Jurassic World Gets a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Alexa Skill From Earplay
Universal Brand Development partnered with Earplay to develop a new choose-your-own-adventure game Alexa skill to coincide with the opening of the movie Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this past weekend. Jurassic World Revealed is interesting for several reasons.
- It includes a storyline that is relevant to the new movie but distinctive.
- It borrows liberally from the movie sound effects.
- It is also a freemium game of six chapters with only the first segment free to use. To continue, you must pay either $3.99 as a launch discount or $4.99 after June 29th. Prime members get an additional $1.00 discount.
- The purchase process is seamless. The skill asks you if you would like to purchase the additional chapters. If you say, “yes,” then it asks for your purchase PIN. Once you say your PIN, it completes the purchase and starts chapter two. The entire purchase process takes just a few seconds.
Media and Alexa Seem to Pair Well Together
This was the second story this past week about a media property launching an Alexa skill as a promotion vehicle. Last Wednesday, Westworld launched an Alexa skill marketed as an voice-interactive maze requiring players to answer questions about the show in order to advance through the game. The launch was timed for the season finale which helps promote the episode and offers a way for fans to continue the Westworld experience after the show concludes for the season.
Chris Heatherly, EVP of Games and Digital Platforms for NBC Universal, suggested in an email interview that we should expect to see more media leveraging smart speakers to promote independent productions.
Smart speakers are certainly a mass market platform. So, to the extent that people like this type of entertainment on them, I think a lot of IP [independent productions] will want to be there.
When asked what prompted his team to decide on an Alexa skill for the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom release, Mr. Heatherly commented:
“We’ve wanted to try interactive storytelling on Alexa for a while and it just made sense to start with one of our strongest and most beloved IPs, but also one where the world is so clear in the audience’s imaginations. Since this is a voice experience, it helps that you recall such strong imagery from decades of Jurassic films.
When asked why NBC Universal chose to work with Earplay as opposed to building it in-house or with another studio, Heatherly responded, “We love Earplay’s writing! Dave Grossman is one of the best interactive narrative fiction writers there out there. And the Earplay platform was built to do this type of experience.”
Earplay Co-Founder Comments on Freemium, Production and the Industry
Jonathan Myers, CEO and co-founder of Earplay also responded to questions an email interview related to the new production. The question and answer exchange is included below.
Jurassic Park Revealed has a monetization component. Dunkirk, Westworld and others do not. They are focused on awareness and engagement. Why did you decide to make this a freemium experience?
Myers: Earplay has always intended to make high quality long form experiences available for direct to consumer sale via premium purchase. We released Codename Cygnus on iOS in 2013, selling the world’s first interactive audio story you play with your voice with the exact same model. Until we made the entire experience free at the four year mark we ported to Alexa in August 2017 [so] you could play the prologue and episode one for free and then purchase additional content. On iOS, we typically saw 10-15% free to paid conversion among downloads. We’ve had the same goal ever since, and we have three long form EarPlay titles coming soon for premium purchase: Pugmire, The Orpheus Device, and They Came in Outer Space.
What is the arrangement between EarPlay and Universal? Were you paid to produce the game? How are the paid user proceeds split if at all?
Myers: I can’t comment on the specific financial arrangement at this time. We’re working with Universal Games & Digital Platforms, led by Chris Heatherly, which is the same department that manages the other commercial games that were recently released. For example, Jurassic World Alive and Jurassic World Evolution, and Jurassic World VR Expedition. We’re a fully commercial game, not conceived of or funded as an advertisement or as cross-channel marketing. The goal from the beginning of the partnership was always an interactive audio story experience that we sell directly to fans. Neither Amazon Media Group nor theatrical marketing provided any budget for the Jurassic World Revealed production.
As for production, did you do the story, script and game design on your own or did you collaborate with Universal Brand on it?
Myers: We handled it entirely, but in creative collaboration with games producers at Universal, with design and writing led by Earplay Chief Creative Officer Dave Grossman, formerly of LucasArts and Telltale Games. We pitched several ideas to our Universal Games & Digital Platforms counterparts and after some reviews a final concept was approved. From there we proceeded the same as a typical interactive or game studio would, developing design, story, and script with checkpoints for the necessary stakeholders and approvals.
How was the studio involved if at all in terms of design or review?
Myers: We handled all design and production, with Universal handling review and feedback at process checkpoints during concept, design, writing, casting, recording, and audio production. Our story is set during the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, so we had early access to the story and screenplay. We needed to work closely with them to ensure accuracy and authenticity. Among many others, our script was reviewed by the writer of the film script, for example.
What are you thoughts in general about voice as a channel to market media properties? How about to monetize?
Myers: The slow coming of voice purchasing has held back the potential of true voice entertainment for a time. Now that creators can directly sell content to consumers and consumers can purchase with such low friction, I believe we’ll see rapid growth in the quality of voice entertainment experiences, in particular with interactive dramatic audio stories like Earplay has pioneered.
I believe that agencies have been living a hey day right now on voice platforms with the RFP and campaign model with the manager of the brand and spend as a client calling the shots of the final experience, but most likely that will be disrupted in the future. Earplay does not do that, and if we’re part of something that is a tie-in or a campaign we require certain terms in our agreements. We don’t operate off of a brief or submit to proposals in competition with others to win a client. You’ll note that we don’t allow Alexa to put Earplay on their agencies page.
While monetization has been developed and has rolled out, the Advergame McBranded Experiences have gotten more interesting, but they’re not really telling quality original stories yet because of the model attaches limitations before the creators can create. Mostly they are elaborate guessing or quiz games, or out of context interactions with characters, first and foremost meant to make the participant think about the brand and a later purchase or call to action that the advertisers want the consumer to make elsewhere. We instead want the participant to focus entirely on their story and the experience they’re having right then and there. It’s a difference that players can sense. In other words, we’re not an agency. We’re a company that makes stories you play with your voice, which often includes making a story property come alive in a new medium. Now, a new commercial medium.
As a result, and alongside the rise of direct-to-consumer paid experiences, sponsorship is a model that will emerge over and above the current voice channel for a marketing campaign model. We’ll soon begin to see a lot of “presented by Studio and Advertizer” much like how podcast sponsorship works. We’re really interested in that at Earplay.
You can check out Jurassic World Revealed on any Amazon Alexa enabled device by saying, “Alexa, open Jurassic World.”