‘Pokémon’ Symphonic Tour Set To Please Fans

With the popularity of video games on the rise, it appears that videogame-based music tours (where symphonies play arrangements of music from games) are also picking up in popularity. Nintendo continues to capitalize on the success of its Legend of Zelda franchise with an accompanying Symphony of the Goddesses tour, which is still going strong this year; and the Video Games Live tour has several dates as well, selling out nearly every venue it appears at.

Now, the Pokémon franchise, which has been a best-seller for years over at Nintendo, is getting in on the action, with the announcement of a Symphonic Evolutions tour. The Pokémon Company, in partnership with Princeton Entertainment, recently announced 30 dates for the show, which will later expand into a world tour that covers the globe. For now, though, the tour will run from May 1st to February 5, stopping in such locations as Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto and New York, among others. The official Symphonic Evolutions page has the full tour list.

With this new showcase, millions of fans will celebrate popular tunes from the Pokémon series, with a combination of orchestral arrangements and carefully timed visuals, to make them feel every classic moment from the Pokémon series. Players will also be able to meet up with friends and newcomers, in the hopes of battling and trading legendary Pokémon characters with one another.

The show has been an early success so far, with sold-out dates in Pittsburgh and Washington D.C., which indicates that the forthcoming tour should be a bit hit as well. And it could attract new Pokémon fans to the fold, especially those with an interest in music.

Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions is a spectacular showcase of the memorable music that has been a hallmark of the Pokémon franchise for nearly 20 years,” said J.C. Smith, director of Consumer Marketing at The Pokémon Company International. “The concert series serves as a thank you to fans and an invitation to share our passion for Pokémon by reliving some of our fondest memories with the brand. We look forward to seeing fans of all ages enjoying this very special Pokémon orchestral event together.”

Considering that many of the Pokémon video games remain on the best-seller charts, it shouldn’t be a surprise that The Pokémon Company sees this as a new way to celebrate the legacy, while presenting it as a new art form. Of course, it’s also a great marketing tool, keeping interest high in the franchise in-between new releases, while making money from the events.

As for what’s next for the franchise, we’ll have to wait a little while, as Nintendo likely has plans to unveil the next Pokémon game in an online Direct special set to air during E3. And with the company’s plans to move into mobile with the help from DeNA, there’s a good chance the franchise could make an impact there as well.

In the meantime, though, fans can simply catch ’em all while enjoying the music from the series.

Next Games’ CEO On The Wild West Of Mobile Games

Next Games, founded in 2013 by games veterans from Rovio, Supercell and Disney, focuses on crafting visually impressive and engaging games. Their first game, Compass Point: West, launched last week on iOS smartphones and tablets. We caught up with CEO Teemu Huuhtanen who is based in Helsinki, Finland, where the company has its headquarters.

Please tell us a little about the game and how a Finnish company ended up picking a wild west theme.

CEO of Next Games, Teemu HuutanenCEO of Next Games, Teemu Huutanen

The core idea for the wild west theme and the card mechanic was something one of Next Games co-founders had in their mind from very early on, thanks to their love for western movies. Mobile F2P action strategy is a very competitive genre and to break the noise a developer needs to look at the game and its positioning from many different angles. Compass Point: West, and future Next Games products, are highly influenced by pop culture and the iconic wild west theme is hugely underserved in the current mobile games market. The theme also allows us to do many great updates for the game as everyone is familiar with so many stories and characters from the Wild West.

How are you addressing the marketing challenge of launching a new game from a new company in an increasingly competitive mobile games market?

Everything starts with the product, the game. We feel that the theme needs to have universal appeal, such as the wild west theme in this particular game. In addition, whatever the genre, you should always bring something unique in terms of game mechanics. For Compass Point: West, the card collecting and tying that into everything you do in the game was that original twist.

We wanted to create a rich universe with its stories and colorful characters and wild west was a perfect fit for us as it is an unexplored territory on mobile. We’ve put a lot of effort to the IP development and created a comic book together with IDW Publishing. That’s a really nice way to give players an additional angle to the story.

