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Gearbox denies rumor that Battleborn is going free to play, but says a "trial version" is planned

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Update: Gearbox president Randy Pitchford has denied the rumor on Twitter, calling it "false." However, Pitchford adds that Gearbox has plans to release a free version of Battleborn that can be upgraded. It's unclear exactly how this differs from a free-to-play model, or what restrictions this trial will bear. It's possible it will resemble something like Paladins, which players can play for free or choose to purchase the entire current and future roster of characters. 

We'll add new information about Battleborn's future plans as we learn more. Our original story is below.

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There haven't been many bigger flops in 2016 than Battleborn. It came out in May to decent reviews but was almost immediately gooned by Overwatch, leading to deep discounts on the purchase price within just a few weeks of launch and a super-cheap Humble Bundle appearance in July. Now Kotaku is reporting a rumor that it will soon go entirely free-to-play. 

Gearbox had intended Battleborn be free-to-play from the start, according to the site's source, but publisher 2K decided on a conventional release at full price. That price has since dropped precipitously: Amazon (opens in new tab) is currently listing it, on all platforms, at $20, compared to the $60 launch price. (Steam, oddly enough, is still selling it for full pop.) Its peak concurrent PC player count has taken a similar swan dive, from a peak of 12,101 in May to, at this moment, 304. 

The report is based on a source but entirely unsubstantiated—hence calling it a "rumor"—but a free-to-play transition seems not just likely, but inevitable. That player count is about one-tenth the number of people playing Counter-Strike Nexon: Zombies right now, and I mean no disrespect to that game and the people who love it, but if a major studio's online shooter is that far out of the top 100 on Steam less than six months after launch, drastic measures are obviously called for. Eleven months after launch, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 still has around 7,000 concurrent players on PC. So does Gearbox's last game, Borderlands 2, which was released in 2012.

Kotaku says the official free-to-play announcement is expected by mid-November. I've emailed Take-Two to ask if the rumor is true, and I'll let you know what (or if) I hear back.

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.