Battleborn On PC Is Dying, And Not Slowly

Battleborn On PC Is Dying, And Not Slowly

The stars were never really aligned for Gearbox Software’s ‘hero shooter’, MOBA-esque Battleborn. Between a generic and all too forgettable name, a release that coincided far too closely with the overpowering hype of Blizzard’s similar offering in Overwatch and a price that people just aren’t used to paying for MOBA-style games, Battleborn really isn’t doing well.

It was never a bad game, but it was never a breakthrough, either. While we don’t have the numbers from its console release (which some hopeful Battleborn loyalists expect will have a leg up on Overwatch somehow), the stats from Battleborn on Steam just one month into its release are dismal.

Despite being discounted by 40 per cent over the weekend (which is almost unprecedented for a AAA game in its first month of release), Battleborn‘s numbers haven’t rallied as we head into June. Not only are player numbers dwindling, but according to SteamSpy, the amount of time that Battleborn‘s relatively few players are spending in the game is quickly decreasing:

The game saw only a slight peak on Sunday, with its highest number of concurrent players peaking at 12,101 on the day of its release. At the time of writing there’s a fairly dismal playerbase of only 2200 online. That’s less than the number of people playing Youtubers Life, that sim game about being someone who plays games on YouTube for a living.

Of course, Battleborn isn’t without its fans, but even the die-hards are getting fed up with the long waits for matches. Not only that, but some players on the Battleborn Subreddit have reported that matches are often poorly balanced, with low level players going up against much more powerful ones, simply because there aren’t enough people in the game.

It’s a shame, as by all accounts Gearbox had a good thing going with Battleborn. It had some really interesting character designs, challenging campaigns that could be played both single-player and co-op alongside the PVP element, and a cool story with some sweet animation. It was just released at the worst possible time.

Does Gearbox have a plan for Battleborn‘s future? We’ll have to see, but at the moment the numbers seem to be headed in only one direction — straight down.

Have you been playing Battleborn? Will you keep playing Battleborn? Let us know in the comments!


  • Seems crazy that they released this a few weeks before Overwatch. This one will probably be F2P in 6 months.

    • And brutal that Overwatch had an open beta during Battleborn’s launch weekend.

    • Seriously though, what was the thought process there? They knew that Overwatch was coming. Was it that they couldn’t afford, financially, to wait any longer with this release, and that it wasn’t ready any sooner. If they had released a month or two earlier it would have given people a chance to really get attached to it.

      • Overwatch adjusted their betas and release right after battleborn announced anything. It was impossible to avoid because blizzard was trying to snub them on purpose.

        • I wouldn’t say Battleborn is dying due to the illness that is the poor matchmaking times and balance, along with a poor playerbase. I’d say it was the bullet in it’s head that is everything Overwatch has ever done. It isn’t dying. It’s being killed.

  • I’m really not surprised, to be honest; MOBAs are this decade’s MMORPG; a few years back every dev/pubhouse under the sun was scrambling to release an MMORPG and watching it slowly flop beside the titan that is WoW; worse, with MOBAs, they’re competing against not one giant but two in DOTA and LoL.

    • Blizzard seems to be the only one immune to the death-knell that is releasing a game in an oversaturated market, if only because of their brand-power, their deserved reputation for ridiculously high levels of polish, and their skill in pursuing gameplay balance.

      • well technically Overwatch isn’t a MOBA, it’s more TF2 then FPS LoL

        that said I think your statement highlights the exact problem with Battleborn, people can’t tell the difference between it and Overwatch… given how close their release date was, if you had to choose between the two, well Blizzard has a much better reputation

        • I was kinda referring to Heroes of the Storm – Blizzard’s MOBA.

          To elaborate: MOBAs, MMOs, PVP online shooters are kinda crowded markets right now, with otherwise ‘pretty good’ MP-only games getting crowded out into de-populated oblivion fairly swiftly. Blizzard seems immune to that, for the aforementioned reasons. Polish, etc.

          At least Blizzard doesn’t have a first-person MOBA, I guess? …Yet. Who knows. Maybe there’ll be a Mann vs Machine style update for Overwatch.

