Turtle Rock Studio has announced that Evolve is changing, with the game moving to a free-to-play business model on PC. Those changes go live today between 9AM and 12PM PT, as the game returns to Beta on Steam. There is currently no word about these Stage 2 changes coming to consoles.
After an early bout of hype during the convention circuit, Turtle Rock Studios' Evolve came and went rather quickly. Some liked the game, but didn't find it to be something they would play for a long time. Some felt the game was rather limited without the expensive DLC, which included characters and maps that players thought should've been free. I personally had issues with the wide swing of any match: either the Hunters won easily or the Monster did.
"When Evolve launched, the reception wasn't what we expected. Sure, there were some good reviews. There were also bad reviews. Yes, there was excitement. There was also disappointment – for players and for us," wrote Turtle Rock co-founders Chris Ashton and Phil Robb. "The DLC shitstorm hit full force and washed away people's enthusiasm, dragging us further and further from that first magical pick-up-and-play experience."
The ultimate result was Evolve was passed by and forgotten. The studio is hoping to rectify that. Yesterday, Evolve was made unavailable for purchase from Steam. It has a Steam store page still, but you can't buy it right now.
"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!" wrote Ashton and Robb in their letter to the community.
Turtle Rock has looked at every aspect of the game in order to improve the Evolve experience. The 4v1 Hunt mode returns as the marquee of Evolve Stage 2, alongside a new, streamlined UI. Every class has been tweaked and redesigned to be "more easily accessible", with improved survivability if your team isn't up to snuff. This means new abilities like the Support class' Shield Burst, which charges the shields of teammates nearby. The Monster is stronger, with more starting skill points and health. The maps have been redesigned based on previous match data to provide more consistent and fair matches between Hunters and Monsters.
The Evolve Stage 2 Beta will include everything currently released in the game. Hunt, Ranked, Custom, Arena, and Spectator modes, 24 Hunters, 7 Monsters, 4 maps, a new Perk system, and all the cosmetic items. If you're an existing Evolve owner, you receive Founder status and all the content you've already purchased carries over.
"Anyone who owns classic Evolve will be given 'Founder' status in the new free version, and all the content you already own comes with you to the new version," explained Ashton and Robb. "As long as we work on Evolve, we will show our appreciation for our committed fans and early adopters with gifts, rewards, and special access. Why? Because you believed like we did, and we will never forget that."
Will all these changes be enough to revitalize the community? Evolve is moving to free-to-play at a time when other online shooters are moving back to a paid model. That said, the right business model is the one that works for your game. It's entirely possible that Evolve will work better as a free-to-play title. We'll see once the Stage 2 beta goes live today.