The days of ARK: Survival Evolved being an early access title are numbered, with Studio Wildcard’s popular dino-centric crafting title poised to undergo a full commercial release on August 8, 2017. While the studio made it clear from the get-go that ARK: Survival Evolved would undergo a price increase when it reached this stage, many fans were unhappy to witness the game jump from $29.99 to $59.99 right now, a month before the title’s full-fledged commercial release is due to take place.
Since the title is still technically in early access, fans who didn’t want to pay the increased price have reacted with strong criticism for Studio Wildcard. The developer has now come forward and explained that the preemptive increase in price was a necessary evil in dealing with brick-and-mortar commercial chains, as retailers wouldn’t accept any disparity between the disc-based edition of the game and its digital counterpart while they gather pre-orders.
Here’s what the studio had to say about the pricing fiasco:
As soon as it was made clear to us by the retailers that a digital price adjustment was necessary for the launch, we let the community know through our various communication channels to provide a final opportunity to get the game at the original Early Access price. As relatively few large games have transitioned from Early Access into a full retail launch, we wish there was a smoother process for how to do it, but I think everyone — us and the industry itself — is still figuring some of this stuff out.
This isn’t the first time ARK: Survival Evolved has run into controversy. Amidst a sea of free updates, the studio opted to include a paid DLC package called Scorched Earth, which generated a huge split in fan reactions. As a result, ARK got a “review bomb” – plenty of negative reviews slamming the title for one particular issue, which in this case was the paid DLC. Despite the negative reaction, the DLC was a fast-selling product and, according to Studio Wildcard, resulted in over 7 million additional copies of the game itself.
As more gamers make the switch to digital-only purchasing, it’s clear that traditional brick-and-mortar sales are in a battle of attrition against consistently cheaper digital sales. It’s standard practice for most physical retailers to acquire exclusive downloadable content to encourage pre-orders at a particular retail location, and it’s not surprising that retailers would take steps like locking ARK‘s price to ensure a pricing parity as they build up pre-order sales for the title.
Gamers don’t win in this situation, but as Studio Wildcard said, the industry is still at a crossroads as digital sales continue to eat away at traditional retailers. It’s not a satisfying answer, but in the end, fans interested in ARK: Survival Evolved have had years of opportunity to pick it up for the discounted price.
ARK: Survival Evolved is due for a full retail release on August 8, 2017, for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, and Linux.