Elon Musk, Tesla and ‘Brand Rub’

Just how valuable is the Elon Musk brand right now Well, judging by the news yesterday, the man can send out one tweet about a coming product announcement and almost immediately increase the value of publicly traded stock in Tesla with almost $1 billion.

Pando Daily noted that the electric car maker’s stock to jump nearly 4 percent in just 10 minutes — adding a staggering $900 million to the company’s market cap in just 115 characters after Elon Musk tweeted the news to his 1.87M followers. Now that’s a good earned media ROI!

The man is also a media darling. Just check out some of the recent headlines below.

Even Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak is a fan and loves Tesla and owns one himself. The “Woz” gave his thoughts on what Elon Musk’s April 30th announcement will be on my Facebook wall after I guessed that it’s a line of batteries, see below.

By acting the role of entrepreneur of our age, Musk is increasingly associating innovation with both his personal brand and the Tesla brand.

The following two graphs from bavconsulting.com shows how the Tesla brand is positioned as compared to other car companies as well as hip new media companies.

Tesla Power Grid

Their conclusion:

“All in all, it seems the ‘Elon Musk’ brand has some well-earned innovation credibility that it continues to leverage with new venture ideas such as the Hyperloop. These ventures have a ‘brand rub’ that positively affects Tesla and could help the company sell more cars in the process.”

So no matter what Tesla’s new product line is, it seems like Elon Musk’s midas touch or “brand rub” have a chance to make it a success and the markets blind faith in it is almost scary.

But my guess is that it’s a line of batteries. What’s yours?

What Millennials Are Looking For From Brands

Millennial users — along with Gen Z (born after 1998), for that matter — can be a little hard to predict when it comes to finding an effective advertising program. Yesterday, we posted an article that got more into the minds of millennials. Today, we’re following up with a report posted over at AdWeek, which breaks down just what these types of audiences are seeking from brands.

The latest edition of a Cassandra report by Deep Focus indicates that millennials find email marketing to be acceptable compared to the Gen Z audience. That said, Gen Z believes that online advertising is a more tolerable practice.

28 percent of Gen Z consumers polled by the company indicated that they prefer marketers to reach them through online ads, while only 16 percent of millennials feel the same way.

Jamie Gutfreund, CMO of Deep Focus, indicated that brands that don’t pay attention to the growing Gen Z audience “are losing an opportunity to anticipate the future of consumer behavior,” despite how different they may be from millennials.

The survey actually spoke with over 900 Gen Z consumers, between the ages of seven and 17, along with 500 of their parents, while the millennials consisted of age groups between 18 and 34 years old. As a result, a large infographic was compiled, which you can find below.

The numbers are broken down below, but here are some basic stats reported from the survey . . .

60 percent of those in Gen Z believe a cool product would be better over a cool experience. Meanwhile, 77 percent of those in the millennials group feel that a cool experience would actually be better than product. That’s an interesting reversal.

As far as outreach, millennials prefer email over other forms of contact, with 43 percent over social media’s 29 percent and online ads taking 16 percent. Meanwhile, Gen Z prefers social media by 34 percent, just a nudge over email’s 33 percent.

Favorite websites were a stark difference between the two groups. While millennials prefer the ease of use with Amazon.com, Gen Z feels that watching videos via YouTube is the cool way to go.

Then there’s ad preference, in which both millennials and Gen Z report low numbers when it comes to ads that feature celebrities and athletes. Millennials report 20 percent preference, while Gen Z is a little higher at 27 percent. Meanwhile, ads creating an emotional connection fared a little higher, with 31 percent of millennials preferring them, compared to 20 percent of Gen Z.


On Streaming With Meerkat & Periscope

It seems like practically everyone is talking about Meerkat and Periscope these days. Now that our mobile devices are capable, livestreaming as a medium has finally become possible. Only it’s not at all like making your run-of-the-mill branded video.

We spoke with social strategist at Ayzenberg, Casey Reed, about what marketers really need to know about these platforms and what makes them so distinct from other kinds of video and even other streaming platforms.

Casey Reed, Social Strategist at AyzenbergCasey Reed, Social Strategist at Ayzenberg

Meerkat and Periscope are getting a lot of notice right now from marketers as mobile video in general is really key so far this year. What is different about the content a brand would want to livestream on these or on, say, Twitch, versus posting video on a platform like YouTube or Facebook?

