Vague Patch Notes: Why I am no longer anticipating Blue Protocol


Last year, I was pretty jazzed about Blue Protocol. I’ve actually been pretty jazzed about it for a while, but last year it looked like it had the wind at its back, and I even wrote a whole column about why I was looking forward to it. Of course, because it’s me, I also couched all of that in terms of larger trends and personal observations about the industry and so forth, but come on. That’s just expected at this point. Coming off of a big reveal of the game from Amazon, I thought it was a nice future bet.

It has been more than a year since that column, and I am no longer anticipating Blue Protocol. In fact, I’m outright not expecting anything from it at all, including a released date located within this calendar year. And so I wanted to expand on this and examine why even if we get a release date on the same day that this column goes live (dumber things have happened), I’m no longer in the “excited” camp.

First and foremost, I’m not really basing this entirely on Blue Protocol falling short of expectations in Japan or the rumblings from the game’s fan subreddit that have been somewhat less than glowing. It’d be wrong to say I ignore these things since, y’know… I obviously don’t, but I also do temper that with a certain amount of experience. Whether or not a game is good does not always correspond to making a subreddit happy, especially a fan subreddit about a game that’s only out in Japan. (There are biases that can be in play there, I tells ya.) And it is possible for good games to fall short of sales expectations especially if those expectations bake in a potential global launch.

While I was very hype in March of last year, that was March of last year. And since last March, the amount of news we have gotten about the game – which was originally slated to launch over here in 2023, remember – is basically nothing. Oh, sure, Bandai Namco is all too happy to work on bolstering its Japanese playerbase when it can, but Amazon seems more jazzed to share news about Throne & Liberty than Blue Protocol (and that has its own slow pace).

If you’re wondering why a company would be eager to share information about one commercially unsuccessful MMORPG and not another, it isn’t because the other one seems like a better prospect to corporate leadership. But you already knew that.

I'm being generous, for some reason.

But let’s be generous and assume that the reason for this silence has more to do with wanting to bring up more content from Japan at launch so it’ll have a better launch in North America. That’s dumb, but fine; that’s almost plausible. Now we just have to deal with another problem, something that seems like such a non-issue you probably haven’t even thought about it.

When, exactly, are you going to launch this game?

Next month is right out (there would have been preamble), but let’s say a media blitz is planned for next month. Sure, then you can launch in… July, right into a Final Fantasy XIV expansion. That sounds like a great idea. August is probably out for the same reason… and then you’ve got a likely expansion launch for World of Warcraft right after that. Do you try for November and hope to dodge everything else? Two years after you made a big announcement that you were publishing the game? Does that sound like a great plan to you?

In terms of launch windows, the best time to push BP out the door would have been in the early half of this year with expansions around the corner, when people wanted something new to do. That is not what happened. Instead, the game still seems to have zero discussion from its ostensible publisher and increasingly has no clear launch window whatsoever. You have to launch at some point if the deal still holds, but when? When are you going to do that?

And that’s even assuming that the deal is actually still in effect. We certainly don’t know that Amazon has backed out of the deal to publish the game, but the company hasn’t been talking about it. It didn’t even mention it when it had the chance to brag about it earlier this week in a business press release in which Amazon was literally talking about its publishing empire and plans. This isn’t some conspiratorial supposition at play where I wave my hands and intimate that maaaaybe Amazon has engaged in backroom dealings and they’re no longer publishing, just… you know, sometimes deals expire or people decide they’re a bad idea. It happens. Whether or not you agree that it’s a bad idea, it’s possible that Amazon just decided to let the deal expire along the way.

Does Bandai Namco need to go through Amazon? Strictly speaking, no. They’re the publisher of plenty of games in the west. But do they really want to go through the time and expense to do so while discussing a game that has admittedly underperformed and will require a lot of server resources? It might be easier to just not.


All of this would be bad enough, but there’s also the question of gameplay… and it sounds, from what little we know, like BP has not exactly nailed what its endgame rotation or overall gameplay feel is supposed to be. It’s not a crime to spend your first year out of launch kind of refining that; a lot of games need to do that. But it is kind of a red flag with your game is seemingly struggling to draw in people to that core loop at all.

If we take all of these factors into account, what exactly is there left to be excited for? The game looks gorgeous still, but the best-looking game with unpleasant gameplay is going to still fall flat. If looks along made for a good experience, Balan Wonderworld would have been a gaming classic. (Deep cut, I know.) And looking at my own play schedule this year, would I even have time to play this game if it launched in the middle of the year? I’ve got two expansions to play through, both of which I’m hopeful about (albeit for very different reasons), and both of those are games where I have history.

Ultimately, being wrong about BP and its prospects comes down to the game just not quite rising to the occasion or seizing the moment. It didn’t have a strong gameplay loop and no matter what, it looks like it’s going to launch (if it ever does) well after the hype wave for it has crested and crashed back upon the rocky shoals of “what was that anime game with the weird name” without any staying power.

That’s a sad outcome, but it’s not an altogether unheard-of ending. Lots of games turn out that way; they just usually don’t attract a pedigree like this one. And if I’m wrong and BP launches to rave reviews, I will be happy. But at this point, it doesn’t feel like the way to bet.

So go ahead and prove me wrong, Amazon. Announce a launch date today. You have the opportunity to do the funniest possible thing specifically to me. I want you to do it.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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