April 2011, Orange and Murmures Productions launch Detective Avenue, a new sort of transmedia experience combining an interactive police series with a inquiry game. One year on, the winner of the Orange award for Creation and his partner look back over an experiment that was full of lessons.
It all began in 2008 when Alain Degove, producer at Murmures Productions, had the idea for a digital thriller inspired by Hitchcock and “Rear Window”. A team was put together comprising a series editor (Marc Eisenchteter) and two writers (Aurélie Belko and Sabine Cipolla) to develop a script for this new project, entitled Detective Avenue. Laurent Guérin joined Mumures Productions at the end of 2009 to take charge of all the digital and transmedia elements.
Director, game designers, project manager, graphic designer: a whole range of expertise contributed to the completion of the project, which was presented at the 2010 Ateliers Orange de la creation (Orange creation workshops). Detective Avenue began by winning over the Games selection board (the Orange “transmedia” workshop was multi-themed: fiction, music, games, etc.) and then the executive board of the Ateliers Orange. One of 120 entrants, Murmures Productions took the prize at this first event dedicated to creative transmedia formats.
“It’s a real story with real writers, inspired by the “Cluedo” archetype from the world of games; it succeeded in adapting a known format, the “web series”, delivering interactivity by exchanging emails and text messages with players. The Transmedia Producer responsible for providing the link between screen-play, technology and communities/interactions, and the well-conceived marketing carried by the digital storytelling, were both innovations that helped win over the panel of judges,” remarks Morgan Bouchet, Director of the Transmedia lab and panel member.
Following the award, this new format drama obtained financial backing from Orange, was promoted and distributed on its networks, and received support throughout the delivery of the project.
According to Laurent Guérin “Orange is very reassuring; it’s a company that really commits to the success of a project it has selected. It’s very powerful. And the Group’s various talents and resources are put behind the project. We benefited from the know-how and expertise of the people who supported us. We also very much appreciated the great freedom we were given.”
- A TRANSMEDIA CLUEDO COMBINING AN INTERACTIVE POLICE SERIES WITH A GAME OF DETECTION.
Suzelle Berthier has been found dead in her apartment. The police believe there has been an accident, but Gaëlle, the victim’s sister, is unconvinced. She moves into Suzelle’s apartment and begins to make enquires in the neighbourhood. Each of those involved reveals a secret and a potential motive for murdering Suzelle. This is the starting point of Detective Avenue’s plot.http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xhosym
The online participant soon has a dual role: observer and detective. They observe events and Gaëlle’s actions as she continues with her investigations across a series of video episodes, developing theories of their own by finding clues (“point and click” games) and accessing additional content (text and audio messages) or by exchanging information with the community of other players. For Morgan Bouchet “the web-series format was an advantage, reaching a non-gamer audience that was eventually won-over by the collaborative participation available to the “detectives”, which went beyond the immediate context of gamification.”
- AN EXPERIMENT CONFIRMING PUBLIC INTEREST
The Orange and Murmures Productions teams were able to create an “addiction” by setting up a daily rendezvous between the players. Every day the new video episodes were released online at midnight, with nearly 10% of traffic generated occurring in the three following hours. The late time-slot seemed not to hold back the players, who were impatient to experience the next part of the adventure.
This addictive aspect of the series gave a real push to the statistics. “We reached 10 million page views. The average time spent on the site was nearly 15 minutes, with more than 25 pages viewed per visit” specify Morgan Bouchet and Laurent Guérin.
Proof of player enthusiasm came when the Orange and Murmures Productions teams successfully set up a freemium model (rarely used for this type of content). Most investigators did play Detective Avenue for free, but a significant number went further, accessing bonus material by subscribing to text-message services or listening to audio messages. These extras were successful, with premium players spending an average of 2 Euros on the programme.
Facebook integration was also a major success for the project. “Suzelle” alone collected 3000 likes on her Facebook profile. “We also made the choice to group all discussions (forums) on a single dedicated Facebook page” adds Laurent Guérin. The page focused the community, becoming the central point for interaction between the players.
As the investigation continued, a community really did develop around the programme. The players went beyond feedback, making phone calls and sending each other messages, chat invitations, invitations to Facebook fan pages and even gifts. At the end of the game an event was organised where players from all over France could meet each other.
Amused, Laurent Guérin adds that he was even contacted on his mobile by a hacker who had broken into the Detective Avenue characters’ Facebook pages. “I felt like the biter bit. But it was funny too.”
All the contributors to the project are nonetheless prepared to say that there are still some minor aspects that could be improved; the end of the plot for instance. They also regret the failure to attract other “sponsor” brands and follow-up audiences. But the task was not a simple one, with a programme like Detective Avenue needing cross-media exposure, in turn requiring the collaboration of several different types of partner or sponsor, who may not necessarily understand the potential of an innovative project. “We had to overcome the teething troubles and play our role as pioneers”, confides Morgan Bouchet.
Laurent Guérin is keen to add: “Another thing that gave me satisfaction came from actually making the programme. We had people working together who until now have had little opportunity to collaborate on a single project. Talent from gaming, the web, TV, film, drama, photography, and so on. They all really loved the experience!”
Laurent Guérin concludes by asserting: “this is just the beginning for this sort of adventure. Detective Avenue was designed to offer new mysteries. We now have expertise that can be used for programmes like “Alt-Minds”, to meet the expectations of audiences wanting to experience a skilful combination of fiction, reality, gaming and social networking.”
- DETECTIVE AVENUE: A VIDEO CASE STUDY
Why not watch the Detective Avenue project case study? A minute and a half introduction to the experience and its success (figures and media articles).http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xqpztz