So, for me what separates Meerkat and Periscope from anything else out there is the livestream or live broadcast element. I imagine these platforms more as a longform Snapchat, with the ability to share real-time video content that doesn’t disappear after 10 seconds. It’s far more inherently social, tapping into the existing desire of consumers to share our experiences as we’re living them.

For brands, livestream video apps offer a lot of potential for the industry to both connect with their community on a more personal level but also drive business objectives. Working with brands on social marketing, we’re always looking for ways to bridge the gap between events and our social communities. There’s an element about a live experience that your 2:00 edited-down highlight reel on YouTube doesn’t capture.

People at home suddenly are able to get in on the action as its happening, rather than wait five days for a recap video on Facebook or YouTube. The impact of this on brands is invaluable for connecting audiences across platforms. Oftentimes brands pay millions of dollars just to have a presence at a live event, festival, convention or other experiential activation. You sit and hope for AdWeek or Mashable to pick up on it, but the reach is limited to those in the space. One could argue that the costs behind creating unique and clever stunts at trade-only events doesn’t always pay off. However, Livestream direct-to-mobile video sharing makes what happens on the ground so much more accessible and intimate.

You can also pick and choose how to frame the on-site events and package it to the audience at home. You can release exclusive interviews behind major product announcements, capture stunts, show audience reactions, give people at home a tour of your footprint on the grounds . . . It’s a really neat social way to compliment existing video or event coverage.

What are the audiences like on Meerkat and Periscope from what you can discern? What are some key functionalities and differences?

The greatest difference between Periscope and Meerkat audiences at first glance seems to be industry consumer versus social consumer. Periscope, due to its connection with Twitter, looks to be more brand-friendly and most likely delivers content to consumers interested in the advertising field — an audience that likely engages with brand content on other channels. Meerkat, thanks to SXSW, grew quickly as a real-time social video sharing platform similar to Snapchat. It looks to cast a wider net, but may be harder for brands to enter the conversation in an authentic manner.

My initial preference for marketing with Livestream video content is with Periscope, mostly because of the seamless integration with Twitter. Meerkat videos can be shared with your Twitter audience, but Periscope takes the integration a few steps further:

  • When users sign up for Periscope, Periscope makes suggestions on who to follow based on Twitter connections. For brands with large Followings on Twitter, this ability to build from an existing fanbase gives Periscope a leg up over Meerkat.
  • Prior to broadcasting, you may select the bird icon, which will share your Periscope broadcast with your existing Twitter fanbase.

A few other benefits of Periscope over Meerkat for brands:

  • Replay: Once your livestream or broadcast has finished, you can opt to keep it available for replay for the next 24 hours. Or rather, it will be available for replay for 24 hours unless you delete it, which you can do at any time.
  • Private: The private option allows you to select who to send your broadcast to. Down the road, this could be used by brands to send videos to target audiences or surprise-and-delight specific fans with unique content addressed only to them.

What kinds of things have you seen on Meerkat and Periscope that has caught your eye?

HEARTS! Periscope has this really fun yet beautiful way to encourage engagement using hearts. On Instagram, you can only “heart” a piece of content once to show you “like” it. On Periscope, users can engage with the videos they see, sending “hearts” that flutter up the side of the screen. The more hearts your video content gets, the higher up the hearts float on the screen, and the higher up you (as a brand or handle) appear in Periscope’s list of “Most Loved.”

On both platforms it looks like the comments aggregate in real-time, or bubble up over the content as it plays. This is a cool way of allowing your community to experience it all together, though separately through each individual’s device. But this could also inhibit the viewing experience. I think there’s a way to turn this feature off, but it’s a good question to ask before diving in as a brand.

What do marketers need to know about livestreaming before they dive into it?

Well, the above. Marketers should toy around with livestreaming apps themselves to learn more about the functionalities and natural behaviors, to inform how to create the best viewing experience. Functionalities like the hearts and bubbling-up comments could be cool for friend-to-friend video sharing, but may become distracting on livestreams with larger audiences.

Brands should also be observant of how social behaviors form on new platforms as they emerge. There are certain platforms on which brands and users don’t coexist as naturally as they do on, say, Facebook or Instagram. Users on Tumblr and Snapchat show resistance to seeing brands try to get in on the fun.

