As LawBreakers numbers continue to dwindle, Screen Critics Shaun asks if the community numbers already showcase a dead game walking.
It’s safe to say that Boss Key Production’s LawBreakers isn’t enjoying the best of times. With a stagnant community and negative perceptions, the developers are hoping that a series of announcements will change the fortunes of the struggling outing. Sadly, as the numbers available seem to indicate, the writing may already be on the wall for LawBreakers.
The weird thing for LawBreakers is that those who bought the game seemingly love it. Steam Reviews sing the game’s praises while the general conscientious from those who talk about it on social media is one of great potential. Yet despite all this, the games player base never really rallied. Quite the opposite actually, it’s been a constant slide.
During the beta period, player numbers reached just over 7.5lk yet by the time the game had released, that number had fallen to less than 5000. Failing to crack Steam’s Top 100 played list at launch was an early sign of problems – but news outlets covering the game now seem excited at the prospect of the games player base falling as low as 50. It’s not just the PC version either. Gamers are reporting wait times upwards of 8 minutes on the console servers. It’s created a horrible perception that the game is already walking dead, less than two months after its release.
This perception ultimately only feeds the problem, as potential buyers avoid investing through fear that they’ll never see the full potential of the game. It echoes the fate of similar titles like Evolve, Battleborne and The Division – games that leaned heavily on their online community but quickly garnered reputations as washed up titles. No matter what the developers did to try and reverse the trend, audiences had already moved on.
Which puts LawBreakers in an incredibly tough spot. Having already committed to tournaments, updates and a long-term plan – Cliffy B and his team are trapped trying to resuscitate a dead game. New content is arriving at a decent pace – but without major additions or a hook to bring gamers in – it could all be for naught. It’s made worse by the reality that they’re fighting in a market that’s only chewing out more games.
So why aren’t people talking more about the game? There’s a general feeling that LawBreakers has arrived too late to the futuristic shooter party. With Call of Duty exhausting that genre in recent years – gamers have more than had their fill of wall jumping and gunning. The team over at Boss Key Productions deserve praise for giving gamers such a solid outing – but the demand isn’t there anymore. Roll back five years, this kind of game would have been fresh and unique. But arriving in mid-2017, there’s no clear niche that the game tackles which isn’t done better elsewhere (Or at the very least, done in a bigger franchise).
It’s a problem that can be seen in the number. Looking at the numbers (Which aren’t exact, but offer a good indicator of where a PC games health is) reveals a community that’s stagnant. Over the last three weeks, LawBreakers numbers have all but flatlined. The number of owners sitting steadily around 70,000 on Steam. Worse still, it seems very few people on Youtube are covering the game. Games like LawBreakers live and die by this kind of involvement. Steamspy suggests only 160,000 views in the last week – a quick glance over at search results for LawBreakers all but confirms this. To put that in context, PewDiePie;s videos have amassed over 20 million in that same week. Overwatch’s most recent video, a showcase of an upcoming map, has managed 320k views inside 24 hours. That’s more views for one developer blog than for the entire LawBreakers. That’s embarrassing.
These numbers are important because they paint a picture of the real problem facing LawBreakers – no one’s talking about it in a positive light. Sure there are some hardcore fans out on Reddit, but even there you can already see the huge problem facing the game. With just under 7,500 gamers are talking about LawBreakers – compared to just under a million for Overwatch. Even Quake Champions, a game that’s endured something of a mixed reaction since entering beta, has more people talking about it.
It also doesn’t help that the game is so reliant on that online component. Without a fleshed out single player mode for gamers to practice in, the games difficulty curve is too staggering. New players can’t hope to compete against those who’ve already established their skill set. In a game that demands skill like few other arena shooters, it’s incredibly harsh to ask newbies to enter the online space as cannon fodder. In particular on Steam, where gamers have the option of getting a full refund within the initial two-hour window. As the numbers we discussed earlier show, people are buying the game – but then refunding.
This initial experience disappoints gamers, leaving them with a bad taste and a real sense that the game just isn’t for them. Of course, gamers should get good over time – but when there are so few in-game practice modes available – it’s no wonder that curious purchasers are leaving as fast they arrive., With no gamers to replace those who move on – it’s no surprise that the numbers are dipping so low.
All of this leads to the question, what can LawBreakers do to turn the trend? The obvious answer is to lower the price. $30 isn’t the right spot for this game – one that really needs to be more accessible. If you ask a gamer which online game they’ll spend their money on, the one that takes a staggeringly long time to get good at probably isn’t the one they’ll go for. Add in the dwindling player base – even the most curious gamers are going to be skipping out. A lot of online shooters offer a free version of the game – one that strips out options but at least lets gamers play. It wouldn’t be the worst idea.
I just feel that, from the ground up, LawBreakers is the right game at the wrong time. It’s competing in a genre that’s stacked with AAA franchises and titans that have managed to make their name already. A new IP is always going to struggle against these odds, stacking the deck in such a way as to make the game harder to sell is probably not the brightest idea. I do hope that
I do hope that LawBreakers can turn the trend. New IP’s are always exciting and gamers should always be curious to try new things. But that reason alone isn’t enough to save games like LawBreakers – that arrived too late to the party.