“They can turn it around” – Den of Wolves (and ex-Payday) developers discuss Payday 3’s shaky launch

“They can turn it around” – Den of Wolves (and ex-Payday) developers discuss Payday 3’s shaky launch

Payday 3 isn’t the explosive hit many of us where expecting. As of writing, it has a 24-hour Steam peak of 1,489 players. That obviously doesn’t take into account those enjoying it on consoles, the Epic Game Store or Game Pass, but, when compared to the 27,099 24-hour peak that serves as Payday 2’s high watermark, it paints quite the picture. It’s clear to everyone that if the game will ever reach the heights of its predeccesor, it has a long way to go.

While opinions on the game are as plentiful as the bills in its banks, there’s no better group of people to quiz on the subject of Payday 3 than the select few developers who created the Payday series in the first place. It is well known that both Ulf Andersson and Simon Viklund – two thirds of the original trio who founded Overkill – split from Starbreeze to create brand new projects like GTFO and the recently revealed Den of Wolves as part of 10 Chambers. Of this pair, it was Viklund who shared his thoughts on the matter in Unity’s Copenhagen offices.

“I played it one evening with Ulf and a couple of other founders and we had fun!” Viklund begins. “They’re playing to their audience. They have this install base and they’re giving more of the same. It’s been updated with some mechanics – getting discovered when you’re in stealth is a bit fuzzier. When the alarm goes off it’s still full on sausage until you either fail the heist or succeed.”

At this point, Viklund makes a distinction between the Payday series and the work that’s been going on at 10 Chambers. GTFO was notably a step away from the heist genre. Still a tactical cooperative FPS, sure. But obviously veering into an alternative direction to banks and hostages. “Maybe [Starbreeze] could have innovated more? It’s playing to their strengths and their audience. It has a huge audience! It’s the right thing to do. It’s tough to compete with their own product the way that they do. Payday 2 has so much content.”

From here the conversation shifts inevitably towards the state of Payday 3 at launch. The game had quite the build-up in excitement from new and old fans alike, leading to an all-time peak of 247,628 players on Steam alone. However, due to server issues and a variety of other lacklustre aspects, this number quickly fell. Viklund, while openly sympathetic to the devs who worked on the game, states this sympathy is by no means bottomless.

It’s a hard lesson learned – that first impressions are everything in this day and age.

“I don’t feel bad for them, too much. It’s demoralising obviously to work hard on this game, release it, and for it to have 500 players. I think we checked earlier today as it happens. It may sound like we’re checking every day, but we just happened to check! But there were like 30,000 [players] on Payday 2 at the same time. I don’t feel too bad for them, because Payday 2 is their game. They’re still making money from DLC for that game. So as long as they take that money and put that towards more content in Payday 3, they can turn it around.”

On the subject of the game’s initial server issues, and the loss of momentum that came as a result further insight was provided by Viklund, as well as communications lead Robin Björkell, who described the situation as “pretty brutal”.

“[It] stumbled on the finish line,” Viklund adds. “I think they had some issues in the beta that they held close to release, and they didn’t fix that. Or they didn’t have the time to fix that, because they had already decided on the release date. That’s tough. That’s like a pointless beta. If you don’t expect the beta to be buggy and have enough time to fix those potential bugs, it’s sort of a window-dressing beta. It’s a marketing thing to get people [hyped up] more than it is an actual testing environment.”

At this point, Robin jumps in with his own take: “There’s so much stuff that needs to work that they maybe weren’t used to. Payday 2 launched just [on] Steam right? They’ve never done a cross-platform game before. There’s so much that needs to go into that. It’s on Game Pass too – how many players does that generate? There are like 30 million Game Pass subscribers – so it’s hard to know how many would play the game at launch.”

Despite the mild criticsm, Viklund re-emphasises his overall stance of wishing the team at Starbreeze well. “We wish them well and hope it goes well, for sure. Over time as they put content into Payday 3, it will sort of shift so people turn to that game more. I guess for people who put a lot of dollars into DLC for Payday 2, it’s hard to abandon all of that to start playing a game where you have nothing.”

“I’m not wishing that they tank. If they have a good product, that means we have to push for a better product.”

Den of Wolves is the upcoming first person futuristic heist game from 10 Chambers. While it has no release window yet, we’ve spoken to the devs on the corporate free-for-all the game will place you in, as well as how the Metal Gear Rising composer is helping Viklund create a soundtrack “heavier” than Payday.

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