The failure to launch of Disintegration (servers shut down after 5 months) shows the perils of AA game development right

By most accounts Disintegration is not a horrible game. It's not a great one, sitting at around a 60 on Metacritic, but it's not some epic failure that nobody should play. I've enjoyed 60 Metacritic games, and plenty of them have developed a playerbase and had a reasonable amount of success. It's also a game with significant pedigree, including a large number of ex-Bungie employees, and one that clearly had resources put into it, with a modern 3D look that may not rival the best AAA games but still comes pretty close.

It was a dismal failure and in November they're pulling the plugs on the multiplayer servers. I'd say that this is unfair to the Disintegration community, but there isn't one. It regularly peaks at single digits over a 24 hour period on Steam. Nobody is playing this thing.

While Disintegration didn't look like my cup of tea (I'm not into hybrids between FPS and RTS games), it looked like a game that could find an audience. It had a unique premise, kind of interesting worldbuilding, and gameplay that isn't just a clone of everything else out there. The devs put out a statement that there was some interest in the singleplayer but the multiplayer never caught on, even though it was clearly a multiplayer focused product. I assume the game will remain available for purchase for anyone who wants to play singleplayer.

Game development is hard and expensive, and it has only gotten more expensive as graphic fidelity has scaled up. The fact that a veteran development team with money behind it couldn't get this thing off the ground long enough to even last a year is pretty telling. This is, of course, not the only high profile or semi-high profile game to collapse soon after launch like this. Boss Key studios had a lot of hype behind it when it launched Lawbreakers, and nobody played it and it shut down. Then Boss Key tried to put out another game in a desperate attempt to stay afloat before folding.

The AA space of games that are not quite major publisher tentpoles but also aren't indies remains in trouble. There have been a few successes recently, such as A Plague Tale: Innocence, which was a great game and is getting a sequel, but there have also been a lot of flops and they tend to take studios down with them. Multiplayer games are especially perilous because they can't build over time to become cult hits if they don't have a player base to sustain them. They need a community right out of the gate or they're toast. And unlike singleplayer experiences you aren't even left with a game that linger on digital store shelves building a long tale over time, or be sold off to Gamepass or as a PS Plus game to try to recoup some costs. It's just a big ugly flop.

I really miss AA games. They took chances and did interesting things, while also having more modern graphics and control schemes. Games like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (which seems to have been a hit) that are just bigger and more spectacular than true indies, but aren't designed by committee like most AAA games seem to be these days. Of course publishers still put out some of these games from time to time, and big publishers can sustain a flop or three, and there are still success stories out there (like Bloodstained and A Plague Tale) but they're rare, and whenever a game like Disintegration fails so completely I get sad. Not because I wanted to play that game in particular, but because of what it says about where the industry is going.

It seems like if you want to launch a smaller multiplayer game these days the best thing to do is sign on with Gamepass or Playstation Plus (like Fall Guys did) to guarantee a playerbase that will try your game out. Otherwise you're taking a big risk and the costs for failure can be dire.

7 Comments