GamesBeat 2014 Preview

VentureBeat’s annual GamesBeat show will be in San Francisco this Monday and Tuesday, and as usual it will be packed with interesting and informative sessions delivering critical info to a broad cross-section of the gaming industry. The [a]listdaily will be at GamesBeat to fill you in on some of these events, and bring you some of the insights being shared at the show. Let’s look at some of the key sessions you should be sure to catch if you can.

The show opens Monday with a series of Fireside Chats for all attendees, and the lineup is impressive. Beginning Monday at 9:00 to 9:30 is a Fireside Chat with EA CEO Andrew Wilson, followed by a chat with Nexon CEO Owen Mahoney. Wilson will talk about EA’s transition in navigating the vast changes under way in the game industry, while Mahoney will discuss how to make strategic partenrships work (something Nexon has been doing a lot of lately).

Then David Helgason, CEO of Unity, takes the stage to talk about the future of game platforms an indie gaming. Given how broadly Unity is being adopted by indie developers, Helgason should have a great deal of insight into this topic. Finally, Peter Molyneux, veteran designer and head of 22cans, will be up to talk about what he’s learned from his newest title Godus, the free-to-play mobile “god game.”

After the morning break, everyone continues to hear from key industry figures as the discussion turns to moving Hollywood IP to mobile platforms, with Peter Levin of Lionsgate and Chris Petrovic of Kabam discussing that moderated by Wedbush Securities managing director Michael Pachter. Then Bob Meese from Google Play takes the stage to talk about mobile momentum and the Google Play store. Former EA CEO John Riccitiello is up after that to discuss who’s winning the console war and the gaming industry in general with VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi, and finally CEO Simon Khalaf of Flurry will be up to talk about how mobile games cross borders.

After lunch there are several more plenary sessions, including a talk with EA’s Lucy Bradshaw and Rachel Franklin about Playing with Life, one on investing in the game industry with veteran investor Rick Thompson, and then the ESA’s Mike Gallagher talks about the challenges for the game industry as it becomes global.

Breakout sessions follow, where attendees can choose between panles on game technology, monetization, or partnering with Asian giants. Returning to Fireside Chats after a break, all the attendees will get to find out about the next billion-dollar gaming opportunity with ace investors Tim Chang and Kristian Segerstrale. Then Clive Downie, COO of Zynga, talks about building franchises, and Amazon’s Mike Frazzini talks about what Amazon is doing in games.

The second day of GamesBeat is structured similarly, with an array of speakers addressing everyone most of the day. Tapjoy’s Steve Wadsworth talks monetization, Jeff Lyndon of iDreamSky talks about China’s game market, and Mitch Lasky of Benchmark Capital provides insights into investing. Then Wooga’s CEO Jens Begemann speaks about Wooga’s hits and misses and Dan Brody of Tencent gives insights from the world’s largest game company.

Breakout sessions then let you choose betweem finding out more about customer acquisition strategies, how eSports have already arrived, or taking games from other lands into the West. After lunch are plenary sessions once again, with topics like Storytelling in Games, Why Livestreaming and Video are transforming games, Mobile Gaming’s All-Stars, and Data Science.

The day concludes with a Game Innovation Showdown, a talk on Made in China — Played Worldwide, a session on knowing the warning signs of trouble in your studio, and then a closing reception followed by an after party.

The GamesBeat program is packed with an all-star lineup of speakers, and it’s going to be interesting, educational, and a great networking opportunity. We look forward to seeing you there!

NPD August 2014: Consoles Stay Strong

Now that we’re nearly one year into the latest generation of consoles, some trends are becoming apparent from US retail sales. Buyers are still ready to drop $400 on a new console, but they are not buying software as rapidly as they were last year. Once again, hardware sales were more than double last year (up 116 percent, from $90.8 million to $196.2 million) while console software dropped 21 percent versus August 2013 ($231.6 million versus $293.4 million). Accessories dropped off only slightly, hitting $133.5 million versus last August’s $136.8 million (about a 2 percent drop).

