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'Dead Island' gamers spent nearly 6,500 years playing together

"We looked at Dead Island and we felt it wasn't heading in the right direction." Guido Eickmeyer

Dead Island
Dead Island

Gamers have played 6,500 years worth of Dead Island together.

Dead Island was a surprising success from a relatively unknown developer, a game that managed to sell more than 4 million copies despite mediocre reviews, a long, troubled development history and a relatively tiny marketing budget.

How did it succeed?

Cooperative gaming.

Specially nearly 6,500 years worth. That's the total time, 56,907,547 hours, that gamers have collectively put into abusing, killing and running from zombies since the game's release, Deep Silver development director Guido Eickmeyer told a gathering at GDC Europe today.

"Dead Island succeeded because it is the most exciting cooperative experience that is on the market," Eickmeyer said.

But that wasn't always the case, he said during the panel.

"We took over the project three years ago," Eickmeyer said, explaining Deep Silver's relatively late role in the Techland developed game. "It wasn't in good shape.

"We looked at it and we felt it wasn't heading in the right direction. Internally, as a team, we sat down and we made an analysis and we thought, ‘What can we deliver?'"

The end decision was to chase the elements of the game that the developer was good at and not to try and improve on things that the team didn't show a particular strength in.

It was that focus that led Deep Silver to not try and match the emotional power and narrative emphasis seen in the Dead Island trailer that had so charged fans of the game.

"We decided we couldn't do a game like that trailer because our resources were so limited," he said. "Doing scripted story games require a ton of money."

Deep Silver saw that the game and the developers had a very sound multiplayer engine and that their use of drop-in, drop-out gaming worked very well, so they built the game around cooperative play instead.

They didn't let it bother them that even they believed the game had "cheesy" characters, story and setting. Ultimately, Eickmeyer said, the important thing is to make a game people can have fun playing.

"It is definitely cheesy," he said. "It's as cheesy as wrestling and Rambo movies.

"You don't want to take yourself too seriously. You don't want to take your title too seriously."

And ultimately, that direction paid off with the game selling more than 4 million copies, much of them past the splash of the game's initial release that moved a million copies.

Now Deep Silver is working on Dead Island sequel: Dead Island Riptide which Eickmeyer promised will be a "Huge coop experience with some new awesome features."