Ghost Ride The Web

Part of the campaign for the BMW X3 series, a one-of-a-kind web engagement allows you to enter the URL of any website {link no longer active} and take the X3 for a test spin!  Using a top down driving mechanic, manipulate the keyboard to take control of a BMW X3 and drive it across any website and tear apart the page.  After entering a URL, the user is given 45 seconds to drive across the site.  The more HTML elements they collide with, the more points that they can earn.

Knowing Is More Than Half The Battle

Part of the ongoing Xbox Live Rewards campaign, on fans have been invited to play the Xbox LIVE Rewards Gamer IQ Trivia challenge {link no longer active} and see how their knowledge and expertise about their favorite games stacks up.  Each answer enters you into a contest eligible to win 10,000 Microsoft Points Grand Prize, weekly 4,000 Microsoft Points prizes, and instant prizes up to 1,000 Microsoft Points.  Exclusive to members registered for Xbox Live Rewards, gamers can play every day through May 15th and rack up more sweepstakes entries for more chances to win.  Questions are focused specifically on gameplay and story related details about games like Gears of War and Call of Duty.

Feature: WWE All Stars Bring It On Facebook

The current era of WWE certainly has its fans, but there’s always people who have grown up with a different set of personalities for whom this new generation does not appeal as much. These people haven’t had a lot of avenues to fulfill their desires in video games of late, unless they were very determined in a recent game’s “create-a-wrestler” mode. Now, however, THQ is trying to directly cater to those fans with WWE All Stars, promoted with the tag line “2 Generations, 1 Ring.” We talked to THQ’s Global Brand Manager Bryce Yang and Community Manager Aaron Kaufman about the game and Facebook promotion crafted with the help of Ayzenberg.

[a]list: Was the goal from the start to reach out to an even broader audience of wrestling fans than the usual WWE SmackDown vs. Raw game?

Bryce Yang: Yeah! WWE SmackDown vs. Raw is our core WWE simulation title, and like similar games such as Madden NFL, it just keeps getting additional features. Eventually, it becomes a franchise that is sometimes not the most accessible to casual fans who haven’t followed every year. We came to the conclusion that we needed a new series, like how simulation sports games have arcade counterparts such as NBA Elite to NBA Jam; that’s what we wanted to do with WWE All Stars. Casual gamers might find the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw franchise intimidating, so we made the virtual WWE more accessible with WWE All Stars. At the same time, people can button mash and have fun, but there’s a lot of depth to the game to go along with the style, different character classes to master, combos to chain together, modes to complete and much more. It should appeal to the hardcore WWE enthusiasts as well as casual fans; I think you can see that with both the gameplay and the combination of current stars and classic champs.

[a]list: Talk about the Facebook App and how important that was in getting fans engaged.

Aaron Kaufman: The core reason we did the Facebook application was to get the casual fans. It was really exciting for them to find out the lineup of WWE Legends and WWE Superstars in the game. We created an app with a lot of interactive and sharing features, which appealed to both the casual and hardcore fans. For example, voting on who wins in a match of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. CM Punk would get shared out to your wall; if a user clicked that link, he or she would be taken to that page. There was a WrestleMania application, and the more people shared it and the more entries they got, the faster they would unlock the next WWE Legend or WWE Superstar who was in the game. All those share mechanisms were about getting all the fans to spread the word on the game.

[a]list: So it was all about leveraging the millions… AND MILLIONS of the WWE’s fans?

Aaron Kaufman: Nice use of a Rock catchphrase.  We wanted to emphasize some of the fantasy warfare matchups that we had, like Hulk Hogan vs. John Cena, Andre the Giant vs. Big Show and Ultimate Warrior vs. Sheamus, to name a few.  They are some of the most legendary WWE Superstars and WWE Legends in the business, and the fact we were able to use those fantasy matchups from the game for this application was really cool.

The Rock, smacking the fruity pebbles right out of Cena’s mouth.

[a]list: Talk to me about the exaggerated look and moves of the game and how they were designed to skew the game to a wider audience.

