Facebook Acquires Oculus VR

Oculus VR is certainly heating up in the forthcoming virtual reality race, especially coming off a well-received appearance at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week. Little did we know, however, how rosy the company’s future would become.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, has announced the acquisition of Oculus VR and its 3D tech, in a deal that’s valuedat a whopping $2 billion ($400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of stock, plus an additional $300 million in cash and stock if certain goals are met). Zuckerberg wasted no time explaining the terms of the deal in a Facebook post, expressing his excitement in the acquisition.

“Our mission is to make the world more open and connected,” he said. “For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about. We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we’re in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences. This is where Oculus comes in.”

Oculus was quite pleased with the deal as well. “We are excited to work with Mark and the Facebook team to deliver the very best virtual reality platform in the world,” said co-founder and CEO of Oculus VR, Brendan Iribe, in a press release. “We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways. It is a transformative and disruptive technology that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it’s only just the beginning.”

No doubt Oculus VR could now easily contend with the likes of Sony and its Project Morpheus virtual reality set, amongst other competitors, with Facebook in its corner.

Source: Facebook

Disney Acquires Maker Studios

YouTube is doing big business these days, and no one knows that better than Maker Studios. First started in 2009, the network has managed to attain 380 million subscribers across all 55,000 of its channels, with 5.5 billion views a month.

Disney recently showed just how much it wants to be involved with the business, as it has acquired Maker Studios for roughly $500 million, with a $450 million earn-out if performance goals are met.

“Short-form online video is growing at an astonishing pace and with Maker Studios, Disney will now be at the center of this dynamic industry with an unmatched combination of advanced technology and programming expertise and capabilities,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger.

“It’s a very exciting combination of a very strong combination of networks on YouTube,” said Disney’s EVP of corporate strategy and business development, Kevin Mayer, about Maker. “The ecosystem is extremely large and growing and extremely relevant to the younger audiences, and those are very difficult to reach.”

This follows Disney’s other recent popular acquisitions, including LucasFilm, Pixar and Marvel.

Source: Adweek

Skylanders And McDonald’s Team Up

There’s no question that Skylanders has become one of the more popular franchises in the video game realm. Now, McDonald’s is taking advantage of that with a new promotion that will feature the toys front and center in a new Happy Meal program.

Activision Publishing has announced a team-up with McDonald’s USA LLC that will bring Skylanders toys to Happy Meals everywhere, running from March 28 through April 24.

In that time frame, customers can visit a nearby McDonald’s and collect one of eight unique toys inspired by the game Skylanders: Swap Force. In addition, coupons will also be offered, which will give customers $10 off the purchase of the game, or $1 off the price of select Skylanders toys.

So if you’re a Skylanders fan, you may want to make some dinner plans with McDonald’s sometime soon.

Source: Skylanders

Sony May Offer PS4 Pre-Loading

Pre-loading is a good business practice for game buyers, as it allows them to prepare their system for a game, only to get right into playing it once its official release time passes. Steam is quite known for this practice, and soon, Sony could get into the swing of it.

A representative from the company indicated that Sony is “considering” using pre-loading for its digital titles, and the team at Sucker Punch Studios (the makers of Infamous: Second Son) also stated that the company was looking into the practice. Although no date was given, Sony is quite aware of how highly requested pre-loading is.

“We know that it is the feature you’ve been asking for and we are considering it accordingly,” said the company rep. “We do not have any specific details to announced at this point in time, but stay tuned for upcoming announcements about system updates and added features.”

Could Sony be saving the feature for its press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June Perhaps.

Source: Polygon

Xbox One Digital Games On Sale

Microsoft continues to provide key bargains for Xbox One owners, as it has announced a new promotion for a pair of its most recent titles.

The Square Enix games Thief and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition are now available for $29.99 apiece, half off their usual $59.99 price. Note that these are for the digital versions only, and that both games require a good chunk of hard drive space to add to your library.

The promotion is good from March 28 through March 31st, after which the prices will go back up to $59.99.

