The underperforming hero shooter Battleborn will go free-to-play within the couple of months, a person familiar with plans for the game told Kotaku. Word is the announcement will come by mid-November, but that could change. (We hear the move has already been delayed a couple of times.)
The source, speaking under condition of anonymity, said that developer Gearbox had wanted to make Battleborn free-to-play from the get-go, but publisher 2K preferred to sell it as a standard $60 retail product. The game flopped, in part thanks to a glut of hero shooters like Blizzard’s Overwatch, which launched in the same month as Battleborn. Although the two games are somewhat different—and Fahey tells us Battleborn is pretty good—Overwatch has dominated the market.
Battleborn’s price has been steadily decreasing since it came out in May, and the game is now selling for just $20 at Amazon and some other retailers. The developers have regularly held events and released new content for the game, including free heroes and PVP maps. Gearbox also plans to release story missions and more heroes later this year. The studio will likely offer some sort of reward for current players once Battleborn goes free, although those plans have not yet been finalized, according to the source.
Gearbox and 2K have not yet returned requests for comment.
In an earnings call last month, Take-Two Interactive boss Strauss Zelnick acknowledged that Battleborn had flopped and hinted that they’d switch gears. (Take-Two is the parent company of 2K.) “While the game launched to solid reviews, its performance in the market has been below our expectations,” Zelnick said. “We think there remains an opportunity to grow the audience for this unique experience over time and 2K will continue to drive engagement and recurrent consumer spending on the title through add-on content and virtual currency.”
One of the inspirations for this decision, the source said, is the success of 2K’s Evolve, which went free-to-play on PC in July and skyrocketed to the top of Steam’s charts. After going free, Evolve saw its concurrent player count jump from the hundreds to over 25,000.
Gearbox also plans to publish a remastered version of Bulletstorm for current-gen consoles, the source confirmed. News of that remaster leaked out earlier today. Alongside Homeworld and the upcoming Duke Nukem 3D remaster, this is part of a new Gearbox effort to publish games and secure its footing as an independent developer.
Update (7:55pm): Here’s Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford denying this story:
And then mentioning that there will indeed be some sort of free version of the game:
In a subsequent tweet to me, Pitchford confirmed that this is not a timed demo:
So if it’s not a timed demo, what is it? It seems like maybe we’re just arguing over semantics, but what I’ve heard is that there will be a free multiplayer mode or modes, while the story missions and DLC will be behind a paywall. Some heroes will be paid and others will be free, and the game may include a League of Legends-style “hero rotation,” according to the source. Guess we’ll see in a few months.