A recent New York Times article announced a new and exciting venture by Scholastic, Inc, the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and related products to home and school.
Starting in September of 2008, Scholastic will publish “39 Clues”, a cross-media experience centered around ten books released over the course of 24 months. Scholastic is pulling some of the top childrens authors published under the brand, including Rick Riordan, Gordan Korman, Peter Lerangis, and Jude Watson.
According to the article in the Times, the plot of “39 Clues” will revolve around Amy and Dan Cahill, two adolescent members of the world’s most powerful clan, as they compete against other branches of their family to collect 39 clues that lead to ultimate power.
Tracy van Straaten, Scholastic’s VP of Publicity for the Children’s Book Publishing division, notes that Scholastic’s Lab for Informal Learning is collaborating on the project with “a company that has ARG experience, as well as game designers” in creating this project. This collaboration may include work with GMD Studios, the company that has worked on such games as Art of the Heist and Who is Benjamin Stove, and are currently presenting their project, Eldritch Errors. The experience will extend beyond the books through a website including character blogs, puzzles and mini-games, as well as maps and treasure hunts. Each book will come with six collectible cards that will provide further clues.
Although the project is still months away, both Kotaku and Ian Bogost at Watercooler Games have expressed skepticism regarding the project due to Scholastic’s decision to retain all rights to the intellectual property. Scholastic responded to the criticism, noting that the decision to retain all rights stems from the project’s development through the Scholastic Lab for Informal Learning.
39 Clues has the potential to introduce a younger generation to the world of alternate reality gaming, and Scholastic has the resources to pull it off, especially if the company leverages the resources available through the Scholastic Book Club, their distribution channel in schools worldwide. The bar for transmedia novels has been set rather high by New York Times bestseller Cathy’s Book.