Social media’s most redeeming quality may be that it solves as many problems as it creates.
While traditional media may bemoan consumer attention lost to status updates and pointless chatter, social has also created an international community perfect for propagating mass-media properties.
At least that’s what New York-based online game developer Funtactix believes. Funtactix was the first company to offer a movie-based Facebook game, at the end of 2011, with Mission: Impossible The Game. It has since gone on to announce partnerships with Warner Bros., Paramount and, most recently, Lionsgate for its franchise The Hunger Games.
CEO Sam Glassenberg says he got a glimpse of the future during his previous stints at Lucas Arts and Microsoft. “I saw the writing on the wall,” he says. “There was a huge transition to online taking place—and while we didn’t yet have social, we had micro-transactions and gaming as a service. I could see all of our partners scrambling to get their franchises up and running in the browser. But the projects were going way over budget and schedule because the big game publishers just didn’t know how to handle these platforms.”
Enter social media. Social gaming has many advantages over console. It opens titles up to a potential internet-connected audience in the millions. Content can be updated daily and even bridge the gap between the release of sequels. It also offers real-time consumer feedback, and development takes months, compared to the several years required to produce a Triple-A console title. Social game play also doesn’t rely on ninja-like hand-eye coordination either, so more people can enjoy it. Group games can be played asynchronously, so that they conform to the individual user’s social media routine. It also generates revenue. In short, that’s a lot of pluses.
“We live at the intersection of marketing and consumer products,” observes Glassenberg. “And whereas marketing is traditionally very focused on opening weekend, and consumer products is interested in generating long-term revenue, what we do is take an audience that is excited about the movie and opening weekend and keep them engaged over many months and years.”
Funtactix has worked closely with the movie creators on all of its film properties. The game Rango: The World was written by Jim Byrkit, who also wrote the Paramount animated feature. The company also worked with bestselling author Suzanne Collins on The Hunger Games Adventures.
Integrating IP creators allows Fantactix to play a significant role in the evolution of the content. For The Hunger Games Adventures, for example, Funtactix was the first media outlet to release the map of Panem, the world in which the franchise takes place.
“The [online] community actually contributes to the universe. And I think what is really exciting, especially longer-term, is that we are starting to see that feedback go back to the creators of the property so they have an idea of which characters their audience likes and are excited about. That can then contribute to the creation of sequels and other content.”
The Funtactix CEO also makes an important observation—most game players quickly begin to spend far more time in the branded virtual worlds than they did watching the movie or reading the books. That’s exactly the sort of engagement that would make the Game Masters of Panem proud.