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Gearbox makes Battleborn multiplayer free to play

But CEO Randy Pitchford insists the online shooter isn't actually "free-to-play"

Gearbox Software's Battleborn will soon switch to a new business model, one that allows players to access the game's competitive multiplayer with no time limits or level caps.

The free tier includes a rotating selection of six playable characters, the full range of growth and progression options, and all four multiplayer game modes - with a fifth to be added later this month. Players will be able to download the free content from June 13.

However, players can pay to "upgrade" Battleborn to what is essentially the retail version at any time, unlocking eight story mode missions, a prologue, all of the game's characters, while also gaining permanent access to private matches. In addition, the Battleborn marketplace will sell characters, skins, new missions, and various other items for those who want to modify the free content without fully upgrading.

However, while this sounds very much like a free-to-play game, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford remains adamant that it isn't so. In September last year, Pitchford took issue with a "reckless" Kotaku report that revealed plans to switch Battleborn to a free-to-play model. The company had "no plans" to do so, he said, before teasing what he described as a "trial version" of the game.

This model appears to be what Pitchford was describing, and he fielded further queries on Twitter about whether free-to-play was a more appropriate description.

However it is described, though, Battleborn's shift away from premium to a model that gives a substantial portion of the game away for free was motivated in part by its commercial performance. Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Battleborn publisher Take-Two, said that the company was satisfied with its reception among players and critics, but that it was "a bit of a disappointment" in economic terms.

Given that Battleborn launched in May 2016, the same month as Overwatch, that's hardly surprising, and analysts have been predicting that Battleborn would switch to a free model since July 2016.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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