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Why Aren't Players Connecting With Lawbreakers?

Boss Key's arena shooter is stumbling out of the gate a bit.

Analysis by Mike Williams, .

Earlier this week, Boss Key Productions and Nexon introduced the world to LawBreakers. The title has been in development for some time now at the studio, standing as Boss Key Productions founder Cliff Bleszinski's answer to the current crop of first-person shooters. While LawBreakers features team-based arena play with classes, it offers its own spin on the formula, one that's based heavily around movement mechanics. It also plays much faster than most of the shooters on the market today.

As a fan of the classic Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena style of play, I enjoy LawBreakers in its launch state. I'll probably have more on that in a future review, but once you get the hang of a few of the characters, I think the game opens up into its own. And as I just said, the speed is only matched by another classic throwback, Quake Champions.

Unfortunately, it looks like the game is off to a slow start.

It's worth noting that we lack numbers for the PlayStation 4 version, so the community mayt be healthier on that platform. According to SteamSpy, LawBreakers currently has around 27,000 owners, with most of those owners being current players. As of this writing, it's number five on the Steam Top Sellers list right now, behind Total War: Warhammer II, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Hellblade, and West of Loathing. Looking at the Steam Game Stats page on a regular basis sees Lawbreakers having trouble staying on the Top 100 games by Concurrent Steam users.

GitHyp has been tracking the concurrent player totals since launch. The game's current maximum concurrent players looks to be around 3,019 concurrent players on launch day, which is just barely enough to even be on Top 100. Since then, the concurrent maximums for each day have been going down. Not by a ton, but enough to constitute a noticeable trend.

GitHyp has LawBreakers' all time highest peak at 7,579 during the first beta in June. In comparison, Paladins peaked at 60,0573 players and today sports a peak concurrent player count of 36,366. Rainbow Six Siege topped 65,089 at its height and currently hold onto 45,229 players at its 24-hour peak. The relatively new free-to-player shooter Black Squad saw its best at 13,589 players, but currently has around 9,651 players. Worse, Gearbox' Battleborn outperformed LawBreakers at launch, with a peak of 12,076. Battleborn currently as a peak player count of 104 players.

The LawBreakers subreddit only has around 5,757 subscribed users. Over on Twitch, it's the 27th most popular title for streaming, with only 3,401 viewers at the moment.

It's not the best picture for the game.

On OpenCritic and http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/lawbreakers, LawBreakers has positive reviews from critics, with averages of 82 on both sites. If you look at those who have reviewed the game on Steam, the sentiment has also been mostly positive, with only 171 negative reviews out of a total of 1,367 as of this writing.

"Well, this game is completely insane. I've played it all day long since it came out. It's as fast and furious as Titanfall 1, the gameplay is an absolute blast of a jumble," wrote user Guardian_Angel. "LawBreakers is sheer fun with no serious shortcoming to be discovered. It has an AAA-quality, but is more affordable at the same time."

"Played the open beta, had a rough start. Learned the ropes and after understanding how momentum, movement and zero-G functioned started to have loads and loads of fun. Requires a bit learning, but then again every game requires learning and if you put a bit dedication into this, then you can even play the game casually. The design grew on me, loving every bit of the combat," said user Love Antenna 01.

"This is a fantastic arena shooter! Mechanically it is absolutely second-to-none. If you want a shooter that is all about your own mechanical skills first and foremost, with side of teamplay, you must buy this game," wrote user RobotEmpire.

So what's going on? Why is a game that people love when they play it not getting any traction? There has to be some disconnect that's happening here. Some negative Steam users pointed to the fact that they felt there was no reason to work together as a team, compared to a game like Overwatch that requires teamwork.

"To finally have this arena-shooter style of game with all the new bells and whistles of popular 'modern' shooters was so refreshing," began user Budlofsky. "But now, I've realised why this type of game hasn't been done sooner. Is it fun? Yes. Is it hard? Yes. Does it have longevity?.. I don't believe so."

"This game requires no heavy team work. I pretty much jumped into a game, hit play on my Spotify playlist and went ham on the enemy team. In fact, I barely cared whether my team won or lost, as long as I racked up some kills. The objective was inconsequential to me. There is no incentive to work together with your team, or win matches. There is no 'strategy' element that requires heavy communication with your comrades. There is no competitive mode."

