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Netflix Launches New 'Interactive Shows' That Let Viewers Dictate the Story ( 104

Netflix announced that it's launching an all-new interactive format that turns viewers in storytellers, letting them dictate each choice and direction the story takes. "In each interactive title, you can make choices for the characters, shaping the story as you go," according to Netflix. "Each choice leads to a different adventure, so you can watch again and again, and see a new story each time." The Next Web reports: The first two interactive shows that will be available on Netflix are Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale and Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile. Puss in Book launches globally today, with Buddy Thunderstruck slated to make its debut a month from now on July 14. The new experience will be available on most television setups and iOS devices. "Content creators have a desire to tell non-linear stories like these, and Netflix provides the freedom to roam, try new things and do their best work," Product Innovation director Carla Fisher said. "The intertwining of our engineers in Silicon Valley and the creative minds in Hollywood has opened up this new world of storytelling possibilities." Fisher further added that, for the time being, the streaming service will be mainly focusing its efforts on producing interactive content for children -- especially since their research has shown that they already tend to be prone to interacting with the screen.
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Netflix Launches New 'Interactive Shows' That Let Viewers Dictate the Story

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  • Not a new concept (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 23, 2017 @06:07AM (#54674055)

    The BBC produced about 20 of this type of show between 2001 and 2008, using two broadcast video streams, within their 'Red Button' interactive TV service on Freeview and Sky. It stopped eventually because of the cost of producing vs the low viewership. Here's a blog from 2008 about it

    • There was a Doctor Who episode of this as well, where the Doctor spoke to the viewer and the viewer had to assist David Tennant in solving the mystery of the week. It was pretty fun, one time.

    • The oldest example I know is Inigo Gets Out [] by Amanda Goodenough, from 1987 on an Apple Mac.

      Douglas Adams and Tom Baker mention it in 'Hyperland' []

      • Dragon's Lair from 1983 was basically an 'interactive movie' on Laserdisc. []
        • I remember when DL was introduced into arcades in '83, everyone was crowding it. Very ahead of its time.
          • Except that it was more or less a one-hit wonder in the videogame world. It attracted a lot of attention for its novelty and visual flair, but ultimately, didn't hold up so well in the gameplay department.

            The videogame industry went through their "interactive movie as a game" phase a few decades ago. Maybe media companies need to do the equivalent. I suspect it will probably end in the same way.

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday June 23, 2017 @07:54AM (#54674339) Homepage

      Angry Birds wasn't a new concept either.
      Occasionally, someone does jump on these things and make them work properly.

      Personally, I think the problem is that you want me to interact. If I'm watching TV it's because I *don't* want to interact.

      • You may well have a solid point there. This could all too easily end up with all the downsides of TV over videogames - and none of the upsides.

      • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Friday June 23, 2017 @09:07AM (#54674727) Homepage

        If I'm watching TV it's because I *don't* want to interact.

        Me either, but I'm guessing we're both adults. From my in-depth examination of the summary, I don't think this is aimed at adults. Children have different motivations watching TV. I would have loved to make a couple of choices for the Thundercats or show Big Bird that I was paying attention.

        • If I'm watching TV it's because I *don't* want to interact.

          Me either, but I'm guessing we're both adults. From my in-depth examination of the summary, I don't think this is aimed at adults. Children have different motivations watching TV. I would have loved to make a couple of choices for the Thundercats or show Big Bird that I was paying attention.

          As long as Netflix continues to keep children as the target audience (which does, indeed, appear to be their target market), this will probably work out well for them. But I pity them if they attempt to aim for adult demographics.

          Telltale tried that with a lot of "choose your own adventure" sort of computer game offerings, but after the first couple of them I realized that all they were offering was the illusion of choice. I understand the reasoning and limitations - creating all the content for very diff

    • This is just a video game which is heavy on story and light on gameplay. It has animated characters you control through a very limited set of choices instead of having to move them around manually.

      And while my comment may seem disparaging, I would like if more games like this were created. I don't have much time to play games anymore, but some games have story lines which end up making entertaining movies. For instance I have watched the cut scenes from both Injustice games without every playing them and fo

      • by nasch ( 598556 )

        There's a Borderlands game like that, and I guess the same game studio has made other choose your own adventure type games.

        • You're thinking of Telltale Games. Most of their stuff is aimed at adults, and have good stories.

          Besides Borderlands they've done The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Fables, and a really good Batman adventure.

    • by Ranbot ( 2648297 )

      It's an even older concept if you expand your view to include video games. And in recent years games have really improved the choose your own adventure concept into compelling and moving stories (like Life is Strange or Telltale's The Walking Dead). If Netflix taps some of those game makers or simply ports those sort of games from other platforms they could have winner for themselves.

