Babylon’s Fall just launched, but it's barely off the ground. As a collaboration between PlatinumGames, the creators of Bayonetta and NieR: Automata, and Square Enix, this live service action game has everything it needs to become a triple-A hit. Yet it’s already hit a ceiling on release day — and a low one at that. Babylon’s Fall is the latest example of Square Enix’s continued marketing problem that raises the question of what’s exactly to blame for its underwhelming player count. If nobody plays a game, who’s to blame?
Babylon’s Fall was released on March 3, 2022 for PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. According to SteamDB, the game peaked at 1,188 players on its release date. Since then, it's been trending downwards into the high hundreds, hovering around 650 concurrent players on Friday It’s barely peaked above last summer’s Boyfriend Dungeon, which had a peak player count of 1,078 on Steam. In fact, you’d have to try very hard to find an indie game with a lower peak than it on Steam. It’s not quite on the level of an obscure anime visual novel like Nekopara, but still.
It’s sorely outmatched by AAA competitors like Horizon Forbidden West, Lost Ark, and Elden Ring, which reached an 891,890 peak concurrent player count on Steam for its all-time record, and still has an 858,316 peak a full week after launch. Of course, it’s hard to compete with such a heavily lauded game, but that doesn’t excuse how Babylon’s Fall is barely doing better than indie games on Steam.
Square Enix has an ongoing history with getting some of its more experimental games off the ground.
The company reported that NEO: The World Ends With You “underperformed,” which fans blamed on marketing. Then, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy “undershot” expectations before sales initiatives made up for the slow start. These two were still considered critically acclaimed games that edged their way into many critics’ Game of the Year lists, but Babylon’s Fall doesn’t seem to be following the same trend. There wasn’t much notable promotional coverage or press about the game following its E3 appearance and beta, where critics complained about a few features that Square Enix promised to fix.
At the very least, Square Enix seems to have an inconsistent marketing effort that might not exactly match up with reasonable expectations. Michael Beckwith from Gamepur argued that Square might have unreasonable expectations for its games, considering it dismissed hits like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and NEO: TWEWY as failures. Meanwhile, RPG Site pointed out that Square might mean that NEO: TWEWY underperformed compared to last year’s quarter. Understandably, Final Fantasy VII Remake and Marvel’s Avengers raked in a hefty payout that a smaller IP might not be able to reasonably match.
Babylon’s Fall doesn’t have the benefit that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy or NEO: TWEWY does in terms of an existing fan base. It is an entirely new IP, which makes it even less forgiving when it comes to marketing. However, it’s difficult to point to one reason for its low player count overall.
Many criticized the graphics, combat system, and grind-heavy early game. Unfortunately, it didn’t embody the bombastic combat that PlatinumGames implemented in its other games and didn’t have much else to make up for it. Plus, it was virtually buried next to Elden Ring and other widely loved games.
Our beta tester didn’t have much faith in Babylon’s Fall, calling it “biblically boring” and pointing out the same struggles from Marvel’s Avengers that it failed to address. However, some outlets like GamersHeroes wrote about it in a positive light, saying, “I don't recall ever disliking a game so heavily, only to fall in love with it moments later.” Babylon’s Fall doesn’t seem to be sinfully terrible as a game, but there’s not enough going on for players to cheat on other AAA releases with it.