Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to LawBreakers. I do enjoy shooters well enough, but my core interests lie elsewhere. That said, it seemed like a big deal to me. A new game directed by Cliff Blezinski for the first time since Gears of War 3 seems like a big deal. The game had a pretty big booth area at E3, and I feel like I constantly heard about it, albeit outside of places like my Twitter timeline. Seemed like a pretty big indication people would be lining up to pay for this thing when it dropped. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, and I think it’s because video game players don’t have any bandwidth to spare for competitive, online shooters.
Really, the Writing on the Wall moment in this space was probably when Battleborn went toe to toe with Overwatch. Overwatch, with its overflowing well of color, characters and shine, made Battleborn look like an indie game in comparison. Gearbox’s take on the genre drew around 12k players when it launched, but that number quickly plummeted and Battleborn become more of a punchline, or a cautionary tale of going toe to toe with a juggernaut. Anyone’s arms are far too short to box with God.
But here’s LawBreakers, with a name people generally respect attached, all underground and cool and stuff. It even has a much lower price point than the competition, save for Fortnite, a game that came out slightly before and sucked in the free-to-play audience. LawBreakers dropped on August 8 to little fanfare, getting solid reviews from its userbase, but only around 3k players tested the zero-gravity waters on launch day. 24 hours after the game launched, all the talk in the usual spaces is about LawBreakers being a flop, regardless of its merits or otherwise.
To most people, it doesn’t matter if LawBreakers is good or not. To most people, there just isn’t any time for it. Go through a Reddit thread of the game’s disappointing Steam stats and you see a similar sentiment over and over again. LawBreakers didn’t stand out enough to get anyone to drop the shooters they already had to try this one. This is the year of Fortnite, Splatoon 2 and Call of Duty WWII. This is the year following Overwatch, Paragon and Paladins. There’s no room left. The deck was stacked against LawBreakers in terms of volume.
So now what? Video games often move according to trends, especially in the mass market space. Just look at MOBAs and card games. You get the few that are huge, the few underdogs that stick around and then everything else. A game like LawBreakers may have that underdog quality; its budget price tells us the game was built on a modest budget, and maybe new content drops can bring in new players or sustain a niche playerbase. Or hell, perhaps Boss Key Productions can pull a Marvel Heroes and revamp the game at a better time, pushing a relaunch of sorts at a better time than the August following a giant handful of bigger games in the same genre.
Either way, anyone working on a team/arena/competitive shooter needs to pay attention to what happens next. Shooters will last forever, but shooter formulas are fleeting. The door may be closing on what is now seen as the Overwatch style, because Overwatch is the dominant force that anything else will be compared to. LawBreakers is in serious danger of fizzling before it can even get started, and that doesn’t just mean LawBreakers is a bad game. It’s pretty good, actually, but again, we’re running out of room. Hey, at least people probably won’t make fun of it like they do with Battleborn!
Image Credit: Snoopsahoy