Giving Away 5 Million Free Copies of Payday 2 Is a Brilliant Marketing Move

It’s good to live life by the credo “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” There are other similar idioms: “if it looks like a dog, walks like a dog and barks like a dog, it’s a dog,” or “call a spade a spade,” and many more. The thing is, none of those apply to the most recent announcement by Overkill Software that they will be giving away on Steam 5 million copies of Payday 2 absolutely free. First come, first serve.

“Free games” sounds too good to not be scam of some sort. It looks like a scam, walks like a scam and barks like scam, which tempts me to call a scam a scam. But it’s not. You can, right now, log onto Steam and download a full, no strings attached copy of the base game of Payday 2, and you can keep that copy forever (while supplies last). While not a scam, it is, however, a brilliant marketing move, rivaling almost any similar move in history.

It harkens back to Rocket League‘s launch, where the game was available on PlayStation Plus for free during the first month of its release. This drummed up a ton of buzz, and got way more people to play the game than perhaps otherwise would. This is assuredly a major force behind what made Rocket League as popular as it is today, routinely one of the most-played games and most-purchased games. It still made it into the top 10 most-purchased games in May, even ahead of big titles such as Prey.

Like Rocket League, Payday 2 has a lot of DLC to go along with it, so many made the snap judgment that this is the obvious reason for why they’re giving away free copies of Payday 2. Reel them in, and then nickle-and-dime them, essentially going free-to-play for 5 million people. But that’s not quite the case.

As explained in the video above, Overkill actually removed all Payday 2 DLC from the Steam store (giving players a month’s notice in advance). They did this because they are peparing to release the Payday 2: Ultimate Edition. This will include the base game and the entire library of DLC, for a price of $45, which will be offered at a 10% discount for a limited time after launch (putting the price closer to $40). Before you ask, all the DLC purchased individually would well over that price.

Giving people the base game for free will show them how fun their game can be and incentivize them to upgrade to the Ultimate Edition. If they do, then suddenly a player who was never going to play the game now spends at least $40 on it. This isn’t nefarious, either. Anyone with a good product wants to sell it to you; there’s nothing wrong with that. Overkill Software genuinely wants to deliver a great product to more people, and Payday 2, by all accounts, is a great product, DLC and all. Furthermore, as of right now, they are going to support Payday 2 until October of 2018, and all future updates after the Ultimate Edition will be completely free of charge, even if you don’t buy the Ultimate Edition.

According to SteamSpy, around 8 million people own Payday 2 on Steam, which is a good run for a game of this size. But rather than let it run its course, Overkill Software will use this surge of new players to inject new life and make it a thriving title for years to come.