The Culling: Origins director addresses criticism of new monetization model
According to Xaviant, the new pay-to-play online model for The Culling comes from a place of caution and fear of the game growing unsustainably fast again.
The Culling: Origins turned heads when it was announced to be coming back, but definitely not as Xaviant was probably hoping. A strange new monetization model that gave players one free online match per day before requiring the purchase of tokens to play further drew the ire of players. It’s a situation that has been softened, and the Director of Operations at Xaviant, Josh Van Veld, has since spoken to the matter, saying the team was “terrified” of coming back and biting off more than they could chew.
Josh Van Veld addressed The Culling: Origins’ bumpy return and monetization model on May 19, 2020, as reported by PC Gamer. When the game first relaunched on May 14, 2020, it was launched with a system that gave players a taste of one free online game a day before either winning their way to more or buying tokens or passes to engage in further games. According to Van Veld, the reasoning was that the team feared another early failing.
“We were kind of terrified of everybody coming back, overloading the servers, costing us a tonne of money and not spending anything. So we were afraid to turn that dial.”
Despite this, Van Veld admits the outcome of that reasoning was far too stiff. As of the launch, players are now given 10 tokens per day to play online matches instead of one. This doesn’t include access to offline content and match wins provide a free token. Even so, Van Veld says the rest of the system they have in place is necessary for the game at the moment.
“We were spending tens of thousands of dollars every month…” Van Veld further explained. “We tried the model of getting huge and we couldn't afford to make it work. I think if we were backed by a big publisher and had deeper pockets when we had all of those original free-to-play players, we probably could have done something with it, but we were not equipped to ride that storm out for six months and then grow it.”
It seems pretty clear that Xaviant and The Culling aren’t expecting to go toe-to-toe with major free-to-play titles like Apex Legends and Fortnite, but rather cultivate a slowly, growing community that might try the game for a little bit and stay with it and spend money on it only if they like it. Van Veld regrets the original messaging of the pitch which seemed to be asking players to pay to return to it. Instead, he posed a more humble invitation.
“If you like it or you want to try it, please join us to try it out see if you like it enough to spend money on it,” Van Veld concluded. “And if you do, we'd love you to keep playing it because, at that point, you could make a purchase and then have that opportunity to play ten matches a day every day for as long as you want to. If you love it more than that, go ahead and buy a reasonably priced pass, and that'll let you play as much as you want. That'll be something that you can decide to re-up whenever you want to, and if you stop playing you'll never spend another cent.”
It’s still a very strange model to say the least, but the reasoning behind Xaviant’s cautious decisions about the game seem more than valid. It remains to be seen if Van Veld and The Culling team can build the cautiously growing player base they might be hoping for with their current model, but The Culling: Origins is nonetheless available on Xbox One with a PC return promised later on this year.
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