It’s A Serious ‘Need For Speed’

Need for Speed will be the next game franchise to get a movie version, and for Breaking Bad fans it’s noteworthy as the first big role for Aaron Paul after the TV series.

EA’s long running racing franchise has a tradition of tongue-in-cheek story bits, but as the film trailer suggests, the Need for Speed movie is aiming to be pretty serious stuff.

Twitter Snags NFL For Multi-Screen Program

Twitter has reeled in one of the biggest content providers imaginable for its Amplify multi-screen program aimed at live TV viewers, partnering with the NFL for the remainder of the 2013-2014 season. The deal provides Twitter with NFL content from live games, including in-game highlights from NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football, that’s custom packaged and accessible to users around the world. The exclusive partnership with a social network is the first of its kind for the NFL.

Twitter announced Amplify this past spring, aiming to leverage how it’s now the social platform of choice for live TV viewers who want to communicate online about what they’re watching. Many popular TV events end up trending as hashtags on Twitter. The social net’s own analytics provider Bluefin estimates that 95 percent of online conversation around live TV happens on Twitter.

Amplify is meant to monetize that traffic more effectively. It creates formal partnerships with live content providers and draws advertisers to sponsor those streams as they take place. Sports are a major draw for the program, with the NBA, Major League Baseball, PGA, and NCAA college football and basketball listed as Amplify partners when it was announced. The deal with NFL is the first to involve content distribution over the course of an entire season, which includes the postseason and Super Bowl XLVIII.

NFL and Twitter are now said to be arranging sponsors for their program. Verizon Wireless, already an exclusive mobile partner to the NFL, has signed on. Adweek has reported that McDonald’s is expected to announce its participation in the coming days.

“With consumption habits shifting to mobile devices and companion experiences alongside broadcasts of our games, this partnership will provide us an additional channel to reach those users which is completely complementary to our flagship mobile product, NFL Mobile from Verizon,” NFL Media COO Brian Rolapp said in a press release.

With statements like that, and now its first social network deal, the NFL just might be getting closer to providing live games online. Prior to the start of this season, Google chief Larry Page and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell were said to have held an informal meeting. On the agenda was the possibility of airing live out-of-market games online, presumably on YouTube, once the league’s exclusivity deal with DirecTV expires after next season. While nothing came of it publicly, the signs point to recognition in the league that future growth may lie outside of the confines of broadcast television, and that may be especially true for its aspirations to reach a global audience.

Source: NFL

No, iOS 7 Update Is Not Waterproof

With the release of the new iOS 7 operating system for iPads and iPhones last week, many users couldn’t wait to take advantage of its many new features. Unfortunately, some took one a little too literally.

A fake ad, seen above, indicated that updating to iOS 7 would make your device waterproof, stating, “In an emergency, a smart-switch will shut off the phone’s power supply and corresponding components to prevent any damage to your iPhone’s delicate circuitry.”

Unfortunately, a few owners may have decided to try this out, and as a result, damaged their phones. It was a fabrication created through the pranksters at 4chan. It’s not entirely clear if anyone really did damage their phone because of this pseudo-ad — let’s hope no one did.

Repeat: the iPhone is not waterproof, no matter what operating system it’s running on.

Source: Adweek

PlayStation 4 Bundles Coming To Europe

Sony Computer Entertainment of Europe wants to make sure its users have a lot of options when it comes to picking up a new PlayStation 4 system later this year.

Along with the base model, the company has confirmed that it’s also planning a new bundle for the system, one that will sell for the same €499 price as the Xbox One. It’ll include the system, DualShock 4 controller and hook-ups, along with an additional controller and a copy of the first-person shooting game Killzone: Shadow Fall, which is on track for a day-one release alongside the system.

“I can officially confirm that the answer is yes, (Sony will bring the bundle to the UK),” said SCEE’s Fergal Gara. “It’ll be similarly benchmarked in euro equivalent. PlayStation 4 is €349 and €399, so it will be the same equivalent.

