H1Z1 has had a troubled story, to say the least. The battle royale zombie survival shooter has gone through several makeovers, split into separate projects, and angered fans by introducing pay-to-win mechanics into a paid early access experience, one that has languished in buggy development for over three years. Two weeks ago, it was reported that the game had lost 91% of its player base in less than a year—not great news for a game that would release in the next week. Sure enough, H1Z1 quietly left Early Access last Wednesday, February 28, with a new Autoroyale vehicle-only mode tacked on. However, it appears as if developer Daybreak is unsatisfied with the number of new adopters. Announced today, H1Z1 will be going free-to-play.
You asked, we heard you. #H1Z1 is going FREE TO PLAY on Steam! All the details can be found right here >> https://t.co/EFYD8x68Vq ! Been with us this whole time? We've got an Appreciation Pack waiting for you, too. #H1FREE1 pic.twitter.com/t77VEQt5pe
— H1Z1 (@H1Z1) March 8, 2018
This development is likely a bitter pill to swallow for those who paid full price for the game just one week ago, even if the “Appreciation Pack” given as consolation does include some branded clothing and in-game goodies such as loot boxes and vehicle skins (luckily, refunds will still likely be given by Steam). Fret not though—those dedicated to the cause of spending money on the game can now purchase Bronze, Silver, or Gold “Battle Royale Packs,” which offer players up to $100 in unlockables and unique items.
While some may see this as an attempt to stem the hemorrhaging of the player base, General Manager Anthony Castoro says that the decision “signifies the next step in making H1Z1 a must-watch esport.“ This follows the announcement that, in April, the H1PL will kick off in Las Vegas, following the franchise model used by Overwatch and League of Legends and including essential teams like C9, CLG, and TSM.
The market for battle royale games is still as big as ever, but with Fortnite and PUBG maintaining their stranglehold on the competition—and a lot of goodwill lost over the last three years—it will be interesting to see if H1Z1 can fight off the seemingly inevitable.