“Regardless of what some media are reporting, mostly based on a recent article published by GameStar, the information in those reports and in the Gamestar article itself are rumors which Crytek deny. We continue to focus on the development and publishing of our upcoming titles Homefront: The Revolution, Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age, Arena of Fate, and Warface, as well as providing ongoing support for our CRYENGINE and its licensees. We have received a lot of positive feedback during and after E3 from both gaming press and gamers, and would like to thank our loyal employees, fans and business partners for their continuous support.”
That’s Crytek’s PR issuing out a statement regarding an article by German site, Gamestar and a NeoGAF post that are currently circling around. It doesn’t fill me with confidence when I receive an email avoiding several questions and quickly issuing the standard PR statement to avoid any further contact.
There’s rumours currently circulating around the internet that Crytek might not be in such a hot position. You know the usual lines of an over-abundance of people, projects and games just failing to capture any momentum – critical or commercial – and an engine that is seemingly underused.
To some, it might seem a bit of a surprise that Crytek is maybe in a poor financial position, what with their pedigree and history behind them. They license out the CryEngine, they have the Crysis series and they have Ryse. Homefront. Another MOBA game to throw into the field. Warface.
You might have picked up a slight hint of sarcasm from that last paragraph and I’m here to tell you that you’re right. Crytek have absolutely bugger all under their belt and keep chasing the wrong little doggies that the industry has let loose. Yes, the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre comes with a stupid name and a stupid amount of money, but it’s already locked down.
It is also stupid to go up against Valve and Riot Games without anything that you could remotely call new. You can lather it up in whatever get up you want, it’ll be buried in a week, because it doesn’t either match up to the quality that Dota 2 and League of Legends have or it doesn’t do anything interesting.
I’m not saying it’s something developers shouldn’t do, make a MOBA, but don’t make one that goes up against the wall that is Valve and Riot. You’ll end up pulling a Humpty Dumpty.
It’s a deeper conversation, the whole MOBA situation (also one for people who understand it better). It’s similar to the MMO genre after World of Warcraft took off into the stratosphere and everyone wanted in on it. It’s no good for us, the consumers, being thrown exactly the same thing in a different disguise, but in the few lucky cases, it’s pretty good for developers and publishers. It’s also easier to develop a MOBA with one or two maps and a dozen characters, put it out and continuously update it. But why would you even bother at this point? Why wouldn’t you wait it out and why would you even enter a battle that you have no chance of winning?
Crytek also have WarFace and G-Face, a free-to-play game that runs on a service in the vain of Nexon’s clients or any other free-to-play title. There’s plenty of articles around the internet from last year and the year before, with claims of over “25 million registered users” and “9 million Russian players”. All these are probably very, very true, but did you notice the wording? “Registered users”.
That’s incredibly vague and doesn’t mean “active”. It’s a common trope by publishers, developers and their PR people to avoid actually telling the very real facts of the game. In fact, it’s their job. I was signed up since it went into beta in 2012, so I was registered but until today, I had never played. There’s a lot of buzz coming from their side, but the reality is that the game is actually rather dead to about 95% of the registered playerbase.
I hopped on to see what the server situation was like and in the supposed 25 million players registered for the game in total, I saw no more than 500 players online. That isn’t just a huge drop from what we could imagine the playercount being at 25 million, that’s a plummet. That’s a drop so hard, you can no longer see where they fell.
It’s probably to do with the common complaints of poor netcode or the fact the game is so typically free-to-play and generic, that it’s not really fun to be around. But maybe that’s why it’s doing so well in Russia, where when I went to check the servers, I decided to broswe the forums for a little bit. In the time I spent there, nearly 300 people were in one section of the forum and over 500 just using it in general.
That’s probably to do with the current climate of video games in places like Russia and Brazil, where either cheap or free-to-play games with lower requirements to run, are supreme. It’s nothing to complain about really, it’s an area that needs games that a vast majority can actually run easily and it’s great that Crytek are providing such a thing. The only problem is, I have absolutely no way of knowing whether the Russian players are in fact paying Crytek in anyway.
