Facebook Revamps Video Ads With Game Installs

Video has proven to be quite effective to Facebook over the last year, as numbers indicate that it’s gaining popularity in the face of its main competitor, YouTube. Now, the popular social site is moving forward with some effective changes to its desktop video ads, allowing you to install a desktop game directly from a video ad.

Facebook announced in a recent blog post that it would introduce video functionality to desktop app ads, as a way to attract more people to install and play Facebook desktop games. This shows that the company remains devoted to the game medium, despite the growing presence of its video division. Games are an important category for Facebook, with 445 million people still playing games on Facebook across both the desktop and mobile devices.

“This means that selected partners can start using video creative for desktop app ads in Power Editor and Ads Create Tool,” said the blog post. “The video unit has similar functionality to our mobile app ads; it’s eligible to play automatically in News Freed, there is a persistent call-to-action over the video pop-up for ads rendering on the right hand side of the page, and all videos now have an end card that appears after they finish with options to replay it or install the game.”

With people viewing over four billion native videos on Facebook on a daily basis, there’s more consistency with the program – and a possible opportunity to increase the popularity of certain games. An early adopter to the program, Plamee, has shown excitement with the improvements. Said Michael Velkes, the company’s vice president of marketing, “The desktop app ad unit is the best converting non-incentive ad unit available in the industry. Adding this with video is a game-changer for the quality and loyalty of players.”

A select group of partners will be taking part in the program, but Facebook anticipates that it will be “available broadly soon.” Those companies that are interested in signing up for the program can do so here.

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Unikrn’s CEO Explains Why The Company Is Betting On eSports

Built on a gaming community set to reach more than 10 million gamers in over 100 countries worldwide in 2015, Unikrn has partnered with Tabcorp to launch a new online eSports platform where people can gather, game and safely bet on organized, sanctioned multiplayer video game competitions from around the world. At launch, Unikrn will provide access to live viewing, live discussions and competitive odds to eSports fans globally, including in the US. In addition, in legal sports betting jurisdictions, Unikrn users will be able to bet on the outcome of matches and tournaments, with further bet types to follow. The company is focusing on Riot Games’ League of Legends out of the gate and will expand to other eSports games in the near future.

Unikrn is the third company to enter the eSports arena with a gambling business model, although it’s the first to offer straight betting on video games. Vulcun and AlphaDraft are both taking a daily Fantasy ESports approach with their business model. Unikrn CEO and co-founder Rahul Sood, who, up until recently, was the General Manager of Microsoft Ventures, and previously was the founder of VoodooPC, explains why he’s literally betting on the future of eSports in this exclusive interview.

How does Unikrn differentiate itself from other eSports companies like Vulcun and AlphaDraft?

Vulcun and AlphaDraft are not betting companies, they are Fantasy. Fantasy Leagues place people together in competition pools, where they select their own team of players to compete against other peoples’ teams from within the pool. At the end of the competition, the person that has accumulated the most amount of points by successfully building a team of players that perform well, win the pool of money. In other words, nobody places a bet. They pay an entry fee to compete.

Unikrn is simple. Customers “bet against the house” on the outcome of any eSports match, all in a safe, legal and fun arena. We have global licenses for online betting through our partner Tabcorp, and together we’re working to add new legal jurisdictions.

What games are you focusing on for the betting platforms?

We will launch with League of Legends, and our initial criteria is based largely on number of players AND spectators. We’ll introduce games like Dota2, CounterStrike Global Offensive, and Starcraft 2. Other titles are in the works. Further to that, we’ll be looking for any potential AAA-rated game that is being developed with the spectator and gamers in mind.

How receptive have the game developers like Riot Games, Valve and anyone else you’re working with on this new platform?

The eSports betting industry is in its infancy, so developers, publishers and gamers are watching this industry rise along with us. They’re also aware of illegitimate operators looking to take advantage of and exploit the early market. Unikrn is built by long-time gamers and industry veterans, and together with Tabcorp, we are committed to building the safest, best place to bet on eSports in the world.

How big do you see gambling/betting on eSports growing?

In terms of the current sports betting market that includes basketball, football, baseball and other globally recognized sports, we believe the huge community following of eSports provides a great opportunity for eSports wagering to match or exceed wagering on more traditional sports within the coming years.

What are the challenges of dealing with the younger millennial audience that follows eSports?

