Netflix, Amazon Are Going To The Golden Globes

by Sahil Patel

The Golden Globes nominations are in, and as expected, Netflix and Amazon are in the thick of it.

Netflix landed seven total nominations, three for its political drama “House of Cards,” another three for its prison dramedy “Orange Is the New Black,” and one for the Ricky Gervais comedy “Derek.”

“House of Cards” is nominated in the best drama category, where it will compete with Showtime’s “The Affair,” PBS’ “Downton Abbey,” HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and CBS’ “The Good Wife.” The show also netted acting nominations for its two main actors, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

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The Numbers Behind YouTube’s Gaming Videos

There’s no question that online video game streaming has become a big business for the likes of Twitch and, coming soon, Valve, but YouTube also plays a tremendous part with game videos, whether it’s walkthroughs of more popular titles or more humorous fare that uses clips from older and newer releases alike.

That said, Tubular Labs has broken down just how effective YouTube-oriented gaming videos have become. We’ve included the full infographic below, but here’s the breakdown of its popularity:

  • For all time, 364 billion views have been garnered from YouTube gaming videos, and 15 percent of the site’s overall content is devoted to some form of video games, including PC, mobile and console releases.
  • Users have uploaded more than 120 million videos, resulting in over 6.9 billion engagements from users, including likes and comments
  • Out of those who view YouTube gaming videos, 87 percent of those are male, and they offer 1.8 times more engagement than with other categories, including popular films and TV shows.
  • As for the top creators, some of the names will be instantly recognizable. PewDiePie, who recently made an appearance on a recent episode of South Park, has 32.5 million subscribers, while SkyDoesMinecraft is in second place with 10.6 million. VandssGaming and The Syndicate Project are close behind with 9.8 million and 8.2 million, respectively.
  • The top games on the YouTube service are easy to spot. Minecraft leads the charge with over 62.7 billion views, while Call of Duty related clips are in a distant second with 23.4 million. The Grand Theft Auto series is in third place with 19.3 billion views (including quite a few from the new versions of Grand Theft Auto V that came out last month), and PC favorite League of Legends has 8.5 billion views.


Indeed, YouTube plays a huge part in many gamers’ lives — and it’s likely to just keep growing in 2015.

Sega Games Go To Hollywood

The shift for video games to mainstream media isn’t an uncommon occurrence, as we’ve seen films over the years based on the Super Mario Bros. and Tomb Raider franchises – even if the success hasn’t always been spot-on. Now, Sega is looking to take advantage of the process by shifting a number of its popular game properties to Hollywood.

The company has hired former Break Media executive Evan Cholfin to help transfer popular licenses to movies and TV shows, according to Variety. He serves as head of development and production for Stories International, which acts as a joint venture between Sega and advertising agency Hakuhodo DY Group. With it, the team will move forward on adapting several stories for possible Hollywood distribution.

Some of the popular licenses being considered for movie/TV treatment include Altered Beast, Streets of Rage, Shinobi, Rise of Nightmares and Crazy Taxi, to be produced as either live action or animated spin-offs in English language. Virtua Fighter and Golden Axe are also part of the portfolio, but nothing has been confirmed for those two properties just yet.

Cholfin will work alongside Stories president and CEO Tomoya Suzuki on the process, although a timetable hasn’t been given as to when we’ll see the likes of Shinobi and Crazy Taxi come to life on a bigger screen.

Along with hiring Cholfin, Sega has also invested a minority stake in All Nippon Entertainment Works, which will assist in helping the company transition into Hollywood production. It provides access to 20 Japanese rights holders for certain films, TV shows, toys, manga titles and books.

“With his impeccable taste and experience developing and producing entertainment in nearly every format imaginable, Evan is the unique executive to revitalize and canonize our partners’ brands by working with Hollywood to create stories that will last for centuries,” Suzuki said.

This is just the latest move by a game studio to give Hollywood a shot. Ubisoft has been dabbling in the business for some time with big-screen productions based on Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs, while Sony is continuing to attempt to move forward with a film based on its Uncharted franchise.

