Studio Wildcard surprised the ARK: Survival Evolved community earlier this week when it announced it has split the Survival of the Fittest mod into its own stand-alone game. A completely free Steam release quickly followed, but the community debated the merits of splitting the game as Daybreak Studios did with H1Z1. It also questioned whether the studio would ever monetize SotF. That’s now a confirmed “yes.”
The confusion over whether ARK: Survival of the Fittest would have some form of monetization comes thanks to some unfortunate conflicting statements from Studio Wildcard. A conversation captured from a Studio Wildcard representative on Reddit stated “There will not be [microtransactions], Survival of the Fittest is all free to play.”
Meanwhile, the launch announcement stated, “We’re launching SotF into Early Access absolutely free with no monetization.” That implies the game is launching for free, but some form of monetization will be added later.
ARK: Survival of the Fittest has its own development team to support and will be giving away monthly prizes of $50,000. While ARK: Survival Evolved is selling extremely well on the PC and Xbox One in Early Access, it can’t support development of two titles plus monthly prizes on its own. Thus, it is no surprise when Studio Wildcard confirmed monetization will eventually come.
“It’s a standalone free version — you don’t need to buy Ark, you can just download Survival of the Fittest and play it for free, and there are not many games that you can do that with yet. We’re in Early Access, we don’t have any way to monetize it at the moment, but we want to work with the players on a way to monetize the game that won’t ruin the experience, because you can’t just have a free game for all eternity,” Creative Director and Studio Co-Founder Jesse Rapczack told Red Bull in an interview.
“We’re putting out a game that doesn’t have any way to take your money right now. It’s fully free and we’re giving people cash prizes for playing the game every month. We’re giving away almost $50,000 every month.”
Now the question is what kind of monetization could be added. The current popular method is to offer cosmetic items that don’t affect gameplay, such as hats or skins. Meanwhile, H1Z1 gives players the opportunity purchase keys to call in supply drops for players to compete over. That falls into the pay to win grey area. It will be interesting to see how Studio Wildcard handles monetization in Survival of the Fittest going forward.
For those that aren’t familiar, ARK: Survival of the Fittest started as a total conversion mod for the Survival Evolved that pits up to 72 players into a Hunger Games-like match. The twist is, players are competing on an island full of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures that can be tamed or kill you. Players are dropped around a circular platform in the center of the map where they can make the decision to rush to the middle for supplies, weapons, and an early fight, or take off into the relative safety of the surrounding woods.
From there, it is a race to craft weapons and armor plus tame animals without being killed by other players, animals, or your own poor planning. A force field surrounds the arena that slowly shrinks to force players back to the platform where they began. Along the way, events will happen in the world such as carnivores suddenly spawning in to wreak havoc or acid rain to fall and cause damage to armor and players. Player profiles are projected into the sky as they die until only one is left standing and can be declared winner.
The game will also support a Survivor League that will reward the $50,000 monthly cash prizes to the top players in each of the four different brackets — Free For All, Two-Man Tribe, Three-Man Tribe, and Four-Man Tribe.
ARK: Survival of the Fittest is currently targeting a fourth quarter 2016 release for the PC. There still has not been any announcement about an Xbox One or console launch. Studio Wildcard may be waiting to figure out how it can monetize the game before making the announcement.
[Image via Studio Wildcard]