Transmedia – A Richer Canvas for Telling Stories

Let’s talk about Transmedia, for a moment.

Long gone are the days of static content. Consumers are looking for more and transmedia storytelling offers an increasingly popular approach for creating property-based universes. Transmedia content itself is also evolving. It’s becoming more dynamic, more interactive, offering greater opportunities to engage audiences with creative user-generated content that adds to the storytelling experience. It is becoming more communal.

With the popularity of transmedia, even older properties are getting a second heartbeat. Halo has recently launched a web series, “Forward Unto Dawn,” and a reboot of “Mortal Kombat,” which debuted on video game consoles in 1992, is being slated for 2013 by Warner Bros.

Not so long ago, transmedia was a term unfamiliar to most, but now the biggest companies are paying attention.

The way that audiences consume content is changing as they seek out different experiences. Already in love with a particular show, film or brand, they are looking for an extended experience, something that adds to the universe of the story that they are already attached to. That can translate into a larger bottom-line. After all, the more involved an audience becomes with a story world, the more they are likely to purchase elements from it.

Although traditional models allow for greater control of content, strategies that can engage fans more actively and allow them to express themselves and even contribute to the development of a show, get them more involved and, ultimately, more willing to buy in.

So it’s no wonder that studios, videogame companies, and large brand-holders are beginning to realize that an investment in an intellectual property must have a return from multiple media platforms. Hollywood’s most influential players have taken notice with directors like Peter Jackson and James Cameron embracing transmedia. Jackson, for example, has worked with video game developers to create “Lord of the Rings” games that would help tell other aspects of the story than the ones already depicted in the film, helping nurture that world. Many filmmakers are beginning to see transmedia as a larger, richer, less-linear canvas on which to tell a story.

Many companies initially reluctant to enter the realm of transmedia in its early phases are now bringing tentpole properties to the game in earlier stages, and using the various platforms to help define the property. Recent examples include films like “The Hunger Games” and “Prometheus.” A video surfaced far in advance of “Prometheus’” release depicting Peter Weyland (a character from the film played by Guy Pearce) giving a TED talk in the year 2023. “Hunger Games” allowed fans to become citizens of Panem through an Alternate Reality Game, make their own Capitol ID cards, launched a treasure hunt to assemble poster via pieces hidden on Facebook pages, and even sold nail polishes.

Transmedia isn’t reserved to just film either. Television shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Dexter” utilize transmedia in ways that effectively enhance the viewing experience.  “Game of Thrones” offers a ‘second screen experience’ that allows for an app on tablets to run concurrently to episodes of the show providing useful content like maps, character profiles, and behind-the-scenes information. Meanwhile, “Dexter’s” rich mythology has found its way into animated Web series spinoffs, games, web comics, and even trading cards.

In Canada, the popular “Murdoch Mysteries” created a six-episode web series spin-off, “The Murdoch Effect,” which transports Murdoch into an alternative universe — present day.

Clearly, transmedia storytelling is here to stay – and evolve.

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