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Surviving a viral outbreak,  DayZ  style
Surviving a viral outbreak, DayZ style
September 15, 2013 | By Brandon Sheffield

DayZ is a big success story - it was a mod for Arma 2, which was on the tail end of its success at the time. DayZ, with no advertising or promotion, went from 0 to 500,000 users in five months. Then it went from 500,000 to 1 million in another month, and it's been a top seller on Steam for one year. The game now has 2 million users, and a 10-year strategy. How did they get from there to here?

Project lead Dean Hall admits he doesn't precisely know. "The biggest thing I learned about going viral is there was no time to plan," he said at his talk at GDC China. "Everything kind of just happened."

"When I released DayZ I thought maybe 100 people would play it," Hall added. "I didn't even make a post about it, I just put it online and people started playing it."

Suffice it to say, Hall was not prepared for the game's success. "One of the big parts was growth management," said Hall. There was a problem with structure - by the time the game hit 20,000 users, hit CEO asked him to make a standalone product. A week later the game had 100,000 users, and the strategy had to change, in a short period of time.

"It's also really easy to get yourself into a PR nightmare," he said. "And there were many instances of that happening. One guy started making a single player version of my game and it caused a lot of headaches."

Culture was another big issue. For the last 12 months the culture of the project was just a few guys in a room developing, but now they're adding 20 or 30 staff and moving to a new office. Managing that growth in such a short time was incredibly difficult.

What's more, Hall wasn't quite prepared to figure out what he wanted out of the game's success. Lawyers spend a lot of time focusing on protecting from failure, but not capitalizing on success, he says. Nobody was prepared for the success of the final product, or who was going to own it, or how the wealth would be distributed.

But virality is an excellent problem to have, and you should capitalize on it once you're there, making yourself available on Twitter and Reddit and other social programs, because it only accelerates the process. "People want to feel part of it, they want to be a part of something that's going on," he says. "It's like reality TV."

Ultimately, legitimacy and a targeted development plan is the best thing for your game. When it all comes down to it, "know what you're making, and know what you're trying to do."

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Maria Jayne
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I feel like Bohemia hasn't capitalized on this mods massive success, the time it has taken and the relative slow progress suggests a real reluctance to put much of an investment in it. As a result, several zombie survival games have been released and more are on the way.

I suppose Bohemia were busy with Arma 3 and lacked resources before, releasing it now though, just seems like it's lost most of it's momentum unfortunately. When I see the progress at various shows it seems so minimal, I can't help feeling somebody should have thrown more money and bodies at it sooner.

Scott Lavigne
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I feel like if they put the right bodies on the project, that they'll quickly reacquire their base on release. The mod has no long-term motivations for the player. People played it and did everything there was to do. The standalone will be something completely new when (if?) it ever comes out. I don't really know of any games directly competing with it.

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Caleb Garner
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Yea I'm a big fan of Infestation: Survival Stories in spite of its problems.. but i would happily check out another game if it could achieve a better experience. I got into it because of the $3 steam sale.. and that was wise on their part because I really enjoy it and have since made IAP through steam.

7 Days To Die looks neat also. I just found out about that one. It's not a direct comparison of course, but certainly could be considered an alternative to it.

I've wanted to try DayZ, but opted not to buy a $20 game for a mod and wait for the official release, but like Maria said, something "close enough" came along at a great price point to get into.

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