“It will be no more than a tenner either way (of the Xbox One €429 UK price), depending on what conversion rate we use on the given day.”

Currently, there are no plans to bring the bundle to the U.S. market, though the main system will still launch on these shores November 15.

Source: IGN

Dyson’s Flying Machines

Dyson, a company that specializes in making parts for vacuums and fans, has decided to try something a little different for its next project – flying machines.

The company recently challenged employees to build remote-controlled drones from vacuum parts, ones that could complete a custom-built obstacle course. Indeed, many employees were up to the task, even if some of the models were, well, less than successful.

Drone-style quadcopters, ornthopters and other designs took the course on, some with better results than others. You can watch the devices in action and get an idea of how the experiments went.

Source: Fastcolabs

UK Trade Office Puts F2P Games On Notice

The UK’s Office of Fair Trading has a message to game developers – tone down the high-pressure monetization techniques, or else.

The OFT recently began an investigation earlier this year looking into apps and games aimed at children. After 38 different games were looked over, the office managed to come up with a list of eight “principles” for developers to follow.

“This is a new and innovative industry that has grown very rapidly in recent years, but it needs to ensure it is treating consumers fairly and that children are protected,” said Cavendish Elithorn, executive director of the OFT.

“The way the sector has worked with us since we launched our investigation is encouraging, and we’ve already seen some positive changes to its practices. These principles provide a clear benchmark for how games makers should be operating. Once they are finalized, we will expect the industry to follow them, or risk enforcement action.

“This is a global industry so we’re also sharing our principles with our enforcement partners worldwide with the goal of achieving some common international standards.”

Such apps that use heavy practices of monetization include the above-pictured Where’s My Water 2, a free-to-play game that requires users to either wait for more energy to play rounds, or pay a fee to unlock additional energy.

Source: GamesIndustry International

Inside Sony And Taco Bell’s PS4 Promo

Taco Bell is giving fans another reason to Live Más – and now Play Más – by offering the “Play the Future First” promotion in conjunction with Sony. From September 26 through November 10, fans will get the first and only chance to win the highly-anticipated PlayStation 4 before it hits shelves nationwide on November 15.

The promotion is straightforward in its simplicity: To enter for a chance to win, customers can buy a Taco Bell $5 Buck Box (which includes a Crunchwrap Supreme, a Burrito Supreme, a Crunchy Taco and medium drink) and then text in the unique code provided on the box. One prize pack, featuring a PS4, a copy of Knack, and a one-year membership to PlayStation Plus, will be awarded every 15 minutes throughout the promotion.

“Our fans enjoy gaming, and gamers eat Taco Bell, so teaming up with PlayStation for the second consecutive year to give consumers first access to the next generation system before it hits retail was an exciting decision for us,” said Chris Brandt, chief marketing officer of Taco Bell. SCEA and Taco Bell partnered in 2012 to give fans the chance to win a PS Vita before it launched in North America on Feb. 22, 2012. With the upcoming launch of the PS4 system, the “Play the Future First” promotion kicks off a multi-year partnership between SCEA and Taco Bell, according to the press release.

“Following the positive response from the gaming community for the PS Vita campaign last year, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Taco Bell to tap into the excitement as we prepare to launch PS4 on November 15,” said Guy Longworth, senior vice president, brand marketing at SCEA. “PlayStation and Taco Bell both have some of the most loyal fans in the world, and this promotion rewards them by providing an extraordinary opportunity to get their hands on a PS4 before it hits stores.”

The [a]list daily spoke with Will Bortz, senior manager of brand partnerships & sponsorships at Taco Bell, to find out more about the promotion.

The scale of the promotion is bound to generate some great interest among fans eager to get their hands on a PlayStation 4. Often such promotions will give away one or a few consoles, but this promotion is on an entirely different level. “One PS4 will be given out every 15 minutes from Sept. 26 to Nov. 10, which is approximately 4,000 PS4s,” said Bortz.

