Radical Heights and the Risk of Chasing Trends

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Recently, Boss Key Productions, the studio founded by Cliffy B., announced that they were working on a brand-spanking new game after the utter failure wrapped up into a 50-car pileup disaster that was Lawbreakers. When failing to ride on the Overwatch/Team Fortress bandwagon, they are now chasing the trends with Radical Heights, a battle royale-style game to compete with Players Unknown Battlegrounds and Fortnite. While they made sure to show that the trailer was using early footage of the game, it’s a terrible first impression. It looks lifeless and tired, with its “remember the wacky 80s” theme to everything. So, chasing one trend failed, why would you try that again with another? It screams of desperation, and Cliffy B. trying to chase trends. Like, I get it. Something came out and became super popular, and you want to try and one-up them. Competition is healthy, but on top of failing to deliver on your previous efforts, why would you try and go with the same strategy, but a different style of game? This just screams of a major risk that sounds ridiculous to me. I’m not a business major, but this feels like a bad move. It shows the danger and risk of chasing trends, or not being careful.

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I mean, we have seen what happens when trends get chased, and publishers are not careful. Do we need to be reminded how bad Battleborn did when it tried to get an upper hand on Overwatch? Say what you will about Overwatch, and it deserves a good chunk of the criticisms aimed at it, but people are still playing Overwatch. It had so much hype and pre-release positive word of mouth that it was just insane and sad for any other game to try to compete in the same genre at that time. Even when Battleborn was about to go free-to-play, which also killed Evolve and would kill Battleborn, a free-to-play multiplayer game called Paladins came out and took its thunder. It happened when for what felt like three years in a row, there was a slew of multi-player-only games coming out to try and one-up one another with new and interesting gimmicks. Examples were Evolve’s four-versus-one multi-player, Titanfall’s giant mechs, and so on, but no one really talks about them, unless it’s to bring up the sad states of those games.

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Remember when Halo, Gears of War, and Call of Duty were the biggest games on the market? Remember when the clones and industry pushed for this to be the only genre making profit? I can name multiple first person shooters that tried to dethrone those two. Haze, Homefront, Brink, Inversion, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and you get the idea. Remember how the clones came and went like nothing happened, and the publishers/studios suffered for it? Say what you will about Halo, Gears of War, and Call of Duty, but if I’m trying out an alternative to the fat cat of that genre, and it doesn’t work out, I’m going to stick to the games of that genre that know how to make it work.

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What seems to be the major problem is that people are trying to pull off the same success, but not try anything new or interesting. The reason why people love Dragon Quest Builders is because it adds in a story mode, better combat, and the colorful and charming world of Dragon Quest into the Minecraft mix. Silent Hill might have at one time competed with Resident Evil, but it did that because it went into a different direction with its horror going more psychological horror than just fighting monsters with little ammo. Fortnite is able to compete with Player’s Unknown, because it has a colorful art style, and isn’t just a battle royale game. Sure, more people care about the battle royale part, but still. Paladins is only being able to compete with Overwatch, because it’s a free-to-play version of that game style, and if people were getting tired of Overwatch, until the newest character came along. Darksiders, while being very much a Zelda-style game, was able to differentiate itself due to its God of War-style combat and fun art style. Wolfenstein The New Order/New Colossus and Doom 2016 were able to stand out among the flood of  Call of Duty clones, because they were offering something that other studios weren’t willing to offer much anymore for some unknown reason, single-player experiences.

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My point is, showing up on time is not the only thing you have to do. If you want to make a game like Fortnite, then fine, but give me a reason to check out your game. Do something that makes it different/better. If you are just going to be Fortnite, then I’m going to be playing Fortnite. It’s like how I am with the recent film, I Kill Giants. It’s very similar to A Monster’s Call in almost every single way, but I didn’t connect with I Kill Giants, and felt like I could have gotten this kind of experience by simply watching A Monster’s Call again. That’s why so many multi-player games, whether they are shooters or fighters, end up dead or expired by the end of the year. If they weren’t being able to compete or be as good as the kings, then I’m going to stick with the kings. I’m also pointing this out to the indie devs, because if I see another Metroidvania-style game or another roguelike that’s not stepping up to compete for my attention, then I’m going keep going back to the games that made them constantly fun to play.

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In general, will Radical Heights be good? It’s too early to tell, but as of right now, this feels like a terrible idea, and the studio doesn’t seem aware at how risky this is, when no one else is able to survive against the two big titans in this game genre. I don’t want them to shut down, but you would think a person like Cliffy B., with so much experience in the game industry, would, you know, not do this. Why not make a single-player shooter with some tight polish and fun gameplay? No one is competing in the single-player market, so the gap is big enough to make your game stand out. I hope for the best, but everyone should remember, simply getting your foot in the door is not enough. Prove to me that you are as good or better as the others, and do something that will make you stand out.