Glu Games Teams Up With Katy Perry

We may be seeing a new trend with mobile games – studios teaming up with big stars to use their audience for instant acceptance of the game, while at the same time presenting an experience that will no doubt draw in millions of downloads.

It worked before, as Glu Games teamed up with Kim Kardashian on the mobile game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, which has resulted in millions of downloads and millions of dollars generated for both parties. Now, it appears that Glu is at it again, working alongside singer Katy Perry for a new mobile effort, according to VentureBeat.

Perry, coming off a very well received Super Bowl halftime show this Sunday (with the left sharks and all), will be the subject of a new free-to-play game, based around the performer herself. It will feature her “voice, likeness and personality,” according to the company.

Glu chief executive officer Niccolo de Masi stated that Perry is “arguably the most recognized musician in America. She is a cultural icon and we expect to translate key elements of her success into an innovative, highly entertaining mobile experience.

“We anticipate that Katy’s significant global audience, including more than 170 million fans on social media, will make her a strong gaming partner for Glu.”

The game has a release scheduled for later this year for both iOS and Android – and could be the first in a new trend of “hot hirings” for mobile games to come. That shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that the mobile gaming market is now nearing a worth of $25 billion, and a chunk of that came from the success of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

Part of the reason for the success of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is that it took an already successful game and revised it to fit with a star that had a huge audience. The nature of the game went very well with the nature of Kim Kardashian’s fans, and by working with a proven design the game was able to take off swiftly. It’s not just about finding a celebrity with a large audience; it’s about matching the right game to that audience.

Of course, it just makes sense. Stars like Kardashian and Perry have a huge following outside of the mobile world, and “gamifying” their experience into a mobile release guarantees that said audience will be along for the ride, along with those that were interested in the game to begin with. The hundreds of millions that Kim Kardashian: Hollywood generated shows that the formula works – and could pave the way for others to try their hand on the mobile market, provided their popularity is good enough.

And with 77.1 million followers on Facebook, 64.6 million followers on Twitter and 14.9 million viewers on VEVO, it’s a pretty safe bet that Katy Perry is, indeed, a firework for the mobile market.

Everything We Learned At #DICE2015 Today Pt. 2

Check out Pt. 1 of our DICE Summit coverage here.

It Begins With A Conversation

A second day of of DICE Summit sessions kicked off with an opening keynote conversation between President of Sony Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida and Lorne Lanning, Creative Director of Oddworld Inhabitants, creators of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddyssee.

The conversation began with how Yoshida came to work at Sony and where the company was at in the mid-nineties, a time when Shuhei and Lanning relate that there was a lot of skepticism about PlayStation.

Why uCool Went To The Super Bowl


Tony Cerrato

The Super Bowl turned out to be one of the big television events of the year for mobile gaming, with three different mobile game companies airing ads during the most-watched television event in history. It really wasn’t a big surprise to see Supercell advertising Clash of Clans during the Super Bowl, nor Machine Zone showing off Game of War: Fire Age — both of those companies have been advertising those games for months on television. It was the third company that was surprising — a scrappy startup named uCool, showing their mobile game Heroes Charge in a 15 second spot that came near the end of the Super Bowl.

The ad campaign by uCool has been running since late in December, but of course appearing during the Super Bowl is a whole different universe for advertisers. The uCool ad for Heroes Charge was very different from the other two mobile ads: A 15-second spot that focused on the game, quite unlike the 30 second spot for Game of War: Fire Age or the 60 second spot for Clash of Clans, both of which featured expensive talent rather than the game.

The [a]listdaily reached out to uCool for some insights about this marketing strategy, how it’s playing out for them, and what we can expect in the future both from uCool and from other mobile game companies. The marketing officer for uCool, Tony Cerrato, illuminated some of the company’s thinking on these topics.

Why television ads instead of more typical user acquisition spending?

First of all, we are still using user acquisition for mobile ads, so it’s not that we’ve taken that off the shelf. We just upped our game a little more by adding TV to the mix. With regard to TV, it still has the strength of mass appeal and a mass audience. That was something that was going through our mind, but it was also because of what we’re seeing with regards to our players. Our players are actually allowing us to do this based upon the demographics. We’re looking at a mix of 50/50 between male and female. It’s become a mass audience with in terms of our players. The fact that we can appeal to a wide audience — TV offers that.

