Entertainment Firm 3BlackDot Emerges with Ex-Machinima Execs, YouTube Gamers

By Sahil Patel

Two former Machinima executives have teamed up with two top gaming personalities on YouTube to launch 3BlackDot, a new “influencer-driven” entertainment company that will focus on digital video production, game development, and social marketing.

Principals include Angelo Pullen (former head of affiliate development at Machinima), Luke Stepleton (director of entertainment network partnerships at the MCN), and YouTube gamers Adam Montoya (SeaNanners: 4.6 million subscribers) and Tom Cassell (TheSyndicateProject: 7.7 million subscribers).

Hank Stepleton, older brother of Luke and the former co-executive producer of the reality-TV hit “Duck Dynasty,” is also aboard as partner and head of Pickaxe, the company’s video production unit. He will be tasked with developing and producing content for both digital and traditional outlets, the first project of which being a new live-action short film based on 3BlackDot’s “Zombie Killer Squad” mobile game. (The trailer for the film will debut at the company’s launch party at San Diego Comic-Con.)

The “Zombie Killer Squad” short points to a major initiative for 3BlackDot, which is to build entertainment and media franchises that span multiple assets.

The focus will be to use the influence and audience reach of top online personalities to build these franchises. For instance, back in November 2013 when it was still in stealth mode, 3BlackDot released the “Zombie Killer Squad” game in partnership with Section Studios. Within nine days, the game recorded 1 million installs, the company said. Eventually, the game reached the top spot in the iTunes store in the UK, Canada, and Australia, and the second spot in the US.

“We put zero promotional dollars behind traditional user acquisition, so the immense success of ‘Zombie Killer Squad’ was due to support from fans of YouTube talent SeaNanners and TheSyndicateProject, both featured in the game,” said Luke Stepleton. “We’re building influencer-driven properties into massive franchises and ‘Zombie Killer Squad’ is just the beginning for us.”

Now at 2.6 million installs, 3BlackDot will soon release an update to “Zombie Killer Squad” that brings two more YouTube gamers into the mix: Tiffany Garcia (IHasCupQuake: 1.6 million subscribers) and Trevor Martin (TmarTn: 1.7 million subscribers).

This effort will be overseen by 3BlackDot’s studio unit, which will focus on developing animated and live-action content, games, and other licensed product.

Outside of its IP development and production units, 3BlackDot will specialize in two other areas: The company will manage a network of top YouTube talent (“each with their own distinct brands and dedicated followings”) and an agency division that would connect brands with these influential personalities. With the co-founders collective gaming background, it appears that will be the initial vertical targeted by the company.

“3BlackDot is launching with the industry’s most talented professionals in entertainment content creation, game development, and brand integrations,” said Pullen in a statement. “Our goal is simple: to deliver audience engagement, entertainment properties, and brand value that harnesses the power of Influencer communities.”

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.

Tango Introduces $25 Million Gaming Fund

Tango is on a roll. After raising more than $280 million through Alibaba as part of a Series D round of financing, the company wants to improve its messaging app with the addition of game promotion. It recently announced a $25 million fund that will help support the program, meant to draw in and possibly even invest in developers of said games.

Tango has been in the games business since last year, after it announced the creation of its own games and opening up its messaging platform to interested third-party developers, with the help of a software development kit. The move was a success for it, as games running within its app managed to rank high on app store charts in the games category.

Jim Ying, Tango’s new vice president of games publishing, explained how the success worked well for the company. With the introduction of social medium in games, user engagement has grown nearly two to three times in size. More than 40 partners have signed on, with two to four games releasing on a weekly basis. With the new fun, more games will continue to be added, around the same pace, but with direct publishing.

With 200 million users ready to take part in gaming, and a focus on devoted games (not necessarily quick play stuff like Flappy Bird), this could be a big new initiative for the company.

This move by Tango is intended to make its messaging app an important tool for game discovery. That’s certainly the case in Asia, where messaging apps like WeChat, Line and Kakao have become major game player acquisition tools for game publishers. Publishers have even created special versions of games for messaging, such as the version of Candy Crush Saga King created for Kakao in South Korea.

