Will Smith’s zombie survival game you never heard of is already dead

Tencent is in the middle of a big shake-up with its gaming business, which includes pivoting away from licensed development to focus on internal projects. Inside that news, we also learned a zombie survival shooter starring Will Smith is already dead before most people even knew it existed.

Undawn launched in June 2023 on PC and mobile as a free-to-play game, leaning heavily on famed actor Will Smith as the focal point in the game’s marketing and trailers. Smith appears in-game as a “Legendary Survivor” named Trey Jones who acts as a guide-like character for you, though that’s about the extent of his role.

Characters shooting at a big creature in Undawn.
This game feels like a mixed bag before you get to the reviews. Image via Tencent

Now, after reports of Tencent shifting its main focus to internal development and away from licensing IP dropped, Reuters has reported Undawn was a massive financial flop for the company. According to Reuters, Undawn “flopped spectacularly” and only netted back $287,000, as cited to research firm Appmagic, of its reported over $138 million development budget under nearly 300 devs at PUBG Mobile developer Lightspeed Studios.

The game actually had a decent launch, peaking at 8,529 players on Steam in its first month before suffering a steep decline to just 2,500 players four months later, according to Steam Charts—though that doesn’t account for its mobile audience, which may be much larger.

The decrease in active players and mixed review status on Steam is likely due to the confusing nature of the game. Depending on which trailer you watch, Undawn can look like a generic survival shooter with base building or something closer to a custom world in Second Life where dance parties and life-sim elements are the focus—and Will Smith is nowhere to be seen. And that doesn’t touch on the “restrictive” and “expensive pay-to-win” gameplay, with poor controls most players say only gets worse the more time you spend playing.

With this flop, declining revenue for key titles like PUBG Mobile and Honor of Kings, and seeing the success of competitors’ games like miHoYo’s’s Genshin Impact or NetEase’s Eggy Party, Tencent is pulling back its efforts to license IP, partially due to licensing fees cutting into profits, according to Game Developer.

“We’re focusing on fewer bigger budget games,” Tencent CSO James Mitchell said in an earnings call on March 20. “Typically, we’re seeking to make the biggest bets around games that either iterate on a successful IP … or games that are iterating around proven gameplay success within a niche and taking those to a more mass market.”

This also leaves the future for games like a mobile title based on Elden Ring or Assassin’s Creed: Jade up in the air, with the latter reportedly being delayed to 2025 as hundreds of devs were pulled from the project to focus on other internal projects.

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