We have no clue when Black Mirror will drop another Choose Your Own Adventure-type Bandersnatch special, but while we patiently wait, a new app is looking to help fill the budding niche of interactive storytelling. Launching today with an impressive $10 million in financial backing, Whatifi (a combination of the words what, if, and I) allows people not only to watch a movie together, but to affect its outcome as well.
Whatifi describes itself as a "story hacking platform," with its content broken up into segments where viewers must unanimously vote on where to take the plot next. Up to 10 people can participate at a time, and the app is completely free. That said, founders Jaanus Juss and Hardi Meybaum told The Hollywood Reporter that they're planning a premium version where users can unlock high-end bonus features. Prior to launch, Juss was utilizing a similar voting tech for interactive plays in Tallinn, Estonia.
Early testing of the app in New Zealand, Sweden, and Singapore yielded promising results when it came to users starting new stories or diving back into one they'd already seen in order to experience new outcomes.
"Whatifi fuses the lean-back and isolated experience of traditional streaming with the interactivity of gaming, and immerses it in social interaction," Juss said in a statement. "It's a new entertainment category that defines how the next generation will entertain themselves. For the first time, you and your friends are in the director's chair, debating and calling the shots together."
The app currently features two movies: Anatomy of a Decision and As Dead as It Gets. The latter is (according to THR) "a supernatural thriller directed by Simon Ellis that is set at an old hotel with 16 different endings." Between Dead and Anatomy, there are more than 80 endings and storylines to choose from. Right now, college-age students are the main target audience.
"They really don't care how much money you've raised or if you have the most famous people from Hollywood and Silicon Valley building the product,” Meybaum said to THR. "If they don't like the product and if they don't like the content, they already love Netflix and YouTube and will continue watching them."
More Whatifi content will start to roll out later this year as new projects are commissioned through the company's production arm, Whatifi Studios. There's also a plan to hold a screenwriting contest in which winners can net $35,000 in prize money. Directing hopefuls will receive a budget of $200,000 to realize the winning screenplays.
The start-up's main investors are Andreessen Horowitz and Matrix Partners. Other backers include David Wells (ex-CFO of Netflix), Jon McNeill (current COO of Lyft), Max Levchin (co-founder of PayPal), and Marc Pincus (co-founder of Zynga).