If you realize, people started playing videogames when they were younger, and they were playing consoles attached to their TV sets. They were used to seeing everything on TV in front of them, and advertising was a natural transition from playing games on their TV set to watching ads. It was natural to advertise on TV. What we saw from our players, how they responded, has allowed us to consider using TV.

How much of your total marketing spend is going towards TV ads?

We’re looking at 75 percent TV versus 25 percent digital. When we did start out, we were one hundred percent digital.

The Super Bowl is the most expensive TV ad time… was it worth it? How do you evaluate the spend?

The reason why we went with the Super Bowl was the reception we were getting from TV and the reaction we were getting from our players. We’re getting a good quality player coming out of TV, and the fact that we’re seeing good quality players allowed us to try TV. We’re getting a very good response from our TV campaign,. We’re pretty much running it like a direct-response campaign. Other people have been running their campaigns, you can see from where they are running their spots, it’s more awareness-driven. When running our campaign, we are looking at it from an efficiency standpoint. What we were doing is seeing how people are responding to our ads, and we were getting such a good response we thought, “Let’s give the Super Bowl a try.”

It’s good for the company itself, it gives the awareness of who we are. We’re the new kids on the block, a small studio that wants to get some recognition and bring players to our game. We think we have a very good game that people want to play, and based on the response so far it gave us the courage to take a shot at a large venue like the Super Bowl.

What response have you been getting from your television ads?

In terms of user acquisition e saw a real big jump, based on App Annie rankings. We jumped significantly because of that. In terms of paying out, that still takes time to see in terms of the number of users that are coming into the game. We got excellent positioning in terms of where the ad ran, towards the end of the game when there was a lot of excitement going on. For user acquisition, we did get a good lift from it.

Your spot was only 15 seconds, where Game of War was a 30-second spot and Clash of Clans was a 60 second spot. Do you think the added length was worth the higher costs, especially when you consider the added costs they spent for talent?

They went all in. For what the message they trying to bring across, I don’t think you could have done the Liam Neeson commercial in any length shorter than what they have. I believe the same thing holds true for the ad for Game of War. For us, we didn’t use celebrity talent. We focused on the game. In terms of things we learned from it, probably the next time we do it we’ll go with a 30. I think we could have added a little more to it. This was our first time going in to the Super Bowl, and there definitely was a huge cost factor involved in our decision making.

What are uCool’s plans for future TV advertising and marketing spend?

We still are going back to our focus, which is user acquisition, running the way we have before. We will have these certain blips, some big events on TV that we want to be part of. The fact that we have a mixed audience in gender means we can pick different types of programs we want to run in. We’ve been running on Comedy Central, on F/X, on ESPN, and some opportunistic buys on ABC on programs like the X Games and NBA basketball. That’s not going to be our focus, but when the opportunity comes up we’ll definitely go into it. We’re going to treat this like a direct response campaign, we’re doing user acquisition and we’re looking for efficiencies.

We’re going to continue with the 75/25 marketing mix for the rest of 2015. There will be new creative every month to keep the campaign fresh and exciting. We’re well aware of commercial wear out, so we want to try to keep it fresh.

What are your thoughts in general for TV advertising for mobile games? Do you expect more mobile games to be advertised on TV in the future?

I believe you’re definitely going to see more games going into it. There are games that have been running on TV that were both available online and on apps. King has been out there with Candy Crush for a while. I think this will continue. Especially now, with all the emphasis that was put on the Super Bowl, you’re definitely going to see other studios going out there and taking the risk. We’re the ones leading the way, getting out there and testing it, and with the fact that we’re seeing success you’re going to see other people trying it. You’re definitely going to see more people in this space.

Everything We Learned At #DICE2015 Today

DICE Summit 2015 kicked off this morning with opening remarks from AIAS’ Martin Rae and a keynote by CEO and Co-Founder of Riot Games, Brandon Beck.

Beck’s keynote centered around his working philosophy about developing talent and sustaining great company culture at the ubiquitous game publisher that is by now practically a household name. They have achieved this by creating a culture that puts the gamer first.

“The best way to be a company that authentically treats players well is to be a company of players,” says Beck. There are only very few exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, Beck sees that the company is composed of gamers who understand, appreciate and uphold that gamers-first mentality.

Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia continued the conversation by discussing zombies and what they meant for a game studio looking to receive the same kind of “participatory fan culture” television shows were known to enjoy. “Zombies showed us exactly who we were and what we’re made of.”

