Why Brands Need To Hop On The Snapchat Bandwagon

Snapchat has clearly become the newest social media platform that possesses a young audience intrepid brands are yearning to capture.

Brands who already have a presence on Snapchat are communicating with teenagers and millennials successfully more than any other platform. This shouldn’t come as surprise considering teenagers and millennials are responsible for about half of Snapchat’s estimated 100+ million users.

Snapchat recently released (with it’s last official update) a new function called Discover.

Discover is a series of partnerships linked with various media outlets such as Cosmopolitan, CNN, National Geographic, Vice, and others. The objective is to place content (both video and even full text articles) from those brands on Snapchat. Discover allows brands to have a permanent place on the service for the first time. The function has allowed the platform to reach Generation X’s and Babyboomers with more success and in ways brands are desperate to get involved with. It’s speculated that these newfound partnerships with formal brands will propel Snapchat forward as a growing social network.

This being said, Discover isn’t an option for most brands at the moment. What this means for other brands is, if you want to create a presence on Snapchat, you’re going to have play the game by the same rules as consumers – utilizing stories within Snapchat.

Stories enable brands to broadcast to thousands, as opposed to the one-to-one limitations that came from Snapchat’s origins, in ways familiar to that of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. More so, brand activity on Snapchat can cause an increase in user awareness on other social media platforms as well.

“Brand awareness is hard to measure, but social monitoring conversations is easy to measure, and if brands do something good on Snapchat, people will talk about it and will talk about it on Twitter and Facebook,” Adobe Social product manager Carmen Sutter said, according to TechRepublic.

While stories is over a year old, it’s coming under renewed attention now that Discover is reawakening some brands to Snapchat. Discover is helping them realize that Snapchat can be a one-to-many channel. While virtually none of them can get into Discover right now, they can create leverage via stories instead.

Snapchat is no longer an app solely pertaining to people younger than 24-years-old. The brands that have been starting to sign up and figure out how to best manipulate Snapchat as a social media platform have begun to garner an overwhelming amount of attention and hype recently – unlike most of the other lagging brands out there.

Through use of Discover and stories, Snapchat is now reaching several difficult-to-reach demographics in ways other brands covet. Brands that intend to make a name for themselves or grow by means of broadcasting on social media platforms should hop on the Snapchat bandwagon A.S.A.P.

3 Takeaways For Marketers From WMC 2015

In case you missed it while at GDC in San Francisco, across the pond, the Mobile World Congress was happening at the same time. It’s a gathering of the biggest mobile hardware makers in the world in Barcelona, Spain, where they show off their latest and greatest gadgets and talk trends and business.

The [a]listdaily has summarized the following take-aways from across the web from a marketer’s POV:

Mobile Marketers Choose To Focus On VR

From The Verge:

“… this year saw an explosion of interest in virtual reality, which is more associated with the Game Developer Conference held concurrently in California. It almost felt like there was more VR stuff here at MWC than there was two months ago at CES, which includes a much broader range of technology products… VR’s explosion at MWC this year highlights where we’re at with mobile technology and technology in general. Smartphones are so pervasive, so common, that even major new device announcements from the largest companies in the world don’t engender the same excitement they might have a few years ago. Samsung will surely sell more Galaxy S6 smartphones this year than all of the VR headset makers combined have to date. But for lovers of technology, what’s more exciting: a new smartphone that’s just marginally better than last year’s model or an entirely new experience unlike anything before it Based on the buzz surrounding HTC’s Vive (which isn’t even a finished product), the answer to that question is clear.”

Mobile Marketing Moves From CPI To Brand Campaigns

From CNBC:

“There is a resurgence of unique creative within mobile. With 2014’s trend of video having run its course, brands and agencies are looking to differentiate their branding on mobile platforms by using unique ad units that can be transacted using programmatic direct platforms, an emerging tool in the ad-tech space that integrates directly into the ad servers of the publishers to avoid fraudulent inventory. No longer is mobile marketing the “cost per install” market it was in the past. The big pivot in the ad-tech space is the rapid pace that brand dollars are now entering the ecosystem. Using the same strategy to drive a $1 install of a game is very different than trying to influence the purchase of a $90,000 car. This gap will undoubtedly lead to massive change in the coming years as traditional ad units and technology will be replaced by new companies, platforms and new activation-based marketing techniques powered by technologies like Bluetooth and innovative devices such as wearables.”

