Microsoft Ready For the Holiday Rush

When Microsoft launched the Xbox One last year, it faced incredible opposition from Sony’s PlayStation 4 console, which was priced at $100 less and came with user-friendly features that helped it build an immediate audience. However, one year later, Microsoft believes it has learned from its mistakes, an dis now ready for the ultimate game of catch-up as the approaching holiday season grows near.

It’s already got a jump start on the numbers, as it previously reported that the Xbox One system has managed to rise past the ten million units sold mark worldwide. Electronic Arts has also noted how quickly the company has turned around, which shouldn’t be a surprise since it partnered up with Microsoft for its exclusive EA Access service after Sony took a pass on it.

Now comes the holiday stretch, and with so many bundles to choose from (including packages packed with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, two Assassin’s Creed games or Sunset Overdrive), Mike Nichols, vice president of Microsoft Studios, thinks that the holiday tide will work in the company’s favor, according to the Financial Post.

Nichols was quick to address the system’s performance, even though it did come up in second place last Christmas. “If you step back and look at the Xbox One, it’s still very early in the console’s life cycle,” he explained. “The sales of the Xbox One even outpaced Xbox 360 in terms of life cycle. Of course, we look forward to doing better and better and we think we’re set up to have one of the best holidays we’ve ever had with Xbox, given all the great games we’ve released.”

The combination of killer bundles and a $50 price drop have certainly helped in the company’s favor. However, it’s also been playing closer attention to consumer feedback, as well as providing better assistance through such means as Twitter accounts, such as @xboxliverewards and @xboxsupport.

There has been plenty of feedback in regards to the motion-sensing Kinect device, which Microsoft removed from certain bundles in order to make the price more affordable. He remained supportive of it, stating, “Some of our most satisfied customers are people with Kinect. That said, not every game is designed to take advantage of it and you know, hey, over time publishers and developers will determine where to take advantage of it and where not to.”

For now, though, the core Xbox One bundle continues to be a big hit, and that’s where business seems to matter most for Microsoft. It’ll be interesting to see how sales of the unit fare, especially with Black Friday now just over a week away.


Newest ‘Need For Speed’ Goes Mobile

Considering how well the series has done for it on both consoles and mobile, Electronic Arts is continuing to accelerate its Need For Speed racing series in the right direction with the confirmation of a new game. It’s an illustration of the increasing importance of mobile devices to gaming, as top console brands increasingly can be found on smartphones and tablets.

In Need For Speed: No Limits, gamers will once again put the pedal to the metal in a fine variety of cars, both exotic and police. Expect plenty of action along the lines of the previously release Most Wanted, but with a few twists that make it a more advanced offering.

For good measure, Electronic Arts has added professional driver Ken Block to the mix. He previously appeared in such games as DiRT 2 and DiRT 3, so his presence should certainly be familiar with some avid racing fans.

Development on the title is being handled by Firemonkeys, the same team that produced the highly popular Real Racing 3, still considered one of EA’s most successful mobile racing games. Need For Speed should no doubt follow suit when it arrives next year.

“We’ve built No Limits from the ground up to deliver the insanely-fast driving and incredible graphics that fans have come to expect from Need For Speed – all in the palm of your hand,” said the game’s executive producer, Robert Huebner, in a press release. “The team at Firemonkeys have also been bringing Need For Speed to mobile games for years, and it’s an honour and a privilege to once again get behind the wheel of this incredible franchise and redefine street racing on mobile.

“We’re constantly amazed by the power and performance we’re able to get out of the latest phones and tablets, and think you will be too.”

There’s no word yet as to why No Limits isn’t making a trip to consoles this time around, though savvy racing fans can get their hands on Need For Speed Rivals: Complete Edition in the meantime.

The trailer, featuring Block in action, is below.


iOS Games Are No Longer ‘Free’

The way people look at freemium-based games is changing . . . but not the nature of the games themselves.

Free-to-play games in the App Store (which is the majority of them these days) had the word “FREE” in the button used to download the app. Because of pressure from the EU, Apple has chosen to replace the word “FREE” with “GET” to avoid misleading customers. While the initial download is indeed free, the existence of in-app purchasing can lead unsuspecting customers (particularly young children) to make purchases in the game. Some games have been criticized for making the game hardly playable without purchases while still using the word “free” for marketing the game tow a wide audience.

