Netflix has confirmed longstanding rumors it has been working on interactive storytelling content that emulates the Choose Your Own Adventure books that emerged in the 1970s.
Reports first started to surface back in March that Netflix was preparing to launch a new kind of program that gives viewers options to impact the storyline using their remote control. Now the video-streaming giant has revealed the first fruits of this effort.
Kicking off today, Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale is available to Netflix subscribers globally, while Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile is arriving on July 14. These will be followed by Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout, which is scheduled to air next year.
Both the Adventures of Puss in Boots and Buddy Thunderstruck are existing Netflix kids’ shows, but the interactive incarnations are landing as completely new standalone episodes, with Netflix working in close collaboration with DreamWorks Animation Television, American Greetings Entertainment, and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios.
“While the mantra of our collaborations has been ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if…?,’ the objective has been to bring something completely new to Netflix that pushes the boundaries of storytelling and the way you engage with it,” explained Netflix’s director of product innovation, Carla Engelbrecht Fisher, in a blog post.
It’s also worth noting here that not all devices will support the content, which will only be available on smart TVs, some streaming media players, games consoles, and iOS devices. The episodes won’t work through the Netflix website, Android, Chromecast, or Apple TV.
Netflix said that it has carried out “extensive research” — chatting with many kids and parents in order to procure qualitative data and establish whether the format was something that viewers would like.
“While we’ve gotten positive feedback — for example, parents like the fact their child has the ability to make decisions and take a seat in the director’s chair, if you will — we’re eager to learn how our members will engage with the experience,” added Fisher. “Which choices or storylines will be the most popular? Will the mean bears or the friendly bears be more popular? Are members more compelled to rewatch and uncover all of the different storylines?”
The interactive storytelling format has popped up across a number of digital mediums, including video games and, more recently, intelligent assistants. Indeed, the Magic Door, available on both Google Assistant and Amazon Echo (Alexa), is a “choose your own adventure” skill that lets you do things like explore the sea, hills, or a dark forest, while The Wayne Investigation from Warner Bros offers something similar.
The new Netflix format offers a glimpse into some of the ways the company is looking to shake up its original programming. Today’s announcement comes shortly after Netflix announced that some of its big-budget shows are coming to an end — including Marco Polo, The Get Down, and Sense8. While Netflix has been hemorrhaging cash on original shows, the company also recently raised $1 billion through a debt offering, just six months after another $1 billion debt raise. It seems that Netflix is looking to cut down on some of its more expensive programming and experiment with new formats.
“The intertwining of our engineers in Silicon Valley and the creative minds in Hollywood has opened up this new world of storytelling possibilities on Netflix,” Fisher added.