Undawn Made Less Noise Than Will Smith At The Oscars, And It’s Obvious Why

Now that’s a lot of damage.

Story Highlights

  • Despite Tencent having an A-list celebrity on board and $140 million, Undawn was a massive flop.
  • The game’s marketing lacked engagement and failed to differentiate itself from others in the genre.
  • Undawn’s failure serves as a lesson for game developers and publishers around the world.

In today’s world, having famous people promote things and spending lots of money often looks like a surefire recipe for success. But now, the story of Undawn shows us that things aren’t always that simple in the gaming world. Made by Tencent, this game had Hollywood star Will Smith on board and a whopping $140 million budget running its production.

But even with all that star power and cash, Undawn flopped pretty hard. The game only made $287,000 in revenue over the course of 8-months. That’s barely 0.2% of its budget. The biggest headline the game made, aside from its announcement of working with Will Smith, is just how badly it flopped. So, let’s dive into this absolute mess of release, shall we?

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The Illusion Of Celebrity Endorsements

The inclusion of Will Smith in Undawn’s marketing was supposed to be a big deal. By having Smith play Trey Jones, a key character in the game, the idea was to use his fame to attract players. But I guess despite Smith’s star power, Undawn made less noise than that Chris Rock slap did. It just goes to show that having a celebrity endorse a game isn’t enough to make it successful in this tough gaming world.

Now I admit, Smith being part of the promotion might have created some initial excitement. But clearly, it didn’t keep players interested or bring in much money over time. There’s a big difference between having a famous person show up briefly in ads and having them play a major role in the story. Plus, the fact that Smith wasn’t very involved in the actual game itself made things worse.

Even though he was presented as a major character, Smith’s role in Undawn seems more like a symbol than anything else. It’s a reminder that it’s important for marketing to be honest and upfront about what a game offers. Imagine if Cyberpunk 2077 had put Keanu Reeves in a cameo role in the game. That’s basically what Undawn did with Will Smith.

Imagine If Johnny Silverhand Was Only A Marketing Tool For Cyberpunk 2077
Imagine If Johnny Silverhand Was Only A Marketing Tool For Cyberpunk 2077

The Pitfalls Of Excessive Budgets

Undawn was expected to be a game-changer. With its massive budget of over $140 million and a team of 300 developers, I thought it was being set up to be a big contender in the Zombie Survival genre. But despite this huge financial investment, the game didn’t do as well as expected. This makes me wonder whether pouring so much money into game development is always a good idea.

Now granted, big budgets can help make games look amazing and have huge worlds to explore. But they don’t guarantee that the gameplay itself will be fun or that the game will have new and exciting features. I mean, take a look at all the indie hits that came out recently. Games like Helldivers 2, Lethal Company, and even Palworld prove that more isn’t always better.

The fact that Undawn didn’t make much money despite its huge budget shows that there are big risks involved in spending so much on game development. Success isn’t just about having lots of money. It’s also about adapting to what players want and staying on top of new trends. Ask any business person and they’ll tell you the same: you must know the market if you want to survive in it.

Indie Hits Like Helldivers 2 Have Achieved Greater Success With Less Than A Fraction Of Undawn's Budget
Indie Hits Like Helldivers 2 Have Achieved Greater Success With Less Than A Fraction Of Undawn’s Budget

The Importance Of Effective Marketing And Community Engagement

Undawn’s failure to catch on with players can be blamed partly on its marketing and how it engaged with the community. Even though a big-name Hollywood star was involved and there was a lot of money put into marketing, the game didn’t create much excitement or keep it going after it was released. The lack of ongoing marketing and updates after the launch meant that Undawn quickly faded from people’s minds.

On top of that, the game’s name and story weren’t very original, making it blend in with all the other zombie games out there. In a time when players have so many options and games to choose from, it’s crucial for a game to stand out. That means having a strong brand, an interesting story, and a community of players who are excited about the game.

Game developers need to actively build a community around their game. They have to listen to feedback from players and keep improving the game to keep it relevant. Otherwise, it’s easy for a game to get lost in the crowd and be forgotten. Standing out takes more than just having a famous face promoting your game—it takes real effort to engage with players and keep them interested.

Lessons Learned

Undawn’s failure is a lesson for both game developers and publishers, showing that relying only on famous people and huge budgets isn’t enough to make a game successful. In a field where being creative, making games that players love, and reaching out to the community are key, success depends on getting everything right—not just having a big name or lots of money.

I’m not saying all of this based on my opinions either. You have a success story like Helldivers 2 right in front of you. Not only was the game effectively marketed, but the developers are actively engaged with the community. They even have a game master, Joel, who joins public games every now and then to spawn 10 Bile Titans right on top of my head to make sure I lose all of my Samples.

Devs around the world should remember the mistakes Tencent made with Undawn. They need to stay humble, be ready to change their plans, and always aim for the best. Learning from Undawn’s failures reminds us how important it is to keep improving and listening to players. By sticking to these principles, you can make games that people really enjoy and that keep being popular. And also not lose 99.98% of your budget.

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Saif is a seasoned video game journalist who works for eXputer. His passion for gaming was nurtured by playing on arcade emulators since his early childhood. Specializing in writing opinion pieces, he dives into the intricacies of the latest titles, the gaming industry, and the wider community. A sucker for good storytelling and a love for immersive worlds, Saif eagerly explores the latest releases while turning his thoughts into engaging and entertaining articles. Writes Opinion Pieces at eXputer || Education: Bachelors in Psychology.

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