How A Chinese Smartwatch Became The Surprise Hit Of The Show

From The Verge:

“The Huawei Watch has turned heads, if nothing else, which could have a knock-on effect for the company’s phones. But even if Huawei’s efforts come to nothing, it’s notable that a company best known for routers and cell towers is even attempting to join the conversation around fashion and high-touch industrial design. Huawei would be one of the least likely US brand successes of all time, but as its Mobile World Congress presence shows, wearable technology is new enough to be anyone’s game.”

Some Thoughts…

While it’s no news that telecoms and mobile in particular, have become one of the biggest industries in the world, mobile is just emerging as an advertising and branding medium. It’s also interesting to note that there is still so much opportunity for innovation and not just in terms of products and services.

Looking at what’s going on in Silicon Valley and where VC investment is going, we should be see the next wave of mobile innovation also happen an an organizational and systems level. The “sharing” economy that is powering new services such as AirBnB and Uber is yet to come to the mobile world and with that we’ll probably see a lot of new brands emerging as access to the Internet via mobile is becoming a utlity.

Infrastructure blog CircleID points to Tim Höttges, the CEO of Deutsche Telekom, who indicated that from a technology perspective this means that what we will see is: softwarization, virtualization, convergence (of infrastructure) and data analytics (connecting different value chains). CircleID also adds gamification to this, for educational purposes.

“The end result for customers will have to be that use of services, applications and devices is effortless,” he says.

With all this going on, the mobile space will be one for marketers to follow closely this year, because these devices are now powerful enough and running on high-speed networks making everything from VR to big beautiful immersive branding campaigns to rival TV  a reality for the masses.

Are you ready?

7 Stats That Show YouTube’s Power Over Youth

By: Jessica Klein

Younger viewers have begun to consider YouTube as their go-to viewing hub over traditional television. Not only did 13- to 24-year-olds report that they were more entertained by YouTube content than traditional TV shows, according to Defy Media’s new Acument Report: Constant Content, but they also espouse lots of respect for YouTube creators. In fact, 69 percent of those between 13 and 17 suggested that YouTube stars could be perfectly successful TV or movie stars.

Defy conducted this survey with Hunter Qualitative Research and KnoWhy Research. The companies surveyed 1,350 people between the ages of 13 and 24. Here’s some statistics they got indicating the growing power of YouTube over young people.

1. Millennials watch 11.3 hours of free online video per week.

They also report watching 10.8 hours of weekly subscription digital video. Meanwhile, this demographic only watches 8.3 hours of scheduled television each week. Guess which category YouTube falls under

2. YouTube videos are rated higher by 13- to 24-year-olds than free broadcast and cable TV offerings online.

It’s not even digital vs. linear TV that’s determining entertainment levels for millennials. Content that originates on YouTube is simply more entertaining according to 76 percent of millennials surveyed, while just 55 percent feel that way about free TV offerings online.

3. The older millennials get, the more polished they want their YouTube content.

While 46 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds say they’re more likely to watch content on YouTube that looks more “polished,” 57 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 go for the professional-looking videos on the video platform.

Read more…

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.

GDC 2015: Microsoft, Sony Preview The Future

The flurry of announcements and sessions at GDC continues, and the two most important companies in the console market aren’t just sitting on their hands. Both Microsoft and Sony made some important announcements, and by looking at what was said (and not said) you can get an idea of what’s going to be important to them in the coming year. After all, GDC is the most important show of the year for influencing developers and the rest of the business. E3 and Gamescom are big, but they are aimed at influencing the consumers. GDC is where companies have a chance to influence the development community and the businesses that serve them, so actions taken here can have an outsized influence over the rest of the year.

Sony’s clearly putting a tremendous effort into VR with Project Morpheus, and it shows. The company’s demos are more impressive, the hardware looks more refined, and for the first time Sony has given a hint about a ship date: the first half of 2016. The screen resolution is now 1920 x 1080with a refresh rate (doubled from last year) of 120Hz, and the new 5.7-inch screen also has a higher field of view (nearly 100 degrees). The latency is now significantly lower, under 18 milliseconds. The OLED screen produces gorgeous colors, too. There are now nine LED sensors on the outside, providing better resolution to the PlayStation Eye camera for better tracking.

