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Surprising (?) demise of Phasmophobia

Online Games Bay

No, Phasmophobia still exists, it does have some pretty loyal fanbase, it has about 16,000 active users, so... where is the demise you ask? Well, it is just around the corner, but the symptoms are, sadly, already here.

Surprising (?) demise of Phasmophobia

Some time ago I have written an article entitled Learning curve, silent killer of online games and it looks like one of the biggest hits just 2 years ago, the revolutionary Phasmophobia online game, could be the next victim. No, not today, not tomorrow, not even in a month or six months, but the cracks are already visible...

Phasmophobia took Steam by surprise with unique gameplay, unique mechanics, it was one of the most popular games of 2020 - it was hard to find a youtube gaming channel that would not have videos about the game. It was immersive, it gave you chance to play something unique with your friends and it was unforgettable experience. So what could possibly go wrong? Well, after the initial success, it seemed Phasmophobia is unstoppable, all the creators had to do was introduce more variety into gameplay. And this turned out to be, for some reason, challenging.

After few months the euphoria began to wade, which is hardly surprising, soon after clones of the game began to popup on Steam, some of them made better use of the mechanics, some of them were just laughable, but clearly Phasmo was already losing the momentum. I mean how much fun can you have in just 4 or 5 locations? The game clearly was becoming stale. For some reason the creators did not use this time to prepare key changes to gameplay, all they have introduced were two new locations (prison and asylum), both not really suitable for teams that are limited to just 4 players.

Later updates brought graphical changes to the existing maps, which was not exactly that important for users - upgrade of textures in already immersive game could have waited for better moment. There was also new map that showed the creators are just losing grip on their own product - the camping site. While wandering inside houses was scary and intense, giving players vast empty map was just a huge mistake - the map was too big, there were no orientation points, it was hard to coordinate any activities. Together with that came other changes, which began the division among users.

Just like many games before (f.e. Heliborne, The Long Dark, War Thunder) creators of Phasmophobia decided to introduce changes that were expected by their more hardcore users, which meant increasing the difficulty level, make ghosts more aggressive, the encounters less predictable, etc. It might be a good idea to keep happy the users that are most involved in the game, but at the same time you cut yourself off from casual and new users and it seems like Phasmo just dived into that abyss.

After some of the changes I can’t recall how many times I have seen players with dozens of hours spent in Phasmophobia die instantly without understanding why. While at the same time those with hundreds of hours of gameplay were demanding Phasmo to be more challenging, because they are bored. Not to mention how many times I have seen streamers, who were learning from their chat during streaming Phasmo how some of the game mechanics actually work.

Don’t get me wrong, the lack of spoon-feeding all the details of game mechanics are great idea, and I’m all for it. At least most of the time, as long as users will have a chance to learn anything. And in Phasmophobia they can’t any more, because they die almost instantly still wondering what went wrong. The introduction of option to choose your difficulty level was move in right direction, but at the same time the overall increase in difficulty was clearly visible. Even players with many hours in game were suddenly confused or the game stopped being fun - instead of hunting ghosts they became the stunned prey, all of the old rules were gone and they just died before they had chance to enjoy the atmosphere.

When you take a look at numbers, even on Twitch, in July 2022 Phasmophobia was number 51 among most popular games on the platform, dropped 5 positions from June 2022, some of the youtube channels already stopped uploading videos from game, because they stopped having fun in the game. And it looks like the Phasmo euphoria is about to die, because new players find it very hard to enjoy the game, while those who spent insane amount of time in the game demand more challenge, which will make it even harder for new players to catch up.

Unfortunately creators of Phasmo, while they are active in patching and upgrading the game, took the wrong advise from their playerbase and turned an instant success into confusing and incomprehensible mess. Just like I wrote in Developer, know when to stop it is hard to determine which suggestion you are given is a good one and which one is bad, but clearly the direction Phasmophobia is moving in last 2 years is not a good one.

Unlike Among Us, which just became stale, Phasmophobia is being developed further, I mean there were about 12 types of ghosts to begin with, now the number is closer to 30, but the game stopped to be interesting and fun, which is really sad ending for such revolutionary title. Let’s take a look at what made it great at the beginning - it was simple, almost primitive, it was immersive, it was fun to play with your friends. Now it is bigger, more complicated, confusing, less fun and the immersion isn’t that fresh any more.

It is impossible to keep your audience entertained forever with same product, it is hard to keep them involved for long time, but boxing yourself in with just handful of hardcore fans is definitely not the way ahead. And, again sadly, it looks like Phasmophobia is not gonna recover from this downward spiral. Not unless something revolutionary will change in the development process, because activity from creators is not always a progress, it is just activity. The true change on the other hand could make the game worse for hardcore fans, so...


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