The full release of ARK: Survival Evolved may be tarnished by its Early Access woes. Though the game saw great sales success, multiple scandals have left its fans feeling betrayed. Let’s look at these incidents in anticipation of the game’s official launch.
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ARK: Survival Evolved is an incredibly popular game. It frequently makes its way into the top ten most played games on Steam, which goes to show just how successful the game is financially. However, if you look at the game’s Steam reviews, you wouldn’t believe that to be the case. Currently, the game sits at a ‘Mixed’ rating, which suggests there’s something more going on behind the scenes. In fact, this isn’t the first time the game’s recent review score has dipped. So, what happened?
ARK: Survival Evolved released in Early Access in June 2015. Studio Wildcard’s game managed to sell 1 million copies in a month, giving it a strong start. From there, the developers provided frequent updates, and fans considered it one of the better examples of Early Access.
Sales reached the millions when things started to slow down. First, the developers created a standalone copy of the game, Survival of the Fittest. Then, they began developing console versions, all before the game had been completed. Fans were still enjoying the game, but were becoming impatient at the lack of updates.
This crescendo peaked in September 2016, when the game’s first expansion released. It’s worth noting that the game at this time was still in Early Access, and therefore wasn’t yet complete. Despite the game being incomplete, the developers released a $20 expansion called Scorched Earth.
The Steam reviews for this expansion are generally positive, which suggests that the DLC itself is good value, but the reviews for the base game tanked when Scorched Earth released. At the time, fans argued that the developers should have focused on completing the base game that they had already bought, instead of developing paid-for expansions in that time.
As such, the first ‘review bomb’ occurred. A wave of negative reviews appeared on its Steam page, and positive reviews were wiped and changed to negative ones by angry fans. This is a tactic used to bring down the game’s rating on its Steam store page, and ward off people who would otherwise buy the game. It also drew attention to the situation. Despite the review bomb, the developers stood by their decision.
This negativity towards the game heightened when the Steam Awards came around. The ARK developers made a community post asking people to vote ARK in the ‘Best Use of a Farm Animal’ category, and if the game won, they would release a new animal in the next update. A number of fans saw this as a bribe.
Holding back a feature of the game for a non-financial reason was not regarded very highly. Considering this wasn’t long after the Scorched Earth scenario, it only encouraged players to keep their negative reviews up. The backlash prompted the developers to remove the blog post, and release the new animal regardless of the Steam Awards result.
Goat Simulator won the Steam Award.
Finally, the most recent and perhaps most relevant detail: ARK then doubled in price, from $30 to $60. On the official ARK twitter, the developers stated, “ARK: Survival Evolved has increased its price on Steam to ensure retail parity for the upcoming launch.” The price hike was perhaps the most contentious of recent matters, resulting in another review bomb of the game, bringing both its recent and overall review scores down to Mixed.
The major complaint fans had was over the lack of warning given by the developers. When the game released in Early Access, Studio Wildcard stated, “the game will be lower priced through Early Access, relative to its final full-version retail price”, which does suggest that the game would see a price increase. The developers later explained, “[The Retailers] wouldn’t accept the digital version being cheaper than the retail version… What would have been ideal would have been raising the price at the exact point of transition from Early Access to retail but for the pre-orders it was necessary…”
Though a fair argument, the criticism being targeted at Studio Wildcard is that they could have easily warned consumers ahead of time that the price increase would be sooner than initially suggested, and no such thing occurred.
ARK: Survival Evolved has had a rocky relationship with its fans. What was initially an Early Access darling has become the source of three scandals that have created a schism between the game’s fans and its developer, Studio Wildcard. Strange management decisions and a lack of communication are highlighted as the main issues plaguing the game, and its repeated drops in Steam review score. The best indicator of this is probably the overall review score, which over the years has dropped from Positive to a not-so-appealing Mixed status. With the official release just around the corner, the question is, will Studio Wildcard be able to patch the ARK’s leaks, or is it soon to sink?
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