A Look Behind ‘Atari: Game Over’

The story is familiar to countless gamers and marketers: Atari, once a pioneering behemoth of the video game industry renowned for innovative consoles like the Atari 2600 and games like Pong, saw their fortunes come crashing down in epic fashion in 1983 when holiday-season platformer E.T.’s abject critical and commercial failure brought the entire company, and video game industry, down along with it. The game was such a catastrophe that unsold copies were sent to a landfill in New Mexico, never intended to see the light of day again. It stands as an oft-repeated cautionary tale for publishers and manufacturers determined to avoid committing the same grave errors with their own products.

A new documentary filmed by X-Men: The Last Stand and The Avengers co-writer Zak Penn for WIRED titled Atari: Game Over will premiere free for all Xbox Live users tomorrow (November 20). Penn, a self-proclaimed nostalgia buff who “grew up on Atari”, traveled to the site of the infamous landfill for Atari: Game Over, overseeing an excavation operation that successfully recovered intact E.T. cartridges and refuted past rumors that the landfill had been sealed off with concrete.

Penn’s documentary, aimed at informing gamers about the infamous implosion from an all-new angle, features interviews with Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell and other figures instrumental in the company’s rise and fall from gaming glory. “They thought, ‘Hey! I’m a nerd. There are girls here. They’re talking to me — it’s good!’”, Bushnell says in one such interview, recalling Atari’s party-happy corporate culture designed to attract cutting-edge talent. The freewheeling workplace environment gave rise to a cast of executives and engineers who would “do what they want to do,” according to Warner Communications ex-co-COO Manny Gerard, breeding what amounted to a double-edged-sword as programmers encouraged to innovate powered Atari to skyrocketing levels of success in the late 1970s before inadvertently leading them to ruin in the form of a less-than-glamorous landfill when their outsized ambitions fell short.

No matter how you might feel about the ordeal, Atari: Game Over seems poised to offer a never-before-seen window into a time-worn tale.

Ubisoft: Marketers, Developers Must Work Together

With the game market consistently growing with new and familiar brands – and with multi-million dollar ad campaigns behind them – marketing needs to adapt to the times as well. At least, that’s what Ubisoft Montreal brand director Luc Duchaine believes.

Duchaine certainly has his hands full these days, as the publisher has released plenty of titles for the holiday season, including two Assassin’s Creed games, Far Cry 4, Just Dance 2015 and the upcoming multiplayer racer The Crew.

With that, Duchaine believes that a “necessary union” between marketing and development needs to be made, based on what he said last week at the Montreal International Game Summit. Game developers not only need to realize their creative potential with products, but also promote it the right way, according to GamesIndustry International.

Some developers and marketers are getting along better, but Duchaine believes there’s still a way to go. “It’s a recurring subject,” he explained. “I still get it sometimes from people who are new to Ubisoft and they’re like, ‘There’s a marketing guy on the team That’s kind of weird.’ But I know for us, now it’s common knowledge at Ubisoft. Tomorrow morning if you came and told my producer I wasn’t on the project any more, he’d probably slap you and be like, ‘What I need him!'”

Developers can be wary of having a marketing specialist on board, but there is certainly room for growth. “You can ship a game without a marketer,” he continued.. “You can’t ship a game without an art director, or a lead programmer. But without a marketer The game will go out. In the best conditions, I don’t know. Will it be maximized in terms of return on investment, in terms of reach I think that’s the downside . . . That’s why certain studios don’t have marketing early on. They can ship a game without a marketing person in-house. They see it as a cost they can avoid, and they see marketing as a separate service and not something that can truly help to make a better game.

The right tools for the job are also vital, according to Duchaine. “If you do not give the tools to the marketing team, if you fail to provide them the materials to build a good marketing campaign, the result is very simple. Someone somewhere, in an agency, on a marketing team, will decide what’s iconic for your brand. Because we need that in marketing. We need iconic elements. We cannot put on screen the same thing that’s been shown over and over again. And chances are, you won’t like it. They’ll try to sell a game you aren’t making.”

