Short-form video apps have seen major successes, like TikTok, as well as dramatic failures, like Quibi. Now, a new app called Snax wants to offer a variation on the popular vertical video format by giving users a way to not only watch mini-movies on their mobile devices, but also interact with them. Snax’s subscription streaming service features a growing catalog of original films that combine traditional storytelling elements with interactive games. Users can be asked to solve a puzzle to advance the story, search for clues in a mysterious murder scene, make a choice for characters in a ‘Choose your own adventure’ type mode, engage with items 360 degree video and Suite.
The idea for this new type of interactive cinematic experience comes from the Parisian application developers of Marmelapp, co-founded by Alan Keiss, Stéphane Fort and Jérôme Boé. To date, the company has launched 15 apps totaling over 30 million downloads and generates double-digit millions (in euros) per year through its apps.
Marmelapp’s most recent titles include the Picolo board game and the text-based ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style app, Blaze. The latter actually served as the starting point for Snax, we’re told.
“We really enjoyed [Blaze] and I have had excellent feedback. We developed and published 75 original stories there, ”explains James Davies, Content Manager at Snax. “It was actually a lot of content because, with all the branching paths, we had multiple endings,” he notes. The team later realized that Blaze could be a lot more fun if it included more than just text, like mini-movies to accompany its stories. They initially thought about trying to integrate this concept into Blaze, but it got too complicated.
“It became pretty clear to us that this had to be a separate project,” Davies says. This is how Snax began its development about 18 months ago.
Today, the app offers a bite-sized collection of movies (hence the name “Snax”) that are meant to be watched as vertical videos. Each episode is approximately three to five minutes long and includes breakpoints where the user is expected to interact with the content in some way. They may need to solve a puzzle or puzzle. They may have to make a choice or find a hidden object in the room. They may need text with a character. Etc. (Don’t worry, if you’re stumped there is a “hint” option.)
Sometimes users will do more than just tap a choice. For example, in a murder mystery movie, you are presented with a text box in which you write your answer, in free form. To make this feature work, Snax has developed a database of possible answers and their potential misspellings so that they can determine when the user gets it right.
The movies themselves are also of better quality than you might expect from an entertainment app like this.
Snax explains that his team of seven takes care of script development and adding interactive features, but works with professional filmmakers and partner production companies to create the video content. Currently these shoots cost around $ 100,000 per project, but Snax is working to streamline production costs by filming more back-to-back series with the same crew on different scripts.
Filmmakers do not share subsequent subscription revenue generated by the app, but are paid up front. At launch, Snax charges $ 4.99 / week, $ 8.49 / month, or $ 47.99 / year for its subscription service. (You can, however, watch a few episodes for free to try it out).
The company started offering Snax in France earlier this year, but just introduced the app to an English-speaking audience in the US, UK, Canada and Australia in October. For now, the app offers French films dubbed into English, but the long-term strategy now is to start producing content in English as well as Spanish.
Since its launch, around half of Snax’s user base is now in an English-speaking market and the team expects that figure to grow to 90% in the near future.
Snax users tend to be young, in the 18-24 age range, and evenly split between men and women. So far, Snax has found that American users, in particular, seem more interested in talking and sharing the app, as well as its content.
“We have noticed that American men and women are much more involved in content than French users – the number of people finishing episodes or stories… is considerably higher than it has been in France” , Davies explains. “It means we have to produce things for a North American audience.
While some of his previous films were with unknown actors, Snax is now stepping up production with bigger stars in France, including third French YouTuber Norman, actor and comedian Ludovik and actor Bastien Ughetto. It plans to do more as it expands into the United States.
Snax is now working on adding more variety to their interactions to make them more exciting and more involved. It also develops its own internal software used for formatting its scripts.
Marmelapp plans to make Snax its own business in 2022 and may consider raising funds at that time.