Game Company Q3 Earnings Roundup

The third quarter of this year, ended September 30th, was a good one for many game companies, but there were mixed results for some. We’ll be updating this with more earnings information as it’s released.

Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts reported earnings for the quarter ended September 30, with net non-GAAP revenue of $1.22 billion and income of $232 million. GAAP revenue was $990 million, with income of $3 million. The non-GAAP revenue was up from $1.04 billion for the same quarter last year, with income up from $105 million last year. The change in GAAP numbers was dramatic, with net revenue up from $695 million last year and net income up from a $273 million dollar loss last year.

“By emphasizing player engagement and our digital live services, we’ve grown revenue, expanded gross margins and delivered EPS well above prior year and our guidance,” said Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen. “We are raising our annual non-GAAP net revenue guidance by $75 million to$4.175 billion and annual non-GAAP diluted EPS by $0.20 to $2.05.” The company also noted it is the #1 publisher on PS4 and Xbox One in the Western world, and that players of EA games on consoles and PCs logged 1.9 billion hours of play in the quarter.

EA’s performance continues to impress investors, as the share price continues to climb. The race with Activision to be the top game publisher in North America is getting very close indeed, and the quarter coming up will determine if EA is able to take back the lead it held years ago.

Sony
Sony overall had a difficult quarter, recording revenue of $17.445 billion and a loss of $1.247 billion, both of which are greater than the same quarter last year. The loss was primarily due to the Mobile & Communications business, which lost $1.615 million; most of Sony’s other divisions made money, with the Game division revenues up by more than 80 percent.

Sony sold 3.3 more million PS4 consoles during the second fiscal quarter, bringing its worldwide total to over 13 million units. Meanwhile, the portable division suffered, with the PS Vita, PSP and PS TV selling a combined total of only 700,000 units – a 100,000 unit decrease from the previous quarter.

While the PlayStation 4 continues to thrive, the company’s recent 2.00 firmware update has been met with criticism, particularly with its change to the system’s stand-by service. In addition, one of the company’s bigger releases, DriveClub, continues to have problems on the online front, with the PlayStation Plus version delayed indefinitely. At least PlayStation Plus is thriving, with the service now counting 7.9 million subscribers.

TakeTwo
Take-Two Interactive had a terrible quarter compared to the same quarter last year, when the company launched Grand Theft Auto V. The publisher saw non-GAAP revenue of $135.4 million, down almost 90 percent from the previous year’s quarter with $1.27 billion. The non-GAAP revenue difference was much less, with $126.3 million in revenue this year compared to $148.8 million in the same quarter last year. The company lost $48.5 million under GAAP, and $30.815 million under non-GAAP measures. Still, TakeTwo professed to be happy with its results.

“Our second quarter results exceeded expectations, driven by strong catalog sales and continued growth in digitally-delivered revenue from recurrent consumer spending,” Take-Two chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick said. “With the successful launches of NBA 2K15, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth and WWE 2K15, our third quarter and holiday season is off to a great start, and there is tremendous anticipation for our upcoming releases, including Grand Theft Auto V for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, as well as Evolve – the only title in history to win Game of Show honors at both E3 and Gamescom in the same year.”

The company has been faring better since launching an Evolve open alpha on Xbox One, and is considerably bumping up the hype behind Grand Theft Auto V‘s next-gen release, complete with the promise to transfer over previous assets from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game to the newer ones. Grand Theft Auto V is set to launch November 18th for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and early next year for PC.

Ubisoft
Ubisoft reported $156.5 million revenue for the second quarter of the fiscal year, down 43 percent from the previous year’s $275.5 million for the same quarter. This still beat Ubisoft’s guidance, and Ubisoft boasted that the combined last two quarters (the first half of Ubisoft’s fiscal year) was up more than 65 percent over the previous year, to $611.2 million, with income of $30.31 million.

Ubisoft specifically pointed to its continued success of new IP Watch Dogs, which has now shipped over 9 million units. Additionally, the publisher cited a “firm back catalog” that generated $142.3 million, thanks to games like Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Far Cry 3 and Rayman Legends. It’s also important to note that Ubisoft’s digital segment revenues increased 90.4% to $168.6 million (27.8 percent of total sales) – this was driven by digital distribution, DLC and in-game items and mobile titles.

