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Hits like Helldivers 2 are live service exceptions, CliffyB explains

Gears of War icon Cliff Bleszinski tells PCGamesN about the struggle of successful live-service games, amid the rise of Helldivers 2.

Cliff Bleszinski has been around the block. Cutting his teeth on Jazz Jackrabbit and Unreal, he would then go on to spearhead the initial Gears of War trilogy. Since then, he’s attemped multiple live-service games on his own: LawBreakers and Radical Heights. While neither of these worked out, Bleszinski has weighed in on the recent success of games like Helldivers 2 and Palworld, and how despite their success, it’s still incredibly difficult to succeed in the live service market.

After leaving Epic Games and Gears of War in 2012, Bleszinski co-founded his own studio, Boss Key Productions, which developed two titles: FPS game and online arena shooter LawBreakers, and battle royale Radical Heights. Both games didn’t manage to carve out a space in the live-service market, shutting down their servers, with Boss Key’s dissolution following in 2018.

With Boss Key being as much a part of Bleszinski’s legacy as the original Gears of War trilogy, I asked him about the state of live-service games today, and where he thinks they might be heading.

“For the first short while with LawBreakers it was tough,” Bleszinski tells PCGamesN. “Then we just hit a brick wall with our player base, just a lot of [them] being leaky, and it just [became] less and less and less as opposed to growing.

“It’s so hard to make a live-service game. If the game dies, and the servers go dark, the game is just gone. It’s like, ‘poof’, into the ether. For every World of Warcraft, there are other ones that just do not do it well, with microtransactions nickel and diming the consumer. But it’s necessary, unfortunately, because games these days […] $60 isn’t enough to justify it.”

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The explosion of games like Palworld and Helldivers 2 this year is something I raised with Bleszinski, who notes how these games need so much more than a good core gameplay pitch to become mega hits.

“We live in a world where, you know, things need to go viral,” Bleszinski says. “If you’re not on the front page of Twitch, you’re dead in the f***ing water. If a game is like $100 million to make, you have to allocate at least $50 million plus for marketing alone. You need to hit people over the head with a hammer. And then you know, if you’ve made something good, and it goes viral and sticks, there it is.”

Since his time at Boss Key Productions, Bleszinski has moved on to owning restaurants, theater writing his memoir Control Freak, and even helping create a comic book about a superhero dog, Scrapper, which is available now.

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