Imagining An Abstract Version Of The Internet With Google’s Eric Schmidt

Wearables are a very hyped-about market right now. They constituted a considerable amount of the products unveiled at CES this year. It speaks to a larger trend– a very vague conception that we can imagine right now, but only just: the Internet of Things.

As we hurdle forth into a future in which the Internet of Things becomes more and less tangible at once, Google sees a reimagination of daily life already happening. “Connected life” platforms, of course, are emerging quickly and smartphone personal assistance like Siri and Cortana are becoming increasingly smarter about your context and intent.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Eric Schmidt saw beyond: “I will answer very simply that the Internet will disappear.”

Audi VRBrands like Audi are no longer seeing personalization as a marketing gimmick. Audi is using VR to get customers to configure the cars they want.

Of course, Schmidt doesn’t mean to say that the Internet will actually disappear, but it will change to become virtually unrecognizable as we see it now.

“There will be so many IP addresses… so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won’t even sense it,’ he goes on to say. “Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic, and with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.”

Brands are only just wading into these waters and what these new platforms or decidedly non-platforms mean for the future of marketing, when everything feels like it’s changing so fast that it is hard to stay agile. But as technology moves to become more personalized and feel less like an obstruction and more like a convenience or even a necessity, so should marketing, too.

“Today, people expect to get the answers and services they want, customized precisely for them, in the exact moment that they want and need it — and there are many of these moments,” says Alan Eagle, Director of Executive Communications at Google.

“But in 2015, it won’t be enough to make life easier in just these moments. The winners will be the ones who use all the information at their disposal to learn and continuously improve so that the next experience isn’t just as good as the last but better.”

PAX South’s Major Impact

I had the pleasure of attending the debut Penny Arcade Expo South event this weekend in San Antonio, a new event devoted to the Texas-oriented gaming community. Although the event wasn’t nearly as big as others in the PAX realm (including the forthcoming East and the highly popular Prime), it remained a huge draw anyway – and spells an interesting future for the event, which will no doubt flourish for years to come.

Very few “big” companies were in attendance for the event, outside of Nintendo, Logitech and Twitch.tv, but the show ended up being a big success anyway, as a number of small developers and companies got their chance in the spotlight, with thousands of attendees trying out their games, from upcoming video game projects to board games with their own set of diverse rules.

The event also got a huge push from locally-based Gearbox Software, who tied in its Community Day proceedings with it in a separate hall. The developer set up a Community Fun Zone, where attendees could play classic games, buy goods and chat with Gearbox developers (including president Randy Pitchford), as well as check out panels delving into the company’s hotter properties, including BattBorderlands and the forthcoming Battleborn.

Really, though, there was a well-balanced focus between both video and card games. As much space as there was devoted to bigger items like the new Nintendo 3DS (which releases next month) and Twitch superstars, there was more than enough space for board games, in which hundreds sat around tables and played for hours on end.

And the show, despite its smaller setting, turned out to be a vast success. IGN reported that the attendance for the debut of PAX South was even bigger than either of the debuts for PAX East and PAX Australia, indicating that it would no doubt return for future iterations – and likely in a bigger format.

So what does this mean for companies Well, for those based in Texas, it’s big news, because it allows them to reach out to their local community better than any other event before it. Sure, there are GameStop midnight premieres where fun can still be had, as well as community days like Gearbox usually holds. But this event allows the group as a whole to come together and have a good time, while also learning about folks who are in their own backyard.

That doesn’t mean bigger companies can’t benefit, though. Nintendo’s booth was a smashing success, driving up interest in the new Nintendo 3DS (despite initial skepticism, as the system will not come with a traditional AC adapter cord), and Twitch broadcasted panels from the event all weekend, keeping a strong viewing audience at home interested in everything that was going on. Logitech and Alienware most likely drummed up some interest in the hardcore PC gaming community as well, bringing various pieces of hardware for attendees to try out.