With that, there needs to be less division between the two. “What’s to be learned is that everyone can play a role with the marketing of a game. And if everybody has that mindset, it can truly help a game. If you have someone to emphasize that, it’s an added value, but if everybody thinks, ‘Well how can I help marketing’ when they develop a game, that’s what we can learn from indies.”

More of the interview can be found here.

Disruptor Beam Raises Money For Expansion

Disruptor Beam has done a great job creating games that know how to draw a strong community, including popular titles like the forthcoming Star Trek Timelines and Game of Thrones Ascent. With that, it should have no trouble continuing to do so, as it’s managed to raise over $5 million thus far for development.

The company announced that it has secured this amount, including $3.2 million from the most recent round of Series A funding, which will be turned around to go towards development into Timelines, as well as other additional IPs for future game products. It’s also looking to expand its team with even more development members, although specific departments weren’t mentioned in the company’s press release.

With the investment come new equity investors, as well as the ability to convert existing debut. Such companies as Midverse Studios, GrandBanks Capital and a number of technology-driven partners, along with CommonAngels, Romulus Capital, and Harmonix founders Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy. In addition, the team has also secured a line of equity financing through Silicon Valley Bank.

“These latest investments will help us to further deliver on our vision of creating the most community-centric game company in the world,” said Jon Radoff, CEO and founder of Disruptor Beam. “We build games based on entertainment brands that have the most engaged fan communities. And, we see these communities as just as important as the games themselves. For these reasons, we’re in the process of developing a community platform that will allow cross-game social capabilities and one that will enable players to connect with one another in new, innovative ways.”

With that, 2015 should be a tremendous year for the company, with the completion of both Timelines and the new platform, both of which are expected to draw in a large PC gaming fan base. In addition, more licensed franchises could come down the road, meeting with the same success as Game of Thrones (though possibly not as popular).

Those who wish to learn more about Disruptor Beam can check out its official page here.

Brands Rule The Mobile Gaming Front

When it comes to mobile games, the more popular ones seem to stem from recognizable franchises. Even though there’s always room for some new blood to give the market a try, favorites like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja have no problem drawing a crowd – especially with the involvement of new partners.

The latest iOS and Android numbers revealed the top mobile games for the current month, indicating that current brands like FIFA (featuring Lionel Messi amongst other players) and Angry Birds Transformers are still riding high on popularity. As a result, several small development teams are thriving, riding all the way to the top of the mobile charts, according to VentureBeat.

Angry Birds Transformers has proven to be a powerhouse addition to Rovio’s game line-up, becoming the number one downloaded game for the month of October on both formats. Disney’s Cars: Fast As Lightning notched a third place position, and Gameloft continues to profit from the moneymaker Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

However, some companies have proven that you can teach an old dog new tricks as well. Halfbrick, the developers of the popular Fruit Ninja brand, garnered a huge audience last month when it introduced downloadable content based on the hit 1984 film Ghostbusters to its game, complete with plasma stream cannon and plenty of “spooky” fruit.

Fruit Ninja‘s success presents an interesting twist to the trend of games based on licensed IP,” says the App Annie report. “Licensed updates may have an advantage in the form of shorter development cycles and lower costs while still providing a desired spike in downloads.”

The report also shows that Electronic Arts has managed to gain its own audience with the FIFA 15 Ultimate Teach game. “Over the past year, mobile sports games have become a significant part of Electronic Arts’ portfolio. Based on its latest earnings release, Electronic Arts’ mobile games averaged 155 million monthly active users during Q3 2014. Of this, its mobile sports games averaged 40 million MAUs during the same time period, a gain of 250 percent since last year.”

It’ll be interesting to see where the mobile market goes from here – and what new partnering ideas companies cook up with their popular franchises.

Rovio Introduces Fun Learning

Rovio is usually known for creating fun games for all ages, including several entries in the Angry Birds franchise. However, with its latest move, it intends to move towards educating younger players, according to VentureBeat.

The team has introduced its new Fun Learning education initiative, which will be aimed towards three to six year olds. Working alongside fashion designer Ivana Helsinki, the development studio has managed to put together outfits for a forthcoming program titled Angry Birds Playground. With them, young children can learn a thing or two, but in a fun way.

“It’s no secret that in Finland, boys learn English faster than girls,” said Peter Vesterbacka, Mighty Eagle at Rovio, during the company’s recent press conference. “They play more games than girls, and the games are in English.”

