‘World of Warcraft’ Pays Tribute To ‘Star Wars’

The Internet has been abuzz with speculation over the reveal of last week’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. Many topics have come up from it, including the discussion of a black Stormtrooper, the use of “soccer ball droid”, the rumors about who the young girl riding the mini-lightspeeder was, and, of course, the return of the Millennium Falcon, the iconic ship featured in the original 1977 film, A New Hope.

Perhaps the item gaining the biggest buzz, however, is the new makeshift lightsaber being carried by what is no doubt a Sith character featured in the new film. Even though we don’t get to see their face, we do get to see the lightsaber, which lights aglow with red energy, with two smaller blades sticking out of the sides.

The Internet has been having fun with this, creating a series of memes from a multi-ended lightsaber to one that resembles a Swiss Army knife. However, Blizzard, the creators of the popular World of Warcraft series, decided to do a little something different with it, by introducing a glowing, three-pointed sword of its own.

The company introduced this new weapon, the Frostmourne, through a cryptic tweet yesterday, with the text “Frostmourne lingers.” The image is very similar to Star Wars‘ Sith character, with a lone warrior standing in the forest, holding the three-pronged weapon, glowing blue, in their right hand. Of course, the company meant no ill will with the introduction, and even tagged the official Star Wars twitter account for good measure.

There’s no word when Blizzard will introduce the weapon to its latest WoW expansion, Warlords of Draenor, just yet, but it seems likely it’ll happen soon, as the company has been known for adding pieces of content to the game – including a tribute to the late Robin Williams with the debut of an alternate version of his Genie character from Disney’s Aladdin.

One thing’s for certain – if this Frostmourne-carrying beast and the Sith ever mixed it up, it would make for an interesting battle.

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

TubeaThon Charity Event Happening Next Week

Streaming to make a difference…now that’s a cause we can get behind.

What’s Trending, a popular YouTube website, has announced that it will team up with Ford and various YouTube celebrities to help raise money for The Covenant House with the third annual TubeAThon streaming event, which will take place on December 11 from 7-9 p.m. PDT, on the company’s streaming channel.

With the event, various talents from Hollywood will come together – including comedians, musicians and personalities – to help raise money to benefit the homeless. These talents include Trevor Morane, Jasmine V., Glozell, Nerdist, Rooster Teeth and other popular YouTube faces.

Users at home can take part in the donations, and not just directly. Those who tweet select hashtags (like #Tubeathon and #gofurther) will have $1 donated to The Covenant House, via both Ford and What’s Trending. Other partners joining up for the event include Comedy Gives Back and Tiltify, who will provide both entertainment and donations. Gamers who stream on Twitch will also be able to get involved as well, although What’s Trending didn’t quite explain how just yet.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Ford on board again to bring together the community and fans from around the world around a great cause. Tube-A-Thon continues to be a highlight of my year, and it’s an honor to have worked with the Covenant House to help and empower today’s youth that need support,” said Shira Lazar, founder of What’s Trending and TubeAThon. “This year we will continue to raise more money than previous years and work towards innovating fundraising through digital and social media.”

“It’s an honor for Ford to once again partner with What’s Trending and continue efforts to improve the lives of youth in need,” said Ford representative, Mary Ellen Abraham.   “We hope more people will Go Further with Ford and What’s Trending this year to exceed last year’s results, as well as enjoy the world class talent that comes together for the TubeAThon.”

In addition to the live online broadcast, a special 1-hour version of the event will also air on AXS TV on an undisclosed date – which should certainly bring in even more donations to The Covenant House.

Those who want to learn more – or interact with the sponsors – can do so on Twitter to both @FordFocus and @What’sTrending.

Geo-Target Filters On Snapchat Are Here!

My, my. It’s been a big month for Snapchat– from rolling out some new ad units, to getting it’s Snapcash feature rolling, and now this. This morning, Snapchat has unleashed yet another tool for their users called Geofilters.

Geofilters basically combines the idea of geocaching with social photo-sharing. Artists can create custom filters for specific locations which will only be available to use if they are in the area.

