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A New Report Details How A Troubled Development Led To Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League's $200M Flop

by Wesley LeBlanc on Jun 06, 2024 at 08:41 AM

Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League, the live-service multiplayer game from famed Batman: Arkham series developer Rocksteady Studios, hit PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC back in February to middling reviews and disappointment from players. Now, a new report from Bloomberg details the game's behind-the-scenes troubles, including a culture of "toxic positivity," shifting visions, and more, ultimately resulting in the game being a $200 million loss for parent company Warner Bros. Discovery

Bloomberg reports that following the release of DC's Suicide Squad in 2016, which made $750 million at the box office on a budget of $175 million, Warner Bros. wanted to build on that IP's success. Warner Bros. Montreal, which developed 2022's Gotham Knights, was working on a Suicide Squad game that Bloomberg says was struggling to come together. Notably, Warner Bros. Montreal's 2013 game Batman: Arkham Origins ended with a tease about an in-universe Suicide Squad. As a result, Warner Bros. looked to Rocksteady to capitalize on the Suicide Squad name instead. 

At the time, following the 2015 release of Batman: Arkham Knight, studio co-founders Jamie Walker and Sefton Hill were working on "a prototype of an original multiplayer puzzle-solving game, codnamed Stones," Bloomberg writes. But around the end of 2016, Walker and Hill told Rocksteady staff they were switching gears to develop a Suicide Squad game with plans to release it in 2019 or 2020. This game would be a live-service multiplayer title, or a games-as-a-service as titles in the genre are sometimes referred to, aiming to capture the seasonal excitement (and money) of games like Destiny 2, Fortnite, and others. 

With no experience in multiplayer games, Rocksteady's staff ballooned from roughy 160 employees to more than 250, according to Bloomberg. As the team developed Suicide Squad, employees under Walker and Hill questioned decisions like making Captain Boomerang, one of the four playable characters who traditionally fights with a boomerang in comics, a shotgun user, or attempting to add a vehicle system in a game where each of the four playable characters already has their own unique traversal system to get around Metropolis. 

Rocksteady revealed Suicide Squad in 2020 with a 2022 release year, and in an effort to hit this deadline, Bloomberg reports engineers focused on short-term fixes that actually became "hindrances" as the game's release was eventually delayed to 2024. Elsewhere in the studio, employees waited weeks or months for Hill to review their work, slowing overall development. Hill scrapped large parts of the script and struggled to convey his ideas, according to Bloomberg, and the studio grew into a culture of "toxic positivity" where employees felt criticism was discouraged. 

Throughout the game's troubled development, leadership reportedly showed no signs of worry about the game's live-service multiplayer ambitions, even as others in the genre struggled to find success. Even Rocksteady fans felt worried about the game, just from seeing trailers and gameplay previews. Then, years into development, Walker and Hill left Rocksteady to form Hundred Star Games, further putting into question Suicide Squad's future. 

In early February of this year, Suicide Squad finally hit PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, and the tea leaves were almost immediately clear: the game was a disappointment. Though Rocksteady is still supporting it today with updates, like adding a playable Joker character, the conversation around the game has shifted to fans of the studio wondering if Warner Bros. will layoff employees there to cut costs. Bloomberg reports, however, that during a Warner Bros. Games meeting in February, Warner Bros. Discovery head of games David Haddad said job cuts at Rocksteady wouldn't make sense as the company's gaming division is already understaffed. 

According to Bloomberg, many of Rocksteady's employees are helping to develop a "Director's Cut" of the 2023 Harry Potter game, Hogwarts Legacy, the best-selling game of the year. The studio is also working to pitch a new single-player game. 

[Source: Bloomberg]


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