Who was there: Danny Bilson and Lenny Brown from THQ; leading transmedia producer Jeff Gomez, Alan Seiffert, and Erika Kennair from SyFy; and the writer of SyFy's upcoming Red Faction movie, Andrew Kreisberg.
What they talked about: A lot of time was dedicated to defining the word "transmedia" and discussing the implications it has for telling stories and delivering content from a single creative universe across multiple forms of media. Jeff Gomez identified the old model as a company releasing a movie, following it with the novelization of the movie, and then releasing a game adaptation.
In this case, though the game franchise technically came first, the movie is the source of the material from which all the content stems. The transmedia model generates movies, games, comics, and so on concurrently, drawing from an established hub of information and fitting the elements together as complementary pieces of content that enrich the universe.
The key, Gomez explained, is to distill the essence of what makes a story resonate within a given universe. For Red Faction, the stories all resonate strongly with the assertion of free will. If this essence is missing from any product, the result feels like a cheap knock-off.
There was much to-do about the exciting prospect of the Red Faction transmedia venture from all parties. To clarify, SyFy is making a two-hour special that will air in the fall and tell the story of Jake and Myra, the descendants of Alec Mason, the protagonist of Red Faction: Guerrilla.
Then, early next year, THQ will release Red Faction: Armageddon, a game that will star Darius, the son of Jake and Myra. The television special will introduce a new enemy called the White Faction. This faction will be playable in a downloadable game that is also in the works.
Further story details were scant, though two tidbits did come through amid the panel's discussion. One came from Kreisberg, who said that the "three factions" in the game all feel they have claim to all of Mars.
The two known factions are the aliens and the humans who live underground, and it's unclear whether the third faction is the enemy that bombed the surface extensively (seen in Armageddon's trailer), or some other group entirely. Bilson, responding to a question about the possibility of open-world online multiplayer, said that a new kind of multiplayer is in store for the series, and it's all about destruction.
Quotes: "The secret to quality transmedia is partnership, not licensing."--Danny Bilson, distilling the philosophy behind the transmedia approach.
The takeaway: The transmedia approach is going to be a big trend in the coming years as game companies, television studios, book publishers, and more strive to maximize consumer engagement in their products.
Random fact/who knew?: The Producers Guild of America recently ratified its first new recognized position in decades: transmedia producer.