Struggling Action-RPG Ditching The Always-Online Microtransaction Model Everyone Hates

Struggling Action-RPG Ditching The Always-Online Microtransaction Model Everyone Hates

Today, Airship Syndicate announced the return of its online action-RPG Wayfinder, albeit with a few key differences. Though the game was pulled from Steam while its previous publisher, Digital Extremes (Warframe), was transferring the rights to developer Airship, it is set to land on the storefront again on June 11 with a massive new content update called Echoes. The biggest news, however, is that this update and relaunch will see Wayfinder abandon its previous microtransactions, as well as the always-online model, and shift to being a one-time purchase, early access title.

After Wayfinder’s previous publisher, Digital Extremes, cut its external publishing arm late last year, things looked grim for the online action-RPG. Having barely survived its turbulent early access launch, the developers at Airship Syndicate had to suddenly take over publishing Wayfinder, which involved temporarily delisting the game earlier this year and hoping its small-but-dedicated fanbase wouldn’t turn on it before the studio could bring it back better than ever. Now, though, Wayfinder appears to be coming back with “a more sustainable business model for Airship moving forward.”

Launching on June 11th, the Echoes update and relaunch of Wayfinder on Steam will rip out all of the game’s microtransactions, making it so that anything (like armour, characters, weapons, etc.) that were previously purchasable can now be gained in-game. To make up for that change, Wayfinder, which was free-to-play when it first launched, will now be priced at $US24.99 while it is in early access, though the price will rise when it comes out of it later this fall.

According to Airship’s president Ryan Stefanelli, “We’ve seen a shift in the industry where players are OK paying for a premium title if it means respect for their time and wallets. It’s one we prefer ourselves, frankly, and we believe it’ll make the game much easier for people to enjoy.” Stefanelli is more than likely referring to games such as Hades and Baldur’s Gate 3, which all launched in early access and fully released to acclaim and huge financial success. Reps at Larian have gone on the record saying that early access was instrumental in Baldur’s Gate 3’s success and that the studio is likely to go the same route for its next game. Hades 2, which just launched in early access last week, is already pulling in even greater numbers than the first game. When done right, the move has obviously paid dividends.

Players who previously purchased Wayfinder on Steam can begin playing the Echoes update when it “soft launches” on May 31, and new players can jump in and buy the game on June 11, when it officially releases. PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 players are able to continue playing Wayfinder until the Echoes update drops on PS5 later in the summer, at which point the PS4 version of the game will stop being supported. All existing PS4 versions of the game will be automatically updated to PS5 for free, though. Wayfinder will also be coming to Xbox systems when it comes out of early access in the fall.

The other major change the Echoes update will introduce is the removal of Wayfinder’s MMO-lite online experience. Though it was never truly an MMO, Wayfinder featured an always-online component that randomly placed folks into servers with a number of other players, not unlike Destiny 2. Now though, Wayfinder will have an offline mode as well as the option to play cooperatively with up to two other players, which it always featured. This change seems like it should make the game more stable and, as the announcement post suggests, “allows for gameplay on devices like the Steam Deck and home PCs,” where it’s previously struggled.

The Echoes update will also bring new content that Airship has been working on, including a new region, a new playable character named Grendel, and a number of new hunts. It also reworks various systems and introduces others to Wayfinder to accommodate for the shift from a microtransaction-ridden live-service title to a premium early access game, such as “randomized weapon drops, armour with variable stats, and an easier process for acquiring new characters,” as well as traditional RPG features like a talent system and much needed quality-of-life changes like four difficulty levels.

I fell for Wayfinder after taking a preview at PAX East last year, and am actually really happy to see all of these changes come to the game. When it finally did release last summer, the game was a mess, which turned me off to playing it. Instead, I spent the next few months watching the player count dwindle and seeing the game become the butt of jokes before Digital Extremes unceremoniously cut ties with it. Though there’s no telling if this will actually be the triumphant comeback of Wayfinder, Airship’s messaging is at least far more assured than it’s ever been before, and the promise of a more stable game and model for both the developers and players is more than enough to win me over.

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