Lionsgate Interactive’s Peter Levin On Licensing

The president of Lionsgate Interactive, Peter Levin, was at GamesBeat Summit to speak about how his studio is redefining the relationships between games, movies, and television. He spoke with [a]listdaily about how the nature of licensing is changing and other topics. This is the first part of that interview.

You’ve been at Lionsgate Interactive for almost exactly a year now. What has that first year been like, and what have you accomplished?

Lionsgate decided to take a leap into the big world of interactive entertainment and gaming. Everything from an investment portfolio within a year to very creatively bringing our IP into the world of gaming, and pulling third-party IP into Lionsgate. They’ve just embraced it. I keep looking over my shoulder for the other shoe to drop, but I’m having way, way too good of a time thus far.

You’re not just doing one kind of deal at Lionsgate Interactive, but many different kinds of deals. Why such a variety?

The traditional dynamics between the entertainment industry and the games business was that very dysfunctional licensee/licensor “you’re going to write me a check for X amount of millions, and I’m going to take too long to get back to you to do the deal, and you’re not going to have enough time to develop a good game so I’m going to tell my marketing team not to answer your phone calls or emails” and then I move onto the next person. And then I parse my rights out as many times as possible. “Oh, you have a sub-continental theme to your font That’s a new vertical for XYZ IP.” That hasn’t worked for 20 plus years and we have the ability as Lionsgate to have a fresh palette, with respect to this whole games activity and exercise. So we don’t have a shareholder base that is reluctant, we don’t have a board that is gunshy, we don’t have a management team that is looking in their rearview mirror at roadkill. We do have the luxury of entertaining all types of deal constructs. So whether it is a more traditional licensee/licensor (we will do very few of those), we will invest, we will supercharge an equity position by contributing an IP — we like that model a lot because it aligns interests. And in the freemium and free-to-play space, when these experiences can have multiple years of shelf life, it’s a wonderful way to align interests.

When you’re looking for partners among developers, what’s the key thing you’re looking for?

My master’s degree in the obvious but it’s team, and it really is a passion for that particular IP. We have 16,000 titles in our library, so we’ve had a lot of people come at us and say “I’m obsessed with The Dresden Files.” I didn’t know we made The Dresden Files… I didn’t even know what the show was. God bless them, this developer said “I don’t care about anything else, I just want this IP.” We’re going to work really hard to bring that relationship to fruition because those guys are going to kill themselves. They are going to do whatever they can to make a kick-ass experience and an awesome game. We want to treat our game developers the same way we treat film directors on the film side of the house, and showrunners on the television side of the house. As preciously as we do any other medium that’s adapting an IP.

You’ve talked about how the traditional licensing relationship has changed at Lionsgate. Is that happening elsewhere in the industry? Is there still a lot of traditional licensing going on?

There’s both. Warner’s is just crushing it, and they are ones who suffered from roadkill in the past. They have a management team that gets it. Kevin Tsujihara gets it. And yes, you see a lot of the same old, same old. Seven or eight SKUs based on an IP, it’s confusing to the consumer, it’s confusing to everybody. It’s not long-term advantageous to the IP rights holder, nor is it advantageous to the publisher or developer. The problem is that you’re also seeing kind of a quasi-frothy marketplace, where a lot of developers are raising capital, so they overpay for a license and that helps their narrative in the marketplace. The net result is they’re competing with seven or eight others for a similar IP and no one wins in that scenario. You’re definitely seeing more, I think, of the embracing of the games vertical as a tried and true business environment in which to adapt your IP, and that’s driven by the economics. You can no longer argue with the economics.

What’s the most exciting thing to you happening in the games industry right now?

I would say the the true collaboration and alignment of interests of the game industry and the entertainment industry. It’s never happened before. You’ve got multiple titles in the top ten or twenty-five, in any marketplace on Earth, you’re going to see evergreen IP brands present. Those brands coupled to best-of-breed publishers and developers, that just hasn’t happened before. That is extremely exciting regardless of where the industry is going right now. There is a true hand-in-hand collaboration that just did not exist before.

