With the rise of the digital age, social media, and streaming, there’s more of an opportunity than ever to include Easter Eggs or ‘extras’ in the films and series we watch and the video games we play.
Remember DVD extras and games?
QR codes give filmmakers and game developers the chance to embed all those extras within the media itself.
This article looks at some of the ways this has been done in recent years – spoiler alert if you haven’t scanned some of these yourself
TV and Film
1. Moon Knight
Moon Knight landed on Disney+ in March 2022 as part of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and fans soon discovered that QR codes strategically placed using CGI lead to a website with a free weekly web-comic featuring the titular character, and a poster in the season finale.
In an interview with Variety, executive producer Grant Curtis claimed he was inspired by running gags that engage audiences of “Bob’s Burgers”, and that he “wanted to bring a similar kind of interactivity to ‘Moon Knight’”.
What better way to do this than with QR technology?
2. Line of Duty
Season 6 of Line of Duty was a hot topic when it hit our screens in 2021, and the BBC knew how to build anticipation by adding a secret QR code in the trailer. This QR code led viewers to “a set of challenges” for audiences to solve and “sending them on a hunt around the web” (BBC Creative).
The series’ episodes themselves also contained QR codes that appeared on props, which led viewers to additional clues and materials, such as letters between the characters and hidden links within these clues.
3. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
As She-Hulk has only recently hit screens we will give you one last opportunity to avoid spoilers, so if you don’t want to know about the QR codes scroll away now.
She-Hulk landed on our screens just a few weeks ago, and already fans have discovered the QR codes hidden within its episodes. In this case the codes give a free comic book to the viewer, with a new one released with each episode of the series. There is still one mystery left to be solved however, as fans were unable to scan a code discovered on a character’s costume.
4. Ms. Marvel
Continuing our look at Marvel Easter Eggs, Ms. Marvel (which landed on Disney+ just a couple of months before She-Hulk) has also included hidden QR codes in the background and on props.
As seen in other Marvel series, these codes lead viewers to free comic books, relevant to the characters in the show.
Given that comic books have historically been a very physical, collectable, medium it makes sense that Marvel and Disney would be keen to find a way to connect these with their shows and films.
5. Red Notice
It’s not just Disney+ and Marvel getting in on the action with QR code Easter Eggs: Netflix are too. The streaming giant’s biggest movie debut to date ‘Red Notice’ also included a QR code, although this one isn’t hidden as it is used by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s character in the film itself.
Johnson stars alongside Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot in the art-heist romp, with the QR code leading viewers to a video of the film’s blooper reel – with a warning for bad language.
Reynold’s revealed in an interview with Jimmy Fallon that he and Johnson “spent a lot of time cracking each other up and trying to force the other to break character”, so there is sure to be plenty of material in the blooper reel.
6. Umbrella Academy
When the third season of Umbrella Academy finally hit our screens, fans couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next for our favourite Hargreaves family; and what would happen with their new siblings/rivals at the Sparrow Academy.
Taking in every detail, eagle-eyed fans spotted a QR code in the post-credits scene. This led viewers to a Netflix website featuring “Pogo’s Tattoo Shop” and a sheet of series-themed tattoos.
7. Pokémon sun and moon
While this Nintendo 3DS game may be a few years old now, Pokémon knew that QR codes can enhance a players’ experience. While the codes do not feature in the game itself, scanning codes in the real world and online using the device shows players where to find the corresponding Pokémon in the game.
New game Stray had social media (and apparently cats) excited when it launched this summer on PS4, PS5 and Windows. QR codes are hidden around the post-apocalyptic setting for the game, with each code revealing a message in binary. Players have been sharing the translations of these binary messages on social media, showing that they are hidden messages from the game developers.
Judgement uses an in-game function to scan QR codes, so there is no need to fumble around with your phone while holding on to your controller. The game has a massive 55 codes to find, including 5 that unlock different character skills. The rest unlock parts that can be used for the drone-racing mini game.
Homefront is the oldest game to feature on this list having been released back in 2011, and the developers were ahead of the curve in including QR codes in the game. The code is not part of the gameplay and instead works as an Easter Egg, leading to a website with downloadable wallpapers and a video.
11. Alan Wake Remastered
The keenly anticipated remaster of the 2010 game Alan Wake was received well by gamers and reviewers alike when it was released back in 2021. The updated game included some hidden-in-plain-sight QR codes that led gamers to secret videos, which fans believe hint at a sequel – that has now been announced. We will have to wait until 2023 to see if the developers will continue to use QR codes to add another dimension to the gameplay.
12. Genshin Impact
Genshin Impact is a roleplaying game (RPG) available across multiple platforms, and is set in a beautiful fantasy world called Teyvat. As part of the gameplay there is a “Wish Upon a Lantern” event, where releasing lanterns offers players the chance to win rewards. To access this event, players must scan a QR code from the game inbox.
13. Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag
Released back in 2013, Assassins Creed: Black Flag is still one of the most popular games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, with 96% of Google users rating that they liked the game. Throughout the game there are 20 ‘Sticky notes’ with QR codes to be found. The codes reveal extra story sections and various game unlockables.
14. Marvel’s Spider-man
The 2018 game is one of the bestselling and highest rated of all time, with incredible web-swinging movement and enthralling gameplay, fans get to experience the spiderverse in a way they never have before. The story and gameplay have been praised by reviewers and players alike, with side-missions offering as much excitement as the main story.
One of these side missions includes Spider-man getting tricked into participating in an internet streamers challenge, where he must photograph QR codes across the city with the in-game camera in order to save a hostage’s life.
Of all the games discussed in this article, this is the first that offers a challenge or mission involving QR codes directly, and not just to offer extra information or unlockables, showing the potential QR codes have in the gaming industry.
15. Far Cry 6
While the QR codes included in Far Cry 6 do not add to the gameplay, they do lead fans to teasers for other projects in the franchise – including a Netflix anime series.
Eurogamer reported a few days after the game’s release last year that the first QR code in the game leads to a teaser of the Netflix anime adaptation of the popular Far Cry 3’s ‘Blood Dragon’ spin-off.
Other QR codes in the game lead players to downloadable artwork of the characters, and one code which fans and media outlets alike are reporting as a teaser for future multiplayer projects in the franchise.
With larger production companies and game developers utilising more and more, the trend of including QR codes is set to continue to rise.
This post has covered many different ways that media companies are using QR codes to enhance audience experience of their projects, and to make them interactive in a way that was previously either difficult or impossible to achieve.
What’s your favourite way a series or game has used QR codes? Let us know over on our social media!