The rise of Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has come at the cost of a little-remembered precursor to the two battle royale juggernauts: H1Z1.
Few people remember H1Z1, the little battle royale brother that branched off from a zombie survival horror game of the same name. Development initially began in January 2015 when the game was mostly just about beating off zombies with an ax while you desperately try to survive in a world gone undead. But then Brendan Greene, better known as PlayerUnknown, came along and completely changed the game forever.
Daybreak Games (then known as Sony Online Entertainment Inc.) caught wind of Greene’s battle royale game mode he was developing on DayZ and decided to license the idea for H1Z1. Thus, in February of 2016, the game branched into two: H1Z1: Just Survive, the zombie survival horror game mode, and H1Z1: King of the Kill, the battle royale game mode.
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For a time H1Z1: King of the Kill was indeed the king of the battle royale games simply because PUBG was still in early development. By July of 2017, the game reached a peak player count of 150,000 players, according to Steam Charts, but soon after both PUBG and Fortnite began to pick up steam and offer a more refined version of the battle royale genre.
Within a month players began a mass exodus to PUBG and Fortnite. By October, when H1Z1: King of the Kill was renamed simply H1Z1, the game had lost over half its players. By December the game was down 78% since its peak in July, and while being featured in both a Humble Bundle and a free Steam weekend gave it a momentary bump it wasn’t enough to stop its downward slide.
Today H1Z1 has a peak player count of 17,652, just 11% from their heights in the summer of 2017. At this point, it seems all but confirmed the game will never leave Steam Early Access.
Meanwhile, the survival version of the game renamed Just Survive barely surpasses 2,000 average players in a month. A sad end to what was once the king of zombie survival horror.