Paradox says The Lamplighters League sales were 'a big disappointment,' confirms recent layoffs at developer Harebrained Schemes

The Lamplighters League launch trailer still
(Image credit: Paradox Interactive)

Paradox Interactive is taking a big financial hit on the turn-based tactics game The Lamplighters League, saying that sales of the game have been "a big disappointment." Paradox also confirmed that significant layoffs had been made at developer Harebrained Schemes, but clarified that those layoffs occurred in the summer, a few months before The Lamplighters League was released.

The Lamplighters League, a pulp-inspired tale of a secret society battling an army of the occult in the 1930s, looked potentially interesting when it was revealed in March, in part because it was being developed by Harebrained Schemes, the studio behind the Shadowrun RPGs and the excellent tactics game Battletech. But it never really seemed to gain much traction with gamers in the months leading up to its release in October, and the final product was not great: It's "an over-ambitious and technically flawed tactics game that can't live up to its more accomplished influences," we said in our 62% review.

Just one week after release, publisher Paradox Interactive has decided to throw in the towel, essentially saying that it's eating the cost of making the game as a loss to the tune of 248 million Swedish kronor—roughly $22.8 million. Paradox said the decision to write down the development expense was made after The Lamplighter League's release, when sales failed to reach expectations.

"The Lamplighters League is a fun game with many strengths," Paradox CEO Fredrik Wester said in a press release. "Even though we see cautiously positive player numbers in subscription services, the commercial reception has been too weak, which is frankly a big disappointment. Game projects are by their nature always risky, but at the end of the day we haven’t performed at the level we should. It is painful but makes us more eager to roll up our sleeves and do better."

That assessment is borne out on Steam, where The Lamplighters League has a "mostly positive" user rating but dismally low player numbers. According to Steam Charts, the game's all-time peak concurrent player count was just 690, less than half of today's peak concurrent player count for Battletech, which was released in 2018. That doesn't tell the whole tale, as The Lamplighters League is also available on Xbox consoles, and the "cautiously positive player numbers in subscription services"—that is, Game Pass—would presumably give it a bump on that platform. But this quick reaction from Paradox is a pretty clear indication that no one is expecting a meaningful turnaround.

Paradox isn't washing its hands of The Lamplighters League completely at this point: In a statement provided to PC Gamer, a Paradox representative said it is "still working on our post-launch support plan," although no details on that plan were provided.

"The commercial performance of the game is at a level well outside of our expectations," the rep said. "As we have lowered our forecast for revenues, we are also obligated to write down the game’s book value to match the lower revenue expectations. This is unusual for us. As a publicly traded company, we are obligated to issue a press release regarding a write-down of this size.

"At present we have no changes to the game's post-launch plan."

The failure of The Lamplighters League also brought to light reports of layoffs at Harebrained Schemes: One person claiming to be a former employee of the studio said on the Resetera forums that roughly 80% of the studio's employees had been laid off in July, and multiple former employees have said on social media that they had been let go by the studio in that time frame. 

The Paradox rep declined to provide numbers but confirmed that layoffs had taken place prior to The Lamplighters League's release, saying that "Harebrained Schemes’ staff was significantly reduced over the summer as the game entered its last phase of development and launch preparations."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.