  • naw, man...the baby eats the dog.
  • But without the required PS4 processing power.

    Do we have a reload option if we find a choice accidentally kills an important character?

  • Will it come with a 3DO emulator? []
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday June 23, 2017 @06:47AM (#54674141)

    Pretty much what any modern RPG offers, just without the game interrupting the cutscenes?

  • by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Friday June 23, 2017 @07:00AM (#54674185)

    Apparently the Choose Your Own Adventure books [] were just too damn difficult for some people, so we're remaking them as movies.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Chooose Your Own Adventure books, now without that annoying bit about reading.

    • I do remember some of the older CYOA books being 'difficult' in the sense that the main character would die gruesomely in all but one path... I recall one where I actually flipped through until I found something past what I'd found and worked my way backwards to find what branch ended there. Nowadays I suppose there's a wiki somewhere with them diagramed out.
      • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
        Not sure if there's a wiki, but I did stumble across this link [] which analyses the structure of some of the books published by ChooseCo. Apparently new editions (yes, they are still printing them) are including the maps that reveal a broad range of structures that range from quite simplistic to positively labyrinthine with numerous loops and jumps between branches.
      • by yakatz ( 1176317 )
        And at least one book where the only "happy ending" in the book was to flip through the pages until you found it.
        The text on that page even said something like "You didn't make any choices, but somehow you got here".
    • by ranton ( 36917 )

      Apparently the Choose Your Own Adventure books [] were just too damn difficult for some people, so we're remaking them as movies.

      That is no different than comparing traditional TV shows to traditional books. News Flash: there is more than one form of entertainment in the world.

  • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Friday June 23, 2017 @07:10AM (#54674213)

    Twitch writes House of Cards!

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday June 23, 2017 @07:12AM (#54674221)
    It was available two days ago. Kids found Puss in Boots on Wednesday and played around with it on the Roku.

    It reminded me of Dragon's Lair [] but with a lot fewer decisions and a lot more time to make them. For all you young'uns, yeah we had this in the 1980s, contemporaneous with the Choose Your Own Adventure books. The video of the storyline with alternate decisions and endings were stored on a laserdisc (which unlike a videotape allowed random access). And inputs you made with a joystick and buttons at certain times determined your progress through the story [] and which video was played. (The approx 1 sec blackout while the LD player seeked to the correct video has been edited out of that YouTube video. So it as a lot more annoying to play than the video makes it seem. RAM was way too expensive to pre-cache multiple possibilities like we can today.)
    • Dragon's Lair wasn't really multi-threaded, there was a single thread that you had to follow religiously or you died. Proper multi-threaded story telling is much more interesting. (and difficult to implement well)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Japan called, they've been doing that with visual novels for several decades.

      • Agreed, but a lot of the choices in Puss in Boots ended up with game over - Puss being stuck in the book (the objective is to get him out of the book). The kids then had to go back to a previous decision tree and select a "different" choice (i.e. the other choice). I didn't watch them play it enough to see if there were multiple ways to win, but I did see several ways to lose.
  • This was all the rage in narrative story-telling about the time HyperCard became widely available. Hell, I even made a couple of 'choose your own turn of events' stacks. But they lose my interest quickly when I play them. I like fiction to take me in a direction I was not expecting.
  • Hello, hacker 4Chan and Reddit, please help us out here. We know what we want.

  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Friday June 23, 2017 @07:53AM (#54674331) Journal
    Could be quite interesting with something like Doctor Who on BBC. That being said, script writing it and filming it would take WAY longer.
  • I for one think this is a great idea. Netflix has taken an old idea, and is incorporating it into their IP into a format that isn't easily pirated.

    • I don't think the current implementation will work, too expensive to produce alternative content.

      Anyway, I have 7 year old twins, they are now FaceTiming with multiple friends of the same age. They text (good for spelling practice) and do video (generally terrible...).

      Imagine a story with 2-3 threads that relate and support each other. Where even children around 7 could play.

      And only with friends. I trust my kids talking to their friends from school.

      Could be a cool cooperative situation, combining the sto

      • i still think the increased production cost of branching movies dont really improve the viewing experience that much. interactivity is so limited and feels detached.

        conventional games (provided they are well made) are way more engaging and provide a deeper experience - especially from a educational point of view.

        • I think the benefit of TV/movies is that someone has crafted a story and made it compelling and interesting (at least they're supposed to). I can sit back and let that wash over me. The benefit of a game is that the gameplay can cover for a slightly tedious/unoriginal/uncompelling story.

