Creating the Hardcore Tablet Gamer

While the mobile gaming market is already over $20 billion globally and growing rapidly, it’s achieved that level mostly with casual games, simple puzzles and action games. This is in precise opposition to the dominant games on consoles and PCs, where the vast bulk of the revenue is found in hardcore games like Call of Duty, FIFA, or League of Legends. Quite naturally, then, a number of publishers have been seeking to bring a deeper, more engaged style of gaming to mobile devices. Thus we see successful PC game publishers like Blizzard bringing their Hearthstone game to tablets as well as PCs, or Kabam making the transition from Facebook games to mobile with great success.

Bringing an established audience to a new and rapidly growing platform is not easy, but when you start with a large audience it’s not that hard to achieve at least moderate levels of success. When you try to tackle a genre that has not yet succeeded on mobile, and you’re a brand new company with no established audience, you are taking on a difficult mission.

CCO Stephan Sherman

Super Evil Megacorp is on that mission, and it’s one with daunting dangers and no guarantee of success. The stakes are high — a possible leading market position in the marketplace for mobile games among core gamers. The company’s first game, Vainglory, is an exploratory canary in a potentially vast and lucrative gold mine (not a coal mine, but grant me some metaphorical latitude). Amazing wealth could lie ahead, or a deadly gas that can fell the fledgling company.

Super Evil is attempting to create a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, the same type of game as the hugely successful League of Legends, on tablets and larger smartphones. “We’re here to help build a future where every tablet is perceived by players as a portable next-gen console,” says Super Evil on their website. Super Evil is packed with talent from top firms like Blizzard and Riot Games, Rockstar and Playfish, and the company has solid venture capital funding. Despite all the advantages, though, success is far from assured.

Stephan Sherman, co-founder and CCO of Super Evil Megacorp, and Kristian Segerstrale, COO and executive director, have been bringing journalists into the offices to try out their game Vainglory. After playing a couple of close-fought matches, it’s clear that Super Evil has captured the essence of the MOBA. The game’s engine is fluid, the graphics are top-notch, the basic design and gameplay loop is solid with a good range of strategies available to you. It’s also easy to pick up and play, with simple controls that are well-suited to the touch interface. What will take time to learn is the deeper strategies, the pros and the cons of all the choices available for different characters, how to adjust your strategy as a game unfolds in different directions. The process of doing that promises to be engaging enough to keep people around for a long time, which is the fundamental thing any free-to-play game must accomplish to get a reasonable amount of money out of players.

Super Evil is still polishing the game, refining the game play and adding more characters. Meanwhile, Vainglory has soft launched in Southeast Asia, beginning the hard work of the next phase of the successful game launch: Building an audience. For all the difficulty involved in creating a first-class, visually stunning, fast-paced mobile game, it’s matched or exceeded by the difficulties in creating a large, thoroughly engaged audience that’s willing to spend money on your game.

COO Kristian Segerstrale

For some reason, many mobile companies seem to treat the process of building and sustaining a community as something optional. It’s true that some communities have built themselves up with very little assistance from the developers of the game. Leaving that to chance, though, is akin to the all-too-often heard marketing strategy of “oh, it’ll spread virally” for mobile games. True, that might happen… and you could also purchase a winning lottery ticket, too.

Vainglory is developing its fan base, with some 25,000 posts in its forums already, and groups of dedicated players honing their skills. “The best teams out there can already beat our best players in house,” admits Sherman. That’s a good sign, speaking to the dedication of the still-new player base. Super Evil is working to create a welcoming atmosphere around the game, and keep toxic gameplayers from making the game’s community an unpleasant place. That’s a tall order, and one the company will need to continue working on for as long as the game exists.

