Gamescom: The Next Wave Of Next-Gen Games

Just a couple of months past the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Gamescom in Cologne, Germany is another chance for major game companies to garner some media attention and get the gamers fired up for the next wave of game releases. Gamescom is significantly different from E3, because while it does offer a trade-only day, the show is primarily focused on consumers – and last, 340,000 eager gamers stormed through the show, an astonishing number. This is the first chance for many of these upcoming games to actually encounter gamers in the wold, and get their unfiltered hands-on impressions of the games.

Those hands-on impressions, if properly conveyed by marketing back to the product development teams, will no doubt cause some long meetings and plenty of new punch lists for adjustments that need to be made to games. No game design survives contact with the gamers, as Clausewitz would have said if he designed games instead of ordering armies about.

Both Sony and Microsoft had similar events, staging them more for the video audiences at home than for the fairly small crowds in actual attendance. Nintendo chose to pass on the chance to address the media directly, much as they did at E3. That’s probably for several reasons, with the most obvious being that Nintendo has no big news to announce — so why spend the money and effort to impress the media when you don’t have much to impress them with

Activision chose not to hold its own media event, much as it did at E3, again spreading its efforts between Microsoft and Sony. Microsoft got Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to promote, and Sony got Destiny. Both companies will have system bundles customized for an Activision game, with a Call of Duty Xbox One that will have a 1 TB hard drive and a custom controller that will sell for $499, while Sony has already announced its white PS4 Destiny bundle for $449.

Microsoft actually talked about three different Xbox One bundles for the fall, with the Call of Duty bundle, a Sunset Overdrive bundle with a white Xbox One for $399 (essentially giving Sunset Overdrive away for free), and a Europe only FIFA 15 Xbox One bundle for €399. No doubt Sony will also get into some bundling action as the holiday approaches.

The biggest news at either press event was Sony’s announcement that 10 million PS4’s have been sold so far. “The installed base of PS4 has now exceeded 10 million units globally,” said Sony Computer Entertainment of Europe head Jim Ryan. “Just to be clear, that means 10 million sold through to consumers.” Microsoft, for its part, declined to mention any number of Xbox Ones sold so far, but it’s certainly lagging well behind Sony at this point. Still, now that the price difference has been erased, it’s going to come down to two factors: exclusive games and marketing.

As far as exclusive games go, both Sony and Microsoft had an impressive lineup of both completely exclusive titles, and of titles that have limited exclusive windows of an unspecified duration. Many of the indie titles that both companies pushed were listed as “appearing first on consoles for” either Xbox One or PS4.

The biggest exclusive surprise was Microsoft’s announcement that the next title in the Tomb Raider franchise, Rise of the Tomb Raider, will be exclusive to Xbox. That’s probably only for a certain period of time, but no details were forthcoming. Stillm this game isn’t coming out until holiday 2015, so it’s not going to have an impact on sales before then.

The most excitement from the crowds in attendance at the media events was for the Halo Master Chief Collection, which looks like it’s going to be the most important exclusive for either platform this holiday – at least in terms of selling systems. Microsoft has cleverly thrown in the Halo 5 Guardians beta as part of the package, so any Halo fan who hasn’t already grabbed an Xbox One is definitely going to get one before this packaged comes out. Every Halo game ever made, playable at 60 fps in 1080p resolution on the Xbox One, with all the maps ever created – over 100 mpas in all, with several of them redone in high-resolution graphics. You can play through the entire Halo series on an Xbox One, an irresistible draw for millions of Halo fans. Plus, Microsoft announced the Halo Channel, a place where all Halo content and interaction can live. Halo fans can practicaly eat, sleep and breathe franchise if they want to.

Perhaps as interesting as the wonderful games displayed and played at both presentations was what the companies didn’t talk about. The strange thing missing from the Microsoft presentation was the Kinect, which apparently has gone missing in action. Similarly, Sony ignored the PS Vita (though a couple of presenters mentioned it in passing, as in “a PS Vita version” will be available as well for a couple of games. In terms of new technology, Sony mentioned Project Morpheus, PlayStation Now, and PS TV as evidence of continuing innovation, though the only new detail forthcoming was that PS TV will be launching across Europe at €99. Otherwise, these all remain interesting ideas that you can’t buy yet.

Microsoft showed exclusives like Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2, Quantum Break, Fable Legends, Ori and the Blind Forest, and the newly announced ScreamRide. Microsoft’s Chris Charla showed off ID@Xbox efforts like Space Engineers, Smite, and Below. Sony’s array of games looked impressive as well, with The Tomorrow Children from Q-Games, Hollowpoint from Ruffian Games, Hellblade from Ninja Theory, and more looks at The Order: 1886, Little Big Planet 3, Bloodborne, Tearaway Unfolded for PS4, Housemarque’s Alienation, and Wild, the first title from Michel Ancel’s new side project, Wild Sheep Studio.

