H1Z1 Early Access Commentary

SOE was building up to yesterday’s H1Z1 announcement with a modest level of hype. Lots of “It’s coming!” and “Soon®©™” and “Be sure to tune in for our live stream and reddit stuff!” I’m looking forward to H1Z1 as much as the next person… I thought. Some people are flipping tables and spitting as they scream about the “six week delay” before the early access begins. Once again we are faced with an early access situation that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

From the mouth of Smed:

“Is it going to be a finished game? Absolutely not. If that’s what you’re expecting, DO NOT BUY EARLY ACCESS. The goal here is to let you in early and help us mold it into a game you want to be a part of for quite a long time.” [Source]

Before I jump into a devil’s advocate discussion here, let me preface this by saying I get exactly what they are doing. Deep down you do too. This is marketing. This is business. The sooner everyone realizes this, accepts it, and moves on, the better. Most of us interested in H1Z1 will buy early access or wait until it is free. I certainly will. It sounds like a ton of fun. Okay, now that the grownup version is out there, let’s chat.

I find it fascinating (from the perspective of a player and a human being and not a demon from the business realm) that this idea of selling early access to a game is done with such a hot potato style. This is how I read it all: “Get excited about our unfinished game, but don’t buy it okay? But maybe you should…. but just know it’s not done… but please pay $19.99 now isntead of waiting for it to be free. Oh and if you want more game modes we’ll charge you more. BUT DON’T BUY IT! Seriously, don’t buy it (but please do).”

Here’s another interesting spin from Smed:

“Is H1Z1 going to be better than Day Z day 1? No it won’t. We’ll get asked that question a lot and I wanted to be up front about it. We’re not as feature rich and they have a lot of really cool stuff we just don’t have yet. That being said, we’re also a different game. We’re an MMO and our goals are to create a large scale world that gives you the incredible feeling of being a survivor in a zombie apocalypse.”

Downplay downplay downplay PLAY IT UP PLAY IT UP PLAY IT UP! We’re back to the hot potato. “We’re probably not going to be as good so don’t buy us on Steam for $19.99 January 15, 2015 Click here for more info to get you excited!” Huh.

Another angle begging for commentary here is this idea that you charge more money to let people test more game modes. On one side of the coin it makes sense to charge more for more features. I can sorta accept that. On the other side we have reality where this is an alpha or a beta and people are being given a pay wall to participate in what is being publicized as an opportunity to work alongside the devs. … Incomplete game…. with pay walls… to help test the most incomplete parts of the game where the goal is to let you in to help mold it into a game you want to be apart of for a long time. I’m sure it makes way more sense if you don’t think about it.

  • While I am interested in H1Z1, early access has really run its course with me. I’ll wait till the first reports come out a week or two into the soft launch, aka early access, to determine how playable the game actually is.

    If the reports are good, I’ll get H1Z1. If the reports are of bugs, lack of content, crap servers, etc. I’ll gladly wait another few months then.

    Btw, any word on if the early access policy for Landmark is the same as H1Z1? I’m guessing they won’t be handing out refunds so freely this time around.

  • I have posted a similar comment before. I hate this charging for early access stuff. They want you to test their game for them. You are doing them a service but yet they want to charge you for it? I do not get it, but that is why I never beta test a game much less pay to play unfinished game.

    But it always comes down to supply and demand. There are players who are going to pay for it so obviously there is a demand for it. If no one payed for it, developers would stop with the practice and choose a different route.

  • I can not even begin to consider buying into this because quite frankly I have no idea what the hell it is still.
    The more they talk about this game the less I understand about it. Going into the initial reveal they talked about how this would be a place for SWG players of old… but nothing I have seen has made me feel like that. The game will be F2P but there will be alternate game modes you can access with tickets or something?? What the hell kind of game are they designing?

  • @JJ Robinson: I really, really doubt it’ll be the same policy. They are starting this one off with much more pomp and circumstance around the idea of it being incomplete and even doing the whole “don’t buy this if you don’t want to cope.”

    @Topauz: That’s really the true question: Is this players providing a service by testing, or the company price skimming? In my opinion, Early Access is the epitome of price skimming.

    @Nukethesitefromorbit: That whole SWG talk was tossed out. I think they were maybe at one point thinking this would be more MMO than multiplayer survivor. They are still hanging on to the “MMO” tag, but it’s being used in its absolute loosest sense of the word.

  • This whole early access trend is a scam.

    Treating your customers like an unpaid Quality Assurance tester.
    They do not even ask people to volunteer.
    No they want your cold hard cash to test the game for them!!