In addition, Call of Duty: Ghosts from Activision is also being offered at a discount, with 33 percent off the regular game and 20 percent for the Hardened Edition. The same dates apply for the discount.

Source: MCV UK

Designer Versions Of Google Glass Coming

Not thrilled with Google Glass’ basic design Not to worry, as a pair of glasses manufacturers are looking to make more exotic versions of the technology.

Google has announced a partnership with eyewear manufacturer Luxottica Group that will lead to a redesign of the Glass headwear, specifically being developed under the Ray-Ban and Oakley brands. That should definitely make it more fashionable – and less obvious at looking like Google Glass.

“We live in a world where technological innovation has dramatically changed the way in which we communicate and interact in everything that we do,” said Luxottica CEO Andrew Guerra in a statement. “More importantly, we have come to a point where we now have both a technology push and a consumer pull for wearable technology products and applications.”

More details about the new designs should be revealed at a later date.

Source: PC Mag

OUYA Could Change Free Trial System

Currently, the business model for downloadable games on the OUYA Android-based console requires developers to offer free “trial” versions of its titles, so users can take a look before they buy. However, this model could soon change, leaving that decision in the hands of those who make the games.

On the company’s website, OUYA’s Bob Mills explained that a free-to-play model seemed like an “obvious” choice for the platform at first, but that it’s vital for “empowering” developers to make the decision on whether or not to have a demo. By dropping this requirement, they could focus more on the final product in general, making it better without having to worry about a side demo.

There’s a flip side to that coin, however, as this means consumers may have to plunk down money in order to access the game. Again, though, it’s up to the developers at hand.

“We’re clearing another roadblock in the pathway to publishing on the TV, and that means more great games will make it to OUYA,” said Mills.

Source: OUYA

This Week’s [a]list Jobs – March 26th


  • Turner Broadcasting, Director of Marketing, Cartoon Network – Atlanta, Georgia
  • Kabam, Director, User Acquisition Marketing – San Francisco, Calif.
  • Kabam, Senior Manager/Director of Marketing Insights and Analysis – San Francisco, Calif.
  • Amazon, Sr. Marketing Manager, Games – Seattle, Washington

[a]list daily is your source for the hottest job openings for senior management and marketing in games, entertainment and social media.

To see last week’s jobs, click here.

Four Vital Game Industry Trends

The Game Developers Conference represented a good opportunity to take a look at the status of the game industry. Indicators to note included the show’s attendance, the exhibitors, the sessions, and most importantly the conversations with industry veterans. There are four important trends now playing out across the game industry.

Game design is becoming more important, graphics less important.

This is not to say that game graphics are unimportant, but they are no longer the only important consideration in what makes a game sell — or even the most important consideration. For decades, graphics (and the code necessary to generate those graphics) consumed most of the development resources allocated to games. Games were marketed mostly only the strength of the graphics, and the game media focused on the pretty pictures.

Now that beautiful graphics have become easier to produce (through better tools and vastly more powerful hardware), they are more commonplace. Thus, gorgeous pictures are no longer a key differentiator for games. At the same time, as games become much less of a launch-oriented product and more of a long-term engagement with the player, the quality of the game play has become much more important.

The poster child for this trend is, of course, Minecraft. The graphics of the game actively discourage new players who haven’t heard of it, but the quality of the gameplay deeply engages players. We can also see the importance of gameplay (and therefore game design) by looking at Watch Dogs, which Ubisoft delayed by almost a year with a serious impact on their stock price and quarterly performance. Ubisoft made that choice not because the game wasn’t pretty enough; the game was delayed because it wasn’t fun enough. Similarly, The Witcher 3 has been pushed back a year by CD Projekt Red in order to refine the game play.

Free-to-play games make game design incredibly important, since the revenue from the game depends entirely on keeping players engaged for a long time. Graphics are not the key to long-term engagement — game design is what keeps players coming back. Smart publishers and developers will take care to make game designs as compelling as possible.

Brand is becoming more important, the platform less important.