          • Blizzard also smashed the marketing for Overwatch. It was hard not to pay attention to it with everything you heard and saw about it. Not to mention the fact they had an Open Beta which gave everyone the chance to play it before release, AND the open beta was on during Battleborn’s release. I also believe Overwatch adds something different to the Online shooter market because it’s somewhat of a TF2 successor. It’s like Blizzard decided they needed to take the mantle from Valve and make another Squad/Objective based shooter rather than another COD clone.

            I dont know about anyone else but I’ve found Gearbox to be hit and miss in general. Borderlands 2 was epic, but in recent times, they have either done the same thing (Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel), Gone in a weird direction (Tales of Borderlands/Homeworld), or ran with a dead project (Duke Nukem). Battleborn’s art direction just doesn’t look as nice as Overwatch either imo. Either way, this result for Gearbox was not surprising at all.

          • Overwatch; a game whose aesthetics was done by Pixar, its content by an early access indie team, and its balancing by a work intern.

            At some point, the shine on Blizzard needs to come off – IMO they haven’t released a truly great game since WC3 (maybe WoW).

      • Yeah they have some serious fucking brand power, they havent released a game that hasnt had anything other than a fanatical response to it. i think theyre all well made too

        • Yeah, it’s not like any of them are revolutionary, either. WoW was, sorta, but it was simply a much better EverQuest at the time.

          Every ‘new’ entry that isn’t their trinity of Warcraft/Starcraft/Diablo since WoW has done very well without breaking new ground. Heroes of the Storm is just a very well done alternative to LoL/DotA with a more casual-friendly focus. Overwatch is a vastly-improved TF2 (minus the co-op horde mode). Hearthstone is a newbie-friendly Magic: The Gathering with a better UI.

      • if only because of their brand-power, their deserved reputation for ridiculously high levels of polish, and their skill in pursuing gameplay balance.

        Oh, is that all?

        • I know you’re joking, but there are some very good studios who’ve brought all that to the table and more (such as bigger budgets, more widely-recognizable/broadly-appealing IP) and still failed, where Blizzard has managed to produce no failures.

          • I think the most important thing is having a publisher who supports the developer, not the shareholder. No doubt there is amazing talent and ideas going to waste elsewhere, but yeah, you look at developers like Naughty Dog and Blizzard who aren’t second guessed or controlled in the interest of profit and they time and time again put out best in class tier games. Money ruins everything, and the irony is, it’s that thirst for profit that actually stifles the potential to achieve it, you can’t be the best when you’re following the leader. And that is the lesson Gearbox need to learn from this.

      • Not entirely sure I can agree on the statement of high levels of polish. I might be cynical or just old but something seems off with Blizzard more recent releases. Heroes of the Storm is still pre-season a year after release. Overwatch still has competitive disabled.

        I rather enjoy HoTs (most of the time) but every time I open my stats screen I still see ‘Coming Soon’ on vs AI and the inability to see your match making rating in-game is a bit silly considering it’s used for everything. The game is without a doubt better than it was but it certainly wasn’t polished on release.

        I think there remains a perception of high levels of polish but I no longer think it’s true.

        • I think we have different definitions of polish.
          I consider ‘polish’ to be wholly separate from ‘feature complete’.

          If everything that IS built is shiny and functional and well-balanced and does what you expect it to do, smoothly, then that’s what I call ‘polished’. Having a shiny sign up for the ‘under construction’ section doesn’t take away from that polish.

          By contrast, I’ve seen a lot of early access (and unfortunately, a lot of full release) games which get themselves feature complete first, but never really nail the polish. Stuff looks rough, handles un-intuitively, changes a lot, or outright breaks.

          We’ve not yet seen – and I doubt will ever see – that lack of polish from Blizzard titles.

  • As a Borderlands fanatic I was first in line to grab my copy of Battleborn – haven’t really played it since the first week. Just another waste of money, I guess.

  • Good. Can’t stand Randy Pitchford. Shame for everyone else that worked hard on it, I guess.

    • He’s actually not a bad guy. His wife is really nice too. However, as a CEO he has sure made a few unwise moves. I don’t think he’ll ever recover from Colonial Marines in terms of his public image.

      • I think it’s telling that he’s really into magic, a hobby/profession that’s all about deceit and trickery. And this is the main spokesperson and CEO for that company. Avoid!