The new program, which has been three and a half years in the making, combines the ability to play games with both digital and physical world learning, creating a unique effect – and not just with the clothing. The program also provides teachers the means to introduce kids to digital games, including gesture-based ones for puzzle solving techniques.

“We are interest in the digital space of learning, but it’s important to understand the physical side of it too,” said Sanna Lukander, vice president of learning for Rovio. With the program, the team hopes to expand outside of just creating another game experience, as a larger program can have a greater impact.

The goal of the program is to promote “flow,” according to Paola Suhonen, the art director and founder for Helsinki. “We wanted to create clothes that promote learning and flow.”

Rovio is looking to license Angry Birds Playground to spread the word about Fun Learning, and hopes to kick off the program shortly across Finland, as well as Beijing, China. There’s no word on when it will reach other markets, at least as of yet.

“We’ll have more than one, but less than a million,” said Vesterbacka. “It’s not easy to scale it. But we are not afraid of difficult things. It’s not a charity. It is most definitely a business for us.”

Lauri Jarvilehto, scientist for Fun Learning, stated, “We need to learn to make learning fun.”

REPORT: Nielsen To Measure Netflix, Amazon Viewership

By Sahil Patel

Netflix and Amazon famously don’t provide ratings on who’s watching what on their respective SVOD services. That’s going to change soon, though not at the hands of either company.

Starting next month, Nielsen will provide some viewership metrics on content available on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, according to The Wall Street Journal. The measurement firm will be able to do this by monitoring video consumption among those who participate in its nationwide consumer panel.

This will be independent data, unverified by Netflix or Amazon, who declined to comment for the report. Nielsen will use audio-recognition technology to identify which shows are being streamed.

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.

Gaming’s Video-Watching Audience Is Still Largely Male


A new report from eMarketer titled “Worlds Collide: Videos and Gaming, and What Marketers Need to Know” shows that gaming-related video’s audience is largely male, but why is this so

While gaming in general has become a mainstream activity with mobile, social and casual gaming appealing with wide demographics, video watchers still tend to be male. eMarketer cites a study by video news site VideoInk that found that Call of Duty, League of Legends, Grand Theft Auto and EA Sports FIFA had audiences of over 90 percent male viewers, sometimes even as high as 98 percent. These audiences skewed young, too, with over 50 percent being between 18 and 24 years of age.

When it comes to YouTube, the proportion does change a bit. As obvious as it sounds, games in genres that typically attract a higher proportion of males tend to attract the same kind of audience on YouTube. Although games like Clash of Clans, Minecraft and Pokémon are attracting more diverse audience due to the broader appeal of the game, they do not comprise the majority of online gaming video.

According to a survey Newzoo back in March, 69 percent of respondents who enjoyed watching and participating in eSports were male and 31 percent female. While eSports has a notable gender gap and is making progress in transforming its reputation as a “boys-only clubhouse,” why then are gaming video watchers so overwhelmingly male After all, 48 percent of online video viewers are female.

Game streaming sites would do well to cast a wider net to appeal to a larger audience just as gaming as an activity has shifted from being viewed as a mostly young male hobby. Now that huge brands are looking to connect with the audience around competitive gaming, opening this pastime to new audiences is key, but important players in eSports and streaming are worried about alienating their audience by incorporating more inclusive practices.

“We are not focused on expanding our demographic beyond who we currently reach because our core audience is growing every year. Historically all attempts to target non-core eSports demographics have been failures. Various companies have tried simplification, gender segregation, mainstream-friendly rule sets and other similar things but does not work. It is not authentic as it alienates the immensely large core audience in the hope that someone new might pick it up. We don’t see the point,” said the programming director, Michal Blicharz of ESL, the largest independent eSports brand to Polygon back in August.

This Week’s [a]list Jobs – November 19th

[a]listdaily is 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.

How nice would it be to be performing at your personal best, no matter what See a day in the life of your most productive self.

