Will Paladins survive in 2021?

Look, I love Paladins. I always thought it was a great alternative to the staleness and toxicity of Overwatch. And while it doesn’t feel good writing this, it’s impossible to ignore that things are not looking good for Paladins in 2021.

Don’t worry, this won’t turn into a bashfest. I’m not blaming this on the creatives or developers currently working at Evil Mojo. I’m sure they’re doing their best in the current COVID-19-afflicted world. The pandemic has not made things easier for anyone, but things were not easy for Paladins to begin with.

Considering the state of the Paladins playerbase, and previous patterns in Hi-Rez’s game development, I believe I’m right to worry.  While not all hope is lost, there are a few solid reasons why I fear for the future of Paladins going into 2021.

Dwindling player base

Paladins still has plenty of players, don’t get me wrong. At peak hours, Paladins clocks in at almost 14,000 players, according to Steam Charts. That’s certainly healthier than some other multiplayer games I play, and a solid multiplayer game can thrive on much lower numbers.

That’s not the only statistic we are looking at, however. Behold more ominous evidence of Paladins‘ decline.

Paladins Steam Charts
Image source: SteamCharts.com

The above graph is the player count of Paladins over the past year. The player count has dropped precipitously, going from a peak of almost 30,000 concurrent players in the middle of 2020 to pretty much half of those numbers now.

Lack of player retention effort

What’s a bit more depressing is how Hi-Rez is treating this data. They could be hiring more people or allocating more resources to help out the Paladins developers during this COVID-19 crisis. Instead, though, they’ve lengthened the development cycle, changing from major updates every two months to every three months.

This has resulted in a rather barren roadmap of Paladins content going into 2021. Instead of player-requested features – like new game modes and new maps – Hi-Rez is limiting content for the next quarter to two new champions and a slew of cosmetic items.

I know that the developers at Evil Mojo are only human and can only do so much.  I’m sure that given more time, resources and employees they’d be able to battle through the hard times and crank out the content needed to keep this game alive in the long run. However, considering the track record of Hi-Rez killing games that aren’t guaranteed to be hits, we can’t hold our breath for that.

Hi-Rez’ dead game track record

Hi-Rez are no strangers to experimenting with new games. However, what’s worrisome is their treatment of games, new or not, when they don’t perform to their expectations. Among the games to fall victim of this make-or-break policy are Smite-based strategy games Hand of the Gods, and Prophecy.

Prophecy logo

Hand of the Gods was a hybrid of turn-based strategy and card game. It was arguably full of promise, having made a perilous journey from open beta in 2017 to actually having a full Steam release in early 2018. Sadly, a dwindling player base since then prompted Hi-Rez to give the game the ax. The official servers supporting Hand of the Gods closed down early 2020, and the game is no longer playable.

Perhaps even more tragic of a tale was that of Prophecy. Despite it being at least as full of promise as Hand of the Gods in my opinion, Prophecy met its fate on the chopping block even quicker.

Prophecy was an auto-battler, and although the market for autobattlers was saturated at the time, it had some good, original takes on the genre. However, its player count never rose past 150 concurrent players, which can be attributed to a number of reasons, not the least of which being Hi-Rez not marketing the game much. Prophecy was shut down on July, its story beginning and ending before most people even knew about it.

Is there hope?

All hope is not lost for Paladins. Supposedly dead games in the same genre have come back to life after both developer and publisher doubled down and actually put effort into the game (and Paladins is not exactly dead yet either).

A prime example of this is Rainbow Six Siege.  The realistic tactical shooter has more than a tumultuous history. A bug-filled launch and lack of effective game balance plagued Rainbow Six Siege in its early years. However, five years later in 2020, it’s bounced back from the near-dead, to cement itself as one of North America’s premier esports. Rainbow Six Siege is evidence that a game can come back from a place some publishers would consider unsalvageable.

It is then up to Hi-Rez to put in similar time and effort to bounce back Paladins. Paladins has a loyal player base, despite dwindling numbers. Hi-Rez choosing to abandon this game to its fate  would be a severe disappointment, considering how high this game has risen before, how far it’s come from its early days of being “that Overwatch clone”, and how much untapped potential it still has.

We certainly hope Paladins will make the right moves and do what it needs to stay alive in 2021. We will be keeping an eye on it all along.

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Phillip Miner

Phillip has over a decade of experience writing about video games. Yes, over a decade! He's been on publications ranging from the Escapist to local papers and beyond.
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