With the pandemic raging with renewed vigour, people are forced to stay indoors and with family. What can be better than combining both entertainment and gaming to offer a slew of interactive content?
What can be a better form of narration if it allows you to control the plot and unfold the mystery in more ways than one? The 2018 science fiction flick Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is one such experience on Netflix which is viewer-controlled, interactive and hybrid (film + game) and one can take control of the storyline and choose multiple adventures.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch became a huge hit around the world. Doubling down on the interactive storytelling, Netflix has taken the wow experience to another level. Recently, it announced video games as a new content category, similar to its expansion into original films, animation and unscripted TV. The streaming platform expects a long runway of increasing investment and growth across existing content categories and the gaming interactivity is included in members’ subscription plans at no additional cost.
That’s not all. By making great storylines and incredible characters, the fans of stories also want to go deeper and engage further. “They want to direct a bit where their energy goes. You provide universes that offer a significant amount of time people can engage in and explore. That’s why our subscription model yields opportunities to focus on a set of experiences that are currently underserved by the sort of dominant monetisation models and games,” said Gregory K Peters, COO and chief product officer, Netflix, in an earnings call in July last year.
As the pandemic rages, most people are looking for safe entertainment options that are indoors and with family. What can be better than combining both entertainment and gaming to offer a slew of interactive content? In today’s multi-screen world, platforms like Netflix have given viewers ample choice in picking content anytime, anywhere.
Entertainment and information overload has upset the work-life balance and is on the verge of a takeover by digital devices. Media and entertainment have to be re-imagined, writes filmmaker and author Amit Khanna in his book Words Sounds Images. Content creators are constantly reinventing themselves to remain relevant either through edgy content or sharply focused subjects. Khanna feels the fight for eyeballs is no longer restricted to one screen as he says, “With OTT platforms providing a new lease of life to films, we appear to be in the midst of another economic upcycle, where the consumer class is investors’ darling.”
As new concepts in the entertainment industry are inching closer towards digital as a potential revenue stream, to disrupt the industry and completely alter its outlook, the industry is able to leverage and monetise aptly. According to PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2021-2025, India’s entertainment and media industry is expected to grow at 10.75% CAGR to reach Rs 412,656 crore by 2025.
Rajib Basu, partner and leader – entertainment & media, PwC India, says in the next five years, India will see significant growth in OTT, online gaming and Internet advertising. “Growth in these sub-sectors spurs from the growing trends around personalisation and increased digitalisation. Today’s consumer can now control their own media consumption through an expanding range of smart devices and curate their personal selection of channels using OTT services. Content is being pitched not at audiences of billions but separately at billions of individuals,” says Basu.
Storytelling to story living
The stay-at-home entertainment options and endless use of OTT have made families and friends venture into new experiences of live interactive home entertainment. Delhi-based corporate affairs professional Bhaskar Majumdar, who works as head of corporate affairs, communication and digital at Egis, a French multinational, feels Covid-19 has fast-forwarded the adaptation of digital transformation. His 11-year-old son Tanay plays online interactive games which have now become part of digital learning.
“Availability of the Internet and with affordable smartphones and other devices have made this easy to play and learn. Social restrictions and lack of interaction with friends have made kids find a world there, their own world where they can create and build the way they like it, and that makes them stick and, in the process, learning happens,” he says.
The new-age collaborative ways of entertainment are different from how we might traditionally define and imagine. Advanced features in games have made both kids and adults participate. Nine-year-old Raeca Mandal, daughter of Mumbai-based IT professional Snehanshu Mandal, is hooked on to target games. These are lively and have a two-way feedback mechanism as compared to previous ones which used to be just the score at the end of the game. “All games had a predefined end— win or loss. Now the ending of the game is determined by the various activities performed in the game. Or sometimes, the game has no ending, and it goes on perpetually,” says Snehanshu Mandal.
Take for example, Roblox—a 3D computer-animated comedy action/ adventure film based on the video game—on Netflix, which Raeca watches as well as plays. The various characteristics of the game are selected among the multi-players present in the game at that moment of the play. “There’s uncertainty in the game. Kids don’t know what character they are going to play, and they have free will on how to handle that role-play. The feedback mechanism or the interaction is working both ways. And kids can also decide the end result based on how they handle the role/ character assigned,” he explains.
