PUBG Mobile, Fortnite and how Zombies signal dying games
Zombies are awesome. After slowly shuffling towards popularity during the 60's and 70's, Zombie movies exploded into the 1980's, with the likes of George A. Romero and Wes Craven leading the charge. A whole new genre of fiction was established, and they are a part of the zeitgeist to this day.
Zombie films continue to be made, books are written, TV Shows break records, and naturally, video games are made. The latter seems to be an obvious fit. Who hasn't watched a zombie film and wanted to be in it, battling through hordes of the undead with their weapon of choice? Lots of games have done it differently, each with their own merit. I'm not here to argue with dedicated zombie games, whether it's directly Romero-inspired forceful occupation of an infected shopping mall, team based chaotic action, or lone wolf survival.
These are a law unto themselves, and long may they continue. Especially if they let you do things like this. The issue lies with established games that add on zombie modes to the existing gameplay. This is often done to inject fresh blood into a fading series, and rarely works, sometimes even working against the title, as more effort is put into a fad zombie mode at the expense of the main campaign.
Back to the Start
In 2008, Call of Duty: World at War started the mainstream 'Zombie Mode' trend with Nacht Der Untoten, a simple map with a simple premise: survive for as long as you can against unlimited waves of Nazi zombies. It was a huge hit, and 3 additional zombie maps were released with expansion packs for the game.
The Second Wave
CoD Zombies trudged back onto the scene in Call of Duty: Black Ops in 2010, one of the best selling games of the series so far. These maps seriously upped the ante. No longer were you defending a ramshackle house in no man's land, Treyarch's best creative minds had been put to work to ensure that the return of zombies was a major part of the game, and it paid off. To date, Black Ops has sold over 30 million copies. George A. Romero himself even made an appearance as an invincible villain, and let us not forget the small matter that you could tear apart zombies as JFK and Richard Nixon.
This series has spawned an obscene amount of lore about the zombies-related history of this universe (I guarantee you will not read beyond page 10 of that). However this hasn't helped sales that have been slowly declining since Black Ops in 2010.
Of course, we can't blame zombies alone for the declining sales of the CoD series, however it can't be argued that as an attempt to reinvigorate a series, it ironically doesn't have the ability to resurrect a title that many developers seem to believe it has. This is why, seeing the addition of a zombie mode can often be seen as akin to a death knell for a series. If you add it, it shows that you think you need it, and it won't work like you need it to - which won't leave you in a good place.
Still They Rise
The fad of course isn't over, and some of the most popular games in the world are introducing zombie modes. The zombies in Fortnite have been lukewarmly received, as it's been seen by many as unnecessarily adding a gimmick into a formula that works well enough already. Plus battling a parade of cartoon corpses whilst staying within the limits of a shrinking Battle Royale zone seems to be quite an ask for even big fans of the series.
So, with the news that PUBG Mobile will be adding a zombie mode this week, the question needs to be asked, is this really needed? The console counterpart has been greatly received, with over 100 Million installs since its explosive debut last year, and a successful competitive tournament in Dubai in November. Is this part of a larger plan for the direction of the game? A way to get in on the fad? Or an attempt to keep the game relevant? Hopefully the developers will keep it as a side mode, and keep focus on the main aspects of the game that brought the fan base in initially. Here's hoping they use their... well... braaaaiiiinnnnssss....
Photo: batchelor friend