One of the players in our test voiced the essential problem Super Evil faces: “They are creating a fun game for a market that doesn’t exist yet.” By which he meant that hardcore gamers, by and large, own consoles and PCs, but not tablets. Super Evil must either convince hardcore gamers to buy tablets, or find tablet owners willing to try a deeper game than the usual fare. A MOBA on mobile is also a difficult game to attract an audience for in that it’s a synchronous game —  you have to have six people ready, willing, and able to spend 15 or 20 minutes playing the game all at the same time. (Though not necessarily in the same place — the game will match you with other players of the appropriate skill level.) “We want to revive the LAN party,” said Segerstrale. It’s certainly fun playing the game around a table with other players, but that’s not going to be the default play session. Still, having the sort of exuberant in-person play could be a good marketing tool — imagine seeing three people at a table in a college dorm lounge having a terrific time. Wouldn’t you wander over to find out what all the laughing and shouting was about

Super Evil is looking to be in the right place at the right time. There’s about 200 million iPads in the market that can play Vainglory; the game also plays pretty well on the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and in just a month there’s already about 30 million of those devices out there. It’s not hard to imagine in a year or two that Vainglory could be playable on 400 million iOS devices, and when (at some point) we see the seemingly inevitable Android version those numbers will probably double.

The history of electronic games shows that new platforms usually begin with simple games, and as the platform matures we get more complex games that tend to engage audiences more deeply. Mobile devices are undergoing this evolution now, and savvy game publishers are trying to find ways to create deep engagement on mobile while still attracting the broadest possible audience.

We have seen some successes with deeper gameplay on mobile already — Clash of Clans is the #1 top-grossing title on both iOS and Android, and Machine Zone’s Game of War: Fire Age is #3 on both platforms. Both of these games, while arguably not that hardcore, still offer deeper gameplay than the simple puzzle and casual action games that populate the rest of the top-grossing lists. These games have compelling gameplay that has managed to keep players engaged and throwing money at the game, and that’s a triumph of game design, not marketing. Once you’ve reached a high position on the charts, there’s not much need to spend more on marketing — companies are better off putting the resources into the gameplay.

Yet there are plenty of good games out there, and it’s certainly true that you’ll get the best sales when you combine a great game with great marketing. Super Evil is right to focus on gameplay first, but as that part of the puzzle is refined, marketing will become more important to the game’s overall success. Super Evil needs to find creative ways to bring in new players and keep them engaged for a long time, while it attempts to create a market for a genre that hasn’t gotten much traction yet on mobile. Keep an eye on Super Evil Megacorp as a harbinger of core gaming on mobile, and we’ll find out if the company’s efforts to find glory will be in vain or not.

Razer Founder Explains How To Capitalize On eSports Global Audience

ESports events like Riot Games’ League of Legends Championship have been able to sell out World Cup soccer stadiums in Korea. With thriving leagues like ESL and MLG, and strong independent developers like Valve, Riot and Wargaming pushing pro gaming forward; there are more opportunities than ever before for brands to connect with elusive Millennials. Even with more mainstream brands like Coke, American Express and Papa John’s getting involved in eSports, there remain huge opportunities for core PC gaming companies to reach their audience.

Razer co-founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan has watched the evolution of eSports over the past decade. He explains why he prefers engaging with athletes on a grassroots level over advertising, and how the brand’s mice, keyboards and headsets have benefited from pro gamer sponsorships in this exclusive interview.

How did Razer first get involved with eSports?

We’ve been a pioneering supporter of eSports at Razer, and we passionately want to see it grow and succeed. Back in 2000 we sponsored the Cyberathlete Professional League with an unprecedented $100,000. We wanted to reward those people excelling in their field, and nurture a solid base on which eSports could grow. Since then, we’ve been a major partner with players and leagues all over the world and still continue to set the standard for eSports sponsorships in the industry.

How have you seen eSports evolve?

The best way to frame the evolution of eSports is to look at its incredible growth. eSports has evolved from local community events held at chain hotel ballrooms to massive global spectacles. In 2013, viewership across all eSports titles doubled, peaking at over 71 million people at the end of 2013. Prize money increased exponentially, with Valve’s The International 4 Dota 2 tournament prize pool reaching almost $11 million.

Because of the money involved, more individuals can consume eSports content on a wider scale, thanks to companies like TwitchTV and tournaments like Riot’s League of Legends Championship Series and DreamHack which create engaging, exciting content for the eSports fan. There are infinitely more opportunities today for sponsors (endemic and non-endemic), aspiring entrepreneurs, and content creators.

