Microsoft has locked up Felicia Day’s hit gamer web series The Guild for an exclusive run of the show’s highly anticipated second season which debuts this Tuesday. In what’s essentially a Microsoft three-way, new episodes will be distributed worldwide exclusively on Xbox 360’s Live Marketplace, MSN and the Zune mobile player.
The Guild will be one part of the inaugural crop of original web series on Xbox’s new channel, Independent Video, which will feature only original content. Other web series announced on the slate include The Jace Hall Show, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (also starring Felicia), Horror Meets Comedy and machinima legend Red vs. Blue, which was shot entirely on Xbox’s Halo game platform.
Sprint has also signed on to sponsor the 12-episode second season, both via pre-roll ad displays and yes, even product placement of the new Sprint Instinct phone in the hands of the characters. New episodes will get a four-week exclusive airing on the three Microsoft distribution points before being available on The Guild‘s newly redesigned web site via MSN’s embeddable player.
It’s been no secret in the web series world that Felicia Day’s self-produced series was one of the hottest properties out there this past year. Most notably in this whole deal is the fact that Felicia retains the rights to The Guild, with Microsoft paying an “unspecified” license fee upfront. Sometime in February, when all episodes of season two have been released, the show is free to sign a new nonexclusive distribution deal should they choose to do so.
UPDATE: From Felicia’s recent blog post on The Guild site:
For those who know and love our indie production, you know it’s been tough to keep the cameras rolling. For Season 1 we were funded by our donors, and we are eternally grateful for that. It’s only because of you, the fans, that we finished the season at all. But with donations, we were only able to release one episode a month. For Season 2 we decided to look for a production partner to help us release episodes quicker and be able to pay our cast and crew in advance.
I don’t exaggerate when we say that we had DOZENS of offers for the show. But I was adamant that we be able to retain ownership of the show and have the creative freedom to keep the show close to its roots and to our fans. We started filming Season 2 on DVD proceeds and my own money, but in the middle of filming the first few episodes, Scott Nocas from Xbox Live approached us and they proved the perfect fit. They will be helping us reach out to new audience, as well as allowing the show, through the Microsoft network, to be seen by anyone across the globe who wants to: Still for free!
UPDATE 2: Added embeddable Season 2 trailer above.
UPDATE 3: Release times for Season 2: 11/25/08: 12:01AM PST on Xbox LIVE and Zune. For MSN ~9AM PST