Better still, the lucky winners will be getting their consoles before the retail launch of the PS4. “The winners of the PS4 prize packs will be shipped to verified winners on or around Nov. 12, 2013 before the highly-anticipated console will be available in stores nationwide on Nov. 15, 2013,” confirmed Bortz. Winners will likely get a few days of gaming before any of their friends can possibly get their hands on a PS4, adding to the thrill of victory.

Taco Bell marketing will feature the promotion in a TV spots created specifically for the promotion. “A 30-second television spot, entitled “Play The Future First,” features an anxious troop of gamers preparing to fight an epic robot battle set in bombed-out Europe,” said Bortz. “But they arrive only to learn that the “game” has already been won by four guys who got their PS4’s early, thanks to the $5 Box at Taco Bell. Developed by Deutsch LA, the spot will run on cable, sports and network television.”

The marketing will also engage users through social media. “Unique online experiences will also engage the brands’ millions of social fans with more chances to win in addition to radio and in-store marketing,” noted Bortz.

Future promotions in this multi-year partnership will likely deal with multiple Sony products. “Taco Bell fans love gaming and gamers go to Taco Bell, so the partnership with Sony is very exciting,” Bortz said. “We plan to continue bringing innovation through partnerships to give more to our consumers every day. We will look to use hardware and software news to center our promotions around.”

Taco Bell sees interesting potential for marketing opportunities inside the PlayStation Network, but they aren’t willing to tip their hand in advance. “Innovation is key in everything we do at Taco Bell, and partnering with a brand like PlayStation provides many exciting opportunities for our consumers,” Bortz said. In other words, we’re not talking about it yet. Still, with a multi-year partnership there are certainly opportunities to do some innovative marketing with an interactive platform like the PlayStation hardware in all its various forms. Seize the opportunity, Taco Bell – greatness awaits for creative marketers.


PopCap’s Powerhouse Property

If becoming EA’s biggest mobile game launch in history less than a week after release isn’t enough of a testament to the popularity of Plants vs. Zombies 2, a controversy stirred up in the press this week seals it. EA head of labels Frank Gibeau is alleged to have said in a closed door meeting that Apple gave EA “a truckload of money” to delay the game’s release on Android. That’s according to a report in Giant Bomb, and both EA and Apple have stepped forward to vehemently deny the claim.

The allegations are EA’s to deal with. For PopCap, it’s really just another sign that the game maker has struck franchise gold. In mid-August, Plants vs. Zombies 2 set the record for an EA mobile game launch with 16 million downloads after only five days in the iOS App Store. Earlier this month, PopCap updated the figure to 25 million downloads. The original game in the series is widely regarded as one of the first major hits for iPhone games. Yet by comparison, Plants vs. Zombies sold about 300,000 units in the first nine days after launching on iOS, generating about $1 million in sales with its $3.99 price point.

PopCap took their sweet time with the sequel by digital game development standards, and not surprisingly made a big change by forgoing the premium pricing model to bring it out as a free-to-play game. According to Tony Leamer, franchise business director at PopCap , children would come up to their booths at trade shows to give them guff about taking too long with it. Now, with PvZ 2 a critical and commercial success, a console game on the horizon, and a growing drive to expand the IP into merchandise and other forms of entertainment, it feels like PopCap is sitting on a billion dollar franchise.

We had a chance to talk with Leamer to reflect on the sequel’s success, which had to have surpassed expectations at PopCap and EA. It’s hard to believe anyone would have the gall to forecast a record breaking launch at a publisher with EA’s legacy. Leamer also gave us a glimpse about what’s ahead for the franchise.

“Building Plants vs. Zombies as an entertainment brand is a huge focus for us,” Leamer told us. “It starts with great games, we can never lose focus on creating amazing game experiences. Any game experience that has the Plants vs. Zombies name on it is going to be something we need to be proud of and excited about, so it starts with that. You’ve seen the first forays into developing this as a broader entertainment brand as we move towards merchandising, so you’re seeing the first iterations of that.”

