In a recent post on Steam, Studio Wildcard announced that the free-to-play standalone title, ARK: Survival of the Fittest, will now be incorporated as a part of the ARK: Survival Evolved package. For everyone who has already played Survival of the Fittest, they will be able to continue playing without having to own ARK: Survival Evolved. Many more announcements were also covered on the Steam post, such as the 100v100 ‘Naughty or Nice’ event coming this September, the release of a Survival of the Fittest Development Kit, and more.
"As we look to the future of SotF, we came to a decision: Survival of the Fittest will be brought back internally as part of the ARK: Survival Evolved package." As for reasons why it is no longer free-to-play, monetization is the primary factor. As with any free-to-play, there are always expenses such as development and maintaining servers, which is why Studio Wildcard will be bundling Survival of the Fittest with Survival Evolved, with them saying, "With SotF being part of ARK: Survival Evolved, it’ll be able to draw from Survival Evolved resource pool directly, and enable us to continue operating the title.
Also announced by Studio Wildcard co-developer, ARK: Survival Evolved has sold over 5.5 million copies since its release last year, with over four million copies on PC and over one million on the Xbox One. Co-founder of Studio Wildcard, Jeremy Stieglitz, said "The launch was an unexpected success, but that’s also a double edged sword because when it succeeds at that level, it kind of raises expectations about how ambitious the game is going to be, and how large of a scope it is going to have when it is finished."
Stieglitz also went on to say, "We have especially blown the doors open on what we had originally planned in terms of number of creatures, features and technical complexity. When we launched we didn’t even plan on having modding support, which has become a huge aspect of the game’s appeal and life cycle on PC."