Now…if we could just get a Sonic the Hedgehog film on the same level as Exodus: Gods and Kings

Mobile Gaming Install Base Clears One Billion

We’ve talked many times about how big mobile gaming has become, as well as how some companies have shifted their business entirely to the mobile realm (like, most recently, Kabam). However, according to a new report from the IDC, they’re a lot better than most people may have realized.

Gamesindustry International has reported that the study shows that the worldwide installed base for mobile devices, including both smartphones and tablets, has gone past one billion. This is counting devices that have been used for some form of gaming — quick or long sessions — for “at least once every three months.” And those numbers add up to a lot.

“Mobile gaming has rapidly emerged as the brightest star in the gaming universe,” said IDC’s research director of gaming, Lewis Ward. “The number of games downloaded to smartphones and tablets worldwide will nearly double to more than 60 billion games between 2014 and 2018. In this context, it will become increasingly difficult for the major handheld game console providers to compete effectively. The market as a whole will grow rapidly, though, and swing dramatically in the direction of Asia/Pacific and Android-based devices in particular by 2018.”

As you can see from the chart below, there’s been a big of growth over the years, but it’s could get even bigger in just a few years’ time, with a total of 60 billion worldwide in a span of four years.

IDC also explained that 44 percent of mobile devices used worldwide are now primarily used for gaming purposes. A big chunk of that is placed in North America, with over 157 million smartphones and tablets used to play games this year alone — that’s an eight percent increase over the previous year. In addition, around 48 million people paid for some form of game for 2014, totaling a revenue of around $4.8 billion.

When it comes to a defining leader, however, IDC believes that the Apple App Store has a lead over Google Play {link no longer active} “by a healthy margin,” despite the large growth of interest in Android devices.

And when it comes to popularity of devices, smartphones rule. “Since smartphones are far more ubiquitous than tablets, even though tablet gamers tend to more often pay for mobile games (tablet gamers have a higher ARPPU), over three-quarters of all mobile game revenue will still be generated on smartphones in North America this year,” Ward said.

Online multiplayer also plays a huge part in mobile gaming success, according to Ward — especially online role-playing adventures. “The time is ripe for mobile MOBAs. In 2015, we’re likely to see some breakout hits in this direction. The 4G LTE infrastructure is to the point that a critical mass of mobile MOBA gamers can form, and the latency is low enough that gamers on cellular can compete effectively against those playing on WiFi,” Ward explained. “One of the big barriers to mobile MOBAs, however, is the fact that multiplayer VOIP is hamstrung. It’s basically very tough to do live co-op games that leverage VOIP today, so this important, team-based aspect of MOBAs is practically missing from mobile environment. Part of the issue here in the U.S. is that there are 911 system integration issues to be worked out on smartphones (that of course don’t apply on PCs or consoles).

“There’s still every reason to believe that the sophistication of mobile games will take a big stride forward in 2015, and part of this evolution will be about delivering richer live, team-based interactions. The eSports phenomenon will spill over onto smartphones and tablets in 2015.”

Obviously, the growth will continue — and be quite impressive, at that.

Traditional TV More Popular With Twitter Users

While the TV industry has its share of ups and downs at the moment — notably with ratings and advertising — there is an interesting bright spot at the end of the tunnel. And, oddly enough, it involves Twitter.

According to Re/code, a new research report from Ipsos indicates that Twitter users are actually more likely to pay for a subscription to a TV viewing service and watch traditional programming than those who don’t use the social site.

From those surveyed, 93 percent of users actually have access to some form of pay-TV subscription, compared to 86 percent of users that don’t use Twitter by any means.

As you can see from the chart below, Twitter users are higher in every category involving television than those who don’t use it, including watching broadcast and cable television, taking advantage of video-on-demand services, and checking out programming on the web, from video clips to devoted web series.