It was a risky move to launch an event like this, especially sandwiched between CES in Las Vegas and the forthcoming PAX East, which will no doubt be a bigger hit when it launches this March. Regardless, the Penny Arcade team has proven that, no matter where it seems to launch a show, success is likely to follow. Especially from local developers who want to find a way to reach out better to their community, aside from online activities and occasional side events that may or may not gain a big audience.

In other words, prepare for more PAX – because it’s coming.

Virtual Reality Changing the Game At Sundance

We already knew that some companies were planning to embrace virtual reality for the forthcoming Sundance Film Festival in Utah this month, but Vice News has a specific new project on the way that could really shake up how attendees view entertainment from the medium.

According to Variety, the company will debut its first VR-based news feature at the festival. A collaboration between filmmakers Chris Milk and director Spike Jonze, the piece, titled Vice News VR: Millions March, will focus on a protest that took place last month in New York City, in opposition of police brutality. Vice News’ Alice Speri will host the film, which will debut on a new app being produced by Milk and VR-based development team VRSE.

More than 25,000 New York citizens blocked the streets during the protest, following the Ferguson incident that happened months before, where a police officer killed an unarmed black teenager and another incident where a large African-American man was choked to death in Staten Island.

With the technology, Vice News set up the film to provide a “you are there” sort of presentation, engulfing viewers right into the thick of the action – rather than simply sitting them on the sidelines. It utilizes a 360-degree VRSE-built in camera system to make that effect all the more realistic.

This is just the beginning of Vice News’ new approach to journalism, as it expects to produce new pieces as well. “My hope is that VR is the tool we need to stir more compassion for one another,” Milk said in a statement for the project. “I think VR holds the potential to fundamentally change journalism.”

Jonze believes the project allows filmmakers to approach storytelling from a unique angle. “Living in New York this fall and feeling these spontaneous protests against police brutality that have been forming and growing, it seemed like this was the most timely and important subject to go shoot,” he explained. “When we got the footage back and watched it on the goggles, I was so moved by what we had.”

The app, which will also contain other programs such as the CGI-based Evolution of Verse, will be available soon for both iOS and Google Play. It’s likely it’ll find its way to the Oculus Rift technology as well.

It’s definitely a staggering new approach to cinema, and the involvement angle – being able to relive moments in a 360-degree setting – could set the pace for a new medium for the world to partake in. We’ll see how successful it is once it releases.

‘Best Fiends’ YouTube Success With PewDiePie Shows The Impact Of Influence

We’ve talked previously about what drives the success of a mobile game, whether it’s a popular idea that takes off quickly (like Flappy Bird) or the involvement of a major development team (Angry Birds) or even a brand name that shoots up the charts like magic. However, as we’ve stated in the past with our articles, sometimes all you need to capture mobile lightning in a bottle is the right partner.

That’s certainly the case with Seriously, a start-up company that has produced a mobile game called Best Fiends. First introduced back in October on the App Store, Fiends has become a big success, not only receiving a recommendation on the site by Apple themselves, but also a huge push from YouTube sensation PewDiePie, according to Pocket Gamer.

Seriously teamed up with the Swedish-based streaming star, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, to provide a push for the game. And when you snag someone like that, you get a huge following, as he currently has 38 million followers with his Let’s Play videos – and makes quite a bit of money from it.

The company had to do some serious work to get the star, but Seriously’s vice president of marketing and communication, Phil Hickey, explained that they finally got a hold of him through Maker Studios. “The first and most important step was that PewDiePie tried out the game and genuinely liked to play it,” he said. “Short of that, nothing would have been possible.”

But it’s a move that paid off for the better, according to Hickey. “In our launch week, Best Fiends had a lot of momentum and racked up one million downloads, zooming up the Apple App Store charts with very little performance marketing compared to competitors.”

He elaborated further on numbers. “You can’t track the impact precisely, but we estimate that around 30,000 to 50,000 direct installs were generated through the video in the opening weekend, at a lower average CPI rate than we would have paid through mobile UA networks or Facebook Ads,” Hickey explained.

The video was also a big success on YouTube, with over 2.5 million views.

