To directly answer the question – yes, ARK: Survival Evolved was temporarily available for free on the Epic Games Store from September 22nd to September 29th, 2022. This was a limited-time promotional giveaway, so the free claim period has now ended.
However, understanding the ins and outs around free game giveaways on digital platforms is important as a smart consumer. So let‘s dive deeper into the ARK free promotion on Epic and what it means for players.
A Quick History of ARK‘s Pricing
ARK: Survival Evolved first launched in early access on Steam in 2015, priced at $24.99. The game quickly gathered a dedicated player base and tons of buzz within the survival genre community. In 2017, it exited early access with a full release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, with the price increased to $59.99.
Since then, ARK has seen frequent discounts during seasonal sales across digital storefronts like Steam and the Epic Games Store. But the 1-week free giveaway on Epic this September was the first time the base game was available for $0…a pretty sweet deal for new and existing players!
The Benefits of Free Game Promotions
From a consumer perspective, limited-time free games are a great opportunity to permanently add popular titles to your library without spending a dime. But what‘s in it for the developers/publishers behind these promotions? There are a few strategic reasons:
Rapid user acquisition – Free games allow tens of millions of new players to be acquired in a short period. ARK gained over 6 million new users on Epic during its promotion.
Increased multiplayer engagement – Having a surge of new players benefits the health of ARK‘s online ecosystem. More people to team up with or compete against!
Awareness and interest generation – The ARK free promo coincided with the announcement trailer for ARK II. This was likely intentional to get more eyes on the franchise.
Goodwill and brand loyalty – Veteran ARK fans appreciated the giveaway as a thank you gift even if they already owned the game. This builds goodwill with Studio Wildcard.
Of course, there is a hope that some of the new free users will turn into paying customers down the line through expansion packs and in-game purchases. But boosting core game ownership is the primary goal.
A Trend of Free Survival Games
ARK joining Epic‘s weekly free game lineup continued the trend of survival crafting titles going temporarily free. Some other recent examples:
- Rust went free on Steam for a weekend in October 2021.
- Subnautica was free on Epic in December 2021.
- The Forest went free on Epic in May 2022.
Survival games tend to have devoted niche player bases that skip over mainstream buzz. Limited free giveaways are a smart way for developers to expand awareness and adoption within the core survival gaming audience.
Based on the user and engagement spikes these promotions drive, the strategy clearly works! For us players, it means keeping an eye out for future free survival game offerings.
How Often Does ARK Go on Sale?
While no longer free, ARK still sees frequent discounts on major PC game platforms:
- Steam – Major seasonal sales like Summer, Winter, and Spring knock the price down by 50-75%.
- Epic Games Store – $10-$20 coupons are common during Epic‘s biweekly sales.
- Fanatical – Bundles and vouchers lower ARK‘s Steam key price regularly.
Using deal aggregation sites like IsThereAnyDeal helps find the best current ARK discount across authorized seller. And waiting for the next Epic coupon is a safe bet for getting the game at least 50% off. Signing up for retailer newsletters ensures you never miss a ARK promo code.
Can You Still Get ARK Free on Console?
Unfortunately, the free giveaway was only available on PC via the Epic Games Store. Console gamers on PlayStation and Xbox missed out on grabbing ARK for free.
However, ARK frequently goes on sale for as low as $10-$15 on the PlayStation Store and Microsoft Store for Xbox. The Steam version is also compatible with PS Remote Play if you own both.
While not as enticing as totally free, staying patient for console sales still lets you nab ARK at a heavily reduced price. And who knows…maybe one day PlayStation Plus or Games With Gold will offer ARK as a monthly free game!
What Do You Get with the Free Version?
Downloading ARK for free on Epic during the promotion nets you the entire base game. This includes:
- The Island original map
- Hundreds of dinosaurs and creatures to tame/fight
- Deep crafting/building mechanics
- Full character progression systems
- Multiplayer servers up to 100 people
You get the complete ARK experience and core gameplay loop without paying a dime!
The only limitations are a lack of access to the paid Scorched Earth, Aberration, Extinction, and Genesis DLC expansion maps/content. But the free maps Ragnarok, Valguero, and The Center still provide tons of exploration.
Minimum and Recommended PC Specs
As an unoptimized early access game now loaded with content, ARK demands some fairly beefy PC hardware if you want a smooth experience. Here are the official minimum and recommended specs:
|CPU||Intel Core i5 / AMD FX-8320||Intel Core i7 / AMD Ryzen 5|
|GPU||NVIDIA GTX 670 2GB / AMD Radeon HD 7870||NVIDIA GTX 1070 / AMD RX 480|
|RAM||8 GB||16 GB|
|Storage||60 GB||SSD Recommended|
Gamers hoping to experience ARK properly should aim to meet or exceed the recommended specs. The game is very CPU and GPU intensive. Playing on Low quality is required if your PC is dated or low-end.
An SSD is also strongly recommended – ARK has long load times from a mechanical hard drive. Give your system extra breathing room if possible.
Control Schemes on Each Platform
One of the great aspects of ARK is that it plays well on both PC and console. That said, the controls vary significantly between platforms:
- Full keyboard and mouse controls give you unmatched accuracy and quick reactions, at the cost of a learning curve.
- Plugging in an Xbox controller is also fully supported for a more relaxed experience.
PlayStation and Xbox
- The console versions feature intuitive controller-based movement and menus designed with big TV screens in mind.
- Crafting hotkeys and weapon switching are a bit more cumbersome than mouse & keyboard though.
- Surprisingly robust touch controls make the smartphone port very playable. Auto-aim helps mitigate the lack of physical controls.
- The mobile version is also great for base building and resource gathering on-the-go.
ARK provides enough control flexibility that you can play on the platform you are most comfortable with. And you‘ll be squaring off against people using the same inputs.
File Size and Installation
Another point worth noting – ARK is a massive game that takes up a lot of drive space. Here is how it breaks down by platform:
- PC – Around 100GB
- Xbox One – 104GB
- PS4 – 99.93 GB
- Nintendo Switch – 14.4 GB
- iOS – 3.6 GB
- Android – 2.6 GB
The mobile versions are heavily compressed and lack much of the content. But all other platforms require clearing a huge chunk of free space. An external hard drive is recommended for console versions.
Also be aware of ARK‘s infamously long initial install time. Depending on your system and internet speeds, it can take hours to fully set up the first time. Be patient and avoid turning off your device mid-install to avoid file corruption.
Mod Support Adds Even More Value
On PC, ARK has robust Steam Workshop integration that lets you browse and install fan-made mods. These range from new creatures and gear to total gameplay overhauls.
Top ARK mods like Primitive Plus, Eco‘s Decor, and Castles Keeps & Forts add an insane amount of fresh content and quality of life improvements. Mods keep the game feeling new after hundreds of hours.
Console and mobile versions currently lack any official mod support. But just having the core game for free is still an amazing deal.
I hope this deep dive helped explain everything you need to know surrounding ARK‘s free promotion on Epic Games Store. While no longer available for $0, savvy shoppers can still frequently find it 50-75% off on major digital platforms.
ARK remains one of the most fully-featured survival games out there – a free copy was an incredible gift. Take the opportunity to try it out if you haven‘t already. Just be ready for a steep learning curve and hardware requirements on par with modern AAA titles.
Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to provide buying advice to fellow gamers and help you get the most bang for your buck. Enjoy surviving and taming dinosaurs!