Bohemia Interactive’s ARMA II is arguably the most amazing comeback story of 2012. The game originally launched in May 2009 to respectable reviews, averaging 77 on Metacritic. The military simulator had a soft debut, maintained relatively flat activity numbers, and didn’t attract many headlines for years after release.
Fast forward to 2012, however, and the game was one of the most talked-about titles of the year, thanks in large part to Bohemia designer Dean “Rocket” Hall’s open world survival mod, DayZ. It’s a testament to what can happen when a developer embraces modding — and an inspired designer uses those tools to create something amazing.
Hall built this zombie-themed mod as an independent pet project, but DayZ’s runaway success ended up having a huge impact on the ARMA II community (particularly since users needed to own ARMA II to play DayZ at all).
In order to evaluate the mod’s impact, Raptr examined DayZ as part of an in-depth community report in late 2012 and discovered data that showcased the dramatic impact a single mod can have on a game’s success.
The DayZ mod debuted in April 2012 with no marketing or fanfare, but that didn’t stop the game from attracting attention right away. Even more impressive was that the game launched in a very raw state. Raptr reports that just one week after DayZ’s release, ARMA II’s daily active users increased by 36%. Things quickly snowballed from there, and in just one month, DayZ had boosted ARMA II’s DAUs by 847%.
As word about DayZ spread throughout the video game community like a zombie infestation, new players quickly flocked to ARMA II so they could try out this hot new release. In the mod’s first week, ARMA II saw 106% more new users per day than before, and in a month, that figure jumped to 1343%.
In fact, in DayZ’s first month, ARMA II’s sales numbers increased 400% to 300,000 units, thanks in large part to the tidal wave of new users interested in trying out the mod. Many months after the mod release, game sales continued to climb steadily until a big sale in July really took things to a whole new level.
And with DayZ’s rapid success, many lapsed ARMA II users (who hadn’t played the game in at least two weeks), decided to hop back in to see what all the fuss was about. In week one, DayZ increased the number of daily returning users by 20%, and that figure reached 101% by the end of that first month.
Raptr also found that DayZ’s release encouraged users to play longer each day. After the mod’s launch, average playtime for ARMA II increased 36% from 2.2 hours per day to 3 hours per day. One week later, users were playing the game 23% more than before, and in one month, the average user was playing 50% more than before DayZ’s debut.
Like Raptr’s similar case study with Portal 2′s puzzle maker, DayZ’s release proves that the modding community can breathe new life into games that are well past their launch period. By opening up ARMA II to other game developers (or in this case, one of its own designers), Bohemia Interactive allowed users to take the game into their own hands and create something new and exciting with the ARMA II toolset.
And for Bohemia Interactive in particular, DayZ had some additional benefits beyond growing ARMA II’s community. DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall is now working on a standalone version of the game with the rest of the studio, meaning that ARMA II’s mod tools actually served as a perfect test-bed for Bohemia’s next fully-featured product.
Other developers will want to take a few notes from DayZ’s success, as Hall’s creation is yet more proof that mods are a fantastic way to increase community activity via user-generated content, as outlined in our Community as a Service manifesto. When users have the option of tweaking or creating their own content it gives players more reason (and content) to play, and with a bit of luck, it might even spark the next video game phenomenon.
You can check out even more from Raptr’s community report here.