China Telecom To Sell Xbox One

Microsoft is getting very serious about selling Xbox One consoles in China, as the company has cut a deal with China’s leading fixed-line broadband operator, China Telecom, to sell the Xbox One console beginning in September. This is a major breakthrough for Microsoft, locking up the leading broadband provider in China while Sony is still in the early stage s of bringing the PlayStation 4 to China.

The Xbox 360 has sold reasonably well on the black market in Chna and in other Asian countires, but the recent lifting of the official ban on consoles in China brings a chance for Microsoft to come out of the shadows. According to the Wall Street Journal, “China Telecom will be the exclusive carrier partner of the Xbox One in China and consumers will be able ‘to enjoy the games and entertainment experience at home’ by signing up for the company’s broadband subscription contract, the carrier said in a statement Thursday.”

China Telecom has been buys expanding its service offerings beyond it basic voice plans for phones to a wide range of higher value services, like e-commerce, online learning and medical services, via its broadband connections. China Telecom does have over 100 million broadband subscribers, so there’s a solid market base for Microsoft to go after.

The price of the console in China hasn’t been announced. Microsoft will be producing the consoles in Shanghai, under an agreement with Best TV announced earlier this year. Clearly price will be a major hurdle for Microsoft to overcome in China, but there’s now a substantial middle class in China with a fair amount of disposable income. What sort of games will be available on the Xbox One in China> How well will these games be localized. Will Microsoft try to bring some of the biggest hits on PC in China to the Xbox One? So far, Microsoft isn’t saying, but perhaps we’ll hear more as the launch date approaches.

Source: Wall Street Journal

‘Super Zero’ Takes On Stereotypes

“As a fan of sci-fi/comic-book/gaming culture there has always been something that I never thought was accurately represented,” said Super Zero creator Mitch Cohen to [a]listdaily. “Characters seem to be either larger than life, stereotypical caricatures, or gifted with powers that make them utterly unrelatable.”

Set in Los Angeles, this ‘super hero’ takes on a zombie apocalypse with nothing left to lose. Watch the film below because you won’t want to miss Cohen’s celebration of regular Joe gamer.

For updates, check out Super Zero on Facebook.

The VR Battle Gets Real

The Virtual Reality market is anything but real yet, though that hasn’t stopped companies from spending billions of dollars to compete in it. Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR closed recently, and that’s a good moment to take a look at this business where we still don’t have products on the market. There’s no lack of excitement among various companies, though, and the maneuvering is already beginning to be in position to grab the biggest part of the VR market — however big the overall market will be.

Google’s entry is a low-tech one so far, with the Cardboard VR device announced at Google I O in June. Sure, it’s more than a little tongue-in-cheek, but it actually does provide some of the elements of a VR experience — for a very small price, and to pretty good reviews. We already know Google is experimenting with computing devices on your face with Google Glass — it’s not too much of a leap to think the company is considering a step into VR, where there’s so much excitement. Google’s Project Tango has obvious applications to VR. Maybe we’ll see something more come from this in the VR space.

Meanwhile, Samsung is reportedly working with Oculus VR to get help with Samsung’s “Gear VR” headset, which uses a mobile device as the screen instead of a dedicated headset. Engadget says they’ve heard “very positive things” about the Samsung device. “Though our sources only experienced a few demos, they repeatedly described them as ‘impressive,’ specifically with the caveat ‘for a phone,'” noted Engadget.

Sony’s Project Morpheus ha sattracted a lot of attention from its slick design and use of PlayStation Move controllers, as well as the fact that it’s powered by a PlayStation 4. Still, even Sony admits that it’s ultimately about the experiences the hardware can deliver (in their case, they’re looking at games), and the company is working to develop some games to see just how compelling an experience this can deliver.

The target that Oculus VR is shooting for is on a different level, though — similar to what Michael Abrash discussed for Valve, before he left to join Oculus as chief scientist (see above). The headset would need to be connected to a PC, because the amount of computing required is substantial for the graphics specifications that Oculus is looking to hit. It’s going to make the headset something that’s not self-contained, at least not for a while. However, the Oculus is looking more substantial now that Facebook is throwing its weight behind it. Oculus now has a publishing effort, led by veteran Jason Rubin, and that should result in some excellent content for the device.

