How was CoD: Zombies created?

Daily Gaming Update

TGO After-Show


How’s it going everybody, Adrian Simple here from and welcome back to the Sunday Variety Show, March 8th, 2020. Today we’re going to do a little bit of storytime.

Alright so last week I came across an article talking about the origins of Call of Duty Zombies, and I thought it was a very interesting story so I thought I’d share it here. Now, the first iteration of zombies came in Call of Duty World at War, which was Treyarch’s second Call of Duty game, and the fifth one in the whole franchise. Hot off the heels of the very successful Modern Warfare, not to be confused with the Modern Warfare that released last year, they were gearing up for a very serious World War 2 game. The idea of zombies came around because they introduced a flamethrower into the game, and when somebody caught on fire, they had this little animation that reminded them of what a zombie might look like. And if you look at that animation today, it does actually look like a stumbling zombie, and that’s what became the spark.

After somebody came up with the idea, they took one of the levels they already designed and took a chunk of it out. This became the first map for Zombies that they playtested on, eventually Nacht. Eventually people were becoming so interested, that various departments started to chip in, even though they were working overtime on the rest of the game. As they say here “the original zombie mode was made from the leftover pieces nad bits from peoples’ spare time.” Now, here is the most interesting part to me. This little side project was a secret. Treyarch, the developers, just naturally started making this, and they loved it so much that they wanted Activision to approve of putting it into the game. And as the article points out here, that’s a super bold move. Activision at this point is known for being all about money, and publishing mega-franchises on a strict schedule, with Call of Duty being at the top of that ladder. Putting development resources into a zombie mini-game isn’t as easy as asking for it.

So what they did, and I thought this was smart, was they brought Activision executives over one by one and sat them down with it. They basically said “here, just play this and tell us what you think.” And as they did that, slowly one by one, Activision signed off on the idea. I think that’s much more effective than an email requesting it, you know?

Anyway, so then the deal that they struck was that it could be included, but it had to remain a secret to the general public. No promoting it, just put it in and see what happens when people play it. And then of course we know what happens afterwards, it becomes incredibly popular, and eventually it’s a staple of the Call of Duty franchise.

I just wanted to share this because I thought it was really cool how a very popular game mode got sparked on something so little, and required a lot of tact to convince the publishers to include it.

Folks, thank you very much for submitting your answers, I very much appreciate it. I’ll be back tomorrow for the Sunday Variety Show, so until then, Happy Gaming everyone.