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.

AMC Introduces ‘Interstellar’ Unlimited Pass

Interstellar, the latest science fiction achievement from The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, is doing quite well at the box office, just about to cross over the $100 million point here in the United States. With that, the film has definitely gained a huge fan base – and that’s something that AMC Theaters is banking on with its latest promotion.

The theater chain has teamed up with Paramount Pictures to introduce an unlimited ticket for the film, which enables viewers to come see it as many times as they wish while it’s still playing, for a one-time charge of $34.99. You can even take your exisitng ticket stub, if you’ve already seen it, and pay the difference to upgrade to an unlimited pass.

While some may see it as a risky promotion (how many times can someone view Interstellar ), Mashable believes that it’s a pretty sharp move which could actually manage to sell more general tickets to the movie.

That’s mainly due to the film getting a push from the studio even past its first week of release, which isn’t usually common business once it’s released. With the promotion, Mashable explains, Paramount could easily promote that the movie’s so good, it’s worth seeing multiple times – something that could garner curiosity from those who weren’t entirely on board with seeing it before.

With the deal, AMC and Paramount can benefit from extra promotion for the film, which is sure to result in a few extra ticket sales, and more word-of-mouth about it – even if unlimited passes themselves don’t sell in spades. It also introduces targeted messaging for that particular crowd, as well as the ability to use powerhouse quotes to describe it, as Elizabeth Frank did in the announcement’s press release: “Christopher Nolan has created a masterpiece that movie fans are saying gets better every time they see it.”

Could that mean more studios embrace the idea of an unlimited movie screening pass It’s not like the idea hasn’t been done before, as Alamo Drafthouse took advantage of such a promotion with Paramount’s Anchorman 2 when it released last year. (That one performed moderately at best, with the film barely making over $100 million at the box office.)

Still, for big blockbusters-to-be, such as Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, the idea of an unlimited pass may not be such a bad idea – and it could allow companies to get the buzz going on movies again, especially if they wane a bit in popularity.

Developer Combats Pirates With Free Games

Piracy definitely affects all media businesses these days, through the illegal distribution of music, movies and video games. Many companies see piracy of media costing millions of dollars a year in lost revenue. However, 11-Bit Studios has found an interesting solution when it came to the piracy problems surrounding its latest PC game release, This War of Mine, according to Polygon.

Following the posting of the game over on The Pirate Bay website, the developer provided a response in the site’s forums – but not nearly as hostile as you might think.

The respond reads as follows:

“It’s Karol from 11 bit studios, the developers of This War of Mine. We are really happy to hear that you like our game. They prove, that spending 2 years on it was worth it. I would like to say thank you to everyone, who decides to buy the game and support us — because of that we’ll be able to develop TWoM further and create even better games in the future. If because of some reasons you can’t buy the game, it’s ok. We know life, and we know, that sometimes it’s just not possible.

Here are some codes for the Steam copy of the game, so some of you can take a look at it. And if you like the game after spending few hours in, then just spread the word, and you’ll help us a lot.”

With that response, ten Steam keys for the game were dropped in the comments, which were no doubt immediately snapped up.

As to why the company made such a move, 11 bit’s Pawel Miechowski explained to Polygon, “It’s just that not all pirates are the same. Of course there are people that would pirate the game even if it would cost 10 cents, but you can do nothing about them.

“What many of us often forget though, is that there are also other people. Folks that are doing that, because they are simply pissed about the current quality of many games, or those who simply can’t afford the game at the time, because of some personal reasons,” he stated. “That’s why we believe that instead of treating everyone the same way, where pirates are the most evil people on Earth, it’s better to talk and try to find a solution, where everyone somehow benefits.”

As a result, the post has gotten positive feedback on the site, with many fans promising to spread word around about its quality – which will no doubt pay off for the developer. “You can’t buy the game, but you would like to support us Tell your friends, and who knows, maybe one of them will pay for it and that would give us few bucks,” said Miechowski. “Pretty  well known Polish indie developer Sos did something similar some time ago, and just like in our case it proved, that it always pays back if you try to understand people, instead of condemning everyone.”

So, indeed, killing them with kindness could be the best move…even if not everyone is fond of it.

Those interested in This War of Mine can download it here on Steam for $19.99. We’ve included the trailer for the game below.