Google performed a similar move with its Play store back in July of this year, removing the word “free” to avoid criticism. As a result of the move, the EU Commission praised Google – and then zeroed in on Apple’s use of the term, stating there was “no concrete or immediate solutions,” which ended up being “regrettable.”

This moves comes after the EU Commission highlighted several court cases highlighting certain issues revolving around “free” labeled games, according to GamesIndustry International. In the US, Apple fought a legal battle with the FTC involving kids being able to make in-app purchases through certain titles, despite the fact that they were advertised as “free.” As a result, Apple reached a settlement to the tune of $32.5 million, and vowed to make things different – which it obviously has by changing the wording on the apps.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said the settlement with the Federal Trade Commission was “a victory for consumers harmed by Apple’s unfair billing, and a signal to the business community: whether you’re doing business in the mobile arena or the mall down the street, fundamental consumer protections apply. You cannot charge consumers for purchases they did not authorize.”

So, again, freemium-based games remain business as usual, but look for Apple to lay out better detail in terms of in-app purchases and other required costs that tie in with them.

Microsoft Celebrates Xbox One Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that Microsoft’s Xbox One game console has already been on the market for a whole year – and how quickly it’s managed to turn around its sales since its release to stay competitive with Sony’s PlayStation 4.

Regardless, the company has vowed to celebrate the birthday in style by providing a number of gifts to avid Xbox fans, according to Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb’s announcement on his blog page.

Beginning tomorrow, those who purchased an Xbox One system will have access to a number of digital goodies, including a special gamer picture that celebrates the anniversary of the console, along with exclusive backgrounds, a special Year One image for use on Twitter, and free rentals of exclusive programs, including Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods and select Dragon Ball Z episodes.

In addition, Microsoft will be sending out physical prizes to random Xbox One owners, including everything from game consoles packed in with Sunset Overdrive or Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, to a free year of Xbox Live, to limited edition goodies, such as a Forza Horizon 2 limited edition Casio G-Shock men’s watch. The full list of goodies can be found here.

“It’s been an unbelievable year, but we never would have gotten to this point without our incredible fans,” said Nelson.  “We want to thank you for being a part of an amazing 12 months by celebrating with you all weekend long.”

In addition to the announcement of the giveaway, Nelson shared some interesting numbers in terms of the most popular games on Xbox One, including Forza Motorsport 5, Titanfall, Destiny and Call of Duty: Ghosts. He also stated that the total community Gamerscore amongst Xbox One owners has now totaled over 11 billion points unlocked, with more than two billion hours of games played on the console. That’s quite a large game community.

2015 should be an even bigger year for the company, between such releases as Halo 5: Guardians and Crackdown, amongst other soon-to-be-announced projects. Here’s hoping for another stellar year.

Virtual Reality Is Officially Consumer-Ready

Fifty years on from The Beatles’ legendary first American performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Sir Paul McCartney is back on the cutting edge of music with a little help from his friends, participating in a venture with virtual reality video company JauntVR that sees his performance at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park’s final concert broadcast in 360 degrees as their groundbreaking virtual reality viewer’s first offering.

“Paul is the perfect ambassador for this new medium because he’s so widely respected,” Jaunt vice president of content Scott Broock said of his company’s decision to place him on center stage for their new product. “A lot of people love Sir Paul McCartney.”

If you’re looking to enjoy Jaunt’s app for yourself, you can head over to their official website; it’s Android-only (an iOS app is on the way), and you’ll need a Google Cardboard holder (available through major online retailers; Jaunt recommends vendors on their site) if you want to take advantage of 3D video. Jaunt has also produced a 2D version for those without Cardboard.

Jaunt do not see themselves as a direct competitor to household-name Oculus, as they intend to focus on shooting and enhancing live-action video along the lines of McCartney’s performance while Oculus primarily concern themselves with interactive gaming experiences. Jaunt plans to be more friendly to the casual consumer by offering their app to anyone with an Android phone, while Oculus’ Rift will require dedicated virtual reality goggles.

Jaunt sees their business model as a path towards mass adoption of virtual reality technology on an Internet-like scale, breaking it beyond the domain of “techies” and right into the palm of a casual consumer’s hand.