As part of the promotion, a Best Fiends tournament was also held, with a number of YouTube stars, including PewDiePie, competing to win $50,000 for charity. Video of the event can be found below. It turned out to be a rousing success, with nearly four million views during the first ten days of circulation. More details on the event can be found here.

This is a bold move by a start-up company in an effort to reach out to a certain audience, but it’s not the first time it was done. eMarketer recently broke down how certain college students connect better with brands than with general company business, through a new report called US College Students 101: Updating Fundamental Facts About This Diverse, Digital Cohort. With it, a number of methods were revealed about the best way to reach out to this audience, with word of mouth topping the list with 48 percent, followed by ads on the Internet (39 percent), ads on television (31 percent) and free samples in a store (29 percent).

Thus, going for the “popularity” angle with a certain celebrity or spokesperson to help endorse said product can easily get a community talking – and send the sales possibly soaring, if done the right way.

More about brands selling big in mobile can be found in our report here.

 

Why Tabletop Games Thrive And The Lesson for Video Games

Tabletop games have an ancient history, going back thousands of years to Egyptian board games and Roman polyhedral dice. Card games and dice games have been popular for centuries. Miniatures games date back to H.G. Wells’ Little Wars over a century ago, and the tabletop roleplaying game grew out of miniatures in the 1970’s with Gygax and Arneson’s seminal Dungeons & Dragons. The industry reached a high point in the early 1990’s as the first collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering, became a smash hit that continues strongly to this day.

Some may have thought tabletop gaming would dwindle as electronic games became more popular, higher quality, and less expensive. Indeed, we’ve now reached a point where most adults in the United States carry around with them a highly capable, well-connected gameplaying device, and most of the games you find for that device are free to play. How could tabletop games, which now are often priced in excess of $50, possibly compete Are they even relevant any more

The opposite is true, as tabletop games now exert a greater influence over video games than ever before. It’s easy to see the influence of tabletop roleplaying games on the multi-billion dollar RPG business, as almost all MMORPGs still rely on the basic game mechanics of D&D (classes, levels, hit points, and so on). Magic: the Gathering is the inspiration for hundreds of millions of dollars in digital collectible card games and their variants. Hearthstone is just the latest, most successful version of basic CCG mechanics in an electronic form.

One thing to note here: Sadly, the original tabletop games that have catalyzed billions of dollars in revenue for electronic games remain unable to come up with a popular version of their game in an electronic form. Wizards of the Coast has an online version of Magic: The Gathering, but it’s never done anywhere near as well as Hearthstone. Dungeons & Dragons has had multiple electronic versions, but none of them have come close to the success of World of Warcraft. Perhaps the difficulty there lies in being to tied to to the original version of the game, in much the same way the author of a novel would struggle to create an effective movie version of the property.

Why have tabletop games remained popular in an age of inexpensive, ubiquitous electronic games? The most important reason is the social aspect, the sheer pleasure that these social primates take in physically gathering to play in a shared space. Game nights are a great excuse to get together with friends, enjoy good food and drink and their company while competing (or cooperating, in the case of RPGs) in an evening of escapist fun.

The electronic tools that occupy our daily lives have, in fact, helped to keep tabletop gaming active. It’s now easier than ever to coordinate a game night among friends, since everyone can check in on Facebook or some other social tool. There’s a number of tools for smartphones designed to make gaming easier, and some forward thinking games like the hit Golem Arcana are even integrating electronics into a classic miniatures battle, making it easier and more accessible.

Another factor in the continuing popularity of tabletop games has been better production values in tabletop products, from board games to RPG books to card games. This has been vastly aided by the spread of low-cost printing of short or even individual product runs. While you still can get the best unit prices by printing thousands of copies, small publishers find it saves vast amounts of capital to print to order.

One of the key things that tabletop games do well is create motivated, fanatical audiences who can be terrific evangelists. This is something that’s encouraged by web sites and Facebook pages, but even more by the physical conventions that bring thousands of gamers together. It’s no accident at all that PAX shows place tabletop gaming on par with all other forms of gaming, or maybe even ahead of it. The PAX organizers know full well that tabletop gamers are some of the most dedicated gamers of all, and they are usually dedicated electronic gamers as well. And they are terrific evangelists, because they want to bring their friends into this addictive form of gaming.

