Studio Wildcard has announced that the free-to-play version of Ark: Survival Evolved's arena-based spinoff Survival of the Fittest is being discontinued.
Ark: Survival Evolved launched to somewhat unexpected success in June of last year, pulling in more than one million early access sales in short order. Developer Studio Wildcard has made a lot of changes to the game since last summer, but the game's community has continued to grow and is now at 5.5 million players.
One way Studio Wildcard attempted to reach new players was through the launch of Ark: Survival of the Fittest, a free, Hunger Games-like arena version of the game that released on PC earlier this year. The dev even had plans to bring the spin-off to PlayStation 4 but there were warning signs just a couple weeks ago that some changes might be on the way.
Now, Studio Wildcard has explained in a Steam forum post that going forward, Survival of the Fittest will still exist but is being brought back inside the Ark: Survival Evolved package. In other words, if a player hasn't already signed up for Survival of the Fittest, the only way to get it now is to buy the main game.
"As we look to the future of SotF, we came to a decision: Survival of the Fittest will be brought back internally as part of the Ark: Survival Evolved package," Studio Wildcard wrote."For technical functionality it will still exist as its own application, and everyone who has thus-far played the game will continue to be able to play it without having to own Ark: Survival Evolved, but going forward it will be considered part of the Ark: Survival Evolved product group."
Studio Wildcard went on to explain that there were essentially two reasons for making this move. One, a new development kit for modders has been released and the company didn't want to put any restrictions on content or licensing for those who don't own the main game.
"We wanted to ensure that modders would have freedom when working with the kit to create the mods that they wanted to see in SotF," the developer wrote. "This was more important to us than any other reason, and to accomplish this, we had to bring SotF back into the Survival Evolved product."
The second reason for the move is that the studio had no desire to become a free-to-play developer. Studio Wildcard talked about the fact that even "free-to-play" games still cost resources to run and that if SotF would have stayed free, the developer would have had to take time away from development of the main game in order to figure out a monetization strategy, as well as to deal with other typical hassles that come with free-to-play development.
"We just aren’t cut out for free to play mechanics," the forum post reads. "With SotF being part of ARK: Survival Evolved, it’ll be able to draw from Survival Evolved resource pool directly, and enable us to continue operating the title."
While some gamers who might have been looking forward to the PlayStation 4 release of SotF may be disappointed, it's actually kind of refreshing to see a developer reject a free-to-play business model in favor of a premium experience in today's industry. While maintaining a free version of the game may have brought in some new players, Studio Wildcard's ability to now put all of its focus on making the best premium game possible across the board should benefit the community in the long run. It's a business model that seems to have worked out well for some other games recently, most notably Blizzard's Overwatch.
Ark: Survival Evolved is currently in Early Access. It is scheduled for full release on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, OS X and Linux before the end of 2016.