Five Years of Zombies, Run!

Five years ago today, we launched Zombies, Run! on the iTunes App Store, only six months after our Kickstarter.

When Naomi Alderman and I came up with the idea behind Zombies, Run! back in the summer of 2011, neither of us had any notion that it’d be this popular and last this long. I thought Six to Start would work on it for one, two, maybe even three years, and then move on to something else.

I have been playing Zombies, Run! on and off for the past three years. I have recommitted myself to running beginning in the last summer. I cannot begin to tell you how this has helped me as far as my health and fitness. The stories pull me in each time I go out for a run. If it weren’t for Sam, Archie, Dr. Myers and all the other wonderful characters, I would not have stayed with running as long as I have. I pour myself into the story and the role of Runner Five. Thank you for the imagination and ingenuity it took to make this app. Hopefully it will continue for years to come.
 — Olivia

We hoped for success, and we got it: almost 4 million downloads and a quarter of a million active users. What we hadn’t anticipated was just how just how much our players would come to love our game and story — and how much their lives would be changed by it.

So for our 5th birthday, we asked our players for their stories of Zombies, Run! We’re also revealing some of our internal stats…

Scandinavian countries are humanity’s MVP runners, on a per-capita basis!

You do the math — the average active runner has spent over 100km with Zombies, Run! That’s no mere gimmick, but a testament to the staying power of our gameplay and narrative. Just as a compelling TV drama can keep us on the edge of our seats every week, a thrilling ‘fitness drama’ can keep you running every week for years on end:

Four years ago, I was desperately bored and tired with life. I was overweight and incredibly unhappy with my current health. Gyms bored me and other exercise routines filled me with dread. I knew I needed to do something but what, I had no idea. I wanted to marry my love of thriller novella with the ease of using a mobile phone app. Zombies Run! came to the rescue and delivered me into a rich and fully realised world of three-dimensional characters, tense storylines, slapstick humour, and of course, zombies!!! I thank you for creating an incredible world that I could access and in turn, become the person I want to be.
 — Hugh Joseph-Hussain

As an English-language audio-driven game with more story than Game of Thrones, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of our players come from the US. And those players love getting together to celebrate being ‘Runner 5’, the hero of humanity’s last outpost, Abel Township:

Nicole Corbin Lawson and friends / Rebecca Schwartz

Whenever I‘m out testing Zombies, Run! on Hampstead Heath, I encounter zombie hordes. These will appear semi-randomly during the course of missions and gameplay, and they require you to speed up by 20%, otherwise they’ll catch you and you’ll lose some hard-won supplies.

Because I’m testing, I don’t need to speed up, but it’s hard to resist the urge, even if I’m tired or, invariably, running uphill. But what about our other players?…

When you hear “Zombies Detected”, it’s hard not to speed up…

If you’re caught by the zombies, it’s not the end of the world — we’ve liberally scattered all kinds of supplies across the post-apocalyptic landscape. Over the course of five years, our players have collected over 100 million tins of food, water bottles, bandages, batteries, axes, and of course, sports bras:

Contrary to popular belief, Sports Bras *aren’t* the most common item in the post-apocalypse!

Zombies, Run! missions consist of a set of story clips, and in between them, we play music from the player’s own library. Want to escape zombies with epic sci-fi soundtracks? Be our guest. Or if you prefer Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, that’ll work just as well.

After you’ve completed a mission, we automatically begin “Radio Mode” in which our Radio Abel hosts Jack and Eugene will provide tips on how to survive and thrive, along with commentary on your own music. Of course, they don’t actually know what you’re playing, which can result in some odd and lovely moments:

I have yet to find anything that’s as fun and motivating as Zombies, Run! It actually has me excited to go running. One of my favorite moments has to be when I was listening to Radio Abel and Eugene dedicated a song to Jack and my playlist started playing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John. I thought it was the sweetest most ironic thing and it’s moments like that that I look forward to every day!
 — Megan Rose

The top 3 most popular songs? Radioactive, Can’t Hold Us, and Shake It Off.