For now, though, we still have no idea of the pricing for VR hardware or software, or even when the devices will begin to hit the market. It’s something to watch, but it’s not going to have an effect this year. 2015 may be a different story.

Source: Engadget

Microsoft Tries A New Direction For Gaming: HTML 5

Classic board games are seeing a resurgence in recent years, and part of that is due to the increasing availability of electronic versions of popular board games. One of the most popular board games is Settlers of Catan, which is an enormous bestseller in its native Germany as well as in North America. While there are excellent iOS and Android versions of the game, it’s not available on Windows Phone. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team decided to rectify that with Catan Anytime, and HTML 5 app that you can play on any modern browser.

You’ll need to find at least two friends to play, though, since the game has no AI players handy. Also, it’s not yet equipped to match you up with random online players, hence the need to find some friends before you start. It’s asynchronous, so you take a turn and wait for your opponent’s turns to arrive via email.

The game does have some advantages over the board game version, in addition to the portability and near-universal ability to run on most devices. Automatic trading is built in, so you don’t have to get repetitive queries from other players about trade items. The dice rolls and numbers have been simplified for this version, although Microsoft plans to add full Official Catan rules in August. Currently, you can chat in-game by using Skype.

Why is Microsoft doing this, aside from a desire to see a great board game played on Windows Phone It’s a nice marketing tool to attract attention to the once-mighty Internet Explorer, which continues to lose market share. Plus, this showcases the capabilities of HTML 5 for cross-platform use and rapid development. It’s an interesting experiment for Microsoft, and potentially a useful way to increase support for Windows Phone. Will we see more such experiments, this will be an interesting space to watch.

Source: GigaOm

Streaming Games Success Is Elusive

We’ve been hearing about the potential for game streaming for years, and the concept has progressed from incredulity to technology to business. Yet, for all its potential, streaming games (in all its various forms) has yet to make a significant impact on the game industry. New players are entering the market, and old ones are re-tooling their offerings, but it’s not clear that market will ever respond positively. The technological issues, immense as they are, have largely been solved. What remains are much more difficult problems — fundamental game design issues, and very difficult business model issues to sort out.

First, it’s necessary to look at the technology. Essentially, game streaming means that you take the video output from a game device (a PC or a console, typically) and send it to another device with a screen (for instance, a smartphone), where the player makes their control inputs as they normally would. Those inputs get sent back to the game, which processes the result and sends back the output to the player. It’s just what happens when you play any game on a PC or a console — the difference being that you can be a thousand miles away from the PC, and the game is still playable. Also, you can theoretically play a PC game that requires a huge desktop box on your tiny portable device.

That sounds like magic. How can you play a game requiring fast reflexes, like a shooter or a fighting game, with all the time it takes to send data between you and the device that’s actually processing the game It turns out that in games typically there’s a certain amount of lag between your inputs and the screen (particularly with console games in dealing with typical TVs), and that with the right optimization a streaming game can perform pretty well. Sure, there’s often a reduction in the quality of the visuals, and the response may not be quite up to pro levels, but for most gamers it’s quite good enough.

Now we get into how game streaming has been implemented. The technology really became known through the efforts of OnLive and Gaikai. Gaikai was purchased by Sony, and its technology will be appearing later this year under the label PlayStation Now, which promises to deliver a variety of PlayStation games (from PS One, PS 2, PS3 and PS4) to other PlayStation devices like the PS Vita and PS TV, as well as some models of Sony Bravia TVs. OnLive has been in business for a while, but has struggled to find an audience. OnLive is now working with Mad Catz to provide OnLive streaming games through the Mad Catz M.O.J.O. Android-powered console.

Streaming games is also part of the business strategy for Valve with its Steam Machines, which would be able to stream games from your PC to a Steam Machine hooked up to your TV in the living room. Similarly, Nvidia has developed its GameStream technology for streaming games from an Nvidia GeForce-equipped PC to the Nvidia Shield handheld console or the Nvidia Shield tablet, in your own home or even remotely )if you have a sufficiently fast Internet connection). Here’s Nvidia’s footnote: “GameStream gaming outside of your home Wi-Fi network is a BETA feature and requires minimum upload and download bandwidth speeds of 5Mbps. Streaming experience may vary depending on the quality of your Internet.”

