The first question I ask Van Riker, marketing manager for PopCap’s hit game Plants vs. Zombies, is a simple one: What’s the point of creating a 3-D zombie that you can dress up in outfits, repeats what you say and can do wacky dances?
“It’s just supposed to be silly, and fun,” explains Riker. “We just want people to engage with our zombies, because we know people love our zombies.”
Yes, they do. Riker said that fans of the game have submitted photos of zombie tattoos (the real kind) as well as zombie birthday cakes featuring the lovable (if not scary) creatures from the game.
Coming in a few months, you’ll be able to create a customized zombie that you can share with friends, adding clothes and other accesories. Or, as a promotional video notes: “The first and only talking zombie that you can dress up, train to dance, and force to repeat everything you say.”
Riker tells GeekWire that yet-to-be-released iOS app — previewed at a press luncheon today as part of the Casual Connect conference — is still in the early-stages of testing. But they do hope to have the “Talking Zombatar” app ready for public consumption (not the squirrel brain zombie-eating consumption you see in the app) in the coming months.
I gave it a whirl today, adding a top-hat to my zombie and sending it on a quest to find squirrel brains and walnuts. (Feeding your zombie boosts its IQ). You can also insert your zombie in a frame of a photo, so the virtual character appears alongside you if you’re snapping shots of the Grand Canyon or Eiffel Tower or, in my case, alongside fellow tech reporter Nick Wingfield.
The Zombatar app marks a departure for PopCap, with Riker calling it the first free-to-play 3-D rendition in its lineup.
To some degree, the app is almost a promotion of the company’s bigger franchise of Plants vs. Zombies, the wildly popular game which sells in Apple’s app store for $2.99. However, the company is exploring the idea of selling virtual goods inside the app, as well as advertising.
Perhaps the closest rival to the Zombatar app is Talking Tom Cat, a free app featuring an animated cat that responds to your touch and repeats what you say.
“I think this is a lot more robust, and it has the whole Plants vs. Zombies (element) so it is a a little more interesting,” Riker said.
After all, everyone loves zombies, right?