Webby Winners Story

Gaming with the Undead: Q&A with AMC’s Clayton Neuman & Next Game’s Saara Bergström

AMC’S CLAYTON NEUMAN AND NEXT GAMES’ SAARA BERGSTRöM CHARTED NEW TERRITORY WITH LIVE-UPDATE MOBILE GAME THE WALKING DEAD: NO MAN’S LAND. WE CHATTED WITH THEM ABOUT THE COLLABORATION, CRAFTING AN AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE, AND MORE.

 

If you’ve seen AMC Networks’ The Walking Dead, you’ve probably fantasized about having the chance to join the weekly fight against a zombie apocalypse.

Well now you can. The undead have infiltrated mobile.

AMC Networks’ VP of Games Clayton Neuman and Next Games’ Chief Marketing Officer Saara Bergström revolutionized gameplay practices with “The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land” mobile game, which synced in real-time with Season 7 of the hit show. It marked the first time a show and game integrated their content, and fans flocked to play—landing the collaboration a 2017 Webby People’s Voice Award in Mobile Sites & Apps. We chatted with Bergström and Neuman about their shared vision, maintaining authenticity for fans, and more.

How did the idea for The Walking Dead No Man’s Land come about?

Saara Bergström: We at Next Games are huge fans of the show and for us it was a no-brainer to want to work with the IP. From the very beginning, we had a very similar vision with AMC of the game we wanted to make and how we would translate the TV show into a mobile game.

Clayton Neuman: The Walking Dead has some of the most passionate, engaged fans on the planet. And like the show’s undead antagonists, they’re always hungry for more content. Partnering with Next Games, we saw a unique opportunity to serve those fans The Walking Dead content 365 days a year.

What were the challenges with creating an online game from a well-known TV show?

CN: When people watch The Walking Dead, they get a lot of excitement out of imagining what they would do and how they would fare in a zombie apocalypse. When a game like this presents them an opportunity to find out, it really has to live up to those expectations. You can’t just create a generic zombie game and call it The Walking Dead. It really has to feel like and follow the rules of the world people have been watching on TV for seven years. And it has to be fun to play. It’s not always easy to thread that needle, and it’s something we’re constantly fine-tuning in our live operations.

How did you balance staying true to the WD brand, while also creating a new user experience?

SB: It’s all about finding the key ingredients that make the show so popular. The show is extraordinary in the sense that it’s not just slaughtering zombies, but it’s also about the group finding their ways to stay alive and essentially make the right decisions and figure out the survival strategy. The turn-based combat mechanic of No Man’s Land allows the players to strategize and really think about how to get through and who do they need in their team to survive… So it’s a combination of building the right basic gameplay and then expanding that through live events and content.

In Season 7, the game synced in real time with the show. Was this a technical challenge? What inspired the move to live updates?

CN: We wanted fans to be able to engage with each episode beyond its linear broadcast—to give them a way to take part in the story the day after they watched it. Rather than simply recreate a scene from the previous night’s episode, our goal was to expand on it—to capture an exciting moment that was perhaps alluded to but not necessarily depicted—and let the fans live it out themselves.

SB: We’ve built our own technology platform that serves the content for this game and all our future games as well. At the time it was fully up and running, so it wasn’t really a technical challenge as the framework already existed. Our games are all service-based, which means that they receive continuous content updates.

What tech trends are you most excited about this year? What are you working on next?

SB: We are working on a new location-based AR game for The Walking Dead. “The Walking Dead: Our World.” AR is definitely an exciting technology for game developers. AR technology provides an new perspective, or a window to your reality or the current situation you are in.

What does your Webby Win mean for you and your team?

SB: We know that our players are very passionate about the game, but it’s always so nice to get recognized for the hard work and love you’ve put into creating a game.

CN: We approached this game with the singular goal of servicing our fans and their passion for The Walking Dead. To receive an award from the fans is the highest possible honor we could hope for, and we are forever grateful to them for being a part of our community.


If you can’t wait to slay zombies, download The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land. And to hear more from our winners, check out our story with Jasmine Atherton, the leader behind Airbnb’s “National Parks Backyards” campaign.

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