Plays.TV Set To Create Gaming Moments

Everyone wants to get in on the social gaming action these days, especially with the likes of Twitch.tv drumming up 100 million monthly viewers that watch gameplay for hours on end. Now, a spin-off from gaming site Raptr wants to capture these moments for gamers to watch any time.

Re/Code reports that Raptr has launched Plays.tv, a new channel that works closely with PC gamers. It enables users to download an application that records game screens any time they play, and they can simply press a key and have a short clip ready to share with the rest of the gaming community. Plays.tv connects with a number of social sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, so clips can be shared outside of its site.

“Games are designed to have these moments of delight,” Raptr CEO Dennis Fong said. “It’s a pretty cool moment that’s a window into other people and for discovering new games, new worlds and new experiences.”

Users can decide how long a game clip to record, anywhere from 20 seconds to 20 minutes. Fong believes this casual approach could easily drive “tens of millions” of users onto the site to create their own gaming memories.

Raptr built the site with a little help from new funding, as it raised $14 million through partners like AMD, Accel Partners, DAG Ventures and Tenaya Capital.

As innovative as this sounds, Sony does something similar with its PlayStation 4, enabling users to share gaming sessions simply with the push of a button (marked SHARE) and then edit their gameplay clips for upload to YouTube and other sites. However, Plays.tv focuses more on the PC gaming community, where there are thousands of titles available – and way more opportunity to diversify broadcasts with content from more popular games like League of Legends, as well as more obscure titles.

Fong believes that the new service won’t be direct competition to Twitch, since it’s being optimized for longer video sessions and live viewing events, including forthcoming eSports tournaments that weren’t yet detailed.

How successful Plays.tv will be depends on what kind of audience it brings in. But, with a tie-in to the Raptr service, it has a chance for success. Here’s hoping the team goes places with it – and creates a few memories in the process.

Warner Bros. Wins Over Gamers

Warner Bros.’ games division is slowly pacing itself for a stellar 2015, between such forthcoming hits as Mortal Kombat X, Batman: Arkham Knight and Mad Max. Today, it announced two new promotions that are sure to get gamers excited – and rake in dollars for its highly-regarded franchises at the same time.

First up, as reported by MCV UK, the publisher will kick off three major pro tournaments in alignment with the forthcoming launch of Mortal Kombat X, the latest in the bloody brawling franchise. The publisher recently introduced its Mortal Kombat Worldwide Competitive Program, which will host the tournaments. Players will be able to compete across the globe for cash and other prizes, using their favorite characters from the Kombat series.

The campaign kicks off on April 19, as Xbox One owners in North America and Europe can compete in the Mortal Kombat X ESL Pro League Tournament’s weekly competitions. From there, 16 finalists will emerge, and battle in the grand finals in Los Angeles on July 11.

The Mortal Kombat Cup will also offer plenty of competition over the summer, with finalists competing in the Japan Expo in Paris on July 5th. Finally, the Fatal 8 Exhibition Tournament kicks off April 11, with tickets being offered through NetherRealm’s Twitch channel, where highlights of Mortal Kombat X were recently shown.

“NetherRealm Studios is a huge supporter of the pro fighting game scene and to be able to work with ESL on the Pro League Tournament allows us to take the Mortal Kombat X competition beyond what we’ve ever done before,” series co-creator Ed Boon said.  “We’ve seen some incredible match-ups in the past and we can’t wait to see what this next level of competition brings.”

Mortal Kombat X arrives in stores and on the digital marketplace on April 14 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions will arrive over the summer.

Meanwhile, for those that aren’t so heavily into Kombat – or simply just want to be Batman – WB Games has an offer for them as well. The publisher has announced a joint partnership with Sony Computer Entertainment America to introduce a limited edition Batman Arkham Knight PlayStation 4 bundle, which will be available on June 23, the same day the game releases.

For $449.99, users can buy the limited edition Batman system, which comes with a grey-colored system and similarly colored controller, as well as a copy of Arkham Knight for play. A regular bundle featuring Arkham Knight will be on sale as well, with a regularly-colored system, for $399.99.

The item is sure to be a collector’s item amongst Batman fans, and Sony has already launched pre-orders for the system, for those that are interested.

WB Games is having a killer year – and it’s not even summer yet.

Making Money As a Professional Gamer

Professional gamers can now make an excellent living from playing games, but it’s not just revenue from eSports tournaments or from live streams via Twitch and YouTube. There are a variety of ways to make money from eSports – if you’re good enough. The Huffington Post recently posted an article discussing how money can be made from professional video games, talking to various people within the industry.

