• H1Z1 is dropping “King of the Kill” from its title and returning to its original name.
  • The short, unique brand name is being shown at TwitchCon, where three gaming tournaments are being held.
  • The H1Z1 Pro League aims to bring the game to millions using esports, cementing its place in a genre it helped kick off.
Eric Correll, director of brand and IP development, Daybreak Games

The H1Z1 brand has gone through many changes recently. Last year, developer Daybreak Games announced that it would be split into two distinct games, one being the single-player zombie title H1Z1: Just Survive (subsequently renamed to Just Survive) and the other called H1Z1: King of the Kill—a battle-royale game where players compete against each other to be the last one standing.

The multiplayer game has been featured on CW. The televised tournament was such a success that it inspired a partnership between Daybreak and Twin Galaxies to create a new esports league expected to launch in 2018.

On Thursday, H1Z1 announced yet another change—the game is rebranding by dropping King of the Kill from its title and going back to just H1Z1.

“We thought it made a lot of sense, given how most of our players call it H1Z1 or informally as H1,” Eric Correll, director of brand and IP Development at Daybreak Games, told AListDaily. “It reflects the brand—plus it’s a really cool, short name that rolls off the tongue. With branding, I find that keeping it short and succinct is gold. Also, King of the Kill posed some challenges globally with the word ‘kill,’ so dropping that is in our best interest.”

Making The H1Z1 Brand New Again

As part of the rebranding effort, Daybreak is revising its logo and key art so that it better represents the game, which Correll says is one of the first standalone battle royale games to hit the video game scene.

“We were the first to take a commercial chance on the genre, and we’re proud of that,” said Correll. “So, as we continue to articulate our brand of battle royale, it makes sense to look at the individual identity of the game and revisit it, connecting it back to what it’s all about—which is competitive, fast-paced and action-packed at its core. The new branding truly reflects that—the branding always needs to reflect the experience of the game.”

He also explained that since the split last year, there is little connection between it and its single-player counterpart.

H1Z1 is its own game and so is Just Survive, and because we split them, we view them as separate products,” he said. “The survival game offers its own experience and H1Z1 is a battle royale game.”

Daybreak will be showing off the fully rebranded game at TwitchCon, where it will host three separate tournaments. The All-Stars tournament will have $200,000 prize pool and will feature some of the game’s most engaging livestreamers from around the world. Meanwhile, The Legends tournament, with its $250,000 prize pool, will include the world’s best H1Z1 players. Finally, the Challengers Invitational is a competition between TwitchCon attendees and Road to TwitchCon contest winners, who will all battle for a $50,000 prize pool.

“This is the third time we’ve been there since the inaugural one, and we’re going to be bigger and better than ever with three different tournaments across the three days in our own H1Z1 Arena,” said Correll. “We timed the game’s rebrand to lead up to TwitchCon, where you’ll see all the new visual ID so people can start to ingest the brand’s new look and feel.

But even though H1Z1 may enjoy the status of being the first standalone battle royale game, it certainly isn’t the only one. Games such as Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, designed by Brendan “Playerunknown” Greene (who helped create H1Z1), has skyrocketed in popularity. Furthermore, Fortnite got in on the action by launching its own battle royale mode.

“I think it’s great,” said Correll. “We were one of the first to identify it as its own genre, and we’re proud of being the first to take a commercial chance on it. It’s great that there are other competitors out there to help validate the genre as we continue to focus on our brand and put our mark on battle royale.”

Correll also said that the strength of the H1Z1 comes from Daybreak’s commitment to the game.

“We’ve been refining the game, listening to our community and understanding what make H1Z1 so much fun to play,” he said. “We’ve seen continued growth and we are consistently at the top of the Steam charts of concurrent daily users. I think that our brand of battle royale, with the fast-pace and competitive gameplay, has made its mark and we’re now working to crystallize that vision of H1Z1 to players. As the genre grows, we want to tap into the H1Z1 brand to let them know what we offer—this is our type of battle royale.”

