Remember Ubisoft’s Hyper Scape, the futuristic battle royale? If you don’t, that’s OK, because it doesn’t seem like Ubisoft is all that keen on reminding everyone.
Ubisoft’s E3 press conferences are always some of the longest, partially because the company splits their E3 presence into two. There’s an hour long pre-show, which is typically filled with fan highlights, brief interviews, small talk, and updates for Ubi’s live-service games that aren’t prominent enough for the main showcase. The pre-show is where, for instance, you’ll hear about updates to The Crew 2.
Even the Watch Dogs: Legion expansion, Bloodline, was left in the pre-show this year. Given it was one of Ubi’s next-gen launch titles and Bloodline launches in one month, that says a lot about Watch Dogs’ current place in the Ubi pecking order.
But hey, at least Legion and The Crew 2 showed up. Hyper Scape, which only officially launched on July 12 last year, wasn’t even mentioned.
The third season of Hyper Scape only launched three months ago, but even then things weren’t looking too hot for Ubisoft’s crack at a genre that has seen EA (Apex Legends), Epic (Fortnite), Activision (Warzone) PUBG and even indies like Fall Guys enjoy massive success. There was a glimmer of hope before Hyper Scape launched, where it enjoyed a bit of success on Twitch, likely helped by some prominent streamer support and a smart use of the Twitch Drops system.
But then the game launched wedged either side of Fall Guys and Among Us, and the hype quickly faded. Around 240,000 people followed Hyper Scape on Twitch not long after its launch, but almost a year later, those follows have only grown to 346,000. That’s not the kind of growth major publishers look for. And Hyper Scape‘s viewership doesn’t look healthy either, with a meagre 21 viewers across the entirety of Twitch at the time of writing.
Views are never a direct correlation to player counts, but it can’t be a good sign that none of Ubisoft’s E3 releases mentioned Hyper Scape at all. Bravery Network Online, a turn-based battle RPG indie featured in Ubisoft’s pre-show, has had more releases than Hyper Scape this year — and Ubisoft helped the devs of Bravery Network Online with their press coverage.
But even before the turn of the year, Hyper Scape was having trouble. Take this blog post from October 1 last year, in some of the most forthright, almost brutal, remarks for a developer to say publicly about their own project:
We always intended for Hyper Scape to have a high skill ceiling, but it is clear from our data that the floor is also too high. This results in a difficult experience for new players. Currently, it is too hard to aim, track and consistently damage players and eliminate them, especially on consoles.
Currently, there are not enough medium and long-term goals for players to stick around in the Hyper Scape. We are introducing first version of our Player Ranking system in Season 2, and we will bring more progression systems and match-to-match flow improvements as well.
While Cross Play has always been intended for the game, we want to add it earlier than planned to help address the current issues of lobby size.
Put another way: Hyper Scape wasn’t fun with a controller, it didn’t have enough progression or rewards to keep people playing, and the team needed to add cross-play fast because the player base was rapidly dwindling.
Later changes would be made to boost the lobby count — by reducing how many people could play. The game’s Crown Rush mode, the original mode that Hyper Scape launched with, capped games at a maximum of 60 players in a January 2021 patch. And that’s after supporting up to 99 players in a single match.
To make matters worse, the last patch for Hyper Scape was released on April 7. That’s nowhere near frequent enough for any thriving free-to-play battle royale, especially a year after COVID where games, especially the battle royale juggernauts, only became more popular.
At least with Beyond Good and Evil 2, or games like The Division: Heartland, people know they’re in development. Skull & Bones has been rebooted seemingly several times, but it’s widely known the project hasn’t been shut down: it’s just taking a lot longer than expected to find its feet.
But Hyper Scape doesn’t seem to be so fortunate. Even Roller Champions, a game supposed to be out this year, had the honour of being featured in a fan-submitted clip inserted into the E3 2021 pre-show. Roller Champions didn’t get any formal news, even via press release, but at least the studio was active enough to tell fans not to expect anything from Ubisoft Forward.
The no-show and radio silence doesn’t mean the project is dead, of course. But from a consumer level, you have to ask: who would want to play a game with so little faith from its own publisher on the biggest stage for gaming in the world?