We’re seeing a lot more quality on all levels, with a lot more good TV and movies and games, and there’s more outlets for them.

The wonderful thing about what television has done — this second golden age of television — the very intimate conduit that you can create as a developer or a publisher with an IP rights holder, it’s unprecedented. I think what you’ll start to see, and hopefully sooner rather than later, is there’s efficiencies in messaging to that audience. So between seasons of, for example, The Walking Dead — and AMC and Lionsgate are co-investors in Next Games — you’ll see clever ways of messaging to those twenty million people that watch The Walking Dead every Sunday night so that you don’t have to spend as much in environments where there aren’t as transparent the metrics in terms of engagement in the consumption of your messaging. If someone has downloaded that game, and they’re playing your game, they’re going to welcome that messaging. That’s not overbearing marketing or advertising, that’s “hell yeah I want to tune in for season whatever.”

Victorious’ Bing Chen On Giving Creators Their Own Platforms

“There’s been a desire for greater control of your own digital business,” says Bing Chen, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Victorious. “You are renting your audience right now. You do not own them.”

The trouble is, creating your own app from the ground up is not only a time-consuming endeavor, it can also run up quite a bill. But Victorious is building a business on partnering with new media stars to build apps that are as unique as their audiences. So far, they’ve been doing this quite successfully, snagging the likes of Ryan Higa, Jenna Marbles, Michelle Phan, AwesomenessTV, Machinima, Geek & Sundry and more, a well-curated list of not just new media stars but also new media companies.

“We look for creators who can transcend their category and themselves.”

What Victorious aims to do is to empower them to own their own audiences and their data and to tap into the potential of different revenue streams.

“Content today is incredibly one-dimensional. You watch a video. You like a photo. You retweet a tweet. And the reality is storytelling is a continuous multimedia experience,” says Bing.

Victorious works directly with creators in a relatively punctuated process to build standalone apps that have all kinds of content like polls, quizzes and Ryan Higa’s exclusive game. These apps are not a one size fits all solution for creators, but a unique and enhanced way for creators to engage with what Bing calls “superfans.’

“Superfans on any platform have always driven the majority of engagement revenue. They are the 20 percent that drive the 80 percent, whether or YouTube, Facebook and so forth.”

Victorious thinks of these apps as giving direct access to the superfans in a way where “they become an affiliate or partner in the creator’s journey.”

“Creators all have fundamentally different business models. When I was at YouTube, five of us tried to evaluate what the typical business model of a creator was, whether was in beauty, music, or what have you. No surprise. Every creator was different.”

“Already we have signed more digitally-born creators than any other startup or new media company in the world.”

But how are they monetizing Bing says that Victorious has built a robust ad mediation layer of which he is proud, as well as in-app purchases and microtransactions. Beyond that, Bing says there are opportunities for branded integrations and that Victorious is working closely with merchandise vendors.

“Victorious wants to work with super creators, super fans and super brands.” The benefit for brands, he says, is that they don’t have to sift through to find the most engaged users. “It’s targeted towards the creme-de-la-creme.”

What’s next for Victorious “You’re going to see a whole host of creative opportunities that will be unleashed on the platform throughout the summer and beyond, whether it’s exclusive new interactive experience, games, an IP, or what have you. You’re also going to see a broadening of the type of creator we work with,” he said, citing TV shows, networks and more.

eSports Continues Its Rise

We’ve talked at great length about the staying power of eSports in the past – from its being featured on an ESPN2 broadcast to the emergence of companies like Wargaming to the inclusion of major sponsors, such as Coca-Cola. But a new report from SuperData indicates that it has far greater staying power than anyone could’ve expected.

The company released a new report called the eSports Market Brief 2015, which indicates that the total market has reached $612 million for the year, with a tremendous growth for both North American and Europe in terms of both live attendance and watching tournaments online.

