F8: How To Reach 1.4 Billion Consumers

Facebook’s F8 2015 developer conference opens tomorrow at San Francisco’s Fort Mason, and the two day event promises to be an important one for publishers and developers. It’s the first time the conference is spread over two days, but Facebook has a lot going on. In fact, Facebook’s importance to the game industry, mobile developers, advertisers and marketers is at a high point, and this conference is going to provide insight into where Facebook goes from here — and that will be important to know.

Facebook’s impact on the game industry in particular is greater than ever, although its history is not a straight line path. As Facebook grew explosively some years ago, part of what propelled it (and was propelled by it) were games, and the social gaming craze that led to to the growth of companies like Zynga and Kabam. As Facebook’s growth slowed, and the platform clamped down on the easy viral marketing that games utilized so well, the social gaming craze died down. Game companies looked to the rapid growth of mobile gaming as the next big platform, and attention shifted away from Facebook.

That was only the beginning of the story, though, as Facebook went public and began to shift resources into mobile and advertising. Now, Facebook has become the hot way for mobile game companies to gain users, with classic user acquisition tools becoming more expensive. Companies that continue to release Facebook games along with mobile games have done very well — King Digital credits much of its success with Candy Crush Saga to the fact that the game is available on both Facebook and mobile platforms, for instance.

Growth for Facebook’s user base has been slow in the last few years, though, compared to the meteoric rise of earlier days — not suprising when you consider the service now has 1.4 billion users. The company’s got a strategy for growth, though, and one of the key topics for this developer conference is how that will occur. There’s also the looming impact of virtual reality and how Facebook’s Oculus division will take advantage of this technology, and what it will mean to Facebook and many others.

The show will kick off with a keynote address by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, where he will no doubt review some of the opportunities ahead for Facebook, the challenges the company faces, and its strategy for the year ahead. There may even be some surprises in the wings, as rumors heat up about Facebook hosting news sites’ content, according to The New York Times.

“Things have been fairly easy sailing at Facebook: user growth had been on the up and up and in-stream ads have generated 93 percent of their revenue. As the world’s biggest social network, they now face a couple of issues,” said [a]listdaily‘s Lauren Arevalo. “The first being stagnating user growth (one of first topics being tackled at F8 is ‘Building for the Next Billion’) and the second is how to address their waning appeal to younger users. In order to address this ‘coolness’ problem, Facebook had made some key purchases that are coming to the fore as the platforms of-the-moment (Instagram) and of the future (Oculus).”

“These of course will be a key focus in F8’s proceedings, but I’m also looking forward to how Facebook looks to monetize its hugely valuable user base from here on out,” Arevalo continued. “Some messaging opportunities for brands have appeared to be in the wings for some time, mobile payments is overall a really hot subject right now, and the fact that Facebook has been vocal about getting more serious as a platisher lately has major implications for native advertising. If Facebook can get some or all of these things right (and Piper Jaffray has increased the company’s target price ahead of tomorrow in a strong vote of confidence), marketers will be more than happy continue to make Facebook a chief component of their campaigns.”

“We have seen Facebook take off as the first real rival to YouTube in the Online Video space, now accounting for 60 percent of all global video shares, we’ll see expand significantly in the video space,” said [a]listdaily‘s Joakim Baage. “They are now rumored to be working with video publishers like Vice and Vox to produce short-form branded video under the name “Anthology.”

“It’ll be interesting to see how they approach video with the developers as part of their overall push into multiple apps such as Messager and buying popular apps like Instagram and Whatsapp. Furthermore, we didn’t see much from VR-company Oculus at GDC, which probably means that there will be some kind of announcement at F8 after Facebook bought the company last year,” continued Baage. “All these developments should be top-of-mind for any digital marketers knowing how effective Facebook’s different advertising programs are, especially for (mobile) game developers and with the amount of data Facebook has of its users, I think that Facebook is quickly becoming the most important platform for marketing all together.”