Instagram Takes A Cue From Vine To Ensure Users Won’t Miss Branded Content

A new update on the platform that is ever-growing with favor from teens might look a little familar to you. If you’re a fan of the way video content plays and then loops on Vine, you’ll be happy to know that Instagram video will now also loop continuously until it is scrolled past. That being said, videos also can also no longer be paused.

Video on Instagram still aren’t as popular as photos on the platform, so this update may be a move to elevate video on the platfrom that is so known for being one centered around photography.

A benefit for users and brands alike will be that the likelihood of users actually viewing these videos should, in theory, be much greater. This is great news for brands on the platform who are already seeing much greater engagement rates on Instagram than on other social platforms.

Take a look at how it works:

Crop circle spotted in Phoenix – have you seen it? #Halftime

A video posted by pepsi (@pepsi) on

A video posted by pepsi (@pepsi) on Jan 30, 2015 at 7:22am PST

Creating Virtual Reality From Cardboard

We’ve seen a number of virtual headsets revealed thus far that promise mesmerizing, engulfing experiences, including the Oculus VR, Samsung VR and Sony’s forthcoming Project Morpheus. However, all of these are bound to cost a pretty penny, and not everyone can afford such tech. Enter the VISR.

This new virtual headset, which is currently going through a KickStarter campaign, promises to provide a beautiful virtual reality experience without the hefty price tag. The durable virtual headset is made out of cardboard, and retails for around $30 – but promises a unique experience that will immerse players into their experiences.

This smartphone-compliant virtual reality headset allows users to put their smartphones into the product, then put on the rig and see what the experience has to offer. With the help of a downloadable app, users can split the smartphone image, thus creating a simulated 3D experience, no matter what they seem to be playing.

With the campaign, VISR vows that it can make virtual reality “something that can be experienced for everyone.”

The program is a bit familiar with Google Cardboard’s, providing a more affordable virtual reality experience without the need for a heavier set-up that could weigh down on the user’s head over a prolonged period of time. Though some may question the quality, VISR promises that the headset will be sturdy enough for repeated use, thanks to a low-cost laminated corrugate with high durability, powered by the smartphone. It will also come fully assembled, so users can just open it up and begin to play.

There is a question whether or not the campaign will be a success, though. The KickStarter currently has less than two days to go, and is only at about two-fifths of its final goal, sitting at 9,137 pounds – well short of the 25,000 pound goal. There could be a push in the final few hours, though, and VISR’s affordable dream could become a reality.

PlayStation Stands Out For Sony’s Quarter

Sony reported mixed earnings for its last quarter, with overall the corporation showing a healthy increase in income (up over 100 percent) on revenue that’s up by 6 percent. These numbers are estimates, though, as Sony notified investors it’s not ready to declare final numbers for the Sony Pictures division, which suffered a massive hacking attack late last year. Still, the rest of the company did well overall, with areas like Home Entertainment & Sound and Imaging Products & Solutions showing decreases. However, its film division managed to actually eke out a small profit, despite a controversial hack and the lack of a nationwide release for the comedy The Interview. Sony’s video game business was the bright spot, as the PlayStation 4 continued to thrive.

Games and Network Services reported sales of $4.4 billion (¥531.5 billion yen) for the three months at the end of last year, noted GamesIndustry International. That’s a 16.8 percent increase over the previous year, a nice boost considering that the PS4 was popular enough already with its launch in November 2013. In addition, Sony reported that 6.4 million PS4’s were shipped for the quarter, up from 4.5 million the previous year.

That’s not to say all Sony game consoles did well, though. PlayStation TV, the broadcast equivalent of the company’s PS Vita handheld, was weak enough that it resulted in a $93 million (¥11.2 billion) write down, with a drop in shipments for the PS Vita itself, down to 1.4 million (from the previous year’s two million).

Software, though, was on the rise, with a total of ¥147 billion following last year’s 128 billion yen. Network services also saw a “boost,” even with service interruptions, doubling from ¥50 billion to ¥100 billion. PlayStation Plus is said to be a huge driving force in this area.

Games and Network Services overall saw a 122 percent increase year-over-year to $228 million (¥27.6 billion). This led to an overall business total of $21 billion (¥2,557.8 billion) and a net income of $736 million (¥89 billion).

As for the film division, Sony Pictures Entertainment showed a profit of $20 million (¥24.3 billion) for the fiscal third quarter, even with its problems, although Sony Pictures in itself saw a 90 percent fall in operating income over the previous year. The biggest box office hit for the company at the time was Brad Pitt’s Fury, while holiday release Annie came up as a slight disappointment.

