That’s the question we asked ourselves when we founded CineApp, an innovative start-up devoted to bringing interactivity to story telling and story telling to gaming. Our goal was nothing less than to create non-animated filmic narrative with revolutionary interactive functionality that could be monetized and marketed across multiple digital and mobile devices.
We began by researching gaming.
Gaming was good on interactive, not so good on story. Other existing interactive (mostly children’s programming) was good on story but rudimentary on interactive. There was technology we could adopt and technology we could adapt. But our approach was groundbreaking, so we had to use trial and error to invent novel solutions entirely our own.
More than technology was required.
We had to collaborate with content producers—the writers, the actors, the film production people. We had to attract investors such as the Canadian Media Fund, who contributed substantially. We had to gain the support of significant institutional partners such as MARs with its Idea Boost program and Ryerson University with its Transmedia Zone. Everyone had to be brought on board with the idea of creating a multi-branched narrative.
The result was a horror show with appeal.
Our efforts culminated in the creation of a mobile TV platform for creating and accessing interactive personalized films and a first pilot feature, a blood-curdling horror show called Voyeur. When the heroin of the story calls out your name for help, it’s chilling. Unlike typical games, players don’t control a pre-made character, or avatar. Instead the player interacts as themselves, their real identity, a character that the other characters in the story interact with. Their decisions determine the video elements that are generated and seamlessly deployed in real time to develop the complete story.
We succeeded! (Sort of).
The platform worked fabulously and the film proved engaging and commercially viable when marketed to a modest audience via Facebook and Twitter. Using “freemium” monetization models associated with gaming, our film yielded substantially higher conversion-to-pay and retention rates than the average game. Our enterprise, however, fell at the last hurdle failing to secure the significantly greater investment needed for full commercial realization.