So if this technology is so spiffy, why isn’t everyone using it Can game streaming be a major industry force in the future The two primary barriers are now game design and the business model.

While game streaming technology offers to let you play a game from any source (PC, console, supercomputer, whatever) on any target device (smartphone, tablet, handheld console, Macintosh Air, whatever), the design of the games themselves makes this difficult or impossible. PC games are typically designed for keyboard and mouse input. In order to play such a game on a smartphone, those inputs have to be mapped to a touchscreen… or you have to hook up a keyboard and a mouse, which pretty much defeats the purpose of portability. Even when the control devices are similar (such as sending a PS4 game to a PS Vita through PlayStation Now streaming), differences in the controls means some adjustments have to be made (someone has to tweak the game by hand to make it work). Even if you’ve gotten the inputs figured out, the differing screen sizes and resolutions may make the game functionally unplayable (imagine trying to play League of Legends or World of Warcraft on a smartphone).

This means you can’t just take an entire games library, wave a magic wand, and make it available via streaming. Plenty of work has to be done on each title to make it work, even if you allow users to tweak their own control settings. Valve is still struggling with Steam Machines not because of the basic hardware — the issue is the controller, and trying to make it possible to play keyboard-and-mouse games on a controller resembling a video game controller.

The biggest hurdle may well be the business model, though. Customers will probably look for some sort of subscription offer similar to Netflix, where for one monthly price they can access any and all games they want. That’s not easy to accomplish for a streaming service, though, because agreements would have to be negotiated with each publisher. And publishers are very wary of game streaming, which they fear might cut into sales of full-priced games. Getting a good library of content, and making available at a reasonable price, is not easy.

While it’s nice to think about being able to play any game, any where, any time, we’re not really anywhere near that point. It will be interesting to see what pricing structure PS Now ends up with, and what the reception among gamers is. Nvidia’s Shield has yet to make much of a splash, but perhaps the Shield Tablet will be different — especially if Nvidia puts a major marketing push behind it. Valve’s Steam Machines, now slated for a 2015 introduction, are still a big question mark.

Next month there will be a Cloud Gaming Summit in San Francisco, so perhaps we’ll see some answers revealed.

Facebook Covertly Poised To Take Over Video Space

By Jocelyn Johnson

Facebook offers a reach comparable to YouTube and is already an integral part of any creator’s social marketing mix.  As one video executive told us, when it comes to marketing and distribution online, YouTube and Facebook are the only game in town. Other social platforms don’t matter as much.

But where this starts to get interesting is how Facebook is stealthily readying itself to take YouTube head on.

The social giant’s true potential within the digital video ecosystem was first evidenced by the success YouTube star Ray William Johnson had in pre-releasing his “Riley Rewind” web series on Facebook a day before windowing it to YouTube. Johnson claimed that the series did 10 million views on Facebook in that one day.

Couple that with the seamless integration of Instagram video, the VOD provider Screenburn, which was used to re-release Katy Perry’s documentary “Part of Me”, the LiveRail acquisition for video advertising tech and the new mobile related-videos feature and you can start to assemble Facebook’s strategy in hitting at the major features YouTube, and other OTT services, offer.

And then, in March, Facebook hired former Ryan Seacrest Productions SVP Sibyl Goldman as head of entertainment partnerships, responsible for securing partnerships with studios, networks, celebrities, and other creative talent.

Multiple industry sources tell us that Goldman and her team have talked with YouTube talent and producers to distribute content on the social network. Publicly, Goldman has promoted the added value provided by Facebook’s own video player. “Videos generally tend to reach more people when published natively,” she said during a recent session at VidCon, a point that was confirmed by fellow panelist Justine Ezarik.

However, with a little sleuthy digging and tips from our sources, we’ve found there are quite a few prominent figures actively using and testing Facebook’s player.

One such company that is seemingly finding success using Facebook’s player is Buzzfeed, with its dedicated Buzzfeed Video page, where it’s generating thousands of likes and comments per video post. Some of these videos live only on Facebook while others are syndicated on YouTube as well.

Maker Studios is another company using Facebook’s player for show Nacho Punch. Full episodes of the show can be found uploaded into the Facebook timeline. However Maker is still using YouTube for episodes and the annotations functionality, a feature which Facebook has yet to add, but looking at Nacho Punch’s timeline on Facebook, it includes a blend of both players, likely an A/B test approach.

