DEW: Expect Maker Studios-Made Disney Videos

by Sahil Patel

When Maker Studios first engaged in acquisition talks with Disney, its YouTube network was doing 4 billion views per month; that number grew to 5.5 billion when the deal closed and now stands at over 11.5 billion — and yet, almost a year after the acquisition, very little of that viewership can be attributed to content produced by Maker or its network on behalf of Disney.

Expect that to change in 2015, according to Maker Studios president Ynon Kreiz. Speaking during a session at the annual Digital Entertainment World expo in Los Angeles, Kreiz said, going forward, more videos from Maker and its network will make use of characters and assets owned by Disney, including those from Lucasfilm, Marvel, and Pixar. “We expect to activate the great IP from the House of Disney,” said Kreiz.

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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.

Chinese Mobile Gaming Sees Big Boost

When it comes to mobile gaming, China audience is growing fast, but the revenue from mobile gaming is growing even faster.

While some games still don’t make too much in terms of profit, the general market saw a huge increase in revenue over the past year, according to the chart below. TechInAsia reports that even though the general audience of gamers remained the same, the games have managed to make more money. Mobile gamers rounded out to nearly 360 million, while the revenue has seen a significant jump, up from just over $100 million in 2013 to nearly $300 million this past year.

Most of this revenue is coming from popular intellectual property, games that have worldwide appeal. And this would indicate that more Western developers are entering the Chinese game market, even if that means making a few changes to their products along the way.

The Verge has a huge article on this, explaining how a game such as Clash of Clans generated over 200,000 in its first month on the Chinese market, despite the fact that it didn’t generate too much revenue due to the fact that it utilized a Google payment service for in-game items, which most Chinese gamers couldn’t use at the time.

According to Henry Fong, CEO of publisher Yodo1, “the market has evolved to become very, very crowded and competitive.” The games are easy to adapt to the Chinese market, even if some certain changes have to be made, such as art or characters that adapt more to general Chinese culture.

Finding the right partner can play a huge part as well. For the Android launch of Monument Valley, developer Ustwo had to seek out the right partner for the game’s distribution, unlike what it did when it released the game on the iOS front. “We really wanted to partner up with someone who understood the market and the players within it,” said the company’s executive producer, Dan Gray. So, it partnered with iDreamsky, which previously produced Temple Run and Fruit Ninja for the market.

Needless to say, the results paid off. “Downloads and purchases surged following the launch of the game’s first expansion pack in November 2014,” said iDreamsky CEO Michael Chen, “demonstrating the enormous appeal this game has to a very broad demographic which we are confident we can replicate in China.”

Rob Segal, co-founder of Get Set Games, explained that the process of moving into a new market can be a little easier with the right partner in tow. “We had games there before we had a partner,” he explained, “and I don’t think you have any chance of success without working with a partner.”

Still, Gray believes there’s potential to reach a bigger audience by going overseas with a familiar product. “Knowing there’s over a billion people who’ve never heard of Monument Valley is a great reason to want to release over there,” he explained.

Here’s to more U.S. companies making a reach for a bigger market — and succeeding as a result.

Awesome Games Done Quick Raises Big Awareness

Gamers taking part in charitable foundations is nothing new, as many participate in the yearly Extra Life event, raising millions of dollars to help sick kids at children’s hospitals nationwide. However, the team over at Awesome Games Done Quick have done some impressive work themselves, managing to get millions of views — and dollars — out of “speed running” through their favorite games.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “speed running” of games means blasting through them as quickly as possible, and can range from 8-bit classics like Mega Man and Super Mario Bros. to more modern titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. With this year’s broadcast, the Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ for short) team ran through 160 hours of live streaming this past January, in the hopes of raising money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Needless to say, it was quite successful.

Twitch.tv recently put together a chart showing just how successful AGDQ was with its broadcast, which drew in 9.4 million viewers and raised $1.58 million dollars for the Foundation. In addition, the chart also shows that the AGDQ channel has grown impressively over the last couple of years. In 2012, it had 1.15 million viewers. This year, it rose up to 29.2 million — and should be even larger next year.

As you can see by the chart, many other statistics were also revealed for individual viewers. The average unique viewer tuned in for an estimated 98 minutes, while the maximum concurrent viewers reached 170,000 in the channel at one point — pretty impressive for a Twitch broadcast that didn’t revolve around a tournament.

The social front was also huge within the channel, with a total of over 3.3 million chat messages, across over 300,000 unique chatters. Many of them also used “emotes,” or images to express certain things happening in the game, such as a puppy dog face.