Bryce Yang: The style of the game: when you look at the fast-paced and over-the-top style, you need aesthetic visuals that match the gameplay. With something like WWE All Stars, you have more freedom to create something that appeals to a larger audience: for example, the brighter colors and exaggerated moves. WWE content is TV PG, and this style appeals to kids as well. There’s just so much more you can do to differentiate compared to the established franchise of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw. With WWE SmackDown vs. Raw, it has to be true to brand and the TV product, and that’s what the fans want. But, we wanted to appeal to a broader audience with WWE All Stars.

[a]list: Discuss the goals of the trailers in outlining different features for WWE All Stars?

Bryce Yang: I think video trailers are the best way to sell a videogame. Screenshots show still imagery of the game, but until you see it in full motion, you don’t get the full scope, especially for games like this! The WWE Legends and WWE Superstars do exaggerated moves, and you have to see it in motion to appreciate it.

We started with an introductory piece and followed up with trailers that hit particular features, like character classes, for example. We used trailers to show how special abilities worked and what they can to do, like with the “Big Man” class, punting people out of the ring like a football field goal and “Grapplers”chaining together multiple holds in a row. There’s no better way to show that except through the trailers. The trailers are the most important part of promoting a game.

The Miz being AWESOME.

[a]list: Was emphasizing the breadth of the personalities included important for WWE All Stars?

Bryce Yang: I think one of the biggest selling points of the game and what the fans were looking forward to was the roster. It really is the greatest roster we’ve put into a WWE videogame. You have WWE Legends like Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and current WWE Superstars like John Cena, Sheamus and Triple H. It’s something to which the fans have all responded well. If you’re watching a video or one of the commercials for the game and were a WWE enthusiast growing up, you will see Andre the Giant and go, “Hey, I remember him.” It’s a huge selling point for the game.

[a]list: Was “Macho Man” Randy Savage doing a promo for the game a special privilege?

Bryce Yang: Aaron was the guy who actually flew down to do the interview. It was great to have Randy Savage be a part of the process. He’s obviously one of the most recognizable talents of the past 30 years, so having him be part of our games again was great. The fans were excited to see him again, too.

[a]list: What response have you gotten to the pre-order DLC, the Million Dollar Pack?

Aaron Kaufman: The fan response was awesome, and people were happy to see “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase especially, as he was an extremely popular WWE Legend.  Speaking of DLC and relating back to the Facebook app, after we unlocked all the matchups, we put our WWE Games universe of fans up to another challenge. We said if you can reach this final sharing goal, the community would unlock a mysterious unannounced WWE Legend or WWE Superstar who would be a free bonus character to everyone who purchased WWE All Stars.  We had the highest response in the final two weeks; fans pushed really hard.  When they realized that it was Honky Tonk Man, we received a really positive response.  Relating that back to “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, we’ve seen hardly any complaints about the roster in the game.  You can’t have them all, but we feel it’s the best roster of any WWE videogame to date.

[a]list: What sort of support have you gotten from the WWE on the project?

Bryce Yang: We work closely with them every step of the way. Everyone who works on the project is a big WWE fan, and WWE is a great partner. Whether it’s the art style of the game, the creative, the gameplay, trailers or bringing it to the arenas, they’re with us every step of the way. We had a mantra of, “Where WWE is, that’s where we need to be,” and we partnered with them on having it featured wherever they are, whether it’s online, TV, at events, etc. We worked very closely with them on every part of the game.

There was a WWE All Stars gameplay video of Andre the Giant vs. Big Show on a recent Raw broadcast. The recent WWE Hall of Fame ceremony was also officially sponsored by THQ. These are just two examples of WWE and THQ working together to promote WWE All Stars.

Aaron Kaufman: Various WWE Superstars also changed all their Facebook profiles to their in-game renders. If you look up John Cena or The Miz, for example, it’s their profile from WWE All Stars, so that’s another feather in our cap.

[a]list: What’s it been like to do the marketing in this game?

Bryce Yang: This campaign has been a lot of fun to work on. From the style of the game to the roster, it’s just been a really fun project and it’s great seeing that response from the fans. I’ve worked in the industry for about five or six years now on multiple games, but this is probably my favorite project to date because of the creativity that it affords us. Plus, having been a WWE fan for, oh, 20 years plus of my life, it’s fun to be able to be creative with both the WWE Superstars of today and the WWE Legends of before.

