SMMOll Talk: What does the future hold for Lawbreakers?

Lawbreakers is going free-to-play

There is a good chance that you’ve heard about LawBreakers before, right? Even if you’re not the type of knowing videogame celebrities such as Cliff Bleszinski – he is the ill-tempered creator of the Gears of War franchise, and now this competitive first-person shooter -, you certainly spotted LawBreakers here and there.

First it was known as Project Bluestreak, later on there was some miscommunication with the name The Shattering, until we were finally introduced to the definitive name: Lawbreakers.

LawBreakers was definitely a tease. We were treated to some teasers meant to show us all of its Unreal Engine 4 glory. It looked stunning and the release version stayed true to that, but you have to be a fan of the clichéd sci-fi style that we’ve seen several times before in games such as Unreal Tournament, Tribes Ascend, Quake Champions and many, many more.

And it was going to be free-to-play. Until suddenly, it just wasn’t anymore. Business models are a pain in the arse and can make or break a game (and a whole studio, for that matter), so it’s an understandably tough decision. Was going buy-to-play the right decision? In hindsight, maybe not, but there’s no sure-fire way to guess how things will turn out.

LawBreakers is a good game. It’s just not the only one shooting for a piece of the pie, and Cliff Bleszinski himself admitted that he needed to be “less of a dick”. By now, he should know that 99% of players don’t care about who made the game, they just want it to live up to the hype. CliffyB is known for his outspoken persona, his massive ego and tons of talent, but being humble sometimes helps with your intentions. And when even he admits to being “very cocky and very brash on social media”, that almost sounds like a mea culpa, an acknowledgement that he did some harm to the game post-release.

But that would be reducing LawBreakers to this small detail. In fact, one of the major problems is called Overwatch. Everyone and their moms are playing Blizzard’s shooter, and even those who don’t want to fork out some bucks for this game preferred to turn to a free-to-play alternative called Paladins: Champions of the Realm. Yes, the one from Hi-Rez Studios, makers of SMITE. It’s HUGE, in case you’re wondering. Oh, and how many of you jumped straight into the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds train without thinking twice?

Developer Boss Key Productions tried to change the tide with a couple of LawBreakers free weekends, but aiming for the same days when the PC open beta of Call of Duty: World War 2 started, was… how can we put this? A rookie mistake. The player base numbers improved only slightly, and after that, they dipped to even lower averages than before, which means the free weekend didn’t convince many players to purchase LawBreakers.

A mix of unfortunate coincidences and rookie mistakes (LawBreakers isn’t exactly cheap for a competitive shooter, retailing at a somewhat high $29.99) resulted in a good game getting low player numbers. Without a decent player base, a multiplayer shooter is as good as dead, and many players are already complaining about the long times to find a match, precisely due to the lack of players. Thus begins a vicious cycle, one where disgruntled players leave bad reviews, and these bad reviews discourage new players from buying LawBreakers. It’s not an easy situation to be in.

This brings us to our question: what does the future hold for LawBreakers? What can be done to save a good shooter from oblivion? Should it go free-to-play as soon as possible or Boss Key has to ramp up the patches and new content in the hope of captivating new players?

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SMMOll Talk (or Small Talk in case it escaped you) is a section where we build up on some of the hottest topics surrounding MMOs and free-to-play games in general. Each time we ask your opinion on a specific theme and we count on your comments to expand on the subject.


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