There are a lot of major players in the game industry. These are people who, when you hear their names, you instantly recognize them based on the successes of past games. Like when you hear Randy Pitchford, you think of Brothers in Arms or Gearbox’s Borderlands. David Jaffe brings Twisted Metal or God of War to mind. Cliff Bleszinski? Oh, right, Gears of War and Unreal. It is tempting to hear these names, remember the good times, and think they can do know wrong. You can trust them.
Except you can’t. Deciding to count on and back any game based on a big name behind it is a bad idea. Everyone is capable of making bad decisions. No one out there is so incredible and lucky that each project they touch turns to gold. You can have an indication that someone’s presence on a project could mean good things, but it is no guarantee. As anyone who was a fan of Peter Molyneux’s Black & White, Dungeon Keeper, Fable, and Populous series will attest, it is very easy for folks to fall from grace and leave you with a mess of a game you spent way too much time and money on.
This is a lesson anyone who backed Battleborn should know. Gearbox and Pitchford have proven themselves to be unreliable, as of late. Both Aliens: Colonial Marines and Duke Nukem Forever were basically trash. Still, when this shooter was announced with Pitchford at the head as executive producer, some believed all the hype and promises about how amazing it could be. It tanked. So much so that it is essentially a free-to-play game, with people able to jump into competitive multiplayer for free and pay for extra elements. Checking the concurrent player count at SteamCharts shows under 100 people playing at a time, total.
PlayStation 4 owners had this happen with Jaffe’s Drawn to Death. The “super edgy look how tough” game was supposed to be another competitive shooter. People hoped for the best. Except, it was terrible. Even though it was given away as a PlayStation Plus freebie at launch, it didn’t find an audience. Why? Because the controls are stiff, characters are floaty bullet sponges, it is incredibly difficult to look at with its “junior high schooler’s notebook” design direction, and simply tries too hard to be aggressive and “cool.” We can’t find concurrent player counts, but actually trying to find a full match can take some time. It is an ugly mess and makes me motion sick.
But maybe the third time is the charm, when it comes to learning not to trust big names’ games. Lawbreakers is the latest product spinning wildly out of control. Like both of the aforementioned titles, it is a competitive shooter. This time, from Bleszinski. People were wooed by his work on other games and promises of regular updates. The whole Law and Breakers system was supposed to make a difference. Except it hasn’t even been a month since the full launch, and it went from under 500 concurrent players on PC to under 50. It has rebounded a bit since, usually averaging 200-300 players in a 24-hour period. Still, that is inexcusable for a new game. And it shows once again that people saw the big name, assumed big things, and found a big letdown.
It is fine to admire people's work. You can even get more excited about and interested in a project when you learn they are involved. But, it is important to not have that be the most important thing. Time and time again, we have been disappointed by these big names who claim to have something really special and good on their hands, only to find a mediocre product no one is playing.. When a game is trying to sell you on the involvement of some major industry player alone, think smart. Don't cave in to the hype.