TV’s biggest transmedia effort ‘Defiance’ to hit game consoles Tuesday

By Cory Bergman 

By all measures, the TV industry has only dipped its toes into the “transmedia” waters — weaving storylines seamlessly across multiple forms of media. But SyFy and partner Trion Worlds are jumping in headfirst with Defiance, a TV show and video game combination that mixes characters and storylines across linear and interactive worlds. If something changes in the TV world, the gaming world adapts — and vice versa.

The video game (trailer below) debuts on April 2nd for $59.99, a couple weeks prior to the TV show’s debut. The release timing is one of the most fascinating elements of Defiance. Explains producer/director Michael Nankin: “There’s a seamless transition from one to the other, and we are hoping that will lead gamers — after becoming attached to the characters after two weeks of play — into the pilot,” he explains. In a first for the industry, the game is designed to drive eyeballs to the TV show, not the other way around. It’s a fresh reminder that among young male demos, the video game industry eclipses television by a long shot.

For Defiance to thrive, both the video game and the show must succeed. Reviews of the beta version of the game have been positive so far. “Played in Defiance beta and game was fast paced and fun,” explains one gamer in the Gamespot forum. “Real question is: Will the TV show be great scifi like Battlestar Galactica or Stargate series?”

To help answer the question, this week SyFy released the first 14 minutes of the show with some snazzy special effects. “A refreshing science fiction space western,” writes a sci-fi blog. “Was it worth the money spent? ABSOLUTELY.”

However, the proof is always in the pudding: ratings and game sales. SyFy and Trion have been investing heavily in marketing, from Twitter ads and YouTube clips to an appearance at Comic Con and a pop-up hotel at SXSW. The pressure to succeed on two fronts in a coordinated fashion illustrates the complexity and risk of transmedia efforts. Such an effort isn’t cheap: the project reportedly costs “well north” of $100 million.

One thing’s for sure: all eyes in the industry are on Defiance. The game goes on sale on Tuesday with the TV show’s premiere on April 15th at 9/8 p.m.