Overkill Software has made a bold move to expand the audience of Payday 2, by giving away 5 million copies of the game for free.
The offer is available through Steam on a first come, first served basis. The 5 million people that get a free copy of Payday 2 will also receive a free copy of Payday VR, which supports cross-play with the PC version.
This move arrives ahead of Payday 2 receiving an Ultimate Edition, which will bundle together the base game with almost 40 DLC packs that have been sold since it launched in August 2013. Those DLC packs have been 85% off on Steam for the last month in anticipation of the Ultimate Edition, but they were removed from sale entirely yesterday.
The 5 million copies that Overkill is giving away will be the base game only, and recipients will only be able to buy the DLC by "upgrading" to the Ultimate Edition when it is released later in the year. The cost of upgrading will be "depend on several factors," according to Overkill, but the retail price of the Ultimate Edition has already been set at $45.
That is likely to be the maximum cost of upgrading, and Overkill has said that purchasing the base game and all of the DLC separately would be "much more expensive" than the price of the Ultimate Edition. In addition, all new content released for Payday 2 in the future will be entirely free to download.
In an FAQ accompanying the announcement, Overkill cited one of its key motives as trying "something new - only when we dare to do something different [do] we offer ourselves an opportunity to learn more. If the community reacts positively to the changes we make, we have succeeded. If the general community sentiment is negative we have failed. If we fail, we will investigate why and try our best to amend that mistake."
Overkill faced a strong backlash from the Payday 2 community when it tried to introduce microtransactions to the game in October 2015. Exactly how the community responds to this giveaway remains to be seen, but it should significantly expand the audience for the game and potentially generate a great deal of revenue through upgrades to the Ultimate Edition.
It will also create a much larger captive audience for Payday 3, which Starbreeze confirmed is in development earlier this year. Nothing has been announced regarding Payday 3's release date, but Overkill has extended support of Payday 2 from the end of this year to October 2018.