Yes, of course there is… though it clearly depends on the context. If you’re surviving day-to-day in a zombie apocalypse, I would imagine that there can indeed be ‘too many zombies’. If you’re talking about ‘too many zombies’ in the context of the video-games industry and entertainment industry as a whole… I guess there can be too many there as well.
It was the film Shaun of the Dead that first really got me into zombies as a genre. It borrowed quite a bit from the classics, like Day of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead, though it was of course a comedy, so it’s not exactly a prime example of a ‘true’ zombie film. Since that day I became somewhat obsessed with zombies, particularly when I moved to university and found that I had to really up my levels of procrastination if I ever wanted to maintain my sanity. Then dawned the era of the zombie B movies, with films like Last of the Living, Cockneys vs Zombies, and even Zombie Transfusion, some of which were pretty good, but the majority of which were appalling. In the world of gaming, however, it has taken a little longer for the zombie genre to go a little mainstream. We had games like Resident Evil, Left4Dead and Dead Rising which, although some of the titles don’t necessarily follow ‘zombie lore’, they still did a hell of a lot for the genre as a whole. Now, however, we’re faced with an onslaught of zombie games to choose from. We’ve got the favourites like Resident Evil 1 through 5 and Dead Rising 1, 2 and 3 (along with the various other Resident Evil / Dead Rising games along the way) or Left4Dead 1 and 2. And then we’ve got the newcomers, like Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide, DayZ, The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts, Telltale’s The Walking Dead an Episodic Game Series, Seasons 1 and 2 and State of Decay. That’s without even mentioning the up-and-comers, like Dying Light and H1Z1, or even those games that merely feature zombies, like the Plants vs Zombies series, the various Call of Duty games or the hundreds of indie games out there with zombies in them, like Zombie Driver.
It would appear, then, that we are more than spoilt for choice. We have an absolute smorgasbord of zombie related video-games to choose from, so do we need any more? I think that what it really comes down to is choice of sub-genre. The zombie genre of video-game is oversaturated, true, but there are plenty of niche sub-genres for the zombies to shamble into. There are few true survival horror games out there at the moment, with DayZ and State of Decay taking up the lion’s share of the market. So I guess that leaves a bit of a gap for games like H1Z1 and Undead Labs’ unnamed project ‘Class 4‘ to fill. There are also few side-scrolling platformer zombie games out there, like Dead Light; which was a rather lovely game in its own right. So there’s a little bit of space there to squeeze another zombie game in.
If I had to point the finger anywhere, I blame Robert Kirkman, AMC and The Walking Dead. I first found The Walking Dead graphic novel back in 2009, I think, when a good friend of mine bought me the first book for my birthday. I was already a zombie fan at the time, but I’d never really got into the whole comic/graphic novel scene. I was instantly hooked on the fantastic writing, wonderful illustrations and gripping story telling, it was a series like no other. Soon, the big networks started rubbing their hands together, seeing the potential in The Walking Dead as a T.V. show. From then on, the franchise picked up so much steam that it seems near impossible to slow it down. Telltale and Activision have made games out of the franchise, McFarlane has made toys from its characters, there are board games, mobile games, Facebook games, dinner plates, fancy dress costumes, probably even easy bake ovens with Rick Grimes’s face on and thousands upon thousands of Daryl Dixon cuddly toys. The franchise has become somewhat of a religion for the hardcore fans and, out of its success has grown other zombie based media.
Zombies, zombies everywhere. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily a bad thing, I love zombies and they do say that variety is the spice of life, after all. The thing that I really fear is that the genre could fall as quickly as it rose up. I worry that developers will be hastily releasing their games in a bid to fill the last few spaces left in the market. We’ve got DayZ, H1Z1, State of Decay and ‘Class 4’, all of which are very similar games; with DayZ and H1Z1 looking like they’re going to be pretty much the same game. What if the rush creates bad games, and those bad games put people off of the zombie genre? Popularity dwindles and fantastic games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead could end up struggling to find a captive audience. Hopefully things will never get that bad, but they could. In theory, it could end up like the sports games market, with one major player dominating the genre. Sony Online Entertainment might absolutely smash it with H1Z1 and blow its competitors out of the water. Kind of like nature correcting itself and balancing out the food chain of undead related video-game.
All I know for sure is that we haven’t seen the peak of the zombie genre just yet. There will be more zombie games than ever over the coming years, especially if the current big titles like DayZ and H1Z1 are met with the sort of success that people are expecting. We’ll probably be seeing publishers like EA and Ubisoft moving in on the genre, if the games in the near future as popular as expected, and we all know what that means. Come 2020 we’ll be faced with Watch_Zombie_Dogs 5 or Zombie_Creed 4, or FIFA Ultimate Undead Team. I don’t want that, though clearly I’m exaggerating a little to make a point.
Hopefully, the competition will make for better games as developers try to out-do one another. Especially in the survival-horror market, where games like H1Z1 and DayZ seem to be focusing more on the survival aspects and less on the actual zombies, unlike games such as Left4Dead. Overall, there probably are too many zombie games out there at the moment, but I think it’s all about picking the right ones for you and not worrying about trying to pick the best one overall. It’s all about not getting snowed under by the amount of choice, and looking for the game that interest you the most. I’ve played ALOT of zombie games, so feel free to drop me a message if you want any recommendations!