It’s easy to see why eSports would be so appealing, as a number of competitive games, from Hearthstone to DOTA 2 to League of Legends make it easy for players to get involved in match-ups between pro players. But SuperData believes that the emergence of competitive gaming presents publishers with a new avenue, to which it can advance the user experience and allow brands to take part – a way for new consumers to join the fun, even if they are “noobs,” so to speak.

The breakdown of the overall eSports market shows that Asia has a commanding lead with a whopping $374 million in revenue, while the U.S. follows closely behind with $143 million, and Europe is in third with $72 million. The rest of the world values at $24 million.

A number of key findings from the report include:


  • The global eSports audience is 134 million strong and growing. Investment in innovative business models, platform and derivative businesses further spurs growth in competitive gaming.
  • Competitive gaming is a marketing strategy, and not a revenue driver. In addition to traditional marketing efforts, organizing events and streaming content improves awareness and retention.
  • 13 percent of live-stream viewers watch eSports. Almost half of eSports viewers in the U.S. use Twitch services, while roughly half of eSports viewers participate in some form of competitive gaming, mostly through online platforms.
  • Corporate sponsorships total $111 million in North America. Brand owners and advertisers are expected to adapt to emergent forms of entertainment, which will grow sponsorship deals across the segment.


“In many ways, competitive gaming seems, at least at first glance, to resemble traditional sports. But to think that a new phenomenon like eSports can be described in terms of the old is to misunderstand it entirely. The intersection of technology, fandom and interactive entertainment is presenting us with new ways of sharing experiences on a global scale,” said SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen.

“In the past year, we’ve been working together with both our publisher clients and brand owners to map out the market for competitive gaming and help them identify key areas and opportunities. By building our understanding on a variety of data sets, including merchandise sales, event participation and consumer insight, we’ve managed to go beyond the fluff and provide an in-depth look at this unique market,” he added.

The full report can be found here.

Measuring The Value Of Music

The power of music services is discussed often these days. While the amount of downloaded tunes seems to be dropping, Spotify and Pandora, amongst other streaming services, remain quite popular. However, Pitchfork recently posted an article that takes a closer look at the overall value of music, and how much it’s changed over the years.

Titled “How Much Is Music Really Worth “, the in-depth article takes a look at a number of factors surrounding music, and how much things have changed in terms of what consumers pay for it. “Putting the debates about artists’ income from Spotify, Pandora and their ilk in a broader historical context, it becomes clear that the money made from a song or an album has clearly decreased over the last several decades,” said the article. “What’s equally clear, though, is that the value of music is almost as subjective financially as it is aesthetically; the economics of music, it turns out, is more dark art than dismal science.”

The article then broke down certain stats. “While record sales have plummeted, concert revenues have soared (at least for the industry’s one percent) and corporate partnerships of one kind or another have become more common. Plus, the industry figures you see in articles like this one hardly ever factor in expenses, which — including anything from production, marketing and artist fees to venue costs and road crew wages — can add up to huge sums.”

A number of artists have chimed in on the subject. A few months back, Taylor Swift stated that “music should not be free” before unceremoniously yanking her tunes from the Spotify service. Bono of U2 also stated that listeners shouldn’t expect free music, despite the fact that the band’s latest album was offered free to iTunes users. And Jay-Z, speaking about his streaming Tidal service, stated, “Water is free. Music is $6, but no one wants to pay for music.”

Global revenues of recorded music have dropped dramatically as of late, down $15 billion last year, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. That’s a staggering drop considering that the peak of $60 billion was reached just under 20 years ago in 1996. The U.S. alone saw a big amount of that change, from a $20.6 billion peak in 1999 down to $7 billion for last year.

The above chart shows just how much people have been paying for music over the years, like $53.96 for an eight-track album cartridge from Jimi Hendrix back in 1968 to $91.30 for a deluxe physical version of Radiohead’s In Rainbows back in 2007. Lately, though, tunes seem to be running much lower, with albums on iTunes going for as little as $9.99, or as high as $16.99 — in some cases higher, depending on the offered tracks.

