Nickelodeon To Produce VR TV Series In Industry First
The world is changing faster than most of us can keep up with. Although the advent of the augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) media markets is relatively recent, it is already estimated to be worth a staggering $7 billion dollars a year in the entertainment sector alone, according to a report from Variety. Moving beyond first-person shooter games and adorable YouTube shorts, studio giant Nickelodeon has taken the game-changing decision to produce an entire TV series in an AR/VR format, using an actual game engine to help produce one of the first mass-produced interactive TV shows. The game engine being used has not actually been revealed, but what has been revealed is the title of the show.
The working title of the show, currently being produced by entertainment wunderkind the Nickelodeon Entertainment Lab, is called “Meet the Voxels”, and follows a futuristic family of video game character tropes, as they get into various spots of trouble and misadventures over the course of every short episode.
Although this is certainly not the first TV show of its kind, with SyFy’s recent VR release Halycon employing similar technology, this is certainly the first major show of its kind, and is one of the most ambitious projects for VR currently in the pipeline. Let’s take a quick look at the mixed reality TV and gaming industries to see what we can expect from Meet the Voxels.
What We Know So Far
We know that this sudden, ambitious and likely highly expensive (some estimates have the cost of this production pegged well into 8 figures) is part of an initiative by newcomer and Senior Vice President of Nickelodeon, Chris Young, to completely revolutionize the channel and put them at the forefront of a new era of entertainment, according to a scoop by VRScout. The decision to produce an entirely VR viewing experience intended for mass rollout definitely puts Nickelodeon on a different playing field to its rivals, and the success of this venture could easily make or break the company.
In terms of the content, little has been confirmed. There are a few pre-production working titles and plot facts that have been kindly drip-fed to the press but, for the most part, Nickelodeon are keeping tight-lipped about the whole affair. In terms of characters, what we know so far seems pretty exciting.
The action will centre around of family of five video game characters, living in a world comprised entirely of iconic gaming tropes. There will be Mom, a retired Street Fighter style character, Dad, a Sega Megadrive style console fighter who no longer plays games, and three offspring. These are Hunter, a laser-tag fighting superstar player, Maude, a teenage girl whose goal is to destroy as many digital bubbles as possible, and a younger sibling character who eagerly hopes to discover their own video gaming destiny. The whole thing so far feels playful, tongue-in-cheek and something that everyone will be able to enjoy.
What We Can Expect to See
Beyond this, precious little else has been revealed. There are a few precedents in the AR/VR industry which will hopefully provide some clues for what else we can expect. VR gaming has been big business for many years now, with heavy hitters such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift completely shifting our understanding of how the technology can be used, paving the way for projects such as Nickelodeon’s.
In recent years, lines have blurred and AR/VR entertainment has increasingly begun to combine passive viewing experiences with active gaming scenarios, in a similar way to Meet the Voxels seems to be doing. With tech giant Samsung having recently stated they will be releasing 6 VR TV series for next year, having announced so at the Tribeca Film Festival with a screening of their first title, a haunting, minimalist experience called &Design, it’s clear which way the winds are blowing. This of course followed the release of the VR-themed UK teen drama Kiss Me First, which itself became one of the most popular releases of the year. Players can enjoy increasingly immersive experiences, and can even enjoy a casino-style experience whilst taking part in AR-supported blackjack games on Betway, a site which has made big strides in the industry recently. Beyond playing card games online with real people, thanks to VR and live streaming, you can also play live sports and take part in hyper-realistic car racing games on easy-to-access sites such as Handy Games.
The US streaming giant Netflix has also begun to adapt its technology for VR audiences, collaborating with Oculus to bring a wholly interactive and immersive element to their millions of existing TV shows and films. What these recent developments tell us is that VR entertainment is about to become a whole lot more than just placing on some viewing goggles. The technology is improving at a rate faster than anyone expected, and it looks as if the new frontier is TV content that is as playable as it is watchable. What we know already about the characters of Meet the Voxels is enough to tell us that Nickelodeon is targeting long-time gaming fans as well as new audiences, and they clearly hope to dominate and define the VR market in the years to come.