Avatar doesn’t need much introduction. The masterpiece in spectacle from the mind of James Cameron, a sequel was a given. In 2010 Cameron and Landau hired Kathy Franklin to lead the creation of the Avatar Extended Universe via massive franchise expansion. This meant theme parks, books, comics, traveling museum shows, games, and social media. When she first decided to expand her team, she needed someone unique. Someone who knew how to use social media, make games, and build apps for mobile and web.
The sky was the limit. The team was exceptional. It also meant that I would be thrown into almost everything the company was working on. This meant sitting with lawyers for hours during contract writing, traveling the world for partners, and being able to walk around Pandora-Disney World when it was just concrete and rebar. And some of the most amazing achievements of my career would come to pass.
And I was ecstatic when I got the call that it was time to move to LA.
Find. Negotiate. Secure.
Then get Jim to agree.
The Future of Film Platforms with HP
The largest film in the world with multiple sequels needed something more. Thanks to the unique structure of ownership between Lightstorm and Fox, we were able to work with the team surrounding the Fox CTO John Herbert on what this would mean for our online world. Over the course of a year we developed the plan, designed the feature requirements, and then we found a partner in HP to put it all together and supply the hardware.
Mobile Games with Player Experience First
Mobile games, especially licensed titles, are built primarily to monetize their user. This is done through tricks, sound effects, FOMO abuse, and more. The edict I was given on my first day was that AVATAR needed to be something more than the rest. For three years this was not an easy rule to follow. Kabam had much success with this formula, but as mobile became more crowded they needed bigger IP. They already had Marvel, and AVATAR they wanted next. I spent a year working with their LA studio on design, monetization, story and more as they showed extraordinary talent in development – and extreme care for the brand. The deal would close and the game is still in development today.
A New Type of Licensed AAA Game
AAA Gaming Licenses may seem to be everywhere, but the reality is that gaming has shifted, and Licensed titles are a mixed bag for both IP owners and devs. AVATAR itself was a massive expansive world, and its ideology is naturally anathema to the ‘shoot everyone’ mentality of most AAA games, and I knew that when the films hit, the major gaming title would be a close second in terms of impact in world building and fandom. Once again years passed before I found a studio that understood this, and Massive Studios (an Ubisoft developer) spent months with me building out a set of design docs still leading the game. It is currently in development.
Lucasfilm and Star Wars would follow suit a few years later.
13 Years Between Films. Keep AVATAR alive.
With years between films, the largest Facebook page on the planet and a small but incredibly passionate ultra-hardcore fanbase had to be tended to. This meant new ways to engage fans, both new and hardcore that would be unique.
Instagram is a prime example of unique engagement. I had a handful of things at my disposal – the man who built the language of the Na’vi, an ultra-fan group who actually spoke it, and a platform like Instagram that let me combine audio and photos. So the idea came from the intersection of these: Could we use the Insta format like flashcards to teach the language itself? So we did and engagement was fantastic.