For McCartney’s part, Broock is hoping his reputation as an innovator and forward-thinking artist will inspire fellow musicians to follow his lead. Broock sees JauntVR implementations like McCartney’s performance as “…a fascinating new way to reach people with their music in a completely different way. You can put people right there with you onstage, giving them access they would not otherwise have.”

Broock sees great things for JauntVR’s future, suggesting that the McCartney concert heralds a regularly-updated stream of captivating VR content to come in the near future. “There’s going to be a lot of content coming out by year’s end.” One can only hope we will soon be able to go on our own Magical Mystery Tour in an immersive 360 degrees.

5 Questions With Marcus Gners, COO Of Lifesum

Whether you’ve used the app or have only just heard of it, Lifesum is making a name for itself in the quantified-self movement whose devoted followers are gamifying their health with each step and bite. Back in March, the app got $6.7 million Series A funding to grow its base beyond Europe. Now, Marcus Gners, COO of Lifesum will be speaking at [a]list summit on Dec. 3rd at the W Hotel in Hollywood about the role of apps in content marketing.

Marcus Gners, COO of LifesumMarcus Gners, COO of Lifesum

We were elated to ask Marcus some questions about the ever-interesting quantified-self movement, what wearables will mean to the future of his business and marketing at large as well as what he has gleaned from his background in gaming.

Is the quantified-self movement a fad?

The hard-core quantified self movement is a niche. Internet of Things and people taking responsibility for their health is becoming mainstream. Quantified self is small indie movies, connected devices and mobile are blockbusters.

Wearables are picking up serious steam right now with Apple and Microsoft entering the market. What opportunities do you see in wearables and the quantified-self movement in the next year?

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg within wearables. So far their value has been pretty much on the gadgety accessory level as a way to communicate tech savviness or healthiness. Now we are going to move fast into wearables that can do more than count steps, like for example real-time checking of blood sugar and stress hormones. That in combination with software that changes peoples’ habits will create wearables that can truly change people’s lives.

We are already seeing brands like Amtrak dipping a toe into wearables marketing. How do you see other brands tapping into this?

The Internet of Things movement and mobile development will have huge impact on products in general. I’m a bit intrigued by edible wearables, but scared. It feels like the world is becoming sci-fi reality.

“Gaming is the most competitive category in the market, so you learn to manage your product from a clinical metric perspective and at the same time listen to users to ensure that what you are building is as cool as you think it is.”

What are some of the difficulties involved in marketing an app?

Attribution tracking has been a huge hassle and thus being able to calculate ROI on ad spend. This has become a lot better in the last year and will keep improving. I have great expectations on Apple’s upcoming analytics tools.

Another issue is that access to media and good ad formats is a bit of a mess. Global ad pricing is being pushed up by a few games studios, making it difficult for new actors to enter the market. Also there is a great lack of good formats and Facebook’s prices have soared during the last year and most other channel alternatives are not as good.

How has your gaming background informed your approach with Lifesum?

Gaming is the most competitive category in the market, so you learn to manage your product from a clinical metric perspective and at the same time listen to users to ensure that what you are building is as cool as you think it is. I also learned to do professional user acquisition and that gives us greater control of our destiny.

Netflix And YouTube Still Hog Bandwidth In North America

By Jessica Klein

According to broadband networking company Sandvine’s latest report, “Global Internet Phenomena Report 2H 2014,” Netflix and YouTube still account for the largest slices of the internet’s streaming bandwidth in North America.

Overall, Netflix makes up roughly 34.9 percent of peak downstream traffic on the continent, while YouTube follows with the second largest share at just over 14 percent.

That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, and is in line with previous numbers reported by Sandvine. What might be surprising is that Amazon Instant Video is creeping up in the ranks. Though the service still only takes up 2.6 percent of downstream traffic, that’s more than twice the bandwidth it took up 18 months ago.

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

CREATIVE: Top Trailers For the Week: November 19th

Another week, another round of trailers featuring highlights from the best forthcoming movies, games and TV shows. We’ve got the usual round-up for you here, so let’s check out this week’s favorites.

Goat Simulator has been a huge simulation success over the past few months, with PC players flocking to Coffee Stain Studios’ release. It’s pure silliness, with everything from rocket packs to explosions to angry boats. So, of course, the team will expand upon that success with Goat MMO Simulator, which will release tomorrow for PC. This new add-on shows similarities to Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series, but, as you might expect, with goats.