The current discoverability crisis for mobile games is because you have games being developed without an audience, and then the game developers have to go and find an audience — or create one. When you can start with an audience, it’s far easier to be successful. Look no further than the Exploding Kittens Kickstarter to see how a fairly simple game can have an explosive success, because it’s building on an existing audience already predisposed to like that sort of game. The game has already blown past its $10,000 goal, and it’s raked in over $3.5 million with 27 days left to raise money. Note well the huge popularity of tabletop games on Kickstarter, where they far outdrew video games in crowd-funding.

What’s the lessons to be learned from tabletop games for electronic game publishers? First of all, remember the importance of social interaction in building a fanatic audience that will become terrific evangelists. That is a byproduct of a fun, in-person experience around a tablet, and then countless hours of demos in retail stores and at conventions. Electronic games need to find ways to bring gamers together and want to share their experiences, and many of the most successful mobile games have done just that.

Marketers need to understand the importance of the in-person experience when it comes to showing off games. Sure, videos are great, but there’s a reason we see thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of people crowding into convention centers to experience games firsthand. Shows like Gamescom, GenCon, PAX, Origins, and the myriad local game conventions held year-round are terrific venues to get attention and start building an audience. Yes, it’s not something that can be done sitting at your desk with the click of a button. It’s hard work creating, managing and executing a single successful convention appearance, let alone dozens. But once you’ve been to those shows, and you see how infectious the fun becomes when it occurs in massive groups, you’ll see the marketing value.

A product like Vainglory, for instance, would be an ideal game to take to tabletop conventions. It’s great fun played with a group sitting around a table, and it’s plenty of fun for spectators, too. Game spectating is a legitimate thing these days, as any glance at eSports audience numbers will tell you. Start tailgating at gamer gatherings with electronic games, and you’ll be building an audience from the ground up.

There’s one more important thing about tabletop games: They are still popular because they have something you can’t get in an online experiece. The shared story creation of tabletop roleplaying has yet to be found in MMORPGs. The feel of an ultra rare Magic card in your hand just doesn’t have an electronic equivalent. The fun of painting your miniatures and pushing your units across a table is still much cooler than pointing and clicking on units on a screen. Look into what parts of tabletop gaming have yet to be replicated electronically, and you may find some ideas worth marketing.

Speculating About Upcoming Android Phones

With the Mobile World Congress (MWC) hitting Barcelona, Spain at the beginning of March, it’s that time of year when top Android phone makers are preparing the new generation of Android phones for release. While nothing’s official yet, there are plenty of leaks from usually reliable sources that enable us to paint a picture of the newest Android-powered phones. Perhaps even more importantly, we can get an idea of what this means to mobile gaming and marketing in general.

The leading Android phone producers that are expected to launch new phones in the next few months include Samsung, HTC, LG, and Sony. All are expected to produce new versions of their flagship phones, which will of course be at the premium end of the price range. While these phones may not be responsible for the largest sales numbers in the year ahead among Android phones, they do define the top end — which in a couple of years will be the middle to lower end of phones. For game developers, it’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening at the cutting edge of technology to know what sort of features you can expect to see as widespread among Android phones in a year or two.

Samsung’s Galaxy S6 is an important phone for Samsung, which is looking to revive sales and profits from its mobile phone offerings. The company is apparently pulling out all the stops to make a killer phone, with the following features rumored:

  • 64-bit eight-core 14nm CPU, 50 percent faster than Galaxy S5
  • 5.1-inch Quad HD (2560×1440) Super AMOLED display with a 577ppi density, stunning outdoor visibility, super dim mode for late night
  • 20 megapixel OIS camera sensor and a 5 megapixel f/1.8 front-facing camera with real-time HDR
  • 32 / 64 / 128GB of storage
  • 2550mAh battery
  • Built-in wireless charging
  • Four hours of usage on a 10 minute charge
  • Quick connect charging
  • Samsung Pay: works with 90 percent of existing magnetic stripe payment terminals, and NFC payment terminals
  • Metal and glass body
  • Gorilla Glass 4
  • Cat 6 LTE

