Having helped establish the Battle Royale genre, H1Z1 is now going from up-front purchase to a free-to-play model just a week after launch.
First building on the popularity of survival game DayZ, and then a progenitor of the Battle Royale genre currently being dominated by Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, H1Z1 is now making the transition from paid retail game to free-to-play.
Announced in 2014, H1Z1 capitalised on enthusiasm for another title, DayZ, blending zombie apocalypse survival with elements of military simulation.
Made available as an in-development title in 2015, it helped drive the growth of a subsequent genre, Battle Royale, in which scores of players face off against each other in a scramble to survive.
But over the course of 2017, Battle Royale became synonymous with PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (or PUBG), steered by an ex-DayZ consultant, and a project that came to dominate Steam's PC gaming platform before launching on Xbox One by the end of the year.
PUBG is now most frequently associated with Fortnite: Battle Royale rather than H1Z1: Fortnite mimics the basic format of PUBG, but presents itself in a bright, caricatured style, makes heavy use of limited time events, and trades as a free-to-play title across PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
In this context, the transition of H1Z1 from retail to free-to-play would have been entirely necessary: rather than eviscerating itself against PUBG's critical mass, it can offer a realism-themed alternative to Fortnite.
Yet as recently as February 2018, H1Z1 was identifying itself as a retail game.
Though first proposed as free-to-play with paid access only during that public development phase, by February 2016 Daybreak had rejected the free model – "at this time, we do not have any plans to make [H1Z1] Free-to-Play" it wrote.
And even by the time of its Feb 28 launch this year, it told Polygon that "there are no plans to transition to free-to-play in the future," making Thursday's flip a rather sudden switch.
But according to data-tracking service SteamSpy, launch day barely made an impact: Steam ownership increased by less than 2% over the following week.
In addition to announcing the free-to-play change, Daybreak also rolled out an Appreciation Pack for existing players, three packs of optional Bronze (US$19.99/RM78.29), Silver (US$49.99/RM195.79) and Gold (US$99.99/RM391.61) packs, and plans for a H1Z1 Pro League – beating PUBG and Fortnite to the pro league punch – which is to be streamed through Facebook and will begin April 21. — AFP Relaxnews