        • You could also say that magic is about showmanship and delighting the audience. Gearbox did really well with Borderlands 2 and slightly less so with The Presequel and the Handsome Jack Collection. It was really Aliens and the whole drama with TimeGate and Sega that soured people on Gearbox and Randy in particular. He basically told people that the game was going to be like an early version of it that he showed off, but then Things Happened ™ and the ultimate release was inferior to the earlier version. People called Randy a liar because he hyped the earlier version. Randy claims he spoke the truth as he saw it at the time. No-one can prove otherwise, but when people are disappointed they make assumptions to fit their preferred narrative.

          • ‘Showmanship and delighting the audience’ is a great skill when done right. The problem with this guy is that I look at him performing his little tricks, I see his sweaty grin, and it just screams “I’M LYING TO YOU!”

  • I’ll be curious to see how Lawbreakers does compared to this upon it’s release

    • Big fan of Cliffy but not hyped for Lawbreakers. The new Unreal Tournament on the other hand is shaping up slowly

      • Same here on big fan and not hyped.

        Just curious, would like to play it

        I did drink the kool aid (Overwatch hype) but it did turn out to be worth it.

        I also love Heroes of the Storm

        I could never play LoL, I’m not competitive, so games against bots are win and the no items in HoTS is great 😀

  • I really enjoyed Battleborn in the beta but…

    Open beta queue times were around 2 minutes, on release? Waiting 5+ minutes.

    I play Overwatch, I instantly get in games. It feels like no one knew Battleborn was released.

  • Sucks. I really enjoyed playing it. But those wait time were huge… go make a coffee huge… go back to University and get another degree huge… And then yeah, be teamed up with a bunch of sub level 7 players vs premade teams of high level players with the same OP hero team that steam rolls you each time… then back in the queue again.

    I ended up only playing the story with friends. But still haven’t unlocked the other characters I wanted to play, because replaying a long story mission 5 times to get a single character gets very boring.

    Great game, great humour (I love you Ashley Burch!), poor timing on release and poor staying power 🙁

  • the wait times just to get a game are ridiculous, alongside mediocrity it killed it

  • I’ve barely had any issues with matchmaking on Xbone… I play after 7pm and wait times are rarely more than 2 minutes for Incursion or Meltdown (mind you, I think I’ve only ever played with another Aussie on mic once).

    I’m not optimistic about the future of Battleborn, but for now I’m still enjoying it immensely.

  • It’s telling that on Xbox Live this week it’s 30% off (which drops it to $66 – Australia Tax) it came out less than a month ago and they’re already discounting!

  • I believe Penny Arcade said it best, when they said it should have been called Battlestillborn and never should have been released

  • This is hard to articulate, but it’s difficult to ‘predict’ or even point it out when it happens to other games:

    Aren’t we jumping the gun a bit here and playing judge, jury and executioner a little too quickly?

    As I said, very difficult to talk about this without coming off as a whiner or insulting the writer/site, but I think there’s a modicum of un-fairness towards this game.

    I don’t own it, never played it, hell never really seen a screen or video of it.

    But still, even with a game of this sort, you can’t really speak with any certainty this soon after release? Or can you?

    To take an example of a game I *am* playing – Dark Souls 3 is having a rocky time post-release in most ‘core’ player-circles not because of the publicised PC issues, but general malaise towards the game overall. Including, but not limited to, bugs concerning match-making; outright begging for patches/nerfs/buffs to stuff in-the-game that game sites (and certainly not reviews) are picking up on (yet). Yet nothing but praise (the sun) whenever we see stuff about it.

    Like I said, kinda difficult to put into words, but it’s happening more and more – these aren’t movies with box office rises and falls, not sure why we are constantly being told they should be treated like that.

    STILL, a good read though!

    • Very good points. People over on the subreddit are making the comparison to League or Dota2, both games with massive playerbases now but in their first six months of release? Player numbers comparable to Battleborn.

      The challenge will be whether or not Gearbox can maintain the development momentum they need to make this a success long term (and whether or not the playerbase can recover)…

      They’ve got a very clear plan for regular content updates (free and paid) so hopefully we at least see some decent long term support before 2K decides whether or not the endeavour was a success.