A big challenge is creating and designing an environment that works for everyone regardless of their taste in games. Beyond that, it’s the same as any business taking on a high growth market, making sure we stay agile as a company, one that is capable of making rapid changes to suit the ever growing nature of eSports. It also helps that we all play games and that we live and love this industry every day.

How are you incorporating livestreaming into your service?

We are not a streaming company. We’re committed to integrating as many platforms as is necessary to support the needs of all our customers from Twitch to Youtube to Hitbox and more.

Unikrn

Why have you decided to focus on eSports?

For a shorter response you might ask, why wouldn’t you focus on eSports? I was involved with eSports back in my VoodooPC days, when it was really just starting to get noticed. Now it’s a booming industry that anyone past 30 needs to learn about. ESports combines the latest technology on the planet with media to produce real-time entertainment for a global viewing audience. In the future, it will reach the majority of all people in developed markets.

That, and the fact that we have two decades in the industry…we are excited to see eSports evolve into the global phenomenon we always believed it would be. ESports will sit front and center for future generations.

How big an eSports fan base do you have from your collection of gaming sites?

Right now we’re inching in on 10 million, but we expect to reach 20 million-plus eSport and gaming enthusiasts in the next 12 to 18 months.

What opportunities do you see for sponsors and advertising through your eSports endeavor?

We see huge opportunities for sponsors, and advertising opportunities for big brands through our Pinion network. The question we’re always asking ourselves is how can we improve gamer or spectator experiences and the eSports industry as a whole.

Instagram Launches New @Music Program

Music makes the world go ’round, as indicated by such popular apps as Spotify and Pandora. Now, Instagram is getting in on the musical action.

TechCrunch recently reported that the popular photo site has launched a new community on its site devoted to music and its creators alike, under the title @music. This marks a departure for Instagram, allowing it to focus singularly on a particular subject, as it explained in a blog post earlier this morning. Considering that about one quarter of the most popular accounts on the site are run by musicians, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s moving forward with such an initiative – and with over 300 million users using Instagram, it’ll certainly be able to generate an audience.

Said Instagram founder and CEO Kevin Systrom, “The music community is – and always has been – an important part of Instagram. For the past four years, we have become the home for artists big and small – a place where people across the musical spectrum come to share stories, reveal their creativity and connect directly with fans.”

In addition to being home to such popular artists as Madonna, Katy Perry, and top ten mainstay Justin Beiber, Instagram has also seen an increase in emerging artists looking to make a name for themselves, and share posts that relate to fans within their community.

Instagram music editor Alex Suskind will head up the project, which will cover a variety of music-related topics, including featured artists (like new performers, such as Tricot), instruments, lyrics, studio sessions, and even concerts. Fans can also take part as well, and get involved with their own posts.

Six posts per week will be dedicated to the @music channel, grouped by series designed by specific hashtags. For instance, #LocallySourced will cover unsigned acts that show promise, while #DoubleTrack will focus on the interests of artists outside of the musical scene. #15SecondLessons will also provide videos on how to learn more about music, including “everything from riffs to drumbeats,” according to the site.

A new music-themed monthly hashtag project will also be introduced, similar to Instagram’s previous Weekend Hashtag Project – but with a music focus, obviously.

The @music division is already going strong, with a piece that focuses on The Roots’ drummer Questlove, explaining his musical origins. With the right amount of success, it could diversify into even more coverage, for both up-and-coming and popular artists alike.

Don’t look for any other areas outside of @music for the time being, though. A spokesperson for Instagram said, “Creating content isn’t new for us. We think spotlighting the most talented and creative members of the music community on Instagram is a very strategic long-term.”

Microsoft Build: What Will Devs Do With HoloLens?

Today Microsoft kicked off day one of their three day long event, Microsoft Build, with a lot of fanfare. There was code. Lots and lots of code. After all, it is a developer event.

You can tune in to watch the livestream and watch recorded footage from the event here, but we’ve condensed some of the biggest takeaways from today in a digestible format below.

Windows 10’s A-Comin’

According to Microsoft, they expect to see Windows 10 on at least 1 billion devices in the next 2-3 years. Providing current users of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 will certainly be helping to make this possible.

Visual Studio 2015 Will Work Across Platforms

Why should you be excited about Visual Studio 2015 Because it will allow developers to write cross-platform applications and supports Universal Apps that will run on Windows 10 devices, whether they’re phones, PC’s, Xbox’s, tablets and HoloLens. Synchronicity is the game on Windows 10.

