H1Z1 money-making strategy will focus on player customization, won't be pay-to-win

Ian Birnbaum at

H1Z1, SOE’s upcoming zombie MMO, continues to draw ideas and feedback from the growing community and new subreddit. In a new post, SOE’s John Smedley has shared some notes from a recent meeting on monetization—that is, how the free-to-play H1Z1 will make money for its developers. The short version: character customization and wearable items will be up for sale.

“We will be selling wearables. We felt like this will be a good, fair revenue generator,” Smedley wrote in a post to the H1Z1 subreddit. “However—we recognize how important finding wearables in the world is so you'll be able to find and craft a lot of stuff. We agree that's something important.” In a free-to-play game, what’s not being sold is more important than what is. Anything that gives players an edge, from extra-large backpacks to weapons, medicine, and food, gives paying customers an unfair advantage over unpaid, usually newer, players. Smedley confirmed that “We will NOT be selling Guns, Ammo, Food, Water... i.e. That's kind of the whole game and it would suck in our opinion if we did that.”

The most encouraging thing about Smedley’s posts is his deep involvement with the community and his frank answers. In a previous story, we praised Smedley for tackling head-on the game’s resemblance to DayZ (which, let’s be honest, is pretty stark). Smedley praised forum posters for their involvement in a thread brainstorming monetization ideas, which he says “turned out to be a terrific source of ideas.”

H1Z1 is still quite a way off, but so often we blast developers for being tone-deaf to the needs and feedback of their communities. Continuing to keep a community happy while you develop a game is a challenging tight-rope to walk, but Smedley’s tone and engagement gives me some cautious optimism for the game’s future.