It just goes to show that gamers definitely care about raising money for a good cause — all while having a good time as they “speed run” through Super Metroid.

Making Songs Out Of Selfies

Who would’ve thought that a car company would make “selfie” photos into something more innovative

The Lincoln Motor Company has created a website where users can upload their best “selfie” photos (or worst, if they prefer) to put together a custom song on the fly.

Here’s how it works. The song is put together using certain elements from each photo, with each instrument representing certain parts of the body. Here’s the breakdown:

-The arrangement of eyes puts together the keyboard harmony

-The person’s jawline helps create the bassline

-The formation of lips helps put together the tonality of the guitar

-The rhythmic percussion is formed around the shape of the person’s nose

-The eyebrows help set the ambient tone for the song

The goal of the site is to “celebrate your individuality by turning your selfie into sound, as personal and unique as your own thumbprint,” according to the description on the website.

Lincoln Motor Company has already put together an impressive gallery, showcasing all the different music styles that incorporate with the “selfies” of many users. However, that shouldn’t stop visitors from putting in their own and seeing what kind of creation their photo comes up with.

It’s a unique approach for would-be consumers, as it allows them to integrate with a tool that isn’t usually associated with automobile sellers, providing a distinctive touch that still ties in with Lincoln’s main website.

This isn’t Lincoln’s first attempt at tying in its brand with music genius. A couple of years ago, it hosted an event {link no longer active} where Emmy-winning recording artist Beck performed a cover of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” using a 157-piece orchestra, with artists from around the world. The video’s outreach did good business for the company, while at the same time providing Beck more room to stretch his musical creativity.

Indeed, Lincoln is on a roll every time it connects with music. Don’t be surprised if it launches future campaigns that keep things in tune.

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Beating The Odds: Succeeding At Mobile Social Casino

The social casino game business is an interesting yet different game business that is a major market segment. The rise of social gaming via Facebook and later mobile games has led to the social casino game market. The distinction between social casino games and the gambling games they resemble is still the subject of much discussion and scholarly studies, being eyed carefully by regulators in different countries. However they are defined, social casino games have become a major, fast-growing segment of the gaming market in the last few years.

SuperData estimates the global social casino market for 2015 to be $3.4 billion, growing 13 percent year over year. “A series of mergers of acquisition has consolidated the market creating barriers to entry for late-comers,” SuperData noted in their recent post. “Caesars Interactive acquired Pacific Interactive in February of this year, its fourth major acquisition in recent years. More recently, Scientific Games acquired Ballys for $5.1 billion in November and Churchill Downs announced their purchase of Big Fish Games for almost $900 million. As social casino companies consolidate, the majority of revenues will go to just a handful of large publishers.” As well, IGT acquired Double Down for $500 million last year.

Looking at the top-grossing games on iOS, five out of the top 25 games are social casino games. “A month after its re-launch, Zynga Poker on mobile earned almost a quarter more than its desktop counterpart,” noted SuperData. It’s clearly a lucrative place to be, but how does a startup carve a place for itself amongst well-established giants

Monarc Gaming Labs is aiming to become one of the big players in mobile social casino gaming. That’s a tall order for a startup company, but one which co-founder, president and chief creative officer Al Thomas believes is very possible, starting with their first game Golden Sand Slots on Android (and soon on iOS). The company is funded by Korean company NHN, the ISP and gaming company whose Japanese subsidiary runs the messaging app Line, and whose annual revenues top $2 billion. Add to that Thomas’s vast experience with casino games and the top-notch team he’s been putting together, and what seem like long odds begin to shift in his favor.

Al Thomas

Thomas laid the groundwork for his game company at the arcade game giant WMS. “I was recruited to start their gaming division, around ’93,” Thomas recalled, “and I started designing slot machines for them back then and eventually became the executive director of advanced R&D for them.” His role was to predict where new sources of revenue would come for them, and Thomas saw one opportunity very clearly.

“I noticed a huge demographic overlap between people who played in casinos and people who were playing casual games like Bejeweled and Tetris,” Thomas recalled. “It skewed older female, which is very much how the casino gaming industry skewed. I looked into it and said there’s so much demographic overlap here there’s got to be a connection.” Thomas discovered that when the casino player went home, this is the kind of game they played — very relaxing, self-explanatory, play it any time you want. He told WMS they should develop games in this space, but no one could understand how you’d make money over something that doesn’t pay out. Eventually WMS got tired of Thomas telling them this was the way to go, and Thomas recalls they said “If this is such a great opportunity, why aren’t you pursuing it ” So he left to form his own company.