For instance, Lauri “Cyanide” Happonen managed to make a decent living, after becoming a Season 1 World Champion in a renowned League of Legends tournament. He’s since retired, but continues to stream sessions through Twitch.tv. He’s done pretty well for himself, gathering 9.5 million collective views, with over 150,000 followers.

Between streaming and making YouTube videos, he’s managed to drum up a pretty good income. His eight tutorial videos currently on his channel have managed to gather 900,000 views, with over 40,000 subscribers in all.

“Cyanide” is just one of the many stories out there. Another user, Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana, at age 23, has managed to amass $8,000 monthly through streaming, thanks to an audience of around 18,000-40,000 with each of his streams, gathering 83 million collective views in all.

Twitch provide plenty of means to make money, after becoming a verified Twitch partner in its network. This earns them a portion of the revenues generated from the broadcast, but also provides users the opportunity to subscribe to the channel for $4.99, with access to extra perks like exclusive emoticons and other uses in chat.

To effectively create Twitch partners, the user must have 500 concurrent videos and stream at least three times a week. From there, “effective cost per 1000 impressions” (or eCPM) are measured, with starting users earning $.70 to $1.40 per view, but eventually gaining speed into the $1.00-$2.50 range.

The streamer has control of advertisements, including revenue and brand that ties in with them, and can earn $1.00 eCPM with three commercials per hour and 2,000 concurrent viewers. With those numbers, a user can easily earn $240 weekly, or $960 a month – or even more of they get more viewers and eCPM – up to around $6,400 monthly, or as you can see above, even higher.

The more subscribers a user gets, the more they earn in revenue from there, as 100 subscribers would equal $250 extra per month for these Twitch partners. More could obviously add up to more money, while making the streaming channel extra revenue as well. (Subscribers also have the option of adding a Paypal button for donations, or prize giveaways.)

In addition, streamers can earn revenue through select sponsorships, who can team up with either individual players or eSports-related teams. There’s also room for digital space, so the streamers can add their own special links to social pages, Paypal and other links, including affiliation to companies like Amazon. Monthly traffic through these sites can generate revenue as well, depending on referrals to the site. For instance, 100 people purchasing $500 worth of gaming gear would equal earnings of around $3,250 per month through Amazon alone.

YouTube opens up a revenue channel as well, as users can link their game sessions to their devoted pages, and earn money based on Google’s advertisement model. This can mean $.90 CPM for video banner ads, and an average of $6.50 for pre-roll video ads. Calculate a high number of views for these, and it’s easy money for the streamer.

Top streamers can make around $100,000 or more yearly, according to Jeffrey “Trump” Shih, who recently spoke with Forbes about the business. Sponsorships make up a big part of that, although some players also offer coaching lessons to novice players to earn money on the site (with an income of around $1,500 monthly for private StarCraft II sessions alone).

Being a professional gamer that makes a living from streaming takes time and patience. An audience won’t come overnight, even with the greatest of gimmicks, and social media outreach plays a huge part as well. However, those truly devoted to it will definitely find a way, and that’s an opportunity in itself.

MLG President Mike Sepso On Why ‘Call Of Duty’ Is Heading To Arenas

While eSports like Riot Games’ League of Legends, Valve’s Dota 2 and Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft II steal most of the spotlight in professional gaming, Call of Duty continues to rise in the ranks as a global eSports powerhouse. The partnership between Major League Gaming (MLG), Activision and Microsoft known as the Call of Duty Championship has grown exponentially over the last five years.

After being open to the public as part of Activision’s Call of Duty XP event, the past three years have seen the Los Angeles-based $1 million tournament rely on MLG.tv, CallofDuty.com and Xbox Live livestreaming to reach millions of fans. This year, the event was open to the public at the LA Event Center across the street from the Staples Center, which hosted the League of Legends Championship a couple years ago. Having actual fans fill the stands instead of just friends and family members made a big difference in the atmosphere. It also helped that the 32-team tournament format saw most of the top teams, including last year’s finalists, eliminated early.

The exciting format opened the door for a brand new team, Team Revenge, to make it all the way to the Championship match; although they ultimately lost to Denial, which took home $400,000, top prize in the $1 million cash pool. Mike Sepso, president and co-founder of MLG, was on hand to make sure all of the drama was livestreamed to millions of gamers worldwide. He explains why Call of Duty’s growth will one day soon fill a sports arena in this exclusive interview.

