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Sony’s H1Z1 is delivering exactly what it promised not to be, according to unhappy players: A pay-to-win zombie survival game.

H1Z1 launched on Steam’s Early Access yesterday, enabling PC gamers to buy access to a development build of what will eventually be a free-to-play massively multiplayer online experience. It’s gone straight to the top of Steam’s best-sellers list, but dropping $20 on H1Z1 doesn’t guarantee a level playing field, with players able to pay $5 for an airdrop which may contain game-changing items. With that, H1Z1 is stepping into pay-to-win territory — where those with the deepest pockets do best by purchasing in-game items — upsetting a lot of gamers in the process.

Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley previously noted that they couldn’t buy game-changing items in H1Z1. “We will NOT be selling Guns, Ammo, Food, Water. …” he said in a Reddit post eight months ago. “That’s kind of the whole game and it would suck in our opinion if we did that.”

While paid-for airdrops aren’t completely unexpected — Smedley has talked about the idea since August last year — the mechanic has spawned a lot of angry comments on Reddit and a swath of negative reviews for H1Z1 on Steam.

“After taking everyones money they announce a 180 on buying weapons/ammo/essentials. Bait and switch fraud,” said Steam user Rodi.

“After everyone paid for this ♥♥♥♥ game, they announce ‘pay-to-win’ with these airdrops. Not only that, but the overall gameplay is, well, ♥♥♥♥. By far one of the worst MMO zombie survival games ever made. The only enjoyable part about this game are the reviews,” added Steam user Enclave.

Smedley has responded with a Reddit thread to counter the negative reactions to airdrops.

“I’m going to weigh in here on this subject,” he said. “We’ve been showing it clearly in all of the streams we have been doing. I made a point of personally doing it during last Friday’s streams. We want them to be server events … so we make sure the whole server knows they’re coming and I’ve personally been killed many times after I paid for them myself. So I fundamentally disagree with the argument. In terms of us not being honest about it — untrue to an extreme. Quoting an 8 month old Reddit post after numerous streams and interviews where we’ve been quite public, and putting it front and center in our ‘What to expect’ document, which was right on the purchase page just makes this [criticism] blatantly unfair, IMO.”

Smedley told gamers that they shouldn’t buy H1Z1 if they think it’s play-to-win, which might not go down so well with those who’ve already dropped $20 on the game.

“If you think it’s P2W [pay-to-win], don’t buy it,” he said. “Don’t play it. But I have to say wait until you’ve personally tried them before making the call.”

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