Sony’s got great game development resources to put into Project Morpheus, of course, but let’s not forget Sony Pictures as a possible source of content — and all of the Hollywood connections there. There should be no shortage of VR experiences ready for Project Morpheus next year.

Sony’s got a comfortable lead in the console market, but as that competition heats up they will need to bring more to the table — and Project Morpheus looks like it’s a major part of Sony’s plans. One advantage Project Morpheus will have is that it’s integrated into a complete ecosystem already. Sony’s got proven controllers (the Dual Shock and the Move, both of which are readily tracked by the Eye camera), the Eye camera, and the power of the PS4. We’re not exactly sure what other hardware you might need for an Oculus Rift, but if you have a PS4 you’ve already got the core you need for Project Morpheus. That should make the hardware an easier sell.

Don’t ignore the PlayStation Network, either, which will be able to easily deliver new content for Project Morpheus. There are a lot of moving parts necessary to make VR a viable business, and Sony already has the essential pieces. What remains is more engineering, and a lot of hard work integrating all those pieces — and constructing the right marketing strategy for them. And, of course, the content, which is really the key. The hardware is only important in that it delivers the experience, but if the experience isn’t compelling enough, it won’t matter how good the marketing or the hardware or the business model is.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is making headway on its grand effort to unify its various platforms under Windows 10. The company released more information at GDC, and Phil Spencer outlined the core. Microsoft wants to enable one identity, one universal app, one store, and one game that runs across all Windows devices, Spencer said. “The core product of what you are building will extend across the whole Windows 10 community including Xbox,†he said. “Our investment in Windows Store has never been higher than it is now. You will be able to develop and distribute your game across the entire ecosystem using that one store.â€

Meanwhile, indie developers continue to be important to Microsoft. ID@Xbox director Chris Charla confirmed the program would soon cover Windows 10, enabling developers to self-publish on an array of Windows devices, from phones to tablets to the upcoming HoloLens. Microsoft will leave it up to developers to determine whether they will allow touchscreen, keyboard, and game pad players to play with each other. To date, Charla said the ID@ Xbox program has seen more than 1,000 Xbox One dev kits sent to indies and 40 games shipped, with more on the way.

Looming over all of the Windows 10 talk is the impact that DirectX12 is likely to have by significantly increasing game performance on the Xbox One as well as on PCs. We’re going to see more graphics power unleashed by DirectX12, and with Windows 10 going across platforms (including mobile devices), developers will be able to bring games to more devices faster. Microsoft even announced an upcoming device that will let you use all your Xbox One peripherals on PCs, though the price wasn’t shared. There’s also the streaming functionality that will let you play your Xbox One games on Windows 10 devices…. and possible vice-versa as well.

Microsoft is finally unleashing the power of its PC market share to influence its success in the console market — as well as using its gaming strength on PCs and on mobile. The Xbox Live service is being given an important role on the new Windows (with an Xbox app for everyone running Windows 10), which means games will be more important, too. This is all part of Microsoft’s strategy to wrest the console leadership away from Sony, and to make Microsoft more of a player in the mobile market.

It’s going to be an interesting year ahead for console gaming.

SXSW Interactive’s Director On How The Event Has Evolved

A mainstay on many marketers’ calendars, SXSW, and especially SXSW Interactive, has changed a lot, right alongside the industries that meet within it. Beyond being a showcase and meeting place for those in entertainment and marketing, brands continue to leverage the event due to its sheer mass. SXSW runs from March 13 through to the 22nd with its Interactive, Film and Music segments overlapping, with other events running under those banners.

Hugh Forrest, Director of SXSW InteractiveHugh Forrest, Director of SXSW Interactive, photographed by Rusty Hodge

Take, for example, the Gaming Expo, which is free and open to the public and attracts brands, games and gamers alike as festival-goers rove from one event to another.

“I think that’s strong testimony to the strength and power of the geek community in 2015,” says director of SXSW Interactive, Hugh Forrest. “Said another way, its really exciting that so many of these brands are using the power of the SXSW platform to expand their reach.”

In an exclusive interview with [a]listdaily, Hugh talks about the growth of the event, what the hottest areas of growth are, brand involvement and how SXSW has evolved over the years.

How has festival attendance grown in the past few years? Are you seeing certain parts aspects of the festival grow faster in comparison to others?

