The producers of Showtime's Weeds have partnered with Marc Ecko to build a digital platform that could eventually alter the show's story
After hours and hours spent mastering FarmVille, you're ready to upgrade from corn and soybeans to a real cash crop: marijuana. Weeds Social Club, a new game for Facebook, lets you grow and sell pot (and potted) plants online.
Launched on Monday, June 27, to complement the season premiere of Showtime's Weeds, the game is just the latest brand extension for Hollywood producers who have already mastered action figures, TV shows, DVDs, apparel and more. "Social games played on Facebook are the new frontier for film and television tie-ins," according to Businessweek's Douglas MacMillan. "This summer, two movies -- Disney's Cars 2 and Fox's Mr. Popper's Penguins -- and a popular Showtime series will attempt build buzz and some extra revenue by featuring their characters in Facebook games."
Without Jim Carrey's comic stylings or Pixar's anthropomorphic four-wheeled friends, though, Weeds is by far the most controversial project we've seen enter this space. Showtime -- and, like it, HBO -- can often get away with racier material because the content they produce is locked behind subscription models and shielded from the eyes of (most) children. While Facebook doesn't officially allow kids under the age of 13 access to its network, we know there are millions with profiles anyway.
What are they -- and the adults who have also been drawn to this extension -- learning from their membership in the Weeds Social Club? The game allows users to buy and grow different strains of marijuana -- "from downmarket 'Schwag Weed' to the pricier and more (virtually) potent 'Jamaican Ganja,'" according to MacMillan -- before harvesting and selling it. All of the money that players earn selling their weed to a hooded-sweatshirt-wearing figure in the game can be spent on virtual flat-screen televisions, bongs and more. Andy Botwin, a character from the show, which is entering its seventh season, makes an appearance in the game, performing "tasks that correlate with the storyline from the latest TV episode."
But the game will serve as more than just another way for the Weeds producers to get attention for their show. It could eventually serve as a testing ground for new characters or stories to be incorporated into the actual show, according to Curt Marvis, the president of digital media at Lionsgate, Weeds' distributor and producer. "In the social realm it's a living, breathing experience," Marvis told Businessweek, "one where you get a fan base of engaged users."
The game was approved by Facebook and doesn't break any laws, according to Ecko Code, the creators. Ecko Code, a social-game unit of Marc Ecko's urban fashion empire, is working on creating games for other Showtime shows, including The Borgias and Dexter.
Image: Weeds Social Club.