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'Crowd Gaming' Turns Movie Audiences Into Human Joysticks

MSNBC Rolls Out Interactive, In-Cinema Ad

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- For those tired of answering the same boring film trivia while waiting for a movie to start, MSNBC.com has come up with a solution: NewsBreaker Live.
The goal of the in-cinema game is to break MSNBC.com's brick wall of news.
The goal of the in-cinema game is to break MSNBC.com's brick wall of news.

It uses a technique dubbed "crowd gaming," where motion sensors throughout the theater track the audience's collective movement. Moviegoers swing, sway and rock in their seats as "human joysticks" that control the game. Working as a team, they direct the onscreen action using a ball and a long paddle like that in the classic Atari game "Breakout."

Breaking the brick wall of news
The goal is to break MSNBC.com's brick wall of news. As in "Breakout," each brick the ball breaks earns points. Some of the bricks contain real-time MSNBC.com headlines, which the audience can catch with the paddle as they fall from broken bricks. The more bricks they break and headlines they catch, the more points they earn.

"One thing we've learned from is that our users love the pursuit of news," said Catherine Captain, VP-marketing, MSNBC.com. "[The game] brings to life that the pursuit of news can be cool."

The new interactive game, a collaboration among SS&K, Brand Experience Lab and MSNBC.com, is presented exclusively at National Amusements' Bridge: Cinema de Lux and debuted in Los Angeles during the opening weekend of "Spider-Man 3."

Excitement of summer blockbusters
After the premiere, the game headed to Philadelphia for three weeks and will arrive in White Plains, N.Y., on June 29. Riding the excitement of summer blockbusters, MSNBC.com is slotting the game before films including "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "Transformers" and "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer."

"We tried to pick movies that were lively," Ms. Captain said. MSNBC.com hasn't decided yet whether the game will be released nationwide.

Those who can't make it to a theater where the game is featured can get an idea of how to play via a YouTube video that shows a Los Angeles audience in action.

Brand Experience Lab found that 73% of participants surveyed recalled the MSNBC.com brand.

"MSNBC has opened the door to change the theater experience," said David Polinchock, CEO of Brand Experience Lab. "They're introducing a unique experience and really challenging the status quo."

Online version
For people who can't get enough of the game, MSNBC.com created an online version. Players climb through 10 levels, each with a new challenge. As they advance in the game, the headlines fall faster. Every 25 headlines players catch gains them an extra life, and "power ups" also fall to help players progress through the game. Scores are posted to a global leader board where gamers can compare scores.

NewsBreaker Live and NewsBreaker are part of MSNBC.com's new branding campaign, "A Fuller Spectrum of News." MSNBC.com launched the campaign in April on TV, in print and online.
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