Schick Targets Gamers With Ubisoft Co-Op

Schick has tried game tie-ins before but it just launched its biggest effort to-date with a promotional partnership with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The Energizer-owned razor maker is introducing a version of its Hydro razor that includes free downloadable content for the upcoming game. To announce the promotion, Ubisoft gave Schick a high profile presence on the replica Jackdaw pirate ship it sailed into San Diego Bay for Comic Con, where it gave willing (and presumably scruffy) visitors free shaves courtesy of a crew of professional barbers.

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“Comic Con seemed like the perfect opportunity to announce the partnership,” Schick brand manager Stefanie Weintraub told [a]list daily. “Last year, Schick Hydro debuted the Hydro Power Select razor at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In order to demonstrate the razor’s unique innovations, we offered consumers and media custom shaves by professional barbers at the Schick booth.”

Weintraub added, “We know that Comic Con is another busy, crowded convention, and wanted to offer event goers a chance to get off their feet, relax, and receive an excellent shave with our Schick Hydro 5 razor. Consumers loved the program — in total our two barbers did more than 200 shaves in just two days, more than they typically do in an average week.”

Schick isn’t a stranger to video game promotions. It started dabbling in the gamer segment with Kuma Reality Games’ 2006 title DinoHunters, where an extensive co-op promotion had Schick product placement in the game, and had the companies partner on a series of online videos. Pairing up with Kuma, who has had more controversy than hit games and is best known for bringing the bloody battle for Fallujah in the Iraqi war out as a game, may have nicked Schick. It wasn’t until two years ago when the brand gave it another go with game promotions, offering free DLC with Schick product purchases for Sony’s Gran Turismo 5, Killzone 3 and Infamous 2.

Weintraub sees gamers as a great segment for Schick to target, and seems to hint that the Assassin’s Creed IV campaign may be a sign of more to come.

“As a brand, Schick has always targeted the areas we see as men’s passion points. For instance, with our series Clean Break on Fuel TV, we connected with guys through travel, adventure, and extreme sports. We know the guys who use Schick are also passionate gamers,” she said.

Ouya Owners Slow To Buy Games

The Ouya has been seeing steady sales in its first month, but new data shows that only 27 percent of Ouya owners actually shell out for games on the Android console. There are a good amount of games available, but the console features free demos for every game and, in some cases, games are completely free-to-play. The numbers seems to show that Ouya gamers seem content with playing free games and demos instead of upgrading to full versions.

These numbers don’t worry Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman. In an interview with The Verge, she said these numbers fall in line with the console’s free-to-play “try before you buy” model. There may be only an 8 percent attach rate to the paid versions of the top 20 games on the console, but Uhrman says social and mobile app devs “would kill” for these numbers on any new platform.

The biggest seller on the console so far is Matt Thorson’s game TowerFall, earning a total of $21,000 after Ouya’s cut. The console has only been released to the public for a month now, so it’s hard to call the console a success or a failure based on current statistics. In the coming months, Ouya will begin to see competition in the form of other Android consoles, and we’ll see if gamers spend a bit more of their hard-earned cash on software.

Source: IGN

Router Maker D-Link Sponsors eSports

Wireless router maker D-Link has joined forces with eSports team Evil Geniuses to launch the Star Craft II League’s Season One Tournament. The tournament will take place over two months and feature eight of the West’s top teams fighting it out to earn a place at the Dreamhack tournament in Bucharest, Romania this September.

The prize pool for Dreamhack stands at $10,000, but D-Link has stated that they will add $10 to the prize pool for every D-Link Gaming Router (DGL-5500) tournament viewers pre-order at by using the code DLNKGAME5.

“As players formulate their winning strategies in epic StarCraft battles, network connectivity and lag-free performance are critical to maintaining a competitive advantage,” noted Daniel Kelley, VP of marketing for D-Link.

The growth of eSports has made sponsorships an excellent promotional opportunity, and one that D-Link is connecting to directly with its router aimed at hard-core gamers.  We’ll be watching to see if the cross-promotion boosts direct sales for D-Link.

Source: D-Link press release

Chromecast Quickly Ends Free Netflix Offer

Google announced last Wednesday that its new $35 Chromecast dongle would come bundled with three free months of Netflix, and orders poured in immediately. Demand was so enormous that Google took less than a day to cancel the promotion.

“Due to overwhelming demand for Chromecast devices since launch, the 3-month Netflix promotion (which was available in limited quantities) is no longer available,” Google said in a statement.

