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The Real Reason LawBreakers Flopped

There aren't many game makers out there who are as willing to stir up controversy as Cliff Bleszinski, who shot to fame when Epic Games' Gears of War became one of the Xbox 360 era's signature franchises. However, Bleszinski unceremoniously went into early retirement when he left Epic Games in 2012, citing a jaded industry and a lack of faith in his ideas at the company.

When Bleszinski reemerged in 2015 to open his own studio, Boss Key Productions, gamers were interested in seeing what he would do with his new independence. Unfortunately, his first game, LawBreakers, failed to make an impact when it arrived in 2017 and was shut down entirely by September 2018 after failing to attract an audience.

What went wrong with what was supposed to be Bleszenski's triumphant return to the industry? In a 2020 Instagram post, Bleszinski blamed his outspoken personality and political beliefs, which he feels sparked a backlash to the title. However, some critics have expressed that the problems with LawBreakers may have been much deeper than that. Here is the real reason that LawBreakers was dead on arrival.

LawBreakers failed to distinguish itself from other hero shooters

When LawBreakers went live in the summer of 2017, critics found lots of bright spots in its frantic, skill-based interpretation of the hero shooter genre that Overwatch and others had popularized. A positive review from IGN called the game "an exhilarating 5v5 hero-based first-person shooter."

However, that same review notes that the characters are "shallow" and that "it felt like LawBreakers went through the motions of what's expected from a hero based-shooter." These sentiments would be repeated. Polygon said, "Character design is the biggest strike against LawBreakers." The hero shooter element of the game suffered, Polygon explained, because characters were indistinguishable in a match.

In the end, LawBreakers found success in the area Cliff Bleszinski was already proven in, creating an intense, competitive shooter. Unfortunately, it failed to adapt that gameplay to the hero shooter genre it aspired to. Game Informer summed it up as a game that delivered on the weapons, kills, and skills but failed in its attempt to "capture the spirit of the core arena-shooter." These oversights meant that LawBreakers did little to "stand out amongst the rest of the pack."

LawBreakers was poorly positioned in the marketplace

LawBreakers' failure is also attributable to some bad timing and a failure to read the industry's shifting trends. Before releasing LawBreakers, Bleszinski made headlines when he announced that Lawbreakers would retail for "29.99 – none of that sixty dollar multiplayer-only (expletive)."

In a GameSpot interview, Bleszinski notes that he thought the $30 price point was so low that it would be "pretty much an impulse buy" for gamers, especially against full price hero-shooter competitors Overwatch and Destiny 2. However, the game's immediate competition was not the hero shooters it had been designed to run against but the emerging battle royale genre. PUBG's early access began in March 2017, and Fortnite's battle royale mode arrived, for free, a month after LawBreakers hit the scene in August 2017. 

By the time LawBreakers launched, it was clear that the game had failed to capture the public's interest. During its first weekend, it never broke the top 100 games played on Steam, and in later months would struggle to keep 1,000 concurrent players online at any time. The game was removed from Steam in September 2018 so Boss Key Productions could focus on a new battle royale title called Radical Heights.