      • The difference is LoL and Dota are free to play, so new players can jump in, risk free. Asking them to pay $60-80 to try a game with a rapidly declining player base just isn’t going to work.

        And to think they could have made Borderlands 3 instead!

        • True. The full price release was always going to hurt them in the long run… Give it six months and I won’t be surprised if they do go F2P.

          • The fact they already discounting it might mean it happens sooner rather than later.

    • Unfortunately with online games it can be a bit of a downward spiral — less people log on, wait times increase, even less people log on, wait times increase even more.
      Maybe they’ll add more single player/co-op content. Maybe they’ll manage to boost numbers in PVP. We don’t know, but unfortunately for now it’s trending pretty strongly downwards.

      • I have to admit I do cringe a little every time I see reporting putting the boot into/eulogizing Battleborn because it reinforces the narrative; a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, aided by reporting.

        “Battleborn? Enh, looks kinda interesting, but I read it’s got no players/is dying, so I won’t bother.”

        But what’s the responsible thing to do? Being informed has to trump damage-mitigation. Even if the very act exacerbates the problem being complained about. I think others might disagree, and I won’t say they don’t have good reasons.

        • There’s always a small chance it’ll have the opposite effect, and rally people to support it because they’re Blizzard-haters and fuck that gawd durn Overbotch amirite?! and they drag other people over to the game.

          I’m nothing like that of course, I love Blizzard games and Overwatch is great fun. But you’ve seen the kind I’m talking about before, the ones that got bored of WoW and then echo chambered their feelings over and over until it turned into a burning hatred of all things Blizzard.

          • Heh. The ‘jilted ex’ syndrome is something I’ve seen on damn near EVERY MMO launch in the last ten years.

            “Man, I’m so glad I’m playing this and not WoW anymore! WoW used to be good when it was my first MMO and I hadn’t developed a tolerance to skinner box mechanics, but it’s shit now that I’m burned out on MMOs in general! The novelty of this new game totally won’t wear off inside the first two months because it’s just inherently better, and hasn’t ‘sold-out’ due to industry-shaking popularity!” *hair-flick*

      • The Division copped flak early on for hacking and other negative press and it seems to have crashed pretty hard on PC as well Not as quickly as battleborn though. It seems to have plateaued about 10k players. I’m sure ubisoft cashed in but I don’t see them investing much, if anything in to a ‘Division Year Two’ plan. Pump and dump game imo.
        (check 3 monthly)

        I have some sympathy for battleborn’s poor timing vs Overwatch. I lost my appetite for overwatch during open beta and watching sycophants jump the defence of Blizzard for fee to pay. Other devs have had strips torn off them for the same damn thing!

      • Oh totally, my gripe isn’t even really with this game, as I said I brought up another game that I’ve seen historically get next-to-no ‘spotlighting’ after release for its failings. I see it from time to time and chose (poorly) to highlight it with this one 🙂

  • I’m not fed up with Battleborn, I’m enjoying it. Havent had any long waits or disconnects or lag. Working my way through Hardcore missions with my brother at the moment.

    However I AM fed up with it being compared to Overwatch. In its simplest possible comparison, Overwatch has no PvE. Thats it. Thats all I care about, and why I’ll never buy it. For me, Overwatch is 2016’s Team Fortress. Comparing the two is like comparing Left 4 Dead to Team Fortress, its just stupid.

    The other thing thats grinding me to pieces is that after less than 30 days, Microsoft have discounted Battleborn by 35%, thats over $40 saving from what I paid at release (direct from Demands for a refund have been denied. Such bullshit business practice, even Amazon offered a rebate for the price difference.

    • It’s funny you say that, because most of the Battleborn marketing I saw focused on its PVP aspects.

      I simply assumed that unlike L4D, Battleborn’s ‘PVE’ was nothing more than some token bullshit. PVP with bots, kinda thing, or like playing a MOBA vs AI. (MOBAs do not count as PVE just because you can jungle/farm in lanes.)

      • If you somehow can, I would recommend checking out the story mode. Definitely designed for co-op play. Feels a lot like a handful of Borderlands story missions strung together in linear fashion. Same humour too, and with the “MOBA-style” upgrade system keeping you in the action rather than sitting around waiting for half an hour while your team ponders over that next upgrade point or if that shotgun they just found really is better than that pistol.

