Amazon Un-Launches Crucible, Puts Game Back in Closed Beta

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The advent of games-as-a-service has driven a great deal of change throughout the industry. New content delivery models have proliferated. The industry, as a whole, has pivoted away from single-player. Cosmetic purchases and loot crates have been major points of controversy. Games that arrived DOA and previously would’ve been written off as bombs (No Man’s Sky, Anthem) instead receive a great deal of long-term work and, in some cases, wind up eventually delivering something like they promised.

And sometimes, a company does something it could never have practically done before, like un-launching a game. Today, Amazon announced it was taking its new shooter, Crucible, offline and back into closed beta. In the past, only an MMO could really have pulled this off.

The company’s blog post avoids any mention of “un-launching” or “shutting down public servers,” in favor of “Starting tomorrow, Crucible is moving to closed beta.”

In its previous dev blog, dated June 4, Amazon had given a list of goals and projects it would work on now that the game was live, including retiring unpopular game modes, building out the one mode people liked most (Heart of Hives), and tools that players were asking for, including a voice chat system, a system to deal with players AFKing and ruining matches, an expanded ping system, and “potentially some form of mini-map.” The second phase was more vaguely described as adding “systems and polish.”

Crucible, in panoramic view.

Now, all of that is changing. The game is going back into closed beta and you have until 12 PM Wednesday EST to download the game on Steam if you want to take part in the beta tests. One cool change that’s coming — at least, assuming you are enjoying Crucible — is that the developers are going to start joining players to actively solicit feedback. The dev team suggests joining their Discord server to find players to play with. Players are still invited to stream, write, and talk about the game online, almost certainly due to Amazon’s desire to ignite buzz about it in some fashion.

Crucible was developed by Relentless Studios and is the first major game release from Amazon Studios. It’s been in development since 2014 and launched on May 20, 2020, where it made more or less no splash whatsoever. Reviews were decidedly mixed when the game shipped, with ratings in the 4-6 range among sites that use numerical scores. With so many titles to choose from — Overwatch, Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Valorant are just a few — it’s never been clear what was supposed to draw players to the game. Comparisons to Battleborn (never a good thing) note that the game’s audience had vanished just eight days after launch. Kotaku noted on that day, there were fewer people watching Crucible streams than watching original EverQuest. The only time it put up serious signs of life is when Amazon paid streamers to play it. The same article notes that the matchmaking service has major problems, which isn’t the sort of thing you want to hear with a brand new multiplayer title.

As of today, there were only 150 players online in the game.

It’s entirely possible that Crucible will reemerge as a killer title. A number of games have. But it’ll have to try much harder to make a splash. Between the number of multi-player games competing for player attention and the ongoing difficulty of the Covid-19 pandemic, people’s attention spans are a bit shorter than typical.

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