JAN. 14, 2014 • Bohemia Interactive’s survival horror game DayZ has amassed sales of one million units on Steam’s Early Access program since the alpha became available to purchase on December 16. Early Access is both a crowdsource funding mechanism, as well as a community building opportunity. Paying $29.95 for the alpha guarantees users full access to the Windows platform title as updates are made through the development process to final release. Bohemia intends to increase the price of DayZ for new funders when the title reaches significant milestones like beta, and once again at final release. Purchasers are encouraged to provide testing feedback to the developers to assist in refining the game. DayZ is the standalone version of the popular mod of the same name from 2012. The mod required a copy of ARMA II to play, and registered more than 1 million unique players within four months.
Impact: A lot has been written about Kickstarter in the last year, but much less attention has been focused on Steam’s Early Access program. Both have their own virtues with Kickstarter excelling as a means to test potential demand at the pre-production stage. Early Access is a better fit for projects that are already early into production and likely already have some buzz behind them. That certainly is the case with DayZ. The mod has become sufficiently popular to be mentioned in such esteemed company as Defence of the Ancients and Counter-Strike. Since Early Access was inaugurated last March the program has grown to 105 titles. The main takeaway is that the market for traditional PC games remains significant despite the reticence of major publishers to fund titles for the platform. As always, the track record of the development team and perceived quality of the project funded go a long way in determining success at meeting production costs via crowdsourcing. By that measure it is easy to fathom how Chris Robert’s Star Citizen has raised $36 million via Kickstarter, and DayZ generating $30 million on Early Access. None of this would be possible without digital distribution, or Microsoft stepping back from PC gaming in favor of championing its Xbox console platform. Valve has been happy to step into the vacuum in a very disruptive fashion with designs on making Steam the de facto distribution conduit for titles designed specifically for the PC. Another incentive for core computer game consumers is that coming in at minimum levels of funding nabs the final version of the title at half off the final MSRP. Whether it is DayZ at $29.95, or Star Citizen at $30, either is a very attractive proposition to PC gamers who know what they want to play. Even with the arrival of the free-to-play model, consumers are still willing to purchase high-end PC games. In February, DFC Intelligence will be hosting a webinar on the explosive growth both the PC and console markets are seeing from high paying core consumers. Mobile might be the sexy investment opportunity, yet the PC remains standard-bearer for revenue generation.