Six Interactive Media Emmys Given Out

The interactive media wing of the Television Academy gave out six juried Emmy awards during an event earlier this week at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre.

The event provided awards for Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media, divided across four categories. Out of those, two actually managed to have more than one winner this year, with the Interactive Media Peer Group identifying excellence with the interactive platforms.

Discovery Channel’s Skywire Live with NikWallenda won for multiplatform storytelling, which HBO managed to walk away with an award with Game of Thrones Viewer Guide. It shared the victory alongside Comcast and its Xfinity platform, which utilizes the X1 set-top box.

Joseph Gordon Levitt’s HitRecord on TV managed to walk away with the social TV experience category, alongside Live From Space, a program produced by the National Geographic Channel.

Finally, one independent production also managed to come away with an award. Just a Reflektor is a short film produced to support the latest album from The Arcade Fire, Reflektor. It was a collaborative effort between AATOAA, Unit 9 and Google Creative Lab.

In addition, former IMPG co-governor Lori H. Schwartz was awarded the Digerati Award, which was renamed the Lucy Hood Digerati Award after the former TV Academy president/COO who passed away earlier in the year.

The statuettes for each of these awards will be given out next week during the Creative Arts Emmy Awards next week, where a similar award for Outstanding Interactive Program will be given out Nominees for this award include HBO’s Game of Thrones Facebook premiere, the digital experience for The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, and the late night comedy quiz show @midnight, which airs on Comedy Central.

Congrats to all the winners, and here’s hoping that you’re in for some repeat wins next year. It certainly never hurts to try, now does it

Source: Variety

Hunting Whales And Golden Swans

Creating a game company for the long term is a difficult task, and you have to have a sustainable long-term strategic vision that you can execute properly. The games industry is considered to be a hit-driven business, which is a justifiable view — but that’s a very difficult strategy to execute for long. Too many new game companies, especially mobile game companies, seem to be relying on extremely rare events as a sustainable business strategy, and that’s very risky. They are hunting for whales and golden swans, relying on very rare events to succeed. Wiser companies are diversifying their offerings, depending on proven brands, and experimenting while remaining ready to take advantage of a rare event.

What are these creatures that companies wrongly pursue Whales are those customers who spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in a game (the term is borrowed from the casino business). As in the casino business, these customers aren’t usually the majority of the revenue from a game (sometimes up to 10 percent or more, though) but they are highly profitable. These whales, though, can easily get bored or run out of money and suddenly stop playing your game at any moment.

The other rare creature being pursued by many companies is what I call a “golden swan.” What’s a golden swan That’s a rare, fortunate event that has major consequences, the positive version of a “black swan” event (the etymology is fascinating), a metaphor that “describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight,” according to Wikipedia. That describes many of the megahit games very well indeed — companies tend to think very highly of themselves after creating such a megahit, but history shows that caution (and conservative spending) is indicated.

Whales and golden swans share some important characteristics. They are incredibly rare, and incredibly valuable — and utterly unreliable when you’re planning a long-term strategy. Looking at how some companies have dealt with unusually successful games shows you the dangers of depending on rare events. Send whales a bottle of champagne, if you will, celebrate your golden swan when it arrives, but don’t construct your business strategy around them.

Brøderbund was one of the largest game companies in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, based on the enormous success of titles like The Print Shop, Carmen Sandiego, and Myst. When the company went public in 1991, The Print Shop was 33 percent of its revenues and the Carmen Sandiego series was 26 percent. However, these titles were never the result of a planned strategy, but just things the company stumbled across. Brøderbund went from hit to hit, being lucky enough to find a new one each time the old one was fading…until one day there wasn’t a hit, and the company was sold (Ubisoft now owns most of the key brands).

Rovio had a great hit, Angry Birds, after 52 failures. Flush with success, the executives talked about becoming a company bigger than Disney, and a major creative powerhouse. Aside from extending the Angry Birds brand, Rovio has yet to create another major IP. That’s quite all right, though. It has a nice business, but it’s not keeping Disney executives up at night worrying. But it shows how a single golden swan may be very valuable, but it’s not going to build you an empire.

