Metal Slug-inspired shoot-em-up Mercenary Kings launched on the PlayStation 4 earlier this month as a part of the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection. What that means is Plus subscribers were able to download the game from its first day of availability without paying a dime to developer Tribute Games, a decision the company says it doesn't regret.
"I'm happy we traded a bit of risk for a PS Plus deal," co-founder Jean-Francois Major told Gamasutra. "Maybe we could've done better on our own, but the PS Plus deal was a safe bet. We'll gamble a bit more on the next project!"
Mercenary Kings was originally released on PC as a Steam Early Access game last July. It was then officially released this past March, just prior to its launch on PlayStation 4 on April 1. The game takes clear cues from classic shoot-em-ups, but mixes in elements not typically seen in the genre like crafting and customization.
While the possibility of selling a game isn't completely removed while it's free on PlayStation Plus--not everyone is a Plus member, after all--it's not as if companies aren't compensated for participating. Other developers that have given away their games through Plus have been hesitant to share exact numbers, and with deals being worked out on a game-by-game basis (according to a previous Gamasutra report), they wouldn't necessarily reveal anything about Tribute's arrangement. But a number of them have said that, besides the money, they don't regret being included because doing so builds up their respective fan bases.
Despite that, Tribute still could have ended up unhappy due to Mercenary Kings being free right at launch, unlike many games, which aren't given away through Plus until months or years after release. Instead, Major sees the Instant Game Collection as serving a similar purpose to Steam sales. "While it may keep some from buying your game day one, in the end, it doesn't really kill sales - it allows you to reach a bigger audience that might not be willing to try your game at the premium price," he said.
Mercenary Kings remains a free download on the PlayStation 4 for PlayStation Plus members. A PlayStation Vita version is currently in development and will be a cross-buy title with the PS4 version upon release.