The Next Hit?
In January 2014, the game studio 2K announced its next big multiplayer title, Evolve.
Evolve was going to be a multiplayer first-person shooter where four players of different classes would all battle together against one monster. The players would have to track and hunt the monster in a limited amount of time, while the monster's goal was to evolve and become more powerful.
The game was received tremendously well prior to its release and it seemed like it was going to be a huge hit. Its unique asymmetrical multiplayer structure, where four players controlled the hunters and another player controlled the monster, was new to gamers at the time and spiked a ton of curiosity in the gaming community. Not only that, but it was going to have a rewarding progression system, multiple game modes, and the ability to play with friends.
Upon its release, however, Evolve faced very mixed reviews from critics, and within months, it had basically failed. If that wasn't enough, the developers decided to make the game free-to-play and named it Evolve: Stage 2. This sounded like a great move that could potentially revitalize the game, but within weeks of the transition, the total number of players dwindled from thousands to hundreds and eventually to nothing. Today, the game servers have been completely shut down (as of September 2018), and almost no community exists for the game anymore.
Evolve turned from a very high potential, engaging game to a complete and utter failure in the gaming industry. The question is, what went wrong?
DLC, DLC, and More DLC
From the announcement of the game, players knew Evolve was going to contain some sort of downloadable content (DLC). However, not to the extent that 2K was intended.
When the game was released, Evolve shipped with more than $136 in paid DLC. Not only is this a considerably hefty amount of paid content for a video game, but the game had just been released, which to many gamers displayed the developer's intentions quite clearly. Also, before purchasing any DLC, you had the prerequisite of actually buying the game first, at another substantial $60.
That's right, not only is this a paid game with a AAA price point, but the game launched with more than twice the total expense of the title in downloadable content.
Needless to say, the questionable monetization practices of the developers strongly irritated the fanbase and became a criticizing point in a large factor of the reviews for Evolve. It was also erroneously blamed for its failure when its shift into the free-to-play market proved that wrong. Though the monetization was a probable factor in the development of Evolve's controversial reputation, we can assume that there must have been other causes that led to its decline.
Impossible to Balance
The four-versus-one asymmetrical multiplayer idea had not been incorporated into many games at the time ... and possibly for good reason. It is nearly impossible to balance a single enemy player against a team of four others.
The development team for Evolve (Turtle Rock Studios) reported that they had several unique ideas for characters and monsters that simply could not be integrated into the game due to balancing issues. This made many of the characters available to play feel very watered-down and basic.
The balancing issues indirectly led to much blander gameplay that felt almost tasteless. The asymmetrical multiplayer concept seemed great on paper; however, in the end, it restricted Turtle Rock on what they could do with the game.
Another issue that was quickly discovered with the asymmetric gameplay was the fact that the monster class was much more appealing to players than the hunter class. This led to longer queue times in game and assigned the developers the chore of getting more players to play as hunters. Turtle Rock never solved this issue, and therefore it was another contributing factor to the quick deterioration of Evolve.
A Game Destined for Catastrophe
The development team of Evolve reported that they were aware the game was not going to succeed before the game was released.
As you can imagine, this is a major problem when the people responsible for creating the game don't believe in it, which reflects the game's unfortunate downfall. Turtle Rock claims that there were background tests run before the game was launched and that they rose several issues. However, the team could not fix a lot of the issues as they were core to the asymmetrical multiplayer concept which obtained the game funding.
Turtle Rock was stuck in the confines of their publishers and was forced to concede with their demands, meaning they had to work on a game they knew was destined to fail. This is undoubtedly an important problem and could be the most important component in the game's demise.
What Do You Think?
The fate of Evolve is truly a controversial subject that has raised questions from all over the internet. Many players believe it was 2K's restrictive measures that prevented the game from being a success, while others place more blame on the developers.
Ultimately, the failure of Evolve was a combination of multiple factors, some controlled by Turtle Rock and some not.
Evolve will continue to be one of those awkward case studies in gaming history.
John Roberts from South Yorkshire, England. on March 26, 2020:
More than anything I think the biggest problem with Evolve was developer ego. Before any gameplay footage had aired, the season pass(es) were revealed and there was more talk about how much DLC there was before any discussion about how good the gameplay was or could be. They also had the gall to release a $120 collector's edition with a statue and steelbook, which if Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was anything to go by, wasn't a good idea.
Turtle Rock Studio (TRS) were really hinging on that "from the makers of Left 4 Dead" spiel, which didn't translate to well to a game where it was more about versus than coop, nor did it have any wave survival mechanics so much as tracking and killing a single boss (which, in fairness, has translated well to the Battle Royale genre). Plus, they'd garnered a lot of goodwill from players in doing so, in a similar vein to how the Fallout: New Vegas spiritual successor The Outer Worlds did the same with its marketing.
Good writeup, I look forward to seeing your other content on HubPages. Keep it up! ^^