Telltale Games, the creators of the Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us episodic games, have returned with its latest effort, a spin-off from Gearbox Software’s popular Borderlands series. In Tales From the Borderlands, players will explore an all-new adventure, with several new characters meeting up with familiar ones from the series. The first chapter, Zero Sum, will debut in time for the holiday season on game consoles and PC.

Disney is once again resurrecting one of its classic films with a live-action version of Cinderella, which will debut in theaters on March 13th. The film stars Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden and Helena Bonham Carter, and is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor). Expect plenty of CGI magic, along with recognizable themes from the animated classic.

This December, Netflix will debut its latest original series on its streaming service, Marco Polo. It provides a more brutal take on history, following the legendary explorer as he navigates his way into the inner court of 13th century ruler Kublai Khan. Expect plenty of epic adventure from this one, along with powerhouse performances that bring the tale to life like never before.

Finally, several big video game releases came around this week, including a next-gen remake of Grand Theft Auto V and Ubisoft’s Far Cry 4. However, EA’s Dragon Age: Inquisition is getting a great deal of attention, and for good reason. Both die-hard fans of the series and newcomers alike will be able to embrace new spellcasting systems, along with plenty of epic quests that will challenge their skills at every turn. The game is available now for both consoles and PC.


Fingerprint Brings Top Kid’s Brands to Mobile

As the global market for mobile game powers to greater heights, one demographic has been harder to reach — preschoolers. Kids are naturally attracted to touchscreen devices, as anyone who’s watched a child with a smartphone or tablet can attest. Building and marketing apps to children, especially preschoolers, is no easy task, though. Parents are quite naturally concerned about the content of apps their kids might be playing, and the quality of the apps, and the educational value. Plus many countries have laws and regulations concerning apps for kids that publishers need to follow closely.

Yet the massive opportunity that kids represent for publishers has not gone unnoticed. Today Canadian-based media and entertainment company Corus Entertainment announced that it has partnered with Fingerprint, the San Francisco-based mobile technology company, to create a mobile entertainment platform for kids aged two to seven. Set to launch globally in 2015, the platform will offer preschoolers a safe, fun and branded environment to enjoy videos, games, music and eBooks featuring their favorite Nelvana characters Max & Ruby, Little Bear, Franklin, The Berenstain Bears and more.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Fingerprint to develop our first global digital offering for kids,” said Colin Bohm, Vice President, Television, Head of Corus Kids. “Leveraging Fingerprint’s expertise to create compelling and fun mobile applications for children will enable our Nelvana brands to be enjoyed by even more kids in multiple languages and territories around the world.” In 2012 and 2014 Corus invested in Fingerprint as part of Corus’ strategy to expand into new markets and unlock additional value in Nelvana’s rich library of branded content.

Fingerprint CEO Nancy MacIntyre

“It’s been our dream to bring Corus’ family of great brands to life on mobile devices,” said Nancy MacIntyre, CEO of Fingerprint. “By creating this new platform, families will have peace of mind as they encourage their children to experience favourite brands on the family’s personal mobile devices. After all, mobile is where people of all ages are spending their time. Corus will expand its brands via mobile and further grow its fans.”

The deal brought an approving nod from industry analysts. “Investing in mobile is imperative for media companies to expand their brands,” says Wedbush Securities digital media analyst, Michael Pachter. “71% of families with young children have smart phones according to the NPD, and children are using those phones for entertainment. By bringing the popular Corus brands to mobile with Fingerprint, the affinity children have to those brands will grow exponentially.”

The [a]listdaily reached out to Fingerprint CEO Nancy MacIntyre to talk to her about the growing business of bringing brands and education to kids on mobile devices.

[a]listdaily: The educational software market, focused on kids, rose to about a billion dollar segment in the 1990’s before it shrank. Are we finally seeing the rebirth of a significant software market for kids, this time on mobile platforms

Nancy MacIntyre: Yes, all the studies show we are in a place, especially in the US, where 2/3rd of kids have access to mobile devices and that six — 12 year olds often have their own. We don’t see that changing and it is dynamic and very natural for children these days. Digital media is what they know and how they learn and enjoy entertainment and educational fun.

