Evolving into Free-to-Play and what Turtle Rock needs to do

2K’s Evolve is now free to play on Steam, with the newly titled ‘Stage Two’ attempting to fix the many issues that kept the multiplayer game from being a hit in 2015. The idea behind Evolve seems like a perfect recipe but due to the limitations on gameplay by every other character having to be bought as DLC, on top of the expensive release price of $60. If price really was the main deterrent to the initial success of Evolve then this update should be the breath of fresh air the game was desperately needing.

In a blog post on Turtle Rock’s website, the studio’s founders commented on this decision by stating that “we want that magic back and we aim to make it happen. We’ve made a lot of changes, improvements, and additions to Evolve over the past year, and we’ve got a lot more coming. In short, we’re giving this game a vigorous overhaul!” With a monthly peak of around 150 players it’s no surprise that a drastic change was in the works to keep the game alive.

Within the first 48 hours the PC user base doubled Evolve’s initial release of February 2015, beating the entire launch month of players. Reaching a peak of 51 000 to the release date’s 27 000 is a vast improvement, jumping Evolve to the 11th most-played Steam game. The immediate effect shows that there was always an interest in the four vs one triple A title but many were hesitant due to the enormous expense.

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Since the DLC aspect has been binned a new earn by playing system has been implemented, speeding up the new rewards method of unlocking characters with silver keys. New characters, skins, skills and more will be purchasable with these silver keys, gained by playing matches. The new free-to-play model is attempting to keep things fresh with a new progression system, new UI and is even rewarding those who had previously bought the game and content with a ‘Founder’ status – giving them new characters, skins, perks and bonus silver keys. As of now, there is no monetisation or way to purchase these keys through an in-game store.

Even with the ‘Founders’ perks many previous owners of the game, who had poured money and time into Evolve, are now unhappy due to their entire progress being erased and content previously paid for gone. There are now less maps and modes to chose from, all content that players had paid for and are now frustrated is missing from the game.

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Evolve: Stage 2 is currently only a beta, still in development for a later release, as Turtle Rock Studios attempts a second attempt at the four vs one shooter in the height of the four-verse-one genre, with titles like Dead By Daylight selling remarkably well. In order to compete with this emerging market Turtle Rock Studios has jumped into the market for a second time. This isn’t the first time a developer has opted to completely eradicate a pre-existing payment model to a free to play model, but the decision is traditionally seen as one confined to MMOs like The Old Republic.

Lastly, Turtle Rock Studios has also made improvements by reducing the download size of the game by half, improving the performance aspects and has shortened the time for finding matches online. Hunters have been buffed to allow for an even playing field against the monster, with each hunter now able to use ‘the dome’ which originally only the trapper could use. This skill was essential for keeping the monster contained, thankfully the dome can be used by any team member at a pivotal moment. To counter this however the early monster levels have been buffed to give it a chance against hunters when trapped early.

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These changes only touch the surface of the issues surrounding Evolve. In order for Turtle Rock Studios to keep the new free to play community alive there needs to be some push towards Evolve being community based, instead of competing with the other popular four vs one titles.

In many ways, this move does feel like an effort to combat the harsh reputation that Evolve had gained from its many mistakes. While it remains to be seen if Turtle Rock can use this as an opportunity to recapture the hype that had initially surrounded Evolve before the first release, this move towards a free-to-play system certainly make senses from a business perspective given just how far the game has fallen since its release over a year ago.

The free to play beta is available on steam now, with no solid date of plans for a console roll out until the PC version of Stage Two is finalized.

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