No, you can’t click on this.  But you can find it on PopCap’s site

But he added, “We’re not going to just slap the Plants vs. Zombies logo on every single kind product and just get it out there. We really want stuff that we think fits well with the brand, is going to resonate with fans and reflect the brand well. And then as we move to elevate the Plants vs. Zombies status as an entertainment brand, there are lots of opportunities out there in other media that transcends games where we’re having lots of discussions. Lots of fun stuff on the horizon, that’s very much a focus for us going forward.”

The decision to make the game free to play was apparently an easy one for PopCap. Outside of obvious changes in the mobile game market and challenges with premium pricing in app stores, the game maker saw it as an opportunity to grow the franchise even beyond its massive fan base. There aren’t exact figures readily available on lifetime sales of the first PvZ, but PopCap had labeled it as their biggest hit ever even before releasing the iPhone version, an impressive feat given a library of hits that include Peggle, Zuma and BejeweledPvZ ultimately released on nearly ten platforms, expanding beyond its PC and iOS debuts to Android, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and handheld consoles Nintendo DS and PlayStation Vita.

For the first game, PopCap and EA undertook a campaign to promote it unlike anything seen before for a digital game franchise. Rovio usually gets credited for being a pioneer in mobile game branding for making Angry Birds into a global entertainment brand, but PvZ set the bar first. ([a]list daily publisher Ayzenberg has an extensive case study on the first game’s branding campaign.) In one respect, PvZ’s campaign could be seen as a traditional game launch, given that it was based on driving a one-time purchase with a set price point during its release window. The approach with the free-to-play sequel is based on broader brand building strategy, going back to how PopCap and EA see long tail monetization for PvZ in growing the fan base and the franchise.

Leamer and his moneymakers

Leamer explained the thinking: “As far as taking [PvZ 2] free to play, that’s something that we’ve absolutely embraced. The reason we went in that direction is our ability to reach the biggest audience is in the free to play space. When you remove that purchase barrier, our ability to get the game in the hands of as many people as possible goes way up.”

On the game side of things, PopCap’s most interesting product in the pipeline for the property is Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, a first person shooter headed to PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One in spring of next year. The game made a great impression at E3 this past summer, earning ten best of show awards according to PopCap. As for PvZ 2 expanding into other platforms, the recent controversy with Apple and Android aside, Leamer painted it as a calculated inevitability.

“If you look at the way PopCap develops games, we start with one platform and get it right,” Leamer said. “With this game we started with mobile, and specifically iOS. That’s only the beginning. As you saw with Plants vs. Zombies, the first game came out on PC first. It wasn’t even on mobile until almost a year later. The approach we’re taking with PvZ 2 is similar, where we want to get it right on the first platform, make sure we’re delivering a great experience. But could we see this experience extending to lots of other platforms going forward? Absolutely.”

GameStop Sees Targeted Marketing On The Rise

At the GameStop Expo recently the [a]list daily sat down with Mike Hogan, GameStop’s executive vice president of strategic business & brand development (and formerly the company’s chief marketing officer), to talk about what GameStop is seeing for game marketing this fall and beyond.

Of course, the big buzz right now at GameStop is a combination of new consoles and a wave of highly anticipated games for both existing and new consoles. “Obviously with the new consoles people are excited about Call of Duty, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed,” Hogan said. “Hopefully there will be something for everyone, or almost everyone. What probably excites me the most is the amount of new IP you’re seeing in the category. It could be Titanfall, it could be Watch_Dogs, it could be a number of things. Seeing companies investing tens of millions of dollars in new IP is a great sign of health. It means people are bullish.”

GameStop sees their buy-sell-trade model as a very important part of the strategy for the fall. “The number one reason fro not having reserved a new console is ‘I don’t have enough money,’” said Hogan. GameStop is intent on solving that problem by helping consumers unlock the billions of dollars of value they have in hardware and software that can be traded in for credit.