The visuals from all of these games were striking, but as Ryze showed us all too well, pretty pictures don’t necessarily mean a great game. Minecraft demonstrates the opposite case well: Not all visually unimpressive games are bad games — they might even be great ones. Don’t be surprised if some of these games that looked great in the trailers turn out to be much less exciting when you play them. In the end, that’s going to be the biggest challenge facing both Sony and Microsoft — keeping players from being disappointed at spending $60 on a game that isn’t very good. All the marketing in the world can’t change that.

‘Hypertelling’ With Eric Solomon

“This is like saying water’s wet, but we’ve been in the midst of a digital revolution for a long time,” says Google/YouTube’s Eric Solomon as he begins to deliver the first keynote of the day at [a]list summit: Influencer Marketing.

“I really think of advertising as this idea of orchestrating things, not just integrating things” Solomon goes on. “I sat in a couple creative agencies before I worked at Google, and you go and there’s a lead creative agency and you have this 60-second TV spot and you sit and all the agencies would be sitting around the room and the digital agency would be like, ‘Great! We’re going to take that TV spot and put it up on YouTube, check the box– digital is done!’ and that was all there was to it.”

“These days I think of our jobs as how does all this crap go together How loud do you let a Twitterfeed go before you introduce a YouTube video ”

Watch the video below to learn more about why Solomon says we’ve gone beyond storytelling as brands, and have moved into what he calls “hypertelling.”

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Activision Brings Back Beloved Sierra Label

Years ago, Sierra Online was a publisher that created some of the most iconic games around, including entries in the King’s Quest and Space Quest series. The company was acquired by Vivendi, which later purchased Activision – and the Sierra Online label was retired. However, at Gamescom this week, Activision provided gamers with a little surprise – Sierra is back.

Activision announced the return of the label this week, along with the debut of a new entry in the King’s Quest franchise being developed by the team at Odd Gentlemen. In addition, a new entry in the twin-stick shooter Geometry Wars series will also make its debut later this year for yet unnamed consoles, with Lucid Games handling development.

Bob Loya, senior director of external development at Sierra, spoke to GamesIndustry International about the return of the label. “Launching a new indie-focused Sierra has really been a team effort across all of Activision,” he said. “There’s a group of us here at Activision that have really enjoyed many of the indie games that have been released over the past couple of years, so we started to evangelize the idea of creating an indie label where we could help developers create and distribute great games. We had already been talking to Lucid Games about doing another Geometry Wars title for some time, and we have always wanted to work with The Odd Gentlemen so were given the thumbs-up to start pre-production with each.  The final decision for the new Sierra label was given when we presented early demos of each game to some key decision makers at Activision and they loved what they saw.”

Loya also explained that Sierra will be home to up-and-coming projects from new developers, stating that “we are really focused on working with talented indies on great IP, regardless of whether the IP comes from Sierra or elsewhere. The key for us is to match the right indie developers with an IP they are passionate about.

Loya also explained the benefits of bringing back the label, and not just for nostalgia. “It certainly helps that there’s a generation of gamers  and developers who are fond of the label. More importantly, the Sierra name has a “feel” to it that really helps everyone align with the objective of creating truly special, independent games. It just works well when we talk with potential indie developers about Sierra’s vision.  We really like the idea of developers being able to interact and be represented by a brand they have a personal connection with,” he said.

Both King’s Quest and Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions will be released digitally, and the platforms for the games are expected to be announced soon.

Source: GamesIndustry International

YouTube Stars Hit The Road

It’s funny how someone could create videos while simply working at home, and then be whisked away on a whirlwind tour to promote the channel and various other brands. Oddly enough, though, that’s exactly what’s happening with the Our 2nd Life tour.

The vlogging site recently launched the tour, which will bring some of YouTube’s best up-and-coming stars to various stops, between various promotional stops and endorsements. The stars include Trevor Moran, Ricky Dillion, JC Caylen, Kian Lawley, Sam Pottorff and former member Connor Franta, and the tour could easily earn them quite a haul in case, according to Adweek.

The money haul could easily bring in a simple $1,000 to $2,000 for a sponsored Instagram photo, or even $40,000 to $50,000 for a customized branded video, according to insiders for the tour.

