DayZ is more than just another zombie game.
There are no objective markers and scores don't matter: it's all about survival. There is no price tag, beyond the cost of DayZ's 2009 parent game Arma II.
And there is no stopping it. While Dead Island and Resident Evil sales tail off weeks after launch, DayZ is still gathering new followers after months on the market.
Since its launch in April, DayZ has reached the 1m user mark – selling better than most retail games this summer. Its developers are now planning a standalone release – but there is more to its success than sales and numbers.
Creator Dean Hall believes that his project highlights the potential of taking new routes to market, and that independent ventures will become much more common in the years to come.
DayZ also suggests that consumers, not shareholders, will have a greater say in what titles are worthy of the most attention.
This is a small part of a wider change in the games industry, that I think social media is largely to thank for,” Hall told MCV. Gamers have never been more silently organised than they are now.
Gamers are the reason for DayZ's success, pure and simple. They like the concepts behind DayZ, and I hope that this means means more innovation is pushed, especially in the more stale FPS and MMO areas. The technology is there to do this, and I think DayZ has proved there is a market there for it.”
The team behind DayZ even believe the mod's success could mean the days of traditional publishing are numbered.
It proves that publishers are becoming irrelevant,” Hall explained. Nobody really wants to admit that. But given my horrific past experiences in the console market as a producer dealing with publishers, my sympathy is pretty limited.
Many, many publishers have contacted me about DayZ but I always ended up repeating the same question: what benefit are you providing development? What value is actually being added to the process by publishers when you can distribute and market a product for free?
I think publishers need to begin re-evaluating their position in the market and what they can offer developers and consumers. The same thing has been happening in the music industry now that artists can directly reach customers.”
DayZ also proves that you don't need a publisher's monstrous marketing budget to reach 1m gamers.
The mod's million-strong following still comes as something of a shock to Hall, who puts DayZ's popularity down to a combination of luck, good timing and social media.
This occurred against the backdrop of years' worth of doom-and-gloom articles about the decline of the PC market and the death of modding,” he said.
DayZ swept along in the face of all that and left many people – myself included – saying ‘what the hell just happened?' In many ways, we're all still trying to figure that one out.”
THE NEXT INFECTION
Now his attentions turn to the recently announced standalone edition, which will allow consumers to play DayZ without buying Arma II and suffering a complicated installation process.
While Hall wouldn't rule out a retail release”, the focus will be on a digital product following the Minecraft model, with consumers helping to shape the final game via alpha testing and a low price point.
There's no word on a release date, but the team is already clear on what this edition represents: the true test of DayZ's appeal.
It will decide whether DayZ is a success or a failure,” said Hall. By becoming a standalone product, we can push DayZ in the direction it needs to go to fully realise its potential without having to cripple the main product, ArmA, in the process.
We can get creative, innovative, and push the product much father beyond where it is now. And we can take these steps in small strides, getting it working in a polished framework first and then starting to really innovate.”