Overall, the quarter “is expected to include approximately $15 million (¥1.8 billion) in investigation and remediation costs,” according to the company, in terms of what the cyber-attack has done.

So what does this all mean Sony still has issues to work out, like boosting its mobile business and trying to restore television sales and profits to their long-ago glory, but the company is back on an even keel after several years of rocky results. The interesting story here is the emergence of the PlayStation 4 as a key element in the company’s strategy, a leader in the console business that can help drive other areas of the company. This is not to say the rest of the PlayStation products can coast to victory; the PS Vita, the PS TV, and the PlayStation 3 are all struggling to find relevance in the future of the PlayStation brand.

Sony will no doubt press forward with more exclusive content for the PlayStation 4, and while Microsoft is making good headway with the Xbox One, the PS4 won’t be giving up the number one position in the console business any time soon (if ever!). What will be interesting to watch is how Sony can take advantage of this leadership to boost other products and services, and what new ones may be introduced over the next year or so with the PlayStation 4 as a key element.

The Grammys Are A Master Class For Brands On How To Stay Relevant

In some cases, awards shows simply drone on by, riding more on hype than actual effect when it comes to their presentation. However, that’s not the case for the Grammys, the yearly music awards show that continues to not only remain relevant after 57 years, but finds itself thriving in a whole new area – social media.

Fast Company posted a report that explains how the show continues to thrive year after year, with unique pushes in social media. “Every single year social media has changed and it’s up to us to set a new bar when it comes to social media and live events,” said Evan Greene, CMO for the Recording Academy. “We are at a point where text tweets aren’t enough to engage audiences anymore, there needs to be photos, GIFS, videos and more.”

The Grammys first got its start in the social media realm in 2008 and 2009, when it created specific Twitter, YouTube and Facebook accounts that stretched across every means of social network, including Instagram, Spotify and Vine. That move became even larger just a few years later, when, in 2012, the show managed to reach nearly 40 million viewers and 13 million social comments – unprecedented numbers for an awards show. It even managed to push past the Super Bowl’s big numbers.

“Twitter and Instagram are the two platforms that make the most sense when it comes to live and real-time engagement, so we will be providing even more media rich and behind-the-scenes content,” said Greene.

The team behind the channels unveiled a few strategies it has in mind, leading up to the latest Grammys telecast, which will take place on February 8th. They include the following…

Snapchat: For the first time, there will be a special Grammy “Story” in Snapchat on February 8th. This means that all Snapchat users will easily be able to see videos being shot at the event, complete with a custom location based graphic.

Tumblr: Mr. GIF will live-GIF the show’s telecast for the second year and create GIF portraits of the Grammy winners backstage.

Instagram: There will be a backstage photo studio for Instagram pictures.

Facebook: Questions and answers will be highlighted for several artist nominees, including Lecrae, Robert Glasper, SOJA and Brandy Clark.

Twitter: On the red carpet and backstage, Twitter will have its Twitter Mirror for artists to share pictures – at last year’s event, the Grammys became the first awards show to use the Twitter Mirror feature.

While YouTube won’t be live-broadcasting the event (thus creating less of a direct threat to the Grammys broadcast), it will have a music-focused set-up on its site for a day in March, to show its appreciation for the medium.

Indeed, the Grammys continue to rock on, and this year’s show should be no exception.

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2015 D.I.C.E. Summit & Awards: What They Mean To The Game Industry

The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) was founded in 1996 to help the advancement and recognition of the interactive arts, and one of the prime ways the Academy does that is through the prestigious D.I.C.E. Awards. These awards, voted on by the more than 30,000 members of the Academy, are delivered at the annual D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit taking place every year in Las Vegas.

The Summit brings together top game designers and business leaders to discuss the state of the industry, and provide some quality time for networking and celebrating the accomplishments of the gaming industry during the past year. The Summit culminates in the 18th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards on Thursday night.

The [a]listdaily spoke with AIAS president Martin Rae about the D.I.C.E. Summit, the D.I.C.E. Awards, and what they mean to the game industry.

Martin Rae

How has the DICE summit changed over time?