That’s not to say there’s a world of difference — cable TV only shows a one percent ratio between the two categories — but it’s interesting to see what viewing habits come from those who use social media. It just shows that people love talking about their favorite shows and other programming, even when it’s airing live.

That said, the report can’t be accurately gauged, as the social site carries 284 million users worldwide, with only 63 million of them in the United States. That makes it hard for certain networks to measure what kind of popularity would come from advertising with a certain program — although that didn’t stop some from trying, like SyFy with its sequel Sharknado 2: The Second One, which aired earlier this year. It got tremendous buzz on Twitter, and was popular enough to warrant a third Sharknado film, coming sometime next year.

For the time being, though, it looks like being social does have a slightly bigger payoff when it comes to TV viewing. (Just try not to tweet those Walking Dead spoilers so quickly, folks.)

Day 6 Teams With NBA For ‘Backyard Sports’

A few years ago, sports games based on the Backyard Sports franchise were making the rounds, offering kids more user-friendly versions of popular sports that they could enjoy with their friends and family alike. Now, it appears that these games are on the comeback trail.

Day 6 Sports Group has announced that it has teamed up with the National Basketball Association to re-launch the Backyard Sports franchise, which will once again focus on kiddie-oriented sports and feature popular athletes. The line of games is expected to be released for both smartphone and tablet devices.

The first game in the series is expected to be Backyard Sports Basketball, and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry will appear both on the cover and in the game. “I grew up playing Backyard Sports, and having an opportunity to help bring it back to this generation of children is something I’m really thrilled about,” said Curry.

“Re-launching a brand that was so iconic is an exciting step for us,” said Jim Wagner, CEO for Day 6 Sports Group. “And partnering with the NBA and Stephen Curry is the perfect way for us to engage with both our existing community of fans, as well as the next generation of Backyard Sports players.”

No other franchises in the series have been discussed as of yet, but some announcements could come in the weeks ahead, leading to a strong 2015 run for the franchise.

There’s also no word if Day 6 will consider bringing the games back to consoles, as Backyard Sports originally got its start on older game systems. Again, more details should be revealed in the months ahead.

Considering the popularity of mainstream sports games like Madden NFL 15, NBA 2K15 and other titles, this should be a strong move for Day 6 – and it never hurts to have devoted athletes on board to play along with, even if they are in kid form.

What Instagram’s Growth Means For Marketers

Instagram has notched up 300 million users, making the social network larger than Twitter. That’s a surprise to some observers, given that Instagram came from far behind Twitter to reach that goal. But it’s indicative of the strong hold that visual media has on people. Pictures and videos are inherently more attractive to the eye than text, and that’s something that marketers and social media are well aware of these days. This milestone is a solid indicator of this trend, and the implications are both numerous and important for marketers.

Instagram has been growing strongly for four years now, though many feared that its acquisition by Facebook might derail it. Instead, Facebook kept its hgands off, and Instagram has added another 100 million users in the last nine months to reach its 300 million total. Impressively, some 70 perfect  of those users are outside of the United States, and 70 million photos are shared every day. Over 30 billion photos have been shared over Instagram.

Let’s not forget that this is indeed a part of Facebook’s social media empire, and that the social network has been very successful in its strategy of pursuing growth through individual apps rather than trying to fold every possible feature into one app. Facebook has 1.35 billion users, with its Messenger app notching up 500 million users. Then there’s WhatsApp with 600 million users in addition to Instagram’s 300 million. Sure, there’s plenty of overlap between those apps, but the key point is that Facebook is janging onto all of those folks by offering different apps. The company is far and away the leader in social media, well ahead of WeChat’s 468 million users.

Instagram’s success has been influential on Facebook, too. Facebook has been increasingly featuring photos and videos in its News Feed, reshaping the algorithms to make the whole site more visual. It’s to the point where, for the first time, Facebook Page owners uploaded more video directly to Facebook than they did sharing from YouTube, according to data from Socialbakers. Why According to Business Insider, “Marketers and content creators are starting to realize there is more value in publishing a video directly to Facebook than there is uploading it to YouTube alone.”

