If there’s any publisher whose list is even more appropriate in digital formats than in print, it’s Chooseco, which was founded in 2005 to relaunch the Choose Your Own Adventure series of multiple-choice, multiple-ending books first conceptualized in 1979 by author R.A. Montgomery that had sold well, but had gone out of print between 1999-2004. The Vermont small press, which is headed by Montgomery, its CEO and creative director, and has been publishing CYOA titles in digital formats as well as print since 2009, is reinventing the series once more with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. The fundraising goal of $130,000 will go toward production of an interactive CYOA cartoon app for the iPad. The app will be suitable for all ages, but targets children in the five-to-seven-year-old range. If Chooseco surpasses its fundraising goal, company representatives say, the app will be made available on Android as well.
“We want to disrupt the world of cartoons the same way we disrupted your childhood,” according to the mission statement on Chooseco’s Kickstarter page. “Tablets will let us do to cartoons what we did to kids’ books.”
Chooseco is calling the proposed app Choose ’Toons; the concept is the same as that of the original books, which have sold more than 260 million copies in more than 38 languages. The reader (“You”) assumes the role of protagonist, choosing how to respond to different challenges, and those decisions shape the final outcome of the story.
Chooseco explains on its Kickstarter page that the $130,000 that is being raised through the crowdsourcing Web site will fully fund the 32 minutes of unique animation required for its pilot Choose ’Toons app, Your Very Own Robot. This app will contain 20 possible story branches and 11 possible endings, providing the user with a series of cartoons lasting from three to 12 minutes, depending on the choices “You” make. Your Very Own Robot is expected to be released May 2014 with a $5.99 retail price.
The app is inspired by a 1982 release with the same title that, with approximately one million copies sold, is Chooseco’s bestselling title for younger readers; the company reissued Your Very Own Robot in paperback 2007. In the Your Very Own Robot app, “You” and Homer, a talking dog, build a mischievous robot named Gus.
“When we [Chooseco personnel] started using tablets for our own entertainment,” said Chooseco publisher Shannon Gilligan, “we realized that the immediacy of the touch screen and intimacy of using a tablet allows for an experience closest to reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book. ”
Kickstarter’s multi-tiered support levels are especially appropriate for a company known for publishing multiple-choice adventure tales. Pledge levels for the month-long campaign begin at $6 and extend up to $10,000; for example, the image of the backer who pledges $1,000 will be used for the villain “Boris,” with the warning that Boris will meet his demise in the app. Two $5,000 donors have already each been rewarded with the opportunity to voice a CYOA character.
One $10,000 donor will be sent, with a companion, on a real life Choose Your Own Adventure. The surprise location will be chosen by the Kickstarter community over the course of the campaign.
“Our team will be posing questions two times per week,” Chooseco explains on its Kickstarter page. “Should this adventure be in the northern or southern hemisphere? East or west? Hot or cold? Rural or urban? We promise the adventure of a lifetime. For real. And good luck (you may need it).”
As of 4:30 p.m. on August 13, a day into the campaign, Chooseco had raised $22,982 from 101 backers on Kickstarter.