There’s been a storm brewing around ARK: Survival Evolved this last week. Studio Wildcard surprised us all with the launch of the $30 ARK: Scorched Earth expansion for a game which is still in Early Access, and a number of fans are understandably displeased.

Studio Wildcard attempted to stifle the flames with a message to the ARK community, saying “we are absolutely committed to driving aggressive development towards a solid, feature-robust game launch for ARK: Survival Evolved.

“It’s not always easy, but our intent is ever-forward progress towards a retail release that will be far more ambitious in scope and features than our original vision when we launched ARK into Steam Early Access in June 2015.”

So development of ARK: Survival Evolved continues ahead, although that doesn’t really address the key issue here. Millions of players have forked out for the Early Access version of Survival Evolved under the assumption that their money would go towards finishing development of the base game, rather than funding a $30 expansion which they’re then going to have to buy on top of the original purchase.

“Our original vision for ARK always included the creation of Expansion ARKs [like the Scorched Earth expansion], along with the infrastructure and technical systems to transfer data dynamically between live ARKs,” Studio Wildcard said in an attempt to justify its decision.

“We determined that it is more sound to iterate on these systems during Early Access than after retail launch, given the significant risks involved if we didn't "get it right". While that meant unveiling the first Expansion early, it also means an easier time integrating further post-launch Expansions into the ARK network.”

There’s arguments to be made on both sides here, and whatever the outcome it’s an unprecedented step for an Early Access title which others are surely going to replicate. For me personally it leaves a sour taste in my mouth, and it’s not like Studio Wildcard are strapped for cash; SteamSpy estimates there around four million players on PC alone, with console players still to take into account.

For all the drama surrounding it though, it doesn’t seem have mattered one jot to players’ appetite for the online survival game. ARK: Scorched Earth is already a Steam bestseller and the base game is also in the top five.

So where do you stand on releasing paid expansions and DLC for a game still in Early Access? Has Studio Wildcard done right by fans here, or do you feel those who purchased it have been duped? Let us know your thoughts below!