NachoPunch

Similarly, in a much more tepid approach, Upworthy, the website for viral content, is also being very indiscriminate in its choice of video player. Facebook native video, YouTube, and Vimeo embeds can be found across their Facebook page and social feeds.

However, when asked if Facebook is developing a partner program of some type, Goldman was noncommittal. “Right now, we’re focusing on driving video consumption, sharing, and engagement with fans.”

Even further, Facebook doesn’t have to get into the premium content creation business to entice advertisers to the platform. As long as it continues to educate influencers on the power of the native player while it incrementally strengthens its footing, the mega-giant could move the needle in terms of competing with YouTube.

This article was originally posted on VideoInk and is reposted on [a]listdaily via a partnership with the news publication, which is the online video industry’s go-to source for breaking news, features, and industry analysis. Follow VideoInk on Twitter @VideoInkNews, or subscribe via thevideoink.com for the latest news and stories, delivered right to your inbox.

5 Questions With Olga Kay

What did performing in a circus teach you that you have been able to apply to your YouTube career?

The amount of hard work I have to put in before I can see any results and I am talking YEARS! Also not giving up or be discouraged.

 What made you decide to create multiple YouTube channels?

I have passion for many things and I tested different types of content on my channel and quickly realized that not everyone would enjoy it. I had to separate the content.

 What are your goals with Operation: Moosh Clump, your fundraiser to create even more content?

Mainly to build a team of people to help me with production. Right now I do everything by myself mostly.

 We see you’re a huge gamer. What are your favorites?

The best game of 2013 and 2014 is still Far Cry 3 for me. I also enjoyed Bioshock Infinite and the indie game, Contrast.

 What advice would you give to someone looking to connect with an audience on YouTube? 

Be authentic and create content that makes YOU happy because it’s a lot of hard work and if you are starting off with content you are not into, you will burn out quickly and hate the process.

When Facebook Ads Aren’t Ads

Facebook’s revenue reached new heights in the last quarter, propelling its share price to a post-IPO high, as ad sales have surged on the social giant. Meanwhile, Facebook has also been dialing back the viral reach of brands on its news feed algorithm, which has reduced organic reach. So far, though, Facebook hasn’t treated native ads as advertising, and brands and publishers jumping through this loophole with glee.

When a publishers posts one of its native ads to its own Facebook page, Facebook registers that as an editorial posting rather than as a brand post. “As far as the algorithm goes, they are not treated as ads,” said Facebook spokesman Tim Rathschmidt. Major publishers are not shy about using this to their advantage, as the native Netflix ad in The New York Times showed. If Netflix had just put that on its own Facebook page, it wouldn’t have gotten the reach seen when The New York Times‘ in-house team created it, which meant it was treated like editorial when it was posted to Facebook.

So The New York Times is busily posting these ads to its T Brand Studio Facebook page, where they are getting good reach. The Netflix piece saw 4,952 Facebook likes, 1,053 Facebook comments and 1,860 Facebook shares for a total of 7,865 Facebook interactions as of July 22, according to social media analytics company SimpleReach.

Other publishers like Forbes simply post the ads to the same Facebook pages where they post editorial, so the reach for native ads is even greater. Forbes’ chief revenue officer Mark Howard said reach on Facebook posts for Forbes’ native ads is “comparable” to the reach Forbes editorial posts typically see. “There’s no statistically significant difference,” Howard said. Because “the social Web is a meritocracy,” brands have as much of an opportunity to generate a readership as publishers do, he added.

Source: DigiDay

Big Brands Gravitating Towards eSports

Anyone who still has doubts about the validity of eSports, or electronic sports, needs only to look at videos out of the sold-out KeyArena in Seattle from Valve’s DOTA 2: The International tournament. Over 10,000 people watched team Newbee defeat Vici Gaming three games to one in a best-of-five format to take home just over $5 million of the over $10 million in cash handed out on July 21. Vici Gaming went home with nearly $1.5 million and the third and fourth place teams, Evil Geniuses and DK, also went home winners with over $1 million and over $819,000, respectively.

