ARK: Survival Ascended is Giving Game Studios the Ability to Build DLC-Level Mods

A closer look at the rise of ‘Professional Modding’ and the ARKathon, ARK: Survival Ascended’s official modding contest.

January 11, 2024
ARK Modding Hero image

Modding has always been a beacon of creativity and innovation in the gaming world. Just look at everything that’s been going on with Fortnite. Through Unreal Engine for Fortnite (UEFN), creators can easily craft new experiences within the Fortnite universe. This streamlined tool removes barriers and attracts aspiring creators looking to explore Unreal Engine 5 - whether for career aspirations, generating income, or simply the joy of creation as a side venture.

What's even more remarkable is that professional game development studios have recognized the immense potential of UEFN. Studios are harnessing this UE5 devkit tool to create full-fledged experiences within Fortnite, which are then enjoyed by millions of players and create astounding revenue streams for the studios.

In this new era of gaming, the line between professional development and modding has blurred. No longer seen as just “nice to have” side projects, mods now offer limitless possibilities–for both individual creators and studios.

Creation Tools that Empower Creativity

Another game embracing this trend is ARK: Survival Ascended, the popular survival game completely reimagined and rebuilt beautifully in Unreal Engine 5. During the game’s development, Studio Wildcard decided not only to embrace modding but also to elevate it. In collaboration with CurseForge for Studios, Studio Wildcard made two bold moves by fully integrating mods discovery and management in-game and by supporting cross-play on modded servers.

This meant that the ARK:SA’s mods library is accessible by the entire player base, and players could meet together on a single server and enjoy modded gaming experiences together - regardless of whether they play from PC or game consoles like Xbox. 

But Studio Wildcard's commitment to empowering community creation didn't stop there. They introduced a robust Unreal Engine 5 devkit akin to UEFN, streamlining the mod creation process and adding sample files that make it easy to jump in and tinker. With it, ARK creators could craft everything from new dinosaurs and creatures to new structures and weapons. They can even create entirely new maps, game modes, and full-scale DLC-level mods.

The powerful ARK:SA devkit also holds another strong ace - an innovative new tech that Studio Wildcard calls “Cloud Cooking”. Put simply, with Cloud Cooking, modders no longer need to create separate versions of their mods for each platform. Rather, modders can now build their new creation once on PC, and seamlessly publish straight from the devkit to all platforms with one simple click. They upload their source code once, and the CurseForge cloud tech does all the rest.

Cloud cooking inline image

Empowered by these tools, creators responded with enthusiasm right out of the gate, crafting hundreds of high-quality mods that were gobbled up by the player community, astonishingly resulting in over 76,000,000 mod downloads during the first three months after the game’s launch!

New Revenue Stream Options for Game Studios

Another key feature introduced with the launch of ARK:SA was Premium Mods. While Studio Wildcard considers free mods to be a key pillar of the game, the studio saw space for a new level of mods to exist. These Premium Mods are envisioned as integral content elements for the game, available for purchase like in-house DLC.

And, as is the case with UEFN, Premium Mods open up exciting new revenue streams for both top-tier modders and established game studios. Moreover, it invites creative studios to bring their original content and IP into ARK:SA, and have it experienced by millions of players cross-platform. Several game studios such as Blue Isle Studios are already crafting remarkable DLC-level content for ARK:SA, setting a precedent for others to follow.

Introducing The Official $350,000 Mod Contest - The ARKathon

In celebration of the launch of ARK:SA, Studio Wildcard and CurseForge are holding an official modding contest with a $350,000 prize pool - called the ARKaton (ARK+hackathon). The ARKathon is a 2-month-long modding challenge with two unique tracks - one for modders, and the other dedicated for game studios.

With a grand prize of a $100,000 development grant, now is the perfect time for game studios to explore creating DLC-level Premium Mods in ARK:SA - bringing their unique IP to life, and opening up new revenue streams.

ARK:SA is not just a game, it's a revolution in the modding landscape that blends creativity, accessibility, and commercial potential. The ARKathon offers a substantial incentive for studios through massive development grants and prizes. It's an open invitation to game studios and modders to explore new horizons in modding, create without limits, and be part of a community-driven narrative that's just beginning to unfold.

For more information about how you can take part in it, click here.