Exclusive: The Challenges Behind Branding Skylanders

The Skylanders franchise took off like a rocket when it was introduced last year. The product line was not only a first for Activision but for games in general, with big budget console games aimed at young players that required physical toys – an entire line of action figures – to play. Not surprisingly, the novel concept faced skepticism, with industry pundits split over whether it could succeed.

By the time the original games and toys launched, most major retailers had bought in big, dedicating good chunks of real estate to feature the line prominently for the holidays. By late December, Skylanders sections in most stores looked like water and canned food aisles before a big storm. The products ultimately generated an estimated $100 million at launch and, according to Activision, sold well enough into 2012 to become the best-selling game products {link no longer active} for the first four months of this year.

Activision is now preparing to keep up with demand for the sequel, Skylanders Giants, and a whole new line of toys to go with it. We interviewed Skylanders’ executive producer Scott Krager earlier this year, where he gave us insight into challenges the products initially faced, and the strategies in place including social and mobile efforts to grow the brand now that it has taken young gamers by storm.


Exclusive: The Winners Of Game Connection Marketing Awards

[a]list’s Steve Fowler interviews the winners of this year’s Game Connection Marketing Awards. The winners were announced at a ceremony at Porte de Versailles Expo in Paris on November 28.

Marketing reps from NC Soft’s Guild Wars 2 print and digital campaigns, Neoco’s Borderlands 2 social media campaign, Sid Lee Paris’ Assassin’s Creed III “Rise” trailer, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Just Dance 4 mobile campaign talk about what helped them walk away with first place trophies.


Interview With Wreck It Ralph’s Rich Moore

Disney’s Toy Story for gamers, Wreck-It Ralph, is set to break the $100 million mark at the box office this weekend. It opened at number one with $50 million last week.

The film’s director Rich Moore is no stranger to games. The former Futurama and Simpsons director was personally involved in creating the reimagined old-school arcade game that’s the basis for the film.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to have a game created based on the idea that I had,” says Moore.

In this interview with Gamerhub.tv, Moore talks about how Disney pulled together classic game IP and why it chose to turn Wreck-It Ralph into an actual game.


Contract Kill For Friends In Hitman Absolution

Hitman is getting its first real sequel in more than six years when Hitman Absolution releases next week.  Fans expecting significant upgrades may find one in the game’s unique Contracts multiplayer mode. IO Interactive, who developed the Square Enix game, describes the mode as “multiplayer-slash-social” and says the inspiration for it came from fan forums. In it players create hits on characters anywhere in the game, even the most obscure NPCs, and pass them on to friends as contract kills.

In this interview with Gamerhub.tv, IO Interactive game play director Christian Elverdam breaks down the novel approach to bringing an online multiplayer mode to a series that’s never gone the traditional player-versus-player route.


This video is being featured as part of a new syndication partnership between [a]list daily and Gamerhub.tv.

3D Market Growing In 2012

The buzz about 3D has quieted lately, but consumer spending on 3D content has been growing regardless. IHS Screen Digest today released findings from a recent report, saying the market is “thriving” in theaters, home video, and video-on-demand.


The number of 3D-capable theater screens has quadrupled in the last three years, from 9,000 in 2009 to 43,000 in the third quarter of this year. Box office receipts for 3D features are up double digits in 2012 over 2011, from $6 billion to $7 billion. That tally was enough for 3D films to account for 22 percent of the global box office total last year.

US spending on 3D Blu-rays has nearly doubled in 2012, up 94 percent to $220 million. The research firm called that an especially encouraging sign as it bucks the trend of slumping sales for films on physical formats, and also noted that it is expected to continue growing until 2016.

According to IHS Screen Digest, the number of 3D TV channels is on the rise worldwide, although growth in the market has slowed. 3D video-on-demand is expected to do well in the coming years, with IHS Screen Digest expecting it to increase from $11.1 million in 2012 to $76.1 million in 2016.

“In an age where consumers have at their easy disposal a virtual treasure trove of entertainment options to draw from, the encouraging growth of the 3-D medium is remarkable to behold,” said Tony Gunnarsson, analyst for video at IHS Screen Digest. “The continuing expansion of the industry is especially significant when one considers that 3-D is but a small niche of overall digital viewing, and that consumers have to shell out considerably more money for 3-D products, which are priced at a premium and not necessarily an easy sell in these economically uncertain times.”

Hunger Games Dev: Free-to-Play Is ‘Ultimate Marketing Tool’

Funtactix CEO Sam Glassenberg told GamesIndustry International that projects like his company’s Facebook tie-in for The Hunger Games are “changing the way Hollywood does business.”


“The lines are blurring,” Glassenberg said. “The old model was marketing would go and invest in cheesy advergames for the movie that nobody cared about, and licensing would run out and try to license some big console game. But now the walls between marketing and licensing are starting to fall.”

“You’re creating something that’s a revenue-generating profitable product on its own, but at the same time, it’s the ultimate marketing tool,” he added. “Because not only does it market the movie, it markets everything that comes after and keeps the audience engaged.”

Source: GamesIndustry International


Facebook Halts Mobile Ad Network

Facebook only started testing its mobile ad network in September, but has already pulled the plug on it. All Things D reports not only has the social network paused its plans to place its ads in third-party mobile apps, but it has also halted talks with various publishers about putting Facebook ads on their mobile sites.


“We are pausing our mobile ads test off of Facebook,” a representative said. “While the results we have seen and the feedback from partners has been positive, our focus is on scaling ads in mobile news feed before ads off of Facebook. We have learned a lot from this test that will be useful in the future.”

The big hold-up is apparently concern that the ads wouldn’t provide a big enough return for Facebook or its partners to justify the endeavor. Considering ads on Facebook proper don’t command a premium, the rates for third-party sites would be unlikely to generate sufficient revenue. While other ad networks get around such concerns by guaranteeing a minimum amount of revenue for their partners, Facebook has been focusing instead of increasing the partners’ share of revenue derived from the ads.

A Facebook ad network has long been expected as part of the company’s plan to monetize its massive user base and the amount of personal information it collects on them. Recent reports have it in talks to purchase Microsoft’s Atlas ad technology platform to help realize that goal. Media intelligence platform Aggregate Knowledge has also been named as a potential acquisition for the social network.

Source: All Things D

Star Trek Preorder Promo Detailed

Namco Bandai has detailed its preorder promotion for Star Trek: The Video Game, the tie-in to next year’s feature film, Star Trek Into Darkness. Gamers who reserve the title will receive the Elite Officer Pack, a collection of exclusive weapons and uniforms for protagonists Kirk and Spock.


The Elite Officer Pack is actually a collection of five smaller packs, each with new uniforms for Kirk and Spock. Three of the packs also include new weapons for the game, as detailed below.

Stealth Pack — Kirk and Spock stealth uniforms, plus Starfleet Type IV Stealth Sniper Rifle and extra ammo
Brawler Pack — Kirk leather jacket costume and Spock Vulcan Science Academy costume
Kelvin Pack — Kirk and Spock  U.S.S. Kelvin uniforms, plus  U.S.S. Kelvin Hand Phaser
Academy Pack — Kirk Academy Uniform, Spock Officer Dress Uniform, plus Academy Phaser
Kobayashi Maru Pack — Kirk and Spock  Kobayashi Maru uniforms

Star Trek: The Video Game is set for release April 23 in North America, and April 26 in Europe and Australia. Star Trek Into Darkness will make its theatrical debut on May 17.