Businesses will of course be able to submit as well, but it is unclear for now whether Snapchat is planning for Geofilters to be another revenue source for the app.

It will be interesting to see how this catches on with users and whether or not collecting these Geofiltered Snaps will turn into some kind of competitive sport. Marketers might try their hand at creating Geofilters for events and retail locations as interactive, mobile and social display ads. This will be fun to watch.

‘League of Legends’ Championship Viewership Numbers Will Astonish You

The numbers are in from League of Legends Championship final. The 15-day long competition provided a total of 100 hours of live content which was available in 19 different languages and 40 broadcast partners.

According to a recent blog by Riot, they saw 288 million daily unique impressions with 27 million tuning in to watch the finals with an online viewing time of 67 minutes. Viewership time has gone up from 2013’s 42 minutes, but the finals’ viewer count had gone down from a high of 32 million. While the number of viewers declined a bit, it seems that the ones that did watch were highly engaged.

“It’s awesome to see fans enjoying Worlds as a community, whether it’s with 40,000 friends cheering together in Sangam Stadium, or as a group staying up late at a local viewing party halfway across the world. We’re honored by your passion and participation,” said Riot on their blog.

Riot also foreshadows some updates about their plans for 2015 in the coming weeks. Could it have something to do with eSports According to Riot, over 179 million hours of eSports has now been watched live all over the world and their own viewership takes a ginormous chunk of that as the “eSports Superbowl.”

Rooster Teeth Launches Kids Gaming Channel, Game Kids

by Jessica Klein

In attempt to offer more “family-friendly” content, Rooster Teeth launched the Game Kids channel, which consists more or less of what you’d expect—kids (sometimes with their parents) narrating video games in the “Let’s Play” fashion.

Game Kids launched with six videos already on deck, with a seventh coming out at the time of channel’s official debut (that one being “Sim Sisters – Creating a Sims Family”). Of the six starting episodes, five already appeared across the network’s Let’s Play or Bro Gaming Channels.

Regular content on Game Kids will include videos from “Sims Sisters” (on Mondays), “Kids Play” (on Wednesdays), and “Bro Gaming” (on Fridays). All programs feature families gaming together, with a big focus on the “family…together” part.

See the channel trailer to get a better sense of the content…

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.

The New Core Of The Game Industry

Everyone in the game industry is aware of multiple massive changes sweeping through the business over the last ten years, changes that have been daunting in their speed and scope. But it’s difficult sometimes to see where change is headed, or how it is touching all aspects of the business. It’s especially difficult to recognize and accept changes to fundamental business process and products and markets when those very things are what’s paying your salary.

We’ve all seen the swift rise of mobile games, from an obscure beginning on feature phones in the 1990’s to the multi-billion dollar business built on the fast-growing global market of smartphones and tablets. This year marks the ascent of mobile games to become the single largest segment of the game industry in terms of revenues, outpacing the revenues from console games.

The trend has been obvious for years just from watching the conferences that feature the game industry. The E3 show continues to shrink in terms of floor space, while mobile shows are growing every year. The tracks devoted to mobile games are become more important, and more well-attended, at the Game Developers Conference. Perhaps more significant are the exhibitors at these conferences, because they are spending money to display there. More and more, these companies are serving the mobile game industry rather than the console or PC game business.

Another early indicator has been the flow of jobs — look at the high-profile game designers and executives with long histories in the console and PC game business who are now creating mobile games. Many of the best and the brightest in the game industry have turned their attention to mobile games. Mobile game companies are growing rapidly, and many new startups are still being created. When was the last time a new console game publisher arose Or even a big console game studio Even the companies that build tools for game developers are creating their software with mobile in mind. The quintessential console game engine, Unreal Engine, is now also a mobile game creation tool.

If you want to know where popular culture is headed, look to advertisers, marketers, and comedy. Those creative businesses all thrive on being in touch with popular tastes. The zeitgeist is shifting to mobile games. Where South Park once parodied World of Warcraft, now it’s making fun of free-to-play mobile games.

