Why Call of Duty Zombies Should Become a Standalone Game

If the recent wave of excitement generated by the ongoing teaser campaign by Treyarch for the BO2 iteration of Zombies is proof of anything, it’s that people really enjoy killing Nazi zombies.  So much, in fact, that a lot of people would buy Treyarch’s CoD titles solely for the Zombies sub-game.

As I’ve discussed before, CoD’s lifespan is becoming too short to hold our interest, in part because no single title has really offered much in terms of DLC post-release compared to more modern games like BF3 and Mass Effect.  MW3 tried with the Chaos/Faceoff modes, and Spec Ops missions, but it’s overwhelming shortcomings really made the total offerings of MW3 a letdown (I’m working on an in-depth article about this BTW, so don’t get too worked up in the comments, save it for that article).

So, considering how put off people were by MW3’s survival mode and how much they seem to love Zombies, would it make sense to produce a standalone version of the increasingly popular sub-game that can be released annually?  In my opinion, hellz to the yeah!  Why?  Well, there a lot of reasons…

Part of what makes CoD fun is the DLC you get after release.  New maps and gamemodes are typically a nice refresher for the game and help hold my interest in it, MW3 aside.  Both WaW and BO1 had Zombies DLC, but not much in the way of new content over time.  Yes, the easter eggs and expanding story were cool, but they didn’t really offer any new kind of gameplay.  Making a standalone Zombies game would give Treyarch’s Zombies devs more room both on the disc and in their budget to offer more content and gameplay experiences.  BO2 Zombies looks to be benefiting from BO1/WaW Zombies’ explosive success, but I highly doubt that they’ll be able to release 10-15 new Zombies maps like they do for standard MP.  Making Zombies standalone would open the doors for a full year of DLC, something I think Zombies fans would really enjoy.

Standalone Zombies would also bring a dedicated support/development staff with it that could easily build a bigger and better game.  Imagine a Zombies campaign (already rumored to be included in BO2) in addition to the easter-egg/achievement hunting of the Zombies we’ve come to know and enjoy.  Imagine MLG Zombies tournaments (the idea reminds me a lot of Diablo).  Just think about how much bigger and better the Zombies experience would be if it was actually its own game.

Of course, a standalone Zombies game offers some challenges.  Do people really want to pay for 2 CoDs every year? Will only Treyarch be developing it and will it impact their CoD development negatively to have their staff divided?  Can a standalone Zombies game compete with games like DayZ and it’s soon-to-release clones?  Will it end up turning CoD into the next Guitar Hero (think “Call of Duty: Nicki Minaj Robot Nazi Dance Edition”)? But, and I think most importantly, will it suck if the devs don’t have to be so clever?  Right now, the Zombies devs have very little room to work with on the disc and that limitation has inspired a lot of creativity (easter eggs, themed maps like “Call of the Dead,” and using weapons built into the core game instead of creating a wholly unique weapon roster/system).  More freedom might equate to less creativity, but I think it’s worth a shot considering how successful Zombies has become.

2 CoDs every year would obviously not help keep the franchise alive.  The more you make of something, the less valuable it becomes.  Perhaps Zombies standalone could be a $30 digital download only title the releases in the summer when CoD starts feeling stale.  Maybe make it free if you have ELITE Premium (that would make the service totally worth the price for me, btw).  Minecraft has proven cheaper games with unique features and a dedicated following will sell well on the XBL arcade.

What about Treyarch having two games to publish instead of one every other year?  If anything, Zombies being developed outside of the typical CoD development cycle is going to take a load off of Treyarch.  Instead of having to make basically 2 games in every title they produce, they could focus on one game at a time.  This can only benefit the development of both games.  Combine this with the larger staff a standalone Zombies game will make affordable to Treyarch, and I think it’s a win-win for both the fans and the devs.  I also highly doubt anyone outside of Treyarch would be working on it, given their involvement in it’s development and level of commitment to the sub-game.  It’s Treyarch’s baby and that’s part of what makes it so fun and the fans so loyal.  Bringing in a new studio to work on it would lead to a mass exodus of players loyal to Treyarch’s direction of the game and something I doubt Activision would do.  I also think the increased revenue would make it unnecessary.  Treyarch can always hire more people if they have more income.

As far as the competition is concerned, there’s no doubt that DayZ is a contender for the zombie game crown.  It’s got a huge following and the standalone version of DayZ will no doubt sell exceptionally well.  But DayZ is a PC-only title right now and no console ports are actively being developed.  The goal of a multiplatform DayZ is obviously something the DayZ team is shooting for, but it’s not going to happen before the next generation of consoles are released.  That gives CoD Zombies at least a year of market dominance before DayZ hits consoles, assuming Treyarch starts working this year on their own Zombies game.

Honestly, I think that while arcade shooters like CoD will always be popular, the future of gaming is leaning towards complexity and that’s something DayZ does well, emotionally and technically.  DayZ makes you feel tiny, it makes you feel threatened, and that’s something gamers are looking for more of.  Story and easter eggs can only get you so far if the experience isn’t emotionally involving.  So far, CoD has really failed, I think, to emotionally connect players to the storyline or gameplay in that you have very little to lose when you die.  If you die in DayZ, you’re starting from scratch, which really, really sucks.  Avoiding death in DayZ is hard and emotional.  Avoiding death in CoD is mostly just frustrating and annoying.  In the end, a standalone Zombies game is going to sell well, but it’s only going to appeal to people that like fast-paced shooters.  DayZ has the potential to offer an experience much like CoD Zombies (smaller maps with less penalties for death and friendly fire off), but CoD Zombies will most likely never come close to DayZ’s experience.  However, that’s a discussion for another time.

The possibility of Activision/Treyarch running Zombies into the ground becomes a big issue if it becomes its own entity.  Activision will have yet another wellspring of a title to pump dry.  Guiatar Hero is proof of that.  But so far, CoD has been handled well and doesn’t seem to be going in the same direction as GH did.  While I fear Zombies being pumped to death, I doubt that it going standalone would be the catalyst for that to happen.

As for creativity and solid gameplay, this is Treyarch, baby!  They know what they’re doing and they know what does and doesn’t work.  I have full confidence that a bigger budget and more manpower could only improve the Zombies experience.

What are your thoughts?  Let us know in the comments!

Thank you for reading.

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