PlatinumGames Needs To Give Up Its Live-Service Plans

Remember Babylon’s Fall? Only about 15 people played it, and at least eight of those thought it was total rubbish. PlatinumGames and Square Enix sought to wade in on the live-service market with a character action game without any form of creative vision. It was artistically bereft, mechanically bland, and a mishmash of assets from different games that expected us to invest in a long-term product that meant nothing.

The whole thing was a failure, with the servers set to switch off entirely in February as Platinum wipes its hands of the entire mess and moves on. Except the studio has said it still means to push forward with its live-service plans. I have no idea if this is also with Square Enix or another publisher entirely, but it is already learning all the wrong lessons from Babylon’s Fall in spite of the wreckage still producing a scorching mess of flames. Just quit while you’re behind and do something else.

It feels like Platinum’s reputation as a peerless developer has diminished in recent years, both due the bloating length of development cycles and outside investments from companies pulling it in so many different directions. The days where it created back-to-back bangers like Bayonetta 2, The Wonderful 101, and Metal Gear Rising are over, even if games like this are still emerging in due time. Bayonetta 3 is one of my most anticipated games this year, but it’s been a long time coming and since its reveal we’ve got a few remasters and not much else. Instead, we got Babylon’s Fall.

From my perspective, and I’ve been around the block enough times to know, it was an achingly obvious attempt to capitalise on a new revenue model without ever once considering exactly how a studio like Platinum would make it work. It's known for relatively short, focused, and satisfying character action games that seldom even consider multiplayer, let alone progression systems designed to be updated and iterated upon over time. Square Enix hired a competent developer and asked it to make something it wasn’t suited for, a problem that was achingly obvious from the start.

Nier: Automata was a longer RPG and a departure for Platinum, but despite this it managed to translate its slick action and signature storytelling approach to a beefier game. It’s a modern masterpiece, and wouldn’t be the same without the Japanese studio’s fingerprints all over it. The same goes for Astral Chain and Anarchy Reigns – both games that could only be made by Platinum. But Babylon’s Fall was a hopelessly generic chore that could have been bumped out by anyone. Nobody asked for it, nobody even wanted to make it, and the end product speaks for itself.

Platinum isn’t treating this as a failure to learn from, just a slightly mossy stepping stone it can ignore before having another go at things. Will we see an established IP we all love twisted into a live-service, or a long-awaited sequel emerge expect it has a battle pass and cosmetics we need to grind for? I don’t have anything against established studios and names taking on the genre, but Platinum is known for things it is now actively working against despite already seeing how drastic the cost of messing it up can be. Babylon’s Fall must have lost a lot of money for both parties, with years of production being put into a title that arrived to a pathetic whimper. Soon, all that effort will be wasted as the servers are switched off and the game vanishes for good. While the rest of Platinum’s library remains not only accessible, but memorably iconic.

Maybe I’m complaining to the wind and this is simply the direction all major studios are heading in, even the ones I love who are known for creating games nobody else can. Bayonetta 2 & 3 were only possible due to the bankrolling of Nintendo, while nobody expected Automata to be a global success. So much so that it almost saved Platinum, so there’s a chance the company is afraid such a success won’t come around again, and it needs to create something with a long tail that will sustain them when things look awry. The thing is, even if you develop a product with those goals, it will crash and burn the moment we see through its lack of artistic drive. We love Platinum because of its excessive imagination and unrivalled creativity, not for things like Babylon’s Fall. That message should have been made clear from its failure, but instead it’s a chip of the old block that won’t stop us moving forward.

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