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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

TV Linked MMO - Science Fiction?

The Sci-Fi channel is developing an as yet unnamed MMO which will be linked to a television show.

You can read the article in the LA Times

The article itself is unique in that it takes until paragraph four to reference WoW. Also, the writer uses Matrix Online as the example of a licensed flop as opposed to SWG.

But, back to the matter at hand, just how will this MMO and the TV show on the Sci-Fi channel interact?

"For example, we can tell them that there will be an alien invasion at a certain place in the game, at a certain time, and to be there with all their friends and be ready. The outcome depends on them. And then that battle will be part of the universe in the show."

It will also be a means for marketing research of sorts:

"The virtual world that pulls in fans of the show will also give Buttler and his team hard data about which characters, settings and story lines stir the most interests. He said that will help the show's producers bend their story lines to audience tastes."

And maybe your raid will be on tv:

"The game will continue to grow, and 'footage' of players in battles or other mass gatherings will be incorporated into the series."

Nothing like a "mass gathering" for online fun.

I've seen some discussion of this story along the lines of "Battlestar Galactica is great so this will be awesome" or "Sci-Fi original movies are horrible so this will suck." But what about the game studio Sci-Fi is working with?

Trion World Networks is referenced in the article as "an on-the-rise gaming company based in Redwood City, California." What makes them "on-the-rise" is unclear. I had never heard of them, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. So what's the scoop?

They have
a website.

They have
some loot.

The CEO likes to
talk smack.

They offer
a lot of career opportunities.

They are also
working on a fantasy MMO.

That's about all I've got. So will this succeed? Maybe, to some degree, but I'm dubious. I've yet to play an MMO that really makes the players feel like the outcome of their actions is important to the game world. Now their actions will change a television show? There will be some novelty value (gimmick value?) to it but I don't see this being perfected on the first try. I also don't think there will be quite the level of interaction between the game and show as implied by the article.

But hopefully it turns out to be cool. I do like to see companies trying different things, especially when they are talking about a dynamically changing universe. And I'm sure this is only the beginning of links between MMO's and other media.

G4TV seems to think the setting is Stargate but the article leads me to believe that's just wrong.

It's worth noting that the Sci-Fi channel recently launched a pretty decent new gaming site called
Fidgit edited by Tom Chick.


Anonymous cyanbane said...

I am actually really excited about this, seems most of the gaming media is killing it before it gets started. I have never been a big episodic storyline driven at the game level (I just don't dedicate x amount of time each week/month) to games consistently enough to think episodic content would work for my lifestyle, but I DO think that someone like scifi who is used to permeating that periodic craft (like TV shows) if they had the skill could produce a great game of that nature.

Couple of things that interest me about it:

They will NEVER be able to plan fluxes in server population if the first episodes are successful. If it grows virally we will see Funcom's Anarchy Online launch every week and the ship will quickly sink. They should partner with someone in the industry that aleast can TRY to keep up with such a specific peak time demand.

Second, this will all depending on the writing. It HAS TO BE GOOD. It is what will breath life into it.

Third, give equal story plot driving features to both the show AND the game and EXPECT people to play though the episodes of the game each week on the show. If you force people to make sure to play through a "game" episode before they understand the next weeks TV show, then they will. It will be like a mini achievement that people will brag about.

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