Update: GameSpot pulled the curtain back to reveal a this was one of the more subtle pranks of the day, so Dark Souls 2 will remain cruel to newbies after all.
Dark Souls 2 will be getting an update to ease players in more gently, at the expense of souls. A "Bonfire Sybaritic" effigy will come with an upcoming patch, earning you less souls but making enemies easier. Players who activate the effigy will also retain full health while Hollowed, and use stamina less quickly.
In a note on the Japanese site (via GameSpot), designer Hidetaka Miyazaki explained that it is using this method to keep from interfering with those who want the normal, punishing Dark Souls experience.
"While the majority of our fans prefer the intense difficulty of [Dark Souls 2], fan feedback and user testing have revealed that it's also the biggest barrier to bringing new players into the experience," he said. "We wanted to introduce an item that makes the game more manageable for newcomers." He also said that he hopes players who get used to the game systems by using the effigy can then feel more comfortable going back to the normal difficulty.
The effigy will be available for 500 souls near the beginning of the game, and the first purchase will be free. You can nullify the effects afterwards by burning a Bonfire Ascetic. The patch is set to hit Japan later this month, but no date was given for North America.