Transmedia – destroying or enhancing franchises?

I just read this excellent post on how a transmedia take on expanding a franchise can ruin the franchise beyond redemption. It rings absolutely true and is a danger that we all should be aware of.

From my point of view, which then would be the point of someone who has been developing formats for interactive television, cross media and transmedia since 2005, we need to make a distinction between transmediating an existing franchise and developing a transmedia property from scratch. That is what we found very quickly with the first interactive tv formats we developed, amongst them The Space Trainees, a childrens cross media language training game show set in space (Emmy-nominated this year, yay!). It started out as a show for interactive television, via set-top-box interactivity. While trying to integrate interactivity into the flow of the show, we found that we had to take several steps back to be able to integrate the interactivity in a logical way that did not disrupt the story we were trying to tell.

The same goes for any transmedia venture I can think of. As discussed in the post linked above, there is often a major danger of the ”cashing in on the success”-factor taking over. We used to call it ”slap-on interactivity”, when interactive services had been implemented in a late stage of the development and just slapped on as an extra layer on top of the show or the story. That was what it felt like as well, an extra layer that hindered you more than it enabled you. With any sort of existing franchise going into transmedia this rings true; make sure what new things you offer are integrated into the mythology, the storyworld, make sure they add to the canon of the storyworld and do not detract from it and make sure it all fits in a very logical way.

Now, the best thing is of course to start a transmedia property from scratch. In that way, as we ourselves quickly realized, you can let the different parts influence each other to create a logical and engaging whole. And I absolutely agree with the points about keeping the creative(s) in the loop – they know the story and the story world, and are the ones best equipped to see if a new addition fits storywise or not. So, just to find the proper story then, I guess!

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