In this episode, Jacob Navok – the co-founder and CEO of Genvid – joins Naavik co-founder Aaron Bush to discuss: #1 What are Massively Interactive Live Events (MILEs), and why is this new form-factor of entertainment so promising?. #2 What the team has learned from pioneering innovative projects like Rival Peak and The Walking Dead: Last Mile. #3 Jacob’s vision of the future of MILEs, how the team will level up leveraging more great IPs, and what his dream MILE is. #4 What exactly Genvid is building, and how teams can already leverage Genvid’s tools to build their own MILEs today.
Defining a MILE: [00:01:33]
[Aaron]: The best place to start this conversation: what is a massively interactive live event?
[Jacob]: Starting with history, myself and my founding team all worked on cloud gaming and we began to look into what kind of products we could build into it. We spent many years trying to understand what could we do that is different from a gaming console, and we acutely lived through the beginning of streaming platforms.
We believe that the future is epic interactive events, and after talking to Matthew Ball, I decided to rebrand that as massive interactive live events as it sounds more clear and overall attractive!
Playing a game nowadays make you own your experience. When you watch a baseball match, for example, you can’t really own the movements of an athlete, you’re just one of the thousands who are watching it in the audience.
Massive interactive live events are about what can be done with local, and allow interactivity to change as a community. The world massive for me has a very specific context: hitting hundreds of thousands of players, even millions, at the same time -- what we have nowadays are games that allow a few thousands, but a real massive context scale that towards new goals.
The Origins of Genvid [00:09:33]
[Aaron]: Could you just talk a little bit of what Genvid is and what are you guys building?
[Jacob]: We started our company in 2016 primarily to build tools and services around interactive streaming. We did work with Intel, MTV, and a lot of game developers who wanted some form of interactivity on their games.
Big changes happened when began to work on Rival peak, the world’s first purpose-built commercial MILE.
We worked with Facebook, doing Pac-Man and Walking Dead with them, and in order to build up all these products we had to build a publishing unit, so last year we raised a Series C to help create Genvid Entertainment for the purposes of building a formal publisher, and up until now we’ve been primarily producing on behalf of places like Facebook, tech companies, but we’re also investing into financing our own projects.
The Rival Peak Milestone [00:13:05]
[Aaron]: Can you maybe just talk a bit more about Rival Peak, what was it, what were you really innovating on it at that time, what did you learn to set the foundation to the projects that would be coming next.
[Jacob]: We started to think about how we could create an interactive version of Big Brother. Unlike it, behind what we built on Rival Peak there were no people, there were characters, AI. It was streamed 24/7, the characters had goals, they had needs, and the audience were able to fulfill those needs and help them solve puzzles, craft items, and generate scores for those characters.
The Walking Dead: Last Mile [00:16:20]
[Aaron]: I’d love for you to talk about this latest project, The Walking Dead Last Mile. Where is the innovation here, what did you learn, what do you think about the future of what is next here?
[Jacob]: When we did Rival Peak we didn’t really know what we were doing in terms of how the audience would engage with it. We didn’t know, for example, what the breakdown of mobile vs PC users would be in fact. It was 96% mobile.
We discovered it’s incredibly heavily mobile and incredibly heavily global. We discovered that only 12% of interactions were with votes. We realized that we’d have to come up with a completely new mechanic. 40% of the engagement of Rival Peak came through minigames, e.g. match 3, memory match and a bunch of simple puzzles to allow people to idle their time away.
In Last Mile we took those learnings and we said what if you can participate in these minigames and generate points and the more points you generate the more you can use them to bid. It's not about voting anymore, it's about the more I care, the more I play, the more I play, the more I have points to bid, and now I’m allowing the most engaged users to have more agency over their story.
In Walking Dead you create your own character and you can spend your points to make story decisions or to appear inside story sequences. We wanted to create an experience that did not require skill to be on it, you just need to be engaged, to play a little bit, lean back and watch the results. Whatever you want to participate on that engagement spectrum, you have the ability to do it, and that’s very different from the traditional video game.
Improving User Engagement [00:30:50]
[Aaron]: I’m curious when it comes to user engagement, what are some of the unique challenges that you are thinking about and iterating on to improve involvement.
[Jacob]: We found that it wasn’t clear why your story choices matter and why points mattered, and when we launched that we had a new screen that would tell you whether it's a major choice, a minor choice, and give you context so you can go see the status of that storyline moment.
We’re finding that people don’t understand their individual impact so very soon we’re launching a feature called My Impact that will actually tell you how you impact the story. We’re launching a feature called Timeline soon that’ll allow you to see the chronological order in the story decision and the choices that the audience has made.
We’re not looking at things in a month timeline or a year timeline, we are actually doing that day by day, how we can improve this product in every lesson and every piece of data that we receive, and every next title we release will have the benefit of that.
Business Model Behind MILEs [00:35:15]
[Aaron]: How does Genvid and the MILE titles make money, what is the business model behind it?
[Jacob]: Remember that we began as a tech and services company, for Genvid we make our money off of providing tech services up until now. We license our softwares and we sell solutions.
But that is not where the company is seeing its opportunity for the future. We plan to have our own products, up until now it's being somebody else's content, and going forward it's going to be mine. And there will be battle passes, item based transactions, and all those things you see in common f2p video games that will be inside of these procuts.
You can play minigames, you can get points and use those points to influence the storylines, and that’s working very well because we had very addicted players on Walking Dead spending 12h a day grinding it just to win every contest. You’d be able to buy point packs the same way you buy gems on other games. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel on the business model.
Future of Genvid [00:39:06]
[Aaron]: The year is 2028, what is the state of Genvid at that time, what is the state of MILEs, any bold predictions of what that world looks like?
[Jacob]: I think there are three points I want to make here.
- Primarily now we’ve been a technological brand, going forward we’re going to be a consumer brand.
- A wide amount of IP under our company. A place where a lot of your favorite IPs are located.
- Cloud-based future (intersection of Latency, GPU and bandwidth cost): Companies that will succeed are the ones that have been designing their products from day one, that have their IP, that have data, that have the design knowhall of how to build the products.