Treyarch’s Next Move for Call of Duty Zombie Craze?

Stabbing, shooting, and blasting through endless waves of undead has become increasingly popular thanks to Treyarch’s Nazi and Imperial Zombies game mode for Call of Duty: World at War.  Surprising some, Nazi Zombies has formed quite a large following.  However, it is no surprise to hear a mass of speculation surrounding how Treyarch will continue to evolve this once mini-game turned full-blown obsession.  It’s not easy to believe the speculation, or even know where it came from.  With that said, let’s go over some points that might help us base our own answer to the question:  What will be Treyarch’s next move for their newly developed zombie craze?


Knowing the origins of the Nazi Zombies game mode will help you understand some of the points in this article.  On November 11th, 2008 – the release date for Call of Duty: World at War – game developer Jesse Snyder blogged about how he and the rest of the Treyarch development team grew this feature from an idea in his head.  Snyder, being a big fan of tower defense games, had been attracted to the concept of being overrun and not allowing the player the feeling of safety, as was the case with most earlier COD titles.  Adding a few more concepts from some of his favorite tower defense games, he later came up with the idea of Nazi Zombies and began putting it in motion.


Snyder references Geometry Wars, which originated from bonus content that was included in Project Gotham Racing 2, as a basis for his intentions of his own content.  He credits it as an ingenious idea for pleasing fans while at the same time providing a prototype for another game.  Snyder explains that upon his first mention of his idea, producers were not completely impressed and begin moving in a similar direction, but their direction wasn’t quite what Snyder had envisioned.  He created a prototype for Nazi Zombies and began introducing it around the office, receiving a range of positive reactions.  Shortly after, other projects for bonus content were cut and zombie mode was the only one in development.  Potentially Treyarch had realized they have something big on their hands, but just how big was it going to be?

 Nacht der Untoten

Initially only Snyder and one other programmer were assigned to the development of Nazi Zombies.  Furthermore, they were only allowed time to work on the project over weekends because development of the main game was in full swing.  As the programming came together, more developers became interested in contributing to the project, and they began polishing the design with features such as the treasure chest, exploding heads, and headless zombies that pursue you on the attack, which was later altered so that they would fall after a few seconds.  Although, you may have noticed that this feature was reinstated for the release of Shi No Numa, the most recent zombie level available with the purchase of Map Pack 2.  It’s possible that Treyarch is digging deep and using everything they currently have to provide a well-rounded experience through continuous updates of their zombie content.  Perhaps they are also trying to determine which of their concepts receive good feedback.  Anyway, eventually resources were fully dedicated to the development of Nazi Zombies to ensure it was ready in time for launch.  You can read more details from the development of Nazi Zombies at Jesse Snyder’s blog.

 Zombie Verruckt

In March 2009 Map Pack 1 was released for COD: WaW.  Included was a brand new zombie level titled Zombie Verruckt, which introduced a long list of improvements to the already addictive game.  Character dialogue, more aggressive A.I., new weapons, and better audio design are just a few things that separated Verruckt from Nacht der Untoten (the original level designed for Nazi Zombies).  Additionally, Treyarch added hidden clues, which don’t completely illustrate a story, but that are just enough to allow the player to create their own interpretation of what happened.  Speculating about the potential storylines themselves is beyond the scope of this article.  You can find online a number of theories and discussions of what Treyarch is explain, I am more interested in what the addition of a storyline means for the future of Nazi Zombies.  A common theory about Treyarch’s intentions when adding this depth, which happens to be one that I agree with, suggests that because Nacht der Untoten almost completely lacked any indication of a storyline, and because it didn’t play as sharply when compared to Verruckt, the developers obviously didn’t expect their creative bonus feature for a major franchise title to become such a success.  This means that although Nacht der Untoten was good, it was merely an insight for Treyarch to take their project to another level.


The June 2009 release of Map Pack 2 and the newest and most intricate zombie level to date – titled Shi No Numa – brought even further development of new features and storyline clues, as well as a whole new wave of speculation.    It is also the first time that Imperial Zombies are the featured enemy and that character biographies were developed, which all but confirms that somewhere behind the mayhem there is a pretty deep story waiting to be revealed.  So, here we are as followers to Treyarch’s newest creation.  Pushing nearer is the release of the Infinity Ward developed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and the same question continues to loom over our heads.  Since the release of Zombie Verruckt gave the first indication of a story behind the zombie slaughter, the developers have seemingly been silent.  This is quite a change from the time before Nazi Zombies drew so much success, when we could find in-depth reports on how they came about and developed their concepts.


As we know, Treyarch will not be developing the next title in the COD franchise as that is currently being finished up by Infinity Ward.  However, history tells us that Treyarch will probably be developing COD 7, and there are already reports of those rumors being confirmed.  Considering that Treyarch began working on COD: WaW nearly two years before the game’s release, then it is very possible that they are already well into the development of the title that will follow COD: MW2.  Although this might open up the possibility of again seeing zombies on a COD title, it does seem like an excessive amount of groundwork for a story that will be restricted to the bonus content of a much more established franchise.  There is no reason not to believe that Treyarch is fully aware of the potential they’ve created and it appears that there are at least a handful of developers with a passion for their new project, who would also probably like to see it carried out through more rewarding methods.  Though how a sequel actually comes to life will depend on which elements Treyarch feels they should include.  If some kind of campaign were created on a future release based off of what is currently Nazi Zombies, then Treyarch would have to be extremely careful to preserve the game’s arcade-style of play that has attracted fans thus far.  On the other hand, without an in depth campaign, or some substantial amount of content to carry out the storyline, it will likely to be difficult to sell as a full release title.  Players need to be allowed to progress towards an ending as they play in order to entice them to pay the amount of money that it will cost.  If Treyarch has plans to forego a campaign and stick to this project’s roots, then seeing a release of some downloadable content strictly dedicated to Treyarch’s Zombies in the near future seems like a great possibility.  Either way, it seems logical for Treyarch to continue their Zombie game independently from COD, and all fans should feel comfortable having faith that this will occur in some manner.

What are your thoughts on how Treyarch should develop a sequel to Nazi and Imperial Zombies?  Please feel free to share them using our comments function.

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  1. It’s interesting to read about the development of Nazi Zombies, great article. I’m a big fan of Nazi Zombies myself, the most recent swamp map is the best co-op game I’ve played, better than Left4Dead, Killing Floor, etc. Pretty impressive for a game mode rather than a standalone game.

  2. I’d like to see them design some kind of MMO, or as a large sandbox game with maybe the same kind of survival arcade play available through cooperative multiplayer.

  3. Conventional MMOs require a ton of funding though, and console owners haven’t shown much willingness to pay 10-15 bucks a month for them either.

  4. Great article! yeah an MMO would be great for this kind of game but Varus is right its a huge undertaking and most companies don’t want to invest in the infrastructure especially if they don’t know if users are willing to pay for it.. however there are MMO that are quite popular that people do pay for, think of the original Ultima online, I believe it was something like 10$ a month to get on their servers

  5. I really love the concept of an ambiguous story line. It might seem counter productive to have it vague but I can see where this would be a great promotional gimmick, but yea, there has to be some point, some story, some goal. It’s a great game would love to see it continue to grow

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