While the majority of the millions of global fans watched the action via livestreams on their PCs and connected devices, ESPN3 covered the action just like it would an NFL or college football game. In fact, eSports has thrived thanks to livestreaming companies like Twitch, which back in May Google was rumored to be acquiring for $1 billion. But TV networks like ESPN certainly help put professional video gaming into the mainstream spotlight. And advertisers and sponsors are more accustomed to televised exposure for traditional sports.

One trend that’s clear with eSports is the crossover into holding major events in traditional sports venues. Last fall, Riot Games sold out the Staples Center for its League of Legends Championship Series Finals. While 12,000 people watched live in the home of the Lakers and Kings, over 32 million tuned in to the livestream. This year, European Sports League (ESL) hosted a DOTA 2 tournament at former World Cup soccer stadium Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt, Germany. And Riot will host its 2014 World Championship in October at former South Korean Olympic venue Sangam Stadium, which seats 66,000 people.

“Selling out stadiums shows how passionate players are about eSports,” said Dustin Beck, VP of eSports at Riot Games. “Fans from all over the globe will be tuning in to watch the best of the best LOL eSports team battle it out for the World Championship the same way soccer fans from across the globe came out to support their favorite teams during the World Cup. That level of passion and engagement translates to an opportunity for brands who are looking to communicate with this audience by bringing added value to their eSports experience.”

Russell Schwartz, president of theatrical marketing at Relativity said eSports is the new appointment TV, only it’s online.

“Outside of sports on TV, which is the only thing people watch live any more, eSports is the best way to reach Millennials,” said Schwartz. “It’s a live experience that people can interact with online. It’s not that it’s a huge business yet, but it’s getting there. Television is so elusive these days, but with eSports we know it’s where male gamers 14 to 35 are watching.”

Major League Gaming and Relativity formed a strategic content and marketing partnership across sports management, television, film and digital media in 2013. The goal of the collaboration was to accelerate MLG’s growth as a mainstream media property, drive appointment viewing to MLG.tv and further strengthen Relativity’s presence in the gaming space.

Relativity used MLG.tv to promote this year’s theatrical releases of Kevin Costner’s 3 Days to Kill and Paul Walker’s Brick Mansions. HBO TWX reached out to Riot Games and used the League of Legends online audience to promote the launch of the fourth season of Game of Thrones.

Earlier this year, Coke Zero KO kicked off its partnership with Riot Games with the development of the Challenger Series, a series for amateur League of Legend gamers to compete for a spot in the professional league. In essence, it’s a minor league system for players to show their eSports prowess and potentially graduate to the Big Leagues and compete for big money, sponsorship deals and free travel around the globe to compete in tournaments.

“We have worked very closely and collaboratively with Riot Games to create a league that delivers true value to the fans and players of the sport, and that begins to build an infrastructure for eSports that mirrors that of the more traditional sports,” said Matt Wolf, Coca-Cola’s global head of gaming. “To help promote the partnership, we recently launched @cokeesports on Twitter as a place for the brand to engage with fans through our activation with League of Legends. Moving through the end of the year, we will have a presence in South Korea for the World Finals in October.”

League of Legends is currently the most popular eSports game in the world with over 85 million players across the globe. As a result, those playing the game professionally are working with some big brands. Erich Marx, director of Interactive and Social Media Marketing at Nissan North America, partnered with League of Legends Team Curse because he and many people on his team are gamers, technologists and fans of eSports and they believe in its potential.

“Our job is to find audiences that are apt to engage with us and who will appreciate our content and hopefully share it with friends and beyond,” said Marx. “ESports are very innovative, and that fits perfectly not only with Nissan products, but our marketing strategy. ” Nissan is using the huge social networking reach of Team Curse pro gamers to raise awareness of some of its online campaigns.

Red Bull has embraced eSports over the past three years, focusing first on Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft 2 and adding DOTA 2 to the mix. The energy drink hosts its own eSports events around the country with top players and invites fans to watch live and online. The company also sponsors pro gamers and treats them the same way they treat real athletes, complete with health and nutrition tips to enable peak performance when training and playing in virtual competitions.

“A huge organization like Red Bull getting involved in eSports makes other big organizations pay attention and attract other big organizations,” said Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho, a DOTA 2 pro gamer on Team Liquid. “McDonald’s recently sponsored an event.”

