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The War Z Controversy refers to the backlash surrounding the release of the zombie survival PC game The War Z, developed by Hammerpoint Interactive and published by OP Productions. The game was heavily criticized after launch for having buggy game play and missing several features listed on the game’s description page.
An alpha version of the game was offered for pre-order customers in early October 2012 and it became available on October 15th. Two days after the alpha release, Redditor sesquip noticed a section in the terms of service that was directly taken from the Terms of Service of League of Legends. The /r/Games post earned 3150 upvotes and 1733 points overall. The Escapist also pointed out that while the document described the game as “free-to-play,” which is true in the case of League of Legends, the alpha package of War Z cost at minimum $29.99. The terms were updated soon after.
The game was officially released on Valve’s Steam digital distribution platform on December 17th, 2012, reaching the top of Steam’s “Top Sellers” list . The game was priced at $15, but players would have to pay an additional fee to reduce their respawn time of four hours after death. Players soon noticed that there were many features listed in the game’s Steam description that were simply not in the game. Multiple maps, 100 player servers, private servers, and the skill point leveling system were not to be found in the game. There were also reports of large scale bans being enacted on legitimate players and those who criticized The War Z in the game’s sub forum on the Steam website.
On December 17th, Redditor xlephon submitted a post to the /r/gaming subreddit, which included a screenshot of the game’s description page on Steam to highlight which features were missing from the game (shown below). Within one month, the post received over 13,500 up votes and 2,200 comments.
In response to the Reddit post, Hammerpoint Interactive spoke with Kotaku arguing that 93% of the customers they’ve surveyed enjoyed the game, with more than 40% saying it was “perfect.” On December 18th, 2012, War Z’s Steam page was updated with a revised description, although several missing features were still reported as being intact.
The same day, Gamespy published an interview with the War Z project’s executive producer Sergey Titov, in which he defended the game’s description page, claiming that the missing features were to be added in the future, and even tried to push off the error on the customers by asserting they had “misread” the description. Also on December 18th, Destructoid published an article about the controversy surrounding the game, which listed off many of the criticisms coming from those who had purchased the title. On December 19th, the game was removed from the Steam store and Valve began offering refunds to those who were unsatisfied with the game, accompanied the following statement:
“From time to time a mistake can be made and one was made by prematurely issuing a copy of War Z for sale via Steam. We apologize for this and have temporary removed the sale offering of the title until we have time to work with the developer and have confidence in a new build. Those who purchase the game and wish to continue playing it via Steam may do so. Those who purchased the title via Steam and are unhappy with what they received may seek a refund by creating a ticket at our support site here: https://support.steampowered.com/newticket.php
Again, we apologize any inconvenience.”
On December 20th, BBC quoted Titov saying he agreed with Valve’s decision to remove the game from Steam and admitted that his company “made the mistake of not communicating effectively to the Steam community.” The War Z was subsequently placed for purchase on the game’s official website. As of February 2013, the game has a score of 23 on the website Metacritic, which is the lowest rating for any title released in 2012.
Response from DayZ Creator
In early reviews, on YouTube The War Z was often compared to DayZ which is a mod for ARMA 2 adds zombies to the tactical shooter video game, with nearly 1400 comparison videos (example shown below) on YouTube as of February 2013. In early January 2013, the creator of Day Z Dean “Rocket” Hall commented on The War Z in a Q&A thread in /r/DayZ. He noted that he was very angry about the end result of The War Z, as close friends and family members have confused the two games due to their similar titles and thus blamed Hall for the poor decisions that the creators of The War Z had made. He also stated that he disagreed with how players of the game had been treated by The War Z‘s staff. Hall’s comments were covered on Forbes, IGN, the Escapist Magazine and Digital Trends.
Digital Trends – DayZ creator attacks undead clone The WarZ as lazy, unnecessary
Destructoid – The War Z launches on Steam amid accusations of fraud