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Suicide Squad flopped due to perfectionism and ill-suited genre pivot – report

Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League game was a flop for Warner Bros. due to multiple issues resulting in a tumultuous development.

That’s according to a new report from Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, which details a culture of perfectionism, an ill-suited genre pivot, and a constantly shifting vision as key reasons for the live-service game’s failure.

During an earnings call last month, Warner Bros. revealed it had taken a $200m loss on Suicide Squad, while earlier in the year the company’s chief financial officer Gunnar Wiedenfels stated the release had “fallen short of our expectations”

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Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League – The Game AwardsWatch on YouTube

After Rocksteady’s third Batman: Arkham game, the studio initially began work on an original multiplayer puzzle-solving game codenamed Stones. But at the end of 2016, staff were told by studio co-founders Jamie Walker and Sefton Hill that the team would shift to making Suicide Squad. Hill explained this as a better opportunity than making something from scratch, with the intention of it releasing in 2019 or 2020. As we now know, however, it subsequently received multiple delays.

Warner Bros. persuaded the studio to shift Suicide Squad to an online multiplayer game with live-service content, following the success of games like Destiny and League of Legends. As a result, Rocksteady grew from around 160 employees to over 250 across seven years, although many departed the company upon realising it was working on a multiplayer game rather than the single-player games Rocksteady was known for.

The leaders’ vision of the game kept changing, with staff members bewildered by the shift to gunplay from melee combat. Another suggestion was customisable vehicles, with staff wondering why this made sense for the superpowered villain characters – the idea was scrapped after months of work.

Hill, Rocksteady’s “perfectionist” co-founder and director of the game, created a bottleneck, with staff waiting weeks or months for their work to be reviewed. He scrapped ideas, struggled to put across his thoughts, and confessed to not playing similarly competing games like Destiny. Staff noted gameplay needed to be designed for repeated play as a live-service, but the team struggled to avoid repetition.

Several sources described the company culture to Bloomberg as “toxic positivity”, with management promising the game would come together eventually despite staff raising concerns. Despite similar failures in the industry (Anthem, Redfall), management was convinced Suicide Squad would still be a success.

Hill and Walker departed Rocksteady before the release of the game and instead founded a new studio called Hundred Star Games. Reportedly, they courted potential recruits from Rocksteady offering the chance to develop a game without pressure from a large corporation like Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. declined to comment to Bloomberg.

Rocksteady is still releasing regular updates to Suicide Squad, most recently a mid-season update in May. However, player numbers have dropped – on Steam, the game is averaging just a few hundred players at peak times.

“Rocksteady’s talent is so evident in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, it almost overcomes the terrible decision to try and make it,” reads our Eurogamer Suicide Squad review.

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