For some, Ark: Survival Evolved's recent controversial pre-full release price hike highlights the trouble with pricing Early Access games. For others, most specifically DayZ creator Dean Hall, it's "****ing OUTRAGEOUS." But wherever you stand with the issue, the open world dino hunter's Jeremy Stieglitz has explained the premature increase is tied to the game's physical launch.
"Admittedly, my intent, our intent, was to have the price hit the full retail price when the full retail launch occurred," Stieglitz, the game's lead designer, lead programmer and co-creative director, tells me. "That would have been at the retail launch, not prior to that. The reality turned out to be, and we didn't realise this until we got to the final phase of getting the game into retail channels, was that: in order to get the game into retailers—that is not digital retailers but physical ones, both for the physical disc PC version and the console version—the retailers and distributors wouldn't take it if the digital versions was cheaper than the retail version. They found that it would undermine their sales potential."
Stieglitz goes on to say the markup in turn couldn't wait because retailers wouldn't take the game if they weren't able to run a preorder programme. He suggests these two outcomes in tandem "forced" the studio's hand, and while unhappy with having to hike the game's price prior to its proposed August 8 PC launch feels that "the value is there, for the most part, of that price point."
Stieglitz continues: "[The value] certainly will be there at the date of retail launch—that means you buy it now for $60, for example, in three weeks it's going to be $60. It would've been $60 in three weeks anyway and we wouldn't release a game that we didn't feel was worth that. We're really confident that there's a hell of a lot of value in that package—content, features and fun gameplay.
"It is unfortunate and was absolutely not our original intent and not something I wanted personally, to have that price hike occur prior to the retail launch. I can certainly understand why that ruffled feathers and pissed people off, to be blunt, and I can only say that sometimes we as a developer can't control the variables. You might say, well, we didn't have to do it and that's true but then we wouldn't be able to have a physical retail launch.
"I think, ultimately, that's important to me personally—not from a money standpoint but from a vanity standpoint. But also it's important for Ark to be able to reach players in the non-digital community, in the physical gaming community. There really is half the market, these people who buy games in stores worldwide and we do feel that from a playerbase standpoint, those new players are going to add a lot of fun to existing Ark players as well.
"Given it was close to launch we decided to bite the bullet on it. Was it the right decision? I can't say but it was motivated by the need to get the game on store shelves and our hand was ultimately forced from that standpoint."
Ark: Survival Evolved will launch in full on PC on August 8, 2017.