War Z has sold 2.8 million copies to date
Zombie survival game racked up sales despite bad press, multiple controversies
When The War Z launched in 2012, it was plagued by controversy. It was pulled from Steam for advertising features that weren't in the game. Its US trademark was suspended for being too close to the World War Z novel and film. Executive producer Sergey Titov issued a public apology for what he called "arrogant" responses to players upset with the state of the game. Day Z creator Dean Hall even criticized the game not just for being so similar to his popular Arma II mod, but for negatively impacting his reputation with people who didn't realize they were two separate games.
Despite all that, The War Z--which has since been renamed Infestation: Survivor Stories--sold very well. In a post-mortem on Gamastura, Titov revealed that the game has sold a total of 2.8 million copies to date, 700,000 of which came before the game even arrived on Steam.
"All of the bad press obviously gave The War Z and OP Productions a bad reputation," Titov said. "It adversely impacted our brand and I am sure overall sales figures would have been better without the negativity. I wonder where the game would be today if we had avoided these many mistakes and press coverage had focused on the things we were doing right. Even with the bad press, we sold three times as many copies of the game after reviews hit than we did before. But I'd be lying if I told you we're not still wondering what our sales numbers would look like if we did things differently."
Titov also expressed regret for overly aggressive monetization practices, as well as how he dealt with criticism from players and the press. He thought that silence was an acceptable response to such remarks, but ultimately decided that approach is better suited to companies the size of Sony or Microsoft than for a small studio.
"Throughout all of this, I think the biggest mistake we consistently made was that we were arrogantly deaf to problems raised by a vocal minority of players," Titov said. "For a long time our strategy was very simple - we looked at a massive amount of data we had mined and if it looked generally okay, it meant that things were going well, and if someone started discussing problems on the forums or on social media we generally ignored them. There was a lot of hate out there on the web being aimed toward us, the studio, and the game. Today, I realize that there was plenty of reason for that hate, but at the time, we were foolish and thought that we didn't have to listen to or respond to 'haters.'"