Home Gaming Clifford Bleszinski reflects on why Lawbreakers failed, but I’m not sure he has it right

Clifford Bleszinski reflects on why Lawbreakers failed, but I’m not sure he has it right

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In a reflective post on Instagram, former head of now-defunct studio Boss Key, Clifford Bleszinski, lamented the failure of the studio’s great big competitive shooter LawBreakers. I know it’s easy to have forgotten about LawBreakers, because it was a generic-looking competitive shooter that failed to stand out at a time when Overwatch – with its colourful cartoon heroes – was winning hearts.

LawBreakers was a good game, made in the Quake mould in that it had a ridiculously high skill ceiling. It was the opposite of what a good competitive game should be though; once you hit that skill ceiling, that was it. It was hard to learn, but fairly easy to master. That made it a bit of a niche game, hardly appealing to the masses in the way that Overwatch is. The marketing was also pretty terrible, with the sort 90’s method of trying to appeal to “hardcore” gamers with how EXTREME it was. It was also initially revealed as being a F2P game, and then ended up being a fixed cost one – but still stuffed with lootboxes and microtransactions. It was honestly doomed from the start.

But it’s not really these specific things that led to its failure, according to Bleszinski. No, it was his “woke” politics that fluffed it.

“Ever since the studio closed I’ve been wracking my brain what I could have done differently. Pivot HARD when the juggernaut of Overwatch was announced. Been less nice with my design ideas and more of a dictator with them,” he wrote. “One big epiphany I had was that I pushed my own personal political beliefs in a world that was increasingly divided.

Instead of the story being ‘this game looks neat’ it became ‘this is the game with the ‘woke bro’ trying to push his hackey politics on us with gender neutral bathrooms.’ Instead of ‘these characters seem fun’ it was ‘this is the studio with the CEO who refuses to make his female characters sexier.’ Instead of ‘who am I going to choose’ it became ‘white dude shoehorns diversity in his game and then smells his own smug farts in interviews’ instead of just letting the product … speak for itself.”

To be fair to Bleszinski, he doesn’t believe that his personal politics are the sole reason the game crashed. Rather that they were part of the reason.

But here’s the thing. I don’t think I’ve ever associated Bleszinski with especially “woke” political leanings, and I hardly believe that LawBreakers veered into being overtly political. If anything, Overwatch could be accused of trying to pander to diversity, but that’s a game that got its communication and marketing right and was fun to play.

Last Updated: February 6, 2020

10 Comments

  1. Guild

    February 6, 2020 at 08:53

    I bought LB because I enjoyed the game but there were a lot of things wrong with it that I was hoping would be fixed over time. In the end, everyone was playing Overwatch which was a better polished game so LB was ditched.

    Reply

  2. MechMachine

    February 6, 2020 at 09:27

    I`m not that clued up on Cliffy B. But I know he’s been around for a long time, possibly since the Unreal days. He came into major prominence with Gears of War, at least that’s when I first heard if him. Is it possible that he could be a one hit wonder ?

    A Vanilla Ice of Games ? Gears was original, fresh and really cool. Never played Lawbreakers but it seemed to follow a trend.

    Reply

  3. Gavin Mannion

    February 6, 2020 at 08:35

    I don’t see CliffyB as part of the woke left… but I do remember the gender neutral bathroom crap coming up at a really bad time for LB. I’m all for shoe horning in politics into discussions but there is a time and a place and having your game remembered for being unsexy and something about bathrooms isn’t great.

    Not to mention , the majority want sexaulised characters. Who likes looking at ugly fat people when playing games, I get enough of that in the bathroom mirror every day

    Reply

  4. SagatatiaRZA

    February 6, 2020 at 08:53

    I’m really sure these things would have mattered IF the game was any good in the first place and released a few years earlier.

    Also Cliffy B is a dick, I’m not surprised he’s half-heartedly deflecting blame.

    Reply

  5. MechMachine

    February 6, 2020 at 09:27

    I`m not that clued up on Cliffy B. But I know he’s been around for a long time, possibly since the Unreal days. He came into major prominence with Gears of War, at least that’s when I first heard if him. Is it possible that he could be a one hit wonder ?

    A Vanilla Ice of Games ? Gears was original, fresh and really cool. Never played Lawbreakers but it seemed to follow a trend.

    Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      February 6, 2020 at 09:33

      Far longer than Unreal; he was also behind Jazz Jackrabbit. since gears he worked on Bulletstorm and shadow complex

      Reply

      • MechMachine

        February 6, 2020 at 09:51

        I forgot about Bulletstorm. That game was cool. Okay, he has talent. Jazz Jackrabbit, not my cup of tea.

        Reply

      • HvR

        February 6, 2020 at 10:18

        With the exception of Gears though he was never the guy with the original idea, or tech lead or the lead creator.

        He is the 80’s ninty wunderkind gamer who has ridden on everybody else coat tails.

        And looking at the history I will bet good money that the original idea and execution of Jack Jazz rabbit was Brussee not CliffyB.

        Reply

  6. Alien Emperor Trevor

    February 6, 2020 at 09:27

    You chased the hero shooter trend and tried to release a new hero shooter when everyone was very happy with the hero shooter they were already playing, and didn’t do much to differentiate yourself. That was your screw up, nothing else.

    I love his tweet though, pretending like he’s surprised by the “clickbait”. Pull the other one, Cliffy.

    Reply

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