies. From August to October it’s only shifted 45,000 copies on Steam, according to Steam Spy, and throughout all of September it appeared to fail to make the top 50 chart, according to the GfK Chart Track. The game is a sales failure.
Well, one of Volition’s original studio leaders who ended up departing from the company to go work at Riot Games on League of Legends for a while, Jim Boone, was brought back in after Volition laid off staff following the massive commercial failure that was Agents of Mayhem.
WCCF Tech picked out a choice quote from an interview Boone had with GamesIndustry.biz, where the veteran game developer acknowledged that they’re now running internal analysis and investigations as to why AGents of Mayhem failed, where he says…
“At least in the immediate term, as you might imagine, there is going to be a lot of analysis. We will be taking a look at Agents of Mayhem and working out the kind of things went well, and what we need to improve on. I don’t think it’s a secret to say that it didn’t meet what our expectations were. So our initial steps will be a lot of self-reflection of the types of things we want to improve upon. Because we are certainly capable of doing great products that people love, so it’s not a question of talent or whether we have it in us to do great things… we’ve been doing that for a long time.
“Whenever we finish a game, we always conduct our big post-mortems about all the things that went really well, and what we can improve on. With Agents of Mayhem it is absolutely no different, but it might be a little bit more intense.”
I wonder if the self-reflection will center on the two things that most people tuned out of for this?
- The fact that it was a MOBA-style hero-shooter but was only a single-player game with no co-op or PVP.
- Volition played up the whole Diversity™ angle to the point of turning off gamers who were interested in a fun game, not SJW propaganda.
Part of me feels as if those two key elements will be skipped over in the review. Although, admittedly the SJWism was actually only a small part of a much larger, overarching series of problems plaguing Agents of Mayhem.
Boone seems to skip past the common complaints and self-reflects on superficial causes for Agents of Mayhem’s sales tanking, saying…
“The fact that it is a new IP, in this day and age, means it can be hard to get the right kind of attention. At the same time we had just enough of that Saints Row trimming around it, that I can see how consumers might have looked at it and gone: ‘Oh, it’s a new Saints Row game. Oh no, it isn’t. Is it? I’m not quite sure.’ I don’t know if that contributed to it or not, but it is interesting to think about why it didn’t strike the right chord. I sometimes wonder if the material just didn’t capture people’s fancy in the right way… was the tone just not right? It is a really weak answer, but I have the same question that you do, and I am anxious to dig into it with the team, who have spent a lot more time than I have so far on it.
“I suspect, given how it did ultimately, that it was a combination of several things.”
At least he recognizes it was a combination of things, least of which was its attachment to Saints Row.
I don’t have time to point out every single flaw in Agents of Mayhem but Volition should have started with some of the obvious problems:
1. It was an open-world game in a futuristic Neo Seoul with nothing to do in the city. The whole point of a sandbox game is to give players choice in play-style and lots of activities to partake and locations to explore. There was no reason to explore Seoul, no worthwhile activities, and play-style played no role in the characterization of the map.
2. Why would you restrict players to a bunch of unlikable archetypes, forcing gamers to play them with very little customization options? Also, why would restrict these characters to hero-shooter class-types when it’s a single-player game? Why not let players fully customize each character and mix and match their abilities? This way if you want to have a fixed narrative centered around specific characters you can do that, but also give players freedom in how they play those characters. Traditional class types only work in RPG settings or multiplayer games, and Agents of Mayhem was neither.
3. Lay off the whole Diversity™ checklist for creating characters, especially when it has nothing to do with making the gameplay, narrative or world-building more interesting. If you’re just making burka-ninja-Muslim-girl just for the sake of Diversity™ you’ve already gone about character creation wrong. Players had no reason to care about the cast of characters in the game because they had no attachment to the world building or lore relating to the overall arch of the story in the general marketing of the game. Diversity for the sake of meeting a diversity agenda is a real fast way to turn off most players from your characters, and also get them to completely tune out of whatever story you’re trying to tell. At least Blizzard was smart enough to tie the lore of their characters in Overwatch to some out-of-game world building with smart marketing in order to make gamers care about the characters and the setting in which the game takes place.
Anyway, that’s enough ranting for now. Agents of Mayhem likely won’t get a sequel. The failure had nothing to do with being a new IP. Cuphead managed 1 million in sales within two weeks of release, and it had a rather meager marketing campaign but a strong focus on gameplay and visuals that gamers actually enjoyed. If for nothing else, Volition should get back to making a fun game first and foremost before trying to pander to SJWs.