We have a 10-year growth cycle from 2004 to 2014. Much of this growth was fueled by startups and social media — people were coming to SXSW to learn (what we now consider) very basic aspects of social media. The social media side of things has cooled off a little in recent years, simply because we are no longer in the discovery phase of this industry. But, SXSW Interactive still remains an incredibly relevant event for the digital creative community, particularly as this community tries to understand the impact of the rapidly-changing hardware ecosystem. Indeed, verticals like 3D printing, the Internet of Things, drones, robots and autonomous vehicles have probably replaced social media as the hottest areas of growth at SXSW Interactive.

“The social media side of things has cooled off a little in recent years, simply because we are no longer in the discovery phase of this industry.”

What is the expected turnout this year

We will have somewhere between 30,000 and 35,000 total registrants for SXSW Interactive for 2015. But, quantity is far less important than quality. The people who get the most out of SXSW are the people who use the event to make a couple of dozen very solid connections. One-on-one connections that help take your career to the next level is what SXSW is all about.

How has the event evolved, are there any major changes this year?

The event has changed a lot in the last few years — and change is a good thing. What I mean here is that there are always some people who will bemoan that “SXSW was so much better five years ago.” Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But the event would be really boring if it stayed exactly the same every year. The tech industry changes and evolves and transitions — and so do we. Again, change is a good thing. As for the biggest new developments for 2015, look no further than the new JW Marriott hotel which opened in February 2015. Located on Congress Avenue in the heart of downtown Austin, this new hotel gives us a ton more flexibility in terms of meeting space (as well as a 1000 more sleeping rooms). The addition of the JW Marriott has lots of far-reaching consequences. For instance, it has allowed us to add a new SX Health & MedTech Expo (on March 16-17). The new JW Marriott has also allowed us to double the amount of space in Startup Village — thus accommodating even more entrepreneurs at the 2015 event. Again, the JW Marriott is a game-changer on many levels.

“The event has changed a lot in the last few years — and change is a good thing.”

What kinds of brands are getting involved this year and how

Lots of different brands involved in SXSW Interactive 2015. Some of these brands are larger multi-national companies that most of us are very familiar with (companies like McDonalds and Phillips). But while those larger companies draw a lot of media attention, the bulk of participation comes from smaller up-and-coming entities who you probably haven’t heard of yet. These up-and-coming entities are leveraging the SXSW platform to reach the cutting-edge audience that can help take their product or service to the next level. That’s essentially the same strategy that bands, filmmakers and tech developers have employed at SXSW since it started in 1987.

How important was it for gaming culture to be represented at SXSW?

Gaming is certainly a big part of the digital creative lifestyle that we celebrate at SXSW Interactive. It took us a little bit longer to building up the gaming side of the event (mainly because there is so much competition from other gaming events and conferences in the spring). But, SXSW Gaming is now on very solid footing. Over the last few years, this has become one of the most popular aspects of the SXSW Interactive experience.

SXSW covers a whole lot of ground in everything entertainment, but what are you most looking forward to seeing this year?

There are a lot of speakers who I am really excited about for 2015. One of these is David Weinberger, who was a keynote at SXSW Interactive about 10 years ago. He was one of the co-authors of the book The Cluetrain Manifesto, which still serves as a bible for much of the online world. I could give you a list of a dozen more speakers who I am also really looking forward to seeing. But ultimately, its the attendees who are the most exciting part of SXSW Interactive. Their energy and passion and enthusiasm is what makes this event so much fun to be involved with. Feeling that energy and passion and enthusiasm always makes all the hard work of preparing for SXSW completely worthwhile.

Cupcakes, Poodles And Burgers Galore! Here Are The Top 10 Foodies On YouTube

From cupcakes and homemade KFC double downs, to dogs that cook and ginormous burgers that could feed 100 people, YouTube foodies create some interesting content. For brands looking to tap into the hype, we dove in to see what makes these and other YouTube channels so wildly popular and bring our Top Influencers ranking to life.

It might surprise you that many of these top YouTuber shows don’t follow the same-y TV cooking show format and are quite literally having a whole lot of fun with their food.

Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll cover the biggest auto influencers on YouTube!


Multi-Platform Viewing In The US: More Are Watching ‘Anytime, Anywhere’

By: Jessica Klein

As fewer people are tuning into linear TV, more of then are getting their viewing fix online, whether it’s watching the same TV content online via services like Hulu or web-native content on platforms like YouTube.

