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H1Z1 now free-to-play, pro league starts in April

Matches will be held in Las Vegas, streamed to Facebook

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H1Z1: Fight for the Crown
The set from the CW Network’s H1Z1: Fight For The Crown.
Daybreak Game Company
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 battle royale-style experience from Daybreak Game Company, is converting to free-to-play today. The announcement comes after three years in Steam Early Access and one full week as a finished game.

Those who purchased H1Z1 for $19.99 in the week since its formal launch on Feb. 28 may be upset to find that the game is now free. General manager Anthony Castoro said that customers are encouraged to request a Steam refund, which is granted through an automated process. Customers are only eligible if the purchase was made no more than 14 days ago and so long as H1Z1 has not been played for more than two hours.

Those who purchased the game prior to it going free-to-play will be given a package of skins and other in-game items valued at between $30 and $50.

The announcement comes amid the continued decline in the number of concurrent users of H1Z1 on Steam. According to SteamCharts, the concurrent user figure spiked on Feb. 28 at more than 14,000, but has since trailed off to a high of just 9,423 players yesterday.

Castoro said that concurrent users aren’t the only metric by which his team is measuring the game’s success. He told Polygon that the number of unique players in H1Z1 has doubled since the week before the game’s launch, that more players are logging in each day than the week before and that those that show up are playing more rounds and for longer periods of time.

Daybreak also announced that it has established a full 15-team slate for the inaugural season of the H1Z1 Pro League, which was announced in October through its partnership with the record keeping organization Twin Galaxies. The first match will be played on April 21. All matches will be broadcast on Facebook, the league’s exclusive streaming partner.

The goal of making H1Z1 free-to-play, Castoro said, is two-fold. By lowering the barrier of entry, Daybreak hopes to bring in more potential customers. But they’re also hoping to inspire the next crop of professional players.

“We’re also investing in that Joe-to-pro concept,” Castoro said, “where you can just download this game, start playing and then one day be playing for money at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas.”

The full list of 15 teams for the H1Z1 Pro League. Final player rosters have not yet been established.
Daybreak Game Company, Twin Galaxies, Facebook and Caesar’s Entertainment

The inaugural season of the H1Z1 Pro League isn’t taking place at the famous casino on the Las Vegas strip, but at Caesar’s Entertainment Studios, located nearby. Nonetheless, Castoro said that Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation, which operates 47 casinos in 13 U.S. states and five different countries, is invested in Daybreak’s success.

“Caesar’s Entertainment wants people to be able to come in off the street and watch an esport happen right there,” Castoro said. “It’s very much an attraction for them that they are investing in.”

Daybreak’s circular stage set-up, the same one used in the CW Network’s H1Z1: Fight For The Crown, a primetime special that aired on the CW Network in August 2017, will be used at Caesar’s Las Vegas studio for the full 20-week season. Participants include Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Echo Fox, Luminosity and Team SoloMid. Final player rosters have yet to be announced.

Daybreak said that all players will receive accommodations in Las Vegas for the duration of the season courtesy of Caesar’s Entertainment as well as a league minimum salary estimated at around $50,000. The league’s governing body — which will include a player representative — have yet to agree on the final amount.

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