Studio Wildcard made a surprising announcement Monday concerning its ARK: Survival Evolved spin-off, ARK: Survival of the Fittest. The free-to-play PC game is merging back with the main ARK game and console development has been placed on hold.
The announcement comes just after the conclusion of the ARK: Survival of the Fittest Summer Cup held in China where teams competed for cash prize pools in the game’s first LAN tournament. Studio Wildcard made the decision to bring the Hunger Games/Battle Royale-style multiplayer game back into the ARK: Survival Evolved package, where it will still be a stand-alone game.
ARK: Survival Evolved does have a cost associated to it. It is normally priced at $30 on Steam but is currently on sale for half that through August 4. However, those that have played Survival of the Fittest will be able to continue to play it without owning the primary ARK product.
The developers at Studio Wildcard cited two reasons for the move. The first is to give modders better support for the development kit, and the second is because the relatively small studio would have to figure out or hire help to monetize the free-to-play game.
“We have been pondering for a while how to release the kit without any restrictions on content and licensing, allowing SotF modders to freely take all the content from Survival Evolved as they wish,” Studio Wildcard explained. “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. 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 ARK Survivor League with the monthly cash prize pool will continue. The finals for the month of July is scheduled to take place Saturday, August 6. The August Survivor League will kick off soon, but come with a reset of the league’s ELO ratings due to “major gameplay changes” as part of the ARK: Survival Evolved 177.0 patch (via Steam).
The decision to pull SotF back into ARK: Survival Evolved also impacts the development of the game for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The competitive multiplayer title was set to hit the PS4 at the end of July, but Studio Wildcard decided to place it on hold and focus attention on bringing Survival Evolved to the console instead and supporting the Xbox One version.
Survival of the Fittest received mixed reviews from Steam users thus far. Negative marks mostly come from laggy and unbalanced gameplay along with high-end PC requirements for it to run well enough for players to be competitive. The team responsible for the game was limited to only a handful of developers, so bringing it back into the responsibility of the main development team could be a chance to receive more supports. Others might take it as a sign that the experiment of SotF as a stand-alone free-to-play game wasn’t as well-received as planned.
SteamDB shows ARK: Survival of the Fittest as having only a 3,929 player all-time peak just after launch. The player population has steadily declined to a current peak of just over 900 players. Meanwhile, Survival Evolved sits at a much healthier peak over the last 24 hours of over 60,000 players, thanks in part to a free weekend. The daily player population hovers around 40,000 otherwise.
ARK: Survival Evolved launched as a Steam Early Access title in July 2015 and was followed by an Xbox One launch in December via the Xbox Preview Program. Survival of the Fittest started out as an internally developed official mod for the game to provide a Hunger Games-style competitive survival experience for players. Studio Wildcard brought it in-house and turned it into a stand-alone free-to-play title complete with monthly cash prizes before the latest change.
What do you think of Studio Wildcard bringing ARK: Survival of the Fittest back into Survival Evolved and placing the console releases on hold? Sound off in the comments below.
[Image via Studio Wildcard]