Simple math showed why orders poured in. The three free months of Netflix applied even if you were already a Netflix subscriber, making the Chromecast an $11 device for existing Netflix users. The deal will still be honored for early buyers: Customers who received a promo code from Google after ordering will still be getting free Netlfix, and anyone who purchased a Chromecast from Amazon before 5:31 pm last Wednesday also gets their free Netflix months.

While the promotion didn’t last long, it certainly brought massive attention to Chromecast.  We just wish we were quicker with our own purchase.

Source: TechCrunch

Slay French Vampires In Blood Masque

1890’s Paris is a dangerous place in Square Enix’s Blood Masque, having been overrun by vampires that attack the living. Now, a group of hunters band together to fight back. In this game, users input their own face and the faces of their friends to personally demolish the undead. Blood Masque is available now on iOS.  Check out the trailer for this game below.

‘Cloudberry Kingdom’: One Crazy Platformer

Cloudberry Kingdom looks like a very tough challenge even for an experienced gamer. Harkening back to the heyday of the side-scrolling platformer, Cloudberry Kingdom has players creating a character then taking to some insane platforming. Screens are filled with spikes, lasers, fire, rockets, and almost anything deadly imaginable.

Cloudberry Kindom will be available July 31 on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC, and you can view video of the game below.

Final Fantasy XIV Dungeon Crawl

Building anticipation for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, this journey shows the dark underside of the world of Eorzea. From the dank depths of Sastasha to the Copperbell Mines, players get a glimpse of the beautifully rendered  yet threatening places that await when the game is released next month for PC and PS3.  Watch this latest trailer in the embed below.

Twitter Puts Tweets In Users’ Mouths

Twitter found itself in an embarrassing situation this week, for which it has now apologized. The social network posted an image of fake tweets on its blog to demonstrate users’ positive reactions to its new advertising opportunity, Amplify, according SFGate.

That might not have been such a big deal, except for one thing: the company used real Twitter users’ handles, profile pictures and all, to manufacture the fake tweets with zero approval from the unsuspecting Tweeters. Twitter showcased the tweets lauding the TV ads as an example of how brands can monitor consumer conversation about their broadcast spots.

“What is the song in the new @barristabar commercial I love it!!” said one of the examples, from user @Neil_Gottlieb.

“I wish I could make fancy lattes like in the @barristabar commercial,” read another, from@WilliamMazeo.

A third user, @subhash_tewari, was also used for a bogus quote.

Unsurprisingly, when SFGate contacted the users about their photos and handles being snagged to sell ads, Gottlieb and Mazeo weren’t pleased. In fact, Gottlieb is reportedly consulting an attorney.

Twitter’s official advertising account publicly apologized on Wednesday, but that doesn’t seem to be enough:


The blushed company has since removed the fake testimonials and put another apology at the top of its original blog post, reading:

“An earlier version of this blog post included an image with mock Tweets from real users of our platform. This was not OK. Once we became aware of this mistake we took it down immediately. We deeply apologize to the three users included in the earlier images.It’s unclear why those three users were selected to advertise the bogus tweets. None of them have particularly large followings or appear to be influential users. We’ve contacted Twitter for further explanation, and will update if we hear back.”

Source: SFGate


Analyzing Zynga: ‘Volatility’ And Change Ahead

Zynga’s earnings call revealed that the company is still struggling to regain its mojo. Revenue dropped 31 percent for the quarter compared to last year, from $332.5 million to $231 million, with a net loss of $15.8 million. New CEO Don Mattrick was straightforward. “We have a lot of hard work in front of us and as we reset, we expect to see more volatility in our business than we would like over the next two to four quarters.” In other words, make sure your seat belts are fastened. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. The challenges ahead for Zynga include execution, products and even marketing.

First, a look at the numbers defining Zynga’s position. The non-GAAP numbers (which Zynga uses to give a clearer picture of the business) show bookings at only $187.6 million, compared to $301.6 million last year. The non-GAAP numbers show a loss of $6.1 million for the quarter, versus a profit last year of $4.6 million, an almost $11 million swing in the wrong direction. Perhaps more disturbing is the drop in Daily Active Users (DAU): from 72 million last year to 39 million this year, down 45 percent. Monthly Unique Payers (MUP) decreased from 4.1 million to 1.9 million, a 53 percent drop. Those are the people who keep the cash flowing in, remember.

