A few years back you couldn’t go a month without a new survival game popping up and promising to be the next DayZ, Rust, or whatever else might have been slightly popular at the time. During those days I loved playing survival games and would happily spend weekends with friends building bases or simply trying to survive. It was a golden age of sorts.
Whilst many survival games emerged not many stuck around. I think I could probably name more survival games that failed than I could that went on to hit 1.0 release. Early Access and the survival genre were synonymous. For that reason, many people swore off of games that slotted into those genres. Labeled as scams, cash-grabs, or broken buggy messes, people would write them off before they even got going. Because of that stigma – in some cases, well justified, it became hard for the potentially good games to get noticed or gain traction.
“How is this any different from X”, “I already have Y, which is pretty much the same.” Those kinds of things were often muttered. I tried many games, some were bad, some were good. But pretty much all of them failed to achieve their ambitions. The saturation of survival games at that time meant people quickly felt jaded by all the new titles – myself included.
Roll on Q1 2021 and survival games are making a bit of a comeback. Rust has seen an influx of players. More than tripling the 24-hour peaks of 6 months ago. They’re seeing record numbers playing and record numbers watching on platforms like Twitch. Furthermore, the often lambasted DayZ is also seeing a steady increase in the player count – although not a large as Rust. Both of these games are about 7 years old, yet they’re still bringing in new players and viewers.
SCUM is another that is slowly seeing an increase in players. Sure the numbers are nowhere near the same as Rust and DayZ, but it’s still a slow gradual uptick in population. It’s a strange thing to see. For years all of these games felt fairly niche with their more unforgiving gameplay elements not appealing to the masses. One thing that has clearly had a huge influence on this is streamers.
In the last month or so many large twitch streamers including the likes of XQC, Jacksepticeye and Pokimane have jumped into Rust. Obviously, these streamers bring along their friends to play with. And with this newly gained popularity, it makes the smaller creators see that Rust is the new thing. Meaning some of them decide to jump in as well. Pretty quickly you see Rust sitting top of the charts in viewers on Twitch and everyone is talking about it. The impact of streamers playing video games is undeniably huge. It’s a strange phenomenon that has seen Fall Guys and Among Us, both benefit from hugely last year. Now it appears it’s the turn of survival games.
The Hardcore Appeal
I think it goes beyond this, however. The more hardcore games such as Arma, DayZ, Escape from Tarkov, Rust, Squad, and more have had strong player bases for years. For a long time, they may not have been bringing in huge numbers. However, they are still there, regularly being played by dedicated fans who enjoy the more ‘realistic’ or hardcore elements they offer over games like Battlefield or Call of Duty.
But times are changing and it seems like every day more and more people are looking for new challenges. 2 years ago, none of my friends played Escape from Tarkov. Now all of them either play regularly or have played a decent amount in the past few months. Streamers like Pestily and LVNDMARK are growing all the time and bringing in new players with their constant excellent content on the game.
I can’t help but feel like the balance is shifting towards more hardcore shooters. Now I’m not for one second suggesting Call of Duty is a dead game or will fade away. Just that the more niche games are quickly catching up in popularity. The casual gamer is getting bored of the usual run and gun games and wants something fresh and exciting. Survival games offer that. Sure they’re janky as hell at times, but they offer experiences like no other.
Whilst we’re seeing a mini-revival for survival games in the past month or so, I can’t help but feel it’s part of something bigger. A shift in mentality to more interesting shooter experiences.