Goodbye Internet Explorer, Hello Microsoft Edge

 

At Build, one of the most exciting opportunities was the hundreds of HoloLens devices for developers to test out and see just how real the tech is. We also found out today that Unity is not just for Oculus, but will also be able to build games for the HoloLens as well. How cool is that

And this too:

 

We remain absolutely excited to see what the future holds for this device.

Nadella’s Build 2015 Keynote In 9 Minutes

Glu Mobile Strikes Gold

As if mobile gaming isn’t hot enough as it is with three Super Bowl ads from Game of War, Clash of Clans and Heroes Charge to show for it, Glu Mobile, maker of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood announced today that it has sold 14.6 percent of its shares to the Chinese company Tencent for $126 million.

The deal values Glu Mobile around $863 million, making it one of the biggest mobile game companies around in a market that could hit $30 billion this year.

“I am proud to announce that we have entered into a strategic relationship with arguably Asia’s largest internet company and the world’s largest games company – Tencent. I consider their expertise in gaming to be unrivalled and we are excited to power ahead with the support of a fantastic partner that believes in our strategy and shares our vision,” said Niccolo de Masi, Chairman & CEO of Glu.

Tencent already has ownership stakes in Epic Games, Riot Games and Activision and this deal will allow the company to get an even bigger footprint in the US mobile games market as well as open doors for Glu Mobile in Asian markets.

It goes to show how important it is for mobile game companies to break new ground in the market. Using the likenesses of celebrities like the Kardashian-Jenners, Katy Perry and Britney Spears can reach new audiences.

Will we see Glu do a Super Bowl spot with one of these celebs in 2016

Periscope Goes Up For Twitter

Twitter’s streaming video app Periscope has presented a number of challenges since its release last month, which we’ve highlighted in a previous article here. But there’s no question that it’s picking up on popularity — and it’s just the good news that the social site could use right now.

Re/Code has reported that the live streaming app has managed to add a million new users in the app’s first ten days on the market — an unprecedented amount of sign-ups considering that more popular competitors, namely Meerkat, were already available.

By comparison, Meerkat was only able to generate 120,000 users in a three-week span, meaning that Periscope has rocketed to popularity much more quickly.

That said, there’s a question in terms of long-term sustainability for the app, as CEO Dick Costolo failed to disclose other terms surrounding Periscope — at least, for now.

But maybe that’s because Twitter has a lot more on its mind right now, as some new problems have emerged. Another report from Re/Code explained that Twitter was forced to halt its stock trade on Tuesday afternoon, following a leak that revealed the social site’s Q1 earnings for 2015 earlier than expected.

As a result, the stock quickly dropped by six percent before trading was halted, and once it did resume again, it dropped a total of more than 18 percent.

The numbers indicated that Twitter earned $436 million in revenue, short of the $457 million that analysts predicted. Q2 and full-year revenue projections also show smaller numbers, with around $470-$485 million for the quarter and $2.17 to $2.27 billion by year’s end — both of which are also down by previous numbers from analysts.

From this, the company did experience a setback — and this wasn’t the only one. VentureBeat recently released a report on social media management, which looks at tools, trends and social activity across all sites.

Measuring 250,000 tweets across 1,600 accounts over nine days, the report shows a low usage rate by popular brands for Twitter accounts. Only 839 companies accounted in the report, indicating that 47.6 percent of brands didn’t tweet over the nine-day period. While that means 52.4 percent still tweet consistently — and show the site is still of great use — that may be a slight cause for concern.

At least the brands that do consistently use Twitter are big ones, including the likes of American Airlines, Comcast, Royal Dutch Airlines and Chevrolet, among others. And the site still reports that it has 288 million monthly active users, with 500 million tweets per day. 80 percent also actively use mobile devices to post their statuses, while 77 percent of accounts are outside the U.S., meaning lots of international business.

Regardless, Twitter has some issues to bounce back from. Maybe Periscope could certainly help lead the way…

More data on VentureBeat‘s findings can be found here.

Image source

Android Finally Tops iOS In Revenue

Apple has dominated mobile revenue the last few years, taking as much as 90 percent of the profits for all mobile hardware, and leading strongly in app revenue as well. While Android hardware sales have surpassed Apple’s hardware, profits have not come close — and revenue from apps has stayed below iOS revenue despite the lead in hardware. Many analysts wondered when Android apps would finally catch up to iOS — but, in fact, Android apps have finally surpassed iOS apps in total revenue.

