In a media environment saturated with TV shows becoming games, this increasingly common move may actually be the most on-brand for a property like Futurama. Thursday’s release of Worlds of Tomorrow to the App Store and Google Play is an episodic adventure targeted to all ages—especially catering to diehard fans of the show—and timed to fill a Netflix-sized hole when seasons 1-6 are removed from the streaming network on July 1. It’s a strategy meant for a media world of tomorrow and game creators are going for long-term engagement, extending gameplay and releasing new storylines in weeks to come as they would for a TV show.
The release has been promoted with the fans in mind, with a livestreamed table reading event which featured the original cast and a Reddit AMA featuring Matt Groening and series creator David X. Cohen.
The story of the game lives comfortably in the Futurama universe: It’s mating season for Hypnotoad, the wildly popular mind-control amphibian. Due to the creature’s sizable powers, this tender time has ripped the prophylactic membrane of the universe, throwing the characters into interdimensional turmoil. Your job is to rescue them and reassemble the characters of the crew through a series of RPG and choose-your-own-adventure scenarios.
For those not invested in either game genre—or not even that into gaming, really—the open world map of New New York has enough nuance from the Futurama world to keep fans entertained. Developers Jam City and TinyCo worked closely with Cohen, staff writers and animators from the show, and the original voiceover talent to make this happen. Both writers and developers had to sign off on storylines, arcs and dialogue, and animations were spot-checked all the way down to considering if a character moved in the game like it would on the show.
“We really wanted to make sure whatever game we designed did justice to what a deep storyline and set of characters Futurama represents,” said Josh Yguado, COO and president of Jam City. “We wanted mechanics that were not straightforward—we wanted something that was a mashup on a lot of different angles. Something that was complex and interesting and fit in with the story.”
True to being the sort of brand that lives in the future, Futurama creators feel the show universe can live on and even grow solely as a game, whether or not the show would ever come back.
Actor John DiMaggio, who plays the voice of Bender, sees the potential for maintaining the nuanced show universe with the way Futurama’s writers work, and even sees characters being able to evolve. “These guys would argue three hours about a math joke that would appear on screen for like a second or two,” he said. “They’re the most brilliant, over-educated writing staff in the history of television. I’m not joking.”
It’s also more advantageous for the show to live in this format, as far as current mobile consumption habits go. “People don’t have the time or scheduling wiggle room to be able to consume something that is 22 minutes or 30 minutes or, God forbid, comes on at a certain time or you have to be there, whether or not you’re doing something else,” said Sara McPherson, associate director of user experience at TinyCo. “People want to be part of this universe that they love whenever it’s convenient for them, and that’s why a game makes so much sense.”
Yguado also sees the move as a leveling up for the brand, with deeper interactivity and more time spent with the characters. “You get to make decisions and be a part of the stories,” Yguado said. “This is what it’s all about. This is a continuation for fans of what Futurama is.”