To go a little more in-depth, check out the chart above, which breaks down what an album has sold for over the years. Back in 1974, users had to pay as much as $24.45 to get their favorite band’s latest offering. However, these days, the average price runs about $11.97 — just under half of that.

Singles run even less. At one point, they went for as high as $5.87, mainly due to the collectible value and rare B-sides that were offered by some artists. However, these days, the general single goes for $1.17, with most tracks being offered on iTunes going for anywhere between $.99 and $1.29.

Again, though, the report was quick to state that live performances continued to be in high demand for certain bands. Sales for major concerts in North America managed to reach $6.2 billion last year, up from $5.1 billion the year before. The average ticket price for the top 100 tours at the time was $71.44, and it appeared that not a lot of people were scared off by that. (On a side note, One Direction had the biggest piece of that pie, with $127.2 million in performances and an average $84.06 ticket price.)

More details about the report, including more artists’ comparisons and other examples, can be found here. Those in the music industry will certainly want to make note.

Activision Blizzard Prepares For A Strong 2015

One major presence in the game industry that isn’t losing any of its stature is Activision Blizzard – and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

The company announced its first quarter earnings through a report earlier this week, indicating that it’s earned $1.28 billion in revenue for the period ending March 31, 2015, with “over 150 million active users around the world,” according to CEO Bobby Kotick.

He added, “Our talented teams around the world continue to create experiences that inspire our audiences. In the last 12 months, we had over 150 million active users around the world who played our games for more than 12 billion hours and spectators who watched over a billion hours of linear programming based on our games. In the past year, Activision Blizzard’s communities grew by more than 25 percent.”

Combined, both Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and Destiny have attained over 50 million registered players, and a lifetime revenue of over $1 billion.

However, that doesn’t mean the company’s year is done yet. In fact, it’s just getting started, and a big marketing push is expected from all corners.

One major player in the game is Skylanders, the company’s interactive toy game line. It’s become the number one kids game and console franchise in the world, despite competition from Disney with its Infinity series and other games, like Warner Bros. Lego Dimensions, entering the fray. Activision Blizzard should announce a new Skylanders product next month around E3, if not sooner – and will pour big money into spreading the word about it.

Call of Duty has sold significantly well over the years, with last year’s Advanced Warfare performing up to company expectations. That trend should continue this year with Black Ops III, which will launch on November 6th. The game is already getting a healthy marketing push, with the first gameplay trailer already making the rounds and pre-orders live through both digital means and stores. The trailer is below.

In addition, Destiny will continue to have a steady focus, as the developers at Bungie are not only preparing a highly anticipated House of Wolves expansion (set to release sometime this summer), but an even bigger add-on coming in the months ahead. It hasn’t been fully disclosed yet, but Activision should have more details on this around E3.If that’s not enough, the publisher is also putting some reliance into older, more popular franchises from a few years back. The company formally announced the return of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise earlier this week, taking on more of a “classic” feel from the series instead of motion-sensitive based games like Tony Hawk Ride. Pro Skater 5 will arrive later this year for Xbox One and PS4, with a release planned for older consoles afterward. It sold very well for several years, and with the right marketing push, Activision could definitely bring it back to form.The Guitar Hero franchise, which set sales records years ago with its popular Guitar Hero III: Warriors of Rock, will be reborn with Guitar Hero Live later this year. It will be packaged with a newly designed (but easily accessible) guitar controller, as well as two ways to play. Guitar Hero Live will feature “live” crowds, while Guitar Hero TV introduces a new competitive angle, where players can challenge one another and switch “channels” depending on what they’re in the mood to play. A variety of bands will also be introduced in the game, with new songs being added regularly as downloadable content. Expect a big push behind this one as well, with a general focus on being able to play with popular music. The trailer is below.