The [a]listdaily caught up with Dan Morris, Facebook’s Director of Game Partnerships, to ask him about the F8 Developer Conference.

What’s the relevance of F8 to game developers?

F8 is where a range of new products and features will be unveiled, a number of which will play a beneficial role in helping game developers solve some of their hardest problems. Facebook is well-positioned to make a positive impact across the games ecosystem, and F8 is where we will provide first looks at some of this potential impact.

If people can’t get to the F8 conference, is there any way to get some of the information being presented?

All of F8’s sessions will be streamed for free at fbf8.com

What’s the importance of F8 to marketers, both for games and for brands in general?

Game developers increasingly tell us that Facebook’s marketing solutions are the best available, and F8 is an ideal opportunity to learn how to advertise effectively using our tools.

Cinedigm CEO Chris McGurk On Con TV And The Distributor’s Growing OTT Plans

by: Sahil Patel

Everybody from HBO to AwesomenessTV is going over-the-top. The appeal is easy to understand: As viewers of all ages increasingly demand more control over when and how they can watch their favorite video content, the content owners have to adapt lest they lose the viewers to somebody else.

What’s interesting about the growing OTT craze, though, is who’s getting involved as much as why. It’s not just the major traditional and digital media brands.

Take, for example, Cinedigm, an independent distributor that controls more than — titles. With that kind of library, it makes sense for Cinedigm to launch over-the-top channels like Docurama, which focuses on documentary films and TV series, and Con TV, which focuses on geek and nerd culture.

With Con TV launching just a few weeks ago, we spoke with Cinedigm’s chairman and CEO, Chris McGurk, on the channel launch, its partnership with Comic-Con producer Wizard World, and how Cinedigm is approaching its expanding OTT business.

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.


ION Introduces The ICN, A Full-Service Platform For Influencer Campaigns

Today, ION, the influencer agency within Ayzenberg, has launched a new core offering called the ICN, or Influencer Channel Network. The platform leverages the influencer of over 400k creators across channels that together generate billions of views and command millions of subscribers to create unique brand content.

The platform has been in the works for the past 3 years, executing hundreds of influencer campaigns that have delivered up to 8x earned media ROI.

“Our vision right from the beginning was to work with creators and brands to create an environment of innovation and respect while allowing both sides to accelerate each others’ brands without losing their authentic, native voices,” said Eric Ayzenberg, Chief Creative Officer of Ayzenberg and ION.

A major feature of the platform that discovers and connects marketers with all tiers of influencers is the full-service management aspect, with the backing of full reporting and a media delivery guarantee as well as guiding brand strategy and creative.

“Outside of brand lift, we were astonished by the media value opportunity during every campaign, especially with clients who allowed us to integrate it with Ayzenberg’s 360-degree approach. In the next 4 months, we will unveil our new 2.0 front-end design and will start showing more of a behind-the-curtain view of our ICN platform.”

Principals at Ayzenberg, Chris Younger and Vincent Juarez, will be revealing for the first time some of the methods behind the new ICN platform in a webinar on April 21st. For more information and to request an invite, fill out our form.


Avoid ‘Content Blindness’ As Native Ads Take Off

Many marketers are looking to native advertising to keep consumers interested and engaged, as classic banner ads and other familiar forms are losing their impact. Content marketing has its own issues, as some fear “content blindess” may dull the impact of native ads. During the recent 4A Conference the term was a hot topic for discussion, and was brought up during a panel.

AdAge reports that a number of high-profile players took part in the panel, discussing the problems that can come with native advertising, and what happens when some companies go too far, thus running a danger of dulling the impact of the marketing campaign.

“There’s banner blindness. Over time, we’ll start to see more and more content blindness,” said Elena Sukacheva, managing director of global content solutions group for The Economist Group. “We’ll see more and more marketers releasing control of the messaging.”

This control became a hot topic with the participants of the panel, who also chimed in with their thoughts. Production of native advertising is certainly on an upswing, but it helps to keep control of such campaigns.

