Lawbreakers continues to struggle. Is there a future for it?

Lawbreakers continues to struggle. Is there a future for it?

Lawbreakers is struggling, there’s no denying that fact. Currently, there are around two to three hundred concurrent players playing Boss Key’s shooter every day. Simply put, it’s probably not what CliffyB was expecting.

There are numerous reasons Lawbreakers has not managed to catch on; terrible marketing, characters that feel soulless, a high skill level requirement, and game modes that are really nothing special. The frustrating thing is the game has potential, but a combination of all these factors has prevented it from making a real mark. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that there’s an abundance of team shooters kicking around.

LawBreakers
Gravity defying combat that few want to play.

Observers will be wondering when Boss Key will bite the bullet and make Lawbreakers free to play, but that doesn’t appear to be part of their immediate future plans. Like Gearbox and Battleborn, Boss Key will be holding out as long as possible probably hoping that some Overwatch type miracle will happen.

Since launch, Boss Key has been busy planning this year’s Lawbreakers content schedule, ignoring the fact that there really are not that many playing it. Last week they teased their plan. It includes new features such as skirmishes, two new maps, a ranked mode, a new class and “more”. The idea of adding a ranked mode is great in principle, but until they manage to bring players back to the game it’s not a great idea. Adding a couple of new maps will keep current players amused for a time but it’s going to take more than this to turn it around.

lawbreakers
Coming attractions.

Having played Lawbreakers a little in beta and when it launched, the one thing that struck me is there’s a disconnect with the characters. There’s a reason Blizzard invest time in making animated shorts and create ARGs, they want to connect with their audience. While these have zero impact on how the game actually plays, they do engage the audience. Overwatch is a competent shooter but it’s nothing really mechanically special or original when you examine it. It’s the characters that are making Overwatch a success.

My reflexes are not what they used to be in my Quake days 20 years ago, and I’m no ultra-pro when it comes to FPS games. So I can see that Lawbreakers can be a tough nut to crack for some players. It can be damn fast, and being shot after 20 seconds of play continuously is not that enjoyable. Yes, I am crap at shooters in my older age. That’s not a criticism of the game by any means, but it shows that it’s tailored to a very specific, fast-reflexed audience. Compare that to Overwatch where I can get a decent game and feel less frustrated, even without playing it much.

Boss Key could shunt Lawbreakers over to a free to play model, but according to Steam Spy stats, around 60,000 people have picked the game up. That’s a fair base to work from. The challenge for Boss Key is how they encourage these players back to get from those two hundred concurrent player numbers to something a lot more substantial. Going free to play sounds like the easy option, moving to that model helped games such as Evolve, but there’s no guarantee that would happen with Lawbreakers.

If they make that switch there would be no going back. It’s worth remembering that while Evolve got a short-term boost to numbers, 2K still shut the game down.

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LawBreakes concurrent user numbers are less than stellar.

Listening to Cliff Bleszinski talk about the game pre-launch he was convinced that Lawbreakers would reach the hardcore audience saying that he “wanted it to be the rated R version of all these PG rated shooters”. The problem is, the game doesn’t come across like that at all. He was also keen to tout the “gravity defying combat”, which is in the game, but is it really that important? Is it a game-changer? Probably not. Earlier this year, at GDC, Cliff Bleszinski explained how they were trying to approach the release in a crowded shooter market.

Being constantly compared to the current slew of colourful shooters on the market made us realise we needed to stand out from the crowd. We decided to take a step back and explore how we could dial up the maturity in Lawbreakers, going back to our original vision. The new look and feel embraces the innovative and vertical nature of our game elevated by violence, intensity and competition.

He has also stated that finding a marketing partner that “markets the shit out of it and you’d have a success”. With Nexon looking after the game that was unlikely to happen, and was apparently one of the reasons Splash Damage took back control of their free to play Dirty Bomb from that company. There was cash put behind the marketing. ‘Influencers’ and press were given hands-on time, but you have to take much of that coverage with a pinch of salt. When there are free trips and cash being exchanged for coverage, opinions are never that reliable. It’s still a big problem in this industry.

It’s apparent that there has been some less than brilliant business and design decisions when it comes to Lawbreakers but Boss Key have little else to lose now. They have to see this out and hope they can reinvigorate that existing audience. Or they can give in and move to a free to play model which, ironically, was their original plan.

With Boss Key revealing more details of their planned 2017 free updates this week, they will be hoping to get your attention. But perhaps it’s just too late.

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  • Paul Younger

    Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

    • Lumi

      I tried one game in the beta and that was enough to pull me off. I realized the paper, stone ,scissors mechanic of the three classes was just uncomfortable as you were always bound to encounter an enemy tailored to beat you and skill plays little in that. Furthermore, what is supposed to be a game seller, the gravity gameplay, makes the game unbearable as there is no way of controlling your character when in that state and you feel at the mercy of the game rather than in control.

      • https://I.Said.OK.com Brek Brekek

        paper stone scissors? overwatch has strong p-s-s mechanics.. this game doesn’t really feel that way…

        • Lumi

          Exactly why I don’t like Overwatch. If you remove the gravity aspect and switch a few things here and there, Overwatch, Lawbreakers and even Dirty Bomb are basically the same. I played the first one of the genre, Dirty Bomb, got fed up with it and none of those who came after managed to innovate sufficiently to make it anything more than the same thing it has always been. Overwatch only had such a success because it is Blizzard and its powerhouse advertisement department.

          • rochyroch

            And also Blizzard are very good at polish and balance.

          • https://I.Said.OK.com Brek Brekek

            They aren’t same, not even close.. Lawbreakers and Dirty bomb are mainly FPS shooters. Overwatch not that much.

    • Master Turkey

      This will go free to play soon. Evolve all over again. Whoever thought it was a good idea to drop a new online FPS right now is an idiot. The market is saturated with choices, many of them better. Quake Champions, Overwatch, Titanfall 2, COD, … just to name a few. This will go free to play and then sell to an oversees holding company who will try to keep it free to play on whatever network they sell to.

    • Peter Lilley

      Whatever is happening right now, there are enough FPS to look forward some are pretty established and now they are taking them towards the mainstream FPS like Overwatch introducing “Deathmatch” mode and besides that there is a reason for these games to flourish which is there merch being sold all over the internet e.g. Blizzard is selling their product and there are many reliable stores that are selling OW merch like Kill Ping Online Store. What I am trying to say is they are cashing in on the fandom they already have. IT’s not just about developing games anymore, it’s like creating a brand name.

    • rochyroch

      I like Lawbreakers, i drop in and have a game every now and then.
      Despite it’s low player base i never struggle to get a game.

    • https://I.Said.OK.com Brek Brekek

      this game is lost.. not even “going f2p” helps it much.. just look at Battleborn