How have you seen this Call of Duty Championship evolve over the last couple of years?

The growth over the years is off the charts. We’ve already had more viewers watch more hours in two days than we did all of last year. So viewership is going through the roof. It’s great this year because we were able to have a live audience. Those tickets sold out in a couple of hours, so it was pretty cool. And the energy is awesome this year and the competition is amazing. The teams from the rest of the world have definitely increased their skill level and they’re a lot better. We had so many upsets on Day 2 with top teams getting out of the tournament early. It’s been really interesting.

So we’re starting to see parity in Call of Duty, which the U.S. used to dominate.

We’re seeing there’s some talent in the rest of the world. Because there’s an MLG Pro League in the US, they don’t get as much kind of practice at the top level as the U.S. teams do, so that makes a huge difference. But they are playing more and through our partnerships with groups like Gfinity and CEVO. We’re building up that infrastructure in Europe, so those teams are definitely getting better.

How are the EXO suits in Call of Duty Advanced Warfare impacting the actual gameplay experience for pros and audiences?

It’s pretty cool. It adds a whole new dimension to the game. You’re not just running around on the ground. You’ve got three dimensions to work with. It adds an element of speed, it adds an element of surprise and it really extends the area of the gameplay. You have a whole new vertical dimension to play in.

We’ve seen eSports dominated by PC games like League of Legends, Dota 2 and StarCraft II. What potential do you see with Call of Duty and other games on the console side?

We’re starting to see Call of Duty on the Xbox catch up to the PC world. Certainly in the U.S. it already has, and I think in parts of Europe like the UK and France it’s huge, and in Australia it’s huge. We’re seeing it grow really quickly in Brazil. We’re going to see some parity there as well.

Do you see Call of Duty as a better mainstream entry point to eSports versus a more complex MOBA like League of Legends?

Call of Duty is the most successful video game franchise in the history of the industry. There are over 20 million people playing Call of Duty and it’s been around for so long. It’s such a recognized brand and it’s also more accessible. You play it on your Xbox in your living room. You don’t need a really super high-end computer to play it on, so especially for the North American market it’s a much easier entry point. It’s also easier to just be a spectator who’s not necessarily a player because you can tell what’s going on.

Call of Duty was part of MLG’s first X-Games event.  How have you seen ESPN help introduce more people to esports?

The integration with X-Games opened us up to a whole new market and added some credibility, since we’re able to make MLG’s Call of Duty competition a Gold Medal event at the X-Games right next to all the other action and racing sports. It’s been great. And interestingly, it’s huge at the X-Games. It’s one of the biggest competitions in terms of spectators and in terms of ticket sales, and these pro teams like Optic, Faze and Envyus are absolutely super popular with the X-Games audience.

When it comes to eSports these days, we’ve seen arenas like Stapes Center and soccer stadiums around the world sell out. Do you see Call of Duty being able to attract that kind of attendance?

Yeah, I definitely think so. At our major Call of Duty events you can tell people get pretty excited about the game and we’ve had up to 10,000 attendees. It’s about finding the right format too. We don’t necessarily want to rush right into arenas just because it’s great for watching. We also like the community aspect, and having a bigger open format for the game to get more amateur players in and people trying to qualify in to become pro. We have different models. We’ll be selling out arenas in the U.S. for Call of Duty very soon.

How many people actually watch this championship through MLG.tv livestreams?

Several million were watching this weekend. It’s pretty substantial. It’s a big audience. It’s comparative with other eSports, and with traditional sports as well at this point.

Where do you see Call of Duty five years from now as an eSport?

It’s going to continue to be one of the fastest-growing eSports titles because of the support that Activision puts into it and the level of communication and interaction we have with the studios. You can already see the advances that are happening every year in terms of integrations into the games specifically for the eSports community, whether it’s the gameplay, the weapon balance, the maps being created, the game modes; and on the broadcast side the spectator modes and all the tools that are being built into the game to help us make the broadcast better.


Michelle Phan And Endemol Roll Out Global Lifestyle Network in US, UK

by Jessica Klein

Endemol Shine Group and Michelle Phan are launching Icon, a global lifestyle network, in the U.S. and U.K. on March 31.

