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Ark dev folds Survival of the Fittest back into Survival Evolved

"We just aren't cut out for free to play mechanics."

The developer of dinosaur survival hit Ark has folded free-to-play spin-off Survival of the Fittest back into the main game, Survival Evolved.

This means that Survival of the Fittest will no longer be a separate free-to-play game. But it will be maintained as a playable game mode inside Survival Evolved.

"If there are issues with the game, we will resolve them," developer Studio Wildcard promised in a post on Steam.

"If we're able to make performance updates due to optimisation work done on the main game, SotF will also receive them. Major content upgrades to SotF will be pending further expansion of the team, and the development kit will continue be updated with content from ARK: Survival Evolved (which can be directly copied into SotF by modders)."

Unfortunately, this all means the console (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) versions of Survival of the Fittest are on hold "so we can take a step back and see how these changes pan out in the long term".

"It is very important for us to see how SotF progresses and we want to make sure we're making the right choices," Studio Wildcard continued.

"We understand that these changes are quite big and will impact the future of game, but hope you can understand our reasons to do so and will continue to support the game mode you love."

Survival of the Fittest was designed as a competitive battle mode for Ark, and began life as an internal mod side-project, but was eventually released standalone earlier this year.

Despite being folded back into Survival Evolved, Survival of the Fittest will still exist as its own application, and everyone who has thus-far played the game can continue to play it without having to own the main game.

But going forward, Studio Wildcard stressed, Survival of the Fittest should be considered part of Survival Evolved.

So, why has Studio Wildcard done this? A lot of it has to do with the release of the Survival of the Fittest development kit. But it's also in part to do with money.

Survival of the Fittest was free-to-play in the truest sense. There were no microtransactions. It worked as an Ark demo of sorts, but still came at a cost to Studio Wildcard.

"When a game like SotF is made free to play, there are still expenses," the developer explained.

"This can range from development work, server costs, running of tournaments, prizes and of course the opportunity cost.

"To ensure that SotF would remain a success and a sound choice, Wildcard would have had to put a lot of resources and time into learning how to become a 'free to play' developer. We would have had to learn how to monetise a free game, notoriously through the use of in-app purchases such as skins and other cosmetics.

"Ultimately, it's clear this is not who we are, we like to make games, and to make the gameplay fun. We don't know much about monetisation, and quite frankly we aren't interested in hiring an economics team to take over that process, it is much more in our and your best interest for Wildcard to solely focus on the development of a game.

"We just aren't cut out for free to play mechanics. 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."

Sounds fair enough, really.

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ARK: Survival Evolved

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Ark: Survival of the Fittest

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Wesley Yin-Poole


Wesley worked at Eurogamer from 2010 to 2023. He liked news, interviews, and more news. He also liked Street Fighter more than anyone could get him to shut up about it.