While messaging apps have been popular around the world (WhatsApp and Tango are popular in North America and Europe), games have not been particularly important outside of Asia. Perhap’s Tango’s new initiative can change that.

Do you think this will be a successful move for Tango

Source: TechCrunch

Exclusive Games For Amazon’s Fire Phone

Amazon Game Studios wants to show that it’s serious about being a contender in the video game division, and this week, it took the initiative by announcing two big exclusives for its forthcoming Amazon Fire Phone, which will be launching next week.

The two games are co-developments with partners under the Amazon Game Studios umbrella, Hibernum and HotGen.

The first is called Saber’s Edge, and here’s its description: “Set in a unique universe of steampunk scoundrels and cloud cities, Saber’s Edge is a strategic match-3 puzzle game where players match tiles across four sides of a rotating cube at the bottom of the screen to help pirates battle rival crews at the top of the screen. The more matches players make, the more firepower they give their pirates in battle. Using Dynamic Perspective, players peek around the corners of the cube to see opportunities to extend their matches, or tilt the device to spin the cube left or right to the next cube face. The victorious are rewarded with treasure used to build a pirate crew powerful enough to eventually reign supreme.

Here’s what players can expect from the second offering, To-Fu Fury: Cheat death, defeat enemies, and save the Fortune Kitty in To-Fu Fury, a humorous action game where the player becomes To-Fu, a stretchy, sticky, flingy, and combative cube of bean-curd. Set in a distant land of dojos, temples, and ninjas, players must navigate To-Fu through deadly spikes, devious traps, and powerful enemies to free Fortune Kitty. Each element of the game comes to life on Fire phone’s innovative interface with this new look of the popular To-Fu series. Players can use their head to peek around levels, see their obstacles and plot their strategy.

“Amazon Game Studios is working with some of the best studios to co-develop games that leverage the amazing capabilities of our new devices,” said Mike Frazzini, Vice President of Amazon Games. “The new games we are releasing today deeply integrate Dynamic Perspective and offer players new ways to engage with games—using head movements to navigate gameplay and tilt gestures to strategize upcoming moves. Saber’s Edge and To-Fu Fury are just the beginning of what Amazon Game Studios and the entire game development community can do using the immersive new Dynamic Perspective technology built into Fire phone.”

Both games will sell for $1.99, and will launch day one alongside the Fire Phone next week. Those still interested in pre-ordering can do so here.

Source: Amazon

Gameplay Trailers Of The Week

Welcome back to another round of Gameplay Trailers of the Week, where we take the best that the Internet has to offer in amusing, surprising and off-the-wall video game trailers and present them here in all their glory. Sit back, pop some popcorn, and enjoy the show!

For its latest Mario Kart 8 commercial, Nintendo of Japan has decided on showing the emotional side of the drivers involved through a new majestic, slow-motion powered piece. The real seller here, however, is the inclusion of the “Luigi death stare,” in which Mario’s plumber brother gives the gaze of doom while passing by his opposition. Good luck sleeping tonight.

Square Enix has announced a new contest for its forthcoming 3DS game Final Fantasy Theatrhythm: Curtain Call that challenges gamers to musically produce the main Final Fantasy theme, then share the video with them for a chance to win prizes. While this is a unique promotion, chances are it might be a little bit painful, especially when it comes to some people singing. There’s a reason some folks avoid karaoke bars.

CD Projekt Red revealed a dramatic new trailer for its forthcoming The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that shows what kind of effort went into producing the art for the game. As you might expect, it’s far from an easy process, but it’ll certainly pay off when the game releases for PC and next-gen consoles this coming February.

For its latest trailer for Madden NFL 15, EA Sports invited a number of NFL rookies to come in and learn what their ratings are in the game. Some were pleasantly surprised, like Johnny Manziel, while others reacted a bit differently. Some event went as far as to say they’re “beefing.” Hey, guys…the game isn’t done yet. It’s not coming till August. Always time for change, right


Finally, Microsoft made a bold exclamation that the Xbox One would be host to the “best games,” period. These include such titles as Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Sunset Overdrive, although some, like the featured Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Assassin’s Creed: Unity, will appear on the PlayStation 4 console as well. Still, there’s no question that Microsoft wants to put its best foot forward. But this seems more like a leap than a step, eh, guys.