Another place to look is at what threatens our youth, at least in the eyes of those who worry about such things. Once the threat to our vulnerable youth was dime novels and pulp magazines… then it was comic books, then the “vast wasteland” of television, then rock music, and for a time it was Dungeons & Dragons, which was eventually supplanted by video games. Now the worry is that kids are spending too much time playing games on mobile devices.

Once the holiday television shows were awash in console game ads, both for hardware and for software. Now what we see are likely to be mobile game ads, like Game of War: Fire Age‘s $40 million campaign, or the similarly immense TV spend put forth by King Digital to promote Candy Crush Saga.

The growth of mobile games is changing the entire industry. Everything from game designs to marketing to product development to finance is being affected by this shift. It’s past time for everyone in the game industry to re-examine all their fundamental ideas of how and why we do things. The simple, halcyon times when all games were sold in the same way to a similar group of people are long gone. While some of the old models may still work and generate profits, those models may not be the most effective way to do things any more. The audience has changed, the way they think of games and how to pay for them has changed, even the way they play and the length of time they play has changed.

Mobile has finally realizing the long-sought goal of the game industry: Reaching every demographic, everywhere on the planet. It seems clear that the growth of smartphones will continue headlong into all corners of the globe, as ever-cheaper devices reach broader markets. You can bet games will be a significant part of those devices, wherever they end up.

Does this mean games on other platforms are less important Not at all. In fact, it’s important to remember that the broad audience of people who play games really don’t pay that much attention to platforms. That’s a technical detail that’s much less important than the fun they get with a particular game, or the thrill of interacting with a favorite setting, character, or personality. People want to play games wherever they are, and on the best device possible. Some of the most successful mobile games have a strong Facebook version as well. Or look at the success of FIFA on mobile and console, where the synergy between the two FIFA games has driven greater engagement (and more revenues) than previously possible.

While the future of games will have mobile as its most lucrative and popular core, the maximum revenues may be seen from brands that transcend the mobile platform to find expression online, through consoles, and on social platforms as well as new platforms that may emerge in the future, such as VR.

Games are increasingly being thought of as brands, or at least the companies that want to maximize the success and reach of their games are thinking that way. Even though a company’s game revenues may primarily come from a segment other than mobile games, the gravitational pull of mobile is affecting them. Most major console games released these days have some sort of mobile companion app, at least for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Even Nintendo has started to release some mobile companions, albeit in a limited fashion.

The mobile game train is leaving the station, and you can either be on it in some fashion — or you risk being under it. No one is sure of where this train will end up, or exactly what path the the train will take. All that’s certain is that things are changing and will continue to change. We all need to keep checking assumptions regularly, and keep looking at the data coming in — and most of all, listen to what your game players are telling you. The future is bright for the games industry if we can keep adapting to the changes and creating better experiences for game players.

Nintendo Exec Scott Moffitt Explains How eSports Buoyed ‘Super Smash Bros.’

Nintendo has seen an uptick in Wii U hardware sales thanks to the recent success of Super Smash Bros. on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.  The franchise is closing in on 15 million copies sold to date.  Super Smash Bros. became the most successful Wii U launch in history, selling over 490,000 physical and digital copies in its first three days.

As part of its marketing plan to bolster awareness for the first new Super Smash Bros. game in six years, Nintendo embraced eSports.  The game company hosted a Super Smash Bros. tournament at E3 and utilized livestreaming to share the action with fans across the globe.  The game has become popular on the gaming circuit, including at EVO (Evolution Championship Series) and Intel Extreme Masters.  Scott Moffitt, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Nintendo of America, talks about the role eSports has played in the success of this super smash hit in this exclusive interview.

What role do you feel eSports has played in the success of Super Smash Bros.?