In two major ways, I’d say. When anything starts, it starts smaller — it’s certainly grown. It’s a pretty amazing production, big enough to put in all the bells and whistles and small enough to be intimate, so if you are an attendee you can get together with people you want to. I’d say it’s matured a great deal. Secondly, it’s changed with the industry. In the past, people really pointed to us and said “you’re very console and PC centric; are you looking towards the future of the game business in mobile and free-to-play ” We’ve evolved with the industry. We’ve tried to look towards the future and get people on stage and in the room who are looking at different platforms, looking at different ways to do business. Innovative ways, not just technically, whether it’s organizationally or community-management wise. How can they grow the business in a healthy way, both for games and for business I think it’s mirrored the industry as the industry’s changed.

What are the important trends that are influencing DICE, and that will be influenced by the DICE Summit?

There are three different ways. I always like to look to the future, and I try to challenge speakers to take some risks, look to the future, use your experience and anecdotes from the past to answer the questions where are we going, what can we learn, and how can we get to a better place whether it’s development-wise or business-wise. With those people on stage, attendees end up learning a lot of things. We have been really focused on trying to get independent studios, young game makers with great ideas both on the stage and in the audience.

I don’t think you necessarily have to be on stage to have an extraordinary experience. Young game makers can come in and hear the talks, and get some face time with people that maybe they admire or maybe they disagree with, somebody they can learn something with — and they get face time with those folks. We’ve really tried to mix it up — pull in the young game makers and some people who have seen the cycles, and really create a Petri dish where everybody gets to learn something. You come out at the end of the week feeling energized, everybody’s had some fun, celebrated the great accomplishments of the past year at the awards show, and hopefully made some new relationships and partnerships that pay dividends down the road.

This year is the 18th annual D.I.C.E. Awards. How important have these awards been to the industry, and how do you see their influence changing going forward?

I’m really product of the awards, and I think it’s really good for the industry. As you know, there are lots of awards and many kinds of awards shows, but there is only one with a peer body of our size, over 30,000 people all involved in the game business. Much like the Motion Picture Academy, they are the ones who get to vet and choose what they think are the best of the best. I think that has a tremendous amount of value for the industry.

Some people might say we don’t have the marketing glitz and glamour of some other shows, but from an integrity perspective, and the process of peers rewarding peers, there’s no higher honor. I think that’s pretty phenomenal, and it’s great for the industry. Long term I think the Academy will only improve with age. Part of that is the process in how we approach things. We always have to evolve with the industry as well, massage our awards categories to reflect what’s going on in the business today. One of our new categories in the awards this year we call the D.I.C.E. Sprite Award, to recognize great games that come out of shops that don’t have a AAA budget, but have done some extraordinary things. We don’t want to have new ideas and the birth of new things lost among bigger products.

Also this year we have our first Technical Impact award, which is going to the Apple App Store. That’s had a profound impact for creators, self-publishers, and consumers. That’s akin to the sci-tech awards from the Motion Picture Academy. We’ll be delivering a number of those awards over the next year or two for early successes that really helped set the foundation for success in this business.

The cool thing about this is we’re reaching the point where we’re not restricted technically any more. If you come up with a great idea you can execute it in our industry, and that’s really extraordinary.

The game industry has grown and changed tremendously since the D.I.C.E. Awards began, and the audience of gamers is now far larger. How do you get the message out about the awards, and how should they be perceived?

That’s a great question. It’s a big challenge — it’s how you educate the gameplaying community about the Academy and the Awards and the importance of them, and get them involved. We looked at a couple of different approaches. Our main demographic is not a TV-consuming demographic, it’s really an Internet-focused demographic, so we stream live. We get a lot of people watching the talks in the Summit, even business people outside of the game industry. We’ll be on the front page of Twitch and we’ll stream that out live. We communicate through business press, industry press, consumer press, try to educate people about the Awards and draw that audience in.

We have a partnership with Variety that reaches a different segment, it’s a business/entertainment segment. Some of the sessions will go out through Variety’s YouTube channels, post-show. They do a great job of promoting it. On the ground we’ll have a number of press outlets who aren’t necessarily focused on the game business that will be writing about this as well. That’s a challenge for the next phase of the Academy’s life — bringing in the new game folks, letting them know who we are, and why this is important.

What will be the important trends in game design for the next few years?

The real point of this year, in my opinion, is it all stems from community involvement and the whole online aspect of people playing with each other all over the planet. Game designers and developers are really devising some cool ways to have you participate in the environment they create, but to play and create your own outcome and do that organically. I think we’re going to see a ton of that. And a whole lot of the community influencing where the game design goes. You end up with the brilliant game designers being able to create the playpen for this great crowd-sourced experience where they produce great ideas and the get to seed each other. That will really drive experiences that we haven’t seen before, really rich experiences.