Fans Won't Stop Playing One Of Steam's Most Popular Games, Even Though They Claim To Hate It

H1Z1: King of the Kill is one of the most popular games on Steam, despite the fact that thousands of fans claim to hate it. Now that a similar game, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, has appeared, many say they're going to jump ship for good — and this time, they really, really mean it. Maybe.

King of the Kill is a battle royale game that begins with you and more than 100 other players parachuting onto a massive, fully open map. You then scramble to amass a small arsenal of weapons and armour before somebody else beats you to a bloody pulp and steals your shoes. You have one life. Last person standing wins.

H1z1: King of the Kill, which was spun off from Daybreak's hit zombie survival game H1Z1 in February 2016, didn't launch to much fanfare. For the first few months, it peaked at a respectable, but not amazing, 19,000 concurrent players. By the start of 2017, that number was typically between 40,000 and 50,000 — high enough to firmly entrench King of the Kill in Steam's top ten. These days, it regularly commands an audience of over 100,000 concurrent players, more than anything save DOTA 2 and CSGO.

Some of King of the Kill's slow-burn success can be attributed to streamers, who started showing up in earnest after Daybreak released a major update that introduced, among other things, native Twitch integration. Watching a good streamer play the game is an experience equal parts tense, triumphant, and tickling. Odds of victory are low, but you never know quite what will happen.

Different streamers try different strategies. Some grab a car and transform into a mix of Rambo and Knight Rider. Others try sneaky subterfuge. A handful work together. Occasionally, you'll even get some of that borderline-sociopathic social engineering that made games like DayZ so popular back in the day.

And yet, for all its popularity, King of the Kill's recent reviews on Steam are only 59 per cent positive, garnering it an overall rating of "mixed." This is quite unusual, since the vast majority of games in Steam's Top 10 have an overall rating of "very positive." The game's store page is marked by a splotchy rash of red thumbs-downs, almost unanimously citing the same issues. The game can be fun, they say, but it's just too buggy and unfinished.

On top of that, some feel that Daybreak is prioritising the addition of new microtransaction-based items over bug fixes and quality of life improvements. They worry that it will never realise its full potential, or even evolve very far beyond where it is now.

In my experience, the game is glitchy and janky, to the point that it can interfere with people's fun. And yet, hundreds of thousands of people keep playing it, because they love the concept and the moments the game can create. For example, the top review on the game's store page right now reads, "I've uninstalled this game four times." That means they have installed it four times, too.

Next to the big thumbs-down in their review is a time-played counter that reads, "130.1 hours played." They can't quit! They keep coming back in spite of themselves. It's the very definition of a love-hate relationship.

"Alright, I've spent well over 300 hours in this game, but that doesn't make it a good game," reads another review, originally posted in October 2016. Since then, that person has spent an additional 430 hours with the game.

What's recently brought this simmering resentment in King of the Kill's community to a boil is the appearance of a very similar new game from battle royale pioneer PlayerUnknown with the unwieldy title of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Countless recent King of the Kill reviews and discussion threads invariably lead to calls to just play PUBG instead, because it's supposedly less buggy.

This is at certainly up for debate: PUBG is also still in Early Access, and in my experience, it's fairly janky and has some serious performance issues.

Longtime King of the Kill streamers like StevoLIVE and Grimmmz are now all aboard the PUBG train, while others are trying to juggle the two. Most tellingly, major streamers who moved on from King of the Kill, like Summit1g and Lirik, are suddenly interested in battle royale again. On Twitch right now, PUBG regularly pulls between 50,000 and 100,000 simultaneous viewers, while King of the Kill only manages half that.

Could it be that players are finally putting their money where their mouths are and quitting the game they claim to hate? Once again, it depends on how you look at things. Shortly before PUBG came out, King of the Kill's daily concurrent numbers were at an all-time high, peaking at nearly 124,000. In the week since PUBG came out, there's been a definite downward trend, but King of the Kill still peaks at around 111,000 each day.

It's still huge, and in time, players' shift to PUBG could simply turn out to be a brief flirtation. It's worth noting, though, that King of the Kill is weakest during the times PUBG is strongest. They basically trade spots on Steam's Top 10.

Most crucially, though, King of the Kill and PUBG are not the same game. Daybreak's game is more arcadey and fast-paced, while the newcomer focuses more on realism in regards to aiming, bullet trajectories, movement, items, and tactics. It can therefore take more time to really get going. Already, I've seen people confess that they prefer watching streamers play King of the Kill, even if they find playing it themselves to be kind of a chore.

King of the Kill-style battle royale may well be the next big Steam obsession, or it might turn out to be a one-trick pony (already, other battle royale games like The Culling have gained temporary popularity, only to disappear into obscurity after a month or two). Perhaps the new injection of competition will encourage the developers of both King of the Kill and PUBG to patch up the jank. Until then, if players say they're going to quit — well, I'll believe it when I see it.


Comments

    PUBG is the nail in the coffin for H1Z1.

    Also I gotta disagree with this:

    PUBG is also still in Early Access, and in my experience, it's fairly janky and has some serious performance issues.

    It's not janky at all and performance is way better than any other EA title.

      Yeah, PUBG is already a superior version of H1Z1. H1Z1 favors everything wrong with online shooters, the weapons feel horrible, you are incentivised to cheese and you are rarely greeted with anything other than salt whenever you kill anyone.

        Agreed. One of my favourite parts about PUBG is how good it feels, especially shooting mechanics. There's no way anyone could go back to H1Z1.

          I feel like H1Z1 is the COD of Battle Royale, whereas PUBG is the equivalent of Battlefield

    Unsurprising, remember all the complaints about Ark? Its still there, like nothing ever happened.

    New games cost money. Not everyone has money to burn on a new title, so sometimes people just put up with the poor substitute until then can afford it.

    H1Z1 may have been better developed if the game and Planetside 2 weren't bought by Day Break studios. But that's just a wonder I have.

    I never bought H1Z1 because of the look and apparent feel, I did buy PUBG though. Its almost like a COD vs BF argument, both fun in their own respects.

    Something to think about is that H1Z1 has had over a year to get it's shit together and still hasn't when PUBG's early access started a week ago, I reckon in a year PUBG will be significantly more polished with PLAYERUNKNOWN having such a big input in it's development.

    The only thing keeping H1Z1 numbers up are the insane Chinese population which is why its peaks are outside other games peak time. The AU playerbase is pretty much decimated and their new East NA servers mirror the same numbers.

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