Interactive's Attractions Grow For Moviemakers And Marketers
Jackson this week announced plans to form a spinoff of his film production company, Wingnut Studios, and pursue partnerships with Microsoft's game division, including work on a chapter of Redmond's golden goose franchise, "Halo." Jackson said that working with the Xbox will provide him more creative opportunities: "From a movie-maker's point of view, it is clear to me that the Xbox 360 platform is the stage where storytellers can work their craft in the same way they do today with movies and books--but taking it further with interactivity," he said.
Jackson's defection to the interactive side of storytelling could be indicative of the larger issues facing the movie industry. The growth of U.S. box office take is stagnating, hovering around the $9 billion mark since 2001--from $8.41 billion that year, up to $9.54 billion in 2004, and back down to $8.99 billion last year. The news is also bad for theater admissions, which dwindled to 1.4 billion from 1.64 billion in 2002. Box office take to date this year exceeds that of the same period's last year, $6.8 billion compared to $6.4 million, but is still down significantly from the sales high in 2004.
The gaming industry, over the same period, has seen growth in sales--from $6.1 billion in 2001 to $7.4 billion in 2004, with a downturn to $7 billion in 2005, which analysts attribute to the major consoles being at the end of their lifecycles. This year, the next generation of consoles arrives, and the gaming industry is set for a years of major growth in 2006 and 2007. It will be a few years yet before interactive entertainment has a shot at stealing the silver screen's spotlight, but it is clearly a media on the rise.
And marketing, taking its cues from media, could be looking at a similar shift. Interactive marketing is proving to be more engaging than the average 30-second TV spot or banner ad.
Speaking last week at a panel at OMMA, Jordan Weisman, CEO of 42 Entertainment, detailed his work on the "I Love Bees" campaign that promoted the release of "Halo 2." The campaign was a vast interactive storyline that involved clues scattered around the Web, and allowed 42 Entertainment to get prospective players involved in the "Halo 2" universe long before the game was released. The details of the campaign are available on several fan-run wikis, for interested parties.
Weisman said that the purpose of the campaign wasn't to make "Halo 2" a hit--that was essentially assured the moment it was announced--but to bring it off the console. "What they wanted to do was to add to the narrative sense of the universe, they wanted to add a gravitas to the property," he said. "The video game itself can only go on so far, but our kind of narrative, fictionally intensive storytelling can expand the property."
Mike Monello, co-creative director for Campfire Media, responsible for the marketing of "The Blair Witch Project," speaking on the same panel, said that these types of interactive experiences can be far more effective than TV spots at getting people involved in a product and its features. Campfire produced the Audi "Art of the Heist" campaign, which featured an interactive game around a stolen Audi A3. "37 percent of the people who played then went onto the Audi corporate site, configured their own car and registered for a test drive," he said. "You could never convey all that information in a 30-second ad."
Ads, at their core, tell a story--the moral of the story is usually "buy this." And in growing numbers, consumers are showing that they aren't interested in just sitting back and being told a story. Storytellers should take note.