After making a splash upon its debut last week, the latest contender to Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ throne is already stumbling.
Radical Heights, the new game from developer Boss Key, was released in Early Access last week and within hours had surged ahead of PUBG on Twitch, thanks in no small part to streams from some of the platform’s big names like Dr Disrespect.
However, just a week later the game teeters on the brink of the Steam Top 100. At the time of writing Radical Heights has just 1,980 players (which at least is in line with its 1980’s aesthetic) with a 24-hour peak player count of 7,216. That places it 96th in the Steam 100.
In contrast, top game PUBG currently has 1,233,518 players (on a Monday morning) with a 24-hour peak of 2,222,605. This places it behind sometimes older and often arguably lower profile games such as Kerbal Space Program, Subnautica, Football Manager 2016, Farming Simulator 17 and H1Z1.
Fortnite is not available on Steam and is thusly not tracked.
The picture on Twitch is not great either. Having dominated the site shortly after launch Radical Heights is currently the 23rd most streamed game on the platform. At the time of writing it has 3,723 streams. This compares to 86,969 for Fortnite and 43,049 for PUBG. It is at least beating a few notable titles such as Slay the Spire, Sea of Thieves, Heroes of the Storm and Rocket League.
Why has Radical Heights slumped so quickly?
The reasons for this decline could be numerous. Boss Key has released the game unusually early in its development cycle, with parts of the map not even finished and much of it feeling very sparse. It still doesn’t even have the option of female avatars, which in 2018 feels amazingly ill-judged. The game has only been in development for five months, and it shows.
The idea presumably was to get people in early to get a head-start on revenue, especially after the commercial disaster that was Boss Key’s only other release and debut game Lawbreakers.
It perhaps did not help that the studio announced the demise of Lawbreakers and the surprise release of Radical Heights in the same week. To many it felt like a cynical move.
However, the downside to this early arrival is that the game risked losing players before it even got going. When you’re launching against two of the biggest titles in the world, players need to have a reason to play your game over theirs. Radical Heights may grow to offer that but right here and now it does not. The problem, then, is that by the time it perhaps does, many players have already turned their heads. First impressions count and second chances cannot be relied upon.
Nor does being free give the game any advantage as Fortnite is also free, and with a playerbase that has by now invested in microtransactions that it is likely unwilling to give up. The visual similarities to Fortnite are arguably a hinderance, too, as the game currently lacks much in the way of personal visual identity.
Can the game recover? Perhaps. But it’s going to need to expand and attract the support of big streamers quickly if it’s going to do so as plenty of other battle royale game are on the way and looking good. All it will take is one big-profile and polished title to land and Radical Heights may find itself joining Lawbreakers in gaming heaven.