          This just sounds like the worst of both worlds. As the branches grow the chance of the story going astray grows, plus I have to stay alert for the points where I interact. If those points are too numerous I can't relax and e

  • until pornhub launches their version...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I mean, is that usually the point of Cam Shows and Live streams? Pretty sure that's not only interactive but you can control most of what you want to have going on.

  • no android, no pc (website) - only on ios, consoles and smart tvs.
      as i'm not planning on getting any one of those i wont see much interactivity with my netflix account (movies revert back to a linear version where it automatically pics the first option on every choice).

  • Don't guck that girl. Don't go hang with that drug dealer. Don't split up when be followed by a killer/ghost. Don't take play with the vagina snake alien.
  • Do not want.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Could we get to influence the outcome, or does it work only from .ru IP ranges?

  • .. is stupid.

    Haven't people had enough with fan-art picked up and promoted by media conglomerate to much chagrin of the consumers? This is the same thing.

    It requires a great talent, imagination, creativity to produce an original story/

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You completely missed the point of the article. The users aren't producing anything. This is a choose-your-own adventure or a Telltale game. Users watch the content and interactively make choices at certain predefined story points.

  • That's one why to get the gaming crowd to watch more TV.
  • The ultimate goal will be to have the users dictate ALL the plot, getting rid of the writers. Next, CGI to replace all the human actors. Computer-generated music. The studios will be counting the money they save.

    Unfortunately for them, this will go the way of all technology, becoming so cheap that people can do the same at home, without the studios. Wanna see another 10 years of M*A*S*H - but no reruns? More new Star Trek - TOS? Spaceballs 2? Or best of all, more Firefly? Boot it up or share someone else's creations.

    Heck, someone may even come up with some pr0n that has a half-decent plot.

  • I'm sure it wasn't the first, but I remember being surprised that Mass Effect 3 had an option to go through the story without the need for any of the combat. It was part of the difficulty settings. I'm not sure how it worked exactly, but I remember it specifically stating that the player didn't have to do any combat.
    • I remember being incredibly disapointed. For a game that allowed you endless choice resulting in 3 identical cutscenes with 3 different instagram filters applied after 3 epic games worth of decisions.

      If you want to draw comparisons to Mass Effect 3, then it better be "what not to do".

      What a disappointment!

      • That's the problem with offering players a lot of choice: it's hard as hell to resolve vastly diverging storylines* in any meaningful way, what with limited time and budgets. But honestly, it felt like Bioware didn't even try. Worse, they actually pulled a Sean Murray (back then, it was just known as "lying") in describing the ending, saying how it would be far more than a "choose A, B, or C". It's hilarious and sad, because that's exactly what we got.

        I'm glad I didn't even bother with the latest mess of

        • Bioware's problem is they said from the beginning that the choices would have major impact. It just felt cheap that it made no difference. Compare it to the Telltale Games series where the end will always converge, but the story feels different as you go through it so as to not cheapen the effect. Not all stories need to be a tree diagram. Some will work just fine with flowcharts.

  • Reminds me of this scene from Fahrenheit 451: []
  • This is their opportunity to do something drastically different. They don't need Hollywood script witers. They need video game script writers. And do some thing cool with this. Make an antagonist and protagonist that are both likable people. And let people choose to cheer on the bad guy!

    The other twist is to target people age 13-25 with this. Make it sci-fi based or involving technology. Bring back Sarah Connor!

  • Video games have pioneered this territory already, the greatest results being "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" and "Mass Effect" which resemble "Choose your own adventure movies" Look to the studio telltales' "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead" which resemble "Choose your own adventure T.V. Series" They all expose a huge limitation which is basically, "No, the user will not be 'writing' their own stories"

    what ends up happening is you write about 2-3 "serious branches" that affect the main pl
  • If you want Calculon to race to the laser gun battle in his hover-Ferarri, press 1.
    If you want Calculon to double-check his paperwork, press 2.
  • ...(and 1985), And they want their Interactive Titles "The Case of the Missing Yolks" and "Eat or Be Eaten" back. [] []

  • Interactive films were produced for the world's fairs of the sixties and seventies. The problem is that production costs grow exponentially with the number of genuinely distinct and entertaining --- branching --- storylines. Interactive films were produced for the world's fairs of the sixties and seventies. The problem is that production costs grow exponentially with the number of genuinely distinct and entertaining --- branching --- storylines. I I
  • This kind of thing can go incredibly well, i.e. Homestuck. It can also create such a highly specialized plot that it'll be the best story ever...for the fifty people who stick through it, i.e. Deep Rise. In any case, I most certainly approve of anything that takes us away from the chicken McNugget script by focus group world we live in.
  • .. For Showy McShowFace!

Computer programs expand so as to fill the core available.