Starbreeze Studios has launched Payday 3, a sequel to its successful multiplayer shooter. This comes amid ongoing restructuring at Embracer Group, whose division Plaion acted as the game’s investor and publisher.
Launch of Payday 3 was far from perfect
Released on September 21, Payday 3 received mixed reviews from critics. It currently holds an average score of 69 on Metacritic, with the press citing the need for more content and improvements, and adding that the game’s success will depend on how well Starbreeze handles its live service support.
On Steam, Payday 3 aroused great interest among players. At the time of writing, it sits at the top of the store’s Top Sellers chart, followed by EA Sports FC 24, CS:GO, and Cyberpunk 2077.
Top 10 highest-grossing games on Steam (September 22, 2023)
According to SteamDB, Payday 3 also peaked at 77,938 concurrent users (CCU), which is a strong result. For comparison, Payday 2 launched at over 56k CCU, but keep in mind that Steam wasn’t as big 10 years ago as it is now.
Plus, the previous game reached its all-time peak of 247,709 CCU on June 1, 2017, when Starbreeze held a huge sale with 85% off all DLCs. So Payday 3 has every chance to improve its numbers with future updates.
Payday 2 vs. Payday 3 concurrent player numbers
Despite strong numbers, the launch of Payday 3 was far from smooth. It currently holds a “Mixed” rating on Steam, with only 41% of the 8,361 user reviews being positive.
On September 21, many people simply couldn’t play the game due to the servers being down, resulting in slow matchmaking and other problems. Starbreeze has already addressed the issue, trying to keep players updated on social media. “Matchmaking services are gradually getting back online. Thank you for your patience and apologies for the wait,” the studio recently wrote.
However, users who left negative reviews also criticize the game for its online-only nature. Here is what one player wrote, summing up most of the complaints:
“It’s really quite phenomenal how every bad part of this game is almost entirely unrelated to the gameplay itself. The gameplay is perfect. Amazing, even. A huge improvement over Payday 2. Everything else feels like it was taken and disfigured by the Live Service vat of acid. […] You’ve got no preplanning, no lobby browser, the complete inability to play solo, grind is increased overall and there’s the fun bonus of possibly “Matchmaking” for 3 minutes to an invite-only lobby with nobody in it. I just hope it gets better.”
Why is Payday 3 such an important game for Starbreeze?
- Starbreeze has been operating in the market since 1998, reaching its first peak in the 00s with games like Enclave, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, and The Darkness.
- The studio’s biggest success happened shortly after it acquired Payday: The Heist developer Overkill Software in 2012 and released Payday 2, which eventually became the company’s best-selling game.
- This made Starbreeze pursue its publishing ambitions and be more active in the M&A area. That’s when the first problems occurred, which is a topic for a separate article. Long story short, the failure of Overkill’s The Walking Dead in 2015 and a series of bad decisions eventually forced the studio to file for reconstruction due to lack of liquidity at the end of 2018.
- Stabreeze then focused solely on Payday 2, but its financial position has been declining despite the game’s success. For example, in May 2022, the company reported a 470% increase in losses, exceeding $2.3 million.
- So it had high hopes for Payday 3, especially after it signed a €50 million publishing deal with Plaion (then Koch Media) in 2021. Earlier this year, Starbreeze announced that it was finally debt-free, also raising about $40.5 million through a share issue.
- Payday 3 was published by Plaion’s label Deep Silver, which is part of Embracer Group. In its latest financial report, the Swedish holding company, which recently launched a deep restructuring program involving cost cuts and studio closures, noted that it was also betting big on the game.