Earlier today, Fourth Wall Studios announced it received an initial $15 million round of financing from Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, along with access to a fund of up to $200 million through the Soon-Shiong’s California Capital Equity. VentureBeat reports that the “studio will be incorporated as a new company under the same name.” A number of prominent alternate reality game developers including Steve Peters, Maureen McHugh, Jay Bushman, and Jackie Turnure have announced they have joined this new company, which stakes the claim as the first Alternate Reality Entertainment (ARE) studio.
Fourth Wall Studios was founded by alternate reality gaming powerhouses Elan Lee, Sean Stewart, and Jim Stewartson after the three stepped down from 42 Entertainment. After departing 42 Entertainment, the three worked on projects including Watchmen‘s 6 Minutes to Midnight, Eagle Eye: Free Fall Halo 3: ODST‘s in-game experience Sadie’s Story. In an interview with Jawbone TV, Modernista revealed Fourth Wall’s involvement in the Dexter alternate reality game as well. Now, with additional funding from Soon-Shiong, Fourth Wall aims to extend these immersive storytelling techniques to mainstream audiences by enabling the interaction with fictional worlds using mobile devices, browsers, and social networks. The studio plans on developing original content and content made in partnership with top-tier creators from film, television, video games and publishing. These experiences, according to the Los Angeles Times, would be financed through sponsorships and micro-transactions.
In an interview Elan Lee conducted with the University of Washington’s Hanson Hosein in October 2010, Elan Lee described three software projects that likely reflect some of what we can expect from Fourth Wall in the coming months:
There’s a bunch of television shows we’re working on right now with ABC and NBC . . . at the same time, we’re working on three new software projects. Each one is devoted to infusing story into a different aspect of your life. One is for the cell phone, one is for the browser . . . and one is . . . we’ll call it the glue that pulls everything together. If you have all these different stories spread out across your life, how do you make sure you get the right phone call at the right time? How do you make sure that your Facebook wall updates with exactly the right information?
The Hollywood Reporter reports that Fourth Wall’s lineup of projects includes the games Shanghai, a “massively multiplayer war game,” and Cathedral, a “contemporary fantasy game that will use augmented reality to transform the real world.”
Recent months have seen the announcement of transmedia production companies from major players in the entertainment industry including Guillermo del Toro’s Mirada and Tim Kring’s Imperative. With this move, Fourth Wall Studios looks to be reshaping the conversation and taking its place as a premiere player in the world of alternate reality experiences.