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot remarked, “Our performance in the first half of the fiscal year has strengthened our confidence that we will reach our annual targets. It demonstrates that our strategy of creating strong brands and investing in digital is paying off. This strategy is underpinned by a creative force of an unrivalled scale as well as constantly enhanced execution. It has positioned us at the forefront of the new console cycle and will be a determining factor in creating value for our shareholders in the short, medium and long term. We also are standing by our target for 2015-16.”

The publisher is counting on a big third quarter, driven by titles like Assassin’s Creed Unity, Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Far Cry 4, Just Dance 2015 and The Crew. Ubisoft’s guidance calls for Q3 sales around $913.5 million (which would be up by 40 percent over last year) and the company expects its non-IFRS operating income to amount to at least $250 million for full-year 2015-16.

Social Marketing Trends To Watch In 2015

With the year almost up, brands are already settling in to their campaigns for the remainder of the year. But where should they go heading into 2015 Clickz published a report explaining the top five social marketing trends to watch for, and how they can be used to their credit in the next coming year.

The first trend discusses the movement of a mobile-first world, with more people spending time on their mobile devices in the United States. The report showed an increase of devices with a 4.7 inch or larger screen, rising from four percent in the previous year to a third of the market this year. NPD Group reports that these devices now hold a place in one-quarter of all general phone sales.

Millennials use these devices quite often, according to Facebook, as overall daily active users have grown eight percent for this year. That’s small potatoes compared to mobile daily active users, who grew 15 percent and mobile-only daily active users by 34 percent.

With that, Clickz recommends switching from mobile-aware to mobile-first when it comes to outreach.

Next up, the increase of the pay-to-play market has picked up, as six percent of adults’ digital media time is spent on Facebook, while 10 percent of U.S. digital ad spending is also assigned to the site. Facebook continues to hold a strong social factor, including with games and other applications.

As a suggestion, Clickz recommends investing in smart social advertising, as well as working more on audience segmentation and targeting better advertising for the social front in general.

Leading into the third tip, social content takes a heavy focus. With that, it’s recommended that companies continue to build content, but don’t be careless about it. The report states that “social audiences themselves can be a truly inspired source of content that is authentic and highly sharable, when commissioned, moderated and presented in a creative way.”

The fourth step explains that, while YouTube is still a viable source for it, it’s no longer the only game in town when it comes to video. Short form video across Twitter’s Vine channel has picked up in traffic, as have GIF’s on Tumblr. Facebook also stated it had big viewing numbers, though they can’t be taken too heavily into account due to the use of auto-play.

The report suggests looking for more creative ways to utilize video to produce content, including short-form Vine videos. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about straightforward commercials anymore. One example of this is the FIAT 500 Endless Fun GIF ad, which can be watched below.

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M-Commerce Grows 141%

MarketLive recently released its Performance Index for the third quarter of this year, and had a message loud and clear for a certain audience: “Merchants must immediately face — and address — the enormous implications and inescapable demands of multi-device shopping and mainstream mobile commerce.”

Smartphone traffic with e-Commerce sites have managed to grow more than 62 percent, with revenue reported well over 141 percent, according to Marketing Land. In comparison, tablets fell behind, with only a modest growth of 20 percent, although that still counts as growth overall.

On the PC front, there was a sign that it “continued to decline,” with a reported 57 percent of traffic to e-Commerce sites, but only responsible for 76 percent of revenues. Smartphones only drove 28 percent of traffic and 11 percent of revenue, while tablets had 15 percent of traffic and 13 percent of revenue.

MarketLive was quick to note the overall two percent decline from conversions in the previous year, with a larger count of shopping cart and checkout abandonment overall, by about 3 and 7 percent, respectively.

The chart below shows overall performance highlights, indicating the exact percentages of these numbers, as well as the overall increase in traffic and revenue. It also detailed engagement, with just over a four-minute time on site overall, and 24 percent home page bounce rate.

This chart also shows the change in revenue for companies, and brick and mortar-based shops lead the charge with 23.7 percent, with apparel following in second place with 10.9 percent. Meanwhile, both beauty and brand have shown a decrease between 5.3 and 8.9 percent.

As far as organic search traffic is concerned, it showed an increase of 31 percent of visits overall, with 26 percent of conversions, while paid-search was slightly less with 18 percent of traffic and 22 percent of revenues in the aggregate, according to the numbers.

