Big changes are on the way to Early Access zombie sandbox H1Z1. Later this month H1Z1 will be split into two separate games—the open-world survival mode being one, and the competitive Battle Royale mode being the other—and each will be sold separately. Daybreak Game Company also told us that it no longer plans to make H1Z1 free-to-play in the future, as was the originally stated intent.
Here's how it's going to shake out. One game will be called H1Z1: Just Survive, which will contain the multiplayer survival portion of the game. The other, consisting of Battle Royale plus some new planned competitive modes, will be called H1Z1: King of the Kill. These games will be completely separate from each other beginning on February 17, and each game will be sold at a price of $19.99.
For those who have already purchased H1Z1 in Early Access, you'll have access to both games after they split without having to buy anything else. Also, if you buy the current version of H1Z1 in Early Access prior to February 17, you'll also receive both titles. And, you'll get to keep any cosmetic items, keys, unopened crates, and event tickets you've acquired or purchased before the game splits in two. After the split, we're told, premium items collected in one game won't be available to your character in the other, even if you own both games.
As far as release dates go, King of The Kill will leave Early Access sometime this summer (at which time it will also appear on consoles) at a price of $19.99. A date for the full release for Just Survive is still unknown, and Daybreak wouldn't even confirm if it would leave Early Access in 2016. And, when I asked if H1Z1: Just Survive would still become a free title when it left Early Access, as was the original goal, I was told they no longer have plans for it to become free-to-play.
I've dabbled a bit in H1Z1 from time (I did a diary on survival mode here and here, and one on Battle Royale here), but not being a regular player I don't have particularly strong feelings about this news. I know survival fans have complained that most of the recent development attention has been focused on BR, so maybe having a separate team working on just survival will help (provided they add enough additional staff to the survival side). As far as ditching free-to-play, I can see both pros and cons. Dedicated players won't see their favorite servers swamped by swarms of newcomers, but on the other hand, multiplayer-only games need a constant supply of fresh blood to replace the players who have moved on to other games.
I'd love to hear what regular H1Z1 players think of this split. Let us know in the comments.