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H1Z1's Early Access launch was kind of a disaster

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Zombie-themed survival game H1Z1 launched Thursday evening on Steam's Early Access platform, only to encounter multiple user authentication issues that kept the majority of players out of the game until this morning.

The Sony Online Entertainment social media team worked tirelessly, as did the technical staff, but it's hard to call the game's launch night anything less than a disaster.

The team at SOE had everything going for it in the lead-up to yesterday afternoon. The online communities that focus on Arma mods, DayZ, Infestation: Survivor Stories and other similarly themed games were practically frothing at the mouth to see what a big name like Sony could muster in the survival genre.

To whip the fanbase into a frenzy, the marketing team at SOE had signed up a veritable legion of popular Twitch personalities to go live yesterday the moment servers were turned on. More than two dozen channels featured the game prominently in their banner. Many streamers wore H1Z1 T-shirts, with one woman actually dressed in zombie makeup. All of it was embedded into H1Z1's own game launcher.


The unlock on Steam, slated for 3 p.m. ET, was pushed back roughly two hours, a minor inconvenience that only served to focus attention on the streamers. By the time the gates opened one popular Twitch player, Lirik, had more than 55,000 viewers on his channel.

It's at that precise moment when everything seemed to go wrong for the team at H1Z1. No one seemed to be able to actually log into the game, and instead of people having a good time with their new intellectual property, the carefully laid marketing strategy devolved into two dozen broadcasts of thinly veiled nerd rage.

That's when the president of SOE himself, John Smedley, threw himself into the breach on Twitter.

With more than 200 servers going live in their data center, things seemed tense on SOE's end. Smedley's tweets were parroted by the official H1Z1 Twitter account, which, by Polygon's count, put on at least 7,000 additional followers since yesterday.

With new hardware coming online at close to 10 p.m. ET, it then took many more hours for the login situation to sort itself out.

By 1 a.m. ET only two of the more than two dozen Twitch streamers listed at the H1Z1 website were actually playing the game. Most had given up and gone to bed, a few were still trying to log in, while one was wearing his H1Z1 T-shirt while (literally) eating Doritos and playing Electronic Arts' Battlefield 4.


Smedley said around 2 a.m. that they had placed a "bandaid" on the authentication servers that should hold until morning. Then at 3 a.m. the team at SOE packed it in, resolving to come back the next day and give it another shot.

As of this morning things seem to be working better. Polygon has been able to launch the game, communicate with the Sony authentication servers and validate our accounts. There are 15 active servers listed, all of them with a high or very high player count. We have yet to play a game, however, as the wait times to join are in excess of 30 minutes and the game keeps crashing before we can get in.

Today promises to be another day of hard work for the H1Z1 team. Polygon expects to have some early impressions of the game next week.

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