[a]listdaily: Is there a sharp line between education and fun for kids on mobile platforms, or is it all blended together

Nancy MacIntyre: Mobile is not different, really, than any other gaming platform. Kids need to be engaged first, so it is about providing an experience that draws them in and holds their attention, and that can be in entertainment, education or a blend of the two. The guiding principle for mobile is that whatever the experience, it must be engaging first and foremost or the rest is moot and time won’t be spent to get the educational value of the product. This applies to adults and other content as well.

[a]listdaily: How can parents find the right software for their kids, and make sure they aren’t going to be surprised by purchases their kids make

Nancy MacIntyre: There are four basic recommendations that can help parents make the right software choices for their families and not be surprised by kids buying things they shouldn’t, or racking up bills.


  1. There are many resources available to parents, especially that come in the form of reviews providing a great perspective on a game or app. There are a lot of great blogs that cover kids software, but we also like the reliable and respected source Common Sense Media. They do a great job of recommending products of good quality, that are educational and have strong play value.
  2. Parents talking to other parents is huge. Tried and true recommendations are a great place to start.
  3. Trusted curated networks like what Fingerprint offers takes the guesswork out of the hunt and peck in other voluminous app stores. As we grow, many other networks we power are great resources whether through Sylvan, Samsung, and new efforts with companies like global Corus Entertainment, which has amazing and beloved characters and brands.
  4. It sounds basic but passwords are essential including keeping them private from your young kids who can unknowingly purchase items. Also, kids are smart. Make sure your household has clear guidelines on what they can and can’t purchase.

[a]listdaily: We’re starting to see full-on console games for kids coming to mobile with the same features, such as Skylanders: Trap Team and Disney Infinity 2.0. How will this affect the market for kid’s software on mobile

Nancy MacIntyre: I think having great, immersive mobile games for kids from big publishers that are comparable in quality to console is a huge positive. It not only expands the business but shows what kind of great experiences can be had on mobile today.

[a]listdaily: Minecraft has been a huge hit with kids. Will we be seeing more creative, build-your-own-thing type software on mobile designed for younger kids

Nancy MacIntyre: I think the build-your-own movement will grow, yes. In fact, Maker is very alive and well in empowering creativity. From encouraging Little Makers to take initiative, be confident inspired, to older kids showing them what is possible, it’s a whole lot of fun to see and be part of.

[a]listdaily: When you talk about Fingerprint becoming a Netflix for parents looking for kid’s apps, does that mean a subscription model rather than premium or freemium apps

Nancy MacIntyre: Three things:

  1. I liken Fingerprint to a Netflix for mobile content for kids in learning and play. It is an easy way to describe it and its value.
  2. Fingerprint and networks powered by us means curated and trusted products offered up and selected for you and your kids. Makes it really easy.
  3. Fingerprint products come in many models, subscription only being one.


Why Video Game Ads Are Facebook’s Worst Performers

Facebook has revealed that ads for video games are their social network’s worst performers, putting up anemic impressions and click rates bested even by dating ads.

Rick Kelley, Facebook’s global director of sales for games, shared the unwelcome news at November 19’s London Games Conference. “You are not just competing with other video game ads, you are competing with L’Oreal, Lynx, and other ad companies […] There are only so many ads we can show people on any given day,” Kelley remarked, alluding to a saturated market for traditional advertising.

Kelley offered three key points of advice for gaming companies looking to deliver their advertising statistics from peril:

Precise targeting

Blurred lines between “hardcore” and “casual” gamers coupled with mobile’s explosion mean that gamers are no longer an easily-compartmentalized niche audience. Facebook intends to flex its renowned data-collection muscle by gathering internal data from publishers, allowing them to gain an advantage when they are presented with a specified audience ripe for their ad campaigns.

Design content relevant to specific audiences

Kelley emphasized Facebook users’ growing embrace of video, detailing a company decision to autoplay videos in news feeds that sees them handling upwards of a billion views a day. Pointing to a successful Facebook campaign for EA’s Madden franchise tailored to a consumer’s favorite football team, Kelley stated that companies would do well to follow their lead by tackling individualized content designed to attract the attention of specific users.

Brand leverage

Think your game has a one-in-a-million chance of following in the footsteps of Flappy Bird or Candy Crush Saga Kelley advised developers to think again on that front, claiming current market figures place their chances closer to one in two million. Using hitmakers King and Supercell as examples, Kelley suggested publishers brand their games with watermarks, as it affords a level of prestige to makers of a beloved game hoping to keep consumers on board for their next offering.