Perfect Ten: MMO experiments in transmedia synergy
We’re not going to argue that MMORPGs are the dominant form of media entertainment these days, but they do have endurance and a devoted following among gamers. And whenever a crowd of players have been paying into a game for a long time, it will attract the attention and interest of marketers who start wondering what else they could do to siphon off a few more bucks.
Enter “transmedia synergy,” a stupidly awesome term that represents links between two or more forms of media that are connected through the same IP. The thinking here is that fans of one of these forms of entertainment will cross over into the related media and vice-versa, growing an audience together.
Today we’re going to look at 10 experiments in transmedia synergy, for better or for worse, that have attempted to cross over from MMORPG to something else entirely. To make things more challenging, we’re not going to include novels, since we’ve already done that.
The trope namer in these parts for “transmedia synergy,” Defiance was a breathtaking idea to link two risky ventures — a TV series and an MMORPG — in the hopes of keeping both afloat. Supposedly, the show would feature events that would impact the game and vice-versa, although this didn’t play out as much as the PR people would have you believe.
The experiment lasted three years, with the TV series gathering a small cult audience and the game an even smaller population. Syfy canceled the show in 2015, leaving Defiance the game to soldier on by itself to this day.
Make a big enough MMO, and sooner or later, someone’s gonna want to make a big enough movie to match. This became 2016’s Warcraft, a summer fantasy blockbuster directed by Duncan Jones. While it wasn’t exactly a critical darling, the film did gross $433 million worldwide. There were some cross-promotions around the film’s release, including adding some of the film’s armor and weapons to the game as transmog.
Regrets, we’ve had a few, including the fact that Stargate Worlds was canned so close to launch thanks to studio mismanagement. The franchise was riding high a decade ago, and you better believe that there were all sorts of plans to tie in the MMO with the ongoing series and storylines. Alas, this was never meant to be.
As we recently reported, Johnny Depp’s production company has picked up The Secret World in order to make a TV series starring undercover investigators navigating secret societies and worldwide conspiracies. Couldn’t make up stuff like this if we tried, folks. Previously, Funcom dabbled in other TSW tie-ins, including ARGs and two spin-off games.
When you think about it, Marvel Heroes is pretty much the poster child for transmedia synergy in the MMO space these days. Practically any move by Marvel’s movie or TV arm will end up rippling its way into the game somehow, usually through specific cosmetic skins and unique outfits. There have even been special events or areas created for the game in response to the latest Marvel superhero movie.
This game seems to continually operate under the radar of many MMO fans’ interest, but for those that do follow it, Wakfu has cultivated a very devoted audience. So devoted, in fact, that players put up money to have the game developed into a Netflix anime series.
Not to be outdone by its Ankama sibling, Dofus has spun off into a manga series, a TV series, and even a full-fledged motion picture. Eat your heart out, every other MMO.
It’s not just TV and movies that keeps the transmedia synergy dream alive; there are plenty of other entertainment venues out there as well. Last year, World of Tanks announced that it inked a deal with Dark Horse for a limited run of a WoT-themed comic book series. The series followed a tank crew in Europe during World War II.
Yeah, I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t buy any of the tie-in LEGO sets for this game, but that’s not the transmedia synergy that I am thinking about. A few years ago, the acquisition of Star Wars by Disney meant that a lot of the expanded universe — including The Old Republic — got demoted into “legends.” Yet earlier this year, the Star Wars Rebels TV show included a reference to the Old Republic era that seemed to reincorporate the games into official canon. Neat!
World of Warships has shown no shame nor restraint in what it will pursue in getting its name out there. From tie-ins with this summer’s WWII epic Dunkirk to an odd-as-all-get-out anime partnership with Arpeggio of Blue Steel -Ars Nova-, players have had the joy of crossing genres and media boundaries in their adventures.