During last week’s episode of Inside Xbox, Overkill revealed a new trailer for the studio’s upcoming The Walking Dead video game. The trailer showcased a new character named Maya. While the CG trailer was intriguing and set the tone for the universe, I find myself wondering why we haven’t seen any gameplay at all. Originally announced in 2014, scheduled for release in 2016, and later delayed until 2018, Overkill’s The Walking Dead is a title that has remained a mystery since its reveal.
The newly released trailer piqued my interest, but after it ended, and there was no gameplay, I was let down. CG trailers don’t really get me excited. I mean, they do not indicate how a game will end up. Let’s not forget the stellar Dead Island reveal trailer. It remains one of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. Once the game launched, it looked nothing like how the studio initially presented the game. My guard is up with Overkill’s The Walking Dead. The studio has an excellent track record. The Payday series is a masterful cooperative experience. The studio clearly understands stealth and shooting mechanics; two things that would wonderfully fit into The Walking Dead universe. The reason we need to see gameplay is because at this point, people will not always purchase a game based on name alone.
Years ago, The Walking Dead was quite possibly the most popular IP in the entertainment industry. The television show constantly broke records, Telltale Games took some chances and revolutionized the episodic format with their The Walking Dead series, the comic series reached milestone issues, and AMC even created a spinoff show called Fear The Walking Dead. While things seemed to be going great for anything related to The Walking Dead, recent seasons of the show are painting a different picture. At the height of it’s popularity, the midseason premiere of season 4 brought in 15.8 million viewers. Four years later, and a recent episode of the show only brought in 6.82 million viewers; more than a 50% drop from 2014. A quick search on Wikipedia will show the Nielsen Ratings chart. Seasons 4 and 5 were peak viewership for the show. Despite consistently dropping ratings, the IP continues to evolve.
Will Overkill’s The Walking Dead have enough gusto to win over the video game community? Out of all the games released involving the franchise, The Escapists: The Walking Dead, and Telltale’s take on the franchise were the only success stories(in terms of quality). 2013’s The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct was abysmal, and the mobile games are generic. There hasn’t been a genuinely entertaining action game in The Walking Dead universe, but I think Overkill missed its opportunity. When the game was announced in 2014, the franchise hit its stride. Obviously, no one expected the popularity to drop as drastically as it did. With the original launch window, Overkill would have released the game when the show was still a ratings magnet. Because of the delay, the game is releasing when people are becoming sour on the IP. The video game, television, and film industries have all been oversaturated with zombies, and I’m not sure who really cares about this game at the moment.
Unfortunately, there is another reason why Overkill’s The Walking Dead is in hot water this year. While we’re only in April, this Fall is already going to be stacked. In September, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Spider-Man, and Dragon Quest XI (the latter are PS4 exclusives) will hit store shelves. I think it’s safe to assume that Microsoft will release the next Forza Horizon iteration that month as well. In October, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2, two of the biggest games of the year will be released. While we don’t know what will be launching in November, it’s worth noting the next Battlefield and possibly Crackdown 3 will also be launching in the Fall. With games not launching near Red Dead Redemption 2, I wonder if there is a place for Overkill’s The Walking Dead.
This year has some heavy hitters, and a lot of people don’t buy every game that comes out. Most consumers pick and choose. With so many highly anticipated AAA experiences, Overkill’s The Walking Dead doesn’t really fit in. The game is a cooperative online shooter similar to Left 4 Dead. It requires constant communication and teamwork. If there’s one thing that Sea of Thieves (and most games with multiplayer components over the past few years) has taught us, it’s that people don’t really like to talk together. How can a game with online emphasis survive when games (with multiplayer) have confirmed single player campaigns (Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Spider-Man, Read Dead Redemption 2, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4)? It’s a difficult task that rarely few console games have been able to achieve. Just look at Overwatch for example. Details are still scarce regarding Overkill’s The Walking Dead, and I think that’s a massive disservice to the people that the studio is aiming to release their game for. Transparency is key. What would you rather play; the anticipated games I listed above or a game that you know next to nothing about?
Look, Overkill’s The Walking Dead is a game that’s right up my alley. My friends and I played a lot of PayDay 2 on PC and Xbox One. It’s an enjoyable video game that I encourage people to play. Overkill Software is a capable studio that I believe can do The Walking Dead franchise justice. The problem is the way the studio has been interacting with consumers. The lack of game details, gameplay videos, and a release date is concerning. It’s been in development for four years, and it almost feels like a game that doesn’t exist. The latest trailer said it will launch Fall 2018, but I think it will benefit from one more delay. Releasing anytime from September through November will find the game buried under superior and more anticipated titles. I genuinely hope that Overkill’s The Walking Dead does well, but ultimately, I think the game has missed its opportunity and will have trouble succeeding in the current gaming landscape… and that’s a shame.