Does Cliff Bleszinski Understand Why 'LawBreakers' Bombed?

Yesterday, on an Instagram post reminiscing about his defunct studio Boss Key, Cliff Bleszinski offered a theory about why the company’s first title, LawBreakers, failed to find an audience. In it, he speculates that during the game's publicity and marketing efforts he came across like a "woke bro" trying to force his politics onto people who just wanted a classic shooter.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

At the risk of mistaking my personal experiences for an objective reality: I wasn’t even aware Lawbreakers had a diverse cast until this post came up.

Did I just miss all this marketing?


Lawbreakers failed for the same reason Quake Champions failed and Unreal Tournament 4’s development dried up before it could become a game: the interest in arena shooters is essentially zero.

Sad, because I was really looking forward to UT4, but the late 2010s PC shooter audience is not the late 1990s PC shooter audience.


I dunno, I have a slightly different take than that. Blizzard prefers to the term “hero shooter”, but Overwatch is basically an arena shooter, right? So clearly there’s interest in the genre.

Seems to me that, in the live service space, there’s less room for also-rans than there used to be. And also every multiplayer game is effectively a live service now, whether it wants to be or not.

So, the live service trend took off because the constant updates keep people coming back to the same well over and over instead of getting bored and wandering away to try something else. That means it’s not enough to release a new game in the same space that’s just slightly different, because the reining king you’re competing against is already providing its players with something slightly different and probably doing it faster than you can.

The only way to really break in is to do what Apex Legends did with BR games, where they identified a clear niche and catered to it. People who wanted, like, “Overwatch BR” didn’t really have a home in either Fornite or PUBG. And I think it’s hard to overstate the significance of the ping mechanic, too, in attracting people who want to play a BR game without some edgelord calling them the N-word. (Which is certainly why I gave Apex a shot.)

Did LawBreakers offer anything like that? Was there a huge underserved segment of Overwatch fans who were saying, “I need something a bit like this except gravity is a little bit weird sometimes”? I’m pretty sure there wasn’t.

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Arena shooters have a strong small community broken up by everyone’s preferred flavor making it incredibly hard to make something popular that can have a long lasting community. It’s also a cut throat type of game where you are going to get your teeth kicked in for the first dozen hours you play by the people who have been playing for 4 dozen.

Everyone says they want one but then people remember that actually they really aren’t interested in playing one day after day and it’s such an easy to clone genre that plenty of good 100% free alternatives exist if they do.


In what universe can we call Cliffy B “woke” unironically. Did I miss something? Edit, I don’t mean to be a gatekeeper here, that was just never my impression of him.

I mean, aside from that, it can be hard to pin down why games take off, so I understand the appeal of looking at the marketing efforts when you’ve made a game that mechanically, you have every right to be proud of.

If I were to pretend to punditry, I’d say the most likely factor is that lawbreakers was another multiplayer competitive shooter entering a pretty well saturated shooter market. The chances of success were always low. Apex Legends did break that wall, but it was justifiably heralded as an unlikely success.


This is the gist of it. If your game doesn’t immediately stick with people enough that they’d want to keep playing it, then all the progression systems in the world aren’t going to keep people coming back.

Artifact, even with the backing of Valve, had zero momentum when there are 2-3 other similar games with heavily entrenched audiences.


Honestly, half the problem of LawBreakers was the aesthetic they went for. It’s like they specifically went for “what if a game was based entirely around characters on old graphic cards in the mid 2000s” and didn’t realize that Overwatch has a decent aesthetic that actually looks nice and somewhat inviting.


It’s news to me too. All I remember from lawbreakers is it having a tiny player base from the start. It had less cartoon looking characters than Overwatch, but I couldn’t describe a single one of you put a gun to my head.

Mike Bithell said it best on twitter.
“Successes belong to the team, failures to the boss.”

Also with him having a book due to come out and he’s likely just trying to drum up interest to get that anti-woke" dollar.


That’s how I used to describe Paragon, that moba that epic released and then killed.


This seems like the type of reasoning ones come to the conclusion of after reading too many threads on the subject and taking the loud vocal minority too seriously.

Absolutely not, the way teams are structured and it being primarily focussed on objective play makes it far removed from arena shooters.

it’s basically a MOBA in character design and team structure, with the level design and objective focus of Team Fortress 2.


Getting either online leftists or the alt-right mad at you has become an effective marketing strategy

I’m sitting around imagining how rich I would need to be able to ignore reality to this extent.

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I remember seeing the first trailers for this game and seeing some interesting ideas about characters and gameplay that maybe could make it look apart from Overwatch.

Then the game and marketing shifted to “WE’RE SO HARDCORE BRO OVERWATCH IS FOR BABIES LOOK AT OUR GENERIC SHOOTER HEROES” and I lost all the little interest I had in the game

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I haven’t tried Quake Champions, so can’t really speak to it, but the Crucible aspects of Destiny is essentially an arena shooter with powers.

It’s one of the reasons I have played a lot of Destiny when I wasn’t necessarily in the mood for a loot game or an MMO.

Titanfall 2 had some aspects of an arena shooter.

Overwatch is 1/20th of an arena shooter (scientifically speaking, of course).

I don’t mind Cliffy B. Sure he’s a bit up himself and a bit annoying as dude bro gamer personified. I saw him do a talk at GDC about how to become a power creative, which made me vomit a little bit. I’ve always seen him as harmless. He should just be the guy who came up with the chainsaw gun - a thing that has never gotten old over the course of 5 gears games - and just own it.

From what I played of Lawbreakers, I thought it was neat. I liked how it played with gravity, and shooting your gun behind you to help propel you forward through some of the zero G areas was awesome. At the time, it was entering a crowded marketplace just another hero shooter with an arena flavour. Me and my friends were happy juggling between Overwatch, Destiny and Titanfall 2.

His goofy persona suggests that, but he’s not.

Lawbreakers failed because Cliffy is a horrible businessman who chewed up and spat out his employees because of his constant string of bad decisions. Trying to set his game apart from Overwatch by openly insulting “anime” in a surprisingly xenophobic way, making an entirely different game that was barely a string of assets to chase the PUBG and Fortnite money, his actively combative contrarian or harsh stances meant to sell him as some sort of outside artist rebel, ect.

Cliffy is operating like Midway or Acclaim in the 90s and early 2000s, and one of those guys thought it was a good idea to shower a public street in fake blood to sell a Turok game.

Worse, he actively lied to his employees about the state of his company and wouldn’t give them a reference if they wanted to leave for another company up until the whole thing went bankrupt. He acts like a down to Earth dimwit, just like Randy Pitchford does, but in reality they’re both egomaniacs obsessed with their own public personas who scam and abuse people out of their hard earned money. The only way Cliffy isn’t as bad as Pitchford is that he’s never punched anyone - as far as we know.

But Pitchford is a monster of the current times. Cliffy is one trapped about two decades in the past who refuses to change with the times, and the people under him suffered for it. He’s a perfect mixture of greed and ignorance.


CliffyB is still trapped in that PC Gamer issue declaring him as one of the “New Game Gods”.

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someone asked Jeff Gerstmann how people reacted at the time, and speaking of things we all forgot about Lawbreakers:

The game where half of the playable characters are literally cops is “too woke?” Huh. Sure.