Also blurring the line between sports and eSports is the fact that traditional Red Bull extreme athletes were competing at X-Games Austin in June for the exact same medals that Call of Duty: Ghosts teams were playing for. ESPN covered the first-ever video game competition, which was hosted through MLG, along with the skateboarding and other extreme sports.

“This is another example of the maturity of eSports,” said Ehtisham Rabbani, general manager of Logitech’s gaming business. “We believe that eSports helps keep the X-Games relevant. ESports already has greater viewership online via streaming than many sports today, including the X-Games and many NBA and NHL games. It is not if, but when will eSports become the most popular sport in the world.”

Even the NFL has taken notice of eSports. St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold is an avid gamer who attended his first MLG competition in Anaheim in 2013. He liked eSports so much he bought Call of Duty: Ghosts team Rise Nation Gaming, which was one of the teams that competed at X-Games Austin a few months after the Activision and Xbox $1 Million Call of Duty Championship in Los Angeles.

“I didn’t even know about eSports until last year, but I just enjoyed playing Call of Duty so much, and I was always online,” said Saffold, who recently signed a five-year, $31.7 million contract extension with the Rams. “I love the bragging rights. And now here I am. I finally see everything for the first time from a first-person view instead of on a computer screen. It’s all good for these kids. It shows that video games can bring you some money now. It’s not always a waste of time.”

ESports is definitely not a waste of time for big sponsors. Intel INTC has been sponsoring eSports for over 10 years now. George Woo, who heads up the Intel Extreme Masters global eSports tournament, said the company entered the space to establish a marketing platform to promote its gaming processor online and offline to make it the preferred and recommended processor brand by enthusiasts and to drive purchase intent for all of its gaming products.

“Attendance to Intel Extreme Masters events has grown 10X with us filling up sport stadiums, where we have visitors lining up to get a seat to watch the competition,” said Woo. “Online it has grown 100X, where we now get more viewers watching livestreams for a single event than we’d have tune in for an entire season in the past.”
The article originally appeared in Fortune on July 24th, 2014 and has been reprinted with permission from the author.

That Darth Car Is Some Hot Wheels

You may know Darth Vader as the dark lord of the Sith in Star Wars, but what you didn’t know is what kind of wheels he’d drive if he was here on Earth. Some pretty Hot Wheels, it turns out. Mattel’s using the occasion of San Diego Comic Con to launch its new Star Wars Hot Wheels line, and the company has chosen an interesting promotional vehicle – or rather, had one created by PCW Brands.

The Darth Car is based on a C5 Corvette, with a body crafted mostly from fiberglass (with carbon fiber used on the front splitter), and the result weighs almost half of the standard Corvette. The chassis was lowered slightly, giving it an even more ominous look. It’s perfectly street-legal, too, and it’s been road-test up to 80 mph – though PCW Brands CEO Billy Hammon says the Darth Car could hit up to 150 mph.

What’s under the helmet It’s not scarred and ugly, it’s a GM LS3 V8 engine that is tuned to put out 526 horsepower. Hey, the Sith Lord doesn’t want to be left behind at a stop light. Of course, the Darth Car uses a six-speed manual transmission, which no doubt can be handled telekinetically if you’re so inclined (and have the requisite Force skills). The Darth Car also has a secondary, hand-acutated drift brake on the rear axle for when you need to outmaneuver a pesky landspeeder on a curve.

The Darth Car is fully armed and operational, outfitted with plenty of fine Hot Wheels touches – like the logo on the side. The wheels are custom-milled for the Darth Car, and the unique tires are high-performance while also deliving the Hot Wheels look. The missiles mounted on the side are machined from stainless steel, and the side pipes look just like Lord Vader’s light saber – and of course, they are illuminated. Not to omit the special sounds of Star Wars, the car can emit the unmistakable sounds of Vader breathing and his light saber activating, all controllable remotely via an iPad.

Oh, and just to top things off, the hatch opens like Darth Vader’s helmet, and includes a smoke machine to generate the appropriate vapor when opening. The Darth Car took seven weeks from final design to completion, and it’s already causing jaws to drop wherever it goes – and generating interest in Mattel’s new Star Wars Hot Wheels line, too.

Source: Car and Driver