Android And iOS CPI Rising

When it comes to cost per install (or CPI for short), it appears both iOS and Android are heading upward from where they were in the previous year.

A report compiled by Fiksu (and reported by GamesIndustry International) indicates that, per its analysis, costs for both mobile formats have converged quite a bit. Android costs have managed to rise from last month to $1.16 per install, while iOS has stayed just above the one-dollar level, petering out around $1.01 per CPI. These are both significant growths following last year’s figures.

With that, Fiksu’s Glen Kiladis has provided some advice to would-be developers, stating that capitalizing on fresh hardware for the upcoming holiday season would be a wise decision — especially when leaning towards Android.

“As the holidays approach and mobile app marketers gear up to increase spending on their mobile games, it might be a good time to consider allocating some of that holiday budget to Android,” explained Kiladis. “Fiksu’s CPI index, which measures the cost per app install directly attributed to advertising, showed Android games costs in October were down 26 percent compared to the same month last year, coming in at $1.16. On iOS, meanwhile, it was the complete reverse. iOS games CPI for the month of October was $1.01, and despite that being less than Android during the same month, it was 25 percent higher than iOS costs from one year ago.”

While that doesn’t mean the mobile app market will be slowing down anytime soon (if at all), it does provide a clear message to certain advertisers regarding the changing shape of said market, and how Android has become a bit more of a power player, despite the continuous presence of Apple and its new devices. It could be possible we’ll see another financial shift by this time next year, and one that could play even more in favor of Android — even if it is only by a few cents.

Google Helps Brands Embrace Digital Technology

Programmatic advertising still has to become widely accepted amongst companies, since there are various hoops to jump through in order to get “on board” with certain programs. However, Google’s private markets could possibly lend a hand when it comes to getting brands paired up with digital ad technology, according to Adweek.

Part of the reason programmatic has yet to catch on is due to the automation of purchases digital ads, which everyone isn’t quite crazy about due to a lack of direct control, particularly when it comes to setting up details in a campaign.

According to Google’s Neal Mohan, vice president of display and video ads, however, creativity is starting to perk up in the market, and private marketplaces, driven by the web company, could provide opportunities to finally grasp a program that works for said brands. “There is a sense that advertising technology and creative ads are at odds, but I don’t see it that way,” he explained. “Technology is something that should fade away and empower creative agencies to do what they do best: find ways to connect brands with consumers.”

Through the company’s DoubleClick Bid Manager, business managed to make twice as much from last year, mainly due to brands accepting the programmatic strategy. “There is more of a convergence of programmatic and brand building,” explained Mohan.

With the new system, marketers don’t have to worry so much about bidding high amounts at auction for ad space, instead working with web publishers and buyers to create a relationship where it would be pre-generated.

“The folks that are doing it well are the ones going after ad budgets that are not available in the open auction markets,” said Qasim Saifee, senior vice president of monetization for OpenX. “So publishers are talking to the buyers with brand-oriented dollars that are not going through open auctions.”

eMarketer estimates that with the program, programmatic ad dollars would show a hefty increase from $8.6 billion to $20 billion in just two years’ time.

With the program, companies like Tory Burch, Cadillac and CBS have had no trouble creating their own private marketplaces, according to Mohan – a business practice that is likely to pick up as more people accept programmatic advertising. “Programmatic is coming up more and more with each of our clients,” added Azher Ahmed, director of digital operations for DDB Chicago. “But there’s still a lot of testing and learning that needs to be done.”

Biz Stone Tries Again With ‘Super’

Brands had been making quick use of Jelly, the last app from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, but sadly the crowdsourcing Q and A app wasn’t so catching. But now, we have Super.

Super brings a new, fun way to share photo content with your statement, opinion or recommendation by choosing from a few prompts. You can post anonymously or sign your name, however you wish.

The app garners a lot of inspiration from other opinion-sharing apps like Whisper or Secret and the juxtaposition of text and fun colors harkens back to the app Yo.

We’ll certainly be waiting with bated breath to see how brands use Super and whether or not it has sticking power. Until then, Stone is managing his expectations and treading carefully.

“I’ve decided not to come up with some slick and pithy marketing description for Super. I’m also not going to proclaim that it’s the most innovative thing ever or that it’s going to save the world. It’s not, it’s just fun,” said Stone in a post on his publishing platform, Medium.