Some of our players and voice actors also called in to tell us about their scariest and most fun experiences with Zombies, Run!:

Virtual Races, Real Motivation

Around a year ago, we began running our first Zombies, Run! Virtual Races. Like traditional races, you pay an entry fee and get a medal, T-shirt, race bib, and certificate, but you can run anywhere and any time you want (within the 10 day race window). And of course, they’re accompanied by a fantastic, thrilling story.

So far, over 15,000 people have entered our Virtual Race series, with many participating in every single race!

Kailey Corcoran / Alexis Dexter / Peter Chan showing off their Virtual Race swag

What’s Next?

We’ve got zero intention of stopping Zombies, Run! We love working on a game that makes people’s lives better, and we know how much our players rely on us. So we’ve got three big projects on our plate for 2017 at Six to Start:

Zombies, Run! 5k Training 2.0

It’s taken us longer than expected, but rest assured, a major update of our professionally-designed 5k Training app is coming this year, with modern features including support for Spotify, Google Play Music, and Pandora, plus better integration with Apple Health and Google Fit.

ZombieLink 3

Richer, faster, more social, and mobile-first.

Racelink

Racelink takes everything we’ve learned from Zombies, Run! and pours it into a brand new technology platform that lets brands and charities operate their own custom virtual races.

Fully customisable for every brand

Our first events are starting next month with Run the Solar System by the British Science Association, and the Spy Virtual Race, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. They’re both going to be thrilling races that are far more accessible than traditional races, to runners across the UK and around the world.

We’re really excited to see what the next five years holds for Racelink — we think we can transform every race in the world. Not just running races, but cycling, walking, triathlons, and more. And not just virtual races, but all races.

Intrigued? Help us grow by investing in Six to Start.

Escaping Zombies, Changing Lives

It was hard to to pick out just a few of the 100+ we player stories received in the past month (all of which are well-worth reading!), but here are just a few more:

When I started running with Zombies, Run! back in 2012 I could barely run 3 miles. Now I’m training for my first full marathon. I have both done runs when I didn’t really feel like it so I could listen to the stories and run extra miles just so I could hear more bits of the missions. I really can’t thank you enough for all the hours of fun and excitement you have added to my runs. To me this app is just as important to my run as have having on shoes. Thank you!
— Nika Gloyeske

Danielle Clarke wins the ‘Most Kitted-Out Runner 5’ award

Since joining the resistance (ZR) I’ve gone through 3 job changes and my wife retiring. The first 2 years I lost over 95 lbs and dropped 100 points on my cholesterol count. I’ve run many races, obstacle courses and a rucking trek with ZR in my ear all the way; providing a grounding and centering influence in my life and another reason to get out and exercise — completing the missions.
— Dave Kalb

Sean Palladino and ZR friends / Allison Bishop

My Name is Lotte. I’m 17 and living in Germany. I’ve started using Zombies Run in July 2015. I remember sawing it on a German TV show and i thought: “Man, this is the best way for Nerds like me to go on a run”. I was right by the way 😉

At the time, I was only looking for a way to stay in shape, even with my obsession with sweets. But now I’m obsessed with the app. You have to know, that I was most of the time the sick child in my family. Nothing bad really! But I almost had every day a bad headache. I’m suffering from asthma and I had a weak immune system . But know I’m feeling so much healthier. I got a better posture, which was the main reason for my headache. My Asthma isn’t that bad anymore and i don’t get sick that easily. But the best part is my mental health. I suffer from stress and states of anxiety,particulary before exams. Running helps me to deal with this and the story from Zombies run distract me from all my real life problems. Also, seeing yourself become stronger every day is so satisfying. I remember how proud I was, after I ran my first 5K without stopping or when I ran my first 10K race and beaten my Big Brother. I guess one, of the funniest experience with Zombies Run, I had a few days ago, when I came home after a run and I saw two Boys (I guess there were 13) making skateboard tricks on the sidewalk, when one of theme shouting to me: “Hey, do you know how fast you were, when you were running down the street” “No” “You were faster than my Skatebord. That was sick” I just smiled. Little did he know that I was running away from Zombies and i was not willing to drop my supplies.

My Zombies run Story is not very long and it’s not very exciting either, but it is my story and I’m grateful for every step i could make as Runner 5. Stay safe out there

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