ARK: Survival of the Fittest No Longer Free-to-Play

After only five months on the free-to-play circuit, ARK: Survival Evolved developers, Studio Wildcard, have announced that the competitive Multiplayer Online Survival Arena (MOSA) game, ARK: Survival of the Fittest (SotF), will no longer be free-to-play and will once more form part of the full Survival Evolved game.


The official announcement came via a Steam community post: “As we look to the future of SotF, we came to a decision: Survival of the Fittest will be brought back internally as part of the ARK: Survival Evolved package. For technical functionality it will still exist as its own application, and everyone who has thus-far played the game will continue to be able to play it without having to own ARK: Survival Evolved, but going forward it will be considered part of the ARK: Survival Evolved product group.”

Studio Wildcard goes on to mention the reasoning behind the move, which includes a lack of modding freedom in the free-to-play environment, but it seems the main reason behind the move has to do with microtransactions (an issue that a lot of gamers have a lot to say about).

Fortunately (for gamers that either own ARK: Survival Evolved – which you should – and for players that have already played the free-to-play MOSA SotF- which you really should have) there will not be microtransactions coming to the dinosaur survival title:

“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 monetize 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 monetization, 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.”

So, for gamers that already meet the requirements (either owning the base game or have played SotF previously) this move could actually work to their advantage as modders will now have full access to the mode. With all the work that modders have put into already existing mods, this in itself is fantastic news though, potentially, game breaking.

Pimp my Rex
The Pimp my Rex mod now includes an assortment of armour for other creatures including (but not limited to) the scorpion and sabre.

On top of that, because the mode is going to be maintained as an internal game mode, any changes made to the base game (performance updates specifically) will also be made to the SotF mode. This in itself is cause for celebration as, if you have played both the normal and the SotF modes, you will see a marked difference in the optimisation of the multiplayer mode.

The downside to this announcement will primarily affect console players in  that the development of SotF for both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has been placed on hold in order for the developers to “take a step back and see how these changes pan out in the long term, without making any hasty decisions about ARK: SotF”. Whether this means that the game will, like the PC version, release with the base game is unclear.  

Finally, the effect this update will have on the Survivor League must be examined. With the July Survivor League final set to take place this weekend (be sure to tune in to the official stream here on 6 August at 5pm SAST) it should be time to look to the August League: “Survivor League will be continuing throughout August, however due to some major gameplay changes made in the last few days, we will resetting the League’s ELO for August. This means that players current scores will reset and players will need to compete against on the ladder to reclaim their rankings.” The full patch notes for changes made to SotF are available here.


So what do you need to take away from this:

  • ARK: Survival of the Fittest (SotF) will no longer be a free-to-play standalone title
  • Everyone who has thus-far played the game will continue to be able to play it without having to own ARK: Survival Evolved (only new players will need to buy the full game)
  • The Survivor League ELO has been reset in time for August events
  • The SotF Development Kit has been released – modders now have access to the mode
  • SotF will be updated and optimized alongside the base game
  • Console releases of SotF (PS4 and Xbox One) have been delayed indefinitely