The original DayZ mod was released in 2012 to near-instant popularity and, come December, it'll be ten years since the standalone game entered early access on Steam. Originally launched in a pretty barebones state, the idea was always to build-out DayZ over the years to come and Bohemia Interactive has done just that: with a sizeable patch last week leading to the game's largest number of concurrent players ever: 69,449, per Steamdb.
To briefly dig into the numbers, DayZ was hitting up to 45,000 concurrents back when it was first released, though from 2015 until late 2018 its player numbers seem to be in a managed decline (with a few odd spikes). But from 2019 onwards the game's ongoing popularity with big streamers like Shroud, along with judicious use of free weekends and a couple of Humble Bundle appearances, has seen player counts rise and keep on rising: I believe the previous peak before this was on January 19, 2023, at around 63,000 players.
It's hard to think of anything in DayZ that hasn't changed over that time, even though it officially hit 1.0 back in 2018. The most recent patch had our own Chris Livingston wondering about the Ship of Theseus paradox because, at this point, Bohemia really does seem to have run out of things to replace: the case in point being it just got a brand-new sky.
As well as that the latest patch added the .308 DMR, a throwback to the original mod, and overhauled the Vybor Air Base (the name may not be familiar but you'll recognise it as a place where you've died a lot).
One other change may be a bigger factor in this jump in player count however: spawn grouping, which puts players a little closer to each other when spawning rather than at random spots on the coast. Now, the most terrifying thing in DayZ is other people but, at the same time, I guess this ups your chance of some early action.
You could write a book on DayZ itself and its subsequent influence on the industry, from pioneering many of the ideas that underpin the battle royale genre to, arguably, creating our contemporary lust for unfinished survival games. Well, I suppose at least you can't call DayZ unfinished now.
As for the future, thanks to the US Federal Trade Commission we know Bohemia is working on DayZ 2, but don't expect to hear anything on that until the studio's got ArmA 4 out of the way.
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Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."