Super Smash Bros. Invitational at E3Super Smash Bros. Invitational at E3

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There does seem to be a ton of pent-up demand for this franchise.  ESports has helped to rekindle gamers’ love for this franchise and really prepare the environment for a fantastic launch.  I do believe that the record sales are due to a lot of the pre-awareness activity that has gone on, including eSports.  The 3DS game also helped satisfy gamers’ demand temporarily before the Wii U game. ESports is one of the things that has helped drive the pre-launch excitement for this game to a fever pitch.

What marketing opportunities has eSports and livestreaming opened up for Super Smash Bros.?

The Smash Bros. franchise has been a favorite for eSports players over the years.  Given the nature of the game as one of the leading, if not the leading fighting franchise, it’s a natural for those kinds of competitions.  At E3 we wanted to try something different and host our own tournament.  We intentionally chose participants who were not the most experienced players.  We wanted a broad range of players there competing and having fun.  Those tournaments allow our fans to come and celebrate with one another to enjoy the game and to build their affinity for the franchise.  We’ve had great success with those.  The E3 tournament was one example.  We also recently did a national tailgate tour, where we took the tournaments to college campuses nationwide.  Those were local battles where people stepped into a battle arena at the tailgate before a college football game and allowed rival schools to compete against one another.  We tallied the results of those competitions just for fun.  We also had a national tournament through a partnership with GameStop for the launch of the 3DS version of the game.  We had over 15 cities compete for the right to come to the National 3DS Super Smash Bros. Tournament, which was held at the Nintendo World Store in New York.  We’ve used tournaments to help market and create some of this enthusiasm for the franchise.

How do you feel the Nintendo gaming audience differs from that of Sony and Microsoft?

There are some similarities and some differences.  For certain our fans appreciate the fact that we release quality titles and showcase innovation in everything that we do.  We try to be different.  Our owners are often times families with kids, but it’s much broader than that.  Our core, most passionate Nintendo fans certainly are much older than that and are in their 20’s and 30’s and they grew up with our games.  Our appeal is broad and quality is a big reason why. If you look across all titles launched on the new generation platforms, including Sony and Microsoft, as well as portable, there are 19 games that have at least an 85 Metacritic Score and a User Score of 8.5 or better.  Nintendo made 17 of those games.

“Our appeal is broad and quality is a big reason why. If you look across all titles launched on the new generation platforms, including Sony and Microsoft, as well as portable, there are 19 games that have at least an 85 Metacritic Score and a User Score of 8.5 or better.  Nintendo made 17 of those games.”

What role do you feel hardware bundles have played in allowing Nintendo to avoid a price cut and still see an increase in sales of the Nintendo Wii U hardware?

One of the four key pillars of our holiday campaign includes new value offerings like bundles.  Retailers have had a lot of Black Friday bundle offerings.  Bundles provide a great merchandizing tool and bring fresh product to the market and new value for parents who are considering a Nintendo gift for their kids this holiday.  Value offerings are always a part of our holiday plan, but it’s much broader than that.  We have new IP like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker and Fantasy Life.  We have a new platform in Amiibo and we have proven franchises like Pokémon and Super Smash Bros.

How early was Nintendo thinking about Amiibo given that the Wii U GamePad was built with NFC technology?

I don’t have a specific day for when it dates back to, but by including NFC functionality into the GamePad that afforded us a chance to get in this category fairly easily and in a way that doesn’t require a gamer to buy a separate portal or device.  It provides a great value for parents and gamers of all ages, where they don’t have to spend money on a portal and have another item to store underneath their TV set.  There may be other uses of NFC technology to come, but this has turned out to be a great use of it.

Given that that this technology was built in from the beginning, why did Nintendo wait until this fall to introduce Amiibo to consumers?

Amiibo functionality is really strong with Super Smash Bros., so tying it to a big powerful franchise launch made a lot of sense.  When you look at it, Super Smash Bros. is a perfect fit for character-based Amiibo product since there are so many characters in the game.  The development team has brought it to life in a way that shows an interesting new way to play toys-to-life in one of our strongest franchises.  You do have to have a great game as well as a great concept, and this has both.

