Boss Key Productions, the studio behind gravity-bending shooter Lawbreakers and ’80s-themed battle royale game Radical Heights has shut down. Founder Cliff Bleszinski, previously best known for his role as director on the Gears of War series, announced the studio was “effectively no more” Monday afternoon on Twitter.
“Lawbreakers was a great game that unfortunately failed to gain traction, and in a last-ditch attempt we scrambled to do our take on the huge battle royale genre with Radical Heights which was well received, however, it was too late,” Bleszinski’s statement says, in part. He adds that while “videogames will forever be a part of who I am, and I hope to make something new someday,” he will be “tak[ing] some time off to reflect” in the near term.
After decades as a major public face of Epic Games, Bleszinski retired from the company in 2012 only to announce a comeback by forming Boss Key in April of 2014. What started as Project Bluestreak would eventually become Lawbreakers, which Boss Key launched in 2017 after extensive public demonstrations, beta tests, and gameplay tweaking.
Those three years of Lawbreakers development time would see the launch of shooters like Overwatch, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Fortnite crowding the market with well-funded competition just when Boss Key needed to find a player base for its $30 game. Just last month, Bleszinski admitted that Lawbreakers “failed to find enough of an audience to generate the funds necessary to keep it sustained in the manner we had originally planned for and anticipated.”
In December, Boss Key cofounder Arjan Brussee returned to his previous employer, Epic Games, to work on the mobile version of Fortnite. The subsequent Early Access release of Radical Heights failed to wow our own Sam Machkovech, though Bleszinski says servers for that game “will remain up for the near future.”
Boss Key’s rise and fall highlights just how hard it can be to make a sustainable impact in today’s crowded gaming market. Even a studio with a strong gameplay concept in a popular genre, big-name veteran development talent, and plenty of media attention can sometimes be the victim of timing and ever-shifting market tastes.
Boss Key employed 65 people as of September 2017, according to Gamespot.