Meanwhile, HTC is also seeking to revive its Android phone division with the upcoming HTC One M9, also with impressive specs:

  • Qualcomm octa-core Snapdragon 810
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 5 inch 1920 x1080 display
  • 20.7 megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 2840 mAh battery
  • metal body similar to HTC One M8

LG is also said to be stepping up with the LG G4, said to be arriving sometime in May, with the following specs:

  • Qualcomm octa-core Snapdragon 810
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 32 or 64 GB of internal storage
  • 5.3 inch Quad HD (2560×1440) display, almost bezel-less
  • 20.7 megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 3500 mAh battery
  • metal body similar to HTC One M8Â

Not to be outdone, Sony is getting the Xperia Z4 ready, with these specs rumored:

  • 3 GB of RAM
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 CPU (2.8 GHz)
  • Adreno 430 GPU
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 5.5 inch Quad HD (2560×1440) display, possibly 6.44 inches on the Ultra model
  • 32 GB of internal storage (base)
  • 3500 to 4000 mAh battery
  • 20.7 megapixel rear-facing camera, 5 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Improved audio with better stereo separation in the speakers
  • IP68 water and dust resistant

Ello Just Might Say ‘Ello’ To Advertising After All

Ello, the upstart social network founded last year as a minimalist, expressly ad-free alternative to Facebook, might not be holding onto its biggest promise after all.

An email Ello sent to its users today touting support for embedded sound and video from YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, SoundCloud, and Mixcloud includes an interesting loophole that evidently permits those third-party, ad-supported services to bring their ads to Ello’s pages along with them.

If true, the loophole would represent quite a reversal for a social network once so committed to its ad-free mission statement that it signed a ‘Public Benefit Corporation‘ agreement making it virtually impossible for third parties to profit from its users’ data.

Either way, advertisements are an inevitability for any social network looking to become a major player. By their nature, social networks are a dream for brands and marketers thanks to their vast, oft-diverse user bases; couple that with the simple fact that those same users like free stuff, and ads — especially those displayed through a means similar to many a social network’s Promoted Posts — are an obvious choice for social sites seeking profitability and revenue generation.

For Ello’s part, the Colorado-based social network states it will uphold its commitment to an ad-free experience by allowing its users to opt out of select third-party posts. “Ello will never sell ads,” today’s email reads. “Hide posts that may contain 3rd party ads from your settings page,” it continues, with a photo of the relevant settings button included.

Mobile apps are also on the way this year for Ello, as they look to recapture a portion of the whirlwind of media attention they received last year.

App Store Revenues Beat Hollywood Box Office

When people think of entertainment, they usually think of Hollywood and its primacy in movie and television production. After all, Hollywood is the leading revenue producer among entertainment media, right Not any more, according to Apple analyst Horace Dediu, who compared 2014’s App Store revenue figures from Apple with Hollywood’s 2014 US box office revenues. Apple paid $10 billion to app developers in 2014, while Hollywood’s US box office take for 2014 was roughly the same amount.

Those numbers are diverging rapidly, though. Apple took in $500 million from the App Store in just the first week of 2015, so it’s pretty clear that the total for this year will be much higher than 2014. Meanwhile, Hollywood’s box office grosses have been keeping in a fairly narrow range for the last five years.

The picture isn’t complete for either side, of course. Hollywood makes money overseas from movies, as well as from DVD sales, Blu-ray sales, and licensing revenue to various outlets. Still, it’s also true that the App Store numbers are merely a part of the app economy. “The Apps economy includes Android and ads and service businesses and custom development,” noted Dediu. “Including all revenues, apps are still likely to be bigger than Hollywood.”

The app economy is more than just app revenues, of course. The app economy sustains some 627,00 jobs (based on iOS) in the US, versus 374,000 jobs in Hollywood. And it’s quite probable that the average revenue of app developers is higher than the average revenue of actors.