Innovation and action
Globally, interactive and creative entertainment is the next big thing. Accenture estimated in April 2021 report that global sales related to games are higher than the combined revenues from movies and music, driven by a surge in mobile gaming and an emphasis on social interaction during the pandemic. The report said that the gaming industry has increased by half a billion players in the past three years, totalling 2.7 billion people globally. The report predicts more than 400 million new gamers are expected by the end of 2023.
Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) in July 2021 announced that its newest generation game console, PlayStation5 (PS5), surpassed 10 million units sold and remains the fastest selling console in interactive entertainment history since first launching on November 12, 2020.
In-app interactive video platform from homegrown consumer company, Flipkart introduced Flipkart Videos in 2019 after researching that 80% of Indians were consuming content on their mobile phones, but most shows available back then were only made for streaming on large screens. Content streaming was mostly a passive experience for most. This led to successfully introducing India to a range of unique and interactive content, with commerce-linked rewards. “We wanted to fill that need gap and our research revealed a promising opportunity in providing entertainment options that are optimised for mobile viewing,” says Bengaluru-based Prakash Sikaria, Senior VP, growth and monetisation, Flipkart, adding that the brand has increased its portfolio of interactive content and witnessed a 10x growth in time spent by users. “The wide choice keeps users meaningfully engaged, leading to almost perfect episode completion rates,” he says.
Flipkart Videos has also introduced ‘Branching Technology’, a feature which lets viewers take control of the experience. For instance, murder mystery drama series Crime Stories: Season 2 draws viewers to become a part of the narrative and choose between different, compelling storylines and explore alternative possibilities that each episode can take. By answering questions correctly and predicting the right outcome, audiences also win prizes. Besides the series, quiz show Khel Paheliyon Ka is a unique anagram-based quiz show and Fake or Not?, a game show that answers counter questions of growing threat of misinformation and educate users by debunking fake content, common misconceptions surrounding the pandemic.
Brands are combining content, contest and consumers in multiple ways. Interactive entertainment is not restricted to this planet but is now being taken to space. There’s a new reality show betting on a new location and that is the International Space Station (ISS). Who Wants To Be An Astronaut series that will be featured on The Discovery Channel plans to send ordinary people into space and rocket the lucky winner of the competition to the ISS for an eight-day mission in 2022.
Making sure that space travel isn’t limited to entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, another privately-funded upcoming reality television contest Space Hero plans to send 24 contestants from around the world, who will be put into a Space Village with wearable technology and biometrics testing.
Video chat platform Zoom has ensured that workplaces and other users have one more reason to video chat by streamline workflows, collaboration with colleagues, and bring elements of fun and wellness, games into interactions with colleagues, friends, and family members. Like Heads Up! On Zoom is a fun and hilarious game by Ellen DeGeneres, a fun way to pass time with co-workers while waiting for meetings to start. Interactive learning app Kahoot used in schools, besides poker, word games, trivia, Zoom ensures there’s enough amusement for a virtual hangout.
Microsoft’s Surface Hub 2S family, a modern, all-in-one collaborative canvas device which uses an interactive whiteboard for business meetings, games and film viewing on one platform. Technology developers are also mindful of the importance of diversity and creating inclusive content. Bengaluru-based Gamestacy, a female-friendly game developer company, has kept all in-game conversations free from hate speech or abuse as gamers can interact with each other only through preset responses in a chat-box-like experience. “If there is a free-chat feature in any game, there should also be a report button that can limit abusive remarks. This makes creators bring in unique characters, storylines, and a diverse range of games to encourage people from all backgrounds,” says Danish Sinha, founder of Gamestacy.
Young mobile gamers on game.tv, a global esports mobile platform, empower gaming creators to earn money, build clubs and host tournaments, interact with followers and stream content. For gamers, a paid access to premium clubs gives access to premium tournaments, exclusive content and access to play and chat with the club owner.
If games like Pokémon Go, Fortnite and Among Us have become hangouts for friends, Italy, Land of Wonders lets one learn Italian language, experience pop culture, heritage and wonders of the world. Luxury brand Louis Vuitton, celebrating the 200th birthday of the legendary French fashion designer, has launched alternate, entertaining formats to explore the Maison’s history via ‘Louis The Game’ for iOS and Android users, a novel, and a web series. Combining advanced animation, the game features Louis Vuitton’s mascot Vivienne through a quest-filled journey about the brand’s history and the users can pick collectible items embedded with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), created by the digital artist Mike ‘Beeple’ Winklemann.
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