Dark and Darker peaks at over 28k CCU upon its return to Steam, but players bash its misleading F2P marketing

Dark and Darker is back on Steam after more than a year away due to a legal battle with publisher Nexon. Despite decent player interest, the game received mixed reviews from users due to its new monetization model.

Dark and Darker faces backlash over misleading F2P marketing, resulting in less than 50% positive reviews on Steam

Ironmace showed the new trailer for Dark and Darker at the Summer Games Fest, announcing that the game is now available on Steam and the Epic Games Store. Most importantly, it was marketed as a free-to-play project, with a big call to action: “Play it for free.”

According to SteamDB, Dark and Darker peaked at 28,991 concurrent players a couple of days after its launch on June 7. These are solid numbers, but still far below the results of the game’s demo, which took Steam by storm in February 2023 and reached a maximum of 108,520 CCU.

Dark and Darker currently has a “Mixed” rating on Steam, with only 48% of the 7,403 reviews being positive. The main issue that players have with the game is that the new version is nothing more than a demo disguised as a free-to-play project.

In fact, you can’t access most of the game’s content without purchasing the Legendary Status upgrade for $30 worth of in-game currency. Unlike most F2P titles these days, Dark and Darker is now more of a shareware project.

It is worth noting that Ironmace always intended to distribute the game under the premium model. Last year, it launched Dark and Darker outside of Steam with the help of Korean publisher Chaf Games, selling the title at $35. However, the so-called “free-to-play” version locks the core mechanics, including the ability to go to higher-level dungeons and use rare loot you extract from the missions, behind a paywall.

Many Steam players criticized the studio for misleading marketing and suspected the devs of potential fraud. Especially given that the F2P allows Ironamce to dodge the platform’s refund policy. “The game is good and fun, but right now I wouldn’t give my money to people who don’t look honest,” one user wrote.

Faced with backlash from the community, Ironmace published a blog post explaining why Dark and Darker became “free-to-play” on Steam and EGS. The main reason is that the studio wanted to offer full access to the game to early adopters who purchased it outside of these platforms.

“Due to the large number of previous customers on [the Blacksmith launcher], it was not feasible nor fair to our platform partners for us to distribute thousands of keys to Blacksmith customers for free, increasing their risk with little benefit to them,” the post reads. “The solution to overcome the technical, logistical and contractual hurdles we faced was to transition to a Free to Play model which would allow our current customers to naturally transition to a partner platform of their choice without the use of any abusable keys.”

Ironmace acknowledged that the marketing was misleading, saying that it “should have chosen a better method to introduce it in that regard” and that it didn’t intend to deceive players. “We are currently working on solutions that take into consideration both the needs of existing and new players,” the studio noted.” Our goal is to give new players the ability to experience a complete loop of a full loot extraction experience and risk their loot while still respecting the loyalty of our existing players.”

The studio initially planned to launch the Early Access version of Dark and Darker on Steam in 2023, but had to pull the game from the store due to its legal dispute with South Korean publisher Nexon. The game’s alpha version, distributed via torrent, attracted over 450k players globally.

In addition, Ironmace partnered with PUBG maker Krafton to develop the mobile version of Dark and Darker.

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