Business Insider has reported that, according to data provided by Digi-Capital, Android app revenue has actually overtaken iOS app revenue.

Android has been dominant in terms of overall downloads, mainly due to its larger install base (including over one billion Android smartphones shipped last year (versus Apple’s 192.7 million iPhones). However, for the longest time, Apple’s iOS has made more money than Android despite a far smaller number of devices on the market. That is, until now, when Digi-Capital’s research shows that Android has finally taken over the lead in app revenue.

Keep in mind, though, that these revenues aren’t just for the U.S. market, as Digi-Capital has also calculated in earnings from Chinese Android app stores — and with its widely popular offering of games, that’s a pretty huge cash flow. Separately, the two are smaller than iOS’ thriving revenue.

Regardless, Android’s dominance in the mobile field means good news for developers down the road, making Android just as reliable a platform to develop for as iOS.

The chart above breaks down just how much money is made in terms of global app stores revenue, and between iOS, Google Play and Android in China, nearly the entire circle is filled, with only a small amount for the “other” category.

This chart also shows the significance of the Chinese app market, and could push companies to produce their wares specifically for said market — which, as this article shows, is definitely a growing trend. That isn’t stopping Apple from picking up market share in China, though, with its new iPhones setting sales records two quarters running, and a new retail expansion that could lead to even bigger iPhone sales across the country.

And for those wondering about if a profit can be made from Android products, a report from DAU-UP suggests that it’s on the rise, with an average revenue per user that has picked up since 2014. With lower advertising costs, some developers are even capable of making more from Android apps than iOS ones — and that could mean a shift for some companies when it comes to development.

One thing’s for sure — the mobile market has never been hotter, and things will only get more interesting from here.

Design Your Marketing Before The Game

Game designers, you need to completely rethink the way you design games these days. In the classic era of ancient times in video games (that is, the late 20th Century), a game began as an idea in some designer or producer’s head. (Sure, sometimes a game began because a licensing deal was signed, but those games were far outnumbered by the original creations.) These game ideas were developed and winnowed by publishers, and eventually a chosen few would be funded all the way through production into the reality of shipment. A few months before the ship date, marketing efforts would begin — a package and ads would be created, PR efforts would get under way, and marketing efforts were timed for maximum effect at launch day, being abandoned soon after.

This whole process was developed to maximize sales to retail stores, and to make sure that product sold through to customers. Games were rare things, though, and often months would go by in game stores without a major top-notch game coming in. Gamers were hungry for games, and many games that sold well weren’t even all that good — gamers were desperate for new game experiences, and so even mediocre games could do well with the right marketing push.

Welcome to the 21st Century, where good games are released every day, and great games every week or two. We’re drowning in good games — how many unplayed games have you piled up in your Steam library Ask any game player and they can probably name a number of games they are interested in but haven’t purchased or played yet — and there are hundreds of great games they haven’t even heard of.

It’s time to design your marketing before you design your game.

If this sounds crazy, it shouldn’t. The central problem of mobile games is discoverability, of getting found by gamers amidst hundreds of thousands of other games. That’s even true of games on PC, games online, and console games — there are so many good games out there, informing and convincing potential players to get your game is becoming increasingly difficult. Put another way, building an audience is more difficult than building a game, in many cases. And without a paying audience, you’re not going to make money from your game no matter how good it is.

A good game is just table stakes these days, John Riccitiello said. You still need to build your audience. Maybe you already have a massive customer base that you can cross-promote to, but not everyone has that handy. If you don’t, how do you know your game has a good chance of attracting a big audience

Think Hard.

Try drafting the press release for your game first, before you design it. Amazon and other tech companies have often used this trick — it forces you to think of features that would be compelling for your product. If your press release puts you to sleep, that’s a sure indication that your game isn’t distinctive or interesting enough.

Some companies have been known to go a step further, and create a TV commercial before they create a product. If the commercial create enough interest, they get to work on actually creating the product.

Sure, it sounds crazy, especially if your product contains significant technical challenges that you aren’t sure you can overcome. But the exercise of creating your marketing — or, at least, your key selling points — can wonderfully focus your design into working on what will appeal to an audience.

Potential game players are bombarded with news and messages every day — you should see how many press releases the average game journalist gets every day. How would yours stand out If all you have that makes your game unique is a different name for the fantasy world where the game takes place, you’d better go back to the drawing board. Try writing a press release that makes you excited to play the game, and then see if you can get some of your co-workers similarly excited.