Advertisers are lining up in the promotion, as Moran has already taken part in a program with Invisalign that has netted him around $1,500 as a result. Other promoters are taking part as well, although specific ones weren’t listed outside of Invisalign.

Each member of the Our 2nd Life crew manages to have around a million subscribers each. Some have even more, like Franta, with three million subscribers and two million Instagram followers. That means a lot of happy girls – and even a few males – that will fill the seats to see their favorite superstars.

“They are highly entertaining and highly engaging,” explains Larry Shapiro, head of talent at Fullscreen, which manages O2L. He believes the appeal of the stars will be more than enough to draw an audience, and, at the same time, promoters interested in working with them.

Such acts could easily be considered the superstars of the next generation – not bad considering that they started simply by making videos for YouTube.

Will you go see the O2L tour…or perhaps take your kids

Source: Adweek

Twitter Is Testing A New Native Video Product

By Sahil Patel

Facebook is not the only social network seeking some of the billions advertisers currently devote to TV advertising. Twitter is testing a new video-ad program that would allow advertisers to directly distribute videos directly within the feed.

Building on the company’s Twitter Amplify program, brands can now use the Promoted Video product to upload, distribute, and promote high-quality content. The ads will also come with a set of analytics, allowing advertisers to measure performance via metrics like completion rates and a breakout of organic versus paid video views.

To make campaigning easier, Twitter said it’s offering a new cost-per-view buying model, which will only charge advertisers when a user starts playing a video. This is an important distinction, as unlike Facebook’s auto-play videos, a Promoted Video will only play when a user clicks on it.

Twitter is hopeful about the product, claiming that earlier testing of a new Twitter Video Card proved that tweets containing native videos (as opposed to embedded clips) generate better views and engagement.

This native video solution will also be made available to a select group of publishers and verified users, with the ultimate goal of bringing more video content in front of Twitter users.

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 for the latest news and stories, delivered right to your inbox. 

‘Rise Of The Tomb Raider’ Will Be Xbox Exclusive

Crystal Dynamics studio head Darrell Gallagher has announced that the follow-up to last year’s commended reboot of the long-running action adventure series, Rise of the Tomb Raider will be exclusively available on Microsoft’s Xbox platform. Specifications about the game being exclusive to Xbox One alone, or Xbox 360, too have not yet been decided. Gallagher released the news at a press conference on Monday ahead of the Gamescom video game show in Cologne.

The statement came as a surprise to most. Rise of the Tomb Raider was projected to be a cross-platform release, with this speculation apparently backed by listings for multiple platforms on online retailers.

Gallagher sought to reassure the Tomb Raider community in a post on the Crystal Dynamics Tumblr:

“Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past – we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft,” Gallagher wrote.

“This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.”

As of now Rise of the Tomb Raider is unlikely to appear on PS4 or PC, so this doesn’t seem to be a timed exclusive. Additionally, the news has prompted a fierce reaction from fans, many of whom have already pre-ordered the game on other platforms.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is scheduled to drop in the Winter of 2015. Will it really prompt people to buy an Xbox One

Source: Tumblr

Xbox One Getting TV Streaming Features

Microsoft is preparing a new firmware update for its Xbox One console that will add a number of most-wanted features to the system, mainly revolving around involving friends in game experiences and tech support for a number of new items.

The first notable feature with the update is a new “Friends” section, which will be expanded in the full Preview program shortly. This will allow users to see at a glance what’s going on within their friend community, keeping up on activities and seeing what the most popular games are.

Snap Center will also make its debut, enabling users to keep track of messages, friends, parties and Achievements through the split-screen Xbox Snap feature, all without having to leave the current game that they’re playing.

Messages will also be threaded, allowing users to embed links to recorded Game DVR clips, and keep track of previous conversations.

The Media Player will enable users to use an attached USB device or a network connected home media hub that supports DLNA protocol. This will enable the system to support more formats, including JPG’s, AIFF’s and much, much more.

The ability to stream television to the SmartGlass app will be a huge feature for some, as it allows users utilizing the just-announced Digital TV Tuner to stream their programming to their mobile device, utilizing the Xbox One system. They can also change channels and play and rewind programming, without interrupting the game they’re playing on their current system. The television can also be “booted” Directly through their console.

Finally, a Live TV mini guide will provide programming of what’s on TV, with channel listings and more, all without interrupting gameplay.

There’s no word when the firmware update will go live, but users probably won’t have to wait long. One thing’s for sure – that TV sharing feature will no doubt be a hit, especially if a loved one won’t stop playing Titanfall.