There are some positives among all the negatives. Combined bookings for FarmVille and FarmVille 2 grew 29 percent over last year, showing that new life is possible in old franchises. Zynga’s new games Solstice Arena and Running With Friends received Apple’s ‘Editor’s Choice’ awards, the first time that’s happened. Importantly, Facebook was down to contributing only 68 percent of total revenue, reducing Zynga’s reliance on that channel. It would be better if that was due more to rising mobile revenue than to falling Facebook revenue, though. The company has $1.5 billion in cash, so there’s plenty to keep it going through a few lean quarters.

Mattrick plans to spend the next 90 days “under the hood” going through the product pipeline and trying to improve the slate of upcoming products. An analyst raised the question of whether Zynga had too big a staff, noting that King has higher revenues with 400 people than Zynga does with 2300. “Imagine if we can start getting the leverage out of our 2,300 people that Kings is getting out of their 400 people,” Mattrick replied. Given that mobile is where Zynga is focused, and the market for mobile games is growing rapidly, this is a wise choice. Adding good staff is one of the toughest tasks for game companies, and it would be foolish to cut massive numbers of staff now only to try and hire them back next year. There’s plenty of time to cut staff further if new products don’t perform well enough. Zynga’s got an enormous cash cushion, and this is a good use of it.

One key decision has already been made by Mattrick and Pincus. Zynga is not moving forward with real-money gaming in the US, deciding its focus is better spent on mobile and social games. That’s probably a good choice given that real-money gaming in the US would be a state-by-state slog through legal barriers.

Mattrick is looking to improve Zynga’s performance from its existing games and ensure that new games get into the top ten. Zynga Poker was called out as an example of one of Zynga’s hits that needs help, and Mattrick is already putting some of Zynga’s best talent on the job. We’ll probably see more shifting of resources in the next few months.

The biggest challenge of all for Mattrick may be marketing. Shrinking audience numbers can be revived to some extent, and perhaps completely, by coming out with the right games (or making the right improvements to existing games). Viral hits are the magic potion that has powered Zynga’s growth, and once Zynga had a large audience it could produce new games to serve up to that audience without having to worry about marketing.

That all made sense when Zynga’s games were all casual, and generally appealed to the same audience. Things are starting to change with Zynga putting more effort into mid-core games like Solstice Arena, a fast multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) that’s aimed squarely at fans of League of Legends. That’s not going to be interesting to a large segment of the Words With Friends audience. The smaller, more dedicated gamers that Zynga is targeting with some of its games will need some marketing attention in order to reach them effectively. Those gamers tend to monetize much better, but Zynga’s going to have to make a marketing effort to build that audience rapidly.

For future success, Zynga has to change the basics of what made it big. The company grew rapidly because Facebook allowed unlimited game messaging, giving Zynga games a boost in a brand-new marketing channel for free. Rapid introduction of new games, often by doing versions of whatever was popular in the market, was the appropriate strategy. Zynga grew rapidly tracking with Facebook’s rapid growth, until Facebook slowed down, started taking 30 percent of game revenue, and cracked down on viral game messaging. Now Zynga’s got to be leading the pack, not ‘fast following,’ and that’s a big change that Mattrick has to implement.

Investors certainly haven’t been happy with Zynga’s news, driving the stock down by over 15 percent in early trading. It does seem reasonable, though, to give Mattrick some time to make changes and see how it affects the company’s position. Mattrick is a seasoned game executive who really, really likes to win. Rumors are that he turned down a shot at being EA’s new CEO for the Zynga job. Being CEO of EA would have been tough, but much less volatile. Mattrick sees potential in Zynga that perhaps outstrips what he thinks could be in EA’s future. We should know better by the end of this year if Mattrick will be able to actualize Zynga’s potential.

Xbox One Opens Up To Indies

In yet another stunning policy change, Microsoft has made it easier for indie publishers to develop for the Xbox One. Game Informer‘s sources say that developers will be able to make the call on their games’ release dates and pricing. Additionally, Microsoft is looking to make its certification process more like iTunes, with a targeted 14-day window from submission to approval. The standard Xbox One will be able to be converted into a debug console that allows for game development.

Microsoft is also making the certification process much easier. Examination of game code will be much less strict, mainly covering TOS breaches and game-breaking bugs. Microsoft’s Xbox corporate VP Marc Whitten told Engadget: “Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development . . . This means self-publishing. This means Kinect, the cloud, achievements. This means great discoverability on Xbox Live.” He also said that more information would be forthcoming at Gamescom this August.

At E3 last month, Sony was very vocal about its support for indie developers, showing off a series of indie titles that would be available for the system. With this move, Microsoft is also trying to win indie developers’ affections and become more competitive with Sony’s system. Hopefully this news will translate into a more acceptable environment for indies on Microsoft’s new console.

Source: GamesIndustry International