Skybound Entertainment was early into the video game business. The comic book company has evolved into a transmedia indie giant thanks to the success of The Walking Dead, Outcast and dozens of other original serialized stories. Skybound Interactive has strategically been partnering with leading game developers to expand The Walking Dead. The first company Skybound Interactive president, Dan Murray, enlisted was Telltale Games back in 2011 to create an episodic series based on Robert Kirkman’s bestselling comic book.
“It’s been a great, organic process,” Murray told [a]listdaily. “Telltale works closely with our editorial team. It’s been a great marriage between their writing staff and our editorial team. With each season, we’re looking for ways to build out new storylines and new characters.”
The Walking Dead: Season 3 debuts later this month, and although Clementine will once again be the focus, she’ll be a different character this time. “You’re seeing a new version of Clem as we jumping ahead (in time) in the series,” Murray said. “The Michonne mini-series allowed us to jump further ahead. Season 3 is a full season and we’re going back to characters from Season 1 and 2 and seeing a new version of Clem, who’s growing up.”
Murray said that Telltale has grown its storyline and characters organically. Skybound treats the game as its own piece of content, but it’s connected to the world of The Walking Dead and the comic. “Yes, there will be some connections with the comic in Season 3,” Murray said. “We’re bridging the gaps in the timeline and figuring out ways to connect the two worlds. We’ve done that with other properties, as well. It’s always exciting for fans with these shared universes to connect two storylines.”
Skybound has 1.4 million “insiders” that the company can market to. They tapped into this fan base with Scopely’s The Walking Dead: Road to Survival mobile game, which has over 25 million downloads to date. “There are a lot of players on mobile who may not have known about the Telltale games,” Murray said. “We’re finding ways organically through those established games, including in-game content pieces where we introduce storylines and characters from the Telltale series and let Scopely and (developer) IUGO figure out ways to work together to deliver something authentic that exists in their mobile game.”
Murray said Skybound is giving game developers working within The Walking Dead universe “swim lanes” to launch games to ensure fans aren’t flooded with too much content all at once. The latest game developer to enter the universe is Disruptor Beam, makers of Star Trek and Game of Thrones games.
“It was pretty obvious that there were a lot of different genres to play with across different platforms in the ever-expanding world of The Walking Dead,” Murray said. “It’s the beginning of civilization, not the end. We started talking to Disruptor Beam three years ago. Scopely had a great idea and a way to build something relatively quickly. We told Disruptor Beam to give Scopely this window, and then they went and did Star Trek. We’re trying to create a consistent level of quality and unique gameplay for fans with each partner. We’re making sure the partners we work with feel like they get something coming out of Robert Kirkman’s company and the source material from the comic book. We help amplify their efforts.”
Console and PC gamers should be getting the first cooperative multiplayer first-person shooter game set in The Walking Dead towards the end of next year, according to Murray. Starbreeze is developing the game with feedback from Skybound over the past couple of years. “We’ve put a lot of effort on the part of what we’re trying to build for fans,” Murray said. “We want to offer something different for these platforms in this genre. Starbreeze has some amazing hooks and they’re doing stuff on the technology side that will separate this game from past games in the genre.”
Starbreeze has also developed a virtual reality game demo set in The Walking Dead universe, although the company has been busy of late working with IMAX to launch location-based entertainment centers using the game developer’s proprietary headset. “We’re ‘all in’ with VR, as a general statement,” Murray said. “We’ve been waiting for the technology and platforms to emerge.”
Skybound’s first VR game will launch on Oculus Rift in early 2017. Giant Cop, a new original title coming from Other Ocean Interactive, is being designed for Oculus Touch controllers. Murray said the game is being funded by Oculus and the Canadian Media Fund.
“We have several unannounced VR projects on our calendar ahead,” Murray said. “As we look at some of the strengths at Skybound, we think of the storytelling they can provide. As we look at how narrative storytelling and interactivity evolve, VR is the perfect marriage between the two. We’ve been patient on how we approach VR. We want to do something that moves the needle and makes people get excited. We may not be there for the launch of new VR platforms, but we’ll be there.”