Some more key stats for the App Store:

  • $500 million spent on iOS apps in first week of January 2015
  • Billings for apps increased 50 percent in 2014
  • Cumulative developer revenues were $25 billion (making 2014 revenues 40 percent of all app sales since store opened in 2008)
  • 627,000 jobs created in the US
  • 1.4 million iOS apps catalog is sold in 155 countries

‘Summoners War’ Employs Influencer Marketing Campaign With Street Art

Launching a new mobile game is always a challenge, and publisher Com2us decided to pour some creativity and budget into its marketing efforts to help make its new game Summoners War fly. Com2us partnered with Vine influencers Cody Johns, Landon Moss, and Jake Paul to get some video sizzle for the game. Those Vine stars were paid to create and share Vines about the game, which have been generating good numbers (one Vine by Paul has been seen over 1 million times).

The marketing effort didn’t stop there, though. Com2us also worked with noted street artist Meggs to bring some street cred and interest to the title. The publisher recorded a time-lapse video of Meggs creating an original Summoners War-themed mural in Los Angeles. The Melbourne street artist painted an original 2,000-square-foot mural in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles all by himself during a six-day marathon. Clearly, Com2us’s marketing team was looking for some viral pickup on these videos, and so far the company has notched some 250,000 views on YouTube for its three videos.

“YouTube has been an extremely successful user acquisition strategy for some game publishers,” says VentureBeat Insight analyst John Koetsier. “For certain verticals — and gaming is one of them — YouTube can bring in not only a significant number of users, but also high-value users.”

This is all part of a push to bring Summoners War to Western audiences, noted VentureBeat. The game already has an audience of millions in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan, and now Com2us has set its sights on the lucrative US market, hoping this gameplay can attract players over here.

Will all this creative marketing work It will be interesting to watch the results over time. There’s also an official commercial for the game, and perhaps we’ll be seeing that on TV at some point. Machine Zone and King Digital have been getting good results with their TV campaigns for mobile games, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see more publishers with sufficiently deep pockets go that route as well.

CREATIVE: Watch These Game Trailers

Pokken Tournament – Pikachu vs Lucario Gameplay

Pokemon meets Tekken – a match made in heaven Feast your eyes on nearly seven minutes of intense real-time fighting between two of Pokemon’s more popular monsters: the timeless Pikachu, and Smash Bros veteran Lucario. This is far from anything we’ve ever seen out of the franchise, and it seems to be a welcome change among fans of the pocket monsters. Will it turn into something good Time will tell, but they sure can stir up some discussion with even a few minutes of gameplay

Call of Duty: Advance Warfare – Havoc DLC Trailer “Randall Higgins: KillCameraman”

I feel like we hear the words “pulling out all the stops” associated with Call of Duty hype all the time, but my goodness did they pull out all the stops for this DLC trailer. Live action with lots of booms, plenty of gameplay and even a freaking Raconteurs song.

The best move here, however, was focusing on the unsung hero: the kill cam guy. It’s obviously preposterous to actually have a person wielding that camera on the battlefield, but isn’t it fun to think about I’d like to think there’s some psycho war photographer catching shots of every noob I pwn on the virtual battlefield. Not only was this a fun angle to take on a common trailer format (COD releases a trailer for every DLC pack they drop), but it’s something that every player will recognize and appreciate. Awesome fan service on top of the features.

Sid Meier’s Starships – Announcement Trailer

Sid Meier is going back to space! Coming soon for PC, Mac, and iPad, Starships is a turn based action strategy from the mind of the man who brought us the Civilization series. Piggybacking off of the themes from Civilization: Beyond Earth, you now have a fleet that is space combat ready, and you embark on a mission to save other pockets of mankind desperate for your help.

The game is described as an experience that focuses on starship design and combat within a universe filled with interstellar adventure, diplomacy, and exploration. Similar Civ themes, but this time you’re exploring space instead of trying to take over measly old Earth. Color me stratospherically excited.

BONUS: Strafe – Kickstarter Trailer

I . . . uh . . . don’t really have words for this one. Just watch it. *WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC CONTENT*