        I don’t have any real intention to fire up versus play.

  • Battleborn went pretty much head to head with Overwatch. They’re not identical games, but are aimed at pretty much the same spot.

    Go toe-to-toe with Blizzard and you lose.

    Overwatch’s hype machine was pretty much flawless. People were excited to play it when it was released (and had been playing it for free for a while, with a clever use of ‘Beta’ to generate hype and pre-build their player base). It’s smooth, it’s pretty and it’s fun. I’m not many people even realised Battleborn had been released.

  • The week it released, a few times I’d start it up to have a quick game before work. I’d sit at the ‘looking for teammates’ thing for ages. If I was lucky I’d get to the ‘looking for opponents’ part of the game. then it was time to get ready for work. I’d play after work too. Sit waiting for a match to find enough players before I got too tired and just went to bed. That’s why I stopped playing anyway.

  • Give them a break. It’s only meant to be a FPS; hobby-grade coop campaign; genre-blended, multi-mode competitive e-sports; meta-growth, choice + epic game, not a AAA blockbuster.

  • I’m just going to mention the poor matchmaking for Aussies in the game leads to mass amounts of lag on console, This has been a problem since launch and with no possible fix in sight………not great news about a game that is fun and robust in varying modes.
    On the subject of Overwatch the game is super polished and fun to play, it’s easy to get games and have so far experienced zero lag to date. Overwatch however has very little in differentiating modes and by rights (here comes the comparison) it shouldn’t be bought if you were looking for a value packed game with mass amounts of content…….it’s just not that game, however the game plays brilliantly and that alone makes it worth buying

  • Was releasing this against Overwatch an even worse decision than releasing Rise of the Tomb Raider the same day as Fallout 4? I mean, ROTR’s release date was god-tier stupid but at least it had a nominally different target audience to FO4. Overwatch and Battleborn are nearly 100% direct competition.

  • To be honest, playing the beta was the reason i stayed away. It was quite boring.

  • To be fair, articles like this just drive the nail into the coffin.
    And are suspiciously timed.

  • Well, let’s see where they went wrong.

    The first most important reason for me is that they don’t have Australian servers. Even when they claim they do, it’s so broken that the game can barely contain itself. That’s why I didn’t buy it.

    Let’s look at the title, ‘Battleborn’.
    Just, how fucking generic can you get? You can confuse that with so many games and really, it just sounds like another generic CoD clone. Its name doesn’t pop, the title alone doesn’t generate any interest. It’s so bland.

    Let’s have a look at the character design. What happened? Nothing about them are memorable or unique. Their designs barely match their playstyle.
    What’s this? A mushroom ninja? I guess he would be an assassin that uses poison, oh wait he’s the healer!
    An elf archer? I guess she would be the mid range assassin, oh wait she debuffs people!
    A big muscle guy with a small head? You know, he looks so stupid I don’t care anymore.

    Seriously, they look like they were designed by some teenager on deviantart. Rather than making good designs they instead kept adding detail and descriptions, thinking that’s what makes them unique.
    Who is Winston? A big ape with an electric gun.
    Who is Mellka? Well she’s this mercenary woman with a side buzzcut, tuff of hair mohawk with the front part being dyed white, elf ears with earrings, one green eye, has rock tattoos from her neck down along her left arm that molds into a sharp dagger and… you know what, who cares?

    Overall design? It’s a huge mess, your HUD is full of pointless information that just clutter up the screen. Someone made fun of this in 2012.
    The whole world is a mess. You know how people complained about grey shooters that look bland? Well, the opposite extreme can also have the same effect. There’s just too many colours, everything exploding in fire or energy lights, it’s hard to grasp just what the hell is going on. Before you can even realise that those blinking robots are a threat you’re already dead. I played some fire imp who creates pillars of spike collars that for some reason create a fire explosion. But I have no idea what its radius is or how damaging it is. Look at the numbers? They appear so often and so quickly that I have no idea if what I’m doing is good or not. It’s just numbers.

    As for the story? You know how in Borderlands they used humour to offset the bleak environment? With each game increasing the humour alongside the violence? Well, in Battleborns case, it’s just humour and they never let you forget it. They never shut up, they don’t even give you a chance to laugh at a joke before smashing the joke into your head, again and again. Yes, I get the joke, this mini-boss thinks it’s a spider, I chuckled the first time, not the second or 10th time.

