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.

Hi. Bye.

1. Defiance

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.

2. World of Warcraft

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.

3. Stargate Worlds

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.

4. Secret World Legends

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.

5. Marvel Heroes

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.

6. Wakfu

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.

7. Dofus

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.

8. World of Tanks

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.

9. Star Wars: The Old Republic

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!

10. World of Warships

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.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

34 Comments on "Perfect Ten: MMO experiments in transmedia synergy"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Bobuliss
Reader
Bobuliss

There’s still rumors of an EVE TV show floating around, not to mention the fan-made Clear Skies series. Seriously, even if you hate EVE, I’d recommend checking out Clear Skies on Youtube.

Clear Skies: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL66220627EE518EE5

abyssalstar
Reader
abyssalstar

City of Heroes had a comic book series, though it didn’t last too long. Maybe 15-20 issues?

Reader
GoJammit

But it was a blast

Reader
Victor Barreiro Jr.

I was expecting Ragnarok Online to be mentioned, but oh well.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Cypher

And, I suppose, sword art and /hack. too, at least I think /hack was a game too…
Oh and GitS, til December anyway :p

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

Worth noting that Dofus and Wakfu have a bit of trans-media presence in the board games space: Krosmaster, a strategy board game that mixes both universes.

wandris
Reader
wandris

Stargate worlds.. really wish that game made it. As an MMO it would have most likely struggled and been dated and in maintenance mode by now, given the competition and technology of the time. Maybe we will get a reboot in a decade or two.

TSW ARG was fun. Think one of them lead me searching low quality street cams in montreal looking for a black suitcase or something unusual. Would like to see a few more wild goose chases.

Reader
Bryan Correll

Don’t forget World of Warships’ retroactive tie in with the film Under Siege.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Tobasco da Gama

I was kind of hoping that the WoT tie-in comic would involve the Haunted Tank.

Reader
Rheem Octuris

DCUO also did some movie tie-ins I think.

abyssalstar
Reader
abyssalstar

Yeah, I think they recently added Wonder Woman’s shield as a skin when her movie hit theaters.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Alex Willis

Another non-canon SWTOR moment that appeared in canon: the Hammerhead Corvette!

comment image

Reader
GoJammit

Apparently, the last one in existence

Reader
Bullet Teeth

Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer I’m surprised are absent.

Especially considering D&D pretty much created the Fantasy genre.

Reader
Tiresias

It should be noted that Neverwinter has been following the major campaign releases of 5th edition, bringing those adventures into the game setting.

That’s a big deal, IMO.

Reader
Witches

Shouldn’t FFXI/XIV be in this? I think SE is miles ahead of anyone else when it comes to synergy.

Also DCUO, i get it, the game sucks, but it does have tie-ins with the movies.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Cypher

Yep! 3 movies, one of which was a “proper cinema job” that no one remembers! ( I actually liked spirits within!)

Reader
A Dad Supreme

Huh. No mention of The Matrix.

A more than popular movie series (agreed by everyone) with a less-than popular MMO (agreed by everyone).

This is one transmedia synergy that should have worked and paid out very well, especially given the chance for content in the game that didn’t necessarily have to be in the movies given it’s basic premise as an ‘alternate reality universe’ and existence. So many different types of expansions could have come from this that would have been virtually unlimited in lore restriction.

Reader
Witches

Warner Bros happens.

WB is so good at sinking popular IP that they should start selling their own brand of submarines.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
squidgod2000

The experiment lasted three years, with the TV series gathering a small cult audience

Second-highest rated show on SyFy, behind Childhood’s End—whatever that was.

It was a good (for what it was) show and a good (for what it was) game, but the overlap/influence between the two was always a joke. Show had some crossover with the game, but nothing from the game ever made it to the show, apart from some awkward mentions of a character in the game. There was a big contest to have ‘your’ character’s likeness on the show (though considering how limited character creation was, it was an easy promise to make), but when it actually happened, nobody noticed. It was a drawing of the head of the ‘winner’s character that was on screen for about three seconds.

ceder
Reader
ceder

Those contests were a complete sham and the transmedia was more shammedia than anything. The actions of the show really didn’t actually affect the game and 100% the actions of the players didn’t affect the show as they’d pitched it originally. Trion was so late getting things out/done and the controversies and issues with what they did get out made things impossible to synergize with the show. It was a mess (and still is)

Reader
Arktouros

Defiance as a game was a trainwreck. I don’t even know where to start with how badly they screwed that one up haha.

Reader
A Dad Supreme

They focused too much on how to do corporate tie-ins (Dodge and all the other ones) imo rather than how to actually make a good game and co-ordinate competently with each other.

That was apparent from the interviews for SyFy writers who said they asked Trion to make horses and Trion told them they ‘couldn’t’ make that work. I was always dumbfounded by Trion’s response given that they already had horse mounts in Rift for years. I think that was pretty clear Trion was worrying more about the corporate masters than to the art form itself.

I think in the end they focused too greatly on how much Scrooge McDuck loot they were going to make in their minds with branding and synergies, and forgot that basic problem… the product wasn’t actually very good.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
squidgod2000

And years of promising motorcycles and not delivering, then trying to have the lead story guy fix the UI (failed), then made him lead developer for some reason.

Trion gonna Trion.

Reader
A Dad Supreme

The good news is that SyFy learned it’s lesson and appear to have re-dedicated themselves to good/great art, as evidenced by the show’s they’ve put out since the Defiance debacle… The Magicians, The Expanse, etc. They’ve learned to leave movies like Sharknado alone, other than that particular cult-favorite. (I can’t stand it but..) When you look at what they have coming on their site as previews, it’s clear they are trying to upgrade the content in a positive way.

Now look at Trion since… everything they are doing is pretty much crap or associated with some “import” of one kind or another. They don’t have any good ideas that really would appeal to many players, it’s all been cheaply built niche stuff that’s run by lockboxes and P2W.

Seems they are more interested in making money than making art.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Cypher

Don’t forget Killjoys and Dark Matter…
*rubs hands at the thought of Hannah J.k.. ..droool*

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Cypher

As in, good syfy shows, no synergy yet.

Reader
Sorenthaz

I’m pretty sure that by Season 3 they just stopped trying to do crossover stuff because it clearly wasn’t working.

The only cool bits were getting to see the TV characters in-game and how those events tied into the show. More of that should have happened IMO.

ceder
Reader
ceder

A big factor was Trion canning the entire team save 1 person from their San Diego branch studio within months of the game and show going live. This included the guy who wrote all the lore/backstory for the project. Only Trick transitioned from SD to Redwood but he left as well. I think SyFy realized the IP was pretty toxic after all the issues from Trion and sought an exit.

Reader
Sorenthaz

Yeah it was pretty clear that Trion was in full-on panic/salvage mode and used Trick as a face for the old devs who all got booted.

Then again given what Nathan Richardsson has done with the latest game he’s been the lead senior designer or w/e of (WH40k Eternal Crusade)… there was probably more to the layoffs than just money issues.

semugh
Reader
semugh

erm … Star Trek Online? the grandpa of synergy…?

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

I really liked the Defiance TV show and the game is okay.. but the whole interaction between the two never really happened in the way they described sadly :(

But typically speaking I like it when games cover multiple mediums of entertainment be it books, comics, movies, anime.. its all things I absorb and enjoy :)

wpDiscuz