It’s incredibly difficult to launch a new live service game. In 2023, we’ve already seen a number of games permanently shut down, including Rumbleverse, CrossFireX and Knockout City. But at least they all got their chance in the spotlight – Hyenas, Creative Assembly’s hero shooter, was canceled by publisher Sega last week after years of development. It didn’t even make it to open beta, let alone full launch.
As someone who plays a lot of competitive shooters, Hyenas didn’t really grab my attention. I know friends who played the closed beta and had good things to say about it, but I didn’t really like the idea of fighting in Zero G. I played Splitgate quite a bit when that came out, and that too had unique ways to get around by creating portals that allow you to sneak up behind the enemy. But I found it incredibly difficult to exploit, especially in the middle of a firefight when I didn’t have time to plan a smart move. Rather than being a unique feature that attracted a different audience, it became a barrier to entry for new players. And that’s exactly how I felt when they first showed off Hyena’s Zero-G gameplay.
It’s incredibly difficult to find the right balance – a new live service game needs to offer something unique to keep the audience interested, but if it strays too far from what they’re used to, it could do the opposite have effect. Fortnite is pretty much the only shooter I know that actually managed to deliver unusual gameplay mechanics and survived – not just survived. thrived – in the live service area. Of course, much has been made of Fortnite’s building mechanics, but there’s no denying that it adds another dimension to the shooter experience, and Fortnite has become one of the most played shooters around.
Crucially, though, you don’t have to build to have fun in Fortnite – it’s secondary, as are the challenges and ongoing storylines, and it’s the game’s sharp shooting that keeps players coming back. Furthermore, there is no better feeling than achieving a battle royale victory, and that’s why it’s the reason you jump back into the lobby to try it all again. That feeling of reward and satisfaction is something I still enjoy even after hundreds of hours playing Apex Legends. Surviving on a battlefield with 60 other players gives you a feeling of superiority, and winning a match feels like a real achievement.
For a Sagittarius to survive in the current climate, everything has to be this way Exactly Right. Characters and abilities need to be perfectly balanced, not just at launch but continually throughout the lifecycle, and the gunplay needs to be consistently great. If something isn’t quite right, the audience won’t stick with it.
Hyper Scape, Ubisoft’s battle royale that launched in 2020, struggled in part because its time to kill (TTK) didn’t match the pace of the gameplay. His TTK was far too slow and his weapons were uninspired, so the fights dragged on. Unsurprisingly, the servers were shut down less than two years after launch. Call of Duty: Vanguard had the opposite problem, where the TTK was extremely high, so if you weren’t the first person to take a shot you would be killed instantly. It’s examples like these that show how important a shooter’s fine mechanical details are to its potential lifespan.
I’m sad that Hyenas didn’t make it to publication because then at least it would have been left to the public to decide whether it lived or died, rather than a group of executives sitting in a boardroom. But the truth is that it costs hundreds of thousands to keep a live service game running, on top of the cost of actually producing it, and the stakes have never been higher. As someone who spends a lot of time playing Apex Legends and a number of other shooters, I definitely think there’s room for something new – but it really needs to be something special for it to pull me away from the games I already play already appreciate it so much. While we’ll never really know if Hyenas has what it takes to survive in such a brutal genre, I’m glad there are developers still willing to try something different.