It’ll be interesting to see how these numbers hold up over the holiday season, especially with companies looking to get on board with the usual rush of Black Friday sales.

 

Brands Matter In The Moment

There’s an interesting technique out there that many companies don’t consider, probably due to the risk involved or failing to capture that “moment” in which they can purely connect with audiences. But that’s the thing – something going for that “moment” is the best way to capture it, such as watching the Super Bowl live or taking part in some other big event.

Think With Google, Rethinking Real Time: How Brands Can Really Matter In the Moment, explains the steps involved in terms of capturing that feeling when companies and their respected audiences can truly connect together.

One example the article brings up is the World Cup Finals, with Google Search traffic from smartphones tripling over the four year span between the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, going from 18 percent to 70 percent of total volume.

In addition to watching the event, using second screen features also provides a way to look items up, as well as watching the best parts of the event on YouTube and purchasing related items, like seeing a dress from the Academy Awards and looking for something similar.

Nielsen research indicates that 84 percent of smartphone and tablet owners utilize their devices as second screens when watching said experiences, per a report from the Digital Consumer.

Other examples of companies interacting with their audience through this process includes Nike’s Phenomenal Shot, a series of 3D ads featuring sponsored athletes doing their celebratory poses, allowing users to interact with them to define their moment. EA Sports’ Madden NFL 15 also comes to mind, introducing a Giferator tool that enables them to create customized taunts with their favorite teams and players, sending a not-so-subtle message to their competition that they’re ready to play. The video below provides an idea of how this works.

 

 

Inside [a]: It’s All Mobile With Robert Brill And Brian Foster

Robert Brill and Brian Foster are a dynamic duo. Robert is the Executive Director of ION and Programmatic Media and Brian is the Talent Group Director of ION at Ayzenberg. Together they have unleashed influencer campaigns under ION that have generated a huge amount of hype. Most recently, they commandeered an influencer campaign that was 100 percent mobile.

When it comes to talking about mobile campaigns, Robert is over it. “It’s all mobile,” he says. ‘When we talk about mobile, we are talking about where digital consumption is going.” Influencers, are, of course, a very key part of that.

So how do you know which influencers to choose What’s most important Here are their insights:

What do you look for in an ideal influencer?

Brian Foster, Talent Group Director, ION

Robert Brill, Executive Director of ION

Brian Foster: I look more for production quality. That’s always the first thing that we see: if they’re uploading quality content that looks good and is visually appealing as well as having a voice that projects well or sounds good. Most of the stuff is based on commentary– it’s like voice editorial– so we want to make sure that they’re speaking clearly, that they’re brand friendly, and that they’re not hateful in any way. We look for ones that like to talk about the things they love and are speaking in a genuine voice. An honest opinion is always great to have also, as long as they’re not skewing so far negative or so far positive that it seems disingenuous. We always want to see content that looks good as well as hear content that the brand would appreciate as well as their [the influencer’s] viewers.

That said, is content more important than the audience itself?

Robert Brill: Influencers are media channels. They are publishers. They have an audience and they create content just like websites do and mobile applications do. Influencer channels are new ways for people to discover content. They are content creators. So, just like with any media campaign where a brand integrates into the larger context of the channel, we are looking for alignment between the brand and the channel.

“Having the right volume of audience is always important, but it’s not the end-all be-all when it comes to the decision that gets made when we choose an influencer.”

There’s a very highly customized element to the way we map out these campaigns. So one is defining the right alignment between the brand and the influencer. Having the right volume of audience is always important, but it’s not the end-all be-all when it comes to the decision that gets made when we choose an influencer.

Do you have any tips for brands on improving how they approach influencer marketing?

Brian: I think the main thing to note is that influencers on YouTube have created their own voice and their own personality since probably 2005-2006. Some of these guys were working before YouTube. They’ve been creating content in their own style for a long time. Coming in and treating influencers as though they are actors or talent that are going to work in a commercial that you’re shooting is not the way to go. The way to go is to find, I call it a 50/50 balance of creative. It’s about finding that match between what you want to say as a brand and the right influencer that can speak to that brand genuinely and not change exactly what they are saying and finding a nice fit.

