Many 90s and early 2000s kids will recall the popular ‘choose your own adventure’ books which allowed readers to make their own choices within the preexisting written narrative. Though video games quickly antiquated this trendy technology, Netflix has been attempting for the past several years to port the option into their streaming content for the viewing pleasure of their subscribers. Unfortunately, the model doesn’t seem to be panning out for the streamer, as their most recent stab at the genre, Choose Love, failed to rouse audiences while being torn apart by critics.
Netflix’s Choose Love experiments with the ‘choose your own adventure’ genre, but dismal viewership numbers and poor critic ratings have marked it as a complete failure.
Choose Love is an aptly titled romantic comedy that allows the viewers to make choices on behalf of the main character, ultimately providing a route to one of many endings that see her finding love or remaining single in the face of an imperfect relationship.
The film plays on a series of tired cliches and shallow interactions and sports the production value of a Hallmark original film without any of the camp and charm. Netflix subscribers seemed to blink and miss the premier of the interactive film on their home page, marking it one of the streamer’s least successful rom-coms to date.
To prove that point, What’s On Netflix reported Choose Love has been viewed for 6.5 CVE (“Complete Viewing Experience,” which takes Netflix’s announced audience number and divides it by the length of the series/movie). It wasn’t even half as popular as The Princess Switch 3.
The most popular Netflix original rom-com is Falling For Christmas, Lindsay Lohan’s comeback movie, with over 30 CVE.
The interactive film has received an abysmal score of 36 percent from critics on the review aggregate platform Rotten Tomatoes, many of whom compared the project to an AI-generated mess, mostly to reinforce the demands of screenwriters currently striking for better compensation and benefits. Netflix has presented a hard line against both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA union members as they continue to strike for a fair deal, maligning the streamer as one of the work stoppages’ greatest holdouts.
This is not the first time Netflix has attempted to make the interactive medium work on the home screen either. Back in 2018, the streamer made a large splash with the arrival of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which allowed viewers to make choices for the main character, eventually leading to a variety of possible outcomes. While Bandersnatch managed to draw in a significant amount of attention from viewers cashing in on the viral trend, the film failed to function as a viewing – or playing experience, ultimately turning subscribers away from the interactive model.
Netflix has had one successful interactive film, followed by diminishing returns for each one, reaching the absolute nadir of interest with Choose Love.
Since then, Netflix has had minor success creating these interactive films for a series of niche audiences, including Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous: Hidden Adventure and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend. Both specials managed to appeal to fans of their respective franchises as deep cuts without breaking the mainstream bubble and receiving overwhelming success. For Choose Love, Netflix seems to have failed on both fronts, as neither general audiences nor rom-com super fans seem to be tuning in to make choices for the special’s main character.
Perhaps the best outcome for success in this medium relies on the novelized structure familiar to fans of the ‘choose your own adventure’ genre or video games, which often rely on the player at home making complex decisions leading to multiple possible outcomes. Regardless, it seems that the executive decision-makers at Netflix would be well advised to hand over the reins to more competent creators to choose their own adventure when it comes to producing content that fans will be excited to watch.