Knockout City is shutting down. If you don’t know, it is yet another competitive multiplayer game to close its doors this year following the shutdown of multiple other similar titles. Sadly, the game will shut down soon after celebrating its second anniversary. The developer behind the game, Valen will release private server support for Knockout City on PC for those who wish to play the game after its shutdown on 6 June. But the closure of Knockout City spells major trouble for the gaming industry as it is not the first live-service game to simply fail out of the gate.
In an interview with Gamespot, Game Director Jeremy Russo explained how the current gaming industry is in deep trouble following the closure of other competitive live-service games. In its current climate, this genre is simply not working and the shutdown reveals a “painful truth”.
READ MORE – Potterheads Believe Quidditch DLC is Headed to Hogwarts Legacy
Russo says that undertaking Knockout City was no small feat. The studio built the team, then created the engine for Knockout City and then made the game. It was an achievement on its own.
“Running a live-ops experience was the first time a lot of us had ever done that even though we’ve been in the industry for a long time. And so what we did accomplish in terms of the critical praise we had at launch and the ridiculously adoring community that we have, it’s tough to feel anything other than that this was successful and to think of the pride that I have in the team and in the game itself.”
However, regardless of the success Knockout City had at launch, it wasn’t easy to grow the game and figure out where to next. Russo says that there’s no guidance on how to manage a live-service game. Every one of them is unique. You look at analytics, what players are engaging with, and what they dislike and try to figure out how to change things.
Sadly, when these numbers start to drop and the overall retention rate dwindles, a studio needs to decide what to do next. Most of the time, small independent studios simply can’t keep pushing the same game. As a result, it shuts down.
“Being able to have the retention of players. We had a strong core community, but a lot of people who really enjoyed the game kind of came through. They may go away for a while, they may come back, but the overall retention rate–which is critical to the heartbeat of any kind of live-service game–has to be at a certain level, month-to-month, to make it make sense. Otherwise, you know, you’re not able to create a sustainable business to keep going. And that’s the cold, hard reality that we had to face, which makes this really hard and really emotional.”
Valen CEO Karthik Bala goes on to state that the question reveals a “painful truth” about the current free-to-play industry. If you’re not a massive game with a large player base, it is tough to survive.
“The free-to-play business, if you’re not at scale, is really, really tough. You know, we went from games that could be multiplayer-only and be mid-price premium to, for multiplayer-only, you have to be free-to-play to be able to get a global scale. And if you don’t get escape velocity, it’s really hard to keep the lights on.”
Bala seems to believe that as an industry, it is almost impossible to break out as a free-to-play game. The big titles will continue to dominate while smaller ones just won’t survive. Bala says that similar to how the single-player indie genre found its way, the multiplayer genre also needs to do the same thing.
“For multiplayer-focused indie games, I think that’s the next big business model to figure out so that it can be sustainable right away from the start with small audiences, experimental game features.”
The concern over recent closure of multiple competitive games is definitely hard to ignore. These smaller PvP games seem to come and go faster and faster than ever before. It is the most unstable market in the industry.