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H1Z1 is splitting into two games, headed to consoles

King of the Kill is expected to exit early access this summer

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.

H1Z1, the zombie-themed multiplayer online survival game, is splitting into two different products. Daybreak Game Company (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) tells Polygon that one of the titles will leave Steam Early Access and formally launch on Windows PC and consoles this summer while the other will remain in the program for the foreseeable future.

H1Z1: Just Survive will retain H1Z1s's open-world, persistent multiplayer gameplay, as well as its crafting and base building features. H1Z1: King of the Kill will focus on instanced multiplayer combat. The arena shooter will include the popular Battle Royale mode, as well as other new and evolving gameplay options.

King of the Kill will exit early access this summer, and be available on Windows PC as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The games will cost $19.99 each and feature optional in-game microtransactions. Players who purchase H1Z1 on Steam prior to Feb. 17 — at its current $19.99 asking price — will receive both games when the split occurs. All in-game purchases made before the split will be duplicated one-for-one between both games.

Jens Anderson, executive creative director at Daybreak, admits that while the H1Z1 community itself has been at odds publicly over how to prioritize development of the game, the team internally has been strained as well. The work to separate the two games has been ongoing for several months.

Daybreak Game Company

"We have received feedback from our community," said Andersen, "and they've pointed out that these are really two different games, that they are very much stand-alone concepts that have two different audiences. There will be two separate development teams supporting H1Z1: Just Survive and H1Z1: King of the Kill, and both of these teams will really be able to tool up and focus on the needs of the players of each of those titles."

While early access to H1Z1 was originally sold on Steam for $19.99, the initial vision for the game was that it would launch as a free-to-play title. But over the course of last year Daybreak made the decision to drop those free-to-play plans.

"At that point in time there was the thinking that this game would potentially be free-to-play," said Laura Naviaux, chief publishing officer. "However, as the market landscape has changed, I think that us as a publisher, in addition to the rest of the industry, has seen how quickly business models are evolving and we're paying a lot of attention to that.

"Let's face it, we live in a democratized world where players and consumers have so much that they have to choose from and at their disposal. ... We need to pick appropriate business models on a per-product basis, and what's best for H1Z1 is to have a modest download fee with optional microtransactions."

In Just Survive, those microtransactions will primarily take the form of in-game resources in the form of airdrops of supplies or keys that can be used to open up crates hidden around the map. In King of the Kill, microtransactions will be tickets that can be used to enter select game modes and events.

Polygon first reviewed H1Z1 in February 2015, and later updated that review in May. Throughout our time with the game the potential has been plainly visible, but the polish and stability consistently put us off. Despite those early issues, Daybreak says that H1Z1 has been downloaded more than 2.5 million times. The game remains among Steam's most-played titles according to Steam Charts, and was among the most-streamed games on Twitch for the entire year, ranking among the top 20 in November.

The game has undeniable spectator appeal, proven by the invitational tournament held at last year's TwitchCon. It's something that Daybreak hopes to capitalize on with the PS4's and Xbox One's integrated streaming capabilities.

"It's vital," Anderson said. "We're doing amazing on Steam right now ... and players really want to play on the PS4. They want to play on these other platforms."

Daybreak said it will be adding staff to support the development of both titles.

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