Syfy and Dodge are taking TV and gaming to new bandwidth with an exclusive dual-screen brand partnership. The branded entertainment will tie together Syfy's new series Defiance and Dodge's auto lineup.
Dodge’s Charger and Dart are featured in the television show debuting April 15 while the Dodge Challenger stars in the online video game which launched April 2 on PS3, Xbox and PCs.
Two Dodge Chargers, with exterior modifications befitting a futuristic storyline, are the hero vehicles driven by main character Nolan (Grant Bowler), Defiance’s "law-keeper," and by the sixth episode, they become main characters in the story. "While 'Defiance' is set in the year 2046, the featured Dodge Charger stays true to its DNA,” said Tim Kuniskis, President and CEO Dodge Brand in a press release. “It has timeless performance and technological capabilities needed to survive in a futuristic world, while the Challenger video game integration allows enthusiasts to interact with the iconic muscle car in ways they might not have imagined possible."
Conversations about the Defiance model began with game development studio Trion Worlds in 2008 when Syfy and parent company NBC Universal made an investment in the studio. The Defiance video game lets players relive pieces from TV and transports characters into prequel territory as the series and the multiplayer role-playing game are set in the same time frame."We wanted to do something that would be that next step in development of the two mediums together," says Mark Stern, president of original content at Syfy. "The way to tell a story and to bring an audience to a larger immersive world."
Syfy president Dave Howe adds, "We have a big gaming audience. It's a natural fit and a natural brand extension. We really wanted to figure out how to create (a) joint venture that would actually provide some lifeboat into the future of multi-screen entertainment." Trion’s past successes include multiplayer game Rift, which has sold more than 1 million copies and generated over $100 million.
"What intrigues me about the potential of this new trans-media is we're going to populate an MMO with hundreds of thousands of players,” says Bowler, an avid gamer. “We as a show are going to look at this society that gets created by players, and then we are going to have the opportunity to form a narrative (based on) that society that we can use as a metaphor to talk to our audience," he says. That "has never existed before. It is almost like tapping a line into the vein of popular culture."
The strategy is also a massive gamble. "When you take the synthesis of the game and the show together, you're at a whole new level of excitement, you're at a whole new level of difficulty," Bowler said in a separate interview with the Associated Press. "You also increase your chances of blowing it exponentially. Because it's not like one plus one. It's more you're cubing the level of difficulty. Which is why nobody has ever attempted to do it in as integrated a way as we've done it before."
Spanning two disparate media, the show and the game have disparate ratings. The TV show is in line with Syfy’s usual TV-14 while the game is rated Mature for “Blood, Drug Reference, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Violence.” The difference, adds Stern, is intentional. “[The show] is going for a broader, older demo, but [the game] is going for a younger and more male-skewed audience. Hopefully we’ll be able to pull more of that younger demo into our channel and push older audience into the game.”
As branded content becomes more prevalent, executions and partnerships carve a broad creative swathe, with Syfy only the latest brand to delve into creative partnerships. Branded entertainment has proven to be quite lucrative for brand's like Pepsi, but brands as far as Jaguar to Prada to HTC are looking to employ the concept to broaden target audiences and consumer engagement. Specifically for Dodge, producing branded content across multiple mediums is an attempt to gain better access to millennials "because they don't sit and watch TV like they used to," Mark Malmstead, senior manager of media at Dodge told Adweek. Dodge and Syfy will try to leverage the dual-screen phenomenon that has been taking away viewing hours from traditional TV by capturing engagement online through the Defiance game, a model that, proven successful, will be indicative of media moves to come.