Wheres All The Transmedia Storytelling?

Im really excited about the launch of Defiance, a new SyFy TV show set to start very soon (I hope). Or is it Defiance, the Trion Worlds shooting MMO, set to launch equally soon on PC, PS3 and XBOX 360?

Actually, both.

First of its kind, Defiance will be a true trans-media property with a common story told through television and video gaming. Both set in a near-future post-apocalyptic earth, the show and the game will take place in different cities, but will share the same world events, and even exchange characters at certain points in time. Love it!

But what somehow amazes me is that there arent more such platforms, 5 years after MITs Henri Jenkins coined the phrase transmedia storytelling in his stellar book Convergence Culture.


Transmedia storytelling is quite a simple idea: its the integration of multiple media platforms to deliver a story in a deeper way. When Star Wars gives you six movies, an animated TV show, countless books and video games all united by the same History and Universe, its trans-media storytelling.

The reason its so engrossing (no, not just the revenues), is that it lets fans dig as deep as they want into the story, and creates the kind of knowledge imbalance between them that stimulates water-cooler conversations.

Watch Titanic, and you have exactly the same amount of information as everyone else whos seen the film. But watch The Matrix series without the Animatrix shorts or without playing the Matrix Online, and youve missed part of the plot. Thats where conversations can happen between the fans who know the day Morpheus died, and those who dont (its May 26th 2005).

Done well, transmedia lets an audience engage superficially with your content on one outlet (and enjoy it), or dig as deep as they want into your universe to become true fans.


Im puzzled at how few of these platforms have truly come to life. Sure, theres the Star Wars example Defiance is coming promises that Pottermore will stretch the Harry Potter franchise beyond the conclusion of the books and films series.

But why not more? Is it really that hard to do? That long or expensive to plan? Or simply is it that the audience is not as active and engaged as the concept assumed?

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