Phan is the creative lead of the network, which includes premium content in the areas of beauty, fashion, food, DIY, human interest, travel, and health. Icon will also include new series and videos from online influencers such as Ann Le, Cassey Ho (aka Blogilates), Promise PhanCharis Lincoln, and Rae from The Raeviewer.

Icon will also showcase newer digital talent, including Sonya Esman (a “Russian/Canadian digital superstar”), celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg, and several others.

Here’s a list of the new, original series that will debut on Icon…

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.


Fixing Free-To-Play’s Image Problem

Free-to-play games are a burgeoning business model that has taken over mobile games, is defining the MMO game sector, and is now popping up on consoles. The seemingly unstoppable advance of this business model has many longtime, hardcore gamers on edge — a look at the comments sections on consumer websites will show that quickly whenever a free-to-play game is mentioned.

The problem of free-to-play’s image is even more important when you realize how widespread it’s becoming. Many pay-up-front console games now have microtransactions in them — this isn’t just buying a major piece of downloadable content (DLC) like a map pack, but items and improvements that may even be consumables. Those are mechanics directly imported from free-to-play games, grafted into premium games. Is it any wonder players get upset Look what happened with Diablo III, where originally the game included an Auction House where you could buy and sell items for real money (with Blizzard taking a cut).It turned out this meant that item drops in the game weren’t as much fun, and thus Blizzard eventually removed it, much to the delight of fans.

The problem hasn’t escaped the notice of industry leaders. Nintendo’s CEO Satoru Iwata took up the issue when discussing Nintendo’s move into mobile games. “I do not like to use the term ‘Free-to-play,'” Iwata said. “I have come to realize that there is a degree of insincerity to consumers with this terminology, since so-called ‘Free-to-play’ should be referred to more accurately as ‘Free-to-start.’

Peter Molyneux added some comments about free-to-play at a recent Game Connection. “We’re taking a huge hammer and smashing [our customers] with it. ‘You will pay, or you will not enjoy!’ We’re treating them like children. We’re beating up our consumers, and saying, ‘be patient, or pay more!,’ said Molyneux.

Laralyn McWilliams, former creative director on Sony Online Entertainment’s Free Realms, had this to say about free-to-play games: “Think about Candy Crush Saga, which I’ve played a lot and I really like, but it’s a great example of this. The moment that you monetise in Candy Crush you’re probably extremely frustrated. You want to get past this level you’ve failed to complete 40 or 50 times, and that’s the moment you spend. But mixed into that moment where you spend is that frustration. It’s building a bad connection. I’m not monetising at a positive moment. An example I’ve used before is the person leaving the Apple store with a new iPhone after having stood in line all day, and they’re like, “Yes!” Isn’t that how we want people to feel when they spend money They should feel awesome.”

How did this image problem arise, and how can it be fixed. First of all, it’s important to realize that not all free-to-play games suffer from a stigma. League of Legends is enormously successful, projected to bring in well over $1 billion this year — and it’s free-to-play. Clearly the game’s players don’t have a problem with how the game is monetized, and the free-to-play model has seemed to accelerate the growth of the game rather than hold it back in any way. World of Tanks is similarly successful, with over 100 million players worldwide. What do those games have in common. You are not limited in how much you can play, and you can earn anything important in the game completely through play without spending any money.

The games that people most often seem to complain about are ones that limit gameplay, usually by time-gating. A typical mechanic is that you only have so many lives, or so much energy, and when that’s used up you must wait until it returns (which often takes several hours). In many games, you may start construction something (an army, or a fortification, for instance) but it takes time to construct. So you can either wait until tomorrow when it’s completed, or spend money to build it faster.

A particularly annoying game mechanic for some people is the ability to buy power in a game. You feel your pistol isn’t killing zombies fast enough spend some money to get flame thrower or an automatic weapon. That may be okay in a single player game, but when you’re competing against other players it can be disheartening to realize you’re losing because they spent more money than you did. (However, this is perfectly acceptable in China, and in fact is how most of the games work there. It’s a cultural difference.)

So where does the answer lie Isn’t this purely a product development issue, something the game designers should fix. Actually, no, the game designers need to hear this from marketing… and marketers need to help craft a solution that’s in keeping with the nature of the game. The best games at monetizing have that business model designed in from the start. Wargaming’s CEO Victor Kislyi likes to call his games “free-to-win” rather than free-to-play, because you can win at the games without spending any money.

