Last week, Mark Wallace had an interesting piece in Wired about how the narrative universe of Firefly lives on through an online product, with the launch of a massively multiplayer online role playing game based on the world of the Joss Whedon space show.
Firefly is an oft-cited example of a show that continued to be popular, despite getting cancelled after only one season, and eventually launched a film version called Serenity, based on the plot and characters from the show.
Back in June, Henry Jenkins wrote:
But Whedon got greedy--or someone got greedy on his behalf--and Firefly moved the wrong direction up Anderson's Long Tail--towards a blockbuster Hollywood movie which would have required even more viewers to be seen as successful than would have been required to keep the series on the air on a second tier network. Yes, it was way cool to watch those characters up there on the big screen, but Whedon set the bar much too high for the existing market for his property, and we all paid a price for his hubris.
This model is different, though. It's not trying to force the product up the Long Tail but aims to create extended ways for the existing audience to participate in the narrative world that Whedon and his team created.
The announcement was made by Multiverse earlier this month that a deal had been made with Fox Licensing to create a world for the "Browncoats," as Firefly's fan base is called.
Predictions are currently that the game will be available to play sometime in 2008.
Landing Firefly on the Multiverse platform would seem to be a sure-fire promotional move. But satisfying the show's committed fans will not be easy. Online communities like FireflyFans.net, the show's premier fan site, have generated an endless stream of fan fiction, art, blogs, pod casts, meet-ups and even a fan-produced documentary, Done the Impossible, which briefly broke into the top 1,000 in DVD sales on Amazon.com.
Whedon's series seem to develop cult followings and create universes that people do not want to relinquish once the runs from shows are over. The same has happened with Buffy as well, which has lived on through a comic book run to keep the universe alive.
Also, see plans announced last month for yet another straight-to-DVD film from the Babylon 5 makers.