Transmedia Entertainment & Marketing

IBCoM: CM2052

Prison Break: A Transmedia Story

Prison Break originally consisted of four seasons of a total of eighty-one television episodes. However, due to its popularity, Prison Break grew into a much bigger production that spread out across many more media platforms. First, inspired by the original TV series, a low-budget spin-off series called Prison Break: Proof of Innocence emerged exclusively for mobile phones. These twenty-six short mobisodes – they had a duration of two minutes – later became available on the Internet as well. Second, the print media started producing Prison Break-related works. Not only an official magazine with interviews with the cast and crew members was created, but also a novel, Prison Break: The Classified FBI Files, was written. Third, six short webisodes named ‘Prison Break: Visitations’ were made exclusively for Fox. Fourth, a video game based on the series was developed for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, in which you could walk in the shoes of a Company employee, the enemy of the main Characters. Then fifth and lastly, an interactive experience of Prison Break has been set up by the Sudden Impact! Entertainment Company. The live feature, which is called ‘Prison Break LIVE!’ tours around the world and gives you a haunted house-like experience, adapted to the settings of Prison Break (Wikipedia, 2012).

Every medium was able to stand alone; however, they all contribute to the bigger story in their own way. In the mobisodes you could follow a woman that was trying to find proof to exonerate Lincoln Burrows, one of the main characters of the series. The novel told its own story, but was relatable to the second season.  Then the video game allows you to experience the story from another perspective. And finally, the live, interactive feature adds to the greater experience of Prison Break, by attempting to let people experience the setting of the show.

As for the launching of the show; it was originally a pilot. Fox TV first didn’t believe that it would become this popular, but after seeing how popular similar series became, like Lost, Fox gave the script writer Scheuring another chance (The Age, 2006).  The plan was first to run just thirteen episodes, but due to the popularity of the first season this was extended to twenty-two episodes. There was not something special planned to launch the show on television in the first season. However, for its second season Prison Break threw a party to launch the series (Youtube, 2011). Thus, after the popularity of the show there was more emphasis on the launch of the series, as all the other seasons do have trailers to announce their premieres. The Prison Break Xbox game, “Prison Break: The Conspiracy”, that came out in 2010, was launched with an official trailer

The series’ successfulness shows in the receiving of several nominations and awards, and having an average of 8.2 million viewers throughout their four seasons, according to ABC Medianet (2008). Unfortunately, the video game was not that successful, receiving ratings such as 2/10 from the Daily Telegraph (2010) and 3/10 from video gaming website Gamespot (2010). However, the Prison Break: Proof of Innocence mobisodes were such a hit that they were added onto the season 1 DVD set.

All of this shows that Prison Break is indeed a good example of transmedia, because the different media shows that it is not an adaption, but rather an extension to the Prison Break experience. The different worlds of stories come together but are not entirely dependent on one another.  All of this shows that Prison Break truly is a transmedia production.

P.S. To get an idea what the interactive experience is like, watch the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxJ5_l_rGtM&fb_source=message

 

By Vivian, Ghezal Arian & Shelley Barendregt

References:

ABC Medianet. (2008, December 9). Retrieved September 18, 2012, from ABC: http://abcmedianet.com/web/dnr/dispDNR.aspx?id=120908_05

“Into the heart of darkness” (2006, January 26). Retrieved September 17, 2012 from The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/news/tv–radio/into-the-heart-of-darkness/2006/01/24/1138066797049.html/

PrisonBreak Review. (2010, April 09). Retrieved September 18, 2012, from Gamespot: http://www.gamespot.com/prisonbreak/reviews/prison-break-the-conspiracy-review-6257479/

Prison Break S2 Launch Party on ET Canada (2011, February 1). Retrieved September 18, 2012 from Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfqKQRc0Glk/

Prison Break: The Conspiracy video game review. (2010, March 31). Retrieved September 18, 2012, from The Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/7541334/Prison-Break-The-Conspiracy-video-game-review.html

