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Nexon blames PUBG for LawBreakers' struggles

Boss Key's underperformance also impacted publisher's Q3 financials in North America

South Korean publisher Nexon believes the huge success PlayerUnknown's BattleGrounds was a key factor in the underperformance of its own release, LawBreakers.

The arena-based shooter, developed by Cliff Bleszinski's Boss Key Productions, has got off to a slow start since launching last summer and Nexon states the game performed "below our expectations" in its Q3 financial report.

A transcript of a conference call says that the publisher had "very high expectations for its launch" but the timing of LawBreakers' debut "turned out to be unfortunate."

CFO Shiro Uemura said: "Specifically, the blockbuster PC online game PlayerUnknown's BattleGrounds came our right about the same time, making the market environment very tough for first-person shooters in general and for LawBreakers."

Elsewhere in the call, he said that the publisher suffered "higher-than-planned expenses due to impairment losses on prepaid royalties related to LawBreakers". Fortunately, these were offset by the overall revenue outperformance driven by titles such as Dungeon&Fighter and MapleStory2.

Nexon's overall results were strong, with revenues up 36% year-on-year to ¥60.4bn for the three-month period. However, results in North America were particularly disappointing, failing to match Nexon's forecasts "due to the sales from LawBreakers being below our expectations."

There's no denying PUBG has dominated the PC market since launching back in March - several months before LawBreakers, rather than "about the same time" as Uemura suggests - but it's perhaps a little bold of Nexon to specifically cite the survival shooter as a major factor in LawBreakers' shortcomings.

We spoke to Bleszinski last year about some of the mistakes made with the game's development and marketing, as well as the misunderstandings about performance expectations (i.e. LawBreakers being built as a slow burner rather than an instant hit).

In our interview, Bleszinski and his co-founder Arjan Brussee detailed how they planned to recover from the game's troubled launch, although Brussee has since left the studio for a secret project at Epic Games.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was arguably the biggest success story of 2017, selling more than 20m copies while in Early Access and a further 1m copies on Xbox One. It has also smashed Steam records for concurrent users, most recently topping three million players.