Future Fan – The ownership of relationships

Consider an eight year old playing Lego Indiana Jones on an XBox. Certainly a fan of XBox. Very likely a fan of Lego. Hopefully of Indiana Jones, and as the third Lego game they’re playing that year, unknowingly a fan of game maker; Traveller’s Tales (TTGames).

These are very fragmented times for the relationships between content consumers and publishers. Between the fan and the brand lies a minefield of distribution and delivery layers, wildly distracted by social networks and fan-sites.

In the world of sports, self built communities are more popular than the official channels as energised fans seek accommodation for conversation without moderation.

While on the other side, the larger video game publishers like Ubisoft keep a close, watchful eye on their gaming fans through connected sub-systems. Tracking what they are playing, when and how far in. The In-game achievements (a trophy system introduced by Sony Playstation, for awarding the execution of particular challenges) have been internally adopted as players from any platform are rewarded with loyalty currency and real-world discounts. This is no simple task when you consider the Playstation/XBox/PC Steamstore infrastructure layers they need to circumvent to sustain that personal connection.

So what then for large entertainment license holders such as Marvel, Disney or Star Wars, who shares its IP across so many mediums, with probably only a small portion of it being digital? How could Marvel (or DC) know what non-digital comics I read, Blu-Rays and DVD’s I own and what figurines I keep on my shelf and desk. One could ask why a Licenser would want to know, though it’s just as likely that the customer wants to boast about their dedication to a franchise.

There is mutual benefit to be had at this personal level. If for example, a gamer playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance, there would very likely be story-points that connect with and continue through comic books or movies. Equally if an intelligent system were aware of my comic book consumption, it’s feasible that it could suggest content in other formats/mediums, such as movies or videogames, plugging the gaps between any storylines I might have. This is a much smarter way of making recommendations that helps the fan feel at the center of the relationship.

Cross-media storytelling

Utilising the capabilities of various mediums to tell a story isn’t new. Amidst the frenzy following first Matrix movie, the Wachoski brothers produced and released a video game called Enter the Matrix. The game featured a narrative that bridged story-arcs between the first and second movie; Matrix Reloaded (along with an hour or so of exclusive video footage bedded in to sweeten the deal).

Cross-media storytelling has huge potential, as a creative medium and in business. It does, however take me back to the early days of BBC digital services, when eager young developers like myself were creating interactive non-linear content production systems that the producers couldn’t quite get their heads around. Why should they… They liked linearity of how TV shows worked; started and ended, and had little time for the kooky generation who’s roll of a dice would dictate which page of a book to turn to next. They just weren’t ready for multi-dimensional editorial.

Digital evolution needs time to populate its landscape. Like Darwin’s flower/butterfly case, every platform needs its own evolved natives to thrive on it, who will expose its opportunities.

That minefield of digital distributors, publishers and IP owners

Back on the Ubisoft gaming example; It’s great to be able to account for my entire relationship with a brand in a single place/website (aside from physical collectables), though there’s a problem that becomes apparent as soon as another layer of stakeholder get’s involved. A Disney game, published by EA and distributed on Playstation Network will naturally start to pile-up the registration log-ins. Of course it’s important that all the stakeholders gets their piece of the pie (in data terms), so we would need to imagine some content-licence information layer that sits at the digital distribution level, channeling permitted data back up the stakeholder/licensing chain.

Ultimately, it’s the user perception of wide conversation that is important, who at the center, feels they can freely connect with whichever brand relationship they wish, and not feel that a message is being relayed through a middleman. I want to connect to Electronic Arts whose games I’m playing, bought through PSN on my Playstation and through Origin and Steam for my PC. But I also want to turn to the brand owner of any of those licensed titles, to be known and seen as a fan by a football club, because I’m playing their team in Fifa, and be recognised by StarWars.com because I play SW Battlefront.

This is all very doable. But like anything requires understanding of necessary agreements and information transactions from the outset. The term big data has become quite a cliche, but few fields have the opportunity for shared benefit than the realm of distributor, publishers, franchises and licence creators.

Please note, this article is also posted on my employer’s website at Digitalist global

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