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The thing about a zombie virus is that it spreads so fast you can’t contain it. Now, publisher Daybreak is finding that something similar is true of zombie survival games.
H1Z1, Daybreak’s open-world online zombie survival game that is still in development, is splitting up into two discrete games. The original game is now known as H1Z1: Just Survive. The second is H1Z1: King of the Kill, and it will focus solely on H1Z1’s competitive multiplayer mode. With these two games, the publisher can now go after both the $3.4 billion massively multiplayer online market (that doesn’t have a monthly subscription) with Just Survive as well as the online shooter genre that is home to games like publisher Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Digital Extreme’s Warframe, and Smilegate’s CrossFire (which makes $1B annually). This split is also similar to a common strategy in gaming where publishers increase their revenue — including average revenue per user (ARPU) — for a product by splitting it into two versions.
Following this separation, Daybreak now has two individual development teams working on their own projects. Both games debut as standalone products on the Steam digital-distribution store’s Early Access portal for unfinished games starting February 17 for $20 each (you get both automatically if you already own the game). King of the Kill, however, leaves Early Access and launches on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One some time this summer.
Additionally, by splitting the game up into two, Daybreak is spreading the risk of development across multiple genres and player types, and it is building and exposing its hottest brand to more people. This is likely also an attempt to increase the ARPU by introducing two products. Consumers previously could have purchased both these modes for $20. Going forward, they’ll have to pay $40 if they want both. Not everyone will do that, but some will — and that’ll boost the ARPU. This is something we’ve seen in the past from games like Pokémon, which sells two versions of each new release. Nintendo has even started doing that with another franchise, Fire Emblem, which debuts in the U.S. next month with two distinct games that gamers can buy separate or together in a special edition bundle for more money.
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In a canned statement, Daybreak chief publishing officer Laura Naviaux explained that H1Z1 was the No. 4 top-selling game on Steam in 2015. But while that success is behind the company, it thinks that breaking up the game is the best thing for its future.
“Over the course of development, we discovered it had evolved into two unique gaming experiences, appealing to two distinct communities,” said Naviaux. “Fostering lasting communities is the bedrock of our organization, and by allowing these worlds to exist independently and grow in their own distinguished ways, we can better deliver on a consistent vision and clear roadmap for each game toward official release and beyond.”
Daybreak creative director Jens Andersen said, also in a canned statement, King of the Kill will now get a bunch of new modes over the next few months. And Just Survive will continue evolving along the same trajectory it is already on.
“We are working on creating a world that’s immersive, that captures the mindset of the last remaining humans trying to survive a post-apocalyptic zombie-filled wasteland,” said Andersen. “It’s a richer gameplay experience, and we want to make sure we do it justice.”
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