“In August 2014, overall hardware sales doubled from August 2013 caused by an over 200 percent increase in console hardware sales with continued strong sales of eighth generation hardware (which includes Wii U, PS4, and Xbox One),” said NPD’s Liam Callahan. “Eighth generation hardware represented close to 70 percent of August 2014 hardware sales, which is the highest percentage share since the release of the Xbox One and PS4 back in November 2013.”

Callahan noted the latest generation of consoles is selling much better than the last generation. “When lining up sales of PS4 and Xbox One after ten months on the market, the combined PS4 and Xbox One hardware sales are greater by over 70 percent compared to their predecessors,” said Callahan.

As is usually the case after NPD releases its numbers, console manufacturers have weighed in. Sony was happy to confirm that once again, the PlayStation 4 was the sales leader. “PlayStation 4 was No. 1 in hardware sales for the eighth consecutive month,” PlayStation senior vice president of marketing Guy Longworth said. “And it remains the cumulative leader for new-generation game consoles.”

Microsoft had to work a little harder in its remarks, but there’s still plenty of upside to point out. “Xbox One sales are on a positive trajectory, nearly doubling sales in August in the U.S. compared to July due in part to strong demand for the Xbox One Madden NFL 15 bundle. We’re looking forward to bringing the best value bundles, incredible offers like the ‘Buy a Console, Get a Game Free’ promotion running now, and more great games as we gear up for the launches of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2, Destiny, Grand Theft Auto V, and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.”

And, as usual lately, Nintendo didn’t make any statement. If you’re looking for numbers, you have to go to analyst estimates. Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan estimated that Sony sold around 175,000 PS4sin the US, with Microsoft was closing the gap with 150,000 Xbox Ones sold. The Wii U is still a distant third by all accounts, even with its lower price point.

The picture for software is, alas, not anything like what’s happening with hardware. “Deep declines in seventh generation software of 57 percent were not offset by growth in eighth generation software, leading to a net decrease of console software sales of $47 million,” Callahan pointed out. “New launches in August 2014 declined 41 percent compared to new launch performance in August 2013 due to poor comparisons to August 2013 launches like Saints Row IV, Disney Infinity, and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Eight out of the top ten games in August were new launches compared to only 3 in August 2014.”

Still, the latest generation of consoles started outperforming the last generation for software sales. “Madden NFL 15 was the number one game this month with consumers adopting eighth generation software over seventh generation, leading to growth over last August’s Madden NFL 25 – a trend which will hopefully become widespread and lead to software growth as we move towards the holidays,” said Callahan.

August 2014 Top 10 Games (New Physical Retail only)
1. Madden NFL 15 (PS4, XBO, 360, PS3)** Electronic Arts
2. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (PS4, XBO, 360, PS3, PC)** Activision Blizzard
3. Minecraft (360, PS3) Microsoft/Sony
4. The Last of Us (PS4, PS3)**Sony
5. Call Of Duty: Ghosts (360, XBO, PS4, PS3, PC, NWU)** Activision Blizzard
6. Lego Marvel Super Heroes (360, PS3, NWU, PS4, 3DS, NDS, XBO, PSV, PC) Warner Bros. Interactive
7. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare (360, PS3, PS4, XBO) Electronic Arts
8. Watch Dogs (PS4, 360, PS3, XBO, PC)** Ubisoft
9. Battlefield 4 (360, PS3, PS4, XBO, PC) Electronic Arts
10. The LEGO Movie Videogame (360, 3DS, PS3, NWU, PS4, XBO, PSV) Warner Bros. Interactive
**(includes CE, GOTY editions, bundles, etc. but not those bundled with hardware)

Amazon Appstore Could Rival Google Play

Amazon has shown an immense amount of growth with the applications and games available within its Appstore, according to numbers revealed by the company.

The Appstore realized revenue of about $2.5 billion in the last year, which is just about half of Google Play’s estimated $5 billion in earnings. That said, the Amazon Appstore is definitely picking up in popularity, to the point that it’s the most popular third-party one available.

