According to a Netflix executive, the interactive film Bandersnatch was such a success that Netflix will double down on the format, with plans to make new interactive TV series across multiple genres.
Netflix Vice President of Product Todd Yellin delivered the keynote address at Mumbai-based media conference FICCI-Frames, in which he talked about plans to double Indian content production. But he also discussed the company’s future plans for interactive TV. Here’s what he said, as quoted in entertainment industry publication Variety:
It’s a huge hit here in India, it’s a huge hit around the world, and we realized, wow, interactive storytelling is something we want to bet more on. We’re doubling down on that. So expect over the next year or two to see more interactive storytelling. And it won’t necessarily be science fiction, or it won’t necessarily be dark. It could be a wacky comedy. It could be a romance, where the audience gets to choose—should she go out with him or him.
The announcement is not surprising; Bandersnatch was the talk of social media for a brief period after its release. When multiple Ars staffers assessed it in our “choose-your-own-opinion” review format, most impressions were relatively positive.
Set in the UK in the 1980s, Bandersnatch is part of Netflix’s Black Mirror speculative fiction anthology series. It follows an early game developer who unlocks mysteries while attempting to adapt a Choose Your Own Adventure-style book with the same name as the film. Throughout its runtime, the viewer is prompted to make choices about where the stories go. Some of the choices lead somewhere interesting, some don’t, but even the ones that don’t at least give the viewer the illusion of choice. (The same is true in many branching narrative video games, like Mass Effect.)
Below: From our review, a few examples of how Bandersnatch works.
Bandersnatch was a minor sensation among viewing audiences around the world. That said, it attracted some criticism for not employing modern techniques developed by game and narrative designers, who have been working their way through the challenges of interactive storytelling for many years. The film was written by a TV writer—Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker—not a writer specializing in interactive experiences.
It also wasn’t Netflix’s first attempt at interactive TV. The platform had explored the concept in some children’s programming, and it partnered with beleaguered game studio Telltale Games to bring video versions of some of its games to the service. However, that partnership ended as Telltale struggled.
Yellin didn’t comment on when the new interactive series might hit the platform, but Netflix is known for acting quickly to produce new content to meet whatever demand its data shows.
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