Discovery is a challenge for any game developer today. Mobile games marketing has focused a lot on performance-based user acquisition. As that market becomes increasingly competitive, developers will have to become more creative when it comes to creating appealing IP’s and stories based on that, which can be leveraged in marketing. Finding creative ways to get attention from the YouTube community is also important and Compass Point: West seems to have hit that audience:

We have gone from mobile game companies being put in a remote corner at E3 to three Super Bowl TV spots from mobile game companies this year. What’s next in marketing for mobile games and apps What do you consider a success in mobile games today?

Compass Point: West collectible cardsCompass Point: West‘s collectible cards

Success for a game or developer varies a lot. For us, the most important thing was to create a game that the players love. We are getting very good feedback on the game which allows us to build on the success as the game went to #1 strategy game on iOS in well over 100 markets within the first couple of days from launch. Every new game has to find its audience in order to get noticed and once you get fans, the financial goals will follow.

After the success of Kim Kardashian Hollywood, we have seen many game developers move in the direction of licensing big entertainment IP and celebrities to help gain traction for their games. Do you think that Hollywood and the games industry can play nice this time?

We believe so very much. Getting AMC and Lionsgate to invest into the company proves that the big media companies have started looking at mobile games from a very different point of view as they see games as services understanding that it is a totally different ballgame versus shipping a disk one time.

AMC Networks and Lionsgate are both investors in Next Games and that in itself shows that movie studios and other big entertainment IP holders see the importance of mobile games as natural extension of their IP. Games are starting to be regarded as an equally important platform for consuming entertainment alongside with the established ones such as movies and TV.

When is your next game coming out and can you tell us anything about it?

We are also working on a mobile game based on AMC’s #1 hit TV show The Walking Dead, called The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land. We’ll be able to tell more in the near future.

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.

 

The Digital Impact Of The Millennial Mind

Trying to figure out the spending habits of millennials can be tricky for some marketers. However a new report from Pinpoint Market Research has provided a new study that provides a better idea of where millennial priorities lie, especially when it comes to spending habits and preferences.

AdWeek posted the results from said report, which indicates some interesting statistics when it comes to millennial spending. For one thing, they tend to show caution on more than one occasion. “In fact, their view on personal finances sounds more like the Boomer generation emerging from the Great Depression than the ‘entitlement’ label they keep hearing,” according to the study.

That doesn’t mean they’re too cautious, however. “Despite their frugality, millennials are expected to spend money on lifestyle and entertainment more than prior generations.”

Brand engagement also plays a big part, as the report shows that they become comfortable using a variety of channels for interaction.

A secondary study by Trendera shows that brand interaction is one thing, but the companies interacting with their fans and creating good content for them is another. “Brands need to be able to engage and respond in a matter of minutes, not hours,” says that particular study.

Meanwhile, leading back to the Pinpoint report, millennials using the power of their dollars to convince companies to advance social causes also plays a big part. 43 percent of those surveyed said they had petitioned certain brands to cease certain campaigns, or tie-ins with certain celebrities or shows. “Twenty-somethings understand their power as consumers, as workers and as future leaders,” said the report.

The two combined reports also came together for a large infographic, shown below, that breaks down what devices millennials own, as well as how often they use them. Smartphones and TV’s show popularity, but within different areas. Smartphones, for instance, have high numbers with YouTube video viewership, as well as music and Facebook videos. Over on TV, however, full shows, movies and news coverage have big percentages.

There’s also a breakdown of how many hours millennials spend doing things, including using desktop computers (2.5 hours), watching TV (just over four hours) and using iPhones (2.6 hours). However, the leader here is using a laptop computer, which clocks in at 4.2 hours.

 

Revenue From MOBA Games Set To Dominate 2015

For years, MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game)-style games have been dominant in the game industry, with Blizzard’s World of Warcraft leading the charge. However, the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre has been picking up steam, thanks to games like League of Legends and Smite. According to Gamesindustry International’s latest analysis, they could be on their way to leading the forefront of the industry.

