Focus Features Promotes 'Wolf' With IM Game
by Shankar Gupta, Monday, Aug 29, 2005 6:00 AM EST
IN A SIGN OF THE movie industry's effort to expand beyond traditional advertising, Universal Pictures' Focus Features two weeks ago quietly started promoting its upcoming movie "Cry Wolf" via an online game played on America Online's instant messaging service.
Recently, Focus Features has made news for eschewing traditional advertising in favor of blogs and other newer media. The New York Times reported last week that Focus purchased ads for the upcoming movie "The Constant Gardener" on the blog Wonkette, owned by Gakwer Media, as well as Web sites of magazines.
For the game, players attempt to identify the "wolves in sheep's clothing," while messaging with other players in an AIM-powered chat room. The game involves dividing players into "sheep" and "wolves." The sheep have to vote on which players they believe are wolves, while the wolves attempt to hide their identities. Players receive clues, but most of the voting is based on comments made by other players in the chat room.
The game, which launched Aug. 15, requires a valid instant messenger screen name, and supports six 200-player "lobbies," each of which can support dozens of individual games at a time, with each game hosting up to 15 players. An AIM spokeswoman said the game's concept came from AOL, while development was outsourced to Klear Games.
"Cry Wolf," which is scheduled for release Sept. 16, came out of the 2002 Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival, which offered independent film producers the chance to win a million dollars to produce their movies. AOL was one of the sponsors.
The original title was "Living the Lie." The film tells the story of a group of bored boarding school students who invent a story about a serial killer and post it on the Web, only to have their created killer develop a life of his own. The film is being distributed by Rogue Films, which is a division of Focus Features.