Waving the wand of PR over your free-to-play game isn’t going to fix this. The reality is that there are and will continue to be free-to-play games, especially on mobile platforms, that are annoying and gouging consumers. Just like the plague of quick copies of games with similar names that show up around any hit mobile games, this is an annoying part of mobile gaming that no amount of wishing will make disappear. We have to deal with it, and that’s by affirmatively making the free-to-play games we are directly involved with fun and not limited in annoying ways. If you’re going to use free-to-play as a business model in some way, you have the potential to reach a huge audience — but they should be able to get a complete and fun game experience without spending money.

The challenge for marketers is to work with game designers find positive ways to spend money in the game that make players happy, not just relieve the annoyance you’ve built into the game. Games are, at their core, about having fun — and spending money should get you more fun, not remove barriers to having fun at all.

Marketers then need to communicate to players (and potential players) that the game has a complete fun experience without spending. Don’t try to hide the fact that there are ways to spend money — you should be celebrating it. If you are embarrassed at that thought, that’s a signal there’s something wrong with how you’re monetizing your game.

Properly done free-to-play games, when given enough time, do an excellent job of marketing themselves through the community of players who are enjoying the heck out of the game. Those players become (unpaid) evangelists, and they are very effective at getting friends to sign up. Enlisting their help starts with a great game with the right monetization — and that’s something you get when marketers and game designers work together.

Fixing the image problem of free-to-play games requires more than just a coat of shiny marketing — the game has to be constructed properly from the ground up. It’s a team effort, and everyone needs to know that from the beginning. Marketers, it’s up to you to start by convincing game designers and programmers that you are an essential part of this, not someone they call in at the end of the project to make some money for them.

Microsoft Looks To Win The Holidays With ‘Halo 5: Guardians’

Ever since its cryptic reveal at Microsoft’s pre-E3 press conference back in 2013, Microsoft has been building considerable buzz behind its highly anticipated sequel, Halo 5: Guardians. This weekend, it pushed the hype train even further, not only unveiling a pair of live-action ads for the forthcoming game, but also the much-anticipated release date: October 27.

The two live-action ads are featured below, and feature “both sides of the story,” from both the perspective of the main hero, Master Chief, as well as a new UNSC-based hero named Spartan Locke. Both of these stories should provide a new take on the single player campaign that players have gotten used to over the years, from previous games.

In addition, Guardians will also come with a new multiplayer mode, featuring a variety of match styles and maps for players to tackle, along with a wide range of weapons, including familiar favorites and new additions. This mode recently got a great deal of attention with the launch of a limited beta on Xbox One, which drew in thousands of fans who took part in sessions.

“We wanted Halo 5: Guardians to be the game that pays off the epic promise of the Halo universe in scope and scale and drama,” said Bonnie Ross, Head of 343 Industries. “We want to amaze players with the sheer size of the worlds and battles they’ll experience, even as they question everything they thought they knew about its heroes, marvels and mysteries. #HunttheTruth is only the beginning and we can’t wait to debut the game to Xbox fans around the world at E3 this June.”

The ads, which partly aired during the season finale of The Walking Dead, drew a large number of viewers, and also tied in to an ongoing Hunt the Truth Tumblr blog, which features actor/comedian Keegan-Michael Key as Benjamin Giraud, a journalist trying to uncover the truth behind the events in Guardians, as well as Master Chief’s mysterious past.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this campaign, however, is the reveal of a release date, as Microsoft will ship Halo 5: Guardians, both in physical and digital form, worldwide starting October 27th. That puts it in a pivotal spot for the forthcoming holiday season, giving it plenty of time to take on any heavy competition, including Ubisoft’s forthcoming Assassin’s Creed Victory and Activision’s forthcoming Call of Duty game, which hasn’t yet been announced.

Better yet, it gives Microsoft the jump on its main competition at Sony, since that team hasn’t announced its holiday plans as of yet. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was originally considered to be the “big-seller” for the PlayStation 4 over the holiday season, but developer Naughty Dog recently delayed that title to spring 2016, leaving quite a void for Sony to fill.

Considering the best-selling success of Microsoft’s Halo games – including The Master Chief Collection, which launched on the Xbox One late last year – Guardians should have no trouble being a significant seller for the console. Now all eyes are on the forthcoming E3 event, where the game should have a huge presence, alongside Microsoft’s other holiday offerings for the system.