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Garrett Fuller: What Lesson Can Be Taken From Boss Key's Bad Luck?

Columns By Garrett Fuller on May 15, 2018

What Lesson Can Be Taken From Boss Key's Bad Luck?

In game design, it is always a race to the finish. Usually, when it comes to game genres or types of ideas there are several titles trying to hit the market all at once. Boss Key Production had Lawbreakers which was its premiere title. The game was set to go into the arena shooter line up against Overwatch, Paragon, Battleborn, and several others. This was no easy task.

When game companies try to match other design ideas and are first to market it always creates a problem. Does anyone remember the Lord of the Rings MOBA? Doubtful, but everyone knows League of Legends. This is where game companies in the big picture fail. They constantly go after an audience of a successful game with new skins or lore to capture part of that audience.

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We saw this trend with MMOs early on. Ultima and Everquest built the template then Warcraft perfected it. Countless MMOs came after, some still survive to this day, but many fell apart. Can the game industry learn that sometimes following the crowd is not the answer to everyone’s problems?

In Boss Key’s case, Lawbreakers was not a bad game at all. The characters may have been slightly imbalanced, but they were working on it. There was also some solid wall climbing and anti-gravity mechanics that really added to the genre. However, the amount of investment both time and money wise is what hurt Boss Key in the end. There was a lot of eggs in one basket, and there was already another egg-heavy basket dominating the competitive FPS space. That can be hard for a company to surmount.

Radical Heights was their other game, a last ditch effort, which attempted to break into the Battle Royale genre, which right now is on the top of the entire industry with Fortnite commanding mass appeal. This was a tough call for the company, however, again it tried to enter a game into a crowded space hoping to pull people away from a top title.

Cliff Bleszinski, the company’s co-founder. Had this to say about their attempts "Lawbreakers was a great game that unfortunately failed to gain traction, and in a last-ditch attempt we scrambled to do our take on the huge battle royale genre with Radical Heights which was well received, however, it was too late."

It seems like Cliff realized trying to take on giants in certain genres can be a tough climb. He is still a very talented game designer so we certainly hope he comes back with some new games for us to play one day.

The lesson here though is to start small. Find success in a game genre or idea that is not trying to reach millions of players. Create something fun on a budget that will entice a core audience. Continue that trend and seek out ideas where you can innovate and build upon the core.

Too many game companies have swung for the fences recently. As the market has become huge, the only area that continues to grow rapidly is in independent titles which bring new ideas to light. Many of the top publishers or companies have bet their growth on sequels or expansions. There is little room for growth there. And while Lawbreakers was an OK game, it's shocking to see that "OK" just doesn't cut it in this day and age.

So, where do we go from here? Boss Key is a sad story because people’s lives were impacted. It is a lesson that many can learn from, just like other studios that have fallen by the wayside. I wonder if Boss Key would be in the same state if Lawbreakers had released into an Early Access status, ahead of Overwatch, and then grew over time? Try to build up and get to first base, bring in some runs, and then have your home run hitters take the stage.

Garrett Fuller Garrett Fuller Editorials
Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997. He originally joined MMORPG.com as a writer in 2005. In 2007 Garrett went on to handle Industry Relations for TenTonHammer.com. Then, in July 2009, Garrett happily rejoined his old team at MMORPG.com as the site's News Manager. Garrett lives in Hillsborough, NJ with his wife, son and daughter.

His column appears here every Wednesday.
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