A key difference is that Facebook is surfacing videos to users in the news feed, while users have to seek out videos on YouTube. Requiring a search is an extra step that that keeps videos from reaching a wider audience, apparently. Video is still king though, in terms of traffic volume. Facebook and YouTube combined accounted for nearly 40 percent of all mobile web traffic in North America in September. As BI Intelligence’s Mark Hoelzel points out, “Ads make up a big percentage of Facebook’s and YouTube’s mobile traffic, since autoplay video ads increase the mobile data demands on those social networks.”

Instagram is taking the occasion of this news to announce that it’s going to start handing out verified accounts, the kind that Twitter users love to get. The verified badges will be for public figures and brands, Instagram said. Verified badges, coming within the week, “will make it easier for people to identify and follow the authentic brands they care about,” Instagram told Adweek. “When an account is verified, a blue badge will appear next to its name in its profile as well as in search.”

Verfying users has been a benefit to Twitter, and Facebook started verifying profiles in May of 2013. This is going to keep out the plethora of fake celebrities, parody, or look-alike accounts that make life more difficult for brand marketers. In addition, Instagram said it’s moved from deactivating spammer and fake accounts to simply deleting them, so they will no longer appear in follower counts.

The rise of Instagram shows the power of visual marketing. “Instagram users are highly engaged with the service, with users interacting with posts at 18 times the rate they do with Facebook posts, according to a report issued last month by the research firm L2,” noted The New York Times.

What does this mean for marketers It’s a massive shift in the overall thought process that goes into creating a marketing campaign. Yes, you have to decide on a product’s position and conceptualize every aspect of how you will get your marketing messages across to the target audience. That used to be done primarily with words, and then images or videos would be created later to help bring that message across.

Now, though, it may be helpful to start by conceptualizing the images first, and come up with the words later. Find or imagine that snippet of video that gets across the essence of the brand, then figure out how to describe it in words. Why? Because those images and videos will be the most effective tools to reach the visually-oriented customers that comprise today’s market. Expect to see more moves by social media to focus on video and images as a key way to grab and hold attention.

Google Play’s End-Of-Year Honors Are Here

Not content on letting Apple have all the fun with its end of year honors, Google has revealed the top applications, games and songs for its Google Play service, through a large infographic that previously appeared over at VentureBeat.

The infographic breaks down the top apps by category, with Duolingo taking top honors in Education, Facebook topping social, MyFitnessPal dominating Health & Fitness; Netflix once again ruling Entertainment, and others. Out of all the offered apps, however, Health & Fitness is the fastest growing category, with more and more users hopping on the health train.

Meanwhile, in games, King’s Candy Crush Saga has been deemed the most downloaded title on Android devices in 2014, followed by the surprising indie game Don’t Tap the White Tile, along with King’s Farm Heroes Saga, the endless runner Subway Surfers, and, rounding out the list, Supercell’s Clash of Clans. Google also noted that Play Games users managed to unlock over 3.5 billion Achievements over the year, based on progress made within these and other titles.

In movies, Disney’s Frozen was considered the most popular movie of the year, while AMC’s The Walking Dead earned TV Show of the Year honors. The company also pointed out that Toy Story, the debut film effort for Pixar, was the year’s “Comeback Movie,” regaining popularity on the smartphone/tablet formats. The late Robin Williams, meanwhile, earned the Most Searched Actor On Google Play honors.

As for music, Frozen topped the list again with Album of the Year, while Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” earned Song of the Year honors. Meanwhile, Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” was deemed Song of the Summer, mainly due to its high number of downloads. Meanwhile, Soundtracks were considered the fastest growing genre on the store front.

