Escape from Tarkov dev's latest wheeze is to offer players $50 'compensation' after a price U-turn, but rather than a refund it's a one-time use $50 Tarkov voucher

It has been a terrible month for Escape from Tarkov. The hardcore extraction shooter, developed by Battlestate Games, has had some ups and downs over the eight years since it was first released into beta, and is one of those where the most devoted players seem to love and hate it in equal measure. It can sometimes be hard, as a Tarkov-watcher, to know when something's gone badly wrong (as it occasionally does), or when people are just blowing off steam before heading back in for another round.

But this time is different, and it's an entirely self-inflicted disaster from BSG. In late April the developer announced a new package, Escape from Tarkov: Unheard Edition, that cost $250 and included access to a long-awaited PvE mode with co-op and persistent progress (the main game in Tarkov is wiped semi-regularly). Problem was that all players wanted this mode and, in particular, a subset had previously purchased the $150 Edge of Darkness Edition (no longer available, viewable here) which promised "free access to all subsequent DLCs."

BSG claimed the new mode wasn't DLC. You can probably guess how well that went, and the pushback from its community became ferocious. The studio tried to convince players things weren't all that bad but no-one was being fooled and, in the end, the time from announcement to complete U-turn was six days.

As PC Gamer's resident Tarkov expert Jake Tucker put it shortly afterwards, Escape from Tarkov had "wiped out years of goodwill in one catastrophic week." 

Despite the reverse-ferret from BSG, some bad blood yet lingers among the playerbase. One of the things BSG promised was "compensation" of some kind for owners of the Edge of Darkness Edition (the old one that was supposed to include everything). As it was, BSG initially offered these players the chance to upgrade to the Unheard Edition (the villain of the piece) for the low price of $100, and yes I'm being sarcastic. 

This was another thing that got rolled back: BSG lowered the upgrade price to $50 for these players. Unfortunately some had already upgraded at $100. What to do, what to do. Well you could refund those players $50 of course or you could, as BSG has chosen to do, issue them with a onetime voucher "worth" $50 that can only be spent on BSG content. 

So: we'll keep the money, thanks. You also have to spend the $50 in a single transaction.

"If the cost of all the expansions you have selected is lower than the compensation, the remaining balance cannot be used later," says BSG on X. It did, however, deploy the classic technique known as the shit sandwich by announcing this alongside Escape from Tarkov: Arena (a standalone battle royale mode) becoming available to Unheard Edition owners, alongside a bonus for all players: "in-game stash size has been increased by two lines." Which might sound like nothing to non-players, but it would otherwise cost you around $3, so folk will certainly take it.

Whether this will quell the unrest remains to be seen: BSG is still taking a bit of a hammering on social media and across various forums dedicated to the game, and some players are even initiating chargebacks through their bank to recover the money. Part of BSG's problem throughout this whole thing has been trying to appease an angry mob with half-measures but it just hasn't worked, they've ended up having to offer more of what the people wanted anyway, and various BSG figures have had to tug their forelock and say sorry. My favourite example of the latter is Battlestate COO Nikita Buyanov, who came out with the magnificently surly expression he was "very sorry that fans and the game community in general are experiencing these feelings."

Those old $250 feelings, eh. The ironic thing is that, outside of this self-inflicted wound to its public image, Escape from Tarkov itself is looking as healthy as ever. A fresh wipe is expected in the near future, which always sees player numbers jump, and a few mooted competitors at the height of this controversy, like Gray Zone Warfare, don't look ready to dethrone what is arguably the king of the hardcore shooters. BSG has made some very bad decisions here. But fortunately for the studio, the game itself remains as compelling as ever.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."