Before there was Apex Legends, Fortnite Battle Royale, or even PUBG, there was Daybreak Game’s H1Z1, a battle royale game that dominated Steam in the first half of 2017. This week the developers have rolled back many of the recent changes made to the game and once again changed the name, this time to Z1 Battle Royale.
The game’s season three update is called The Return of the King, and it’s part of a new effort to pivot back to whatever it might be that once drew hundreds of thousands of players to the game.
In the post announcing the update, NantG general manager Anthony Castoro wrote: “It represents the first big delivery on the promise that the new NantG team made when it took over development last September: Bring back the game that so many of you fell in love with in the classic ‘King of the Kill’ era around Preseason 3 at the end of 2016 and in early 2017.” wrote.
This is the first big overhaul since NantG took over development from Daybreak. The new update brings back older animations for actions like running, jumping, and weapon reloading, as well as tweaks to gun recoil and the look of the world. All of these changes make the game feel more arcadey and also, more like the earlier versions. Even the loading screens and the font for the user agreement new players sign have been changed back to how they looked earlier on in the game’s development.
H1Z1 originally came out in in Early Access in 2015. It sold 1 million copies in its first few months, and a year later, the game was split into two spin-offs, which were a survival MMO called Just Survive and a strictly battle royale game called King of the Kill. By January of 2017, King of the Kill had far surpassed Just Survive, peaking at 150,000 concurrent players that June. But by then another battle royale game was already becoming much bigger: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
PlayerUnknown himself, Brendan Greene, had originally consulted for Daybreak to help it create H1Z1’s battle royale mode. By the second half of 2017, however, King of the Kill was bleeding players, and despite getting a momentary bump when the game officially left Early Access in early 2018, it has since struggled to compete in the new battle royale landscape, though not for lack of trying.
The game was ported to consoles in the first half of 2018. There was also a big esports push that eventually went bust after payment issues stemming from a lack of viewership ended up bankrupting the league just months after it launched. And throughout this period the game underwent more rebrands, with King of the Kill eventually just being called H1Z1 again, and now, Z1 Battle Royale.
Now, with the meteoric rise of Apex Legends, the battle royale landscape is even more crowded, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred the makers of H1Z1. I mean Z1 Battle Royale.