Games That Changed Gaming #4: H1Z1

Games That Changed Gaming #4: H1Z1

Fortnite might be the big kid in the sandbox right now, but the current Battle Royale climate wouldn’t exist without the OG battle royale game. This week’s instalment of Gimbl.gg’s Games That Changed Gaming is all about the original home of Ninja and Tfue: H1Z1! Or as it’s known now, Z1 Battle Royale!

H1Z1’s Humble Beginnings

H1Z1 didn’t even start out as a solitary game. It started its life as a mod for the 2009 game Arma 2. The H1Z1 mod for Arma 2 basically just added a gameplay mode that today we’d call a Battle Royale Mode.

The mod was quick hit, and started getting traction online. Within a year, Arma 3 was released and a similar mod called PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds also started to grow in popularity. Daybreak Game Company eventually made a deal with the creators of the H1Z1 mod to develop it as a standalone game.

What’s a Battle Royale game?

Battle Royale games are “Last Man Standing” games. They are Player-versus-Player (PvP) games where a large number of players are placed onto a map, forced to forage for weapons and/or items, and must take eliminate other players in order to win.

Digital Tends summed up the genre pretty well in the following infographic:

H1Z1 goes standalone

Daybreak was the newly rebranded, newly reacquired company that used to be Sony Online Entertainment. They had a long history of success with online titles such as Everquest and DC Universe Online. Daybreak released H1Z1 on Steam as an early access title in January 2015, and took the internet by storm. Twitch, in particular, became flooded with H1Z1 streams.

Simon Darveau, creative director of the battle royale game The Darwin Project, told DigitalTrends the following about the early days of H1Z1:

I realized for the first time that you could have social experiences with a strong social psychology element in it. You could be psychologically abused in a game. … And I feel like those are the most powerful experiences, and it kind of triggered in my brain, ‘What the fuck, why are games only about physical and mechanical skill, like dexterity, reflexes, timing, precision?’

H1Z1 hit the 1 million sales mark by March 2015, just two months after launch.

Things get rocky for H1Z1

February 2016 was the beginning of the end for H1Z1. Daybreak split the game into two seperate titles, each with their own development teams. Just Survive was the zombie-themed MMO, and King of the Kill was the Battle Royale.

H1Z1 had originally been slated to get a PS4 port in 2016, however the split ended up delaying that until Q3 2018. The rest of 2016 went by without incident, as H1Z1 still had a monopoly on the market then.

March 2017, however, brought with it change. PUBG Corporation, with creator Brendan Greene at the helm, released PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds as a standalone game in early access.

The battle of the Battle Royales

The similarities between PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and H1Z1 weren’t lost on anyone, however many think they were likely unavoidable.

Both games started off as Arma mods, both are Battle Royale titles. The visual similarities weren’t close enough that anyone could really accuse PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds of being a clone or rip-off.

Nevertheless, though, a large portion of H1Z1’s users moved on to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. This also included a number of streamers, which only further served to drive PUBG’s popularity further.

In 2017 Epic Games joined the free with their free-to-play title Fortnite Battle Royale. Within months, H1Z1’s player-base was mostly gone, and a shocking number of PUBG’s players moved on to Fortnite too.

As more competitors entered the fray, it was clear that the company who paid the most attention to their community, and regularly added the most content to their game would win. With H1Z1 changing hands from Daybreak to NantG Mobile and back again, and with a 2018 shift that rolled back several updates to a state the game had been in during its popularity, it never stood a chance. The game is still running today, however it’s on its last legs. July 2019 saw an all-time low in average player numbers, standing at 525, whereas the figures for July 2017 were over 86,000.

There was no doubt, though. There likely would have never been a PUBG, a Fortnite, or a Battle Royale genre at all if it hadn’t been for H1Z1.

The careers spawned from H1Z1

Some of the biggest streamers and influencers spent time battling it out in H1Z1.

The two biggest would definitely have to be Ninja and Tfue, who are both considered to be Fortnite royalty today.

It’s no secret that we at Gimbl.gg love Battle royale games. We hope to see a number of streamers use our service for Battle Royale streams when we launch soon, and we want to help improve the experience for both Streamrs and Viewrs as much as possible.

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