Growing Battle Royale Through Esports

Being broadcast on CW and being featured during all three TwitchCons has certainly helped H1Z1 stand out from the growing number of battle-royale games. Daybreak has also hosted elite competition series at Dreamhack events, but what may get the most attention is the H1Z1 Pro League.

Anthony Castoro, general manager of H1Z1 and PlanetSide, Daybreak Games

Anthony Castoro, general manager of H1Z1 and PlanetSide at Daybreak Games, detailed the joint venture with Twin Galaxies, an organization that tracks video game world records and conducts gaming promotions.

“Our focus is to make sure that we create a new kind of league that can be independent and economically viable for both players and owners,” Castoro told AListDaily.

He said that having hosted a number of battle royale competitions, H1Z1 turned out to be a natural fit for the esports scene. As the game grew in popularity, members of Twin Galaxies played the game and became big fans. That’s how the relationship between the two began, but the Pro League didn’t start until the CW broadcast.

“We talked about what was wrong with esports, what we could fix for players and why H1Z1 has a natural groundswell of support,” said Castoro. “As the game and pro scene evolved, we did the CW H1Z1: Fight for the Crown event together and that broadcast—the second esports tournament to show on the CW—did so well that we continued the conversation and eventually worked out a deal where we formed this joint venture and announced the Pro League.”

Although there won’t be any early H1Z1 Pro League tournaments hosted at TwitchCon this year, Castoro said that Daybreak would be meeting with potential teams, owners and players at the event to give details about the formation of the Pro League.

“The biggest goal for us is to have more viewers than players, like any other successful professional league,” Castoro explained. “Our goal is to make an experience that’s just as much fun to watch as it is to play. Although we have millions of people who play H1Z1 now, our goal is to have tens of millions of viewers enjoy the league and define what success can look like—where players can make a living with our game, and fans can be as versed in battle royale as they are in basketball.”

“Our goal is to have tens of millions of viewers enjoy the league and define what success can look like—where players can make a living with our game, and fans can be as versed in battle royale as they are in basketball.” — Anthony Castoro, general manager of H1Z1 and PlanetSide at Daybreak Games.

To further grow H1Z1 as an esport, Daybreak will need to reach beyond the core fan base. Castoro said that doing that will involve traditional marketing tactics, with the focus of putting the game in front of people to see. Another part of its promotion is through celebrities, athletes and influencers.

“We have some major personalities from the MMA scene and all kinds of different sports and entertainment,” said Castoro. “As people watch TwitchCon and hear about who is doing what, that will be a big part of it. I think you’ll see Daybreak partnering with Twin Galaxies to bring some interesting public figures, personalities and public figures into the game to make sure they’re aware.”

Castoro emphasized that H1Z1 is a watchable game, and that it doesn’t take long for new viewers to understand what’s going on and enjoy it.

“It’s natively viewable, so a big part is just getting it in front of people so that they know that it’s out there and they can talk about it,” said Castoro. “With our broadcast on CW, we might have even beaten the NHL game that was happening on the same night. So, we know we can get in front of a large audience and that’s why we’re investing in this business.”

Given H1Z1’s success on broadcast TV, which was the inspiration for the Pro League in the first place, Castoro revealed how Daybreak, Twin Galaxies and Vision Venture Partners (formed by former NBA star Rick Fox) were talking to partners about televising the tournaments in addition to broadcasting on digital platforms.

“We’re in active conversations with a variety of carriers on all formats,” said Castoro. “Our goal is to bring the experience to as many viewers as possible. You might expect that we’d be talking to CW, but we’re also talking to other broadcast providers for television and other formats. That’s another reason we partnered with Twin Galaxies and Vision Venture Partners. They bring some additional capabilities and pro scene experience to the table. They’re heavily connected in the areas of business development . . . We’re very excited to continue pioneering this space and the Pro League is another big step. Daybreak is committed to H1Z1 and its success.”