Thomas spent years learning about the mobile industry, and eventually, along with some other people, connected with the Korean company NHN. “They asked us to work as consultants to put together a plan for creating a social mobile app in a fairly mature market,” Thomas said. “Because NHN has that huge marketing muscle, they have tens of millions of dollars they could easily put into user acquisition, that made me say this is something I’m not going to be able to do in my own startup. I can create great games, but great games alone just doesn’t cut it. It’s an essential part of what you do, but you just can’t get the scale you need without having outstanding business intelligence and user acquisition people.”

After getting started with NHN and working on a variety of games, the team finally settled on slots as the starting point. “What NHN thought was going to be the most lucrative part of the business, peer to peer poker, was actually nowhere near as lucrative as slots,” Thomas said. “We started as NHN Entertainment Labs , but we realized we needed to focus around a core product — in this case, the Golden Sand Casino slot app.”

NHN asked Thomas to head up the effort and then re-brand it, because NHN does not have a brand presence in the U.S. “We chose Monarc for two reasons,” Thomas said. “It was going from the caterpillar to the butterfly stage, and it was also that sense of royalty. We thought it was a good strong brand.” Monarc’s team has some world-class slot designers, with people who have done multiple hit games. Thomas himself has dozens of issued patents and hundreds pending. “We knew we were going to be world-class,” Thomas said. But it takes more than just great design to succeed, and Monarc is building the business intelligence and user acquisition team it needs to succeed.

Casino games have some key differences from other games that Thomas points out. “We’re not the same as a normal mobile social game,” Thomas said. “When you’re playing a mobile social game, typically as you play the game it becomes fundamentally different — you see new levels that are very different, or there’s a clear objective you’ve achieved. With a slot machine, all you’re getting content-wise is more of the exact same experience. There are some thematic changes, but it’s basically still a slot machine. It becomes a never-ending game — it’s more of the same, but it’s what our players want. So there’s a different type of retention we see, there’s a different conversion and a different LTV than other things.”

Why do people play slot machines to begin with, much less ones that can never pay out “The thrill is in risking something of value, that’s the thrill of gambling,” Thomas explains. “It’s not in winning, and it’s not in losing — it’s in risking. The sense of risk becomes greater when you’ve actually injected some money into the game. The game becomes measurably better without changing the game at all when the player has injected money into it. With other games, when the player puts money in it alters that game.”

“We look at it like we’re running a live casino,” Thomas said. “How do we manage the customers that are at different levels The big difference between us and other companies that are out there is we look at that part of our business as the most important part of it, the live services and the player experience. The guy who’s running it, Matt, came from my design team. I wanted a game designer involved in customer service, as opposed to just a customer service person. For us, that customer experience that is typically viewed as part of the marketing, is still part of the play experience.”

Thomas is optimistic about Monarc’s prospects for the future. “The interesting challenge for us is to be one of the last few large players that could break into a maturing market. In theory, there’s not a lot of room,” Thomas noted. But Monarc has created a game engine that lets them get new slots up quickly, Thomas notes, something that other companies don’t have. And with NHN’s financial backing, Monarc can compete in user acquisition as much as it needs to.

“NHN is used to being a large successful company and being number 1 in the markets they enter. So they got into this to be one of the biggest and most successful in this business,” said Thomas. NHN’s long-term view gives Monarc the ability to weather ups and downs and build a casino that can take on the big players.

 

 

Behind Millennials’ Mobile Obsession

The relationship that millennials have with their phones is affecting broader media consumption habits, a fact which has been clear to publishers for some time, and marketers are eager to tap into it all. But before we address these habits, what does the picture of millennial mobile use look like now

Perhaps some numbers can help put things into perspective…

First, according to Entrepreneur, four out of five millennials own smartphones, compared to only 40 percent of people age 55 and over. Seventy-seven percent of these millennials are using their smartphone daily, which far exceeds that of Generation Xers, who clock in at 60 percent daily usage.

Furthermore, millennials don’t seem to be hopping around from one device to another. Millennials appear to be spending significantly less time with their TVs and computers. Seventy-seven percent of millennials watch TV daily, compared to Generation Xers at 86 percent, and Baby Boomers at 91 percent – a substantial margin of difference.

Going off this, 18 percent of millennials aged 18 to 34 are “mobile-only” web users, compared to only 5 percent of people aged 35 to 54.

Being a brand perceived as tech-savvy is a big deal, too. Thirty-three percent of millennials agreed they would be more likely to recommend a brand if they appear to be tech-savvy.

