Ark is making the season pass model work

Ark: Survival Evolved is still one of the most popular games on Steam. It’s a regular in the top 10 for highest concurrent players on Valve’s gaming portal. And two years after its launch, and four years after its Early Access debut, the game seems like it’s in its strongest position ever. That’s due in large part to the enthusiastic audience, but it’s also because Studio Wildcard has delicately built a trusting relationship with those fans.

Now, it has launched Ark: Genesis Season Pass for $35. Genesis features two major content updates as well as other exclusive perks. It is available now, and it has a “very positive” rating. Ark is also reaching a peak of over 50,000 concurrent players for each day since the launch of Genesis.

So yeah, Studio Wildcard is making the whole season pass thing work. And that’s important because this is the business model that is holding everything together.

“Players are telling us that premium content in the form of expansion packs are one of the things Ark is really good at,” Studio Wildcard co-creative director Jesse Rapczak explained to GamesBeat over email. “And as developers, it’s also what keeps the lights on for a game that charges no subscription fees.”

Ark and Studio Wildcard have come a long way since the game’s first expansion pass. Back in September 2016, the developer launched Scorched Earth while Ark was still in Early Access. And fans were angry that the studio attempted to charge for more content while the base game was still incomplete. That anger subsided over time, and since then, fans have now look forward to big new content drops.

Season passes make Ark go ’round

This is not just about Rapczak having enough money to pay the electric bill. The company is constantly reinvesting into the game. In particular, it’s trying to eliminate exploits that ruin the experience for legitimate players.

Over the last year, Wildcard focused on eliminating undermeshing. This is when players fudge with the collision detection to move underneath a map. From this unfair vantage, players can are invisible and nearly invincible, and they can easily take out their opponents.

“Through the implementation of custom metrics and enforcement tools, we have reduced undermeshing incidents by almost 90% across PC, Xbox, and PS4 platforms and banned over 4,300 players from official servers on console who repeatedly violated our Code of Conduct,” said Rapczak. “Adding a new Season Pass to Ark’s roadmap means we can afford to spend more time addressing areas like this and anything else that crops up over the next few years.”

A chance to highlight months of updates and improvements

On top of that, the studio is also constantly pumping out bug fixes and overall improvements to Ark. Having a big update gives Wildcard a chance to draw attention to all of that work for lapsed players.

“We’re continually doing big updates and free DLC throughout the year like the recently released [a new free map] on consoles and PC,” said Rapczak. “This month we have some nice quality of life changes and bug fixes on our public beta release that will eventually be merged into the live game after a round of feedback and testing by the community.”

All of this is paying off for Studio Wildcard and Ark. And fans are happy. And that means you can likely expect a lot more from this game and developer in the future.

“If someone told me we would have more people playing Ark today than we did 4 years ago I wouldn’t have believed them back then,” said Rapczak. “It turns out the team at Studio Wildcard is so passionate about Ark and keeping the game exciting, that players continue to come back and invest countless hours in the world we’re building month-after-month and year-after-year.”

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