Most of its growth came within the last year, as it showed a 200 percent increased in visitors and downloaders in the past year. With that steady pace, Amazon’s store could easily be on par with Google’s in about three years’ time.

A good deal of this is due to the growth of applications available for download. Amazon has confirmed that the number of available games and other programs have almost tripled over the past year, growing to 240,000. That’s still a ways to go when it comes to reaching Google Play’s 1.3 million and Apple’s 1.2 million, but it’s progress nonetheless.

While it may appear that Google Play is king, general numbers don’t quite equate revenue. Although Google Play did account for 75 percent of mobile app downloads over the past year, it only had $5 billion in revenue, compared to the 18 percent of downloads in the Apple App Store, and its gross revenue of $10 billion.

Amazon’s Appstore actually has larger revenue potential than both stores, according to Developer Economics. Most application developers have a cross-platform approach when it comes to publishing their work. While Amazon is at a lowly 16 percent (compared to Google Play’s 65 percent), its growth could see a shift in numbers in just a year’s time, or maybe a little longer.

Even though Amazon still has a bit of an upward struggle when competing against both Google and Apple, there’s no question that it has the tools and developer support to get the job done. The mobile market is definitely getting more interesting.

Source: Quibb

‘Disney Infinity’ Getting a Guardian Boost

With less than two weeks to go until its launch on game consoles, Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes is already promising to be a best-seller – and it doesn’t hurt to have a tie-in with a blockbuster film to boot.

First figurines for the game have been released back in July, and judging by pre-sales, there are already indications that the game could be a best-seller. Rocket Raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy playset is easily the top-seller, alongside the package that comes with Drax and Star-Lord, while Rocket’s right-hand tree Groot is in a third place spot. That easily shows that Galaxy‘s box office appeal – almost sitting at $300 million earned domestically – could be a huge draw to the Infinity audience.

“The film is really driving all of the awareness for the Guardians characters,” said John Blackburn, senior vice president and general manager of the Disney Infinity brand. The sales thus far show “just how popular these characters are and how they’re surpassing other popular characters that have been available longer.”

Rocket’s sales alone are said to have been double of other Infinity characters released over the past year, including popular favorites like Frozen‘s Elsa and Monsters Inc. star Mike Wazowski.

The game has already shown impressive pre-order numbers, mainly due to the announcement of the series’ debut on the newer game platforms, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. Older ones are selling just as reasonably, though.

More Guardians goodness will also be coming in the form of a playable Yondu character. Played by Michael Rooker in the blockbuster film, Yondu is a bounty hunter who’s quick when it comes to attacking enemies. Falcon from the hit movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier will also be introduced in early 2015.

The Guardians tie-in should really help the game, especially with the movie’s forthcoming release on home video, which should be in time for the holidays. Transitioning them to the Infinity universe “was really easy,” according to Blackburn. “Marvel’s batting a thousand. It’s easy to get behind anything they’re doing.”

With the original Infinity grossing an impressive $500 million since its release – and turning around the fortunes of Disney Interactive – there’s no question the follow-up will do the same once it arrives on September 23rd for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo 3DS.

Source: Variety



Reaching Female Millennials Isn’t Easy

When it comes to reaching a millennial audience in general, marketers seem to have it easy when it comes to analyzing the latest trends. Targeting a specific female audience, however, is a bit trickier, according to a new eMarketer report, “Millennial Women: How Their Social Network Usage, Shopping Habits and Personal Finances Add Up.”

According to the report, the audience is divided between Internet, social network and smartphone users, but it appears that there’s room for a small bit of growth over the next four years. However, to appeal to this audience, there’s a certain set of guidelines to follow.

“The press constantly pits and positions generations against each other, but that doesn’t resonate with millennials,” said Victoria Draper, director of consumer analytics and research for AOL. “They do look up to boomers and Gen X women. This gives publishers and brands a great opening to celebrate the significant alignment that exists between the generations.”