Wikipedia, (2012). Prison Break: Other Media. Retrieved September 17, 2012 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_Break#Other_media

7 comments on “Prison Break: A Transmedia Story

  1. Manon van den Berg
    September 19, 2012

    Dear Vivian, Shelley and Ghezal, well done. As I have never-ever-ever-ever watched Prison Break or looked at the transmedia story of it I was blank before reading your paper. Though, since I have never seen it, for me it would have been really nice to get an introduction about the show itself. Other than that, your paper gives me a good overview of how the company expanded the story. It is surprising to me that the video game turned out not be so successful, since the show has so many viewers (or perhaps one could even call them addicts). Why do you think this is? Have any of you ever played it? Does it lack deepening of the characters or is the story just not a fit to the actual show? How can this be changed? Again, well done and see you friday!

    Kind regards,

    Manon

  2. Sofia Z Berkhout
    September 20, 2012

    Unlike Manon, i was a huge fan of the prison break series. However, i had never heard of any of the extensions you have mentioned in this post. I think that when someone is familiar with a series/book/movie without being aware of the other transmedia elements shows that these extensions really can stand on their own. Also that you do not necessarily need them to understand or follow the main story.

  3. Elisa van der Linden
    September 20, 2012

    Sofia, as you said, you were a huge fan of the prison break series, so now that you do know about the extensions of Prison Break, would you consider to, for instance, read the books to get to know more about the Prison Break storyline?

    I didn’t know about the extensions either. Were they really that successful? Maybe only in the United States? I was wondering if they were promoted very actively or if consumers really need to search for the content themselves.

  4. Linda Weidinger
    September 20, 2012

    I also watched Prison Break very often and i liked it very much, but I also knew nothing about the other transmedia elements. I’re never really used other media to get more information about a movie or show, but here it sounds really interesting because you really got in the middle of the series and may became part of it. Therefore, I also think that transmedia is very important for the fans but also for the success of a the TV show. But I also think that the transmedia elements of the series Prison Break may be more geared to the American audience, and if you are not a really big fan, it might be more difficult to know anything about the other features.

  5. selma van slobbe
    September 20, 2012

    Manon, the main idea of prison break is that the main characters brother is in prison and awaiting death penalty, whilst being innocent. The main character commits a crime on purpose so he gets sent to the same prison as his brother. He does this because from out the prison he wants to rescue his brother.

    I as a Prison Break fan myself loved the series! However, I started playing the game and it was really disappointing. First of all, the game is not as ‘deep’ as the series. It does not go in very deep, and events that happened in the series and took up a lot of time are very short clips or ‘adventures’ in the game. Secondly, the game was far too easy. It is not at all hard to get past the guards, and even if this did not work, you end up at your last checkpoint instead of back in your cell. Furthermore, the reviews of the game were overall not very positive.

    I, personally, think that for these reasons the game could not compete with the succes of the series.

  6. Yeong Ting Yan, Ashlynn
    September 20, 2012

    I have watched Prison Break and I like the story but I haven’t played the game and thus, I couldn’t comment on the game. As the it earned a great popularity, it has possibility to expand via different media channel and attract different types of customers. For me, the mobisodes is a good idea as it provides a convenient way for customer to enjoy the show, especially in this busy and hi-tech world.

  7. Ghezal (@Ghezallie)
    September 21, 2012

    Hey All,
    I am myself not a big show watcher. But I do know Prison Break which sounds interesting, especially now after this assignment. I do think that most of you might not know the game because I found the clip on websites specifically for gamers. You can also find it on youtube, but most links are from gaming websites. As mentioned in the article the game was not such a success and has received low grades from The Daily Telegraph and the website Gamespot. But hearing all the reactions I do agree with Linda that the other platforms were more advertised to American audience and I also agree with Sofia that Prison Break really shows that other extensions of the show do not need to be connected with the main one. All platforms/extensions can stand on their own and be popular or fail without influencing the main product, if the transmedia strategy is implemented well.

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