Looking to the future, a Super Data Research paper recently predicted that League of Legends will see a monthly active user base of 94 million individuals by 2015, and that in the same period developer Wargaming would reach a revenue of $590 million. Hundreds of eSports teams continue to spring up every month, driven by companies like Razer which look to support and develop the industry from the ground up through careful sponsorship and support. In short, all the numbers point to the continued growth and evolution of the eSports industry moving forward, and we fully expect more companies to jump on board for a slice of the pie.

What opportunities has livestreaming opened up for Razer and other sponsors?

The emergence of companies like Twitch has greatly contributed to the way we all view and interact with eSports on a daily basis, and like us they’re starting to invest significantly in the future of the industry. There are all kinds of content available at our fingertips now which enables players to make a name for themselves and show their value to potential sponsors. Likewise, tournament directors who previously attracted the attendance of people a few towns across, now reach millions across the globe.

What have you learned about the power of working with eSports teams and players?

Right now Team Razer consists of over 300 players spread across 28 teams and 20 countries, so it can be a challenge at times, but ultimately, it helps us create better products that help our millions of fans enjoy their games more. We have a beta program for unreleased Razer devices that gets them in the hands of some of the best players in the world first. We solicit feedback from those players, and ultimately, we’re able to create a better final product. We’ve had all kinds of suggestions for product improvements from this program. It’s a great way to bond with some of the teams, and it helps us to work with them and the video game industry as a whole.

What opportunities have the transition of eSports from LANs and hotel ballrooms 10 years ago to selling out NBA and World Cup stadiums today opened up for brands?

While still a relatively young industry, eSports has shown incredible growth the last few years and provides potential sponsors a number of great opportunities to get involved from the ground up. New research by Super Data Research shows a monthly figure of 70 million unique individuals watching eSports across the world each month, rivalling even the most popular sports in the world. In terms of prize money, this year’s The International 4”saw a vast prize pool of $10.93 million, so there’s plenty to play for.

For us, eSports is in our history.  We’ve been supporting competitions in the industry for many years now, since the earliest tournaments started offering significant prize money to competitive gamers. Teams are interesting because of the personalities that resonate with other players – people like Peter “Doublelift” Peng from Counter Logic Gaming, or Lee “Flash” Young Ho from KTRolster. These guys are hugely famous in their own right and command the respect of hundreds of thousands of fans across the world.

With the popularity of livestreaming, what positive impact would you see with more eSports on TV in the U.S.?

Channels like ESPN have already started showing live eSports for events like The International 4, which is awesome to see. By entering TV, eSports would have a chance to reach more people, which we see as an eventuality given the enormity of the gaming community. There are already dedicated video games channels in other parts of the world that are insanely popular. That being said, eSports doesn’t have to migrate to conventional TV in the U.S. to be popular. It’s a quickly growing industry with a vibrant audience that’s captured online.

ESports is global. How has that helped your company reach a worldwide audience?

Pro gaming is absolutely integral to what we do here at Razer so we’ve been actively partnering with and supporting numerous tournaments and players – from small LAN-Parties up to top international events like the DreamHack Open, the Intel Extreme Masters, the World Cyber Games and many more since 2005. We strongly believe that the gear we currently make, which has undergone extensive testing from our professional players, is of such a high standard that both professionals and casual players can equally benefit from the advantages our hardware provides.

How much room do you see for new eSports beyond the popular games out there today?

We’re always really excited to see new competitive titles come through and we work regularly with developers on new games to try to gauge their competitive viability, in both how the games are played, and how they may be received by an eSports audience. We’re always looking to bring in fresh talent to Team Razer and grow the ranks – we don’t just focus on the most mainstream games. There’s a ton of interesting content coming out of the indie development community so we like to keep an open mind and grow and support newly emerging communities that might become the next big thing.

What role do you see leagues like ESL and MLG playing moving forward?

Leagues of this nature are the bread and butter of our community in many ways: they drive the competitive environment for amateur and professional players, and having this structure is crucial to the growth and development as eSports as a whole. Aside from these two specific leagues there are dozens of others of tournaments throughout the year to keep eSports athletes on their toes, with a whole heap of prize money up for grabs. Tournaments like this continually improve their production quality, and therefore the number of fans consuming their content. It’s an upward trend, and we’re excited to be involved from the ground level and on up with regards to eSports as a whole.