Source: Xbox Wire

New ‘Skylanders’ For Tablets Equals Consoles

Over the past few years, Activision’s Skylanders has been established as a powerhouse franchise, with over $500 million in sales between games and secondary figurines that support it. However, it’s also gotten a huge push on the mobile front alongside consoles, with a variety of games and its own line of figurines. Now, Activision wants to take the mobile game further, with its own special version of Skylanders: Trap Team.

The game, which will also make its debut on consoles, will be similar to those versions, as it will utilize a Portal of Power with a near-field communications transmitter that allows connection with mobile devices. Players would then place figurines on the portal, enabling them to be used within the game. The difference, however, is that the portal for the mobile edition is uniquely designed, as it can double as a tablet stand. And also comes with a Bluetooth controller similar in design to the Xbox 360 game controller.

This marks a huge change to the Skylanders franchise on the mobile front, as previous games utilized the touch-screen for gameplay purposes, although the last game also used a similar Portal of Power to have characters interact within the game. The Skylanders: Trap Team starter bundle for tablets is priced exactly the same as the starter package for a console, even though the tablet package includes a Bluetooth controller. Such a move could possibly impact sales of the console versions, especially considering that they use the same set of figurines.

“We’ve always been a platform-agnostic company,” says Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg, “and the tablet is obviously a very compelling and heavily-used new gaming platform for kids.”

The mobile version could provide a secondary solution for kids that don’t want to wait for the use of a television to play the game, and can also enable them to play the game on the go, when they’re not at home in front of their game systems.

“A lot of people mistake tablet gaming as mobile gaming,” said Hirshberg. “And yet we see a lot of kids playing the tablet on the couch, or in their bedroom. And sometimes there’s a giant television screen 10 feet away, and they’re choosing to play on the tablet because it’s their preferred platform.”

Skylanders: Trap Team will arrive on October 5, the same day as the console versions. Which edition will you go after?

Source: Wired

Amazon Studios Debuting Five New Pilots

With Netflix already ramping up more original programming and Hulu plus following suit, Amazon is wasting no time in attempting to keep up, The company’s Amazon Studios division has announced five pilots that will make their debut later this month in the United States and the UK, as part of an initiative to get new series launched for the Prime service.

With the previous pilot “seasons,” users were invited to provide feedback on specific shows to determine which ones to keep as full programming for the Prime service, and which ones to not continue production on.

“We are delighted to be able to bring Amazon customers new shows from some of Hollywood’s most talented actors and creators,” said Amazon Studios director Roy Price. “There is something for everyone in this season and I can’t wait to hear our customers’ feedback when they premiere later this month.”

First up with the new pilots is The Cosmopoiltans, a series written and directed by Whit Stilman of Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco fame. It’s a comedy that focuses on a number of young Americans searching for love and friendship around Paris. The series features Chloe Sevigny and Adam Brody.

Next up is Marc Forster’s Hand of God, which stars Ron Perlman and Dana Delany and deals with a judge who suffers a mental breakdown and goes on a quest to find the person who tore his family apart. Forster previously worked on such films as World War Z and Finding Neverland.

Hysteria is a new thriller series created by Shaun Cassidy, which centers on a girls’ competitive dance team based in Texas that comes across a strange illness that begins to spread throughout social media. Mena Suvari stars in the pilot.

Really is the latest comedy effort from Super Troopers alum Jay Chandrasekhar, with a group of suburban Chicago couples doing whatever they can to stay young. The series features a number of stars, including Sarah Chalke, Selma Blair, and Rob Delaney.

Finally, the Steven Soderbergh-produced Red Oaks is a comedy series featuring Craig Roberts as an assistant tennis pro at a country club in 1985. The series also features Jennifer Grey from Dirty Dancing fame and veteran Paul Reiser.

All the series will debut on Amazon Prime on August 28. Customers are invited to come and take a view.

Source: Variety

Setting The Stage With Ayzenberg’s Julian Hollingshead

There are a wide variety of influencers out there– from the beer afficianado with a moderate but devoted Twitter following, to the mommy blogger with some favorite products, to perhaps the biggest of them all, Beyonce, who can drop an album sans preemptive marketing efforts with a mere Facebook status.

From the hard-to-find influencers, to the ones on the tip of everyone’s tongues, there is a massive amount of tapped and untapped talent out there. Many are willing and able to work with brands in a way that is true and organic to the content they create.

Ayzenberg’s Julian Hollingshead opened up [a]list summit talking about the variety of influencers and how influencer marketing is becoming a more common and important component of campaigns. Check out this opening talk where Hollingshead sets the stage for other industry thought leaders and high profile influencers to talk about influencer marketing from art to science and business.