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 twist on the popular vertical video format by giving users a way to not just watch mini-movies on their mobile devices, but also interact with them. The subscription streaming service in Snax includes a growing catalog of original movies which combine traditional storytelling elements with interactive gaming. Users may be asked to solve a puzzle to help move the story forward, look for clues in a murder mystery scene, make a choice for the characters in a choose-your-own-adventure mode, engage with 360-degree video elements, and more.
The idea for this new type of interactive movie experience comes from the Paris-based app developers at 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-digits millions (in euros) per year across its apps.
“We really enjoyed [Blaze] and got some great feedback. We developed and published 75 original stories on there,” explains Snax’s Head of Content, James Davies. “That was actually quite a lot 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-films to go along with its stories. They initially thought to try to incorporate that concept into Blaze, but it became too complicated.
“It became pretty clear to us that it needed to be a separate project,” Davies says. That’s how, around 18 months ago, Snax began its development.
Today, the app features a collection of bite-sized movies (hence the name “Snax) which are meant to be watched as vertical videos. Each episode lasts about 3 to 5 minutes long, and includes stopping points where the user is meant to engage with the content in some way. They may need to solve a puzzle or a brain teaser. They may need to make a choice or find a hidden item in the room. They may need to text with a character. And so on. (Don’t worry, if you’re stumped, there is a “hint” option.)
Users will sometimes do more than just tap on a choice. For example, in one murder mystery movie, you’re presented with a text box where you write in your answer, freeform. To make this feature work, Snax developed a database of possible answers and their potential misspellings, so it would be able to determine when the user got it right.
The movies themselves are also higher-production quality than you might expect from an entertainment app like this.
Snax explains its seven-person team handles script development and adding the interactive features, but works with professional filmmakers and partnered production companies to create the video content. Currently, these shoots cost in the ballpark of $100,000 euros per project, but Snax is working to streamline production costs by filming more series back-to-back with the same team on different scripts.
The filmmakers don’t share in the subsequent subscription revenue the app generates, but are paid upfront. At launch, Snax is charging $4.99/week, $8.49/mo, or $47.99/year for its subscription service. (You can watch a couple of episodes for free to try it out, though).
The company began by offering Snax in France earlier this year, but just introduced the app to English-speaking audiences in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia in October. For now, the app features French movies that are dubbed in English, but the long-term strategy is to now start producing content in the English language as well as Spanish.
Since its launch, about half of Snax user base is now in an English-language market and the team expects this to rise to as much as 90% in the near future.
Snax users tend to be young, in the 18 to 24-year-old age demographic, and evenly split between male and female. So far, Snax has found that U.S. users, in particular, seem to be more engaged with talking about and sharing the app, and with the app’s content.
“We noticed that American men and women are a lot more engaged in the content than French users — the uptake of people completing episodes or completing stories…is considerably higher than it has been in France,” says Davies. “That means we need to be producing things for a North American audience.
While some of its earlier movies were with unknown actors, Snax is now ramping up production with higher-profile stars in France, including France’s third-largest YouTuber Norman, actor and comedian Ludovik, and actor Bastien Ughetto. It plans to do more of this as it expands in the U.S.
Snax is now working on adding more variety to its interactions to make them more exciting and more involved. It’s also further developing its own internal software used for formatting its scripts.
Marmelapp plans to spin out Snax as its own company in 2022, and may consider fundraising at that time.