Interviews

July 22, 2007

 

Cartoon Network MEGA Series – Merging Game and Video Content on Your Wii and PS3

By Louis Bedigian

 

“Our solution is to embed interactive 'microgames' that encourage quick spontaneous interaction without disrupting the viewing experience of the video content.”
 
It is believed that our TVs and PCs will continue to merge into one device. One day we’ll check our stocks on the couch or watch new episodes of 24 at our desk. This technology is already being employed, but it has yet to reach its full potential. TV shows don’t appear online until after they’ve aired on network television. Meanwhile, stock quotes, Web sites, e-mail, and other PC-specific features do not work as well in TV form.
 
However, if you think about where the biggest technological innovations have come from, you’ll end up in the entertainment industry. Touch screens were dull and unresponsive until the Nintendo DS arrived. Now look at what’s happening – Apple has taken the next step with the iPhone. Pointer devices have existed in the PC and virtual reality worlds for a long time, but most of them stink. Who knows what will happen now that the Wii remote has shown them a better way.
 
The game industry breakthroughs don’t end there. Online gaming was primarily a PC affair until Xbox Live arrived. We have better PC graphics cards and monitors with higher resolutions partially because of the demands of PC game playing and game development.
 
Now the entertainment industry (game developers and others) is turning to game consoles for the next evolution. Cartoon Network is looking to bring their content into your living room via something other than their TV station – they’re looking into game consoles.
 

 

 

 

Harnessing the Web-enabled power of PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, the network has created what they refer to as the “MEGA Series concept.”
 
“The MEGA Series concept couples video and gameplay, accessed online via an IP-enabled device – in our first case, a PS3 browser,” said Ross Cox, Senior Director of Entertainment Products for Cartoon Network New Media. “We want to have a presence wherever our audience goes, and we know they are online [with a PC] sometimes and in front of their consoles at other times. Our goal is to provide a contextually unique experience for them, regardless of whether they access our content with a mouse or game controller.”
 

 

 

Note: These are prototype images and may not reflect the final look of the Cartoon Network MEGA Series.
 
 
MEGA Series content is designed to be played simultaneously with streaming video. If this hasn't already been covered by my first question, how then will we "play" simultaneously with the video? Is it a case where we watch something, play a mini-game, and then watch something else?
 
Ross Cox: One of the biggest challenges we had in developing this concept is the fact that we’re combining a “lean forward” experience (like working on a PC, or playing a console game) with a “lean back” experience (like watching a TV program). Our goal is to create an immersive experience without a lot of lean forward/lean back conflict. Our solution is to embed interactive ‘microgames’ that encourage quick spontaneous interaction without disrupting the viewing experience of the video content. Picture them as quick challenges that will unlock rewards or Easter eggs through the course of the individual episodes.
 
Are the interactive portions comprised of flash games? And if so, can you tell us about what's being planned?
 
RC: The video and gaming experience will be jointly created in Flash.
 

MEGA Series content is to be based on CN and Adult Swim shows - will this be stuff that's readily available elsewhere (maybe previously seen on TV?), or is it exclusive to MEGA Series?
 
RC: Windowing the premieres, or creating exclusive experiences will depend on the property we announce for the first MEGA Series.
 
Are the motion control functions of the Wii and PS3 being considered for MEGA Series? Will I be able to point my Wii remote at the screen or shake my SIXAXIS to make something happen?
 
RC: If the APIs are available through the Flash player in the browser, it’s certainly a goal of ours to be able to incorporate this functionality.
 
Alien Hominid was once a Flash game. Could something like that be created for MEGA Series?
 
RC: We have a tremendous library of Flash games we have created for our websites. Our games studio will be entertaining that idea as the concept evolves.
 
What are the limitations of MEGA Series?
 
RC: For our purposes right now, we don’t see many limiting factors. To a large degree it’s safe to say the initial variables to consider are browser or Flash player based, as well as the processing power of the consoles themselves.
 
This is not the first time Cartoon Network has explored the game industry. Many CN stars were featured in their very own racing game for PlayStation 2. Will we see more of this from MEGA Series, maybe on a smaller scale to stay within the Flash limitations?
 
RC: Cartoon Network has released many fantastic console titles and will continue to do so, but the MEGA Series most resembles our online Flash-based video destinations and games.
 
Will MEGA Series be presented in widescreen as well as the old 4:3 aspect ratio? Will the PS3 version support any kind of high-def functionality?
 
RC: It depends on what the browser can accommodate. We created our first iteration with the AFI Digital Content Lab and it was essentially a full-screen PS3 browser.
 
What kind of video content can we expect from MEGA Series?

 
RC: The MEGA Series concept is episodic, and show-based – one can expect a regular refresh schedule similar to our other online destinations – Cartoon Network Video and Toonami Jetstream.
 
Will the video be small screen, as with most Web videos, or will there also be a full screen option?
 
RC: We certainly want to be able to provide a full-screen viewing option if possible. Right now, it takes up a good percentage of the screen, but again, it will depend on what the browser/console can ultimately accommodate.
 
Which shows / characters do you hope to have represented at launch?
 
RC: To be announced soon!
 
In addition to Wii, PS3 and PC, MEGA Series can be adapted to other devices. Nintendo DS and PSP have Web browsing capabilities – might there be a chance of seeing MEGA Series appear on either of those platforms?
 
RC: That is the initial idea of the project, so there’s certainly a chance! Our goal is to extend MEGA Series to as many IP-enabled devices as possible, and celebrate the uniqueness of each device.
 
Lastly, will there be any sort of cost involved with MEGA Series? Will we have to pay to play (and watch)?
 
RC: We are looking at MEGA Series as an ad-sponsored destination. There would be no cost to the user.

 
Thank you for your time.