King Digital’s an interesting example. The company’s latest earnings report showed that Candy Crush Saga is slowing faster than expected, so the company missed its earnings projection — and the share price has dropped 25 percent as investors realize other games aren’t filling in the gap. King has been around for ten years, growing a reliable business based on creating lots of games and then promoting the best ones after extensive customer testing. When Candy Crush Saga became an enormous hit, King used its momentum to go public and bank a large amount of capital. Now, as the game begins to fade, King is using that money to diversify into different genres — while continuing to crank out new games at relatively low cost and risk.

Zynga is making the transformation from a hit-dependent company to one that’s a diversified, stable publisher. The company’s meteoric rise was entirely based on Facebook and its rapid success (and the early massive viral marketing Facebook enabled). But Zynga’s games didn’t exhibit much variation or innovation (basically, you had Zynga Poker and the “build and display” type games like FarmVille), and 95 percent of the company’s revenue came from Facebook. As Facebook started taking a revenue share, and cut back sharply on viral marketing, social gaming in general shrank — and Zynga suffered. The company had gone public at the height of the boom, though, and put over $1 billion in the bank. That nest egg is what Zynga is using to completely reinvent itself as a full-line publisher that’s diversified on platforms and genres. The latest quarterly earnings showed Zynga now makes the majority of its revenue from mobile games, and it’s grabbed some high-profile licenses while working on a variety of games. Zynga Poker and FarmVille are still more than half the company’s revenue, but that will likely change.

Among old-line publishers, Activision and Electronic Arts have been making the transition from being hit-focused and platform-focused to being brand-focused. FIFA is a brand that transcends platforms. As long as they continue to turn out new versions and find new ways to engage customers, FIFA will continue. EA is also busy pushing its Origin game distribution service, and inventing new ways to get people to play its games.

Activision has found that World of Warcraft is more than just a PC game; it’s a source of great brand equity that’s powering Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and propelling the company’s growth on tablets. Activision took a chance by experimenting on Skylanders, and it’s paid off handsomely — and Activision is busy putting more effort into that brand and extending it onto tablets.

TakeTwo, on the other hand, still seems dependent on Grand Theft Auto to deliver a massive injection of cash… but that’s every five years. GTA Online may help them move beyond that. On the other hand, the 2K Sports brand seems to be cranking out a dependable stream of titles that sell well. The company is still heavily dependent on GTA revenue, but it’s placing major new bets like Evolve that could be very successful.

There are companies like Supercell or Machine Zone that are doing extremely well on one or two games (Supercell has three that are all doing well). Mojang has a great business with Minecraft, but hasn’t had any success in introducing other games yet. Riot Games has only one game, League of Legends, which is a tremendous success. Those are perfectly fine businesses, terrific in fact — but if any of them aspire to become a major publishing operation, they need to diversify and experiment. And if your business is depending entirely on one title or platform, what happens when that title or platform suddenly starts doing less well? The technology industry in general is littered with the corpses of companies that depended on one product that was supremely powerful, and yet one day failed. Look no further than Blackberry to see how fast fortunes can change.

Industry consultant Eric Goldberg wisely observed that taking no risks is the riskiest strategy of all. Hunting for whales and golden swans, and depending on them for your entire future, is a risky business indeed. Save the whales and preserve the golden swans, and look for a broader array of games to power your company into the future.

Creator Visionaries With Olga Kay, Zack King And Connor Franta

[a]list summit: Influencer Marketing gathered some top influencer talent to discuss their craft and showcase some work they’ve already done with brands. Our ‘Creator Visionaries’ panel with Olga Kay, Zach King and Connor Franta was a wildly popular one.

