Remember LawBreakers, the Quake-like hero shooter that lived a short half-life before the studio made an ill-fated pivot to a battle royale? Well, apparently LawBreakers could have been successful - partially if the game was supposedly less "woke".
That's a claim made by CliffyB on Instagram, where he talked about "what I could have done differently" to prevent the closure of his studio, Boss Key. It's not the only factor, and an edit to the Instagram posted cited other reasons - timing, the games' marketing, and choosing to be on PlayStation instead of Xbox.
But in the original post, the former Gears of War director said pushing his "own personal political beliefs in a world that was increasingly divided" was one reason behind the game's failure. "Instead of "these characters seem fun" it was "this is the studio with the CEO who refuses to make his female characters sexier." Instead of "who am I going to choose" it became "white dude shoehorns diversity in his game and then smells his own smug farts in interviews" instead of just letting the product ... speak for itself," the veteran designer wrote.
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EDIT: In case I didn't make it clear I mean that this was *A* factor, not THE. Marketing, timing, being on ps over xbox, and more were also factors. Stupid clickbait headlines I hope you the hits you wanted. ???????? Hung it in the garage. Ironic the sign got kinda messed up in transport, ain't it? Ever since the studio closed I've been wracking my brain what I could have done differently. Pivot HARD when the juggernaut of Overwatch was announced. Been less nice with my design ideas and more of a dictator with them. One big epiphany I had was that I pushed my own personal political beliefs in a world that was increasingly divided. Instead of the story being "this game looks neat" it became "this is the game with the 'woke bro' trying to push his hackey politics on us with gender neutral bathrooms." Instead of "these characters seem fun" it was "this is the studio with the CEO who refuses to make his female characters sexier." Instead of "who am I going to choose" it became "white dude shoehorns diversity in his game and then smells his own smug farts in interviews" instead of just letting the product ... speak for itself. It's okay to be political when your company or studio is established for great product FIRST. But we were unproven and I regret doing it. (This will be quite the doozy of a chapter in the upcoming memoir.)
For the short time it was around, I genuinely enjoyed LawBreakers. It was a mechanically solid game, with some robust flying and movement that felt very Unreal Tournament. But the game's presentation never really stuck with fans, with no iconic heroes or villains with identities that people really bought into. The game's graphics also didn't fit streams and YouTube quite as well as the stylised pastels of Overwatch, which is always a factor for content creators.
"It's okay to be political when your company or studio is established for great product FIRST. But we were unproven and I regret doing it," CliffyB wrote, mentioning that he'd focus further on Boss Key in an upcoming book.
There's many questions and decisions that could have been made. What if LawBreakers went free-to-play from the start? CliffyB admitted to GameSpot that the game's onboarding experience wasn't that great, and not having some of the same archetypes as other games might have confused players.
"That ultimately proved to be very confusing for a lot of core players who were getting into it, in regards to, are they gonna watch the tutorial video," CliffyB said in an interview. "What happens if people like to go online and then they hit all the buttons or all the keys and they just want to figure out, kind of in a vacuum, what they can do with that?"
Maybe there's no way LawBreakers could have succeeded in the current environment. My gut feeling hasn't changed from three years ago though: the game needed more of a personality, one that was something people could embrace and buy into. But games also don't fail for any one reason. It's always a combination of things, from the aesthetic, optimisation, timing, mechanics, design and, often most crucially, a lack of luck.