The studio also briefly explains why the free upgrade is no longer free.
A CG version of actor Vin Diesel riding atop a dinosaur on an alien planet.

Just last week, Studio Wildcard announced that not only was Ark 2 delayed but that fans would now have to pay for an upgraded version of the first game that was originally said to be free.

In the original announcement, Studio Wildcard said that even though you already own the original Ark: Survival Evolved, you would have to pay another $49.99 to get the Ark Respawned Bundle, which was to include both Ark: Survival Ascended (the Unreal Engine 5 upgrade of the original game) plus Ark 2. Then, if you also wanted the upgraded versions of the first game's expansions, you would need to pay another $40 for two additional bundles. All told, that would set you back $90, on top of what you already spent on the non-upgraded versions of this content.

Well, good news! Studio Wildcard has heard the very vocal complaints and has decided to scrap the Ark Respawned Bundle as it existed and make a new bundle... that costs more and that also doesn't include Ark 2.

A community update posted to Steam from Studio Wildcard says that Ark: Survival Ascended will be released as a standalone package that includes the upgraded base game along with DLC bundles (when they're ready). This new bundle will now cost you $60. This is $10 more than the original bundle, but now includes the DLC, which was previously going to be sold separately. However, you aren't getting Ark 2 in this bundle now.

ARK: Survival Ascended will now be a standalone package released on every platform (PC Windows/Steam, Xbox Series S/X, and PlayStation 5) at $59.99. The package will include the following pieces of content built-in (not sold separately), with each remastered and altered for the next-generation:
  • The Island (Released at Launch)
  • Survival of the Fittest: The Island & Scorched Earth map variants (Released at Launch)
  • Scorched Earth (Released at Launch)
  • Aberration (Released by Q4 2023)
  • Extinction (Released by Q1 2024)
  • Genesis Part 1 (Released by Q1 2024)
  • Genesis Part 2 (Released by Q2 2024)
  • All the community-created maps are also to be released over time in 2024 (Fjordur, Ragnarok, The Center, Lost Island, Valguero, Crystal Isles)​
What isn't included in this new community update from Studio Wildcard is how much Ark 2 will cost at release. At best, Ark 2 will cost $30 at launch. This would result in a total cost of $90 for this new Ark: Survival Ascended bundle plus Ark 2 purchase, or the exact same price as if you bought the Ark Respawned Bundle and DLC packs. If Studio Wildcard decides to charge players more than $30 for Ark 2, this would result in players having to pay more to get the same amount of content outlined in the first announcement. If Ark 2 ends up going for $50 (the cost of the original bundle), you will end up paying $110 if you purchase everything under as stated in the latest announcement.

Studio Wildcard certainly backed themselves into a corner here. Even with this latest announcement, fans are not thrilled.

In the community update post, Studio Wildcard also talked about why there is even a charge for the upgrade in the first place. As noted in our original report, co-founder of Studio Wildcard Jeremy Stieglitz said back in January that this Unreal Engine 5 upgrade would be free.

No longer a backward-compatible free update?
Initially, when we had first considered doing an Unreal 5 upgrade, we planned just to port the Switch version of the game and undo the ‘graphical’ limitations required for that hardware. We weren’t going to maximize the potential of the new technology, we weren’t going to introduce new gameplay changes, and we weren’t going to make critical design changes that would have had an impact on existing save data.

After carefully considering what would be the best outcome for those who enjoy ARK: Survival Evolved and would want to continue to enjoy it in the years to come, we decided that our initial plan would not be sufficient. We want to provide you with an evergreen classic ARK experience, one that can continue to grow over time on a cleaned-up code base, making use of the new technological advancements not only in the industry but also in what we are working on with ARK 2.

We weren’t trying to mislead you with earlier comments; our plans and overall intentions changed. So you're probably asking, why don’t we make these upgrades to the original ARK: Survival Evolved (ASE)? Frankly, it would not be viable. Many of the changes we’re making in ARK: Survival Ascended will touch a lot of aspects of the game; it’ll invalidate save data, some mods may not be functional, some things may not play the same way as they did before, and we didn’t want to change that experience for those who prefer it or are unable to upgrade.​
Studio Wildcard still says that they plan to take official Ark: Survival Evolved servers offline come August 31. Their solution to these servers being taken offline is to host your own server for online play, or find a community-run server to play on. Offline play will still continue to function as normal.