There’s not long now to go until the highly anticipated DC smash down arrives in the form of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but even though pre-sale tickets are flying out the window already it doesn’t mean that the marketing train is slowing down any, oh no. (Even Christian Bale is looking forward to it!)
Viral marketing is a fairly new and highly useful beast when it comes to pimping your big budget blockbusters, and driving forces behind Batman v Superman Warner Bros. and DC Comics have done something pretty interesting with the recent campaign. Namely they’ve partnered up with online superstore giant Amazon to create a « chose-your-own-adventure game » in which you take on the investigation of the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne.
There’s a catch though (isn’t there always?). In order to play the game – entitled The Wayne Investigation – you have to be in possession of either an Amazon Echo smart loudspeaker or an Amazon Fire TV with Alexa enabled.
What’s Alexa you ask? Well we all know Apple’s Siri, right? Android has the Assistant app and you may be familiar with Cortana if you have a Windows Phone; Alexa is Amazon’s answer to these tools, an audio based, voice activated and controlled companion app for the Fire TV and the Echo.
The Wayne Investigation is completely audio based, using music and sound effects via the Alexa app to guide you through the city of Gotham in the days following the murders of a young Bruce Wayne’s parents. Alexa functions as your own personal assistant, guiding you through the game and acting as your conduit to the fictional world by providing choices to be made which will affect the clues you find and the outcome of your investigation.
You can choose your own path throughout (think one of those old school adventure books) and there’s a multitude of Gotham based characters floating around for you to question as part of the investigation. According to Variety you’re given « up to 37 decisions » as you play through the game and – like any good RPG – the decisions you make affect both the outcome and length of the game itself, which can range from a paltry 5 minutes up to slightly less paltry 40 (hey it’s a free game, what did you expect, The Odyssey?)
Okay, this is all very well and good but surely the game is just a second rate spin off of the DCEU? Well don’t dismiss it out of hand (although fair enough if you don’t have an Amazon Echo or Amazon Fire TV) as the team behind The Wayne Investigation is actually pretty impressive.
Not only were head writers from DC Comics involved in crafting the narrative of the spoken word game, but production company Cruel Unusual Films have weighed in too; a company which you may know as being established by Man of Steel and Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder and his wife Deborah Snyder. This means that not only should it encapsulate the spirit of the original comics but also will tie in (in backstory at least) to the upcoming blockbuster.
It’s also somewhat of a landmark on the stripped down side of gaming. Of course it’s not the first time games have been used as a tie in for other media, The Walking Dead is due to release its third instalment in the critically acclaimed series soon as well as a short episodic spin off centered around the character of Michonne, and The Fast and the Furious 6: The Game did surprisingly well when it was released to pimp out the movie of the same name.
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But this will be the first time a game has been played out on the Alexa platform and Rob Pulciani – Director of Alexa – is excited about the possibilities should the game be well received:
« We’re thrilled to work with Warner Brothers and DC Comics to bring ‘The Wayne Investigation’ to our Alexa-enabled devices. This is the first Alexa skill to use a combination of produced audio assets and Alexa technology. »
Even the way you launch the game is pretty nifty, by navigating to the « Skills » section on the Alexa app you merely have to speak « Alexa, open the Wayne Investigation » for the games to begin.
Purely audio based gaming certainly isn’t a huge market right now but who knows? Maybe Alexa and The Wayne Investigation will open up this facet of gaming to new possibilities. It would certainly be a great opportunity for demographics such as the visually impaired, a growing market with games such as Incus Games’ upcoming Three Monkeys in development: an audio only game featuring a blind protagonist.
Of course if anything this is only helping to stoke the flames of excitement in the run up to the US release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on March 25, 2016.