Aaron Kaufman: On the Facebook app, I think we achieved our goal with it; at the launch of the “Fantasy Warfare” Facebook app we had around 500,000 Facebook fans and grew to 650,000 by the time the game launched, which was about a 4-5 week span.  Also, in May 2010, we had less than 40,000 fans on our WWE Games Facebook page, and now we have close to 700,000.  A lot of that has to do with WWE and cross promotions, and more importantly, giving our fans relevant and consistent information as often as possible.  The app drew between 8,000 – 10,000 visits a day, and in the final week in the lead up to the reveal of the Honky Tonk Man DLC, we were averaging closer to 15,000-20,000 daily visits to the app specifically, so I’d say it was a success.  It felt like an innovative way to grow our Facebook presence.

[a]list: Thanks to both of you.

_ _

A fan of the WWE? Can’t wait to engage in cross-generational match-ups? Join the discussion on Facebook.

Mobile Games To Get Novel In-Game Ads From

In-game advertising never quite turned out to be the money making juggernaut it was promised to be, and a lot of larger companies have abandoned those efforts or taken them internal. Still, there’s some potential in the space with mobile games and Brian Wong’s new start-up just go $4 million in funding to explore what he says is a unique idea.

“I know a lot of people have a bitter taste in their mouths over Massive,” Wong said. “But that was more about the failure of the acquirer. We’re nothing like Massive. We’re about in-game engagement. We’re really coming out of nowhere with a new category.”

“We’re not about sticking banners in games,” Wong added. “That’s a great way to annoy a lot of people. A lot of mobile advertising right now is very Web 1.0, and it’s about taking a piece of your screen. That’s an attention exchange. We are trying to provide a value exchange. And we want brands to be part of that exchange.”

Source: AdWeek {link no longer active}

Sony Refutes Delays Of NGP

SCEA’s Jack Tretton recently claimed that issues resulting from the Japanese earthquake might delay the worldwide release of the NGP handheld. Now, however, Sony appears to be distancing themselves from those remarks.

“So far we see no impact from the quake on our launch plan,” said Sony spokesperson Satoshi Fukuoka, who added that the Bloomberg report was wrong.

Source: Wall Street Journal {link no longer active}

Mortal Kombat Mini-Series Debut April 12

A new Mortal Kombat game is incoming and so is the live action mini-series. Along with a live video of some of the actors, there will be the first episode premiering on April 12 at Machinima’s YouTube Channel {link no longer active}.

Watch our Machinima Live Stream from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12. We will play Mortal Kombat exclusively with Sark, Hutch, and show Director Kevin Tancharoen. Additionally, special guest actors from the show will show off their gaming skills at the Machinima headquarters, announced Machinima. Stick around until 4 p.m. PST on the stream, and we ll premiere the first episode of the Mortal Kombat series. See you then!

Case Study Now Available About The Ayzenberg Media And Creative Process

Click to watch a video case study that shows how strategic integration of creative and media, along with a proprietary planning and reporting process, can help optimize your media dollars. You ll see how a seamless, turnkey, one-stop advertising campaign management solution lets you tap into shared media and creative expertise in both traditional and new media advertising disciplines.

GTA Creator Discusses Why There’s No Movie

The Grand Theft Auto series is often compared to movies, but there have never been serious discussions of the franchise getting a big screen adaptation. Part of it is because of an agreement over an old Ron Howard movie called Grand Theft Auto, but part of it is also the exacting control the creators of the GTA games like to exercise over their IP.

“We have explored a lot of movie deals, but we have just chosen not to make a movie,” said Rockstar’s Dan Houser. “We love movies, but we also love games and that is what we remain focused on. If we were to attempt to make a movie, we would like to make it ourselves, or at least work in collaboration with the best talent, so at least if it is bad, we can know we failed on our own terms. But doing that takes time, and making games properly takes a lot of time. So, we may make movies one day, with the right property and the right partnership, but we have not found the time to do that yet.”

“No one has done it very successfully yet, he noted. Virtually all movies made from games are awful, while many games made from movies are also pretty horrible. This will change, but with an ever more discerning audience, the goals of taking something from film-to-games or game-to-film have to be more than financial. If you feel the property has something about it that is universal or could work in another medium, and it is not simply about making easy money, then that is something worthwhile. Too often, however, the aim appears to be to cash-in on the success of a particular game, book, pop singer, website, etc., and that usually produces mediocre results.”

Source: The Hollywood Reporter