Jimmy Maymann, CEO of the Huffington Post, said that digital publishing nets a third of its revenue from in-house content marketing teams, but also noted that the usage of native content allows publishers and brands conventional messaging opportunities.

That leaves room for more digital ads, although, again, there’s a question in regards to overuse. “Marketers really miss the mark when they communicate to an audience,” Ms. Sukacheva added.

Economist’s study showed that 93 percent of marketers surveyed reported connecting content with products and services. Furthermore, 75 percent of said content should frequently mention products. The majority of the audience, however, claimed they tune out from content that sounds too much like a sales pitch. Instead, they wanted content that had a utility or was related to insights or ideas.

So there is room for improvement in the market, and Jason Hill, global director of media and content strategy for GE, noted that cooperation between marketers, publishers and agencies is vital when it comes to shaping together better content. “People still love a great story, well-told,” he noted. “I think great stories can be told in native. I think it’s also easy to do a lot of crap in native.”

Nintendo’s ‘Splatoon’ Aims To Change Shooters

Ask people what kind of shooters they’re playing in video games these days, and they’re likely to rattle off a high-quality – yet mature-rated – title like Call of Duty or Halo, franchises that have managed to sell millions of copies around the world, and should continue to flourish with new entries set for release later this year. But what if a company introduced a game with hardcore shooting controls, but with a theme that would make it enjoyable for players of all ages

That’s exactly what Nintendo will be doing with Splatoon when it releases for the Wii U this May. This third-person action game takes all the familiar components from a competitive shooter, but replaces the hardcore weaponry and explosions with paint. Lots and lots of paint. In fact, it’s easy to say that it’s the video game equivalent of a paintball war, but with a twist.

The goal in Splatoon is to cover as much terrain with paint as possible within the enclosed map. This includes shooting walls, floors and other spaces, before the enemy can cover up the area with their paint. However, there’s an advantage to having more paint around, as players can transform temporarily into squids, moving at a faster pace across a map and also refilling their paint gun at the same time.

Along with shooting the terrain, players can also shoot at their adversaries, “taking them out” and forcing them to regenerate back at their home base. So, to some extent, there are some hardcore shooting elements at play in Splatoon, but instead of over-the-top carnage, players see explosions of paint. In addition, other elements from shooters are featured here, such as super-powered bazookas that can cover a greater area with a single shot, and bombs that act as grenades, splattering paint across a limited area – and, again, “taking out” enemies in the way.

Ever since its introduction during Nintendo’s E3-oriented Nintendo Direct special last year, Splatoon has been building buzz. But when the game made its playable debut at PAX East in Boston earlier this month , people started to take notice. Nintendo set up an eight-person competitive booth – with teams of four taking on one another. Players waited in line for hours on end to get in on the action, and experience this weird yet magical little title that Nintendo is producing. The video below shows just how popular the game was at the event.

The game will have full online support, along with local multiplayer options for those who prefer a “couch” session with their friends. There will be a number of maps available, and players will be able to “level up” accordingly, even earning access to bigger and better weapons, including a giant paint roller that can mow down anything in its path.

However, it’s the unique non-violent approach that should make Splatoon stand out, as both kids and veteran shooter fans should have no problem getting into the competitive spirit of the game, but splatting paint instead of blood everywhere. That should no doubt please parents, while, at the same time, bringing hardcore Nintendo fans in droves to check the game out as well.

Nintendo’s marketing move at PAX East showed an awareness of Splatoon‘s potential, and how the game benefits from hands-on experience and the enjoyment of the spectators. Perhaps Nintendo will continue to put effort into marketing this title, yet another one that could help move Wii U consoles into the market.

It’ll be messy, but Splatoon definitely looks like a game changer for the shooter genre . . . and Nintendo, for that matter.


Rovio Aims To Fly High In 2015

At one point a few years ago, Rovio was the hottest company on the planet, thanks to its best-selling Angry Birds franchise that was seemingly everywhere. Between licensing, business deals and various releases in the bird-flinging series, Rovio saw a huge profit for the past few years. 2014, however, told a different story.

