People have been clamoring for the next Rocksteady game since, essentially, the end of Batman: Arkham Knight. While we’ve seen releases like Gotham Knights try to pick up the slack, it was missing the flair of a Rocksteady project.
Since the announcement of Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, fans have been a fervor to learn more. The name alone is enough to garner interest while being in the Arkhamverse just makes it all the better. As the drip-feed of info released, fans anticipation grew. But we received an extended look at a PlayStation showcase and it was underwhelming. The reason is simple: they’re chasing a trend that is no longer in favor. The game simply took too long to release and the development cycles are to blame.
A Brief History of Suicide Squad Games
The initial Suicide Squad game that would likely follow a more Arkham formula was canceled after years of development hell. Initially announced in 2010, it was said to have been in development as early as 2012 but the developers couldn’t quite bring it together.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League was announced in late 2020, but its gameplay was kept close to the vest. Fans could only picture all the potential gameplay possibilities of playing a sharpshooter like Deadshot vs. a bruiser like King Shark. However, when they saw the footage, there was a palpable negative cloud hanging over the game. It was a shooter and heavily loot based, stripping away much of the personality of the characters fight styles. It’s even always online even during single player. The reception has been mixed leaning to negative. Why would they go in this direction?
Why Is the Game Like This?
Games are taking longer and longer to develop thanks to the scope of them. Kill the Justice League may have started development almost immediately after the original was canceled in 2017. Maybe even earlier. During that time, games were pushing hard for more mobile-like mechanics in their game as “Games as a Service”. Loot boxes, gear with rarity, battle passes, content being pushed frequently to incentivize continued play and spending, so on.
The immediate success of The Avengers game likely helped them validate this decision. Avengers enjoyed great sales out the gate, despite the misgivings from potential players. It also was a heavily multiplayer focused game that felt like it could provide content for the next decade. But those sales quickly fell off a cliff and the game recently announced that servers were closing.
We didn’t truly know how dire it was for Avengers until mid-late 2021. By then, Suicide Squad would be deep into development. After the failure of Avengers, it may have been prudent to correct course. To change from an Avengers-like GaaS and instead become a more focused single player experience. Unfortunately, that would be a huge undertaking.
Games Are Too Big to Easily Change
A game can take upwards of six years starting with pre-production. Even if you repurpose the assets, Suicide Squad would need to incorporate new mechanics, animations, gameplay loop, and level design. It’d be little different from starting the game from scratch.
Fun fact: Video game production cycles have gotten so long that if a big-budget game studio started working on a brand new project today, it would likely be for the PlayStation 6
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 2, 2023
Following the poor reception of the gameplay showcase, Suicide Squad recently announced a delay with no new release date noted.All we know is that it will span several months. While there wasn’t a reason given for the delay, many speculate it was to change aspects to the game. Depending on the amount of time of the delay, few things will be possible. They’ll likely drop the Games as a Service mechanics or, at least, severely tune them down. Maybe add a few characteristics to give the characters more distinct personality with their fight style. But any large changes would take at least a year. Likely more.
Back before 4K assets, realistic models, and humongous open-worlds, games could be developed in a relatively short time. The original Final Fantasy VII, for example, took just over a year to develop and spanned three discs. Callisto Protocol took a little over three years for a linear, short experience that the developers had to crunch heavily to get out when they did.
Even some indie developers have noted that they seem to be able to only release one game per generation. It’s understandable with their more limited resources as even just porting a game to a different console could be quite the task. If AAA publishers and developers, however, were willing to scale back the scope of their games – and gamers were receptive of the changes – it could result in lighter cycles. As it stands, AAA publishers and developers, and indies as well, chase trends that are popular now when they green-light a game as development has become so encompassing and expensive that they need immediate success. The issue is that by the time their game ships, that trend may have fallen out of favor.