Deputy director Rebecca Eisenberg believes that showing a diverse set of consumers in marketing materials can play a bit part as well. Paper towel ads were brought up as an example. Normally, ads are shown with mothers cleaning up messes, but “if you’re a single women who spills some wine on the carpet, you need a paper tower, too. (Millennial women) want to know that the company they’re giving their money to gets who they are.”

Diversity still plays an enormous part, as millennials “are looking to see themselves represented in the media they’re watching,” said Eisenberg. “It’s really important to show a diversity of people — different races, ages and sexual orientations.”

Splitting the sexes, however, is NOT a smart move. Alex Abraham, director of Edelman’s 8095 Insights group, said the line between males and females continues to blur. “Many of the traditional differences between the two are going away. There are a lot more women in the workforce, women for years have outnumbered men in the college ranks, and there are more stay-at-home dads. With the millennial generation, you need to be able to speak to parents. There should be less talking specifically to moms and dads, because the parent role can take many different forms for this generation.”

Tapping into millennial idealism and inspiration also play a huge part. “Embrace their positivity and their fun-loving personality, but embrace their struggle,” said Draper. “Highlighting stories that feature those who remain positive in the face of obstacles really resonates with them. The way they emotionally handle their struggle is relevant.”

Source: eMarketer

Image Source: Ryan Jenkins

The Battle For Home Tech Begins

As technology continues to expand and more devices become “connected” with Internet capabilities and downloading, more and more companies are battling for the attention of consumers. At the IFA conference in Berlin last week, Samsung CEO Yoon Koo-Keun addressed said needs, explaining why it’s such an important market.

“The home of the future is not about the technology and not about being smart and connected,” he stated. “It’s about it working in a way that you don’t notice the technology and giving you the right options at the right time. It’s about adapting to you.”

A lot of companies are gunning for the home market, including Google, General Electric, Revolv, ADT Home Security, iControl, Insteon and, of course, Samsung, introducing products that utilize Wi-Fi connectivity, along with Bluetooth support and other high-tech features.

Samsung projected that over 45 million homes will make the transition to being “smart homes” in the near future, indicating room for such a market. Apple has already announced a new “smart home” platform that it’s currently building into iOS 8, alongside its recently announced iPhone 6 models and Apple Watch. Apple’s big push so far has been with iBeacons, intended to transform retail spaces.

In addition, other companies have taken similar leaps. Google made its own transition into the market by picking up Nest for an approximate $3.2 billion; Intel recently modified its managerial structure to work more on “Internet of Things” (IoT for short) transition; Cisco made a trio of strategic investments in the market; and Zebra picked up Motorola’s general enterprise business for a whopping $3.5 billion. All of this will lead into eventual transition to better usage in “smart homes,” in one form or another.

Leading the charge in the IoT market is Apple, according to a report over on Forbes. However, closely behind is Nest, which would explain Google’s interest in the company’s tech, as it’s looking to compete with Apple. Other companies like Google, Intel and Microsoft round out the list, with Samsung slowly moving up in the ranks.

What do you think Is a transition to the IoT market for “smart homes” a good move for these companies Or is it too soon

Source: VentureBeat, Forbes

Will Ferrell Playing Games For Charity

Hot pot of coffee! Who knew that Will Ferrell knew a thing or two about video games

The comedic actor, known for his roles in the Anchorman movies and the Christmas comedy Elf, is taking part in a new Indiegogo campaign, offering his gaming skills in an effort to raise money for Cancer For College and

A goal of $375,000 has been set for the campaign, which will go to both foundations to raise money for cancer survivors. So far, with 31 days to go, the campaign fundraising total has already reached over $28,000.

As with any Indiegogo program, a number of rewards are being offered to those who donate, including a special Will Ferrell’s SuperMegaUVBlastMax batch of sunscreen (for gamers), limited edition “Game Face” t-shirts and hoodies, and autographed water bottles and Xbox 360 controllers.

In addition, those who donate will be selected at random from those who enter to fly to San Francisco, where they’ll pay a visit to the Twitch offices downtown and actually be able to play alongside Ferrell in a session that will be aired live on the streaming channel. Other special guests, including charity sponsors and professional gamers, will be on hand as well. The session will take place on October 26th.

