Gearbox Software’s Battleborn has always been the runt of the FPS-MOBA genre. Trailing behind Blizzard’s Overwatch and the immediate popularity of Hi-Rez’s Paladins: Champions of the Realm, players have been speculating for awhile that Gearbox’s attempt to break into the genre may face a free-to-play version. While Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford denies these plans, he has confirmed, according to Kotaku, that there will be a “trial version of the game that would be free.”
Pitchford announced Gearbox’s trial version plans after Kotaku’s Jason Schreier reported that Battleborn would receive some sort of free-to-play announcement in mid-November. According to his report, an anonymous source “familiar with plans for the game” claimed 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.” His source suggested that 2K changed their mind after seeing Evolve‘s recent performance thanks to their free-to-play move.
After the story broke, Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford took to Twitter, calling the Kotaku report “reckless.” According to him, there are “no plans to convert Battleborn free to play,” although an unannounced free trial version would feature the ability to purchase retail and DLC.
We have some unannounced plans to do a trial version of the game that would be free and from which retail can be purchased along with DLC.
— Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) September 29, 2016
I don't think timed demo is right. I think we need to sort our plans FIRST and then announce them. Call in a few months.
— Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) September 30, 2016
A move to free-to-play would certainly make sense for the struggling shooter. Even though Battleborn‘s price tag has dropped in recent months, placing a retail tag on the game is still a barrier for many players. By opening the game up to certain free-to-play models, even if just a trial demo, then Battleborn would be able to draw in more players to help keep its playerbase healthy. From there, Gearbox could make profits off potential DLC releases.
Suffice to say, more news on Gearbox Software’s decision will come into play in the near future. If Kotaku’s source is accurate, then we may have an official announcement by the middle of November.