Twenty years ago, or even ten years ago, games were strongly associated with the platform. ‘That’s a console game,’ or ‘That’s a PC game,’ or even ‘That’s a PlayStation game.’ Now publishers (especially the larger and more successful ones) strive to make the game brands the most important thing in the minds of consumers. Is FIFA a game confined to one platform Hardly, as Electronic Arts strives to provide some kind of FIFA experience on PCs, consoles, and mobile, and to keep players engaged with FIFA wherever and whenever they can.

Publishers are shying away from platform exclusives as much as possible. Almost all of the Sony and Microsoft and Nintendo exclusives for their consoles come from studios owned by the console manufacturer, or the development is funded by the console maker. Titanfall is a notable exception for which Microsoft no doubt paid handsomely, but even in that case EA has been pointing out that the deal only applies to this first version, hinting broadly that future versions of Titanfall may appear on other platforms.

Even console stalwart Call of Duty is now appearing on PC, with the Call of Duty Online title being developed for the Chinese market. King says it owes much of its success with Candy Crush Saga to the fact that the game appears on Facebook as well as mobile and progress is shared, so that players can pop in and play wherever and whenever they feel like it. Most important console titles are getting companion mobile apps which offer increasingly sophisticated gameplay.

The audience is becoming more important, the product less important.

Once games were hard to create, and only a few appeared each month. Now there are plenty of tools for game creation, and games can get created quickly by one or two people. The consequence, of course, is that there are now thousands of games released every month. Many of these games are really quite good, but we will only ever hear of a small number of them. Most will never find an audience, or the audience will never find them.

If you have developed a good audience, you can continue to deliver more virtual content to them as long as they are happy with the games. This can be virtual goods for existing games, or entirely new games. Why are so many mobile game companies beginning publishing programs Because they realize that they have an audience in the millions, and the right new games shown to that audience have an excellent chance of making money.

Traditional publishers are gradually discovering this as they make the shift from an audience of retail buyers (a handful of people that controlled access to retail chains) to individual game players. Now publishers have to develop a relationship with each gamer, and this means building up customer support and community management staff. New publishers have grasped this fact far more firmly; Wargaming CEO Victor Kislyi notes that half of his company’s employees deal directly with customers.

Building a good audience is more difficult than building a good product, and is arguably far more important in the long term. Developers and publishers at all levels need to embrace that knowledge, and devote time and resources accordingly. 

The product lifetime is becoming more important, the launch date less important.

It used to be the case that the day a product shipped to retail stores was by far the most important economic event in the lifetime of the product, accounting for 80 percent or more of the game’s lifetime revenue. These days, many of the biggest games in dollar volume never even appear in a retail store. Even defining a launch date is nearly impossible, as mobile games get “soft-launched” in New Zealand or Canada to refine the game play, and gradually get rolled out across the world.

Free-to-play games typically don’t even begin to make money until the players have been playing for weeks. Many games are seeing revenues increase from year to year. Riot Games has seen revenues from League of Legends grow by orders of magnitude from when the game first appeared. Who can even remember the launch date It’s only important as a historical fact, not as a financial one.

Console games are rapidly switching to a long-term revenue model rather than the ‘ship date is everything’ model. Increasing use of full game digital downloads means even console games will never be unavailable due to lack of shelf space. Downloadable content (DLC) is now standard for major console games, and we’ll be seeing more and more of it.

The games generating the most revenue and the most profits are games that have a long lifetime. Even such an old-school retail hit as Grand Theft Auto V continues to sell strongly, and will no doubt be available for years. Grand Theft Auto Online is also generating considerable revenue for TakeTwo, and will no doubt continue to do so for a long time to come if the company has its way.


The old adage “People forget about late, but they never forget about bad” is another way of underscoring the long-term importance of a game title (and the game design, for that matter). All of these four trends interact strongly, as good game design is critical to creating and sustaining a strong brand, a loyal audience, and a profitable long-term game. Embracing all of these trends is not easy, especially for long-time publishers that organized their workforce around very different market conditions. New times require new thinking and new structures, as well as new approaches to game design, marketing and monetization. It’s a time of vast change and vast opportunity for the game industry, and understanding these trends is vital to charting the best course for the future.