Ninja Theory’s 4v4 brawler Bleeding Edge hit Xbox One and PC last week. Backed by the delivery on Xbox Game Pass, Bleeding Edge began pulling players in with a tepid response. In the short week since release, it’s somewhat clear––Bleeding Edge isn’t for everybody, but that’s okay.
If you ever speak to a passionate developer, their goal is to produce a game that resonates with as many people as possible. Developers and publishers work tirelessly to create worlds and characters, and offer gameplay mechanics that speak to their player base. They often want to give players the tools to create memories for hours upon hours. Bleeding Edge is no exception.
Bleeding Edge is developed by a team of roughly 30 developers. This segment of Ninja Theory wished to focus on an online competitive multiplayer game. The team decided to branch off from the narrative-heavy games Ninja Theory is known for, to develop Bleeding Edge. At release, Bleeding Edge offers a small variety of fighters and game modes. This is all wrapped up in a heavy focus on objective-based gameplay.
Gauging response online through social media platforms and forums, one can notice that the wide appeal of the game just isn’t there. This would prove to be worrisome for many developers. However, Ninja Theory could use that to their advantage. Rather than cast a large net and hope to reel in millions of players, Ninja Theory could cultivate a niche audience that grows alongside their game. The studio appears to already be setting themselves up for this, by fostering a community on Discord and Reddit.
Ninja Theory developed Bleeding Edge to be a competitive multiplayer game at heart. Like many successful contemporary competitive games, Bleeding Edge centers around the use of a cast of fighters, each with their own unique abilities and specials. Every hero falls into one of the three major archetypes; offense, defense, and healer.
Currently, the roster of available fighters is fairly small. There are 11 available fighters; however, a 12th fighter, Mekko, will release sometime within the launch window. Others are likely in the pipeline as well. With a small audience in tow, Ninja Theory can use their own developer intuition and listen to their established community to plug the holes found within the roster.
Bleeding Edge currently only provides two game modes, the first one being Objective Control, a Domination-style control point mode. The other, Power Collection, sees players alternate between phases of collecting and delivering power cells to objective points. These being the only available queues may be a turn off to players dipping their toes into a new IP. Seeing as though there is no shortage of highly competitive games offering a wide variety of different modes, Bleeding Edge isn’t able to cater to every player in that regard.
With a smaller audience, a Ranked mode could be implemented down the road if an overwhelming majority of the player base sees it as a priority. There are many angles Ninja Theory can take in the future. With an established core player base, community managers can take constructive feedback to the development team. This may result in additional modes or limited timed events.
The actual gameplay itself is rather demanding. There’s little to no reward for venturing on your own and playing for kills. In Bleeding Edge, success is gained by teams sticking together and focusing on objectives. Defeating enemy teams during skirmishes only helps to clear the field and allow your team to control the objective. This is a rather large ask Ninja Theory has set out. From personal experience, I know that a portion of the player base does struggle to maintain that train of thought.
Ninja Theory likely will not compromise their vision for Bleeding Edge, nor should they. However, who’s to say a segment of the game can’t mix things up from a gameplay perspective. As time progresses, and Bleeding Edge finds itself a core audience of players, Ninja Theory could expand to include kill-based game modes.
All this is to say is that it’s much easier for a small team of developers to listen to a comparably small audience. When Rainbow Six Siege was still in its infancy, a much larger, more vocal audience pleaded with Ubisoft to throw everything at the wall and see if it stuck. It took a while for Rainbow Six Siege to find the legs it has now. Ninja Theory would be wise to avoid making similar mistakes. By not diluting what Bleeding Edge is at its core, the game could flourish in unsuspecting ways.
With a solid line of communication to its core audience and a strict vision for the game, Bleeding Edge could thrive in its environment. Many consider a large install base to be the indicator of a game’s success. Ninja Theory has already built a good foundation for their game. By listening to a core player base and growing with them, Bleeding Edge may pave its own path of success.