Source: YouTube


‘The Last of Us’ Live Performance

With the remastered version of the hit PlayStation 3 game The Last of Us set to arrive on PlayStation 4 next week, Sony has gone all out for promotion of the “new” version of the game by announcing a special “One Night Live” event. Geoff Keighley posted on the PlayStation blog: “I love great video game stories. Today, the narrative potential of our medium has never been greater. The best video games blend world-class acting, writing, music and gameplay to create art that rivals the best works in other entertainment mediums. To celebrate that point, I’m excited to announce an experimental project I’ve been working on with Naughty Dog and PlayStation.”

Taking place on Monday, July 28th at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, the event will bring together various actors from the game to read their dialogue live, under the direction of Neill Druckman, the director of The Last of Us over at Naughty Dog. These actors include Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, Merle Dandridge, Hana Hayes and Annie Wersching.

In addition, Academy Award winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla will be on hand to perform selections of his score from the game, which has earned great acclaim since its release last year.

This is a great move by Sony to promote the game, as it not only brings together the number of talents responsible for bringing it to life in the first place, but also gets fans excited for the new version, which will feature a faster frame rate, enhanced multiplayer features and the inclusion of the game’s DLC in the same package.

Those interested attending the event can visit the PlayStation Facebook page for more details.

Sony posted the following today:: Update: Tickets to attend the show in person have sold out. Thanks for your enthusiasm! That doesn’t mean you can’t watch though — tune in July 28th on Twitch, YouTube, or PSN’s Live Event Viewer to be a part of this one-time-only event.

The Last of Us is set to sell for $49.99, and will release on PlayStation 4 on July 29th.

Source: PlayStation


Hasbro Introduces New 3D Printing Initiative

Have you ever wanted to create that dream My Little Pony character, or your ideal Transformer, but never came up with the means to do so Well, Hasbro is ready to lend you a hand. The company has teamed up with Shapeways to launch a new program called SuperFanArt, which allows fans to create their own toys with the help of a 3D printer.

With the launch, Hasbro will introduce the My Little Pony franchise, with others to follow soon after if it meets with success. This seems like a sure bet, with fans able to customize their creations.

Through the SuperFanArt page, fans can create and share their designs with others, and even sell certain ones through Shapeways’ marketplace and community, if they’re in hot enough demand. After finding which products they want, consumers can place an order, and then print out whatever designs suit their fancy.

The really interesting thing in this process is how Hasbro has unleashed some of its precious IP and put it into the hands of consumers, which is something companies are typically loath to do. Yet allowing fans to play around with IP, when properly managed, is a terrific way to increase engagment with a brand. Plus, of course, fans will be eager to share their creations and show off their creative talent, which becomes a remarkably effective way of marketing the brand through persoal recommendation.

“Many fans of our brands have remarkable creative talents and SuperFanArt empowers these artists to create unique expressions of Hasbro brands,” said John Frascotti, chief marketing officer of Hasbro. “By partnering with Shapeways, the largest online marketplace for custom 3D printed products, we are able to provide artists with an unprecedented opportunity and also provide brand enthusiasts with access to unique one of a kind creations.”

“Shapeways enables anyone to get the products they want, and with this partnership, we can further expand this to fans to design products based on a major brand,” said Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO and co-founder of Shapeways.

Some of the samples are set to be on display during San Diego Comic-Con this week, to give consumers an idea just how effective a program it really is.

Source: Variety

This Week’s [a]list Jobs – July 23rd

[a]listdaily is now your source for the hottest job openings for senior management and marketing in games, entertainment and social media. Check here every Wednesday for the latest openings.

