Can Quantum Break’s TV experiment work?

Thursday, 29 May 2014 16:34 GMT By Dave Cook

Quantum Break’s looking like an interesting action game, but can Microsoft and Remedy’s desire to combine play and passive viewing work on Xbox One? Dave Cook ponders the issue.


Hey you there, did you see? Remedy just published a new Quantum Break gameplay trailer presented by Sam Lake and his brilliant accent.

In it, Lake stresses the team’s ambition to combine action gameplay with an attached TV series to make one unified, transmedia experiment that could redefine the way we absorb interactive media. That’s a big aim, but will it work?

We’ve had a chat about it up in the VG247 orbtial news strike platform, and there’s a few interesting points we thought we’d share with you.


TV is already awesome

Films budgets are getting silly. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 cost a rumoured $300 million to make, Tangled around $260 million and Spider-Man 3 $258 million. Game budgets are also spiralling, and last we heard Watch Dogs had a budget of $68 million before it was delayed. Do you know what doesn’t cost that much to make? TV shows.

Despite costing less to make than big budget films (but admittedly, they’re getting higher), the calibre of TV dramas has risen considerably thanks to the likes of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men and Sherlock. Factor in repeat revenue from DVD and box-set sales year after year and it’s plausible that, in some cases, these series make their creators much more money in the long-run.

In order to convince sceptics that this whole TV and games fusion has legs, Quantum Break’s bundled TV series will have to bring quality that at least matches that of today’s biggest dramas, and who knows, maybe Microsoft will have the golden goose it’s been waiting for? The point is that the show needs to add real value for the consumer and wider industry to invest, then the sky’s potentially the limit for this new form of transmedia.


It’s an (largely) untested concept

We’ve had Trion Worlds’ crossover MMO and TV show Defiance, and although it’s second season is about to air, it’s hardly a show with a mainstream buzz. If I’m wrong about that, please do correct me, but games getting the live-action treatment have rarely exceeded people’s expectation.

Movies like Max Payne and Hitman have come out and slithered from view to the point that there’s no solid yardstick for how to do this form of transmedia right. What will it theoretically take to ensure Quantum Break’s show is worthy of a second season? I can’t answer that. None of us can until we see Microsoft’s hand.

Gamers are often unhappy with change, and the whole Xbox Entertainment TV thing is still being met with equal parts disdain and enthusiasm. Will the negativity and reluctance to accept these gaming and TV hybrids put a bullet in Quantum Break’s temple when it drops next year, or will we give it the benefit of the doubt? One thing is certain; you can’t fault Microsoft and Remedy for trying.


It’s a fragmented model

Remember Shiny’s Enter the Matrix? It was released as a companion piece to Matrix Reloaded, a sort of ‘watch this to get the full story’ thing, except it starred bland secondary characters no one gave a toss about. There was no penalty for not playing that game, and that’s perhaps why it didn’t engage people, besides being a wonky game to begin with of course.

By comparison, the Quantum Break TV show feels absolutely integral to the experience and developed in tandem. They’re essentially the same product, except one is an actively engaging video game starring the plot’s hero, and the other is a passive TV show starring the villain. It’s actually a great concept that shows you both sides of the karmic coin.

But is it too fragmented? It might be, but again this is such a new idea we aren’t putting the concept down at all. It’s just we can’t see everyone being fine with the idea of playing an episode of the game, then watching an episode of the show for greater context, then repeating the process until the credits roll. This might be too much effort for people, or perhaps it’d be better if we had two playable campaigns instead?


Is it intrusive?

Here’s a quick thought relative to the previous entry; might splicing your gameplay session with TV episodes be considered intrusive? We concluded that it all depends on how it’s presented and delivered to the player. Like say, for example, if Quantum Break the game kept on advising you to check out episode two of Quantum Break the show to fill a plot hole, or to even unlock some more content.

It shouldn’t be an obligation to watch the series, but something you’d actively choose to pursue because the game was so good, or because the show’s premise is intriguing, well-acted and expertly-written. It might be the best sci-fi show in recent years for all we know – so again, we’re not putting it down without having seen it – but both Microsoft and Remedy need to get the message and delivery right for us to invest our time.


It’s an exclusive, new IP from a great team

We’ll end on a high note because – believe it or not – we freaking love games and the people who make them. Whichever way you cut it, Quantum Break is a new IP amid a sea of rote sequels and familiar concepts. That’s instantly a huge plus-point, and let’s not forget that it’s a big triple-a exclusive on Xbox One, something that should make early adopters feel more justified in their purchase. Exclusives are good for the industry no matter what the format, after all.

Lastly, it’s from Remedy, a team that has managed to endure one of the roughest and most transitional five years the games industry has seen. It’s a jungle out there, seriously, and although Alan Wake took 250 years to make, it released, performed well and Remedy emerged unscathed, still standing and willing to take a big risk with something new and unproven like Quantum Break. Our hats are off to them.

Quantum Break will release exclusively on Xbox One in 2015.