“Coming in and treating influencers as though they are actors or talent that are going to work in a commercial that you’re shooting is not the way to go.”

If the brand wants them to say something but the influencer doesn’t want to say that specific thing, let’s find the right thing to say, but still say the same thing.

Robert: Influencer marketing gets funded in many situations by the media group. The media group is… well, they’re control freaks. They need things to be done at a specific time, targeted to as specific a group as possible, say the right things… and everything will be hunky-dory. Then you have PR and publicity people who let creators do what they want to do and you’ll write their story and you’ll have freedom and don’t really have control over what you say, but they’re just hoping that you talk about the brand in an organic way. This is the coming together of those two disciplines.

As Brian said, these are people who are their own format. You don’t want to be too direct in what you want to accomplish, but you don’t want to tell the influencer exactly how to accomplish that. At that point, you’re overbearing. And when you become overbearing, they will out you, like what just happened with Shadows of Mordor. You have a bit of control, but you don’t have the same control as paid media.

 

Call Of Duty Pairs With Instagram

Instagram has been picking up quite a bit of business lately with video ads, as such companies as The Walt Disney Co., the CW, Banana Republic and Lancome have presented their fair share of ads. However, Activision is taking a more aggressive approach with the site, introducing a series of videos that tie in with its forthcoming game release, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

Through a campaign called “Power Unlocked,” enables fans to connect to the game for whatever platform they have it on. From there, they can earn points on their account through engagement events, including social sharing, which they can then trade back for extra multiplayer features, as well as new in-game weaponry and equipment. In addition, back stories on in-game characters can also be unlocked.

So how does Instagram tie in Through Mission Zero. With this, players interact within their social feed through a reality-based gaming experience that ties in with Advanced Warfare‘s themes. This allows them to spread the word much easier across social media, while Activision receives bigger and better hype for a game that’s sure to reach an enormous audience, providing it even more word of mouth.

Players who want to learn more about Power Unlocked can do so now, as the feature is live on the Advanced Warfare website. As part of the video promotion for the game, the publisher also released a nice live-action trailer directed by Peter Berg, taking place in entirely first-person as the player, alongside a soldier played by actor Taylor Kitsch, take on a variety of bad guys. The trailer is below.

 

Marriott Inks Branded Content Deals With More Digital, Traditional Talent

by Sahil Patel

A month ago, Marriott International launched a branded content studio, essentially announcing that it planned to be the Red Bull of the hospitality industry. The goal of the studio is to create original content for multiple platforms, in partnership with leading producers and creators both from traditional and digital media.

Read more…

 

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.

Stephen Colbert Tackles GamerGate Head-On

GamerGate has been making the rounds on social media for a couple of months now, eventually starting as an argument on ethics in gaming journalism but eventually shifting to an all-out war on female gamers, developers and producers. Now, Stephen Colbert has finally tackled the topic head-on, as last night’s Colbert Report had an opening segment talking about GamerGate.

Colbert first addressed the situation by poking fun at gamers, but got right down to business when he invited feminist blogger Anita Sarkeesian on the show to explain her side of things. Sarkeesian has been a huge target in the GamerGate controversy, to the point that she had to cancel an appearance in Utah due to a bomb threat.

Sarkeesian didn’t waste time addressing the problems with GamerGate. “I think women are perceived as being threatened because we are asking for games to be more inclusive,” she said. “We’re asking for games to acknowledge that we exist and that we love games.”

Recently reported numbers show that women playing games are on the rise, taking over both PC and mobile gaming mediums with larger audience numbers – just as equal as males.

When asked to define GamerGate, Sarkeesian explained that it is “men going after women in really hostile and aggressive ways,” and “terrorizing women for being involved in (the video game) industry.”

But Sarkeesian made her strongest point when Colbert explained that feminism shouldn’t scare off men from saving damsels in distress, simply stating, “Maybe the princess shouldn’t be a damsel and she could save herself.”

The full interview is below.

She added, “The fact that so much of the responsibility is offloaded to the people most harmed by it, when somebody in a much safer position that I am can stand up and condemn it…it’s frustrating.”

It’s actually gotten to the point where she fears her safety. “I used to go to games events and feel like I was going home,” Ms. Quinn said. “Now it’s just like… are any of the people I’m currently in the room with ones that said they wanted to beat me to death

“It’s terrifying. It sucks to not have any privacy. This has all been so public. It’s more scrutiny than a politician faces – it’s living with constant fear in a place I called home,” she added. Her interview can be found below.