A report from Time showed that the publisher had a drop in revenue last year, down to $158.3 million ($169 million), with profits dropping to $10 million ($10.6 million). In addition, licensed merchandise sales also plummeted, dropping from $73.1 million ($75.7 million) to $41.4 million ($44 million) in just a year’s time.

Even with new releases from the company, including Angry Birds Transformers, it was clear that the franchise was losing steam, with the industry-wide move to free-to-play games leaving the original premium model of Angry Birds behind. Rovio made changes to the game, added more sequels and free-to-play versions, as well as reorganizing the company.

Now, according to Fast Company, the company’s new CEO, Pekka Rantala, has a plan to bring the company back to high profits. After spending 17 years at Nokia (where he was VP for marketing the company’s gaming handheld N-gage), Rantala brings heavy experience to the role. He has a big task ahead of him as the mobile game market continues to evolve rapidly.

When asked if Angry Birds was a fading fad, he answered, “I understand the question. I definitely get it,” says Rantala. “But last year our Angry Birds games had more than half a billion downloads, so I think that’s just one data point to show that Angry Birds is not a fad.” In addition, he was quick to point out Angry Birds‘ popularity on social media, including a YouTube channel with 1.6 billion views and 27.5 million followers on Facebook. The chart below highlights these numbers.

So how does Rantala think the company will bounce back With a forthcoming big-screen adventure due next year. That may seems like a ways off, but Rantala says it ties in with the company’s return to form. “We envision ourselves as an entertainment company with mobile games at its heart,” he said, pointing out the fans behind the franchise. “We get tons of mail from our fans from all parts of the world. Many of them write their ideas about what we should be building, what kind of new levels our games should have—and we actually do take those ideas into account. When Angry Birds turned five years old in December, we launched 30 new levels in our game and all of them were based on drawings coming from our fans.”

As for the movie, “some years ago Rovio was approached by many studios who wanted to buy the rights to make a movie,” he said. “I am really proud that the company made a very bold decision not to sell the rights but instead to make the movie by themselves.

“It’s a huge investment for a company of our size. Some people might think we are crazy, but we are very excited, and we are very confident that this is the right move because when we decided to make it we decided to make it right.”

The company will continue releasing new games in the meantime, such as the free-to-play Stella Pop, a variation of the hit series Bust-a-Move, but formatted for the Angry Birds universe. Still, all eyes are on the franchise’s big-screen debut next year. “The business peaked very much during 2013,” Rantala says. “And now it’s normalized and the movie will create the next boost for the business.”

The only question now is how well it’ll fare until the movie releases.

More quotes from Rantala, including his vision of how to turn Rovio into a “Disney for the digital age,” can be found here.

VIDEO: Marketing The Next Big Party Game

[a]listdaily caught up with CEO of Chains Awesome Games JS Otis about how they want to position Knight Squad as the next big “party game,” along with how listening to community feedback has helped improve development of their new title.


Global Ad Spending To Reach $540 Billion

Global ad spending is increasing — and it appears digital ad spending is at the forefront.

AdAge has reported that marketers will spend $540 billion globally on advertising this year, which is a 4.6 percent increase from the amount spent last year, according to a research report by media-agency Carat.

Even without tent-pole media events to hype products — including ones surrounding the popular Winter Olympics, FIFA World Cup and mid-term elections in the United States — the growth continues to spread like wildfire. Not only that, but it’s expected to rise even higher next year, by an estimated 5 percent.

“Carat’s latest advertising forecast gives us increased optimism for the outlook for global advertising spending,” Jerry Buhlmann, CEO of Carat’s parent company Dentsu Aegis Network, said in a statement. “With harder times behind us, negative growth markets are pleasingly now a minority, and collectively we can look ahead to 2016 with positive growth predicted for all key markets.”

