Monday, April 24, 2006

Reboots: Fanbase transfusions

I'm starting to get that reboot itch at the base of my skull as I think about the new Trek movie, and I'm not sure that's a bad idea.

If you have a convulted backstory, you make it harder for new fans to jump on board. This is true in comics or any long running TV show. If anyone is trying to figure out what's going in Smallville now I wish them luck.

What this means, since its hard for new fans to break in and since even the most devoted fanbase will lose one every now and then as people change or you do something they don't like and walk away or get intrigued in the new hot property, is that your fanbase will slowly begin to shrink.

At first you won't feel it on the bottom line. You get by with the fans you have and occasionally someone gets interested enough to break in late in the series.

If you look at Trek, there's evidence this has been happening for some time. Every trek series since Next Generation has had lower ratings. With every series they lost fans, and those fans don't seem to have returned.

Whether because the later series weren't as good or because they had built TNG fans or DS9 fans and not just general trek fans is unclear to me, but the numbers don't lie. They have been in steady decline.

Reboots can solve this problem, if done right.

If a reboot captures the feel, the flavor of the original, many die-hard fans will come with you no matter how much they cry and wring their hands about the reboot. Ultimate Spiderman was railed against by fans. Petitions were started. The MArvel U as we knew it was over. It was the Worst. Idea. Ever.

It's also one of the hottest titles Marvel has released in decades, and my feeling is that not all of those fans are new off the street. Their protests were loud, but my sense is that Spider-man fans are quietly buying those Ultimate comics, because they're good.

Of course the other advantage of a reboot is that you can get a lot of new fans. Often these are younger fans with little exerperience with the original. This gives you a great opportunity to build a new fanbase into the future.

Again this might not be a reboot, it might be a simple "origin story". Both ideas have exciting possibilities to me, but I'm an easy mark, a sucker for all things Trek.

But if they do it right, the naysayers will quietly go see it, and some new fans might show up as well.

Everything in life is a risk-reward ratio. This project carries a higher risk. But the reward potential is tremendous.

Trek is due to hit one out, after a couple of projects that were long on potential but couldn't deliver, such as Enterprise and Nemesis. Here's hoping they do.

Chuck

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