According to these infographics from ComScore, live viewership has been in a steady decline for the past several years, while a significant majority of US internet users are watching video content on the web:

ComScore stats on watching online vs TV

When it comes to web viewership, there’s more of it than most measurements may account for — measurements that are forgetting about mobile devices, that is. While the majority of digital video viewing still happens on desktop, 31 percent takes place on smartphones and 12 percent happens on tablets. Most millennials consume content via smartphones on a monthly basis, while 15 percent reported watching video on their smartphones every day.

Read more…

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.

Wargaming Expands Their ESports Focus

Wargaming continues to grow its eSports presence around the globe. The publisher invested $8 million into its Wargaming.net League (WGN) in 2013 and upped that to $10 million last year. The WGL North American Finals take place on March 15 in San Francisco with $171,000 up for grabs. The Grand Finals will once again take place in Warsaw, Poland April 25-26. Oscar Miranda, head of North American eSports at Wargaming, talks about the lessons learned over the years and how its partnership with ESL has helped grow its audience in this exclusive interview.

Oscar Miranda, head of North American eSports at WargamingOscar Miranda, Head of North American eSports at Wargaming

What have you learned from past seasons that you’re applying to 2015?

We have learned the importance of planning out our seasons well in advance. It’s never too early to start putting together outlines and ideas for what we want to accomplishment. The sooner we finalize each detail, the more capable we are in delivering. With that in mind, we are already off to a great start in 2015.

Additionally, we’ve realized the need for improved player communications. We have several channels that we use for an open dialogue with our players. Communication is at the heart of our cooperation to provide optimal league play for our World of Tanks players, and we collaborate with players to make sure it’s successful. For example, World of Tanks League players have sent us feedback which we have worked with our development team to implement in the game. Their feedback is very important to us, and we worked closely with them to develop the new Attack/Defense format which will be used in the upcoming season.

How has your partnership with ESL expanded this year?

This was our first year working exclusively with ESL as our partner in North America. They have been successfully working with our European team in hosting their events, so it made perfect sense to have the same partner for both regions. Along with delivering regional finals, they were also behind our interregional event called €œRumble in the West€ matching the best teams from North America against Europe. We’re excited to have ESL expand into North America and are looking forward to additional international events in the future.

Can you talk about the structure of Cups with Open, Major and Pro?

In the WGLNA (Wargaming.net League North America), teams are promoted and relegated through tiered leagues from (highest to lowest) Gold League, Silver League and Bronze League. This season we changed from our original Open League and introduced the Open Cup. The Open Cup is a series of bi-weekly tournaments where teams can enter anytime throughout the season and earn cup points for victories. At the end of the season, the teams with the most cup points will earn admission into the Bronze League and hopefully work their way up to the Gold League.

How has the money available to gamers increased and how will it be distributed?

Prizing has increased this season as a consequence of restructuring our league calendar. We cut one league season and added Rumble in the West with online qualifiers that were open to all teams. This tournament was completed within a month, justifying a smaller prize pool than a typical league season. That allowed us to move additional funds and increase the prize pool for our current season.

How have you seen sponsorship interest grow with World of Tanks since inception?

Sponsorship interest has grown so much that we brought in additional help. The Business Development team out of our publishing office here in the San Francisco Bay Area has recently expanded in order to have one specific department dedicated to eSports and brand partnerships.  They’ve been a huge help in managing, pitching and acquiring league sponsors.

We’re still working to establish ourselves in the eSports scene, but we’ve experienced increased sponsor interest for individual teams throughout all leagues including one third of our Gold League.

What do you feel the ESL partnership will bring to the table this season?

Last season, both our publishing office and the team at ESL were streamlining processes together for the first time. Since we began working together, we have collectively improved our workflows and can’t wait to see the result of the collaboration at our finals here in San Francisco on March 15, 2015. ESL has always delivered high-quality live shows, and I can say with the utmost confidence and excitement that this season’s finals will be a spectacular event.

Can you talk about the audience for World of Tanks in the U.S. for eSports compared to the rest of the world?