Former NFL Star Hank Baskett Discusses The Rise Of eSports

Before he entered the reality TV landscape, Hank Baskett was a wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts. These days, the entrepreneur is working with several companies, including GAEMS, and is co-owner of eSports Team EnVyUs and co-owner of GAEMS. Baskett, who’s an avid gamer, has watched as pro gaming has captivated the world over the past few years. He explains why eSports is the future and how GAEMS has built a successful business through pro gaming in this exclusive interview.

Hank BaskettHank Baskett

Why did you decide to get involved in the video game business with GAEMS?

I’ve played video games since I was a little kid going from the Atari to the Nintendo to the Genesis all the way up to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s just been something that I’ve always enjoyed doing in my spare time, even though I was very active and always outside. I still loved the opportunity to play video games. I’ve been fortunate that my generation — I’m 32 — has really seen the biggest change in the video game industry. When I was playing in the NFL I was a guy who would travel with his Xbox and play in his hotel, especially during training camp and things like that. I came across GAEMS a few years ago and thought if I had one of their Vanguards when I was traveling all of the time, life would have been so much easier. I used to have to sit there and put my Xbox in my suitcase, wrap it in sweats and pray that it didn’t get broken underneath the airplane. I love being able to just game anywhere and GAEMS makes it easier to do that.

What licensing opportunities do you see for Gaems in the NFL?

The approach I brought to (GAEMS founder) John Smith when I met him was that they have the professional gaming market cornered. Everybody is using the Vanguard — or going forward the new monitors M155 and M240 — but I told him this is the ultimate tailgate piece. Imagine fans playing Madden football in the tailgate before you a big NFL game. Imagine having the Vanguard at basketball arenas like the Staples Center. Robert Morris University is giving away full ride video game scholarships for eSports. Countless universities are creating gaming lounges within their student union buildings on campus and setting up places for students to go play video games. Imagine the amount of space you can save with GAEMS by putting 12 to 20 of our products in there and create a full-time gaming experience that you can lock up. Colleges could rent out these rooms to fraternities, sports teams and booster clubs and be able to run video game tournaments to raise money for charities on campus.

I saw you attend the NFLPA Rookie Premiere event in LA this summer.?

I’d love to be able to get GAEMS involved with the professional sports because people don’t think professional athletes and celebrities play video games. But that’s what we do in our free time. If we’re not doing charitable events or doing something related to our sport, we like to just get away from everything and play some video games. Now imagine teams being able to license our products and being able to sell them to fans, whether it be collegiate or professional. You have the teams, the players. When the players get to travel they’ll have something to do and on vacation with their families. If the kids want to have some time to play video games you don’t have to give up the hotel TV because the hotel could possibly rent our product. That would be huge right there.

At PAX Prime you had some licensed products like a Marvel GAEMS Vanguard.

We’re working on a bunch of licenses. We created some to present to potential partners. We wanted to show the creativity, and those are just the beginning of what we’re capable of doing. If you get a licensing deal, the sky’s the limit. Now imagine a movie coming out based on a Marvel or Warner Bros. or Disney property and being able to do a package with the DVD and a gaming system for the kids. You can have the whole environment where the kids get to play their favorite video games on the fastest monitor on the planet with a custom skin around it. The parents could go to the website and freely design the case. People love being able to put their own touch on things because it makes them feel like it’s truly theirs.

What role has eSports played in establishing and getting GAEMS to where it is today?

We’ve been able to solidify ourselves as the top gaming monitor on the planet. That’s huge because it’s just like as a professional athlete you want the Nikes, the Under Armours, the Adidas’ and the Reeboks. You want to associate yourself with the best, so when people are using our monitors they’re saying that we’re the best out there and that’s what you want within the eSports and gaming community. It’s all about the fans and the true players and if the community backs you and feels that you’re the best, that’s huge because these people that are using our monitors aren’t getting paid to play with our monitors and say that they’re the best. They’re requiring that they get to use our monitors to play.

What role have you seen livestreaming play in being able to get the GAEMS brand out there to a global audience?