The program should have no problem meeting its goal, and the involvement with Ferrell will no doubt do some good for the charities involved…even if he’s not exactly on the level of “pro gamer.” But, hey, if he can take on Chad Smith in a celebrity drum-off on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell can do anything.

Learn more about the Indiegogo program here. It’s all for a good cause, and let’s be honest, that sunscreen will probably do some good during a gamer’s next session of Destiny.

Samsung Gear VR Heads to Hollywood

VR seems like the new buzzword in Hollywood, replacing some of the excitement lost as 3D turned out to be much less important than many originally hoped. Filmmakers are beginning to experiment with the possibilities inherent in immersing people entirely in a world, but the technical issues are vast.

More than technology, though, filmmakers must wrestle with the basic concepts of story and character and plot, and how those should change when put into the context of a complete virtual environment. Should the person experiencing VR have any interaction with the environment beyond selecting where to look How does VR change the emotions experienced by the viewer The entire vocabulary of filmmaking, so painstakingly established over more than a century, will need to be re-examined. Big companies are already beginning this process.

Samsung is the latest huge company to commit to virtual reality. Oculus VR has spent the past 12 months working with Samsung on the just-announced Gear VR. But Hollywood studios like DreamWorks Animation has also been experimenting with the Oculus Rift DK2 technology. In Berlin last week Samsung, Oculus and DreamWorks unveiled new mobile VR experiences that will be available this fall.

Shiraz Akmal

Shiraz Akmal was in Berlin to showcase what DreamWorks Animation Studios’ new DreamLab has been up to. Akmal spent 25 years developing games, including nine years at publisher THQ as vice president of operations in product development. He was also a founding member of Heavy Iron Studios, which THQ acquired in 1999. These days, Akmal is the head of business and product development for DreamLab, the new division at DreamWorks Animation that creates mobile, immersive and interactive experiences. He talks about the opportunities mobile VR opens up for Hollywood and game creators in this exclusive interview.

What excites you about the potential of the mobile Oculus applications for Hollywood?

As part of DreamLab at DreamWorks, we create mobile, immersive and interactive experiences combining cutting edge technologies with DreamWorks storytelling expertise to create new and exciting ways to entertain our fans. VR is a unique medium that allows our audience to interact and laugh with DreamWorks characters and content in a whole new way.

What are your thoughts on the virtual movie theater?

We’ve taken a unique and creative approach to the idea of a virtual movie theater. In DreamWorks VR, we feature a unique Penguins of Madagascar Movie Trailer where people are able to watch the trailer on the actual Penguins set and interact with the cast of Penguins in a fully immersive VR environment.

What opportunities do you see with DreamWorks properties with Oculus given the recent How to Train Your Dragon demo you developed?

We continue to build on our extensive experience creating and operating location based VR experiences. As part of our How to Train Your Dragon 2 promotional campaign, thousands of people have flown Toothless through the world of Berk as part of our Dragon Flight VR Experience.

As a former game developer, what do you see mobile Oculus opening up for video games?

Like any new entertainment platform, a whole new set of games will be launched for VR. Based on 25 years game development experience, I believe the most successful games will be those that are designed for VR platform rather than just ported to the platform.

How easy is it to develop for the Oculus system?

The real challenge lies in understanding what type of experiences work well in VR. Working in VR is completely different than any other interactive medium before it — with many new considerations that traditional game development has not faced. We’ve spent almost two years learning what works well and what things to avoid — our goal is to make sure that everyone has a really great and memorable first-time VR experience.

What impact do you feel Samsung’s mainstream reach will have on getting VR out to the masses?

Samsung is launching the first modern day consumer friendly VR device. Most consumers outside of the game and film industry don’t really know anything about VR — so we’re happy to see Samsung taking the first major step in introducing people to what VR is in a very consumer friendly manner .

Hollywood embraced Oculus at Comic Con, how are you seeing studios utilize VR for promotion and fan interactions?

