ARK: Survival Evolved has been on my radar for quite some time now. Back when the game first released on early access, I thought it looked awesome. I was pretty certain my computer at the time wouldn't be able to run it, but that pre-built (now pile of crap) had surprised me before. A friend of mine surprised me with a code for the game as a gift so I could join in with the group of people he was already playing with. Turns out my gut had been right, and my pre-built had absolutely no luck playing ARK: Survival Evolved. A few in-person LAN parties later, and I was even more sad about the situation.
Once I got around to building my own computer, one that could very easily play ARK, I was too caught up in life, work, and everything else that comes with adulting. This late in the game, I could even check out ARK on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One if I wanted. It's this move to consoles and the upcoming full release that has brought ARK back into my mind. I was already thinking about exploring the game again, but then Studio Wildcard introduced something radical. Today they announced a partnership with server provider, Nitrado. The company is already hosting servers for ARK: Survival Evolved players on PC and PlayStation 4. When September rolls around, private servers will be available for ARK on Xbox One as well.
This private server announcement kind of came out of left field for me. I was surprised not only to see that it was happening, but that it was going to be available for consoles as well. I've heard of official private PC servers, but for some to be available on consoles is pretty unique. My first reaction to the news was to think back to my Second Life days. I don't bring it up often, because I generally get made fun of for it, but yes, I was a Second Life-r in my college days. I met my absolute best friend there, so I don't regret it one bit. It doesn't mean I don't recognize that I'll be made fun of for it either, but I digress.
The point I'm getting at with this reference is, back in the hey day of Second Life, users could “rent” land in the game and do whatever they want with it. This is a similar concept to what Studio Wildcard is introducing into ARK: Survival Evolved. Users in Second Life lived out alternative lives with friends, family, and strangers. Players of ARK will be able to do the same. Probably with more friends and family than strangers, since they'll be paying for it, but you just never know! Maybe “searching for ARK family members” listings will pop up on Craigslist. (Stranger things have happened.)
When I first heard about Second Life's rental opportunities, I simultaneously thought it was absolutely crazy and inspiringly brilliant. For those that were renting, I couldn't really fathom why they would spend real, hard earned cash on a virtual environment that could disappear as soon as the game/service went south. On the other side, I thought it was genius for those on the receiving end of said money. They're making money on something that isn't real! How brilliant is that?
This isn't such a foreign concept now, since private servers for games can actually be really useful. Game quality and playability goes up, and you don't have to worry about randos wandering in on and ruining all your hard work. Even still, I think private server providers like Nitrado have the right idea. They don't have to create anything in the physical realm, they just have to provide a virtual service. For this, they'll be paid pretty handsomely.
The predetermined prices for ARK: Survival Evolved servers are $13 for a month with the capabilities to host 10 players. $16.90 will get you 16 players for a month's time. The last preset server package costs $31.85 and gets you a month on your private server with 32 players. Nitrado also offers a customizable option where you can create your own private server packages that run as low as $3.25 (10 players for three days) and as high as $897 (100 players for a year). As someone who doesn't have a lot of disposable income, anything past about a month seems like too heavy a price to pay. There are certain discounts if you buy server time in bulk, as in 90 or 365 days. However, this is a really great service for those who really love this game and have the excess money that they can spend on it. There's also the ability for friends to split costs, if they so choose. If all 100 players on the largest server paid a fair share for a year of service they'd only end up spending about nine dollars for the whole year. It's really not a bad deal.
It's been really interesting, on a personal level, to see the evolution from Second Life rentals to ARK: Survival Evolved private servers. The former was made fun of back in the day, except by those that took advantage of it. Now the latter makes perfect sense to those that use it, and even those that have nothing to do with it can see the benefit. If ARK is introducing private servers on consoles, it'll be interesting to see what games now and in the future follow suit. Will official private servers become the norm for sandbox and survival type games? Maybe we'll see the same service arrive for games like Conan Exiles, or other unreleased titles. It's an interesting thought and could potentially mark the beginning of a brand new booming side business in the video game industry.
Image Credit: Andrew Steel YouTube