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Inside Will Smith's $140M Zombie Survival Game That Failed Painfully

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By Augustine Mbam - - 5 Mins Read
Will Smith portrait merged in Undead gameplay photo
Photo | Undead/Shutterstock/VotMedia

Video games and Hollywood stars don't always make the perfect match. Just ask Will Smith, whose big-budget zombie survival game Undawn was one of the biggest flops in recent gaming history.

When Tencent Games announced they were developing a post-apocalyptic shooter featuring none other than Will Smith himself, the hype was real.

With a staggering budget of $140 million (yes, you read that right!) and a team of 300 developers, Undawn was supposed to be a gaming juggernaut. 

For perspective, that budget was higher than Christopher Nolan's 2023 hit Oppenheimer, which cost a cool $100 million.

Clearly, Tencent, the big gaming vendor and console maker, wasn't playing around; they wanted to create a blockbuster video game experience.

The Undawn Gameplay Experience

In Undawn, you stepped into the shoes of Trey Jones, a badass survivor guide voiced by Will Smith himself.

Your mission? To navigate the treacherous, zombie-infested wasteland left behind after society crumbled.

With Smith as your mentor, you'd learn the ropes of scavenging for resources, crafting weapons, and battling the undead hordes. It sounds like a recipe for an adrenaline-pumping good time, right? Well, not quite.


Undawn gameplay photo
Undawn gameplay | Undawn


Undawn is set in an apocalyptic open world where players must team up with friends, gather resources to craft survival gear and build shelters to survive in a hostile environment filled with dangerous enemies.

The game can be played alone or as part of a team. In it, people are required to pass through tough terrain together and learn skills to survive in this new world.


Undawn shooting scene gameplay
Undawn gameplay | Undawn


Undawn balances the experience with the ability to build settlements and gear upgrades in addition to cooperative missions to overcome the challenges resulting from the apocalypse.

The Epic Marketing Fail

Despite the star power and massive budget, Undawn's marketing campaign was a complete mess.

The game's launch trailer on YouTube barely crossed 355,000 views, and most of the promo content didn't even prominently feature Will Smith. 

I mean, come on! If your project has one of Hollywood's biggest names attached, you'd better flaunt that like there's no tomorrow. But alas, Tencent dropped the ball harder than a lead-filled basketball.

Unsurprisingly, Undawn tanked harder than a submarine with a busted ballast tank.

In its first month, the game raked in a measly $287,000 – a drop in the bucket compared to its astronomical development costs. 

According to inside sources, Undawn was a "spectacular flop," prompting Tencent to reevaluate its strategy.

Instead of chasing big-budget blockbusters, they've shifted focus to smaller party games and successful franchises like Genshin Impact.


The Takeaway: When Stars and Games Collide

Undawn's failure serves as a cautionary tale for game developers and Hollywood stars alike.

Just because you've got a recognizable face attached doesn't guarantee success; you still need solid marketing, engaging gameplay, and a little bit of luck.

While Tencent may have stumbled with Undawn, they're still a gaming powerhouse responsible for hits like PUBG Mobile and Genshin Impact. As for Will Smith, well, he's probably better off sticking to the big screen for now.