Chartboost Adds Group Functionality To Ad Network

Chartboost, a platform that helps independent game developers cross-promote games has added a new Groups feature to let indie devs come together to deal directly with each other. Chartboost began as a network for developers to trade game advertisements in each others’ games, and has grown rapidly to include over 16,000 games in its network generating 8 billion ad impressions per month.

ChartBoost’s new functionality comes from the demand for groups of more than two developers that want to promote for each other. CEO Maria Alegre said developers sought to put together groups of four or five developers, particularly when they are friends or are from a particular geographic region. Alegre noted that direct deals perform better than the usual ad campaigns, citing a click-through rate of about 10.7 percent from a direct deal versus 8.1 percent on a regular network deal. Cross-promoting your own games is the most effective of all, resulting in a 12.7 percent click-through rate.

Source: TechCrunch

Portable Console Nvidia Shield Priced At $299, Ships June 27

The Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 aren’t the only new consoles coming this year. Nvidia has announced the final release date and price of the portable Android-powered console announced in January, the Nvidia Shield. The Tegra 4-powered unit is an unusual hybrid, featuring a full-sized console style controller with a 5 inch, multi-touch 1280×720 screen attached. The unit also has HDMI output to send its video to a TV, and if you have the right Nvidia graphics card in your computer you can also stream PC games to the Nvidia Shield.

“We’ve heard from thousands of gamers that if the price was $299, we’d have a home run,” wrote GeForce product line manager Jason Paul in a blog post about the announcement. “So we’re changing the price of Shield to $299. We want to get Shield into the hands of as many gamers as possible. That’s because we think they’ll have the same reaction to it as thousands of gamers already have: joy.”

Newegg, GameStop, Micro Center and Canada Computers will all have Shield on June 27, according to Nvidia. Whether or not the unit gets any significant sales, priced at $50 more than a PS Vita and more than many tablets, is another issue. It’s unknown what sort of marketing efforts Nvidia has planned, though it does say something that this announcement comes only one week before the product appears in stores.


Red Bull Video Shows Imaginative Stunt Cycling

Red Bull has garnered tremendous numbers of views with past videos it sponsored, such as Felix Baumgartner’s space dive. Now the company uses the skills of Scottish cyclist Danny MacAskill to show an imaginative journey into the mind of a child… Danny’s mind.

Red Bull’s brand presence is confined mostly to Danny’s helmet, but the urge to pass this video along will be high. One can imagine an EA Sports video along the same lines to build the company’s brand while showing astonishing sporting prowess. This was not an easy video to create; shooting took 68 weeks over a two-year period. Watch for the cameo by Danny MacAskill’s real-life mother, Anne, at the end.


Forza 5 Trailer Shows Impressive Visuals

The Forza racing game series has a pedigree of stellar graphics, and Forza 5 is no exception. Forza 5 will be one of the launch titles for the Xbox One, and is meant to show off the graphical capabilities the system offers. All of the footage in this trailer is in-game, gameplay footage, and it displays the impressive graphics of the Xbox One to full effect.


Prepare To Die Again In Dark Souls II

Dark Souls was one of the runaway success stories of 2011, offering up a brilliant setting, tight controls and its trademark punishing difficulty. The E3 trailer for its sequel Dark Souls II promises even more of what made Dark Souls great. Giant enemies, despair-filled castles, haunted corridors and grim knights fill the darkness. The game will be released in March of next year.

A Realm Reborn Promises A New Start

When Final Fantasy XIV was released to the public in 2010 it suffered from glitchy gameplay, a broken UI and an overall less than stellar experience. With A Realm Reborn, Square Enix is looking to relaunch the game and fix everything that plagued the original release. The E3 trailer for this relaunch looks promising, showing off the new story, lands, and updated graphics that this reborn Eorzea promises. The game will be launched on August 27 this year for PC and PS3, with a PS4 launch coming in 2014.


New Direction For Apple Advertising

Apple’s ads have been winning awards for many years, and they’ve been creative icons for a generation of designers. Now the company is striking out in its first new direction in years, leaving behind the disembodied hand and the tight focus on screens. The new ads don’t have a strong voice-over; instead we see the products in use, and how they can affect people in a variety of ways.

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One of the pieces Apple has released is “Making a Difference One App at a Time,” a 10-minute film by TBWA\Media Arts Lab that shows how third-party iOS apps can transform people’s lives. Obviously a longer form is not going to be a TV spot, but is designed for people to experience through YouTube or in other places. The piece has a documentary style that’s never over-the-top, and it makes you think about the impact apps (and the devices the run on) can have on people’s lives.

Apple also has one minute spots (which will no doubt be edited down for shorter slots) that feature a montage of iPhones in use; snippets of people integrating them into their lives. We don’t exactly know how this new style will resonate, or how it might translate into sales. Apple may roll this style into its other ad venues. You’ll know it’s getting wide usage when you see it hit billboards.

Game marketers would do well to think about this stylistic change. It’s not that games can transform people’s lives in the same way, but perhaps the relentless focus on game graphics and what happens inside the games might shift to a more external treatment. Games are no longer just a solitary release event, for the most part. Publishers seek to transform game brands into 24/7/365 experiences where customers engage (and buy) throughout the year with regular DLC, mobile apps, and communities engaging socially with games.