EEDAR analyst Ed Zhao laid out an examination of the market, explaining how the free-to-play approach with certain games, like most MOBA’s, is an effective approach for publishers.

“Firstly, the upside is tremendous: F2P allows for an unparalleled audience size, which can be a bedrock for engagement and community,” explained Zhao. “In addition, users can spend infinite amounts of money. While traditional retail titles have relied on a gated $60 for access, F2p titles can generate hundreds from their core users through a plethora of visual and game-affecting microtransactions.”

MOBA’s seem to take advantage of this formula quite nicely. “MOBAs can take advantage of a large, competitive audience while monetizing through champion-specific microtransactions,” Zhao continued. “While the biggest revenue driver in F2P has historically been the MMORPG, EEDAR predicts that, by year’s end, MOBA titles will reach $501 million annually in North America and account for the greatest percentage of F2P dollars.”

The chart above shows the increase in popularity with the genres. Back in 2010, it was clear that MMORPG led the charge, with barely any sign of effort from the MOBA field. However, just five years later, MOBAs have managed to catch up, even flying past the traditional shooter field by over double, at $501 million compared to $237 million. Meanwhile, MMORPGs stand at just under $500 million, putting MOBAs in the lead.

“Titles such as League of Legends and DOTA 2 generate their greatest amount of revenue in this way, with an estimated $180 million (or 36 percent of revenues) coming from avatar vanity items,” said Zhao. “One primary reason is the bird’s eye third-person view, which allows players to constantly view these cosmetics. This isn’t the case for other genres, such as F2P shooters, where a first-person view can obscure; thus, avatar cosmetics are only the third highest revenue driver for F2P shooters.”

Another chart breakdown, pictured above, indicates just where the money is spent with microtransactions, with avatar cosmetics taking the largest chunk. Closely behind are hero/champion unlocks and boosts, with other eSports related goods going more into single-digits.

Avatar cosmetics also lead the way in terms of what an average user spends in a game, with nearly $25. Closely behind, as with the other chart, are hero/champion unlocks and boosts, followed by other items.

“Ultimately, certain games benefit more from different business models,” said Zhao. “F2P is perfectly suited for MOBAs due to large audience sizes, fierce competition, and individual character investment. Other genres, such as MMORPGs, monetize well with hybrid subscription models.

“Geography can also be an important factor, as Western Markets are happy to purchase premium titles such as Call of Duty or Battlefield whereas Eastern Markets prefer F2P variants. Choosing the correct business model is fundamentally important for a game’s success, but that choice has to foremost adhere to gameplay and audience.”

This could be the year that MOBAs step up and truly show who is the champion.

Supercell Discusses Its Successful Super Bowl Ad

What kind of thinking goes into creative a successful ad campaign Sometimes it can just be something that comes from the spur of the moment – even while sitting in a hot tub.

That’s the way that Supercell’s Super Bowl ad for Clash of Clans played out, a memorable ad featuring actor Liam Neeson angrily swearing revenge on the rival that destroyed his camp. The ad turned out to be a huge success for the company, despite its high cost of $9 million.

How it came about, though, is just as surprising, as reported by GamesIndustry International. “The decision for us to be on the Super Bowl was decided by a bunch of guys in a hot tub while we were on an offsite,” said Supercell media lead Jimmy Lee, speaking at the F8 Facebook conference earlier this week. “Everybody closed their eyes and voted on whether or not they wanted to see a Super Bowl spot for Clash and everybody ended up saying we want to see this on the Super Bowl.

“It had nothing to do with economics or monetization, it was our way of thanking our players, our way of acknowledging that this is a game that’s worth playing and trying to retain them a little bit longer. It wasn’t about getting our game in front of however many millions of eyeballs that were watching the Super Bowl.”

Attracting new users to a popular game is definitely a key component with ads like the Neeson one, but being loyal to current players is just as important, according to Lee. “When we do marketing we don’t always just think is this going to drive acquisitions, the question that we always ask ourselves is what are our current players going to think about this ” he said.

