clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Can Commanding a Zombie Army Be Addictive? Proletariat Raises $6 Million to Find Out.

With new funding coming in, the studio founded by Zynga veterans is almost ready to launch its first game.


Seth Sivak used to play marathon four-hour sessions of World of Warcraft. These days, he only has an hour or two for games, and that time is broken up throughout the day into short bursts.

Sivak, the CEO of Cambridge, Mass., gaming studio Proletariat, said in a recent interview with Re/code that he thinks his company can recreate for players the same feelings he once felt for World of Warcraft, but within the historically more casual constraints of a tablet.

“There’s still a big difference between console gamers and PC gamers and tablet gamers,” Sivak said. “But it’s becoming more homogeneous.”

Yesterday, Proletariat announced it had raised $6 million to tap into that trend. The Series A round was led by Spark Capital, backed up by FirstMark Capital and Atlas Ventures.

The company’s first title, World Zombination, is an online multiplayer game that lets players assume the roles of either attacking zombies or defending humans. The goal is to grow one’s army and work with or against other human players to control as many cities in the post-zombie apocalypse world as possible.

Hopes of turning the world’s hundreds of millions of tablet owners into less casual, more “core” players are not new. But Sivak offered some interesting insights on what goes through the heads of the developers at a modern gaming startup.

In addition to the challenge of games being played in short spurts over the course of a day, Sivak said Proletariat decided to adopt the (commonplace on mobile) free-to-play business model for World Zombination only after ruling out other options. Paid downloads are not “sustainable long-term,” he said, and World of Warcraft is the “last one standing” in the world of recurring paid subscriptions, by dint of its 10-year history.

Sivak said the episodic business model, popularized by Telltale’s games based on “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones,” might make sense for whatever game Proletariat starts on next. It was not as established, he said, by the time the company had already started down the free-to-play route.

Also of note is how Proletariat designed World Zombination’s free-to-play mechanics. All five of the company’s founders — out of 18 employees today — worked for Conduit Labs, which Zynga bought in 2010 and then shut down in 2012. Although his new company wound up using Zynga’s favorite free-to-play mechanic, “consumables” (temporary virtual goods bought with virtual money), Sivek stressed that Proletariat wanted to avoid “the Candy Crush mentality” and instead looked to Blizzard’s Hearthstone for inspiration.

Let me decode that for you: Sivek doesn’t want players to feel like they’re being ripped off. Hearthstone is the current go-to example in much mobile gaming chatter of “free-to-play done right.” That matters for a game like World Zombination because it will depend on the loyalty of a big community of returning players to make its multiplayer games work.

We’ll find out if that comparison is earned when World Zombination meets the general public, something the newly funded Proletariat says is in the near future.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.