Interesting Independent Internet Projects: Electric City

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By Claire Frank

Last year I stumbled upon an animated web series called Electric City. I hadn’t heard of it, and I don’t normally watch animated shows, but figured I had nothing to lose by watching it. I was immediately hooked as soon as I heard Tom Hanks’s soothing voice coming out of my speakers.

Created by Hanks, the 20 episode series is set in a post-apocalyptic world struggling to maintain power. It’s incredibly thought provoking and clever. Jump Games released an app with all the episodes as well as extra content. There’s even a graphic novel and an online game, Electric City: The Revolt.

Electric City is also dead.

So why am I talking about it? Well first of all, because it’s a great series and it’s still available via its accompanying app, so check it out. But that’s not the real reason I’m writing about it. Electric City is a sign, a warning to future web-based series to come.

Electric City was launched July 17, 2012, through Yahoo! and the Jump Games app. Produced by Playtone and Reliance Entertainment, it was essentially an experiment: Could an animated series gain a mass following without being launched through mainstream websites like Netflix or Youtube? The answer, unfortunately, is no.

Why did it fail? Well, had you ever heard of it before this article? Probably not. The biggest thing that led to the downfall of Electric City was the lack of media attention. Independent internet projects tend to shy away from mainstream publicity, which is fine if they can maintain a large following through networking. Sometimes word of mouth is enough to keep a project like this going; in this case, it was not.

Now don’t get me wrong; Electric City was not a complete failure. People certainly supported the show. There are plenty of articles and reviews about it circulating the web. Electric City even won Best Animated Series at the third annual Streamy Awards (online video equivalent of the Emmys or Oscars, though not as prestigious) back in February 2013.

But after the Streamys, all chatter surrounding the show stopped. Forums were abandoned, articles stopped being written, and Tom Hanks moved on to bigger things. Yahoo eventually removed the videos, and little has been mentioned since.

Electric City is a warning to all independent projects out there. The quality and integrity of a project does not ensure that it will thrive. While grabbing mainstream attention may seem like selling out, only continuous support keeps these kind of projects alive. The money will eventually run out if the community backing it is not strong. Without the support, it may just end up lost and forgotten with Electric City.

Jump Games’s Electric City app is still available for free in the Apple and Android app stores. The app includes all twenty episodes as well as bonus features such as behind the scenes footage and comics.