Everybody talks about soccer and baseball, but I believe eSports — if it’s not already — within the next five years it will become the first true global sport. The ability to livestream has been huge for eSports. The Internet is becoming one of the basic necessities of life and it’s connecting and uniting people in Germany or France or Asia or South America. First it was all about social media, but now eSports allows you to be able to play with and find people who share the same passion as you that live completely on the other side of the world from you. At the X-Games this year when they added eSports, I believe it was 24 of the top 25 most trending athletes were video gamers. The first year it happened more people were excited to watch the gamers than everything else. That just shows how eSports is changing everything. Pretty soon it’s going to grow to have more followers, more avid players and more professionals than all the other sports combined.

 

Blizzard Transforms A Subway

Blizzard has been going all out with the promotion of its newest World of Warcraft expansion, Warlords of Draenor. If the exciting cinematics don’t get players’ blood boiling, then chances are the instant promotion to level 90 for their character likely will. However, the company has pushed even further, creating a lavish portal in the heart of Shanghai, according to Polygon.

One of the country’s busiest subway stations has recently been transformed into a real world “Dark Portal” lifted straight from the game. Several sites, including Sina Games, have posted pictures of the portal, and the video clip below also highlights the immense amount of detail Blizzard put into its creation, including interactive video displays and other highlights.

With the video set-up, users are detected using a camera to the side of the exhibit. From there, any passerby can check out the awaiting video screen to see themselves put up against a portal-designed background. In addition, several characters from the World of Warcraft universe appear as well.

It’s unlikely we’ll see a similar promotion here in the United States, considering the elaborate build going into the video screens. However, considering World of Warcraft‘s global appeal, this is an interesting move to get gamers – and casual players – excited about the new expansion. Plus, it’s quite cool to see them implemented into a fantasy world, especially when they’re simply doing their day-to-day traveling in the subway.

Besides, the United States has seen its fair share of promotion for the game. Earlier this month, a crushed taxicab was placed in the heart of Times Square, with a gigantic ogre axe driven into its top, and a broken World of Warcraft placard next to it. It’s certainly gotten some attention since then.

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor is available now for PC.

 

 

CREATIVE: Microsoft’s Augmented Reality

Want to see what Microsoft has in store for its new augmented reality program for marketing games Simple – you’ll just need to take the bus. Or, at the very least, visit your local station.

The company has launched a new augmented reality program with three different bus stops located in San Francisco, Melbourne and London, which allows visitors to get involved in the digital universe of the company’s recent Xbox One exclusive release, Sunset Overdrive.

When users get close to the screen, they’ll become involved in the digital universe, making them appear as a virtual character that fits right in with it.

The ads are the work of Clear Channel Outdoor and media agency Empowering Media, and will be in these bus terminals for the entre month. They utilize displays put together by digital out-of-home agency Grand Visual, a company that’s quite savvy in the virtual field, working with such previous companies as Heineken, Pepsi and Tropicana on similar set-ups, according to PSFK.

For those unfamiliar with the world of Sunset Overdrive, we’ve included the trailer below. In this highly colorful and animated adventure – put together by the development team at Insomniac Games – you portray a survivor of a pending apocalypse, with creatures appearing all over the city streets after consuming a dangerous new energy drink called Overcharge. With parkour-like movement skills and an arsenal of weapons available at your fingertips, you’ll fight back against the pending invasion, in the hopes of escaping the city with your peers.

This is the latest move in Microsoft’s elaborate promotion for the game, which has also seen a number of TV advertisements, as well as pre-order bonuses with select retailers. So far, it’s done quite well, with the special Sunset Overdrive system bundle selling out, and the game acquiring high scores aplenty from game critics.

It’ll be interesting to see if the momentum can keep up for next year – and if those awesome bus station promotions stick around for the long haul.

 

Social Spend To Double by 2018

Social ad revenue is on the up and up. By 2018, social spending looks to double to account for $14 billion in ad spend according to a new forecast from BI Intelligence.

What is causing growth at this break-neck pace Mobile and programmatic are the reason. Improved targeting on mobile, the increase in options with regards to programmatic buying and the newfound reach that mobile provides are just some of the factors at play here.

As of this year, mobile spending will pass the halfway mark for social media, accounting for 55 percent of of all social media spending as the mobile shift is never more evident than it is on social media, with many new platforms being mobile-only.

According to a survey from Duke University, social media’s share of overall marketing budgets is set to increase, too, from 9 percent this year to over 13 percent next year.