As you can see by the chart above, key markets have shown impressive spurts in spending. Along with North America, Western Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America, among others, showed a healthy increase, with even bigger numbers estimated for next year.

Digital media is the key component here, with companies intending to push its global spending by 15.7 percent this year, over last year. Meanwhile, traditional advertising, like with television, has shown a decrease, even though it still goes strong in some markets.

The chart above indicates just how much growth is expected with each group, and, as you can see, magazines and newspapers are looking at a tremendous drop-off, while television has only a slow and steady decline. Meanwhile, digital is healthier than ever, and a 13.8 percent boost is expected for next year as well.

The report also indicates a 50 percent increase in global mobile-ad spending — not a surprise considering the surging mobile market — and a 22 percent increase in global online video budgets, both of which are helping digital see a surge in spending. Still, some companies are skeptical due to where the ROI will end up. “Much of the early investment in mobile advertising has been amongst pure-play, app economy brands and business for whom there is an easily demonstrable ROI for investing in mobile,” the report said.

Regardless, it looks like ad spending is growing overall, despite the lag in some sectors. More details on the report can be found here.

Making Virtual Fun Real

The excitement over virtual reality is reaching a new height with advances in display technology coming soon, from Oculus Rift to Project Morpheus, from HoloLens to Magic Leap. While these technologies are exciting, they are merely the gateway to new experiences — with potential to transform a wide range of industries, from games to movies, from tourism to medicine, and not least basic social interactions. When it comes to dealing with virtual worlds, no company has more experience than Linden Lab, creators of the virtual world Second Life, and that company is working towards a more compelling virtual future not just on PCs, but also on mobile. The company recently announced that Hasbro’s iconic G.I. Joe brand will be coming to Linden Lab’s Blocksworld, the popular build-and-play game for Apple’s iPad.

Blocksworld lets players of all ages create fun 3D games, interactive scenarios, unique memes, models, and more, using a huge variety of blocks and a simple but powerful visual programming system,” said Linden Lab in a statement. “Blocksworld builders share their playable worlds in a global community and earn coins redeemable in an in-app Shop as their creations are ‘liked’ by other players. Players have already more than 2.3 million worlds in the community, from great games to impressive interactive models, and there’s always something new to play with.”

The partnership with Hasbro means that six G.I. JOE games will be available for all Blocksworld players. The games present a new storyline in the conflict between G.I. JOE and COBRA that ends in a cliffhanger, and Blocksworld players will be challenged to create and share their own interactive endings to the narrative. Of course, there will also be plenty of G.I. Joe building sets available, too, so players can create characters, vehicles, and more with their favorites from the stories. The playable G.I. Joe content can be used in any worlds the players create.

“Kids love playing and creating in Blocksworld,†said Michelle Vuckovich, Linden Lab’s Director of Product for Blocksworld. “While having fun creating anything they can imagine, they’re also learning to think like programmers, game designers, and engineers – something parents and teachers can appreciate. Blocksworld‘s physics and programming system are great for lasers, explosions, and all kinds of vehicles, and G.I. JOE is a perfect fit for those capabilities and our players’ interests. Blocksworld players will love the exciting new G.I. JOE games, and we can’t wait to see the creations they share to complete the storyline.â€

The [a]list daily caught up with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg along with Peter Gray, senior director of global communications, to talk about Blocksworld, Hasbro, the effort to re-invent Second Life, and where VR is heading.

Ebbe Altberg

What prompted Linden Labs to create Blocksworld?

Altberg: The origin was actually a small Swedish company that Linden Lab ended up buying to get their hands on the core Blocksworld technology. I wasn’t here at the time, but the correct decision of acquiring that company was made on the fact that they had figured out how to make construction very flexible, very scalable, and very easy. The sweet spot for Blocksworld is kids six to twelve years old. We wanted to make it possible for kids of that age to do some very sophisticated stuff without it being completely beyond their capabilities. Ease of use and power, it’s an interesting combination.

What else is in Blocksworld?

