Developer Volition laid off more than 30 people earlier this week, according to a Kotaku report. The studio, which is part of publisher Deep Silver, launched its Agents of Mayhem action shooter in August to some praise and some criticism, but indifference from consumers seems like the biggest reaction it produced.
Deep Silver has not released sales numbers for Agents of Mayhem, but publicly available data from tracking firms The NPD Group in the U.S. and GfK Chart-Track in the U.K. suggest that Volition’s latest release is — at the very least — a sales disappointment. We’ve reached out to Deep Silver for a comment, and we’ll update this post if it gets back with more information.
Agents of Mayhem is one of the marquee releases for Deep Silver in the second half of 2017, but the publisher has reason to feel stronger than disappointed in its sales performance.
In the U.K., Agents of Mayhem debuted at No. 4 on the GfK chart that tracks the sales of physical games at retail. That is not necessarily an awful start during a busy time of the year, but Volition’s Saints Row followup launched August 15. That was a slow period, and it wasn’t competing against many other new releases — instead, older games like Fallout 4, Grand Theft Auto V, and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy all outsold it.
In the U.S., we have a more complete picture … and it’s grim. NPD tracks both physical and digital sales for participating publishers in the States, and Deep Silver is one of those participating companies. That effectively means that all of Agents of Mayhem’s U.S. sales are accounted for in NPD’s data, which is why it is alarming that the game was only the No. 16 best-seller last month after launching August 15.
Like in the U.K., it’s established releases that outperformed Agents of Mayhem in America. For Honor, Minecraft, and two different Call of Duty games all generated more revenue than Volition’s game.
I asked NPD analyst Mat Piscatella how something like Agents of Mayhem could have such a rough launch, and he said that most consumers are looking for something else in their games.
“The top-selling games in the console market at the moment are primarily service based games that promise significant, or even unlimited, hours of gameplay,” Piscatella explained in a note to GamesBeat. “Single-player, non-service based games have to be nearly perfect in execution not only with the game itself, but also in the marketing and promotion around the game, to get to the top of the charts. It is a very difficult market for the $60 single-player game to hit the volumes in a launch month that service based games can reach, even if they have been in the market for some time.”
Agents of Mayhem isn’t the only game to fall flat soon after going live. In a recent episode of the GamesBeat Decides podcast, I talked with the rest of staff about why Agents of Mayhem and Boss Key Productions’ Lawbreakers arena shooter both bombed. Publisher Nexon launched Lawbreakers August 8, and the low-gravity battler quickly saw its concurrent player numbers on the PC gaming service Steam drop into the low triple digits.
But Nexon may still have the opportunity to revive Lawbreakers with the live services and updates that Piscatella highlighted. Boss Key founder Cliff Bleszinski could even decide to shift the game back to free-to-play (the studio originally designed it that way).
Agents of Mayhem, however, doesn’t have any major online or live components. It is primarily single-player, and that limits Volition and Deep Silver’s options when it comes to increasing its appeal and revenue potential.
In response to the reported layoffs, developers have started the #VolitionJobs hashtag on Twitter to help find affected staff new work.