Undawn | The $140m zombie survival game starring Will Smith that bombed while nobody was looking

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Zombie survival game Undawn, despite a $140m budget and the starry presence of Will Smith, was such a sales disappointment that its maker is rethinking its strategy.

Remember when that blockbuster zombie survival RPG Undawn came out last year? The one with the massive budget, the backing of industry giant Tencent, and with Will Smith as its star? No, neither do we.

A quick Google tells us that Undawn launched in June 2023, and that it’s a PC and mobile survival game which stars Smith as Trey Jones, a character who guides the player around its post-apocalyptic, lousy-with-zombies world. If the marketing for the game completely passed us by, then it clearly flew under most other people’s radars, too.

According to a report by Reuters (first picked up by IGN), the game has proved to be such a sales disappointment that it’s prompted Tencent to rethink its entire approach to making games. Tencent – the Chinese firm that has stakes in Epic Games, Ubisoft and more besides – reportedly spent $140m on developing Undawn, with the project employing some 300 artists and designers.

Despite this, the revenues from the free-to-play RPG have reportedly been tiny – it brought in just $287,000 last month according to data quoted by Reuters. Given that the free-to-play mobile game Monopoly Go made $2bn in its first 10 months, that’s clearly a dismal figure.

Reuters reports that Tencent is now rethinking its approach to making mobile games, with its focus moving away from expensive-to-develop titles based on brands familiar to gamers in the west, and to smaller, more casual titles that are cheaper to produce. As a result, the company is said to have taken “hundreds” of staff away from development of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Jade – a mobile spin-off made in partnership with Ubisoft.

“We’re focusing on fewer bigger budget games,” an executive from Tencent said in an earnings call earlier this week. “Typically, we’re seeking to make the biggest bets around games that either iterate on a successful IP … or games that are iterating around proven gameplay success within a niche and taking those to a more mass market.”

All of which means we’re going to be seeing more mobile games like DreamStar and Eggy Party, which are colourful and easy to pick up and play, and fewer games like Undawn.

Assassin’s Creed Jade – which has already been in development for some time – will still emerge, but Reuters reports that its release will likely be pushed back to 2025.

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