Worldwide, advertisers will spend $64.25 billion on mobile this year — up 60 percent compared with 2014. By 2018, advertisers will dish out $158.5 billion on mobile, or about 22 percent of all ad spending.

Now more than ever, marketers need to be cognizant of the importance of mobile marketing to millennials. The millennial generation is driving the biggest changes in how companies develop and market products and services in industries across the board.

CREATIVE: Don’t Mess With Marriott’s ‘Two Bellmen’

Marriott’s Content Studio is off to a rollicking start. Now we finally get to see the trailer for the film that Marriott’s content division has been working on which is set at the JW Marriott LA Live hotel.

The film is called Two Bellmen, and from the looks of the trailer, is fairly action-packed.

 

Say Hello To Facebook’s New Ad Format

Facebook is always looking for new ways to catch its social base’s attention with new advertising, and it may have just struck gold with a new format it intends to introduce in spades – the cinemagraph.

Adweek is reporting that Facebook, through both its own site and its wholly-owned Instagram page, will encourage brands to try out the new format, which works like an eye-catching advertisement that stands out from the usual norm, utilizing a half-video, half-photograph style.

“You’re going to start seeing a ton of these on Facebook,” said an advertising executive who has seen Facebook’s guide on the new format, which has been named Hacking Facebook Autoplay.

This isn’t the first time that cinemagraphs have been seen, as they’ve been made famous for the past few years by a pair of artists, Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck, who have spent a good amount of time in the advertising world. It utilizes a similar format to a GIF, but meant to run in an ad format, instead of as a separate video set-up.

Burg and Beck have already perfected using this format on other sites (like Tumblr), and now it appears Facebook wants to give it a try to see how effective it is for both users and advertisers.

“Because of autoplay, brands need to be doing more with this stuff,” said the ad exec. “This is something that plays out with motion in the feed that’s cool.”

Stouffer’s and Coca-Cola have already signed on to give the program a try, with their own advertisements put into play. The video ads would play in motion on a user’s feed without having to click a button. “Advertisers buy it just like video,” said the ad exec.

The ads would run on repeat, and in a non-obtrusive fashion, so it may catch users’ eyes while they scroll down their page.

When it comes to the idea of the cinemagraph, Burg explained that he and Beck were just playing around with “isolated motion” when they came up with the format. They believe it’s ideal when it comes to advertising. “People can’t stop staring at them,” he explained. “Isn’t that what advertisers want ”

And it’s a format that’s beginning to pick up in popularity. “We’ve had all kinds of new inquiries (from brands),” he explained. “They don’t want video that’s so noisy; they want a cinemagraph because it has more elegance.”

No word yet on when Facebook will introduce the program on a wide scale, but it shouldn’t be too long.

You can check out examples of cinemagraphs in action here.

The Game Industry Opens Up To Women

It’s sad but true – some guys believe that video games are clearly their dominion, and that there’s no place for girls in said dominion. But the truth is, there is a place for them – and they’re surely finding their spot within it.

Over the past few years, there’s been an upswing in more women getting involved in the video game community, not only as players, but also as developers and executives who have some say within the industry. It shows balance within said industry, as women clearly have as many good ideas and skills as men – and in some cases, even more.

A report from The Guardian indicates that 52 percent of overall gamers are women – more than half of the industry out there. Granted, a big chunk of them come from the mobile market, where games like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Soda Saga are just as easily accepted by females as they are males. Still, it’s a staggering sign that females do make a difference in the industry as far as playing is concerned.

That’s not all. More professional players are entering the scene, and even though some male gamers still aren’t quite accepting of them as equals, that isn’t stopping companies from opening the doors to them. But there are still limitations, like with certain tournaments holding special events for both males and female without intersecting them, as explained by PC Gamer.

And, of course, some women have prominent roles as developers within the community. Jade Raymond worked as a producer on Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series for years, helping the series prosper before eventually departing the company last year to strike out on her own. And creative director Amy Hennig made a name for herself working on Sony’s Uncharted series, before eventually moving on over to Visceral Games, where she’s hard at work on a top-secret Star Wars game project.

What we’re seeing here is a shift, one that provides a welcome mat to females within the video game industry instead of the usual scornful eye. That’s not to say that everyone is willing to accept them – there are still those skeptics out there – but it seems the industry is becoming more integrated as they find their place within it. And it’s a welcome sight, as many of them provide the kind of ideas and skills that can help the industry move forward.

It’s still an ongoing fight, as some tournaments still refuse to let females compete with males, but slowly but surely, women are finding their place with games. So make room for a player two, guys. They’re here to stay.