LawBreakers, the hero shooter developed by Cliff Bleszinski’s Boss Key Productions, is one of those unfortunate games that only ever makes headlines nowadays when something bad occurs, and once again it has, this time due to the game’s publisher, Nexon, declaring the game a failure and blaming its poor fortunes on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
This declaration came following the publisher’s latest financial report which revealed a deficit of $32.6 million, which was supposed to be primarily filled by LawBreakers.
As one might expect, investors weren’t all too thrilled by this performance and sought answers.
Here is the answer they received, per Nexon Chief Financial Officer Shiro Uemura:
“Our results in North America in the third quarter were below our outlook, mainly due to the sales from LawBreakers being below our expectations.”
“LawBreakers is a unique FPS developed for core users. We had very high expectations for its launch. However, the timing of its launch turned out to be unfortunate, specifically the blockbuster PC online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds came out right about the same time, making the market environment very tough for first-person shooters in general and for LawBreakers.”
So, as Nexon’s argument goes, the reason why LawBreakers failed is because of PUBG. However, when looking at the game’s history, it becomes clear that this argument is not entirely valid.
From the very beginning, LawBreakers seemed like a game that would be doomed to obscurity. As we highlighted in a previous article back in August, the game was supposed to launch as a free-to-play title, but it was changed to a retail release during development. This change ended up hurting LawBreaker’s life expectancy significantly, as while it did enjoy a one-time peak of 7,482 back in June 2017, that figure was reached during the game’s open beta.
Once LawBreakers actually hit retail in Aug. 2017 , those numbers took a nosedive. Peak players fell from 7,482 to 3,003 and dropped to below 1,000 by October. There has no been no sign of it recovering either. Even with a content road map in place, the playerbase has continued to dwindle and is now in the double digits.
However, even with that unfortunate decision, timing did play a factor in all this — just not in the way Nexon describes.
Rather than PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, it was the decision to release LawBreakers during a time when the hero shooter genre was (and still is) dominated by the likes of Overwatch and Paladins. Compared to those two, LawBreakers never sparked widespread interest nor did it do enough to lure potential players away from other titles. As many will tell you it borrows far too much from already established hero shooters, without doing enough on its own to separate it from the pack.
There is no greater evidence of that fact than by checking how much attention it garners in the media. The last time anything about this game was widely reported on was back in December when it had a special holiday event. Before that? More stories about the game’s dwindling player count. As I said before, LawBreakers is one of those games that only really makes headlines when something bad occurs — primarily because there is rarely anything good to say about it.
Even on a personal level, despite having no love for the hero shooter genre, I can still at least tell you about Overwatch and Paladins thanks to word of mouth. On the other hand, I can do no such thing for LawBreakers unless I go out of my way to research the topic (such as finding Steamchart numbers).
So, yes, while PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is the game on Steam right now and there’s no doubt that it hurt LawBreakers to some degree, to cite PUBG as the singular cause of the LawBreakers’ poor fortunes (neither Overwatch or Paladins are mentioned in the report) seems off. The bottom line is that even with PUBG around, other games on Steam — even those within the same genre — still managed to be successful, whereas LawBreakers was never doing entirely well to begin with.
LawBreakers has many problems, but PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is just one.