The game might be coming back, but will the player base?
Earlier this week I reported on the news that sexy vampire battle royale game Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodhunt will be shutting down its servers in the near future. Now according to developer Sharkmob, the game is absolutely coming back. Totally, completely, cross their hearts, 100% coming back online in the future. Just not soon. Next year at some point, probably in the “early” part which is completely meaningless in terms of charting a calendar.
Naturally this got me concerned because I’ve been writing for this website for 12 years now, and covering games for even longer through various blogs, and I know what this means. Shutting down a game for an unplanned extended period between early access and launch has a realistic chance of leading to one of the two outcomes; either the game never comes back online and the company quietly ceases development with a small announcement, or it comes back far too late and everyone has already moved on to the next game.
Both possibilities make complete sense. The extended shutdown and hopeful revival is kind of like a hail mary play when a game has a lot of problems and keeping the servers online while team addresses that list might be seen as counterproductive and ultimately more damaging to the long term health of the game. Letting the player numbers slowly dwindle while new content dries up because the team is focusing on the big fix isn’t healthy either.
On the other hand I have to wonder if the gaming community will be around to see Bloodhunt come back online. The numbers on Steam are rough as it is, and the last time the game breached two thousand concurrent players was over two weeks ago. Bloodhunt hasn’t lived for as long as a fiscal quarter yet, and the game is going to go into hibernation for months on end. How much loyalty has it really garnered from its community when gamers are so notoriously quick to drop games in a New York minute?
Perhaps Sharkmob is banking on people finding the game for the first time when it relaunches instead of thinking “wasn’t that the game that launched last year? I think I saw that at Gamescom.” A miniscule fraction of games, especially live services, get that full second wind. But someone may have calculated the risk and found it to be the better option.
Sharkmob is working on two other titles in addition to Bloodhunt, so it’s not out of the ballpark to think we could be looking at that announcement sometime in early 2022. You know the one I mean, the excuse Jagex in particular has given for the last thirteen years every time they cancel a game. They’re not shutting down development, just putting things on hold to give their other games higher priority with the company’s limited resources. If we get that announcement from Sharkmob, you can bet someone looked at the numbers and decided to cut their losses. Like Anthem’s reboot.
But this isn’t pessimism for the sake of pessimism. From what I played of the Bloodhunt early access phase, the game does have a lot of hope and prospect to find its own space in the saturated battle royale genre. Honestly I really hope they get this thing fixed and back up and running like a well oiled machine as soon as possible.
But what do I know, I took a donut out of the wrapping and threw away the donut instead of the wrap.