Facebook Chat Gets Real-Time With Celebrities

A domain previously held by Twitter’s real-time chats and Reddit AMA’s, Facebook is utilising marketing platform BumeBox to enable brands to host celebrity chats. Already onboard to test are VH1, Discovery Channel and Sony Masterworks among others.

To promote America’s Got Talent’s Jackie Evancho’s new album, Sony Masterworks ran a Facebook campaign with a Q&A that generated 734 percent more engagement than anything else Jackie had done on the platform.

The caveat to running a campaign like this is the cost to run, which is ever-increasing as Facebook’s reach continues to slide and reaching fans to create this engagement will most likely require it be paid.


CREATIVE: Virgin America Takes You On A Complimentary Flight On BLAH Airlines

We’ve all been on this flight. There’s babies crying, non-plussed passengers, mysteriously missing luggage and the mundanity of sitting through a nearly 6 hour trip while between 2 strangers… but why would you pay for it

That’s the premise of this ultra-long ad by Virgin America as they take you on a complimentary flight on BLAH Airlines (complete with website) to demonstrate just how refreshing Virgin Airlines is in comparison.

Skip around through the video to see the attention to detail that fills the entire “spot”.


Facebook Now Calls Itself A ‘Video Platform,’ Pushes Atlas, Mobile

by Jocelyn Johnson

Facebook kicked off IAB UK Upfront week with a 100 attendees. A modest presentation, Facebook began the morning with an agenda to push mobile and demonstrate the value it provides in enhancing television programming. But the focal point of the event was actually on how Facebook, and its owned properties like Oculus Rift, WhatsApp, LiveRail, and Instagram, as well as native Facebook video, present a large opportunity for brands.

To start, Facebook’s managing director of the UK and Ireland, Steve Hatch, was bullish about Facebook’s future growth in the UK market on the heels of expanding the regional team to more than 500 employees. Eighty of those are engineers dedicated to building advertising products for not only the UK market, but for global application as well. Hatch also noted how the UK is leading in digital, calling it the “most sophisticated market in the world.”

As we reported earlier in the week, a study from the IAB UK notes that in the first half of 2014 alone, there’s been a 16.6 percent  increase in digital ad spend in UK with  mobile video ad spend alone rising 196 percent year-over-year. Video advertising on the web and mobile grew by 59 percent year-over-year to £202 million.

For Facebook to compete with ad giant Google, developing an ad product that spans its recent product acquisitions, and provides data for digital marketers has been an essential focus. Atlas, which Facebook acquired from Microsoft, does exactly that and helps Facebook close in on Google’s monopoly on the ad market.

Tap into the mobile surge and Facebook’s ability to help virality (see: “Ice Bucket Challenge”) much in the way YouTube does, Facebook, with the help of Atlas, now has a competitive ad product.

While video was not as front and center as I’d anticipated, Facebook did promote its native video-ad unit. That said, the company made a weak differentiation between a standard video ad and the new “premium video” ad unit that simply includes a carousel of recommended content below the video.

And when prompted about the future of Instagram video ads, Instagram’s head of marketing science for Doug Fraser was terse, stating that the main focus right now is to ensure the strong rollout of the static (photo) ads in the UK and other markets — though he did note that Instagram is testing a video ad product in the U.S.

Facebook’s overall delivery lacked the big-bang Hollywood feel but drove home its message well.

The biggest surprise, however, hit the audience toward the end of the presentation when Claire Valoti ended Facebook’s presentation by reiterating, firmly: “We are a video platform, so please remember that when doing your video planning.”

Facebook’s pieces seem to be falling nicely into place to be able to take on Google and YouTube.

For more of Jocelyn’s thoughts on the inaugural IAB UK Upfronts, click here.

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.

PlayStation 4 Getting Innovative Firmware Update

The PlayStation 4 is a fun little system, and its interface is intuitive and easy to access – but, as with all things, there’s always room for improvement. And Sony definitely has some improvement coming.

