Starbreeze announced today that it has acquired the rights to the Payday franchise from publisher 505 Games. The acquisition cost Starbreeze 10.9 million shares in the company, totaling 249 million Swedish Krona ($30 million) and representing around 4.3 percent of total shares. Starbreeze expects the total price of the acquisition to be recouped by the continuing sales of the Payday franchise until the release of Payday 3.
"Payday is very close to my heart, and has laid the foundation for Starbreeze success in recent years. We're very excited to bring our heisters home to the safe house," said Starbreeze CEO Bo Andersson Klint in an update. "To start with, we believe in the continued success of Payday 2 and will support it for at least another 18 months continuing expanding the game."
According to Starbreeze, the Payday franchise has more than 14 million players across all platforms. Starting retroactively from May 1, 2016, all Payday 2 revenue on Steam goes to Starbreeze, while money from the console versions will continue to be split between 505 Games and Starbreeze.
Starbreeze subsidiary Overkill has been handling the development of Payday 2 since launch. In an update video released today, Payday 2 producer Almir Listo announced that all of the game's Black Market content was going to be free from now on.
"To further commemorate this eventful day, we are freeing up the Black Market," said Listo. "Starting with the next update for Payday 2, any old generation safe will [stop dropping]. Any new generation safe will drop completely for free. The only difference is, now you open them for free. You will still be able to trade all the old and new generation safes and items using the Steam Marketplace."
The "Black Market" refers to Payday 2's most contentious update. In October of last year, Overkill launched an update to the game adding microtransactions. Players could receive random safes during gameplay that could only be unlocked via drills that cost $2.50 each. Inside each safe were weapon skins that could be equipped or traded via the Steam marketplace. The problem is the weapon skins had a gameplay effect, boosting the stats of certain weapons.
Fans were surprised by the update, because the game's lead designer and Listo previously said that microtransactions were never coming to the title.
"No. No. God, I hope not. Never. No," Payday 2 lead designer David Goldfarb told GameSpot. Goldfarb left the studio prior to the microtransaction update, for reasons unrelated to that addition.
"We've made it clear that Payday 2 will have no micro-transactions whatsoever (shame on you if you thought otherwise!) and we've made it more clear that the Payday loot bag is part of the Career Criminal Edition as well," said Listo on the Steam community forums.
After the fan backlash to the update, Overkill offered the ability to gain drills through gameplay, but retained the rest of the microtransactions system. In a Reddit AMA, the developer said the system was working as intended.
"From an economical standpoint however, completely based on statistics, we can already see that the Black Market update is working as we intended," said Listo. "Going forward, we hope we can convince the parts of the community that resist this change that this was the right decision to do to ensure the stability of Overkill as an independent developer and the future growth of Payday 2."
A month later, Listo admitted that Overkill had screwed up.
"The past few weeks have been some of the most challenging in the history of this community," he said on the Steam forums. "Players have been angry with us, media have written about us en masse and our volunteer moderators went on strike. For all the distress we've caused the past few weeks, I'd just like to take the time and say that we're sorry. We've done a lot of things right in the past, but these past few weeks we screwed up."
For Payday fans, this is the end of a long nightmare. For Overkill and Starbreeze, hopefully it's a new start.