    Its release date was also a big problem. Who the hell decided to release this game against Uncharted 4, Doom and friggen Overwatch!? I’m surprised the first two games had the balls to release against Overwatch, but who would even be thinking about Battleborn around this time?

    But that leads to the biggest reason for its failure. Nobody knows what Battleborn actually IS! Even Randy couldn’t describe it within a single sentence. Want to know what Battleborn is? It’s an FPS MOBA. Anybody who knows what a MOBA is already knows what Battleborn is. Everybody else has no idea what’s going on.

  • Overwatch is gonna die a slow death when Lawbreakers and especially when COD and Battlefield comes out this fall.

  • As soon as I saw that Gearbox was showing preference to PlayStation players over Xbox I stopped playing.

  • Its a really fun game that could be great long term fun with a competitive mode but will never get there without going free to play. And given how evolve / borderlands went with dlc, and how this game already has a season pass dlc, im guessing the devs will be required to keep it buy to play for life of season pass, by which time game will basically be completely dead.

    I bought the season pass, also bought a copy for my wife and kid, so spent over $150 on game in total, but id be totally fine if the game went free-to-play tomorrow to improve the playerbase.

    Actually they need to work on optimization first, expand matchmaking regions (people from NY city and Florida do not play in same matchmaking region, for whatever reason, for example). Then relaunch as free to play in 2-3 months if they can put it together that quickly.

  • I love battleborn and I really hope the community doesn’t die. I own battleborn and over watch, and I honestly prefer battleborn. I love the complexity and depth of its gameplay.

  • actually…there is proof randy lied and that its not some “preferred narrative”

    there was a whole ton of court documents split between Gearbox and Sega that showed how the whole thhing played out – Randy went against orders from Sega on a number of occasions, an then when the 2 of them headed to court he tried to say “we only did what we were told”

    but the problem in him saying that is that sega had a slew of internal emails about the topic, some of them even dialogues with Gearbox employees who agreed “randy is just doing whatever the hell he wants” and sympathized with sega

    ACM was one of the more tragic things to happen in gaming in the last decade (well, AVP 2010 was too) and honestly if people want games more akin to the golden days of hte 90s…its high time a proper Aliens/AVP game comes out…the last 2 were complete disasters and this is coming from me, a hardcore series fan

    but im a fan, not a fanboy…i may love certain things to death but i wont just sweep stuff under the rug or deny when something smells like bullshit, if anything the fact i love certain things motivates me NOT to blindly defend them when things are truly going badly, because i want the series to do well and when people keep releasing shitty games that isnt happening, and the only way to stop shitty games from being made out of a given series is to talk with your wallet

  • I love Battleborn. The problem is the price tag. They should have never charged $60 for it even if there is a single-player campaign. The unlockables are too tedious for this generation of enabled gamers. I’m old and don’t mind unlocking characters and what not, but all of the skins are exactly the same colors for every character; there was clearly no thought put into different skins and for a $60 game that is very weak and not worthy of $60. By contrast, Overwatch has unlockable skins that actually change the look of the character instead of just the color palette and it’s $40. Overwatch and Battleborn are both very good games, and I honestly enjoy playing Battleborn more because the skill ceiling is vastly higher than Overwatch. Having said that, the game is clearly dying and I won’t be wasting 20 minutes to find a game anymore, seeing as how the # of players just keeps decreasing. It’s really a shame, as Battleborn could have been my most played game for the next few years if they had polished the game further and made it worth $60 so others would have bought it.

  • LoL? that random game that came out and died? i havent even heard about that for years except for in insults. i tried with some mates for a while and it was absolutely horrible, why would battleborn struggle to compete against it?
    i mean i dont own battleborn but i doubt it could be anywhere near as bad.

  • Im not sure your comment can really be taken seriously Camm.
    It sounds honestly like you are out of touch with the gaming community and have been for a very long time, or at the very least a blizzard hater/sabotager.
    If you don’t think that blizzard has released a truly great game since then WC3, have you been living under a rock? WoW built and shaped the MMO market to this very day, and with the amount of money blizzard actually pull in they HAVE TO BE doing something people think is great..

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