“If they saw this on television or they saw a particular banner, what are our current players going to think about it If you think about it whether you’re Supercell or King or Zynga or anybody else, the players that you have in the bucket is going to be bigger than all the existing players outside the bucket that could potentially become your next set of users,” he continued.

“At some point you’re going to have to look in the mirror and decide whether or not you’re going to focus on retaining your users and doing stuff for your current players or going after every single last user. And that’s really how we approach the equation.”

Obviously Supercell made the right choice, based on the ad’s success – and having the star of the Taken franchise played a key part in that success. In case you missed it, the ad can be seen below.

Counting Down ION’s Top Techies

Technology changes quickly, ensuring there’s virtually always something to talk about. Some top YouTubers are self-professed experts on the subject, covering anything and everything from household hacking and tips to destroying expensive precious iPhones. Whatever you’re looking for, YouTube is sure to have it.

Smart Marketing For Educational Apps

Educational apps for children are a growing market, and a new business model looks to bring tablets, educational apps, and kids together in a brand new way with great potential. Findaway has debuted the Playaway Launchpad, the first ever secure, pre-loaded learning tablet that’s explicitly designed to be circulated by libraries and in classrooms. It’s a brilliant way to bridge the digital divide and bring educational software to children who would otherwise be unable to use a tablet.

Anyone who’s ever watched a kid being introduced to a tablet or a smartphone understands the immediate, magnetic attraction touchscreen devices have. They are tactile, colorful, animated, fun, and intuitively easy to easy. The difficult part is usually removing a smart device from a child once they’ve had some time with it. This is an obvious market opportunity, and one that potentially has terrific beneficial effects for kids as well as publishers. The educational software market was once measured in the billions, but declined in the late 1990s for a variety of reasons.

Findaway’s Launchpad “delivers high quality,ad-free learning apps grouped together by subject area, theme, grade level and age,” according to the company. An important feature is that the tablets are pre-loaded with these apps and are secure, so there’s no way for kids to access unintended content. The tablet is also durable, with a rubberized protective case that will help it withstand the rigors of being handled by multiple users in a variety of tough environments. A one-touch reset feature erases previous user data and readies the Launchpad for the next person to check it out.

“We’re incredibly excited to debut Playaway Launchpad and change the way tablets are circulated within libraries and schools,” said Jennifer Leombruno, VP, Playaway Pre-Loaded Products Group. “Launchpad directly addresses the common pain points of retail tablets, offering a turnkey solution for staff wanting to provide access to a high-quality, interactive learning tool in a safe, fun, and affordable way.”

Launchpad is powered by an Android operating system and features a 7″ high-definition touch screen, external speaker, universal audio jack and a durable, protective bumper. The tablet is free of Wi-Fi and camera capabilities, ensuring a controlled user experience. Starting at $99 and sold exclusively through Findaway, Launchpad comes with everything needed to easily build a library or classroom collection including a shelf-ready circulating case and a USB/AC power adaptor. Additional accessories are sold separately.

Early adopters of the new learning tablet include Baltimore County Public Library, Cambridge Public Library, Chicago Public Library and Nashville Public Library. Each library system will be among the first in the nation to circulate Launchpad to their patrons at multiple branches. More information on the Launchpad can be found here.

Findaway has partnered with leading app developers and Fingerprint Digital, a prominent app aggregator and technology partner, to custom-curate thousands of best-selling apps selected and quality-tested just for children. The content collection spans subject areas from math and science to critical thinking and creativity, and features themed learning packs including animals, princesses, fantasy, nature and more.

The Launchpad presents a new marketing opportunity for educational developers to reach a previously inaccessible audience. Fingerprint’s expertise with children’s software and unparalleled range of connections in the industry lends additional weight to the marketing benefits for developers. All that, and you get to do something fun and educational for kids.

Mealnie Dawn Waller

The [a]listdaily sat down with Fingerprint senior producer Melanie Dawn Waller to to discuss the tablet and how it promises to benefit kids with access to top-notch software.

Tell me about the Launchpad. Why is this important?

