Helldivers 2's New Direction: Johan Pilestedt Steps Down as CEO to Focus on Creativity and Game Improvements

Johan Pilestedt, the founder of Arrowhead Game Studios, has decided to step away from his role as CEO to concentrate on the creative aspects of Helldivers 2. His new position as Chief Creative Officer allows him to dedicate more time to game development and community engagement.

Enhancing Helldivers 2 Experience

Pilestedt's primary goal in his new role is to enhance the Helldivers 2 experience and create "longer-lasting content" for players. This shift in focus comes as he hands over the CEO responsibilities to Shams Jorjani, a veteran from Paradox Interactive.

A New Chapter for Pilestedt

Expressing his enthusiasm for the change, Pilestedt shared on Twitter that he's relieved to "not have to deal with HR policies and [quarterly business reviews]" anymore. He added, "The business side takes too much time from making games!"

With his newfound freedom to concentrate on Helldivers 2's future, Pilestedt has already begun discussing key areas of improvement, including:

  • Interpreting player feedback more effectively
  • Encouraging developers to spend more time playing the game
  • Addressing the time-to-kill (TTK) in combat

Focus on Player Feedback and Gameplay Improvement

Helldivers 2

"First thing we got to do is ensure we get more devs time playing the game. It's hard to make the right decisions if the eyes aren't on the road," Pilestedt explained in response to a fan's question about reviewing feedback. He continued, "Secondly, I want to ensure we actively look at the sentiment and create a holistic view of WHY feedback is given. And my working theory is that TTK is too high."

While Pilestedt didn't specify which feedback he was referring to, it's likely related to a common complaint that primary weapons in Helldivers 2 feel underpowered. Arrowhead has consistently maintained that primary guns aren't meant to be overly powerful, as players should rely more on stratagems for effective combat. However, Pilestedt acknowledges the fine line between "deliberately OK" and "so boring it's bad" when it comes to weapon balance.

Balancing Weapons and Combat

Since the game's launch, Arrowhead has both buffed underpowered guns and implemented nerfs where necessary. Some players have objected to nerfs in a PvE game, but the studio has explained why a "don't nerf, only buff" approach isn't viable in the long run.

Pilestedt's recent comments suggest a more nuanced approach to balancing feedback. He pondered whether the issue might not be the gun stats themselves, but rather overly resilient Automatons making players feel underpowered. "[The game] doesn't have to be easier. It's just that the weapons occasionally feel like pea shooters," he clarified in another reply.

This refined approach to Helldivers 2 balancing may align with the studio's plan to slow down the frequency of patches. Allowing developers more time to play and experience the game they're balancing requires freeing up hours from somewhere in their schedules.

Addressing Player Retention

Pilestedt also touched on the topic of player retention. Responding to a fan's suggestions for maintaining Helldivers 2's player base, which has naturally declined on Steam with fewer updates, the CCO mentioned the need for "longer-lasting content as well."

Natural Fluctuations in Player Numbers

It's important to note that fluctuations in player numbers are normal for service games. Even the most popular titles see their player graphs form a parabola shape, with numbers rising and falling as players return for new updates, complete progression tracks, or simply take breaks from playing one game continuously.

Helldivers 2, despite its engaging gameplay, doesn't offer infinite content. Many players, including those with around 100 hours of playtime, have unlocked most stratagems and weapons. It's natural for play time to decrease after reaching such milestones.

Different Approach Due to Game Pricing

Unlike free-to-play shooters that rely heavily on daily player engagement, Helldivers 2's $40 price tag allows for a different approach. A decrease in active players nearly four months after launch and 12 million copies sold should be viewed as a normal part of the game's lifecycle.

Future Plans for Helldivers 2

The "longer-lasting content" Pilestedt mentions could be part of Arrowhead's long-term strategy to keep Helldivers 2 players coming back. This might include major plot twists in the ongoing war, introducing radically different stratagems, or the much-anticipated vehicle update. Even small additions could reignite interest among the player base.

As Helldivers 2 continues to evolve under Pilestedt's creative direction, players can look forward to a game that aims to balance challenging gameplay with satisfying combat experiences. The studio's commitment to understanding and implementing player feedback, coupled with a focus on creating engaging, long-term content, suggests an exciting future for the game and its community.


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