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Robotoki pays a price for abandoning F2P in favor of premium dev

Robert Bowling's indie studio has ended its publishing deal with Nexon and laid off staff as it moves to make its formerly F2P project Human Element a premium game.
L.A.-based indie studio Robotoki has decided to abandon the free-to-play design of its upcoming debut title Human Element and now plans to release the game as a premium product in November 2015. As a consequence, the studio agreed to end its publishing agreement with free-to-play giant Nexon and has laid off a portion of its staff. "As the game evolved we realized that the elements that make Human Element the most fun would be hindered by keeping it a free-to-play experience," wrote Robotoki founder Robert Bowling in an email to Gamasutra. "Therefore, we made the decision to switch to a premium experience for our players; which also meant that working with the premier publisher in free-to-play was no longer the best partnership fit for the game we were creating." A former Infinity Ward employee, Bowling founded Robotoki in 2012 after resigning from his position as creative strategist for the Call of Duty franchise. Nexon made a strategic investment in the studio in 2013, then agreed to publish Human Element earlier this year. "Nexon and Robotoki have come to a mutual decision to end their publishing agreement for the game Human Element," stated a Nexon America representative. "As development of the project progressed the direction of the game naturally evolved, and it no longer aligns with the Nexon portfolio." Bowling says Robotoki has already found a new publisher for Human Element and expects to formally announce the partnership next month.

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