    Also early access is an excuse to have a game they are charging money for in a bad shape for years!!
    Some do not even get to see a finished product at all.
    From what I have read only like 30% of the early access games on steam got finished.

    But its ok, because it is early access…. right?
    No its not.

  • @Zyler That is a great point. Several “early access” games never get “finished”. While I’d hope SoE will follow H1Z1 through to completion, would anyone be surprised if H1Z1 bombs and SoE decides to cut its losses? Not around here, at least.

  • Paying for the “privilege” to be a tester for something just boggles my mind. This is a crazy world we live in. I’m waiting for a bald kid to show up any minute and start bending spoons with his mind.

  • Actually, pre-launch access to MMORPGs is a valuable commodity.

    Not only to serious PvP guilds who want the advantage of knowing the game before it launches, but also to serious PvE guilds who chase things like server firsts in raids and other content. (Not even mentioning the more unethical gamers who search out bugs during betas, don’t report them, then use them to exploit after launch).

    Previously, access to this information depended on who you knew at the MMORPG company, or what connections you had. Allowing everyone to buy their way just levels the playing field, in this respect.

    Of course, if such an advantage is meaningless to you, then a $20 buy-in is indeed a waste of money.

  • Beyond the regular absurdity of companies making people play to test a game (read: pay so the company can finish making a game), is this purported myth that customers in Early Access will have some kind of pull, some kind of determination, some kind of sway in the way the game is created.

    That is ludicrous. The entire premise is a bullshit stunt to simply garner more cash. However…. even if it ever actually WAS true… a game based or designed even in part on that philosophy would be a pile of rubbish. Nothing good was ever CREATED by a committee.

  • Like others, I hate early release shenanigans. It’s something that’s skewed wholly towards benefiting devs instead of consumers. They get:

    1) Obviously, more money faster, making money off an incomplete game.

    2) Helping to create a review-proof industry. Just like the used market, game developers HATE reviews. Probably because there are so many mediocre games. But why settle for pre-order bonuses when you can sell early access? That way you can praise you strengths without taking responsibility for your weaknesses because, hey, it’s just early access. Forget that some of these games literally spend years in “early access” with functional cash shops.

    What does the consumer get? Well, we get to play something earlier I guess. The problem is that it’s less game for more money.

    Anyway, just to be even more cynical, H1Z1 doesn’t look very good to me. SOE is SOE, not a great company, just trying to cash in on recent trends.

  • It is everything I said about Landmark, but even worse as in this case they aren’t offering satisfaction based refunds, and proudly exclaim the product doesn’t have complete functionality.

    This is Smedley’s way to absolve himself of any responsibility regarding quality issues of H1Z1 and still financially exploit the most dedicated of their fan base.

    What they say they are offering is early access at a fee for a F2P game, in reality what they are selling off are the last few remaining shreds of Smedley’s credibility as President of SOE.

    I can only imagine Smedley’s OkCupid dating listing:

    “John Smedley, current President of Sony Online Entertainment. I’ll take you out on a date, you will pay. I don’t guarantee that you’ll have fun. I am a work in progress so if you don’t want to help me be a better person don’t waste your dime or my time. Oh yes, you will get herpes.”

    It must have been a somewhat humorous meeting when Smedley first pitched the idea of selling access to an unfinished F2P game. I imagine there were a bunch of devs nervously looking side to side wondering if they were being pranked.

    Nonetheless it is heartening to see a majority of posters not falling for this dog and pony show this time around.


  • Its such a copout, and bad for you as a player in every way! My biggest fear is burning out on a game that isn’t even finished! It happened with me in DayZ, I was so infatuated with that game when I first got it, but then after 2 weeks I realised there was NOTHING to actually do in the game.

    So I am waiting for vehicles and bases till I even think about trying DayZ again.

  • We all know come Jan 10, SoE will have an all out advertising blitz promoting the soft launch, I mean “early access”.

    Such a joke. While I don’t see early access going away, I do think next year we’ll see less of it as more and more of the games flame out and players get burnt.

  • What’s interesting about all of this is Smed/SOE are trying NOT to be your typical F2P garbage studio and using the usual tricks needed to make a buck with that model. At the same time, they are still a business, and F2P is the chain around their ankle, so while clearly they want to be better, at the end of the day they can’t because of the rules they selected.

    That’s why you get all of this double-speak about the game they want you to pay for currently being a weaker version of DayZ, but wait wait wait, in the perfect future state, it will be SO MUCH MORE!