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This enormous shift in the way games generate revenue and engage with the audience has not yet been truly reflected in marketing efforts in many cases. For example, the FIFA experience is something that devoted fans make part of their lives, and they touch the game on many platforms. A game trailer only catches part of this experience; perhaps a different advertising approach might show the appeal of the larger experience that FIFA offers. Similar arguments can be made for games like Call of Duty or Battlefield. Gaming hardware is also a natural for this sort of approach.  Will one of the Big Three try something like this


Social Networking Will Soon Reach 1 In 4 People This Year

According to the recent eMarketer report, “Worldwide Social Network Users: 2013 Forecast and Comparative Estimates,” an impressive one in four people around the world will use social networks by the end of this year. This ratio means that the ranking of social users by varied region will actually mirror the regional shares of the global population by 2014.

“This was an inevitable development, as social network usage has moved from taking place primarily in advanced markets to being a common activity for people around the world,” the study notes.

Additionally, the report revealed that by 2015, more tech-savvy markets of North America, Western Europe and Central and Eastern Europe will have the highest increase in users worldwide. And according to eMarketer, beginning in 2016, Latin America will surpass Western Europe in social network usage. The study expects the fastest jump in social network users will come from India, Indonesia, Mexico, China and Brazil.

This widespread usage of social media has prompted researchers at eMarketer to increase their 2013 forecast for total users by 100 million since their August 2012 report.

“This upward adjustment is based on new data that indicates higher-than-expected totals for internet users in India, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Russia and the Middle East and Africa; new data showing higher estimates for UK social network users than previously forecast; and a new breakout of social network users in the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden,” the marketers reveal.

The largest area of social media users comes from Asia-Pacific, with an audience of 777 million people and a share of over 40 percent of social network users worldwide expected by the end of this year. This is more than triple the size of Latin America’s entire social media audience, which is the second-largest worldwide.

More impressive is that by the end of this year, over 60 percent of internet users around the world will use a social network at least once per month and will rise to more than three out of four internet users by 2016.

Source: eMarketer

Microsoft Announces Xbox 180 On Connectivity, Used Games

What a difference a day makes; or sometimes just a few hours. Yesterday our analysis of E3’s marketing by the Big Three noted that “While right now Microsoft’s policies are not as popular as Sony’s, it’s perfectly possible to change policies with a single press release. Microsoft can do that at any time…” Only a few hours later, Microsoft did just that, completely reversing its previously stated policies on connectivity and used games for the Xbox One.

In a blog post, Microsoft’s president of Interactive Entertainment Don Mattrick acknowledged the strong responses of fans to Microsoft’s Xbox One announcements, and particularly how much fans liked the freedom to play offline and the ability to lend, share and resell games. Mattrick then revealed that Microsoft has changed its approach to the Xbox One, stating:

“So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:

An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games — After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today — There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.”

So, the Xbox One will handle used games just like current consoles, and aside from an initial connection for setup, no connection is required. Problem solved, right Not completely. While the Xbox One is now on an even footing, policy-wise, with Sony’s PlayStation 4, Microsoft cannot ignore the damage that has already been done to the Xbox One’s image. There’s a lot of work left to be done. First of all, Microsoft has to make sure that this message is spread far and wide, and as much as possible reaches all of the gamers who had reacted badly to the initial policies. Hopefully Microsoft execs will be available for interviews (unlike the situation at E3, where executive interviews were almost non-existent) to drive home the points Mattrick just made.

An extensive PR effort right now is just the beginning. Whatever marketing plans Microsoft had made for the Xbox One, they need to be revised and enhanced. Microsoft should probably add a significant amount of the marketing spend, and get the campaign started earlier. Reports indicate that the PS4 is off to a strong lead in pre-orders, and Microsoft should aim to reverse that. The Xbox One already is at a disadvantage because of its higher price. Marketing is needed to convince customers that extra $100 is more than justified by the benefits of the hardware.

There are many different approaches Microsoft could take in its marketing campaign, but overcoming this early PR misstep is going to require substantial effort. Microsoft’s made a good start at correcting the problem; let’s hope for a thorough follow-through.

Sony Says PS4 Gives PS Vita A Boost

Sony’s UK managing director Fergal Gara has said that the PlayStation 4 will improve the PS Vita’s sales, giving it a “shot in the arm.’ Gara said the PS Vita was designed more as a companion to the PS4 than for the PS3.

“I don’t think it’s unfair to say it came into a very complex marketplace that probably wasn’t fully envisaged at the time development started,” Gara said, referring to the Vita’s launch in late 2011. “It borrows a lot from the mobile and tablet world, especially with touch control. And it borrows a fair amount from the PlayStation of old with the analogue sticks. And it’s a very worthy and better successor to PSP. Where it’s been difficult has been proving the companion status for PlayStation 3. The fact is it was developed for PS4, much more than PS3.”

Gara went on to note the PS Vita’s Remote Play ability with any PS4 title as an important feature.

“When you consider something like Watch Dogs will be available for PS Vita via the Remote Play functionality it’s very exciting,” said Gara. “And the fact the PS4 is coming out at a well-received price point means it’s not out of the question to own both.”

That seems a bit much, considering the PS4 will be $399 at launch, and the PS Vita is still $249. Gara wouldn’t comment on possible price cuts for the PS Vita or the PS3, though many analysts have suggested such cuts would be forthcoming before the holidays.