A great game concept should be packed with things that stimulate great marketing campaigns. Tell your game idea to a marketer, and if it’s a compelling idea that should be obvious when your marketer responds immediately with ideas for how to market the game. If not, you either need to find a more creative and enthusiastic marketer, or a better game idea — or both.

Yes, it will be a challenge to build a game the lives up to the exciting adjectives in the press release you drafted at the beginning of the process. But if you can create a press release that’s exciting, and a game to match, your odds are much, much better that you’ll have a game that can attract an audience that will deliver a tidy profit to you.

Certainly, this concept is completely the opposite of the way most designers think — that’s the point. Looking at a problem from a different angle is a good way to find solutions. Yes, as the game design develops you often come up with new features, or find out that something you just threw in turns out to be the part of the game that everybody talks about when they see it. So your press release will no doubt get modified as the game is developed, which is a sign that you’re making the game more appealing to the audience — and not just to the design team.

Nothing is more critical than knowing the difference between what your designer or design team likes, and what a large audience is actually interested in playing. There are plenty of great games that appeal mainly to a very small audience — and those types of games can be wonderful pieces of craftsmanship, but they aren’t something that generates the profits you need to run a business. Figure out if the game you’re dreaming of creating will actually have a big enough audience to pay for your time — and that’s what a marketing plan should show you.

If you find yourself with a press release and a marketing plan that doesn’t seem like it will be a hit game with a large audience, congratulations! You’ve just saved yourself (and your company) a whole lot of time and money by not pursuing a game idea that had a low chance of success. Come up with another idea, or refine that first one, or mash it together with another idea — be creative! That’s the mark of a good designer, after all, and of a good marketer. Start with a great marketing concept for your game, and a great game should follow.

NewFronts Kicks Off With Video Ads Push

NewFronts 2015 is under way, with a number of companies showing off their latest projects in social media in the hopes of attracting advertising dollars through a number of formats, including a push for video ads.

There are a surprising number of companies involved, including Buzzfeed, Yahoo, YouTube and Maker, all looking to push its original content while, at the same time, presenting viable formats in which advertising can be more effective than it currently is on modern television.

Surprisingly enough, The New York Times kicked off its own presentation at NewFronts, where, according to the Washington Post, it revealed a forthcoming documentary series focusing on women in the Arab Spring, as well as animated features that take a closer look at the financial industry. In addition, it also intends to dabble in virtual-reality technology.

“Times Video continues to be one of the most creative expressions of our journalism,” said Bruce Headlam, managing editor of video for the Times. “From breaking news to creating in-depth features, Times journalists are using the medium to amplify our news report and bring rich, visual storytelling to new audiences.”

Meanwhile, a study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau points out that investors are more likely to boost their digital-video budgets over the next 12 months, shifting away from traditional television – and this is following an effective 80 percent of marketers and agency execs who attended last year’s NewFronts and came away impressed enough to invest in at least one project.

Variety reports that, according to the IAB’s numbers, U.S. digital video advertising totaled a whopping $3.3 billion last year, up 17 percent from the $2.8 billion the year before. eMarketer added its own numbers, stating that the market was worth $5.8 billion overall last year, and expected to grow to $7.8 billion this year.

About 68 percent of the marketers and executives polled by the IAB believe that their digital-video ad budgets will increase over the next year. “This study demonstrates unequivocally that digital video is a fierce competitor for advertising dollars,” said Sherrill Mane, IAB’s senior vice president of research, analytics and measurement. Thus, the NewFronts are a pretty big deal for all involved, investors and companies alike.

Want further proof The survey indicates that last year’s NewFronts presentations were “directly responsible” for driving 36 percent of buy-side attendees’ spend on original digital video advertising over the past year. That’s an increase of 24 percent from the previous year’s NewFronts events.

In addition, 67 percent of marketers and agency execs believe that original digital video will become as vital as original TV programming over the next three to five years. It’s already proven to be a big draw, with House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black driving more and more people to Netflix, and so on.

Still, there are some that are taking NewFronts in stride and having fun with the format. Some have pitched their shows in a playful manner, without being super-serious on the numbers – for instance, video talent Taryn Southern, with her humorous pitch for her new project The Taryn Show. And Defy Media recently collaborated with Screen Junkies on an Honest Newfront Trailer that pokes fun at the event in general, while slyly inviting attendees to come out to a Defy media party on May 4. You can see the trailer below.