What are the challenges and joys of working with brands Listen to what the influencers have to say:


Sony Announces New Share Play Program

Sony wasted no time in living up to the hype with its Gamescom press conference earlier this week in Cologne, Germany, announcing a number of new titles like Wild, Tearaway Unfolded and Until Dawn. However, it also dominated the technical front, with the introduction of a new feature called Share Play.

According to the company, Share Play is a process that works as a “virtual couch” for gamers, which allows you to “pass the controller” to friends online, even if they don’t own a copy of the game you’re playing. As a result, you’ll be able to play games cooperatively and competitive with others, even if the games are only designed for local player enjoyment. The second player doesn’t need to buy anything either.

However, there is a catch – both players that are taking part in the session will need to be subscribers to the PlayStation Plus service, but that’s not a big deal since it’s grown so much in stature anyway, and new games are being added every month to keep its value on the rise.

The feature will be introduced specifically to the PlayStation 4 console with the forthcoming System Software 2.0 update, which will arrive sometime this fall, free of charge to those who already own the console. In addition, the update will also include the ability to post videos directly to YouTube to share with others, as well as finding new friends through a new “finder” system that tracks similarly liked games and such.

Sony’s Share Play could be a game changer, though it’s hardly an original idea. Microsoft had aspirations to include such a feature with its Xbox One, even though nothing official has come out of it. And Ubisoft just announced that Far Cry 4 will include a “Keys To Kyrat” feature when it launches this November, enabling people to send multiplayer invites to those who don’t own the game.

Do you think Share Play will be a system seller for Sony

Source: Ars Technica, The Verge

BuzzFeed Aims To Re-Invent The Movies

We reported a few days ago that BuzzFeed was opening a new Motion Pictures division, hoping to make both large and small-length movies for the public to enjoy. However, there could be a greater success that lies beyond this business model, according to Pulp Fiction producer Michael Shamberg.

Shamberg recently joined BuzzFeed to serve as its advisor in the Motion Pictures division, and their efforts could easily translate over to either television or the big-screen, instead of just staying viral on the Internet.

Speaking with the Hollywood Reporter, Shamberg explained that the new kinds of content are worth getting amped up about. “You work in film and TV and the business model is chiseled in stone,” he adds. “Here, it’s all an experiment to find out what the future is. And what’s more exiting than feeling like you actually have a chance to invent the future ”

The new business model will certainly be a test for the company, and Shamberg has wasted no time getting involved with it. “I don’t think there’s ever been a Hollywood R&D model like we have here,” says Shamberg, who has been spending about two days a week at BuzzFeed’s 100-plus person Hollywood campus.

The team is currently in the process of hiring in-house team writers and building a devoted sound stage with fixed sets to help keep development costs from overflowing, but having a Hollywood player like Shamberg on board certainly doesn’t help when it comes to balancing those costs.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “BFMP will consist of three divisions: BuzzFeed Video for short-form content, BuzzFeed Live Development for mid-length serialized projects and Future of Fiction for developing long-form film, television and transmedia efforts. The company plans to use its short- and mid-length videos to create characters, develop plots and test casting with online audiences. Projects with potential could move into full-length series or films,” the site reported.

However, Shamberg’s tie-in with the deal isn’t just Hollywood related. Said BFMP president Ze Frank, “We sit on opposite sides of the business, but it immediately became apparent that the way that Michael thinks about media overall is very experimental.”

Frank believe that Shamberg “has so much depth and insight into the traditional business but is also really interested in the ways that both development and distribution are changing right now.”

An interview with Ze on the process of hiring Shamberg – and how the business model of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures will play out – can be found here.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

New Social Star Is A Spambot

The power of social media is a huge thing, especially when you’re able to convince millions of followers just what you’re capable of in a small time frame. That’s what happened a few years ago, when a “spambot” created by a tech team became a powerhouse in an Italian social network.

In 2009, Luca Maria Aiello and her colleagues at the University of Turin in Italy based a study on a social network called, which allows people to exchange opinions and other details about the books they enjoy.

