Family Guy is known for pushing the boundaries of taste and decorum, but now Fox is using it to push digital boundaries.
Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff—a free iOS and Android app launching April 10—is positioned to drive viewers, solidify show loyalty, better integrate with episode storylines and advertisers, and create new revenue streams than previous Fox mobile campaigns. Its success could direct how Fox structures future apps for its other properties, particularly TV.
"We’ve dabbled in this with other apps and games, but we’re trying to push the envelope with this app," says Matt McMahon, VP of mobile for Fox Digital Entertainment, which developed the game with San Francisco mobile gaming company, TinyCo, and Fuzzy Door, the production arm of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.
"With these applications, we’re looking to drive new business, and create an ongoing engagement platform for fans—not just by putting promotional brands in the game, but integrating storylines from the franchise," he adds.
Gaming integration with film and TV properties is hardly new—with Syfy/Trion Worlds’ Defiance serving as the mothership of what’s possible. But Fox campaigns for its films and TV brands have been more limited—e.g., an Angry Birds tie-in app with scenes bridging Rio and Rio 2 films; an Ice Age app that offered players gaming points for watching the trailer and clicking through to buy a movie ticket. But Fox saw a more expansive and experimental opportunity with Family Guy, through the creative flexibility of animation and the show’s popularity (more than 55.6 million likes on its Facebook page.)
Quest’s original story draws from the primetime animated program’s 200-plus episodes about endearingly ignorant dad, Peter Griffin, and his dysfunctional family. In the game, Peter and Ernie the Giant Chicken get into another epic battle, creating mayhem. It’s the player's job to rebuild the town.
"The plan is to put something from an episode into the game on a Wednesday before the episode airs on a Sunday," says McMahon. "You’ll be able to interact with it as a pre-release of what’s going to air. The TV episode will promote back to the game, and you’ll be able to pick up the story and continue from there."
While the game features a stand-alone story for now, next fall, it will tie into at least two episodes a month. This week, the digital team is screening finished scripts, animatics, and episode rough-cuts of season 13, which premiers in fall, and pick out incidents, characters, and themes that translate well to the game.
Initial ideas start with the TinyCo team, with Family Guy writers fleshing them out and writing dialogue. The scripts are ultimately approved by the showrunners.
"There are two dedicated writers—Artie Johann and Shawn Ries—working on this," says McMahon. "TinyCo will suggest what it feels will work in the game, while Artie and Shawn make it authentically Family Guy. It’ll then go to the showrunners and other folks in the writing staff to make sure it fits and works well with the show, but it’s very hands-off with these writers."
TinyCo’s potential four-day rush window for gaming updates means incorporating nods to current events.
"We hope we can add content that’s topical and straight from the news," says McMahon. "We want it to feel really new to users and get them coming back on a daily basis. It also adds a surprise element, so players aren’t getting the same thing over and over. For example, you could visit the game on the fourth of July and see fireworks and drunken revelers, and come back the next day, and they’re gone."
Rick Phillips, Fox Digital Entertainment’s senior vice president, adds, "We want the game to be a real-time reflection of the spontaneity and irreverence of the show, and games provide us the technology to do that."
The team is still working out details of how to include advertisers into the gameplay. But the Golden Rule is: don’t force it. "A promotional partner has to be able to embrace the Family Guy humor and sensibility, so we might spoof it a little bit," says McMahon. "But it also has to feel creatively organic to the show and benefits the user."
"We’re going to experiment with things that aren’t being done in other Fox games," adds Phillips. "But we don’t see the game space as a billboard for promotion," "We’d like to involve other brands in a way that enhances the show and gameplay, as opposed to it just being a commercial tie-in."
See the trailer for the game below and Peter Griffin's Instagram account, created as a promotion for the title, here.