Whimsey Night: The Night Circus

Here, friends, is an interesting curiosity.

It’s called The Night Circus, and it is a game made by the creators of Echo Bazaar. At its most basic, most perverse, The Night Circus is a work designed to publicize a debut novel by Erin Morgenstern, and as such has the cynical, permanent Twitter and Facebook integration designed to make any hardcore gamer shake their head and cry.

But let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on how lovely it is. At its heart, The Night Circus is a story about visiting a circus in the late 1800’s, not a real circus but one overwhelmed with whimsey, magic, and loveliness. As games go it’s decidedly facebook, but there’s writing aplenty here, and it’s not something you have to pay active attention to. I’m certainly paying it no mind in the background, going there for the occasional break and beautiful language.

As an aspiring author myself, though, it’s interesting because it makes me think of how things can be sold. Here is this lovely little game, with nothing to it but its words, and it’s both informed me of a soon-to-be-released novel and made me legitimately interested in it. It’s both a brilliant example of viral marketing and also of interdisciplinarity; here they are, selling a book to gamers. I’ve seen posts about the game on a couple blogs, and now you’re seeing one here.

Books have, traditionally, been marketed to book people. This makes sense, but it is utterly limiting. Rather than appeal to the traditional crowd, it seems like Random House (the publisher behind the book) wants to cast a net at gamers. It’s a fascinating marketing strategy, one I think that publishers need to follow in a world where many media are dying. No one buys books, but if I can play a game that throws me into the novel’s world I’m much more likely to give it a go. It’s a brilliant bit of marketing.

It’s also a lovely game. I recommend giving it a go, because it’s quite beautiful. Here is where you’ll find it.


  1. Geno Martinez

    Heh, Echo Bazaar was the first thing that popped into mind when I saw the title of this post.

  2. Jakerbeef

    It requires signing in with Facebook or Twitter?

    Ugh. This is the future of the internet, one big interconnected marketing tool. My healthy dose of paranoia doesn’t help, but the words ‘cool new game…sign in with facebook first!’ just make me cynical.

    Which is unfortunate if the game/book/eventual film do turn out to be good as I’ll be a long time experiencing them after getting off on the wrong foot!

    Fair play to the creator manipulating modern media to help her creativity sell/flourish, but every day the internet leans a little more towards the big-brother marketing that will end up turning it into today’s film industry.

    Heh, maybe I got out of the wrong side of bed this morning.

    • Tom Auxier

      Seems like it. First off, the developer is a pretty reputable guy; sure, he does facebook integration, but he’s about as indie as they come.

      Personally, I signed up with Twitter, and it’s 100% up front about when it wants to send a message. It’s Twitter integrated because they want to give you the opportunity to share the really cool stories in the game with your friends (the developer is all about making it so that you can only experience 100% of the story by hearing about it from others, too) and to, additionally, providing free marketing. But the first part is absolutely fitting with the game, so I don’t see the problem with the marketing aspect.

      Generally I have a problem with this too, but for once there’s a good reason for integration besides just stealing your data (they’ll enjoy stealing my reviews of weekly superhero comics! Hah!), which I find worthwhile.

      • Jakerbeef

        That is a good point. Using the internet as a tool to broadcast your indie creations is a worthwhile way of doing things.

        Sometimes all I see is cynical corporate money-making (anyone for another remake?) everywhere and it skews my perspective. I forget it’s a tool for the little guys too.

        I mean without the internet nobody would have heard of The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. Which depending on your taste in film, can go either way…