The World of Tanks audience depends on which part of the world we compare it to. For instance, World of Tanks dominates the CIS region which is reflected in the high-level gameplay of their top teams and players. Their scene includes identifiable stars like Na’Vi, the current world champions. With that said, North America is quickly growing into one of the largest eSports viewing audiences worldwide. We can pin that on the high quality broadcasts that ESL helps us deliver, but we also strive to tell the stories behind our players beyond just gameplay which has increased viewership to show the people behind the teams that create their high level of gameplay.

What do you feel differentiates this game from other popular eSports titles like Dota 2 and League of Legends?

World of Tanks puts historical combat elements in players hands, and offers high accuracy on vehicles that exist, or have existed in history. This was what initially hooked me as a World of Tanks player and this is a huge draw to the majority of our avid Tanks players.

We’ve seen the big eSports events held at sports arenas and stadiums. What role do you see those types of venues playing for World of Tanks in the near future?

Our 2014 Grand Finals in Warsaw, Poland saw great success and drew in a crowd of thousands of fans at the venue with millions of viewers on our live Twitch broadcast. We are certainly working to achieve the same level of excitement in our fans in North America, but as I mentioned earlier, the CIS region and neighboring Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic have a larger base of diehard World of Tanks audiences. This is why we traditionally hold major international events in those regions. Could we see a global Grand Finals in Warsaw’s national stadium one day That’s the dream.

Zynga’s ‘Dawn of Titans’ May Conquer Action-Strategy

Zynga has been making the transition from being primarily a social game publisher to a mobile game publisher, and it’s come a long way towards that goal. “Our mobile bookings now account for 60 percent of our bookings, up from only 27 percent since the time I joined the company,” CEO Don Mattrick said during Zynga’s last earnings call. Their goal is to hit 75 percent or more of the revenues coming from mobile by the end of 2015. Key to that strategy is the company’s stated plan to publish from six to ten new titles this year, and be a leader in multiple categories of mobile games. Leading the way in that attempt is the new game from Natural Motion, Dawn of Titans, which is heading to iOS and Android platforms in soft-launch only a few weeks from now, with general release to follow.

Torsten Reil

“In Dawn of Titans, players are immersed in a breathtaking, high fantasy world as they lead Titans into epic battles with thousands of soldiers,” said Natural Motion CEO Torsten Reil in a blog entry posted today. “Players build their kingdoms to fuel their army, raise Titans and fight battles at epic scale to capture territory. The Dawn of Titans experience is set within a kingdom that looks, feels and sounds real. Our team has designed every element of Dawn of Titans — from the trees, to the waterfalls, to the Titans, to the battles — to push the edge and create an entertainment experience that we believe supersedes anything found today in the Action Strategy category.”

The game is built using Natural Motion’s expertise with graphics and their very capable in-house tools. “Powering Dawn of Titans is NaturalMotion’s mobile technology and toolset that creates unprecedented visuals, animation and depth-of-gameplay,” said Reil in his blog post. “Echo, Dawn of Titans‘ proprietary engine, enables the game to feature thousands of units on-screen to achieve epic battles and run smoothly on mobile devices. In addition to Echo, Titans and troops are brought to life with our Morpheme animation engine, giving in-game Titans and characters dynamic and unique, lifelike movements.”

The game, when previewed for [a]listdaily by Reil at Zynga’s headquarters this week, is exceptionally beautiful even on a big screen. The beautifully rendered details, lighting effects, clouds, and detailed landscapes take the real-time strategy battles to a new level on mobile platforms. The game’s attention to detail looks to extend to strategic depth as well as surface beauty, and it should have enough strategic depth to keep and hold the attention of gamers. Like other popular mobile strategy games, you’ll build up territories and use resources to better equip your fighting forces. Once on the battlefield, there are plenty of tactical choices to make, with positioning, use of different units against the best targets, and adroit use of special attacks being key elements to success.

The [a]listdaily spoke exclusively with Natural Motion’s CEO Torsten Reil about the game and what it means to both Zynga and the industry.

Was the genesis of the game because the team wanted to do action-strategy, or from you or Zynga saying “let’s do action-strategy” as a genre?

We definitely wanted to do action-strategy because we felt there was room for innovation. The second part was we really wanted to give that team a challenge because they were so good. We wanted to be in this genre, but we also wanted to find people who had the passion for it. We challenged the team with the following: Are you able to create battle scenes with thousands of characters on-screen at the same time, in real-time, with you having full real-time touch control over all of these troops, and make all of these battles resolve within thirty to sixty seconds And they said no, that’s not possible. Eventually we managed to get it to work. This was possible because we have a super-passionate, very talented team in London, but also because we have our own real-time, high-performance game engine.

