“Did Boss Key Productions not learn its lesson?” That is the one question I kept asking myself as I watched the reveal trailer for Boss Key Productions recently-announced title: Radical Heights. Honestly speaking, I think this game looks quite interesting. I’m a sucker for the 1980’s aesthetic that Radical Heights is putting on full display — featuring things such as BMX bikes, workout trampolines, confetti bombs, inflatable decoys and remote explosives — so color me intrigued even if Battle Royale games don’t usually appeal to me.
However, if YouTube is any indication, then my perception of this title is in the minority. As of writing this, the trailer (below) has 400 likes compared to 1.4k dislikes; and isn’t hard to understand why: we’ve seen this before.
Whether it’s intentional or not, it appears that Boss Key Productions is absolutely drawn to genres where it faces arguably insurmountable competition.
The first time it showed this behavior was with LawBreakers — the ill-fated hero shooter which debuted in mid 2017. From the moment it was announced the game seemed doomed to obscurity. Not only was it going against Blizzard’s Overwatch (and Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins to a lesser extent), but the one absolute draw it had — being f2p — was removed during the development phase, meaning that it wouldn’t just be occupying the same genre as the other two games, but actually go head-to-head.
Needless to say, it lost.
As mentioned in an earlier piece, LawBreakers never did well. It has always been the type of game that only ever made headlines when something bad happened to it, as there was never actually anything good to say. Its peak player count was reached during the open beta period and that number went on a downward spiral ever since. In fact, the numbers have been sitting in the double digits for the past several months now — a figure so low that Boss Key was forced to admit last week that the game was a failure, announcing that it was moving on to new projects.
One would expect that any company who had to admit its own game was a flop would be cautious when working on a new one, but Boss Key is back at it again, opting to make a battle royale title — arguably the most difficult genre for a new game to survive in right now.
Not only does Radical Heights have two major competitors to go up against, but those competitors are absolute heavyweights: Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. These two games are synonymous with the battle royale genre and for the past several months these two games have put up impressive numbers across all platforms.
Fornite, in particular, has done exceptionally well as of late, announcing in early February that it had hit a record 3.4 million concurrent players — a feat that caused the servers to crash several times during the record-breaking weekend. Meanwhile, PUBG has been playing second fiddle to its prime competitor recently and has actually been losing players since February, but still continues to boast an average above 1.2 million each month.
How exactly is Radical Heights supposed to compete with that? Sure, the game looks interesting and could potentially carve out a niche for itself, but the same thing was said about LawBreakers and it died in less than a year; and that was only against Overwatch. Now it has two these behemoths to worry about and they’re the type of game that causes other, better-established titles to go f2p just by existing.
And really, that’s all Radical Heights assuredly has going for it. Starting off as an f2p title (and actually staying that way) will at least ensure a decent playerbase (assuming people actually go for the in-game purchases and the suspiciously pay-to-win DLC pack).
Beyond that though? Nothing. Does Boss Key have some plan that will ensure some level of success or will we be seeing another “failed game” announcement a year from now? The verdict is still out on that one, but we’ll be soon learn during the Early Access period tomorrow whether Radical Heights is at least up to snuff.