 

Here’s hoping the whole GamerGate controversy – and the hateful ones that support it – goes away sooner rather than later.

 

Hulu Orders Half-Hour Comedy Series From Jason Reitman, Lionsgate

by Sahil Patel

Hulu has stated its desire to bet bigger on original programming in an effort to compete with Netflix and Amazon — and it’s following through on those claims.

Earlier this year, the company announced a deal with JJ Abrams, the filmmaker’s production company Bad Robot Productions, and Warner Bros. Television for an original series based on Stephen King’s JFK-assassination novel “11/22/63.”

Now the company has made another straight-to-series order from another prominent Hollywood filmmaker, Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air,” “Juno”), who will executive produce “Casual,” a single-camera comedy about a dysfunctional family comprised of a bachelor brother and a recently divorced sister.

The show comes from Lionsgate Television, and will follow the siblings as they coach other through their various misadventures in dating — while living under the same roof, and raising a teenager.

Spanning 10 half-hours, “Casual” will debut on Hulu in 2015. The series is written by Zander Lehmann, with Reitman on board to also direct the first episode.

“Jason Reitman uniquely blends comedy and drama in a way that touches the human spirit.  We are honored to work with him to bring the next distinctive voice, Zander Lehmann, to television,” said Craig Erwich, SVP and head of content at Hulu, in a statement.

“Casual” will be produced by Reitman’s Right of Way Films, and will begin production later this year. Executive producers include Reitman, Lehmann, and Reitman’s production partner Helen Eastbrook.

It’s the second original series between Hulu and Lionsgate, which also produces the supernatural comedy “Deadbeat.”

 

 

Subaru’s Memory Lane Ad Pokes Fun

It’s not often you see a commercial that actually signifies a deeper meaning – as well as a playful little jab to the very company that produced it. However, that’s exactly what you get out of the new Subaru ad, produced by Carmichael Lynch.

In the ad, a pair of parents is driving on the road to Woodstock, with their daughter and hippie-based grandmother in the back seat. The trip is an interesting one, complete with stories about skinny dipping that are stopped short, as well as appreciation for air. However, it’s the end that’s interesting, as both the kid and the grandmother end up hugging a tree, while the parents look on in terms of both appreciation and slight confusion. They eventually join in, only for the grandmother to realize that it may not be the right tree.

The point of the commercial is that 97 percent of Subaru models produced in the previous ten years remain on the road, although the commercial itself effectively shows appreciation – and pokes fun – at the manufacturer’s usual stereotypes.

The ad has drawn quite a bit of attention since its debut on YouTube, as well as its fair share of humorous comments, mainly due to the inclusion of a hippie theme. “I like the idea of cool old people rather than just the Fox News watching scared old people who are afraid of their own shadow,” writes one viewer.

Another stated, “Whole family actually hugging a tree…for the love of God make it stop. Liberal Marxist whack jobs have thrown this country into a tail spin!”

The Carmichael Lynch agency almost didn’t go through with the ad, but eventually changed its mind. “Generational ads are really hard to do, and even tougher to do well,” Carmichael Lynch chief creative officer Dave Damman said to Adweek. “Add to that the huge challenge of cashing in some of the ‘tree hugger’ brand equity and spending it on the Summer of Love, 1969 mind-set, and it almost becomes something that if not done exactly right, you’d surely want to avoid. But it’s a genuine, compelling story, and because of this brand and what it stands for, it makes complete sense that the car they own is a Subaru.

“Much like the importance of the 1969 music festival, it’s a territory we felt can only be visited once, so it had to be the right story, and the right emotional fit. It’s rare that in one spot you can have nostalgia, heartfelt generational connections, and everyday ‘That’s my life’ humor. Identifying with the adventurous free spirit not only inspired the concept, but helped a great deal in bringing it to life. Lance Acord, the director, had an immediate connection—he proudly claimed that the grandma character was just like his own mother, and himself as the dad,” Damman added.

Meanwhile, creative director Randy Hughes explained, “Hugging the tree was something we felt we could laugh at and love at the same time.”

Watch the ad below and see for yourself.

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