I’m all for Apps, I am all for video, and I am all for Apps with video… but when the Apps & Games become the focal point to launch a new TV show or video series, I draw the line. It doesn’t work, it won’t work, but alas when corporate executives get in a room with accountants and then bring in creative types (including producers) – and history will repeat itself.
I recently read that Disney Interactive is launching a new video series based off the popular Apps “Talking Tom Cat” and “Swampy – Where’s My Water?” Talking Tom Cat was a great App. I remember finding this after it exploded in popularity. What was great about Talking Tom Cat was it’s simplicity. Someone had the great idea to automatically pitch shift in audio playback whatever you record and pair that audio with an animated cat that you can poke, pull it’s tail and slap around (PETA people real happy with that). It was genius, and Talking Tom Cat became an overnight sensation. Then, they said… “if simply shifting the pitch up was so popular, let’s pitch shift the payback down – and we can make a Talking T-Rex”. Then Talking Birds appeared, Robots, Dogs. We’ve had enough. After the 3rd release – Talking Tom Cat and his friend’s popularity (in my household) dropped considerably. And when an App’s popularity drops to the point where that App is no longer being used… “Poof” it’s gone.
Swampy – Where’s My Water, same situation. First off, I did not know that Swampy was a Disney product, and now knowing that – I am disappointed in Disney. Visually, graphically, Swampy is just awful – especially when compared to other Apps and Games that are available. Disney is the King, Queen, Jack & Ace of animation. Disney owns Pixar, and Pixar has released some of the most visually stunning animated movies before and after it was bought by Disney. And Disney puts out Swampy? My 8 year old currently has Where’s My Water? on his iPod. Being that his iPod is linked to my account, anything he downloads – it automatically downloads to my device too. This enables me to test out what he’s playing. I played about 7 levels of Where’s My Water? and then… “poof” gone.
What’s the appeal for Apps? $1.00. Whether you have a tablet, smartphone, Android device, iPod, PC, MAC, whatever… you can download Apps for your device that for the most part, start at $1.00. Some are more, but most games on average are… $1.00. Games are the most downloaded Apps. With the rising prices of everything else, we don’t give a $1.00 much thought – however successful App developers do. In the lifetime of you downloading Apps for any and all your devices, say you spend $100.00 total… multiply that by just 1,000,000 people like you – and App developers are making some good money. Now multiply it by 10,000,000 or more. Naturally, executives, creative types, producers, etc want a piece of those profits. They want the success of Rovio.
Angry Birds by Rovio is the King, Queen, Jack and Ace of Apps. Angry Birds (the original) has been downloaded over 500 million times. Now consider all other revenue streams for this franchise – merchandise (pillows, stuffed animals, etc), there’s Angry Birds Seasons, Angry Birds Rio (and the movie associations with the animated movie Rio), and now Angry Birds Space (which was downloaded over 10 million times over 3 days after it’s release). Rovio is running a great operation. Do I see Angry Birds loosing any popularity any time soon? No. As long as their designers and developers can continue the creative juices flowing on new & challenging ways to destroy pigs with a variety of birds, Angry Birds will thrive. They have found their niche an are sticking to it.
Mario Bros is to Nintendo what Angry Birds is to Rovio. Mario Bros is one of the most popular video game franchises in history. People enjoy playing the part of Mario, Luigi, Toad, etc on their mission to defeat Bowser and his rotten kids. The game has reinvented itself many times over, and with each release, Nintendo keeps winning. Mario All-Stars, Mario Kart, Marioland, Mario Olympics, the list goes on and on. Sure enough, Mario was eventually made into an animated series… do you remember it? No… the leap to TV failed. The experience with Mario for us was not the same. Nintendo learned its lesson, and now continues to put out only games.
The same can be said for the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Sonic was and is still a popular game. Playing Sonic, you run at blazing speeds – the graphics race through your brain at breakneck speed – the experience is like none other. And what happened when corporate and creative types decided to latch onto the popularity of Sonic and turn it into an animated series. Flop. It’s just not the same.
Apps are Apps, Games are Games, Video is Video, TV is TV. The popularity of an App or Game does not lend itself to easily transferring that popularity to another medium. You must consider the experience of the initial product. Meaning if the initial product achieves great popularity because you interact with it in a certain way, taking that element out of the equation (regardless of popularity of the product), the end-user experience is lacking. Likewise, if an initial product achieves great popularity because you only need to watch or view it, adding an element into the equation (such as interaction), the end-user experience can cause confusion. Feelings of confusion and lacking leads to avoidance.
The “Fast & the Furious” has a fantastic track record. “Fast 5” made over half a billion dollars. The franchise has 5 movies under their belt, and another 2 “Fast & the Furious” movies have already been planned. With the success of this franchise, game developers now want a piece of movie action, and “Need For Speed” (a popular video game) will be made into a movie. My prediction… it wont hold a candle to “The Fast & the Furious”. Why? Need For Speed success was built off holding a controller in your hand and driving a car through city streets, avoiding police, in short – interactive adrenaline. That element will be missing at the theater.
Activision created Pitfall! in 1982, and it quickly became popular. Pitfall! was the second highest grossing video game in the Atari 2600 lineup. Gamers loved to navigate Pitfall Harry over gators, down caves, swinging on vines, etc. In 1983, Pitfall! made it’s animated TV series debut on CBS’s Saturday Supercade. The cartoon was called Pitfall Harry, and featured the adventures of Harry, his niece, and his mountain lion pet. It lasted one season, then was cancelled.
It’s been said over and over again, “those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it” and “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result”. Talking Friends and Swampy’s Adventures (or whatever it will be called) will flop. That’s my official prediction. A lot of capital will go into producing and delivering these shows, but executives are simply failing to study history. Look at Mario, Sonic, Pitfall Harry and many others. Popularity in one medium does not necessarily mean you’ll ride that popularity comfortably into another. Ask yourself the question… “is there anything missing here that could prevent us from achieving the popularity we have now?” If not, move ahead. But if a major end-user experience comes up lacking or causes confusion, stick with what you do best.