Westworld Launches Alexa Skill The Maze in Advance of Season Finale
Westworld has launched an Alexa skill in advance of its season finale. Westword: The Maze is a voice-driven adventure game where you play a “host” looking for enlightenment. There are three levels to the maze: memory, improvisation and self-interest. You navigate by answering questions and the goal is to find the center of the maze. You are told in the introduction that:
Every choice can bring you closer to freedom or spiraling to the edges, to death.
If you answer questions correctly, apparently you can advance. My knowledge of Westworld is limited to a couple of random episodes so I quickly died. Each death takes you back to the Sweetwater Saloon where you can start your adventure once again. You can supposedly complete the game in about 20 minutes and there is a total potential gameplay of about two hours.
The skill is richly designed with voice actors who are show characters, or reasonable facsimiles, providing the audio tracks and asking the questions. There is also use of recorded music and sounds that are employed on the show. The sound enhancements make the game much more immersive and fans of the show will surely recognize it as familiar.
Capturing the Prime Invocation
There are five Westworld-related Alexa skills the pre-dated Westworld: The Maze. However, the HBO version gets the prime invocation that responds when you say, “Alexa, open Westworld.” It is not necessary to say, “The Maze.” It is also auto-enabled so there is no need to go into your app and select it from the skill store. This may make it harder for Westworld Facts and Westworld Quotes to gain discovery from users.
Amazon also recommended the game True or False when I finished. And, when I listened to the video trailer, it didn’t activate my Alexa device. So, there were a number of relatively new features that showed up in my two short sessions with the game including auto-enablement, recommendations and wake word suppression.
Media Looking at Voice as a Promotion and Engagement Channel
Westworld: The Maze is the latest example of media properties using voice assistants as a promotion channel and to offer a new way for their audience to engage with the content. The movie Dunkirk did this by launching a choose-your-own-adventure role playing game on Alexa where users could take on the role of different character types in the story. National Geographic promoted its television series The Long Road Home with the Bravo Tango brain training on Google Assistant. In that case, the Google Action was designed more to help veterans with post-war stress and mental health, but there were indirect promotional benefits for the series.
Amazon Prime’s Grand Tour show also had a trivia-type game designed to extend the audience experience. Westworld: The Maze seems to fit into that category. There are promotional benefits of the Alexa skill but it is really more of a reward for loyal viewers who are involved enough to answer the questions correctly. It’s not clear that this is a skill that expert users will return to often, but it might offer an incentive for the less well versed viewer to learn more about the show so they can better compete in the game. What seems clear is that media–whether it’s music, television, movies or games–view voice assistants as a complementary channel for promoting their content and extending the audience experience.