The game is quite stunning in its appearance. Was it difficult to achieve this kind of look, and will this work even on older smartphones and tablets?

We feel comfortable that the vision is being realized. In many ways, this goes beyond consoles, in other ways maybe not quite comparable. You can realize a world at whatever quality you want. The soundscape varies as you move around the game into different areas, and as events are occurring. This game will run on iPad 2 and down to the iPhone 5, perhaps the iPhone 4 as well.

Are you concerned about entering an entirely new genre and whether or not that will work?

If you really care about the consumer and the player and you really want to give them something amazing, and you’re able to achieve that, you can follow from that. CSR Racing now has 120 million users, and 2 percent of the world’s population has played that game. With Clumsy Ninja we wanted to create something lovable, and that game did nearly 10 million downloads in its first week on iOS. We have some evidence that if you really do something amazing for the player, that works.

Dawn of Titans is both very different from anything Natural Motion has done before, and anything Zynga has done before. Does this mean there’s a big marketing challenge ahead for Zynga with this game?

It’s interesting. When we launched CSR Racing, the game we had done before was My Horse. Before that, Jenga. Totally different. We found that having the ability to cross-promote and having some demographic overlap, of course that’s useful. If you have a game, however, that is appealing in general, you can break all the records just with the game. Imagine doing that and on top of that having cross-promotion, which is what we believe we have. I think that’s a really powerful combination. It’s different from our other games, that’s the point. Honestly, the team is so passionate about action-strategy — that’s what they love playing — that’s why we wanted them to do it. It’s the same as when we did CSR Racing; the team was super-passionate about cars, and that shines through. That’s hopefully the case here as well.

How is Dawn of Titans monetized?

It is a free-to-play game. One of the things we really care about is that people can play the game without spending money. You are able to finish the single-player campaign in CSR Racing without spending any money. It’s really important for us that it’s voluntary. The way we look at it is, if we create an experience that people love, then people will spend money. In our experience it’s not a good idea to be too in-your-face with money-spending requests. We try to find the right balance and create something that people want to spend money on. The launch of the game is the beginning, and then you go into live operations where you can add all sorts of things and change the game in response to people.

Are you going to be putting out materials to talk about the story behind Dawn of Titans, and the obviously rich background that’s been created?

We have plans, but we’re not willing to talk about them yet. We think it’s a really rich story.

GDC 2015 Day 2: New Hardware, New Console War Front

The second day of GDC has seen several important hardware announcements that show us a possible new front in the console wars, pitting consoles directly against PCs for dominance of the living room. Not only that, Sony provided more information about Project Morpheus, and their immersive VR headset may well be an important part of Sony’s fight to stay in first place in the console race.

First off, let’s start with Valve, who announced a key piece of new hardware: the Steam Link, a $49.99 box that will bring your PC’s output to any TV in your house. Valve’s press release gives few details: “Designed to extend your Steam experience to any room in the house, Steam Link allows you to stream all your Steam content from any PC or Steam Machine on the same home network. Supporting 1080p at 60Hz with low latency, Steam Link will be available this November for $49.99, and available with a Steam Controller for an additional $49.99 in the US (worldwide pricing to be released closer to launch).”

Valve also promised Steam Machines from a variety of partners for later this year, though few details were provided. “Steam Machines from partners Alienware and Falcon Northwest are being shown, with Machines from a dozen other partners slated to release this November. Steam Machines will start at the same price point as game consoles, with higher performance. Customers interested in the best possible gaming experience can choose whichever components meet their needs. Epic will give a demonstration of the newly announced Unreal Tournament running on a 4K monitor driven by the Falcon Northwest Steam Machine.”

“We love this platform,” said Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games. “Whether you’re running incredibly detailed scenes at 4K or running 1080p at 120 FPS for an intense shooter experience, this brings world-class gaming and graphics to televisions with an open platform true to Valve’s PC gaming roots.”

Looking more closely at this information, one can see that Valve is attacking the current console market on two fronts. The Steam Link is arguably the most important part of this announcement, allowing PC gamers to bring the PC game into the family room in direct competition with consoles for less than $100 (counting both the Steam Link and the Steam Controller). That’s a very reasonable price compared to buying a new console… if the Steam Controller can really give you a good experience with your favorite PC game, that is. Certainly some games will work well with a Steam Controller, but it’s hard to see how games like League of Legends or World of Warcraft would fare without a keyboard and mouse, no matter how good Steam Controllers end up being.

