Developers Studio Wildcard have controversially released paid content for ARK: Survival Evolved while the main game remains in Steam’s Early Access.

Studio Wildcard just announced their ARK: Scorched Earth expansion for the game, which requires the base game to play. It’s a hefty expansion, and they also announced a 40% price drop for the main game– while, at the same time, charging $20 for the expansion.

ARK was originally launched on Early Access in June, 2015, with an expected release in June, 2016. While it was known for quite a while that the team was working on an expansion for ARK, their explanation of that content was, from co-creative director Jesse Rapczak: “We’re going to be developing that, starting soon [as of September 2015], so that a few months after release we have a first expansion of Ark to go out and people have a big chunk of new content.” Nowhere does it say that this expansion will cost money, and it explicitly says “a few months after release”. Now September, it is technically a few months after the game’s intended release, but nowhere near its new expected release in December, 2016. ARK: Survival Evolved remains in Early Access.

Plummeting reviews and even some legal threats indicate the depth of the player’s unease with this move. Studio Wildcard let it be known expansion content was being worked on AFTER the game’s initial release, and at the time didn’t indicate that it would be paid content. Inarguably, anyone who bought the game between its June, 2015 release on Early Access and its September, 2015 announcement of an expansion was paying for the base game, with no knowledge that their money would contribute to an expansion they would still have to pay for, which would be released before the game they paid for.

On the surface, ARK has been doing quite well, with over 5 million downloads, and as of the writing of this article, remains Steam’s top selling Early Access game.

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