Netflix is planning to offer more interactive content along the lines of the choose-your-adventure style Black Mirror episode, Bandersnatch, according to vice president of content Todd Yellin.
Variety reports that Yellin confirmed this doubling down on interactive content during a keynote at the FICCI-Frames conference for Indian media and entertainment in Mumbai. Yellin emphasized that future interactive content doesn't necessarily have to be as grim as Bandersnatch was, and could in fact be very light-hearted and romantic.
“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,” Yellin said. “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.”
This would be good news for viewers who are intrigued by the idea of interactive movies and series but can't get on board with Black Mirror's vibe. The romantic comedy genre, with the classic 'will they or won't they' and love triangle storytelling tropes, would be perfect for such audience choices and could allow the fantasies of pop culture fandoms to come true. Wish that Ross and Rachel got together in Friends? That Bella had chosen Jacob over Edward in the Twilight movies? Interactive romances could leave this in the hands of the viewers.
This kind of content blurs the line between video games and more traditionally passive entertainment, as Bandersnatch intentionally did. Are you a viewer? Or a player? Interactive movies aren't too far away from the format of titles from Telltale Games, or Dontnod's Life is Strange.
Netflix's initiative is a big investment
Interactive stories are more expensive and difficult to produce than strictly linear movies. Bandersnatch took around two years to get from concept to screen, and required the development of special technology by Netflix and the writers and directors of Black Mirror to make it possible, including 'state tracking'' to log player choices, internal tools for writing decision trees, and loading improvements to make sure there was no lag during choices. A lot more video needs be shot and produced to cover all the different paths and endings of a branching narrative.
In short, Netflix sunk quite a bit of cash and R&D to make Bandersnatch possible, so it's no surprise that the streaming giant is planning to use this for other storylines and genres. Given that Netflix no longer has the dominance over the streaming market that it used to, going more interactive with its originals could be a savvy move to distinguish the service from the competition.
What do you think? Will leaning in to interactive stories lead to a good or bad ending for Netflix?