Other players pointed to class balance as an issue, with certain roles like Vanguard, Wraith, and Battle Medic standing above the rest. Give the wide variety of movement skills and abilities, it's possible that this could be an ongoing issue for the game, like balance is over in Overwatch.

"This game is 5 of the same person on every team every game. No one plays to win, they play for kills," said user Blackhawk.

"This is supposed to be a game that is about skill but every character is on a totally different playing field. Most if not all the characters are practically useless aside from Vanguard/Battle Medic/Wraith. These three characters alone have so much mobility and damage it's beyond me how they even launched with them this way," added user Lioncash.

Some players have pointed to a steep learning curve that turns off neophyte players from even trying the game in the first place.

"I've been playing this quite a bit and it's a lot of fun. I've found that most matches have been pretty intense and while the steep learning curve is there it doesn't take long to find a role you like and become comfortable with it," wrote NeoGAF user Cmagus.

"This is an incredibly difficult game to get into when you first start playing; with an almost vertical learning curve that takes a few hours to understand and will undoubtedly take dozens more to master," said a review over at GQ Magazine.

"I think the learning curve is definitely a component of why it won't be as popular as some other games. It's far less accessible than games like Overwatch, but I wouldn't say that's a problem, it's part of the fun," added NeoGAF user Chronospherics.

Perhaps it's the game's aesthetic hook? The team at Boss Key aimed for a style that feels like an older title and alongside the in-your-face marketing, folks have pegged the overall game as very "90s". In a market full of color hero shooters, that makes LawBreakers stand out, but it might also turn off some players.

"I haven't played the game, but that's the impression I've got from footage I've seen and trailers/promos etc. The whole 'edgy' design angle is really tiresome and unappealing," said NeoGAF user Triggerhappytel.

"It's the game's attitude that rubbed me the wrong way more than anything, and I feel it may do the same to others. It's certainly consistent with itself, and I dare say that these small things likely reflect the nature of its designers. There's nothing particularly bad about a character that's in your face 100% of the time, but when all of them are this way it makes them less identifiable," said VG24/7 writer Sherif Saed in a mostly positive look at the game. "Everyone kept reminding me of Ruin, the Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 hero that only speaks to insult others. I got so tired of him in the beta, despite liking his ultimate ability, that it soured me on that whole game. Fortunately, I like LawBreakers more than I hate its grating, one-note heroes, but it ends up making an already highly-challenging, draining game less appealing than it should."

Or maybe the market is simply tapped out, with games like Overwatch, Paladins, and Rainbow Six Siege sucking up all the oxygen in the room. (It probably doesn't help that Overwatch offered its all-new Deathmathc mode today.) Regardless of the reason, LawBreakers has an uphill climb ahead of it. I hope it makes that climb, because as a fan of the old style of shooter it harkens back to, I'd like to see it succeed.

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Comments 15

  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #1 Nuclear-Vomit 2 months ago
    Why Aren't Players Connecting With Lawbreakers?

    Cause mom didn't want me to hangout with the wrong crowd. They're a bad bunch.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #2 Ralek 2 months ago
    From what I've seen the game is certainly mechanically sound, and I would say also appealing to me. The presentation though ... no thanks. I absolutely do not like any of the designs I've seen so far, and the whole vibe or mood, the footage I watched, conveyed was off.

    10 years ago, in a world without the likes of Overwatch and Splatoon for example, I would have probaly dug it though. These days however a game needs more than to be mechanically and technically sound, it needs some kind of personality. At best it's something I would even consider charming. Basically, the game ought to portray itself in a way, that even works OUTSIDE of the game.

    Case in point: those Overwatch shorts, endless amounts of fan art, hell even endless amounts of OW porn, and I don't think I need to point out the fandom for Splatoon or for ARMS characters like of Twintell. The visuals, the mechanics, the audio, the soundtrack, the menu design ... all this stuff gotta mesh.

    I don't get that sense from Lawbreakers. Looks like Q3A on speed ... again, a decade ago, that would have been something, not today though - at least not for me personally, but judging by the success of OW and Splatoon as well, not for many others as well.
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  • Avatar for SomeKindaWizard #3 SomeKindaWizard 2 months ago
    The character design is lame, and none of the mechanics stand out.

