When Microsoft unveiled its Xbox One console, one of the most high profile titles announced for the platform was Quantum Break, an epic transmedia project from Finland’s Remedy Entertainment that incorporates both a blockbuster action game and a live action TV show.
What makes Quantum Break different to crossover projects such as Syfy’s Defiance is that all episodes are available at once and come packaged with the game. Stored on the console’s hard drive, the Xbox One then customises playback of each episode to reflect the player’s actions in the game. Here, Remedy’s CEO Matias Myllyrinne explains more about why the company embarked on this ambitious endeavour and how technology has created a “perfect storm” for transmedia storytelling.
The creative industries keep pushing for transmedia content, seemingly as an end in itself, but what’s the creative payoff for the audience?
For me, I think the key thing is that it brings a deeper entertainment experience when we combine the linear and the interactive. It gives us a richness and I think we have a unique take on it that’s really interesting in terms of storytelling.
We draw a lot from popular culture, things that are familiar to our audience but that they haven’t seen in games before.
Basically, your actions will influence all of your content, whether it’s linear or interactive. I’m not saying it’s “make your own story” where you quickly end up spider-webbing into multiple stories. It’s one story told in many ways. The choices you make in the game will impact your custom TV show and the show will also enrich the game – you’ll find new things in the game. They give to each other, there’s back and forth.
Quantum Break is arguably the most ambitious – and potentially risky – transmedia project ever undertaken. Why attempt it now?
It’s a perfect storm in a lot of ways. We’ve always played around with elements of different media. For example, in the first Alan Wake game you could switch on a TV and watch live action shows set within the fiction. We draw a lot from popular culture, things that are familiar to our audience but that they haven’t seen in games before. [Quantum Break’s transmedia structure] is a logical step on that path. It might seem a little crazy at first – it certainly did to me! – but with Xbox Live, digital downloads, hard drives and storage, a lot of these technologies matured to a point where it was feasible.
Remedy experimented with episodic structure in Alan Wake, prefacing each gameplay section with a “Previously on Alan Wake…” recap. Is Quantum Break’s “boxset” approach a natural evolution of that?
Consumer habits have changed. For most of us on our team, viewing habits have changed, particularly as you mature and your family and work obligations change. We were watching a lot of DVD boxsets and now I think it’s evolved from that to watching more and more HBO and Netflix. We had that already in Alan Wake; we built it around an episodic structure. That felt natural. From a narrative point of view, a TV structure works better for a game than a film structure: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3.
Quantum Break has been funded by Microsoft in order to sell a new console. Is this “game and show” model likely to become more common, or will it always be limited to well financed special projects?
I think it’ll be very interesting to see. There’s definitely strength in marrying linear and interactive storytelling. Hopefully we’re paving the way for something new, and someone will come along and take something from us and adapt it. I think we’ll see more and more of this. It’s too powerful. We’re gamers but we don’t just define ourselves by that, or the TV shows we watch. They’re not mutually exclusive. Certainly some people will enjoy the game side more, others will enjoy the TV show more, but I think most will enjoy them together.