This chapter is mainly addressed to authors who are writing for existing brands like movies, books, and games, and whose stories are being used as marketing tools for those brands. The fact that players are already familiar with these worlds and that some characters and storylines in them are fixed and cannot be changed, can be a problem for authors and the brand itself. Therefore, we have compiled some ideas below to illustrate how these problems can be approached and solved.
For some stories it can make sense to mention the events that happened before. Thus, players can be introduced into the world and made familiar with its major characters and the background for the upcoming main story. To create a perfect arc of suspense, the interactive audiobook can have several “pre-endings” but, independent from the decisions made, have the exact same main ending for all players. The key here is that the story of the interactive audiobook ends at exactly the point where the main movie, game, book, or audiobook that is being promoted begins. This will instill a high level of excitement within the player and make for a perfect transition to the main product, especially if the interactive audiobook ends with a definite cliffhanger. That moment when the player, after finishing the interactive story, takes their seat in the cinema or sits down in front of the monitor and the first scene of the movie or game picks up exactly where their personal prequel story ended, can probably not be topped by anything else.
For an interactive story of this kind it is important that the author has in-depth knowledge of the background and the subsequent main story. The storyline of the interactive audiobook may not contradict future events and should not spoil the plot of the upcoming story. This will usually require careful coordination with the brand owner or the production team. On the other hand, the author already has an existing world with detailed characters and ideas to work with. With our own customer projects of this kind, we have had very good experience so far.
No matter if the story has an open or final ending, there will always be viewers or readers who want to know what happened next and the further fate of the characters. But there are many reasons why making another book or movie that continues the story is not possible. Interactive audiobooks are a much simpler and shorter format and thus are well-suited to continuing unfinished storylines and bringing them to a close. They can also shorten the waiting period until the release on other media (DVD, streaming portal, comic, book) or bridge the time gap until the next installment in the franchise. Players of such interactive stories will stay engaged and tied to the brand. Such formats can also offer an additional distribution channel for merchandise and upselling.
These interactive audiobooks pick up certain story or game mechanics and turn them into a central element of the application. An interactive audiobook based on “Harry Potter” could, for example, allow the player to learn certain spells during the course of the story. And these spells can be used not only in the story but also to unlock new Voice commands in the main menu of the Voice application in order to access artworks, videos, recipes, or trial subscriptions.
Mechanics-based interactive audiobooks are a great fit for integration in the marketing mix of gaming studios. The core elements of the mechanics of the main game can be reproduced and presented in the interactive story. This will make for high brand recognition and strengthen the player’s attachment to the format and the brand. Of course, not every game can be adapted seamlessly into a story format. But there are still many options if you approach it from a creative and innovative point of view.
Possible approaches when dealing with existing brands:
- Tell the prequel story to your main work, ending exactly at the point where the story of the main work begins. Avoid contradicting established lore and avoid spoilers; do hint at future events to spark curiosity.
- Tell sequel stories to your main work where the player learns of the future fate of the characters or where you pick up unfinished storylines and bring them to a close.
- Pick a prominent story or game mechanic from your main work and make it the central element of an interactive story.