We’re the first preloaded tablets, and we have over 100 different packs. Each of the devices has a theme or subject-oriented pack of different apps on it, 10 different apps in each pack. It’s a way for developers to get their content out to kids. It’s going to be in schools and libraries, thousands of them all over the nation.

How does the Launchpad work for the kids?

You go in and create a new avatar, choosing one of twelve different characters. You land right on the games page, and it gives you information on how you can earn points that you can use to customize your avatar. There are ten different games in a pack, each pack goes on a device, and there are over 100 different packs. There’s a full range of curricula, with math, critical thinking, STEAM, language arts, creativity, science and others. We also have theme packs, like the princess pack, the fantasy pack, the nature pack, and so on.

We also have a parent’s section, and as you play all the games it shows what games they have played, and the different subjects that have been covered across the pack. So Mom can come on and look and see what they’ve done. They can play this pack, then take it to the library and get another pack.

The idea, then, is that kids will be able to get a Launchpad from libraries or at their schools, right?

Yes, schools and libraries. It’s crossing the digital divide, so that anybody can really have it. If you don’t have a device, or can’t download, you can get access.

What’s the business model for the Launchpad?

The libraries purchase them from Findaway. They actually have some up on their site already, where you can see the different packs that are being offered. The libraries will decide which packs they want. The fact that they sell for $99 or $129 is really important.

This will give the software developers much better exposure for their product, won’t it?

They’ll get huge exposure for their product. We’ve partnered with all of these developers from all over the world that we’re working with to bring on the apps for those packs. We have an in-house content team assessing and designing the packs to make sure we’re giving out the best apps, so parents can really trust what we’re giving out here. Every app is assessed and tagged, age-categorized, and then determined which content pack it will go into. When you see a math pack here for a certain age grade, you can trust that it’s going to be good for your child. From a developer’s perspective, you’re getting your app in front of those parents from a trusted source, which is important to parents.

Can parents also find these apps directly from Fingerprint, if they want to access them on their own devices?

We have our own platforms, where you can come in and access a lot of the apps. There’s Samsung Kid’s Time, which is now in Asia but is coming to the US. Then we have Sylvan Learning, which we’ve partnered with, so there are apps on that platform. We’ve also partnered with Corus Entertainment.

‘Forza Horizon 2’ Gets ‘Fast & Furious’

Racers, start your engines. You’re about to go racing on the same level as Vin Diesel and company.

Today, Microsoft has released a new game for its Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles, Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious. The game is a spin-off of the popular Forza Horizon 2 racer that released last September, although it’s not needed to play Fast & Furious, as it’s a standalone release.

In this open-world driving game, players can use a number of cars from the Fast & Furious racing franchise, including the 900 horsepower 1970 Dodge Charger and an armored 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, as they race across the European countryside, accepting new challenges and acquiring vehicles featured from previous films. Along the way, the film series’ automotive expert, Tej Parker (played by Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges) will provide guidance and advice.

The game is not only a promotional tie-in with the popular Forza series, but also with Universal Pictures’ forthcoming Furious 7, which releases on April 3rd. The film brings back most of the cast from the franchise, including the late Paul Walker in his final film appearance, and adds popular action superstar Jason Statham as the main bad guy. The trailer for the film can be found below.

Better still, Microsoft is offering this racing action for free, but only for a limited time. After April 10th, it’ll go back up in price to $9.99, but that gives players more than enough opportunity to download it and race against their friends online, along with tackling the single player challenges.

This is a promotion that benefits both Microsoft and Universal, combining their racing franchises into one unique experience that players of all skill levels can enjoy. “It’s kind of been a grand experiment,” said Alan Hartman, studio head for Turn 10 Studios, the key developers in the Forza franchise. “I hope what we’re doing here is a model for what we do in the future. It’s been a great relationship, and I don’t want to end it after this, so we’ll see what’s possible in the future.”

It’s one that’ll certainly benefit players – especially those that feel the need for speed. The game can be downloaded here for Xbox One, and here for Xbox 360. The trailer for the spin-off can be seen below