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With so many developers not getting the idea that chasing trends is a bad idea, you wonder why we keep seeing it happen. Hero shooters come out to try and take the Overwatch and Paladin’s crowds away, but fail, and studios shutter. Studios try to capture the hype and popularity of games like League of Legends and Dota 2, and many fail, servers shut down, and are now abandoned. Last year, we saw many studios trying to ride the coattails of Player’s Unknown Battleground and Fortnite, and guess what bloody happened? They failed, and studios like Boss Key Productions shut down, because even veterans of the game industry couldn’t be bothered to read between the lines. During Microsoft’s E3 2019 conference, Ninja Theory, who was going off of the success of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, announced that they were working on a new game. Instead of a strong single-player experience, they are making a four-versus-four multi-player experience known as Bleeding Edge. While early impressions have been positive, I do worry about Bleeding Edge’s future.
I feel like, while they might be easier to work with, I find multi-player-only-focused experiences to be a much bigger long-term risk. On one hand, you only have to focus on one part of a game, which is the multi-player mode. You don’t need to put resources into another mode, like a single-player mode, and it means you can work on making this one mode as perfect as it can be. There is nothing all that wrong with making a game that’s about multi-player experiences only, because a lot of the most popular games in recent years like Rocket League, Fortnite, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege continue to be wildly popular. This means Ninja Theory just needs to make sure the levels work for all of the characters, the characters are balanced, and can hopefully play the long game with this new game.
That’s the problem though, isn’t it? Like a new restaurant or a convenient store, you have to play the long game. You need to survive the launch of the game, and get enough players to keep making the work going into it worth it. If you launch and make a bad first impression, it doesn’t work, or has really shady practices that ruin the gameplay loop of the experience, then you will lose people fast. Multi-player games cost more money as time goes on, and you need to keep people invested, or else, that money is going to dry up. This entire generation has been nothing, but a bunch of high-profile multi-player experiences coming out, not doing as well as expected, and then dying slow painful deaths, or some studios shutting down entirely, like Boss Key Productions. Titanfall 1, Evolve, those failed Medal of Honor reboots, Lawbreakers, Radical heights, Anthem, The Culling 2, Inversion, Battlefield Hardlines, Umbrella Corps, Battleborn, Fallout 76, and you get the idea. Sure, I could take out Fallout 76, because it’s getting new content alongside Anthem, but both games are too much of a failure to leave off of the list. A lot of these games failed to grab audiences, or were of fairly mediocre quality to be worth investing into after one or two rounds. Once player-bases decreased and people went elsewhere for their multi-player fun, those games died. Servers are probably going to shut down soon for many players, or already have, and now you’ve got games in your digital or physical library, used game store shelves, and wherever that are now pointless to even bother with. We live in a market where instead of game companies competing to make unique or interesting experiences, they play ‘follow the leader’ and try to ape off of what is making one studio oodles of money.
This is why Bleeding Edge’s announcement was met with disappointment and worry. I get why they went with this game, and the characters looks fun, but how much content will be there at launch? How different will the characters feel? Will all of the characters be worth trying out? How many maps will there be? What about modes? Will the gameplay loop be so much fun, that we keep coming back? What are you going to be doing to keep gamers invested? Will you be using shady as heck triple-A gaming practices to keep the game afloat? How big does the player-base need to constantly be to be worth it? Why will I want to play this more than Overwatch or Paladins?
Bleeding Edge is heading into a market that is already occupied by Overwatch and Paladins, and while its third-person melee-focused combat does make it stand out, it really needs to hit it out of the park day 1. You only get one game launch, one first impression, and one moment to not screw this up. I love Ninja Theory, and I adore their work, and I want them to succeed, but I worry that they are going to run into a situation where it does well first week, but then people stop playing, because people went back to something that was already there. I want people to give this new game a chance, and I want to make sure Ninja Theory offers enough for people to keep playing it. Otherwise, Bleeding Edge will be bleeding players until the well dries up.