Daybreak Game Company's PlanetSide Arena is dead. Despite being a free-to-play, virtually no one is playing the battle royale spinoff of PlanetSide 2. Instead, the delayed early access title can't even fill a single session. We tried last week, waited a long time for nothing, and then uninstalled. So has everyone else apparently since today, November 12, 2019, marks the day where PlanetSide Arena hit an all-time low of 1 player. Just one person in a game that's supposed to be running matches with hundreds of players.
The 1,788 mixed reviews on Steam combined with generic gameplay that looks as dated as it feels, combined with a battle royale premise the community didn't really want as a separate game, all lead to this failure that feels oh so familiar. Remember Fractured Lands, Fear the Wolves, Not My Car, Islands of Nyne, etc.? No one wants early access, incomplete, battle royales that are less than what's already available. So, what's next for Daybreak and the PlanetSide franchise?
PlanetSide 2 & PlanetSide Arena Executive Producer Andy Sites wrote an open letter to the community on October 18th addressing the situation and teasing the future of the IP. He explained that they'll continue to treat Arena as an early access title (despite there being no player base for it) and detailed a new mode coming to the title:
...we’re actively working on a new (non-BR) mode that incorporates many of the gameplay elements that make PlanetSide such an amazing experience, but in the form of shorter, session-based matches. It will include a new mode-specific map, capture points, ability to drop-in/out throughout the match, a broader range of vehicle types, etc. Many of the mechanics developed for this mode will be used in future modes like Massive Clash, so our focus is function over form, allowing quick iteration with your help.
Why would anyone play this additional generic mode in a dead game over PlanetSide 2 or other shooters? They've already lost the player interest with a poor first impression. And we were there as part of the first public gameplay session with devs. The formula and gameplay just don't cut it in 2019, and like the community would tell you on Reddit, perhaps those resources are better served on the core experience of PlanetSide 2 or its followup which brings us to the most interesting part of Sites' letter:
We're coming up on the 7th anniversary for PlanetSide 2. In early 2020, the PlanetSide franchise will celebrate its 17th since the original release back in 2003. Over those 16+ years, we have amassed millions of passionate fans. So when we think about what the PlanetSide 3 experience needs to be, we know that there are incredibly high expectations from all of you. PlanetSide Arena is intended to be the stepping stone to PlanetSide 3, which we envision expanding from the current battlefields of Auraxis, to full-fledged galactic war with empires exploring, colonizing and conquering one another within an expansive galaxy. We envision PlanetSide Arena as a way to allow us to link present day PlanetSide 2 and PlanetSide 3 story lines, as well as providing an opportunity to try out new features, styles of play, etc.
Ignore the Arena part at the end which doesn't make sense from what the game is right now. PS2 players aren't leaving it for a generic multiplayer mode to bridge the experience to PlanetSide 3. We have no idea when PS3 would debut, but it has been many ears since a true sequel. PlanetSide 2 still averages over 1000 concurrent players monthly all these years later although since June, it's been dropping in player count almost monthly and PlanetSide Arena isn't helping the brand. Here's hoping for something innovative with PlanetSide 3, that can deliver on what makes the first two games special, but also that can compete with the increased competition coming from larger triple-A shooters that are increasing their scale and scope as well (and more of that is coming with cloud-based gaming).