Speaking at theearlier this week, Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia had a confession to make; he almost killed off the wildly popular Call of Duty Zombies mode from 2008's
With the development staff already stressed out from a tough development cycle, Lamia was surprised to discover that a small team had been working on new multiplayer prototypes. At the time, this sounded like a bad idea.
"When I first heard about it, I was like 'We're what?'" Lamia recalls. "As studio head the classic management thing would have been to insist that the team stop getting distracted and to focus on delivering what we were supposed to deliver. Some felt I needed to make that decision then or jeopardize development of World at War. I almost did and it would have been the biggest mistake of my career."
After sitting down to play the mode and releasing how addictive it was, Lamia changed his mind. So did several higher-ups at Activision, who initially were not convinced that a zombie theme was fitting for the franchise. Marketing, however, remained less than convinced.
"Any attempt to market a Call of Duty zombie game would have been impossible," Lamia goes on. "We would have been a laughingstock. They would have thought we jumped the shark."
Ultimately Call of Duty Zombies remained in as a kind of Easter egg, which allowed word of mouth to spread rather than forcing it on people, and ultimately lead to the co-op mode's.
"It's OK to touch a butterfly's wings, just don't do it with sticky fingers," is the rather enigmatically phrased lesson learned by Lamia and his team. "Zombies proved to us there are meaningful and significant opportunities in even the most established franchises in entertainment."