In my article for 2018’s most disappointing games, I placed Cliff Bleszinski’s Lawbreakers at number 10 because it had zero staying power. Well, apparently Nexon thinks PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is to blame, and the company’s reasoning is odd to say the least.
Nexon recently released its Q3 earnings report for 2017, and it is mostly what you would expect. FIFA Online 3 was popular in Korea; MapleStory2 China‘s open beta showed promise, and the company proudly acquired PixelBerry Studios. But, one bit of information stands out among the rest: sales figures in North America were lower than expected thanks to “sales from LawBreakers.” The report states that LawBreakers‘ poor sales were due to the game being released around the same time as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Admittedly, sometimes games fail because they are released alongside higher-profile games. Battleborn flew under most gamers’ radars because it released just twenty-one days before Overwatch. However, LawBreakers and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds were released a whopping one hundred and thirty-seven days apart. That’s a little over one third of the year, which is an eternity for most gamers. Therefore, the release windows of the two games are not a probable cause of LawBreakers‘s poor sales.
Another flaw in Nexon’s argument is LawBreakers and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds are two completely different games. The former is a fast-paced team-oriented FPS game with gravity mechanics and character classes, while the latter is a slow and methodical, if not tactical, third-person “battle royale” game that forces players to scrounge for equipment. Compare these two games again to Battleborn and Overwatch, which are team-based FPS games where players take control of unique characters with their own weapons, abilities, and tactics. It’s perfectly understandable why Overwatch would overshadow Battleborn, because from a mechanical standpoint, they’re almost the same, which means they would have fought over the same audience (a fight Overwatch won). But, LawBreakers and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds have nothing in common; they would have attracted two disparate demographics, which means they should not have competed over sales and thus the success of one likely cannot be attributed to the failure of the other.
Speaking of competition, Nexon’s report claims PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, “[made] the market environment very tough for first-person shooters in general and for LawBreakers.” If we examine the FPS games released this year, it becomes apparent that is simply not true. Prey, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, Strafe, and Mirage: Arcane Warfare were all released after PlayerUnknown‘s Battlegrounds but before LawBreakers, and all of them have been successful either in terms of sales, player retention, or both, especially Prey. Clearly PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds did not have a significant impact on the FPS market, or at least as significant an impact as Nexon would like you to believe.
Of course, this is all just my speculation. Maybe PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is to blame for LawBreakers‘ poor sales. Maybe so many people were playing the latest esports craze they simply had neither the time nor the money for Nexon’s latest competitive FPS game. But, until we have more information, all we can do is speculate.