Michael Jackson Estate Forces ‘Plants vs. Zombies’ Update

The latest update of “Plants vs. Zombies” on iPhone made a change to one of the most recognizable adversaries in the game. Since the game’s launch in 2009, the Dancing Zombie has bared a striking resemblance to Michael Jackson in the “Thriller” music video, complete with red leather jacket, tight, too-short pants and white socks. That all changed with the latest update to “Plants vs. Zombies,” as the Dancing Zombie is now disco themed. Why the change? Apparently PopCap heard from the lawyers of Michael Jackson’s estate.

I reached out to a PopCap Games representative about the change, who confirmed that it was brought on by lawyers representing the King of Pop:

“The Estate of Michael Jackson objected to our use of the ’dancing zombie’ in PLANTS vs. ZOMBIES based on its view that the zombie too closely resembled Michael Jackson. After receiving this objection, PopCap made a business decision to retire the original ’dancing zombie’ and replace it with a different ’dancing zombie’ character for future builds of PLANTS vs.ZOMBIES on all platforms. The phase-out and replacement process is underway.”

Legally the Dancing Zombie would’ve probably fallen safely into the realm of parody, but I can understand why PopCap wouldn’t want to risk any trouble for a small gag in tremendously successful game.

iPhone 4 owners should take note, though. If you already own the game on an iPhone 4 and are updating to the latest version, the game will crash. Apparently the bug doesn’t affect new purchasers of the game on iPhone 4, just those updating. The representative confirmed that “a fix is in the works and should be ready soon.” Long story short, hold off on updating until the next version is released.