Books also earned honors with Google, including the original novelization of The Fault In Our Stars, as well as Fifty Shades of Grey, Divergent and Twelve Years a Slave — all of which have or will have movie adaptations. Google also tracked popular articles through its Newsstand service, including top favorites like Flavorpill’s “15 90’s Teen Heartthrobs Who’ve Resurfaced On TV” and “50 More Awesome Facts (About Everything)” from Mental Floss.

The full details are included in the infographic below.



Sony Sets PlayStation Release in China

After selling more than ten million units in other parts of the world, Sony is finally ready to bring its PlayStation 4 console to China.

The company has dated and priced both the PS4 and the handheld PlayStation Vita system for China, according to GamesIndustry International. Both systems will be released on January 11th, with both black and white colors available, along with a limited edition “dragon” model for each.

The PS4 will be priced around RMB 2,899 (or U.S. equivalent of $468), while the PS Vita will go for RMB 1,299 (or $209).

“PS4 is expanding at the fastest rate in PlayStation hardware history, and the global gaming community is enjoying the ultimate hardware entertainment experience only available on PlayStation,” said Andrew House. “We are delighted that we are able to fully launch our business in China, which is a market with great potential. We look forward to delivering exciting software, convenient services and entertainment experiences only possible on PlayStation to the many gamers in China.”

“Furthermore,” says a Sony press release, “in cooperation with and business partner Shanghai Oriental Pearl SUOLE Culture Development Ltd., SCE will actively provide support to Chinese game developers to bring their content to PlayStation platforms.” Territory-specific developers like Suzhou Snail Digital Technology, Shanghai Youju Information Technology and Shanghai Kena Information Technology are all on board.

However, according to Reuters, Sony still faces an uphill struggle when it comes to software releases for both systems, as it still has to work with China’s censors to assure that the content in games is suitable for players. More “rough” content games like Grand Theft Auto V, for example, aren’t likely to see a release. “The Chinese censor will be Sony’s biggest challenge,” believes Roger Sheng, research director at Gartner.

That said, the company is more than willing to work with the government on the matter. “Cooperating with the government, we’ll provide a broad range of content for our users in China,” said Hiroyuki Oda, head of Asia business for Sony Computer Entertainment.

While it’s too soon to tell if the system will see a huge boost in sales overseas, there’s no question Sony has plenty of momentum going into 2015, especially with the conclusion of its successful PlayStation Experience event. Only time will tell at this rate…

Kabam Focuses On Lucrative Mobile Games; Sheds Social

With the mobile market taking off, Kabam, which started off in the social gaming scene, has chosen to shift its focus primarily to mobile with the sale of a number of its social titles to RockYou, according to Gamasutra. The deal, {link no longer active} which includes such titles as Kingdoms of Camelot, Dragons of Atlantis, Edgeworld, The Godfather and Glory of Rome, is set to be concluded in 2015, for a yet undisclosed sum.

However, it doesn’t cover all of Kabam’s social library, as some titles developed by third parties, or hosted through its website (such as Realm of the Mad God) will not be included, and shall continue to be where they’re positioned for the time being.

“We are concentrating all of our development might and muscle on mobile games for our core North American and European markets, and expansion to Asia,” said Kabam COO Kent Wakeford in a prepared press statement. “At the same time, we want to provide an established home for Kabam’s web games to benefit the fans who have played them for years, and for new players who will soon discover them on RockYou.”

RockYou recently made shifts to work more on getting social games on its advertising network, going as far as raising $10 million in funding through a financial startup earlier this year as part of the initiative.

Part of Kabam’s reasoning to moving to the mobile front may have something to do with its recent deal with Alibaba. Earlier in the year, the Chinese mobile giant invested $120 million in the company, getting in return the rights to publish the developer’s forthcoming mobile games, as well as a ten percent ownership. This could be big news for Alibaba’s mobile division in the coming year, and Kabam may have shifted over exclusively to that form of development to get the most out of the deal. Nothing’s been confirmed, however.

One thing’s for sure – social gamers will continue to benefit, and more mobile gamers will now be able to get the most out of what Kabam has to offer. So, everybody wins, it seems.