Is Steven Soderbergh's New App the Future of TV?

WIRED | 10/11/2017 | Sarah Burke
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Director Steven Soderbergh—the man behind Magic Mike, The Knick, and this summer’s Logan Lucky—just released the trailer for his latest project. He made it with the help of HBO, but it’s not a movie or TV show. Instead, Mosaic is an interactive narrative app that will be available for free download in November. Co-written by Ed Solomon, it’s a murder mystery starring Sharon Stone that lets viewers click through a growing web of “chapters,” deciding how the homicide investigation unfolds. This isn’t a novel idea; creators have been experimenting with branching narratives for decades without garnering much popular interest. But it also might be just the right concept at just the right time: Perhaps mainstream audiences are finally ready to adventure beyond the familiarity of linear stories.

Mosaic’s marketing slogan is, “A new storytelling experience that lets you choose your own path.” But, as Soderbergh told the audience at last weekend’s Future of Storytelling Festival in New York, hearing people call it a “choose your own adventure” story makes him cringe. Sure, viewers are presented with two possible scenes following each chapter, but they can only choose the order of the scenes they watch and which character to follow, not the action in the scenes themselves. Mosaic’s is a fixed universe, viewers just get to discover it in their own way. In Soderbergh’s view, it’s more like a film than a television series, but it’s likely that, since most people will experience it on their phones, they’ll watch it in chunks like they do TV.

Soderbergh - Story - App - Mosaic - Iteration

Soderbergh may never make another interactive story app, yet he seems certain that Mosaic is an early iteration of a form about to take off. “I referred to it as our cave painting,” he said, “because I look at it now and think, ‘Somebody’s gonna take this...
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