Here are this week’s [a]list jobs:

  • NAMCO BANDAI– Associate Brand Manager (Santa Clara, Calif.)
  • Electronic Arts – Product Marketing Manager, Mobile (Redwood City, Calif.)
  • Google – Strategy and Operations Manager, Global Marketing (Mountain View, Calif.)
  • Google – Product Marketing Manager, Google Play Afflilate Program (Mountain View, Calif.)
  • GREE – Product Marketing Manager (San Francisco, Calif.)

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

Azubu Aims for Premium eSports

It’s been a banner year for eSports, as the revenues from various games like League of Legends, World of Tanks, and DOTA 2 rise into the billions, with over 100 million dedicated players globally and new titles on the horizon. We now have eSports events occurring in major sports stadiums, and even a special stadium being built just for eSports. Related to that, streaming game video continues to grow, and the sale of Twitch to Amazon for $2 billion underscores the value of game streaming and eSports.

In this rapidly growing space we have Azubu, which bill itself as a “global broadcast network, delivering premium live and on demand eSports action, programming, news and analysis.” The company is taking a different approach to eSports than the everyone-is-welcome-to-stream style Twitch employs. Azubu is focused on building a premium eSports network, the equivalent of ESPN. That means building superior technology for displaying high-quality streams on a variety of devices, and it also means top-quality content, analysis, and statistics.

Furthering that goal, Azubu has been busy signing top eSports players and teams to provide exclusive content, bringing more reasons for eSports fans to tune into Azubu as it builds out its network. The [a]listdaily caught up with Azubu CEO Ian Sharpe to ask about Azubu’s plans and the growth of eSports and streaming.

Ian Sharpe

[a]listdaily: Azubu has embarked on an ambitious journey to become the premiere eSports network. How would you assess your progress towards that goal so far

Ian Sharpe: There are two ways to answer that question. The first is very practical. At Azubu, I often say ‘you can’t improve unless you measure’. We keep track of every aspect of the business, and so, according to our development backlog, we are 40 percent through our planned feature set.

The second is more philosophical. Startups are tough and reboots are tougher still. I like to quote Bukowski, “What matters most is how you walk through the fire.” Not only are we still walking, but the team we have forged in this crucible is unparalleled in my experience in terms of dedication, passion and sheer derring-do.

[a]listdaily: Azubu has partnered with KeSPA (the Korean eSports Association), and pro players like Faker. How have they been received, and what has this meant for Azubu

Ian Sharpe: Partnering with KeSPA was like uncovering a lost treasure. Of course, KeSPA has been a staple of the eSports industry for years, but the players had never streamed — at least for League of Legends. The first night Flame was due to headline, I was sitting in a hotel room in Seoul, eagerly waiting the stream to start. Ten minutes passed and the suspense was so unbearable, I was phoning staff to make sure all was going to plan. Right then, all of a sudden, the site burst into life. It was a phenomenal shared experience and a real triumph as well as a definite first. Partnering with Azubu allows KeSPA players to reach a broader audience and interact with fans worldwide, and all of eSports wins. Of course, a couple of weeks later, Faker started streaming. The best player in the world, hands down, on our site. That’s the stuff dreams are made of. To say the least, we’re excited to expand that partnership and announce other projects we’ll be working on with them in the future. Partnering with these pros has been a step closer to having a platform with all the best pros and teams in the eSports scene. In addition, we’ll be announcing new teams and pros joining soon!

[a]listdaily: Now that the League Champions Series (for League of Legends) is over, what’s your assessment of the year eSports has had Will eSports continue to move forward at the same pace in 2015

Ian Sharpe: Competition is part of our DNA, this space is destined for continual evolution. Look at the massive changes happening in China, the growth of BlizzCon in LA, the new titles on the horizon. eSports is a wildfire, leaping over obstacles, sparking new ideas, blazing a trail. Momentum is always a friend, and I am enthralled to see how it surges forward.

[a]listdaily: When a professional League of Legends player retired and then signed a streaming agreement for $800K a year, that raised some eyebrows. Is this an anomaly, or is this where streaming is headed

Ian Sharpe: Streaming is as much a phenomena as eSports itself, and the two combined create a real force for change — potentially explosive change. High profile endorsements and contracts have been the norm in sports for years. Now, in eSports, money is helping fuel the fire, fanning the flames. However, there are many pros out there that have turned down large monetary opportunities from streaming companies because they just want to compete, so there is a balance, and I think there will continue to be.