The publisher announced that a new 2.0 firmware update for the console, codenamed “Masamune,” will provide a number of most-wanted features that will make the PS4 even more accessible to users – and just in time for the holiday season, at that.

The main focus of the update will be the addition of themes, allowing users to post various backgrounds on their system, instead of just the plain blue background that’s currently available. In addition, users will be able to listen to their own music as they play games, without having to use Sony’s Music Unlimited service. The catch is that a USB drive with the MP3’s (or M4A’s) of the music will have to be plugged in to the system, as files still can’t be installed on it.

The Content Area, or the main menu, will also be customizable, as users can shift the 15 most recently used items to a custom list on the main screen, while still accessing the others through the general library. However, users can sort that area as well by name and type.

PlayStation Plus subscribers can also add games immediately to a library through the PlayStation Store, without having to start a manual download for them.

Firmware 2.0 will also bring support for enhanced voice commands, better live broadcasting over Twitch and UStream, and a list of friends (or ones that the user may know) in a separate window through the PlayStation Network.

There’s no exact date on when the update will be available, but it will be free of charge, and Sony has indicated it will arrive sometime this fall.

OnLive Teams With Samsung For Gaming

Samsung is about to pick up in its gaming audience, as it has announced a deal that will bring a number of AAA titles to owners of its Galaxy Note 4 tablet.

OnLive, one of the leaders in cloud gaming services, has teamed up with the manufacturer for a new program that will provide Galaxy Note 4 owners with three free months of the company’s unlimited gaming service, according to Market Wired.

Using an Android-compatible OnLive app, users will be able to stream their gaming experiences right to their device, provided they have a Wi-Fi or 4G connection strong enough to carry the signal. There are hundreds of titles to choose from in the company’s PlayPack game service bundle, including premiere titles like Darksiders II, along with a bevy of classic and independent games.

“OnLive lets gamers play the games they love, anytime and anywhere, through the power of the cloud. The addition of the OnLive app to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 makes high-end games available that normally can’t be played on an Android tablet. We’re excited to give Samsung customers a taste of cloud gaming with the gift of 3 free months of unlimited gaming,” said Mark Jung, Executive Chairman of OnLive.

The OnLive partnership is part of the Galaxy Gifts Package, which will provide a variety of content, as well as exclusive rewards, to those that own a Galaxy Note 4. Valued at $28.95, the subscription will certainly provide a value to said customers – as well as possibly entice them to renew it past the trial period.

In addition to access to the PlayPack games, the OnLive service will also feature access to CloudLift, which enables the streaming of any PC titles that the user may already own. This will be available for a 7-day period, although additional access can be purchased through the app.

This should no doubt help Samsung get a push in the mobile gaming market.

Twitter Trying Music With Audio Cards

Twitter continues to try and find new ways to involve its large social audience, and today it announced its latest step in doing so — Audio Cards.

With this new technology, users can implement the Cards onto their timeline, enabling them and their friends to listen to music and podcasts directly, without the need for a separate player, on their iOS and Android devices.

The technology, which utilizes SoundCloud, allows you to “dock” the Cards so that you can continue listening while you browse, according to The Next Web. In addition, iTunes has also signed on as a partner, which will open up even more potential. The first musical artist through that partnership has also been announced, and it’s the band Foo Fighters, who will tweet the official release of its newest single soon.

Thus far, Twitter has several other partners in the Audio Card department, including NASA, David Guetta, the White House and a few others, although the service will open up with SoundCloud (as well as iTunes) support sometime over the next few weeks.

Audio Cards also have the potential to allow up-and-coming musicians and podcast hosts to share their talents through the service, as audio can be streamlined through Twitter without the need to open another browser app.

This could be an interesting social approach to the website. Not only will it provide additional business for the popular site, but it will enable a new freedom for users to listen to whatever they see fit — as well as open up a possible new level of personality.

Those interested in learning more about the program can follow the TwitterMusic account, as it’ll be updated consistently with new information. In the meantime, interested parties can keep an eye on their favorite groups and performers, as it probably won’t be long before they’re spreading the word with Audio Cards.

