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Why Customers Hate The War Z

20. December, 2012Tags: MMO Blog, The War Z

The War ZThe War Z has had a rather shady history since its announcement earlier this year. Under different circumstances and under the right light, you might say that developers Hammerpoint Interactive have had a bad time of it, that you might feel sorry for them. Given the way they continue to handle their game and some of the things currently coming into the public eye, however, it’s difficult to say anything but that they brought it on themselves. This week I thought we’d take a look at where the War Z went wrong and why it might not even matter in the eyes of the people who already love it.


The Start of a Scam

The War Z wasn’t met with the fanfare perhaps the developers had expected when they announced the game in July 2012. At the height of the DayZ obsession, the announcement of a zombie MMO was bound to be met with a certain amount of incredulity. Why hadn’t anybody heard of this game until DayZ had gotten popular? How could the announced features be placed into a game that had seemingly only been in development for a short time? Hammerpoint claimed that The War Z had been in development for two years and, in a move that would be repeated time and time again throughout the following months, moved to ban and delete anybody or anything that criticized the game in their forums.

The War Z screenshot zombies

You must have seen this somewhere, not in game tho!

Hammerpoint’s reaction was an early indicator that perhaps things weren’t what they were supposed to be. They couldn’t help people being sceptical of the sudden appearance of The War Z and they couldn’t control early reaction to it; their only hope was to prove the naysayers wrong, to deliver a game worthy of being compared to DayZ and worthy of a place on the market. Instead of letting their work speak for itself, they were censoring people with complaints, whether those complaints were valid or not. It’s not a move we haven’t seen publishers and developers do in the past, but it never goes unnoticed and it always kicks up a stink amongst potential customers.

The Alpha

Over the coming months, announcements were made that further confused and angered the community. There would be a real-money store that offered items you’d lose upon death, but executive producer Sergey Titov assured fans that it you wouldn’t gain unfair advantage by using real money. There was further controversy when it was discovered that the terms of service in the Alpha version of the game were taken, word for word, from
League of Legends.

Worse, worries were confirmed when reports started coming out of the Alpha saying that it was little more than a modified War Inc. War Inc has been criticized for a lack of depth in its features, an overreliance on its real-money store and a poor community. Critics and fans seem to see it as decidedly average, with the potential to grow into something else with a little work. The engine was said to be laggy and full of bugs, but it was also the engine that would power Hammerpoint’s (self-coined) first ever zombie MMO.

The WarZ Screenshot 2

another generic The War Z screenshot

It was around this time that people started posting conspiracy-like videos and posts on Reddit and other social forums claiming the game was little more than a scam. At this point, it was hard to take them too seriously, but the tin-foil hat brigade turned out to be not a million miles away from the truth.

The Beta

The alpha version had failed to impress enough people that the press started reporting on it, on top of continuing discussion over the likelihood that the whole thing was a scam. People were starting to notice that The War Z offered very little promotional material outside of a few screenshots, screenshots that had been available for months and weren’t really representative of the game users were playing in Alpha.

Disappointed customers were requesting refunds, only to be told that receiving a refund would result in a blacklisting from both The War Z and the service as a whole.

The developers updated their terms of service so that anybody wanting to play had to waive away their rights to a refund or risk a blacklisting despite the move being illegal.

Genuine users, even the ones enjoying the game, weren’t safe just yet, and in December a series of banishments (all of them were supposed hackers) resulted in hundreds of players unable to access their account, nor their real-money purchases, despite not doing anything wrong.

The consensus seemed to be in: playing The War Z alone was terrible and not at all worth it. Playing with friends was fun, especially if you could communicate directly via headsets. Hammerpoint decided that the best way to cultivate this rapidly spreading assertion would be to charge people for the right to be part of a clan. If you wanted easy access to friends and teammates, you’d have to put real money into the game. There were obvious complaints, so the system was adjusted. You could have a clan of twenty characters for nothing, but for every new twenty characters (each player has five character slots), you’d still need to pay.

The War Z Steam Descriptions


Development was happening quickly, and over the space of two months the game had leaped from Alpha into Beta and then into something the developers called “Foundation mode.” Foundation was  the basics on which the game would be built and the Steam release was an important part of solidifying that foundation. However, the fact that the Steam page was filled with descriptions of features not actually included in the game was the very final straw. There was hardly a description on The War Z store page that was 100% factual and some were exaggerated or flat out lies. In an interview with Gamespot, Sergey Titov claimed The War Z was selling incredibly well, perhaps on the back of promised features that just weren’t part of the game.

When the Gamespot interviewer asked about the lies on the Steam store page, Titov refused to say Hammerpoint had done anything wrong, instead saying that people weren’t reading the descriptions clearly and that The War Z is a work in progress. Despite that, there was nothing on the Steam page to imply that it wasn’t a finished game.

Over the next day, the Steam store page was updated with clearer descriptions and later was removed all together and Valve offers refunds to anybody that wants them. As of writing, you can still reach the page, but it is unavailable for purchase. Titov posted on the Hammerpoint forums issuing an apology but, again, refused to admit that the Steam store page contained false information. Instead he apologised to those that “misread” the store page.


At its worst, The War Z is a game that wants all your money without offering very much in return. At best, it’s an attempt by a mediocre developer to do something half decent, matched with PR mistake after PR mistake and a beta released too early in the hopes of cashing-in on DayZ’s successes. A few weeks ago I wrote about how The War Z might change the MMO world, how its popularity may make way for other games. I still think that remains true, and despite all the indications that this might be a scam, that development might be dropped at any moment, it’s still selling incredibly well. Removal from the Steam store, all the negative publicity is still publicity, and The War Z is priced at a point that for some means it is worth the risk.

Titov claims that only 7% of the community is complaining, that they’re just the vocal minority that appears when any game begins to get successful. Perhaps that’s true – he has access to more stats than we do after all. Whatever the case, he’s going to need to think things through very carefully over the coming days, weeks and months, or else risk The War Z going down in PC gaming history as one of the most disastrous, immoral games ever released.

With words like that behind you, treading carefully is your only chance at turning things around.


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