“We’re going to be very aggressive around value,” Hogan continued. “You can trade to get your console, and you can trade your smartphone or your iPad. Getting people to think about the electronics that you have around the house as currency that you can actually spend is a big thing. We’ve actually produced an ad that hasn’t run yet that has that message. This is a fall where we know there’s lots of things that people want, so if we make consoles affordable to millions more people than would otherwise buy them, that’s great for consumers and it’s great for us.”

The biggest change in marketing that Hogan sees is the transformation that data is causing. “Data is transforming everything,” Hogan said. “It’s the ability to take the data and attach it to an individual consumer. What you’re seeing is an evolution of the marketing mix. You’ll see more targeted media, you’ll see less mass media. You’ll see increased digital.”

What Hogan sees is this evolution taking place not just online, but at retail. “There’s a lot of targeted marketing that actually happens in the store,” Hogan explained. “If you come into the store and you’re a PowerUp member, I know who you are and what you’ve bought. It tells me things like the last five titles that you bought. Rather than saying ‘hey, we sell digital content’ I can say ‘we see you bought Madden, did you like the game Did you know there’s additional digital content ‘ Even in store what’s happening is customization of the experience.”

The overall trend for game marketing is an increase in spending. “From a development perspective, people are investing more and more in the category, and I think marketing goes hand in hand with that,” Hogan said. “There’s a lot of good indicators of that – we can look at Game Informer magazine, advertising there tends to be a good leading indicator. Not only do we see increased spend, but we see publishers doing the same thing we’re doing. They’re spending a lower percentage of their budget on traditional mass-media vehicles and more of it on targeted things, like programs at GameStop. We can touch the consumer at the point of sale, we’ve got people there that can make recommendations, we’ve got an email base with 25 million members, and so on.”

“There’s definitely more investment in the category, and they’re getting data,” Hogan continued. “Everybody’s getting smarter about saying I’m going to put my dollars where I get the biggest return. So dollars are are coming out of vehicles where you don’t have hard data to demonstrate impact, and they’re going into things where you can demonstrate impact.”

GameStop is giving its marketing partners more data, but of course there’s a level of caution there. “We never give individual consumer data,” said Hogan. “But in terms of a targeted program impact, being able to go to publishers and say we’re going to reach out to this group of people based on these criteria, absolutely. You can imagine for a Disney Infinity versus a Call of Duty you’re talking a radically different market you’re going after. The ability to slice and dice that is a pretty big deal.”

Speaking of that Hogan doesn’t view the competition between Disney Infinity and Skylanders as a bad thing. “They’re both going to win and that’s good for the category,” said Hogan. “If you remember Guitar Hero and Rock Band, these were new things that took the category to a group of consumers that hadn’t been as involved before. Obviously Activision was first out of the chute with Skylanders, and what Disney is doing is a recognition of the legitimacy of that category. Toys in that age target audience is doing well. I would say you’ll see even more entries into that category.”

US Trails In Per Capita Ad Spend

To all the Don Draper wannabes out there, make your next drink a double. The US no longer rules the roost in at least one ad spend category. A recent estimate of per capita advertising spending by eMarketer ranks the US fourth, topped by Norway and the UK respectively in the number three and number two spots. Who’s number one Well crikey, that goes to Australia.

eMarketer found that advertisers in Australia spent a whopping 44 percent more per person on average than what the US spends. In fact, the top three spenders including UK and Norway were neck to neck in terms of dollars allocated, while the US and remaining countries in the lower two-thirds of the list trailed well behind.

The figures can be misleading. Statista, which charted eMarketer’s findings, points out that the US is still considered the world’s biggest advertising market in total dollars spent. Together with Canada, which ranked fifth in per capita spending, the North American market accounts for nearly 39 percent of the global ad market. Despite seemingly dominating eMarketer’s list, Western Europe accounts for 24 percent, trailing even Asia Pacific which accounts for just under 29 percent.

Sources: eMarketer and Statista