Nissan: Digital Is Changing Car Advertising

Some companies like to stick with the “tried and true” methods of advertising, but others aren’t afraid to try something different – especially with trends on the upswing based upon what consumers are looking for.

Speaking with Adweek, Nissan CMO Roel de Vries believes that a shift to digital means for car advertising could be a change for the better, especially considering that anywhere between 80 to 90 percent of consumers actually begin shopping for their newest vehicles online. This, in turn, allows them to find what they want before stepping one foot into a dealership.

As a result, Nissan is one of the first companies providing a new push into digital advertising, utilizing it for brand-building as well as direct-response marketing. “There’s a lot of money that we spend to make sure that the customers, (who) are close to buying a car, get information about our products and brands,” he said.

Part of the process involves changing up showrooms with digital upgrades, including mobile devices for sales associates, so they can look up information on the fly. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be doing their job when it comes to selling vehicles, though. “You spend a lot of money on the car and you’re basically trusting that the dealership will look after you as a customer,” said de Vries.

When it comes to reaching a millennial audience, however, there’s a tougher outreach, as they aren’t buying cars as often as they were before. With that, brand names shouldn’t be so much of a focus, but rather the car itself. “We need to make sure that the car becomes more relevant, I think,” said de Vries. “That’s why you see cars moving into innovative technology devices.

“If you take this 10 years or 15 years further, I do think that cars will appeal to younger people because they have all the innovative technologies that you probably today find in phones and tables,” he continued.

With digital marketing, Nissan will have a better ability to analyze data from consumers, as well as individual campaigns to see which ones work, and which ones don’t. “The big challenge for me is to figure out how to change opinion of your brand if people get so many messages thrown at them – how do you break through ” asked deVries.

Finally, a majority of focus on mobile marketing will come from live events, including sports, as well as entertainment. “Those are moments when you really want to engage,” concluded de Vries. “As a brand, we need to do something meaningful.”

Brands Going For A Funnier Approach

General ad campaigns are usually put together to inform audiences, rather than entertain them. However, some brands prefer to take a more humorous route as of late, in order to keep its intended audience from getting bored.

As a result, the campaigns launched by these brands are starting to see a rise in viewership, with millions of plays across video channels, as well as links through Facebook and Twitter to bring in even more viewers – and maybe even spark a few conversations in the process, according to Mashable.

A number of comedy teams are working with brands, including the Upright Citizens Brigade, Funny or Die and Jash, among others, in unlikely team-ups.

Jerry Seinfeld is the most recent big-name comedian to sign on for an advertising program, coming off his successful Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee web series to produce a new series of online ads for Acura. He’s just the latest in big names teaming up with companies.

For instance, Jim Gaffigan, a well-regarded and highly popular comedian, teamed up with Holiday Inn for a series of commercials, asking guests about their favorite things revolving around the hotel chain. You can view one of these ads below, to see what kind of humorous touch Gaffigan lends when he asks guests if they feel smarter.

{video link marked as “private”}


Chris Bruss, vice president for branded entertainment at Funny Or Die, sees value in teaming up comedians with brands. “Comedians do a good job of observing the world, recognizing real truths and reflecting those back to us,” he said. “If it’s a really good piece of comedy, people find that relatable and it has an emotional impact. That can build brand awareness and lead to sales.”

Meanwhile, some companies are even catering to the style of the comedians themselves, like Anheuser-Busch working with Upright Citizens Brigade for a campaign featuring a prank-rap duo, Shockwave and Flytalker, and its Shock Top line. “The brand wanted to integrate itself into what we were already doing and reach a target demo that we were already speaking to,” said Todd Bieber, creative director at UCB. “It was a best case scenario.”

However, these folks are making sure that their style isn’t overwhelmed by a brand message. “The tricky part is maintaining your voice and not sacrificing your own comedic vision,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a very fine line. But we have a distinct style, and we don’t want to compromise that for any dollar. It’s not worth it.”

“We know where the guide rails are, and what’s fair game,” Bruss continued.. “That way the brands know they don’t have to check on us every five minutes because micromanaging can stifle the creative process.”

So be prepared for more genuinely funny advertising, and less of the “doesn’t fit” style of campaigning.