“When you look at it, Super Smash Bros. is a perfect fit for character-based Amiibo product since there are so many characters in the game.  The development team has brought it to life in a way that shows an interesting new way to play toys-to-life in one of our strongest franchises.”

What would you consider a successful holiday for Nintendo this year?

I would consider a successful holiday a strong launch for Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.  A strong launch for Smash Brothers Wii U and a strong launch for Amiibo and then continued momentum on both of our hardware platforms — 3DS and Wii U.  We really have five key initiatives that we’re trying to accomplish and those are the five.  Certainly the rewards we like to see are smiles on people’s faces, happy kids and families having fun together on Christmas and during the holidays.

Five Emerging Shopping Channels On YouTube

by Jessica Klein

Black Friday has come and gone, but YouTube’s many shopping channels continue to thrive. Makeup and toy-related channels tend to take the cake in terms of popularity on the video platform, which this channel list from Outrigger Media’s Emerging Talent Tracker tool exemplifies. The top emerging channel here even recently signed with Maker Studios (along with four other toy channels on YouTube).

It’s undeniable that shopping content as a whole is growing on the video platform, providing a welcome alternative to the usual influencer sources. As Vanessa Toro, the manager of social content at DigitasLBi put it, “Historically, fashion and consumer trends have been shaped by a small, elite few–magazines, Hollywood celebrities, and top brands. The social sphere has completely turned that dynamic on its head.”

See who else from the “social sphere” might be forming fads in the near future.

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.

Console Wars Update: Xbox Rising

The massive marketing battle of Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday marketing combat between the three console manufacturers, and based on reports from the front lines we have a winner: Microsoft’s Xbox One. Yet the battle is just beginning, and strategically Microsoft still has plenty of ground to cover in order to match Sony’s market share. Meanwhile, Nintendo has unleashed perhaps its biggest weapon yet to advance the Wii U in Super Smash Bros. For Wii U, but how has it performed so far The details of this opening battle tell us something of the console market and how it’s changing.

First of all, let’s look at where our data is coming from. InfoScout is a research firm using smartphone apps that reward users for uploading pictures of their store receipts. This gives the company a clear picture (pun, as always, intended) of what people are buying — and in the case of Black Friday, InfoScout collected more than 182,000 receipts showing actual purchases. That’s a respectably-sized data set. The data includes purchases at all major retailers carrying electronics including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, GameStop, RadioShack, and others (more specifics on InfoScout’s data collection can be found here).

The Xbox One emerged as the clear winner, notching up 53 percent of the console sales. The PlayStation 4 came in second with 31 percent, trailed by the Xbox 360 (9 percent), the Wii U (6 percent), and the PlayStation 3 (1 percent). Interestingly, the data showed that 90 percent of all console purchases on Black Friday were of bundles, with some 75 percent of the panelists saying that the included game was a major influencer on their purchase.

Clearly, we can see that consumers have a strong price sensitivity, and that Microsoft’s price cut has given the Xbox One a strong boost. Last year, the PlayStation 4 lost out to the Xbox One as well (InfoScout reported {link no longer active} 31 percent Xbox One share and 15 percent PS4 share), but the cause last year was purely one of availability — Sony just could not make enough PS4 consoles to meet the tremendous demand. This year, the Xbox brand combined took a 62 percent share of the market.

Buyers were mainly purchasing for their kids, but the breakdown was quite different for each console. While 92 percent of Wii U buyers said they were buying the console for their kids, only 66 percent of Xbox One buyers said that — and only 45 percent of PS4 buyers were buying that console for their kids. Most PS4 buyers were picking up the console for themselves. It would seem from this data that Nintendo still has its very strong association with kids, or at least it does so in the minds of the parents buying consoles.

The success of consoles was not a limited thing, either. The Xbox One was the second most popular item being purchased across retailers, and the PlayStation 4 was the #3 choice. It was another game-playing device entirely, though, that claimed four out of the top ten spots among the top-selling items, including the #1 slot. That was, of course, Apple’s iPad. Looked at in that light, the majority of the top ten items being purchased were game-playing devices… and the iPad is clearly the winning console.