Steam Link

The second front is a direct competition with the Xbox One and PS4, promising even higher performance at the same price. That shouldn’t be hard to achieve, given that PC graphics continue to advance while the consoles remain static. Again, though, the question becomes what games will be available, and how good will they be The same game you can play on a console with slightly better graphics doesn’t seem like enough reason to buy a Steam Machine, particularly if you already have a console. Like other consoles, Steam Machines will benefit from exclusives — and an exclusive title that would really drive sales is critical. Half-Life 3, for instance, could be such a title… yet we still have no word of such a thing. Get busy, Valve!

Meanwhile, the console market is under direct assault from another direction, as Nvidia announces two killer technologies: the new Nvidia Shield console. It’s an Android console powered by the new Tegra X1 chip, and Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang introduced it as being twice the power of an Xbox 360 at half the power consumption. It’s “the world’s first 4K Android TV console” and it will launch in May for $199, game controller included. Nvidia Shield will have its own store, and at the time of launch there’ll be over 50 games curated, according to Huang. Demoed on-stage were Portal, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Half-Life 2: Episode 1. Multiple developers were on hand to show support and live demos, including Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchfork (for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, running at 30fps), id’s Tim Willits (Doom 3 BFG edition), and Crytek’s Cevat Yerli (Crysis 3 at 30fps).

And if that’s not enough, the Nvidia Shield console launches along with Nvidia’s new game-streaming service Grid, which will be streaming top-tier game titles at up to 1080p and 60 frames per second. The Grid service is backed by Nvidia Grid supercomputers worldwide and Amazon Web Services, and can stream at 150ms, or “half a blink of an eye.” Nvidia will offer two tiers of Grid service. The free subscription service has 50+ games, while the premium will reportedly let you buy titles à la carte (like Batman: Arkham Knight for $59.99). Huang says many titles will be on the service day and date with their release.

We see from this that Nvidia is dead serious about the console market, taking aim at the leading players by delivering a two-pronged punch. The Nividia Shield console seems to be able to deliver solid console games comparable to what’s available on the Xbox One and PS4 at only $199. More than that, the Grid streaming service promises to deliver top-notch PC games to the living room at solid resolution and frame rates — though again the controller issue raises its ugly head. Standard controllers or even slightly fancy ones can’t really do justice to PC games. So far, Razer seems to be the only Android TV entrant that has addressed this issue head-on, with a keyboard and mouse combo designed for the living room to accompany their upcoming Forge console (which, as a reminder, also features streaming from your home PC).

This is setting up a massive battle in the fall between Android TV devices like the Razer Forge and Nvidia Shield, the Steam Link and Steam Machines, and the PS4, Xbox One, and the Wii U, though the selection of games on the Wii U is so utterly different from everything else as to make it not in direct competition with these other devices. ONe key thing about the Nvidia Shield: It will stream and display 4K vidoe, something neither the PS4 nor the Xbox One can do. As 4K TVs become more prevalent (with prices rapidly dropping), this will become a more important feature.

Sony is apparently unwilling to cede its console leadership (announced today to be 20.2 million PS4 consoles sold through worldwide to date) by announcing that its Project Morpheus immersive VR headset, designed to connect to the PS4, will ship in the first half of 2016. Morpheus is designed to render games at 120 frames-per-second. This will work in concert with a “super low” latency of 18ms, or around half that of the original Morpheus prototype. The first prototype’s 5-inch LCD screen has been swapped 5.7 inch 1920 X 1080 resolution OLED display, with RGB sub-pixels to reduce motion blur. Positional tracking has been improved with the addition of three new LEDs to its existing six – one on the front and two on the sides. Sony has promised to reveal more details, including new games, at E3.

Make no mistake, the marketing warfare in the fall promises to be huge. The console fight is becoming ever more interesting, with many more players. There’s still the spectre of Apple looming, if it ever decides to upgrade the Apple TV into a serious gaming device. Don’t expect Microsoft or Nintendo to take any of these lightly, either. It’s going to be a lot harder to succeed with hardware this year, but it’s looking like a great time to be a gamer.