Here are this week’s [a]list jobs:

  • Sony Pictures – Director of Marketing, Games (Culver City, Calif.)
  • 20th Century Fox – Global Marketing Manager (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • Machinima – Integrated Marketing and Media Solutions Manager (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • Netflix – Coordinator, Creative Marketing (Beverly Hills, Calif.)
  • Defy Media – Consumer Marketing Coordinator (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • Ayzenberg – Digital Producer (Pasadena, Calif.)

For last week’s [a]list jobs, click here.

Let Games Be Free-To-Label

A recent action by Google in response to the European Commission is having a major impact on the mobile game business, and there are serious issues at stake. Essentially, the European Commission in conjunction with national authorities asked Google, Apple and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe in December of 2013 to take action on the following issues:

  • Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
  • Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
  • Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers’ explicit consent;
  • Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.

The EC’s recent press release announced that Google has complied with the request: “Google has decided on a number of changes. Implementation is underway and will be completed by the end of September 2014. These include not using the word “free” at all when games contain in-app purchases, developing targeted guidelines for its app developers to prevent direct exhortation to children as defined under EU law and time-framed measures to help monitor apparent breaches of EU consumer laws. It has also adapted its default settings, so that payments are authorized prior to every in-app purchase, unless the consumer actively chooses to modify these settings.”

With a regretful tone, the EC acknowledged that so far Apple has made no immediate actions in the matter, but in in a statement to Recode.net, Apple said that its iOS “controls go far beyond the features of others in the industry,” and added that they “are always working to strengthen the protections we have in place, and we’re adding great new features with iOS 8, such as Ask to Buy, giving parents even more control over what their kids can buy on the App Store.”

Here’s where the issue gets more complicated, and we may see some unexpected consequences. Sure, it’s been obvious for a while that there’s a problem with kid’s app as and in-app purchases. Parents were getting credit card bills with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in charges, and then discovered that that cute little game they let little Janey play on the tablet was pushing smurfberries by the $99 wheelbarrow. It shouldn’t be incumbent on the parents to police kid’s apps and investigate whether or not there are insidious in-app purchases lurking behind the candy-colored screens. Both Apple and Google have been tightening up the in-app purchase process to keep kids from running up a bill.

The big problem with the actions that are being taken is a fundamental one, and something that the industry needs to address. Or, at least, Apple, Google and Amazon should come to some agreement on thiss, because if those three set rules then you can bet the vast majority of apps will be forced to cooperate.

The issue is one of nomenclature. If, as the statement implies, Google is going to require every game with any form of in-app purchase to not use the word “free” in its description, that’s creating another problem while trying to solve one. All free-to-play games are most decidedly not equal. There are some where there’s very few in-app purchase options (with some work you could probably find some that had only one item for sale). Others are replete with virtual goods and extra time and all manner of ways to get people to shell out money. Is Dungeon Keeper really the same as Candy Crush and World of Tanks Blitz

For that matter, there sure seems to be a clear difference between time-gated games (where you can only play until your time or energy or other unit runs out, then you must wait for more to appear or purchase some) and games where you can play as much as you like, but virtual items are optional add-ons (like League of Legends or World of Tanks). Heck, even in Candy Crush if you don’t mind just playing a few minutes in a session (and regular bouts of frustration), you can play regularly without paying a dime — in fact, that’s a game challenge in itself, to see how far you can get without paying. That sure seems like it’s free to play. Isn’t removing that label verging into Orwellian doublespeak

Worse, we don’t really know what terms Google will choose to replace “free-to-play.” Or will they let each publisher come up with something, as long as it doesn’t include the word free Or is ‘free’ acceptable if including in the right phrase If every game is using its own nomecnlature, it will be harder than ever to figure out what type of game you’re about to download. And then Apple and Amazon may have entirely different words to describe the same thing.

The problem needs to be addressed quickly, before a new Tower of Babel is built. Perhaps some of the top publishers could weigh in with suggestions, but Apple and Google need to come up with some nomenclature proposals, and fast, that the industry as a whole can adopt. Perhaps there would be different terms used for games intended for kids than for games aimed at adults. Whatever the case, let’s not hamper the ability of publishers to make money here.

