News

Sci Fi Channel Gets Into the Game

6/06/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Sci Fi Channel will look to take content development to another dimension when it teams with video-game publisher Trion World Network to create a new series that will simultaneously exist on several platforms.

Sci Fi and the Redwood City, Calif.-based Trion will develop an as yet unnamed project that will exist as both an online, multiplayer video game and a television show to air on Sci Fi Channel some time in 2010, according to Sci Fi Channel president David Howe.

Howe would not reveal the name or details of the project, other than to say that the series would take place on Earth sometime in the future.

The show and video game would launch simultaneously, said Howe, with a joint marketing push that will equally promote both formats.

“This is something that we’ve been thinking about probably for the last three to five years, in terms of how to keep a TV show going beyond that traditional hour-long TV episode,” Howe said. “For sci-fi fans, video gaming is huge — we know for a fact that that audience is a natural extension of sci-fi fantasy — so bridging video games with a TV show that provides a more immersive experience for the viewer is a no-brainer for us.”

Trilon will develop the subscription fee-based, online interactive game — defined in industry circles as a massive multiplayer online role-playing (MMOG) game — and will uniquely tailor the game’s ongoing storylines to what is happening on the television show.

In addition, Sci Fi Channel and Trion will allow audiences to participate in storyline development through broadband interactive opportunities. Sci Fi is hoping to tap into the video-game software business, which is expected to generate nearly $10 billion in 2008, according to market-research company the NPD Group.

“The intention is that those people who subscribe to the video game will want to watch the television show, and those who watch the show will want to subscribe to the game because they are complimentary,” Howe said, adding the online game subscription price has not been set.

While past video-game titles such as the Lara Croft franchise and, more recently, the Resident Evil series have transitioned into the theatrical or television space, the Sci Fi Channel-Trion arrangement marks a rare arrangement in which a project is being developed with both media in mind, according to Howe.

“It’s very difficult to retrofit a video game into a movie or TV show or vice versa unless you’ve conceived it from the outset as something that has to work for both formats,” he said.

Sci Fi Channel is already a player in the online gaming arena, having announced last month the launch of Fidgit, a new consumer entertainment and gaming site that will review games, cover industry trends and provide commentary and analysis of the gaming industry.

Two months ago the network Sci Fi Channel launched a new game center on its Web site (www.scifi.com) where users can play classic games such as Asteroids, as well as new games based on Sci Fi shows. Sci Fi did not have specific usage or unique viewer figures for those offerings.

In other Sci Fi Channel gaming news, the network — under the leadership of Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group — will team with mobile games publisher Glu Mobile to launch a Battlestar Galactica mobile video game based on Sci Fi’s hit television series. The game, which is now available to subscribers of most American-based wireless carriers, allows players to board the legendary ship to battle intergalactic enemies.

“We are extremely pleased to introduce the Battlestar Galactica game for the mobile phone,” Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group senior vice president of mobile and broadband Jeremy Laws said in a prepared statement. “On television, Battlestar Galactica is incredibly visual and full of action, and we wanted to deliver that same exhilarating experience to the mobile-phone gamer.”

Separately, on the programming front, Howe said the network hopes to garner strong summer ratings performances from several returning shows, including the July season three of its scripted series Eureka, as well as reality series Mind Control With Derren Brown and Destination Truth.

“We’re really on a roll this year, particularly with alternative reality shows, and we’re excited about what’s on the schedule for the summer,” he said.

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