Gearbox head honcho Randy Pitchford was quick to deny the "reckless" rumors about the shooter Battleborn going free-to-play when they surfaced back in September. Today, however, the studio came awfully close to doing just that by announcing the launch of a "free downloadable experience," with no time limits or level caps and content that can be unlocked or purchased on a piece-by-piece basis.
The free version of Battleborn will give players access to six of the game's 30 characters, rotated on a weekly basis. Character and player account progression is permanent, so when a character rotates out and then return, any progress you've made with it will still be there, and content including heroes, skins, boosters, and Story Mode Operations will be unlockable individually in the Marketplace, with either in-game credits or Platinum premium currency.
Players who purchase individual pieces of content and then upgrade to the full game will be given in-game credits to compensate for duplicated items, and anyone who already owns the game will be upgraded to "Founder" status, which will include Legendary Gear, 1000 Platinum, 50,000 Credits, loot packs, a "Founder's Crown" flair item, and other bonuses.
At the same time, Gearbox is also launching a separate queue for new players to help them ease into the action, as well as new Training Modes including an Incursion tutorial and The Dojo, which provides unlimited practice access to all 30 characters. "Even if you’re a quick learner or an experienced MOBA player, we wanted to give you enough time to find your Battleborn play style and favorite heroes," Gearbox said. "Once a player masters Battleborn’s mechanics and reaches Command Rank 20, the Novice Queue will disappear and they [will] be able to join other Battleborn players in the regular queues."
Pitchford insisted on Twitter following the announcement that the change does not make Battleborn free-to-play, and that it "is retail with DLC" and a free trial. I'm having a hard time seeing the difference: I can download the game at no charge, play as long as I want with some relatively minor restrictions, and unlock all in-game content on an a la carte basis. There's also this:
So in what way is that not free-to-play?
The only distinction I can make out is that the full version of Battleborn remains available for purchase as DLC on Steam for $30/£25/€30. More information about the Battleborn free trial can be found at battleborn.com, and there's a "developer overview" video for your viewing pleasure below.