Bohemia’s almost sold 3 million copies of DayZ. “We’re about 100,000 copies under that,” DayZ’s producer Brian Hicks tells me over Skype. “Around 2.9m, but we’re damn near.” It’s an unmitigated success and Bohemia did that with “nearly $0 marketing budget.”
Hicks says that “Youtube and Twitch are the entire force behind DayZ’s success.”
The DayZ mod bloomed in popularity within months of its release. Pulling in more than a million unique players within its first four months. Its popularity drove hundreds of thousands of sales of Arma 2 and convinced Bohemia to develop a full standalone release of the game. It’s thanks to Youtubers and Twitch streamers that word of DayZ spread so quickly.
There were points when DayZ was the number one game on Twitch. “We were above Dota, League, and Starcraft,” Hicks says.
The DayZ Survivor GameZ event – a Hunger Games style eSport setup up by a group of DayZ fans – was one of the most watched events on the streaming service, Hicks says. “Our peak viewership, and keep in mind this is from a small team based off a hobby and a mod, we had 62,000 concurrents. That’s more people than were playing DayZ by three times.
“My personal opinion, since we have nearly $0 marketing budget – our marketing is me and Dean going to shows and interacting with consumers – I’d say Youtube and Twitch are the entire force behind DayZ’s success.”
Hicks says its DayZ’s sandbox that draws in streamers; it spawns unique stories. It “ties into the strengths both survival games and DayZ have: they’re not as much defined linear and narrative game worlds as they are a narrative toolset to create your own stories.
“It sounds so PR-ish but you can’t design this. You cannot force the kind of emergent gameplay you get when you put 50 people in Chernarus and give them the tools to do whatever the hell they want.”
Anyone who plays DayZ will find complete player freedom means that you fill find a murderous psychopath. Someone who isn’t looking to trade for your supplies. They will kill you where you stand simply because you crossed their path. In a moment you can lose everything. However, Hicks argues this, too, is why DayZ appeals to streamers and players. “I’ve 3,000+ hours in DayZ, Hicks says. “Even I hate it when someone catches me off guard and I lose everything, or they kill me, or take all my stuff, or they handcuff me and leave me to die. It sucks. But those horrible experiences create so much value and power for the positive experiences. The impact of running across a real hero in DayZ is so much more powerful because of the existence psycopaths, bandits, and murderers.
“It makes when you come out on top so much more satisfying.”