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Xbox looks to Zoo Tycoon board game as possible model to revive stagnant video game series

“Even if certain franchises aren’t currently undergoing active development, they can still be actively appreciated by their fans.”

Image credit: Rare/Xbox Game Studios

Zoo Tycoon: The Board Game may be paving a future of board game adaptations using video game franchise mouldering on the metaphorical shelf. An Xbox executive recently told Xbox Wire that the success and fan response to the 2013 video game-turned-upcoming tabletop title is an enticing route for old properties to still make money - and please fans in the process.

Xbox Game Studios executive producer Robert Jerauld was reportedly impressed with the work Treecer and designer duo Marc Dür & Samuel Luterbacher invested in bringing the 2013 sim management video game Zoo Tycoon from motherboards to cardboard.

Dür said in the interview that his impassioned pitch to Jerauld convinced the executive of their vision. Following a highly successful Kickstarter campaign and positive critical reception from fans and hobbyists, Jerauld seemingly made the right call.

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“It became evident that Treecer was the perfect partner for this endeavour,” Jerauld told Xbox Wire. “The concept of a simulation game, particularly Zoo Tycoon, seamlessly aligns with the format of a board game. The fundamental aspects of Zoo Tycoon—the construction of exhibits, animal care, and attracting visitors—all harmonise well within a board game’s framework.”

Zoo Tycoon: The Board Game will function much differently than its computer forebear, the latest entry of which was created by Frontier Developments. Much of the randomisation and number crunching handled by the hardware must instead be translated into dice rolls, cards and a limited decision space. Dür and Luterbacher also endeavoured to ingrain the importance of conservation within zoo’s missions - a player cannot easily win on profit motive alone.

Jerauld’s interest in Zoo Tycoon’s board game adaptation falls less into ethical instruction than a path for monetising video game franchises not being actively developed. He said Treecer’s work was a “prime illustration of a design resonating with an existing fandom that is keeping a property live despite a lack of new games for over a decade.

Production image of Zoo Tycoon.
Image credit: Treecer/Microsoft

““It’s crucial to recognize that even if certain franchises aren’t currently undergoing active development, they can still be actively appreciated by their fans,” Jerauld said. “It presents a valuable chance for Microsoft to extend gratitude to the dedicated and ardent Zoo Tycoon fans who have worked tirelessly to sustain the game’s enchantment. We acknowledge your dedication and deeply appreciate you.”

Board game adaptations of popular video games have been exploding in recent years, and many of those - Slay the Spire, Dead Cells, Terraria - are beloved titles that haven’t really released marquis titles in recent memory. Whether all of these hypothetical board games will receive the attention and care that Treecer seems to have invested in Zoo Tycoon is another question. Dür has reportedly wanted to make this particular game for decades. Jerauld is discussing avenues for squeezing dollars out of what a boardroom might call a dead asset.

Still, if we were to put on our optimist’s hats there are plenty of titles in Xbox’s portfolio that might cross over well to cardboard. Dicebreaker’s Alex Meehan would cry fat, happy tears for Viva Piñata on the tabletop, and I personally won’t turn down anything new from everyone favourite bear and bird: Banjo Kazooie.

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