    Plus in a few years the graphical style wont have aged well.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #4 yuberus 2 months ago
    Putting aside my own general dislike for that hyperfast shooter style that Quake and Unreal had, it is a pretty damn ugly game. That's offputting just on its own.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #5 yuberus 2 months ago
    Putting aside my own general dislike for that hyperfast shooter style that Quake and Unreal had, it is a pretty damn ugly game. That's offputting just on its own.
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  • Avatar for Wellman2nd #6 Wellman2nd 2 months ago
    I remember seeing some ads for this game on YouTube. I got that they were going for a flying / gravity mechanic but to most I figured it was just another generic shooter. I wish them the best but for a new IP that lacks the advertising and design muscle of Blizzard or even Nintendo, it was never going to be a easy thing to succeed.
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #7 NateDizzy 2 months ago
    Regarding this quote:

    "This game requires no heavy team work."

    I'm by no means an arena shooter expert, but isn't Quake most famous for its 1v1 duels rather than its team based gameplay? If Lawbreakers is trying to emulate that, then perhaps the small player base will won't be that big of a deal. Obviously, less money for Bosskey isn't good, but having a dedicated hardcore player base isn't a bad consolation prize either.Edited August 2017 by NateDizzy
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  • Avatar for PlatypusPlatoon #8 PlatypusPlatoon 2 months ago
    I wonder if this is a bit like the WoW phenomenon in the late 2000's - with MMOs being the "hot" genre, and Blizzard racking up billions in yearly revenue, every other publisher wanted - needed - to get in on the action. They all spent hundreds of millions of dollars on subscription-based MMOs, and almost to a letter, they all failed. A decade later, WoW is the last man standing, and these days no one is clamouring for a new MMO.

    It's hard to go up against the incumbents, especially when they're already massively successful, and have a couple years head start. Like MMOs, or MOBAs, a lot of these team-based shooters are as much hobbies as they are games - people typically can only get into one, maybe two, because they all require both a deep time and skill commitment. Overwatch players are probably the most likely to enjoy your new arena shooter, but, they're already busy playing Overwatch.
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #9 Tetragrammaton 2 months ago
    It's got crazy popular competition, had no marketing, doesn't have a unique selling point. The surprise is thqt other games weren't hit by this to the same degree.

    Also Dark Souls being popular means that difficulty isn't an acceptable excuse for a game not selling anymore, no matter what your opinion of the Souls series is.
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  • Avatar for ATBro #10 ATBro 2 months ago
    It seems pretty cut and dry, to me.

    It is a ANOTHER premium game with loot box economy, ANOTHER arena based shooter, based around mobility, and while it looks sharp, in play it just turns into a blur of indistinct colors.

    I watch videos and it just doesn't look fun. Or at least fun enough to take people away from Overwatch. It's a little like the WoW phenomenon where everyone ends up putting out more "me too" games that just don't have the appeal of Blizzard's own game.
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  • Avatar for Spectreman #11 Spectreman 2 months ago
    The visual looks very generic. The marketing, if any, was not effective. They should say this is fast like Titanfalls, minus Titans.

    And if you are not Blizzard, is not simple put a multiplayer only game that is not free. You need to be different, like Battlegrounds our Friday 13th.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #12 Kuni-Nino 2 months ago
    Maybe if it had waifus. Just a thought.

    Anyways, I hope the game finds an audience because it doesn't look like Overwatch at all and it's super unfortunate that it has to get compared to that behemoth. One of the things I hate about OW is that teamwork is required to succeed and it's hard to communicate with randoms. Having a game where my own skill determines my success seems like a breath of fresh air.
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #13 WiIIyTheAntelope 2 months ago
    I think it's more to do with the fact that a lot of people had no idea it went from free2play to paid product. Then they see a price attached to it and move right along.

    I completely forgot about the change, and I keep up with gaming news far, far more than anybody I know.
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  • Avatar for NotCarolKaye #14 NotCarolKaye 2 months ago
  • Avatar for metal_maniac #15 metal_maniac 2 months ago
    Like Sonic, it seems to be stuck in the 90's with its edginess and coolness. And frankly, people seem to be a tad tired of it. That's probably one of the reasons people are drawn to Splatoon and Overwatch.
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  • Avatar for metal_maniac #16 metal_maniac 2 months ago
    Deleted August 2017 by metal_maniac
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