DreamWorks has explored and developed for VR for a couple years now. As the novelty of VR wears off, users will seek out more immersive and unique experiences — such as our Dragon Flight VR Experience or DreamWorks VR experience that recently was announced for Gear VR.

What opportunities do you see with Oculus for theme parks and attractions?

We’re optimistic about location-based VR entertainment, considering we have researched and developed extensively for the space. While VR hardware is good enough for personal use, it’s not quite ready anytime soon to survive the tough demands needed to operate in theme parks.

What #AppleLive Tells Us About Apple’s New Social Strategy

Apple is notorious for the relative radio silence the massive brand has on social media. It doesn’t have any official social channels with the exception of the Tumblr launched for the iPhone 5c which has now been taken down. The page, despite being made on an inherently social platform, was deliberate in maintaining one-way communication.

This appears to have changed entirely with Apple’s September 9th announcements. There was a very clear urging to round up the conversation on social surrounding the #AppleLive hashtag. According to Twitter, #AppleLive generated more than 2.4 million tweets and peaked at 32,305 tweets per minute as users followed the keynote.

In spite of much-publicized keynote streaming issues, Apple’s social team triumphed on, pushing out major product points with sharp product photography creating an elegant real-time effect for the major tech event. They key hub of the event wasn’t necessarily on a social platform, however. It was on Apple’s own website.

It seems Apple is beginning to see the value of social media, but is doing it in a very parsimonious manner where they are removed from the pressures as a brand to interact closely with the public. You had to visit Apple’s site to see their own version of a social feed– basically a wall consisting of tweet-like posts mixed in with carefully picked quotes and tweets from other actual social networks. Doing this, Apple maintained its position in being the ultimate source of information on their big day, firmly being in control of the conversation, dispensing tidbits of information to a very eager public.

Apple is now half-way social. They see the value in incorporating their brand’s advocates within their own messaging. They don’t see the value in owned social channels beyond their YouTube (comments disabled, of course). Apple’s Twitter account to this day still has not been used.

There are reports that Apple is in transition from this old “single narrator” model, to a more modern approach using diverse voices. The next step for Apple is beginning to open the lines of communication with its brand advocates and really bring about discussion. Apple is definitely one of the last major brands to make this huge transition and is doing so with very small and calculated steps.

In an increasingly communicative time where brands are becoming more and more like the cool friends in someone’s timeline, it was beginning to feel like Apple was staid and antisocial. When it comes down to it, what Apple does is to create products that enable us to communicate in this way. It is clear Apple has reached a ‘tipping point’ and it will be interesting for all to see how they will work to retain their secretive culture while joining the rest of us.

Gameplay Trailers For the Week

It’s time once again to recap some of the best video game trailers to hit the web this past week, so without further ado, let’s hit the ground running!

The new trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Unity highlights one of the game’s new co-op missions, in which players can work together to execute a heist and earn big rewards as a result. However, they’ll need to be careful, as each time they alert a guard, they’ll lose a small amount of their precious bounty. Unity will release on November 11th for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

The very bizarre side-scrolling strategy game Murasaki Baby will make its debut on PlayStation Vita next Tuesday, and to celebrate its release, the development team showcased a new behind-the-scenes trailer, showing where it came up with its spooky design for the game.

With the announcement that Sega’s Alien: Isolation has gone gold, the publisher has released the first of a new set of trailers that ask the simple question, “How will you survive ” In Isolation, it’s a matter of surviving against a horde of Aliens, rather than fighting back with pulse rifles or other weapons. (Note: it’s a little bloody.)

There’s a minor glitch in Madden NFL 15 that turns one of the players into a tiny player on the field. In addition to fixing the glitch, EA Sports has opted to celebrate the legacy of the Tiny Titan, complete with an interview and a game-winning touchdown.

Finally, Riot Games has announced a new series of behind-the-scenes vignettes that look at some of the best League of Legends players in the world. Titled Road To Worlds, the first part recently debuted on the company’s eSports channel, and the other two will follow in a few weeks’ time.

Source: YouTube