Look, if the terminology gets too far from describing what games actually do, publishers may do an end run around the whole mess. Create a free version of the game and version that includes the in-app purchase options, in much the same way we have free games that contain ads and ad-free versions that you pay a little extra for. But that’s messy and could easily result in a revenue drop. We really don’t know how that would play out.

Google, Apple, don’t rush into a bad decision here. Get some of the top publishers on the line and talk out the nomenclature issue. By all means, let’s keep kids from running up unintended bills — and for that matter, crack down on unscrupulous publishers who are aiming to exploit kids. But let’s not hurt the rest of the lucrative and fast-growing mobile game business while enacting proper protections for children. The best solution would be to keep non-kid’s games the way they are: Free to label as the publisher desires. The marketplace will quickly punish games that abuse the label of free-to-play, as many games have discovered to their sorrow.

Twitter Teams Up With CardSpring To Pursue Online Shopping

Twitter has announced that it is in the works of buying a developing company called CardSpring. CardSpring enables retailers to offer online shoppers coupons that they can automatically sync to their credit cards in order to receive discounts when they shop in physical stores. The logistics of the deal are undisclosed at this time.

“We’re excited to announce we’ve agreed to acquire CardSpring, a payments infrastructure company that helps merchants work with leading publishers to create online-to-offline promotions,” said the Twitter team in a post on its official blog. “As we work on the future of commerce on Twitter, we’re confident the CardSpring team and the technology they’ve built are a great fit with our philosophy regarding the best ways to bring in-the-moment commerce experiences to our users.”

Along with in-tweet shopping, the online-to-offline deals that CardSpring promotes will grant Twitter with a two-sided e-commerce strategy to pursue.

“We started CardSpring with a vision to develop a new type of platform that enables digital publishers and retailers to work with the payment industry to create a new generation of commerce experiences for hundreds of millions of offline shoppers,” said CardSpring in an official blogpost. “We see the intersection of payments and digital media as an opportunity to revolutionize how consumers use credit and debit cards, while helping retailers to connect and communicate with their offline shoppers – much in the same way the Internet has enabled online stores to create relationships with their online customers.”

This isn’t the first time Twitter has experimented with promotions similar to this. In the past, for example, if you were an American Express cardholder you could link your credit card account with a Twitter account and tweet #AmexBestBuy to automatically get a statement credit when you spend $250 in a Best Buy store.

It is with its acquisition of CardSpring (which should become official this quarter), however, that Twitter will now be able to formalize and broaden offers like this and make it even easier for shoppers to use. For now, Twitter users have to tweet a specific phrase or hashtag to get a discount. But the social networking site hopes that in the near future its users might be able to simply click a button in a tweet to load the discount to their cards. One possible benefit of all this, in addition to the marketing aspect, is if these were to be embedded in promoted tweets, Twitter’s ad business could also see a boost.

These features could be used in a variety of ways. For example, retailers could utilize them in order to target location-based deals to Twitter users. This would also allow Twitter to make profit off of shopping done in the physical world, an activity which still accounts for more than 85 percent of U.S. commerce.

As of now, Twitter is pushing to expand even further within it’s new-found interest of online shopping. Twitter’s goal is to release a feature that will enable users to purchase a product directly from a tweet in time for this holiday season. According to Re/code, Twitter will most likely work with payments company Stripe to help facilitate in-tweet purchases.
Source: Re/code

Simpsons World Digital Hub Is Coming in October

By Sahil Patel

When FXX won a bidding war last year to bring every season of The Simpsons to cable television for the first time, the deal also gave the burgeoning network non-linear and VOD rights to the animated show’s entire library.

The network has now announced exactly how The Simpsons‘ digital presence will take shape. In October, FXX plans to launch Simpsons World, a digital hub that will offer every episode of the show (more than 550 across 25 seasons). This content will also be available on FXNow video apps, which are available on iOS and Android mobile devices, the Xbox One and 360, and various other connected-TVs and set-top devices.

The only requirement, unsurprisingly, is that the content will be restricted to “authenticated viewers.” (Which means you will need pay-TV login information for an account that subscribes to FXX.) That said, those that do will be able to watch episodes, share clips, create playlists, and interact with other features.

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.