Now I’m sure Crytek have made some money from Russian players and even the European, American and other area players, but even with a bigger playerbase in Russia – I saw at least 1000 players online between the channels available – the game has been out for nearly two years over there. It’s probably been and gone. They’ve probably moved on and the ones that remain are the truly dedicated, as with any game in this fashion. But, with a vast majority of players now gone or just never bothered to properly spend time with the game in the way that Crytek wanted, I can bet you anything that the 25 million registered players did not equal money in pocket that this game was designed for.
Another reason it never took off over in the West, is because while they were investigating exploring free-to-play on consoles, they chose the 360 – a console dominated by the likes of Call of Duty – and left out the others. In the time that happened, all attention dropped off, because the next generation arrived and they were no where to be found. While similarly named game, Warframe, rocketed forward as PS4 players got a whole load of it.
Crytek’s philosophy is ‘games-as-service’, so they put out the base game and it then they put a PR spin on it that the community help it thrive. In reality, this means that the community is keeping the game alive through microtransactions for ingame items.
Also in reality, if this is how you intend to keep a game alive and no one is playing, something is very wrong and it might be time for you to reconsider what’s actually up in the world. Free-to-play works when there’s players and if there’s no players, you’re not making money, meaning your service is as good as dead. Sure, you can keep it afloat through other means, but if the rumours are true, it might be time to take a huge step back and also reconsider putting your company through a huge change to all free-to-play, because it’s obviously not working out too well.
Especially when the next big game from Crytek is Homefront: The Revolution. Now, they already said in 2013 that they were going to transition over five years into free-to-play, but I could see the idea being dropped entirely. It’s just not viable, unless the player base is there and the player base is only there if the game is up to snuff. Hence why Dota 2, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2 and so on and so forth, do so well. The core games are so good, that the players will gladly pay extra, will gladly carry on playing. Warface is a game that I could get anywhere and also in far better quality with more players to help me shoot the guns.
I quickly mentioned Homefront before, a sequel to a game that is pointed and laughed at for being the definition of the last generation’s biggest problem. My question is, why Homefront? Why attach your new game to a name that spawned jokes about how stupid it was? Why? Also, why would you make a sequel to Homefront? I have nothing but questions about why Homefront was chosen, because sure, it sold reasonably well for what it was, but it was universally panned. It’s as if Crytek don’t really understand that both sides kind of matter. There’s a huge pressure on them not to mess up and after the E3 demo, while we got a small look, it sure looks like another shooter.
People are writing articles about whether Crytek could actually revive Homefront, but the real question is can Homefront sustain Crytek?
The thing with Crytek (what’s about to be said is incredibly subjective, I know), is that they haven’t actually made a decent video game since Crysis 1 and even then, that’s only half the game, until the aliens showed up.
They’re a company that values technology before games and while Crysis is technically flawless in some regards, 2 and 3 never learnt from any of their mistakes. We’ve seen a sliver of Homefront: The Revolution and like I said before, it looks like another shooter. They have the Darksiders people working on a fantasy game that probably will be great! We’ve no idea, but it’s another free-to-play game and it could fall into all the same issues that Warface has, looping them back into this cycle all over again.
It just always feels that Crytek’s games are so filled with technology, in hopes that it disguises the mediocre and poor experiences underneath. They know how to make things pretty, but as they carry on chasing the path that leads to very deadly spikes and falling into the traps of just doing what everyone else is doing, they’re completely missing out on what made Far Cry and Crysis great to begin with.
But it doesn’t help that supposed word of CryEngine from the Games Developers Conference this year hasn’t been great. I’ve reached out to as many developers as I could, but no one has yet to respond.
Remember that statement way at the start of all this? How Crytek are denying it all? Jason Schreier of Kotaku had a few employees of Crytek reach out to him claiming that they had yet to be paid from last month and that most of the claims are in fact, true. With 800 people being paid at different times and sometimes late, with inside sources telling Kotaku that they’re straight up lying to cover their tracks and a possible buyout from WarGaming being whispered about, times look tough for Crytek.
I pushed for my questions to be answered by Crytek, but I have yet to receive a response.
If you have any information regarding Crytek, the CryEngine and anything relating to this article, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected]