A New Perspective On ‘GTA V’

With Grand Theft Auto V selling millions of copies (over 35 million, to be precise) for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Rockstar Games is expecting a repeat performance when it introduces the popular criminal action game to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in just a matter of weeks. However, some have questioned why they should purchase the game again, to which the publisher has offered a number of items, including improved graphics and the inclusion of exclusive goodies, as well as the ability to transfer over game progress to the new versions.

The publisher may have just introduced its biggest and best feature to date for the new version – a first-person mode. Speaking with IGN, Rockstar’s animation director, Rob Nelson, explained that the new perspective will change what a player has come to expect from the Grand Theft Auto universe. “it’s a very intense, in-your-face experience…literally,” he said. “Obviously, we felt like one of the most compelling things you could do to make an experience people have had before feel different was the new first-person mode.

Within the mode, players will experience the action of the game from the eyes of the character, whether they’re in the middle of a barbaric shootout or taking the wheel of several vehicles in the game, complete with the ability to look around the cockpit or dashboard. You can see what kind of effect it has on players in the trailer below.

First-person view has been a long time coming, according to Nelson, although it wasn’t really possible with previous versions of the game. “We’ve always been interested in it, but it’s never really been an option for us,” he said. “I don’t think we could’ve put it in the (last-gen version) because we were too busy making the game. We were too busy working on our third-person controls and the missions.”

Of course, now it’s a reality, although the game had to be rebuilt from the ground up in order to make it effectively work. “You have to change pretty much everything,” explained Nelson. “I mean, if you want to do it right. We have a very solid third-person animation system, but you don’t just put the camera down there and expect to see the guns, aim, and shoot. All those animations are new when you switch to first-person, because it all has to be animated to the camera, to make it feel like a proper first-person experience that I think people would expect. All the timings have to be re-evaluated.”

In addition, PC owners will get an additional perk with their version of the game when it arrives in 2015. Along with being able to play in first-person, they’ll be able to experience the game in beautiful 4K resolution – although, obviously, they’ll need a properly powered machine, and a 4K monitor, in order to make it work.

Grand Theft Auto V – and the beautiful new perspective that comes with it – will arrive on November 18th for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and in early 2015 for PC.

 

Turtle Beach’s HyperSound Attacks Retail

The video game headphone accessory market is certainly picking up, with several players like Astro Gaming, SteelSeries and others offering a number of products for gamers to enjoy. However, Turtle Beach’s latest campaign may have taken the cake, as the company has launched a new program with HyperSound Virtual Reality Audio Zones that will truly involve those who give it a shot.

Tied in with retail displays for Activision’s recently released Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Turtle Beach has set these up at 987 various Best Buy locations across the United States. With it, users are able to experience a zone of audio created within the display, utilizing HyperSound audio backed by a sub-woofer – so that they can hear the experience along with feeling it as they play.

“This marquee implementation of HyperSound will change the way retailers think about retail audio,” said Rodney Schutt, SVP and General Manager of HyperSound. “This is the first, large-scale implementation of a new generation of retail audio that is unlike anything that has been done before.”

With HyperSound, Turtle Beach vows to deliver its most in-depth audio experience yet, with a three-dimensional experience created similar to that of surround sound headsets.

The displays promise to be the most prominent yet for a game accessory company, and it certainly helps that Turtle Beach has tied in one of the most popular releases of the year, Advanced Warfare, to demonstrate said technology.

With the program, Turtle Beach hopes that the displays provide a site-specific, targeted point-of-sale messaging for the retailer, according to the company’s press release. It can also provide increased engagement and dwell time amongst consumers, having them stick around to get the entire experience that only something like HyperSound could provide with said display. In addition, the way that the controlled sound zone is set up, it won’t distract other audio experiences within the store, like, say, in Best Buy’s car stereo department. But those within earshot will, obviously, get the gist of what the technology is about.

Those interested in HyperSound can learn more over at Turtle Beach’s website.

Perfecting Programmatic Video

Over the last year, we’ve seen a rise in various advertising trends. Among them is programmatic video, in which advertisers and publishers are able to put their content front and center for consumers visiting certain sites.

According to Mobile Marketing Magazine, digital video ad spending has been on the rise, increasing 41 percent for this year alone. Overall spending in this department is likely to reach $5.89 billion by year’s end, if it continues at this rate.

Still, that doesn’t mean everyone has the process of programmatic video nailed down just yet, as they can’t find the right approach at times. Fortunately, Tremor Video is here to help, producing a useful infographic (posted below) that breaks down just how programmatic video can be used most effectively.

Titled Path of the Publisher, the infographic has a lot to take in, but it’s certainly food for thought. As you can see, it’s broken down as a chart that goes over every degree, from how much video ads could cost to statistics that break down just how many younger viewers (specifically 18-29 years old) watch or download online video. (Hint: it’s a whopping 95 percent.)

The chart then goes even further, asking about reserved inventory and how much time is spent daily watching digital video (55 minutes, a 6 minute increase from four years ago).

From there, it gets into the nitty gritty, breaking up categories even more with the options available for programmatic video options, such as finding an unreserved fixed rate, and taking part in an auction.

It’s worth noting, according to the statistics, that video RTB will account for nearly 25 percent of U.S. online video ad spend for this year alone, and over half of publishers of video content actually make inventory available directly through programmatic channels.

Snapchat Reaches Out To Potential Partners

Snapchat, the popular social app that enables people to share pictures and other information with one another, may be looking to partner up with bigger and better companies to gain some exposure.

Digiday has reported that the company behind the popular social application has reached out to Comedy Central, Spotify and Vice as a possible tie-in with the forthcoming launch of Discover, a new section of the program that will enable users the opportunity to view articles, music and video that tie in with said companies.

In addition, as you can see from the mock-up art, the company has also been talking with other companies, including BuzzFeed, CNN, the Daily Mail, ESPN, National Geographic, Time Inc. (publishers of People Magazine), Hearst (Cosmopolitan Magazine) and popular YouTube music video service VEVO.

With this move, Snapchat is looking to shift into a larger area for media distribution, while opening up a possible revenue circle for the growing site. After all, it’s become quite popular, despite controversies surrounding certain photographic content that’s being shared (such as porn-related pictures).

With the promotional tie-ins, Snapchat would strengthen its service to be more on a casual level, especially if such companies as Hearst and National Geographic are in discussions. Both provide publications that are not only rich in visual content, but articles as well.

Through Discover, Snapchat is asking its potential partners to provide original content that fits into the style of the service. As a result, media companies would benefit in advertising in a different manner than usual sites, while Snapchat would obviously pocket a small portion of the revenue that generates from said ads.

There’s also no limitation in terms of the length of content on Discover. Snapchat isn’t looking for “bite-size” stories, as it will reportedly have no limit through the service in terms of how big a story can be.

It’ll be interesting to see who jumps on board the Discover service, as well as it does for Snapchat’s growing user base. Perhaps it’ll even expand it more, if the content is on the right track. Only time will tell at this rate.

This Week’s [a]list Jobs – November 5th

[a]listdaily is now your source for the hottest job openings for senior management and marketing in games, entertainment and social media. Check here every Wednesday for the latest openings.

Sitting all day ruining your posture Here are 5 ways to incorporate yoga in the workplace and how to work at a desk without destroying your body.

Here are this week’s [a]list jobs:

  • Electronic Arts – Senior Director, Global Marketing (Orlando, Florida)
  • Google – Head of Industry, Media and Entertainment Vertical (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • NBCUniversal – Director, Global Brand Marketing for TV (Universal City, Calif.)
  • Kabam – Director of User Acquisition Marketing (San Francisco, Calif.)

For last week’s [a]list jobs, click here.

Connecting The Mobile Game Marketing Dots

There’s nothing more difficult for an unknown mobile game developer than attracting enough of an audience to make a living. Thus, when you hear about a studio that’s done that twice, it’s worth paying attention. Dots is the name of the studio that created both Dots and Two Dots, both very successful mobile games. The studio is an outgrowth of Betworks, a startup studio and seed stage venture capital company in New York City that’s created other successful companies like Chartbeat and Bitly.

Dots was released in April of 2013 for iOS and quickly shot up the charts, being downloaded more than one million times in its first week. In two weeks, the game had been downloaded more than two million times, and users had played over 100 million games. The game was later released on Android in August of last year.

Dots was followed up this year by Two Dots, billed as the sequel to Dots. It’s using the same central gameplay of Dots but in a fashion that’s more akin to how Candy Crush Saga progresses, with new puzzles to solve using the basic mechanic of forming squares.

The simple, elegant gameplay has won multiple awards as well as a large audience of players. What lessons have been learned along the way about marketing mobile games The [a]listdaily checked in with Dots’ head of marketing Christian Calderon to get some insights into how developers can meet the marketing challenge.

Christian Calderon

What role, if any, has marketing played in the success of Dots?

I joined the team in May, specifically to launch Two Dots. Dots initially had tremendous success prior to my joining the company. The overall picture of how marketing played a role in the success of Two Dots was a combination of the product, the brand marketing we put out, and also the performance marketing side and how we tried to combine both brand and performance marketing.

What’s your marketing strategy for Two Dots, and how was that informed by what you learned from Dots?

When we first launched Dots, it was one of those things when people saw it they wanted to touch it and they wanted to play with it. The core game mechanic was very strong, and the brand we were building resonated with users. With Two Dots we wanted to build on that. We emphasized more on brand. We came out publicly and said that we’re trying to build a brand, we’re trying to be a game studio with a strong brand. Essentially the brand we were building resonated with our users. What we found through social media channels was that we saw every month our engagement rates would go up with the volume of followers we had, as people were engaging with the content we were pushing out. With Dots we knew something was there but we just didn’t know how far we could push that, how far we could rely on that and how our users would react. We took a chance and it worked.

It sounds like connecting with your audience through social media was a very important part of your strategy.

Absolutely. The data we that get from our users on social media is extremely helpful. It allows to know what our users are interested in, the music, what countries they come from, what their demographic is, and then we can take that data and then amplify it and find users that are very similar to them in other markets around the world. Because of that we were quickly able to launch Two Dots in over 70 countries. We were able to extract similar users who were interested in Two Dots globally. Social media has definitely had a big part in that.

Which social media channels were most important to you, and why?

The two most important ones — and I would say they are equally important — are Facebook and Twitter. Twitter actually never used to really be there for us, and it recently has emerged as a network that has been very strong, both on the performance marketing side and on the brand marketing side. We’re able to optimize for engagement on Twitter, and we can’t do that on Facebook. But then Facebook is complementary, because we can still optimize engagement on Facebook, just not to the extent that we can on Twitter. On Twitter you see these viral trends happen so quick, people talking about things. You see things trending in different parts of the world,and it’s a social construct that’s really hard to replicate. With Facebook it’s great because it gives us a lot of user insight data. Twitter also gives us some data, but it’s not as powerful as the insights we get from users on Facebook. They’re both a little different, but we use them both and they complement each other.

Do you think your marketing strategies are transferable to other games and other developers?

The exact strategy that we use is not transferable to other titles or genres. I would say the foundation, the framework we use is transferable. For example, the way we calculate LTV, the basic construct and equations we use in performance marketing, that’s very transferable to other games. The problems that we’re trying to solve of attracting users and and how to retain them, that’s very transferable. But the strategy and approach we take to do that is a little bit different, because as a casual games marketer we have various advantages and disadvantages.

What’s your best advice for mobile game marketers What should they try to do, and what should they avoid doing?

The problem of attracting users to your game is not always the responsibility of the product itself. If the product is original, beautiful, and fun, that in itself should help acquire and retain users. In terms of marketing the product itself, and figuring out how to do that, you have to learn how to navigate the ecosystem. The best thing you can do is just talk to some of the industry experts in mobile marketing and get everyone’s advice. Everyone’s going to give you different advice, and you have to take in all this feedback and figure out exactly what you think will work best for your game.

The other problem is there’s a monetary barrier to entry. On the performance marketing side it costs money, and getting over that barrier for startups is going to be hard because many times the budget’s not there. Learning how to mitigate costs is extremely important, especially in a macro environment where more ad dollars are shifting to mobile, more entrants are coming to market, and CPIs are going up. Understanding how to mitigate that cost is extremely important. That can be done by trying to employ virality, that can be done by trying to optimize for engagement — those are the two most powerful ways to do that.

The early users that come into your game are going to be the most loyal, the most valuable from an LTV perspective, they’re going to be the most engaged. Optimizing your SEO tactics are very important, and anyone can do that. Figuring out which key words are important, optimizing your app store description, those are the most helpful things for a startup when they’re first coming in and trying to market their product.

 

Apps Often Ignored, Study Shows

It’s interesting how some applications work. They’re there to provide a service to consumers, but, in a surprising twist, many downloaders actually keep the apps on their devices without actually using them. That’s according to Nielsen research numbers.

The study, posted on Clickz, indicates that around 42 apps are available on an average smartphone device, downloaded by the user. However, out of the 3,700+ users that were polled for both smartphone and tablet usage over a 30-day period, 84 percent actually use less than 10 of these apps on a daily basis, while 55 percent stated that they only use between one and four on a daily basis.

In addition, paid apps aren’t nearly as popular as unpaid ones, as 47 percent of those polled indicated that they wouldn’t pay for social networking, discounting or coupon services, or any sort of payment-related programs.

Ben Leventhal, a co-founder and chief executive officer for restaurant reservation app Resy, explained that apps need to offer something unique and valuable for consumers to use them more often. “The only apps I use are the ones that feel like magic, whether that means getting me a car or an impossible restaurant reservation in 30 seconds or allowing me to watch a news event halfway around the world in real time,” he explained. “The apps that stay on my home screen are either profoundly useful or help me connect with the world.”

Leventhal also showed concern that a great number of these apps don’t show significant value. “Every app promises to do something amazing and show us the future, which sounds great,” he said. “But most are over-promising by a mile, so they disappoint us, and we forget about them.”

Meanwhile, Jason Levy, senior vice president of engagement strategy and innovation at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, expressed that “bad apps” aren’t helping the matter. “People are just making bad apps that just aren’t necessary or apps that are better served as a mobile website,” Levy says.

Such items, like a car’s instruction manual, wouldn’t exactly make for a “must-store” app on a phone, although Levy believes it can find value as a mobile site. “So rarely is that information needed that it’s just going to sit on a way back page if it doesn’t get deleted. Meanwhile if [the owner’s manual] is online for the very rare instance you need it, the information would make a lot of sense as a mobile website.

However, when it comes to building proper apps, Levy believes that it should be done the right way, and not necessarily a gimmick that tries to rip off, for instance, Angry Birds. “If you’re a consumer packaged good, and you’re trying to come up with a time-killing app, you’re going up against people whose core business and the way they’ve monetized themselves is creating time-killers, and you’re going to get crushed,” says Levy.

Oculus VR Headset Arriving In ‘Months’

For years, the Oculus VR kit has been in development, perfecting its 3D virtual reality technology and receiving some heavy backing from Facebook, which invested $2 billion to properly fund it. But the real question is, when can we expect to buy it Well, according to Oculus VR CEO Brendan iribe, not too much longer now.

The Next Web reports that Iribe, speaking at the Web Summit 2014 in Dublin, explained that the consumer-ready version of the headset is “close,” and while he didn’t give an accurate time frame of when to expect it, the latest version of the headset, dubbed Crescent Bay, is “largely finalized for a consumer product.”

However, the packaging still has a ways to go. “We’re all hungry for it to happen,” explained Iribe. “We’re getting very close. It’s months, not years, away, but many months.”

An effective input device is still being sought for the headset, and certain equipment, like keyboards and mice, aren’t quite up to snuff yet, according to iribe. But it’s definitely a work in progress.

Iribe also discussed the changes to the company since Facebook acquired it earlier this year, with over 200 employees working on the headset, and a separate R & D division also providing a great deal of effort.

When asked about rivaling VR products from Samsung and other companies, Iribe only showed concern in them effectively delivering the experience. “We’re a little worried about bigger companies putting out products that aren’t ready,” he explained. “Disorientation and motion sickness is the elephant in the room. We’re encouraging big companies not to put out a product before it’s ready.”

As far as readying the Oculus for consumer launch, Iribe simply concluded, “We’re gone out there and set this bar and said, ‘We want to get this right.’ We don’t want it to be four or five years. We’re eager for this to happen.”

Wearables May Provide Big Data Numbers

Most consumers can be wary about sharing their information on devices these days, mainly due to security issues or worrying that they may be bothered again to take part in future surveys or other promotions. However, there is one area where they may not be so hesitant to share what they know — and that’s with wearable tech.

Posted by eMarketer, a national survey of over 1,000 Americans aged 18 and up has been conducted by both Wearables.com and The Center for Generational Kinetics, asking if consumers might be comfortable sharing information provided by wearable tech. According to the numbers, 60 percent don’t mind sharing this data with their favorite store chains, while 56 percent are fine with sharing it with product brains. The only catch is that they wish to remain anonymous, not providing their full consumer details. Also, they seem keen on being rewarded for their input, which certainly makes sense.

The goal of the study, according to founder and chief strategy officer for The Center of Generational Kinetics, Jason Dorsey, was to find whether “consumers with wearables would be interested in having their data scrubbed so as to be anonymous, with no way to trace it back to one specific individual, so that other organizations could use this data, such as employers looking to reduce healthcare claim costs, government looking to understand consumer activity, etc.”

Another report from the International Data Corporation (or IDC for short) indicated from a poll back in December 2013 that numbers for this category were higher for US consumers. 53 percent preferred to have their privacy respected instead of receiving consistent offers, but 47 percent weren’t so concerned about said privacy, and wanted to receive said offers.

One in five respondents in the Wearables poll said they had no problem exchanging information to earn rewards for their visits to their favorite stores. 19 percent also preferred to receive notifications while they were in the store as well — which isn’t unheard of, especially considering the holiday season.

As far as social networking goes, 48 percent of those polled were happy to share data depending on stores they visited, while 34 percent were just fine with the same thing through online shopping. With this data, brands can actually provide a better customer experience for shoppers, particularly within use of wearable technology.

We’ll have to see just how well stores grasp this technology heading into the holiday season. Black Friday isn’t too far off.

Image source

How ESports Influenced Activision’s Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Activision has another $1 billion Call of Duty game in its bestselling franchise. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the first COD game from

Sledgehammer Games co-founder Michael CondreySledgehammer Games co-founder Michael Condrey

Sledgehammer Games. While casting Kevin Spacey as the campaign antagonist has attracted mainstream coverage, it’s the multiplayer gameplay that fans live for. Activision has partnered with Microsoft over the past three years to award $3 million to the best COD teams in the world through the Call of Duty Championship. The fourth worldwide tournament kicks off this fall with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare as the centerpiece. Michael Condrey, co-founder and studio head at Sledgehammer Games, explains why eSports was a focus for the new COD game and how pro gamers helped the team craft the multiplayer experience in this exclusive interview.

How did you work with eSport pros in designing the multiplayer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare?

Really from Day 1 the multiplayer experience was based off of fan feedback, and that includes the eSports and competitive community.  We’ve had designers from the eSports community imbedded in the team. We worked closely with competitors to really listen and we view them as a loud voice of really great change to the franchise that helps everybody. They’ve come in and given us great suggestions.  They’ve helped us figure out what’s the best way to balance the game, new map designs, what modes to bring back. That intimate engagement with them and with all fans has really helped make Advanced Warfare better for everyone.

What type of feedback did they give you that impacted the game?

We got great feedback from the eSports community. We’ve received everything from returning game modes like Hard Point and Capture the Flag, which is important to everybody, including the eSports and competitive communities. They’ve helped with new ways to spectate as part of both the competitive aspect as well as the spectator aspect. They had some real ideas around how to make it better for everyone with things like tuning, new weapon types and new map designs. It’s really been across the board that their input has really helped make this game great.

“We worked closely with competitors to really listen and we view them as a loud voice of really great change to the franchise that helps everybody.”

One of the controversial things in all multiplayer games is the spawning system. How have you improved that in this new Call of Duty?

I can tell you that the spawning system was a focus from Day 1. We recognized there was an opportunity there to really revamp and focus on making sure that our spawning system was the best in the Call of Duty franchise to date. We think we’ve got something pretty special there, so I thinks fans are going to see that right out of the gate on November 3.

What are your thoughts on how good eSports pros are and how quickly they adapt to new COD games?

The pros and eSports competitors playing Call of Duty is remarkable. We live with this game for three years and they pick it up and they do remarkable things right off the bat. They’re absolutely the best in the industry. I sometimes think that I’m pretty good, and then I immediately find out it’s actually not the case when I see the pros play. These guys are remarkable.

What do you feel the exoskeleton adds to eSports?

A brand new movement set. It’s the first and most radical redesign of a full feature set of mechanics for the players from Boost and Slam and Dodge. This really has changed the speed and the strategy of how you play and I think you’re going to see that in eSports as well.

What are your thoughts on how Call of Duty Championship has evolved over the last three years?

The Call of Duty Championship has been an interesting development in my career. Five years ago that space didn’t exist and now we’re setting records with more people playing and more people watching. It’s an exciting time. You’re going to see more and more competitors, as well as spectators, getting involved. That really just drives interest to fans of all games in Call of Duty, which excites me.

We’re seeing eSports selling out NBA and soccer stadiums now. What is it like being in the middle of all this as a developer behind a multiplayer experience?

“I’ll admit when you see that many fans get together to watch people playing a game, and you see the level of competition these teams perform at today, it’s amazing.”

It’s pretty incredible. I’ll admit when you see that many fans get together to watch people playing a game, and you see the level of competition these teams perform at today, it’s amazing. It really becomes a fan event. And to have your game there and be involved in that, or the franchise that you’re a part of, is exciting and it’s rewarding for fans and for developers.

Can you talk about some of the multiplayer changes that will impact eSports.

Weapon balance is key. Balance, in general, is the key to multiplayer. We’re really focused on Pick 13 this year, and the opportunity for players to craft their play style. But you really want it to be about player skill, not about somebody’s choice of Pick 13 being overpowered relative to anybody else. We have tuning values across the weapon spectrum from mobility to range to damage to accuracy and we played with it a lot over and over again. We looked at permutations with attachments to make sure you’re measuring the power and speed of this weapon versus all of its brethren in that class. A lot of it comes from analytic data, and a lot of it comes from user feedback to make sure we got it just right.