Before Halo and Section 8 popularized jetpacks, there was Tribes, a well known and beloved shooter franchise. Tribes: Ascend brought the franchise into the free-to-play realm this year, and has done fairly well to date. But despite this success, it seems unlikely the game will be coming to consoles.
When the team at Hi-Rez Studios began work on Tribes: Ascend, the original plan was a release on both PSN and XBLA in addition to the PC. However, during development the decision was made to adopt a free-to-play model, and PC therefore became the only option.
Compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360 the PC is a far more open platform, which seems to lead to more experimentation from developers every year, especially in ways to monetize games. According to Hi-Rez’s Todd Harris, the choices forced upon the team didn’t restrict development, but allowed them to play to the platform’s strengths:
“We do not have any plans for Tribes on console at this time. The way it went is that we wanted to do the free-to-play model, and there wasn’t a clear path to that on consoles early on. Based on that, we optimized the game around the strengths of the PC, and specifically a keyboard and mouse control.
“Once we decided it’d only be on the PC, we optimized [gameplay] around speed, a quick turn radius, and things that are optimized for PC game controls.”
Obviously consoles have seen free-to-play releases before – both DC Universe Online and Free Realms can be played without charge on the PS3 – so why was Hi-Rez unable to make a console version? As Harris stated, the developer didn’t have the ability “early on.” Mainstream free-to-play titles have only begun to pop-up on consoles recently, so perhaps the infrastructure is only now becoming more welcoming to free titles.
This could also be the reason why DUST 514 was announced with a twenty dollar charge but is now going free-to-play. For those lamenting the lost chance at a console version of Tribes: Ascend, Harris did offer a single ray of hope:
“We’re still interested in free-to-play on consoles, but at this point, we have nothing specific toTribes on console. I do expect the consoles will see more and more free-to-play, certainly the new generation, and possibly the existing generation as well.”
Even as free-to-play becomes more prominent, Harris doesn’t make it seem likely that we’ll hear about anything related to Tribes on consoles soon. Perhaps when the Xbox 720 and PS4 roll around the team at Hi-Rez may change their minds, assuming both consoles have more open networks, of course.
Tribes: Ascend is now available on PC. It’s free-to-play so download it; the micro-transactions are barely noticeable!
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