While we’re looking at the console hardware, it’s also instructive to take a look at the top-selling games over Black Friday. InfoScout also collected that information, and found that the top-selling game was Madden NFL 15, followed by Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Skylanders: Trap Team. What’s perhaps more interesting is what’s not on the list: Super Smash Bros.

Nintendo has been looking forward to Super Smash Bros. as a key part of the effort to boost Wii U sales, which it has undoubtedly done. Yet the question is also just how long-lasting that boost will be, and how high the Wii U’s sales can go. The effect of Mario Kart 8 on Wii U sales was powerful, but it seemed to diminish after a month or two. Will the same thing happen with Super Smash Bros. It’s too early to know, but not seeing it on the list of the top 20 games (and seeing Nintendo with a 6 percent share of console sales for Black Friday) is not a good early sign. Nintendo will have to ramp up its marketing efforts for the Wii U, and consider the magic weapon that Microsoft is using to good effect: pricing.

Microsoft has gotten down to basics here, and shown that when consoles are pretty much equal, consumers are definitely going to go with price. The Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 are more alike than any previous pair of rival consoles has ever been. What’s left to distinguish them, and help consumers make buying decisions, are price, exclusive games, and marketing. The evidence seems to be that while both consoles have some good exclusive games, and creative marketing, price is winning the battle here.

It’s more than price, though — it’s value. While bundling games may distress retailers like GameStop, it’s an easy way to boost the value of a console while not increasing the cost of good by much. Microsoft has combined that with a solid price cut, giving them a clear advantage in the eyes of low-information shoppers. “Hey, honey, which console should we get for the kids ” “Well, this Xbox One is only $329, and the PS4 is $399… let’s get the Xbox One.”

Sony’s going to have to decide how to respond to Microsoft’s surge. Will it be an increased marketing effort Is there a price cut in the PS4’s future At this point, Sony is likely to hold off on a price cut. After all, the company is still leading comfortably in units installed, and there are some powerful exclusives headed to the platform in 2015. No doubt the pricing will be re-evaluated on a regular basis… along with how well Microsoft is doing with the Xbox One. By E3 next year, we could well see some new initiatives by Sony.

For now, we’ll have to wait until we see earnings reports for the quarter, early next year, to get a better idea of where market shares have settled after the holiday shopping season is over. One thing is clear, though — game consoles are selling very well indeed, and that’s going to benefit all areas of the game industry.

Native Ad Spending Tops $3.2 Billion

Native advertising has certainly been on the rise as of late, but some may be questioning whether it can continue to do so. However, according to a new report from eMarketer, titled “Native Advertising Update: Marketers See Healthy Spending Growth In 2015,” it’s pretty clear — it’s here to stay.

Marketers believe that native ads serve a number of long-term benefits, such as the ability to reach viewers via owned media and increase their numbers, as well as allowing others to get through ads that would otherwise clutter the screen. And others feel that the value of native with an increasing mobile audience would definitely pick up, no matter what size the screen may be.

However, the big draw, according to the report, is clearly engagement. Consumers can be won over easily with the right ad campaign. “Traditional digital advertising has become wallpaper. It doesn’t improve anyone’s experience on a site and readers, myself included, pretty much look past it. … Brands that have a strong point of view and great partners to help them express it can enjoy massive engagement [with native],” said GE’s global head, media strategy, Jason Hill.

While some may find native difficult to pull off compared to general advertising methods, many marketers believe that it will really go places over the next year and a half. “We’ve taken most of the dollars that we put behind digital display into native types of programs and media partnerships,” said Hill. “We expect to continue the approach, but to evolve and innovate so these programs feel fresh and compelling. However, there are still markets where we do digital display.”

As you can see in the graph, dollars for native ad spending will certainly be on the rise, while the percentage of change is likely to drop with each increase. By 2018, it’s expected that $8.8 billion will be spent on native ad budgets, compared to the $1.5 billion that was spent in 2012, or the $3.2 billion for this year. Indeed, it’s not going away.