Gray: GI Joe is actually the third Hasbro brand we’ve been pleased to be able to bring to Blocksworld players. Before that we brought Transformers as well as My Little Pony build sets to our players They’ve been very popular among our users, particularly the Transformers sets. We’re excited for GI Joe — we’ve heard from our community they’re really excited about this. In Blocksworld we also have a mix of our own in-house developed IP with some building sets among different themes, like castles, spy/military themes, cars, those sorts of things. The Hasbro IP joins our own internally developed themes within the game.

Who’s your audience for Blocksworld?

Gray: Blocksworld is available globally in the App Store and we do see players from all over the world. The app is only in English, but a lot of the app isn’t reliant on language, so I think that doesn’t necessarily limit us. In terms of gender, we don’t have strong data on that — we’re very careful to be compliant the regulations about kid’s games. One of the things kids are able to do in Blocksworld is create a profile for themselves, and pick a little character to represent their profile — we call them blocksters, they can pick a little boy or a little girl blockster. The little boy tends to be more popular. We suspect, based on that and some of the content we see being created, that we probably skew a bit more popular among boys than girls.

How are you marketing Blocksworld?

Gray: We have PR efforts under way, we have ad campaigns in progress as well. We’re starting to connect with communities of GI Joe enthusiasts, we’re hoping some of them will pick up on the news and check out Blocksworld or have their kids check out Blocksworld.

Peter Gray

Altberg: To date we’ve been fairly conservative. We believe we have an incredible quality title on our hands, but we’re spending a lot of our energy going deep on the user experience and the usability of the app. There’s a lot of things we could have done to get to a wider audience more quickly, whether that’s localization or going to other platforms like Android or PCs. But we have refrained from that, because we do have time to get it right before we start to go much, much broader with it. We’re more concerned about the engagement and happiness of the users we have, rather than just trying to throw more people in there. Once we know that this is something incredible then we’ll start to increase the reach of this app. There’s so much noise and crap in the market, we don’t want to be one of those guys. We want to provide something of incredible quality.

Gray: We’re already seeing 4+ stars in the App Store, we’re currently about 125 in all free iPad apps and 67 in free iPad games. We rank very well in more specific categories, like 5th in educational.

You’re working on a new Second Life platform, what can you tell us about that?

Altberg: We have started a huge effort, the vast majority of our people at Linden Lab are working on a next-generation virtual experience platform. We’re going to go way beyond what Second Life ever achieved. This is a large undertaking, because Second Life is the most successful virtual world of all time. There’s no other platform that has enabled users to create that wide variety of content and experiences and communities, and be able to earn $60 million last year [for the inhabitants of Second Life]. We are 200 people and profitable thanks to Second Life, so it’s been hugely successful product.

But there are a number of things about Second Life where we can’t take it further, due to business and technology reasons. So we started about 9 months ago to build a completely, from-the-ground-up platform for users to be able to create content that will provide the creators with way more scale. It will make it easy for creators to create experiences that can be consumed by thousands of people concurrently using techniques like instancing.

Also it will enable creators to sell content and complete experiences, like apps but it’s a virtual experience. We’re also thinking up front on how this will be a fantastic platform for creating virtual reality content using all this new VR hardware that’s coming out like Oculus and Morpheus. This is going to be a way you can create extremely rich, interactive, social content in 3D space without highly technical requirements.

In this day and age, wth the explosion of virtual reality that’s happening around us, and the renewed interest in things we’ve been doing for a long time — Linden Labs has 12+ years of experience operating a huge, user-generated virtual reality content with a huge economy. We want to take that experience and give users some new, high performance, high quality, beautiful, easy to use, very scalable ways for people to create these immersive experiences.

VIDEO: Forums Are Still A Great Medium For Gamers

Chris Parsons, product manager of Muzzy Lane, spoke to [a]listdaily about how marketing towards educators differs from branding for commercial. He also details how keeping an open community forum blossomed into a special and unique medium of interaction among their players.