For the experiment, Aiello’s team created an automated crawler that visits a person’s profile on the network, and then all of the people that connect to this particular profile as well. It would then visit each of the people that links through said nodes, continuing to build a map of the network in the process.

The name of the account used for the experiment was called lajello, and it was finally put to work in September 2009, with a simple mission to map out the network.

In July 2010, changed its default user settings so that users could see everyone who visited their site. “As a result, our crawler left a trace of its passage in all the profiles reached approximately twice a month,” said Aiello.

As a result, people followed lajello’s progress, creating a new idea for Aiello in the process. “The unexpected reactions the bot caused by its visits motivated us to set up a social experiment in two parts to answer the question: can an individual with no trust gain popularity and influence?” she explained.

Granted, it would be on a visitation basis only, with lajello only tracking visits to the profile’s node. As a result, though, it began to build a huge social following, with a number of comments on the general wall. When lajello stopped, so did they — but they picked right up again when it returned, creating a social phenomenon in the process.

Once 2011 had come and gone, lajello’s profile stood tall as one of the most popular profiles on the network, with more than 66,000 visits and over 2,000 messages from over 1,200 different users.

“Our experiment gives strong support to the thesis that popularity can be gained just with continuous ‘social probing'” concludes Aiello. “We have shown that a very simple spambot can attract great interest even without emulating any aspects of typical human behavior.”

The experiment continued, this time with the bot capable of sending recommendations to users who connect with it. The results definitely picked up even further. “Among the 361 users who created at least one social connection in the 36 hours after the recommendation, 52 per cent followed suggestion given by the bot,” said Aiello on the team’s behalf.

“In other words, lajello has a greater persuasive power over those who are more aware of its presence and activity,” she said, pointing out that targeted recommendations given to followers had a greater effectiveness.

It’s interesting to see how effective it was… and what marketers could possibly learn from it.

Source: Technology Review

‘Candy Crush Saga’ Loses Sweetness, King Diversifies

Even with the massive success of Candy Crush Saga and Farm Heroes Saga on the mobile front, King isn’t exactly raking in the money that it was hoping to.

The company released its second quarterly earnings report, showing that its growth has been stunted a bit. The company posted revenues up 30 percent on a year-over-year basis to $593.6 million, with net income up 31 percent to $165.4 million. However, that’s quite a dip from the previous quarter, where revenues and profit were up 195 percent and 142 percent, respectively. Crucially, King missed its estimates, something investors hate to see.

While the numbers are solid, they were below the company’s expectations, mainly because of reduced gross bookings from the popular Candy Crush Saga. Now, the company believes its full-year bookings will come in and around $2.25 to $2.35 billion. Part of what has concerned investors is the drop in the company’s audience, which is down to 10.4 million from 11.8 million last quarter.

As a result of this news, the company’s stock took a big hit, with a 22 percent drop to $14.14.

With that, King wants to spread out a little bit in its gaming domain, and not just rely on the success of social hits like Candy Crush. So, it has managed to acquire Heroes of Honor developer Nonstop Games. Such a move will allow it to expand its gaming repertoire, since Nonstop specializes in “mobile and tablet games made for gamers,” with a focus on multiplayer action and strategy. King awarded the studio $16 million, with $10 million guaranteed to keep employees from losing jobs. An additional $84 million will also be supplied, should Nonstop meet certain revenue targets.

There’s no word yet what games King has in mind for Nonstop to release, but, again, they’ll focus more on a diverse crowd than previous releases from the company have done. It’ll certainly shake up the mobile scene, but now it’s just a matter of seeing how it’ll profit for the publisher in the long run.

Source: GamesIndustry International, Gamasutra

‘Destiny’ Providing Paul McCartney’s Next Single

It’s not an uncommon occurrence to see pop stars work with video game companies on soundtracks and in-game appearances. However, some folks rose a curious eye when former Beatle Paul McCartney teamed up with former composer Marty O’Donnell and the team at Bungie to work on the soundtrack for Activision’s forthcoming space epic Destiny.