[a]listdaily: Despite Electronic Arts giving up on their MOBA Dawngate, there are still high-profile entries coming like Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, and even on tablets (Vainglory, for instance). Do you think there’s good reasons to work with upcoming titles for streaming

Ian Sharpe: Absolutely. The sheer inventiveness in and around videogaming is awe inspiring. I could show you a dozen new and compelling experiences being created right now, on every device imaginable, from my ex-EA colleagues alone. Streaming offers them an audience and advocates that can be influential in shaping a game and making it better. I’m personally excited for Overwatch (along with every other gamer out there). Our goal is to have content opportunities around every single one of these major titles to provide fans with the gameplay they want to watch, and provide broadcasters with the platform that delivers all the major titles that they want to play.

[a]listdaily: What do you think Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch means to the streaming business

Ian Sharpe: You know, looking back on my answers above, I’ve noticed a whole Fire motif, which perhaps shows the subliminal power of the Amazon platform! The acquisition was like setting a beacon ablaze for eSports. It proves what a major business eSports and livestreaming is. The world is watching, quite literally, to see where we go next. Exciting times.

Black Friday’s Got Game

It’s going to be a crazy Black Friday when next week rolls around, as indicated by a number of ads that have leaked for Wal-Mart, Best Buy, GameStop and other retailers. While a number of electronics and movies will no doubt be marked down to rock-bottom prices, video games seem to be the big focus, with all three major game companies – Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft taking part in their own package deals.

Microsoft has already gotten a jump on the holiday season with the introduction of a $50 price cut across a number of its bundles, including popular titles like Sunset Overdrive and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The bundles, ranging from $350 to $450 in price (depending on what’s included) have been selling impressively well, and some retailers are going as far as to add even more value, including a $20 price drop on the Assassin’s Creed Unity bundle at GameStop, as well as gift cards from other shops.

(In addition, Microsoft has announced its own special deals through its specialty Microsoft Stores, including discounts on its Xbox One bundles, as well as Xbox 360 package deals that range from $129.99 to $199.99. Those deals can be found here. The company will also host several days of discounted games through its Xbox Live service, which starts next week.)

Not to be outdone, Sony countered Microsoft with its own special Black Friday bundles, each of which include two major releases for a value of $399 – what the system sells for on its own. These games are hit titles, too, including Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us Remastered and Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. While retailers aren’t tweaking this package too much, they don’t necessarily need to – it’s quite the value in itself.

Meanwhile, Nintendo has its own plans, with the Super Mario 3D World bundle still going for $299.99 at most retailers, replacing previous models. There were rumors that the company would introduce a system bundle that included the forthcoming Super Smash Bros. game, but they haven’t been confirmed yet. Still, that isn’t stopping some retailers from including it as a package deal, as Best Buy has a bundle that includes the system, Smash and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for $359.99 – just $60 more than the general package. The 3DS is likely to sell just as well, backed by the release of two new Pokémon games, as well as special edition bundles made exclusively for certain retailers (like an NES-themed 3DS handheld for GameStop).

These deals make this holiday season one of the most heated yet for the video game industry, especially considering that each company is fighting to take a first place victory. Thus far, Microsoft has an early lead with its bundle launches, although Sony is sure to catch up once Black Friday rolls around. As for Nintendo, it’s gone through a rebound as of late, thanks to titles like Hyrule Warriors and Mario Kart 8, and the holiday season, along with the critically acclaimed Smash, could help it see big sell-through.

Not content of having all the specials on Friday, most retailers are also holding special sales through the weekend on individual games, lowering the prices of such hits as Destiny, Watch Dogs and other 2014 releases. Some are even going as low as $20, including MLB 14: The Show (which is surely being cycled out for next year’s MLB 15) and Infamous: Second Son. So even if consumers miss out on a system deal, there’s still plenty to clean up in terms of games.

It’s still a close call when it comes to determining a leader, especially considering that a variety of quality releases are ripe for the taking – including several, like Grand Theft Auto V, that just came out this week. Still, with all three major companies trying, there’s no doubt that quite a battle is ahead. And consumers, especially gamers, will definitely win.