However, it looks like the compilation will pay off for both parties. McCartney, who helped produce the score for the game alongside O’Donnell (before he was dismissed), will be releasing a song based around the game for the public on September 9 – the same day that the game releases.

Recorded with a 120-piece orchestra, the song revolves around the theme of hope, and utilized the classic Abbey Road studio to gather that McCartney vibe, so it sounded just right, according to The New York Times.

McCartney has been working with Bungie on the project for ten years, expressing his gratitude for taking part in a tweet from 2012. “I’m really excited to be working on writing music with @bungie, the studio that made Halo,” he said.

The soundtrack, which also features the work of Mike Salvatori, will include a large 50-minute suite, along with McCartney’s song and other melodies.

McCartney’s involvement in the project shows the devotion that Activision is putting behind it, with a rumored $500 million budget that includes marketing and production. So far, it’s paid off, as the game has earned record numbers between its two betas, and has a high number of pre-orders, the largest that any new IP has seen to date.

A sample of the soundtrack can be heard below.


Instagram Hires Head Of Brand Development

In a new effort, Instagram is pushing forward with big plans to generate revenue.

According to an online piece done by Recode, a Facebook spokesperson has released a statement revealing that Facebook Regional Director James Quarles has joined Instagram as the platform’s Global Head of Business and Brand Development.

Quarles will be responsible for overseeing Instagram’s revenue strategy, which include its advertising and sales efforts, and will manage both the marketing and sales teams. He will also be working and reporting directly to Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s cofounder. This move could create more structure to the company’s existing ad efforts, which had been previously split up among several Instagram employees.

Advertisements have been available on Instagram for a short while now; however, the company works carefully with brands to ensure ads don’t feel out of place on the platform.

Quarles will also work to develop new “monetization products,” according to a spokesperson, but it’s unclear what those might look like.

Prior to taking the job at Instagram, Quarles gained a great deal of experience working with brands and advertisers through his three-year employment with Facebook, managing some of the company’s largest brand accounts and partnerships. Quarles also spent more than six years as a marketing director with Dell before joining Facebook in 2011.

He is set to officially start working with Instagram later this fall.

Source: Recode


Samsung’s New Phone Attacks iPhone 6

With iPhone 6 release dates still only being rumored about, Samsung has taken a chance by poising an attack on the Apple product with its new smartphone design, the Galaxy Alpha.

Word of Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha has been rumored for a while now. The smartphone offers impressive details including a new design that features a chamfered metal edge, almost identical to the current iPhone 5S.

With Samsung being known for its larger than average screen size, it seems odd that the company opted to give the Galaxy Alpha a 4.7-inch HD (1,280 x 720) display, which can be viewed as a little on the small side when compared to current popular smartphone designs like the LG G3 and Samsung’s own Galaxy S5.

With this being said, perhaps it is a logical decision considering the iPhone 6 is predicted to have a 4.7-inch display as well. It is clear that Samsung’s mobile product designs are becoming more and more comparable to Apple equivalents. The company apparently hasn’t been deterred from imitating Apple by the loss of $1 billion to patent infringement cases that are still winding their way through the courts.

The Galaxy Alpha contains most of the innovative features that first appeared on the Galaxy S5, including a download booster, an Ultra Power Saving Mode, and a fingerprint sensor built into the home button.

The display features a SuperAMOLED screen along with a 12-megapixel camera in the back which is now capable of even capturing 4K video (at 30 frames per second). The system is powered by an octa-core processor (quad 1.8GHz and quad 1.3GHz) and comes with Android 4.4.4 “KitKat” preloaded.

The phone will be available in five ornate colors: Charcoal Black, Dazzling White, Frosted Gold, Sleek Silver and Scuba Blue. A launch date hasn’t been released yet and it is still not clear whether the Galaxy Alpha will ever be for sale in the U.S.

Source: Mashable