That’s not to mention Blizzard’s plans on the PC front. The company’s first-person shooter, Overwatch, is making the rounds, set to enter beta test this fall; Heroes of the Storm, which was recently featured on an ESPN2 broadcast, will make its way to beta this month; and a new StarCraft II expansion is in the works, set to launch later this year. All three of these games should get a tremendous push, especially on the eSports front, where they’re expected to be popular favorites.

Activision Blizzard has a lot of work ahead of it with all its franchises, but considering its sales success thus far for the year, it should have no problem pulling ahead for a big year.

Oculus Has A Lot To Prove With Its Launch

Since its inception following a successful KickStarter campaign years ago, the Oculus Rift has been gaining some big buzz. Whether it was Oculus VR’s acquisition by Facebook or the presence of the device at events like the Sundance Film Festival, it has been slowly but surely showing that virtual reality could have a future in the consumer market – that is, if it could ever get a release date.

Finally, though, it appears that the Oculus will see the light, as the team behind the device have confirmed that it will hit retail during the first quarter of 2016. However, some details are still being kept in the dark at the moment, such as when the pre-order campaign will kick off (sometime later this year) and, more importantly, the price.

The Oculus Rift has proven in the past that it’s a virtual reality device to be contended with, as several big-name companies have shown with their tech demos. This includes last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, where 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures all had interactive demos focusing on VR, featuring the likes of X-Men: Days of Future Past, Into the Storm and Pacific Rim, respectively.

And Oculus itself has been ramping up a decent consumer scale in terms of what it intends to offer for those who purchase the device. Several games will be readily available once it launches, and there are even dedicated marketplaces where videos and other applications can be used with Oculus VR, with a convenient downloading solution in place.

But now comes the big question – how accepted will the device be on the consumer market There’s no word on a price point yet, so we don’t know just how expensive it will be to step into these virtual worlds. It’s likely that Oculus VR will come up with a competitive price point, but even then, there’s no question that cheaper alternatives, like Google Cardboard, will continue to flourish.

There’s also a question in terms of health. The last major VR unit to hit retail, the Virtual Boy, launched back in the 90’s, and turned into a real problem for Nintendo. Despite an offering of interesting games, the display caused some people to become ill after playing for a few minutes – a problem that those who have motion sickness issues could possibly go through with the Oculus.

Last but not least, there’s the competition. Sony hasn’t announced plans for its Project Morpheus headset as of yet, nor has HTC with its Valve-powered VR device, but the Electronic Entertainment Expo is just around the corner, and both companies could be primed to run a sooner launch date than the Oculus – and possibly even at a lower price. The competition is mounting, and companies like Samsung and Google have already made a lot of headway when it comes to virtual reality. Needless to say, Oculus has its work cut out for it.

Regardless, the technology is impressive; the support from major gaming and film companies appears to be in place; and with Facebook as its main investor, there’s definitely going to be some form of social push for it. All Oculus needs to do now is reveal the final details and begin building hype for the device. From there, who knows The future could be virtually theirs. Perhaps.

Will Wright On His New App, Thred

Fans of Will Wright can check out what he’s been working on the past year by downloading the free iOS app, Thred. Wright has moved away from video games and is instead focusing on creating and sharing one’s real-life adventures with friends socially through “threds” of photos, comics, and thoughts that can be customized in countless different ways. The app launched today and will be coming to Android later this year. Wright talks about his latest interactive project in this exclusive interview.

Why did you decide to go this non-gaming route?

The evolution of my game career was toward more and more player creativity and giving players tools and letting them share what they create. A lot of these players are just regular people who don’t think of themselves as creative. What interested me the most were the creative sharing communities that were building up around these games. I thought of the game as more of a tool to build communities because that was the stickiest part for a lot of people.

What types of gamification did you build into this app?

I never liked the term gamification. It’s kind of like storification. Story is so ubiquitous. You can tell your friends stories over a cup of coffee, or you might go see a 3D movie in IMAX, but they’re both stories. It just surrounds us. It’s the way that we understand the world. And I think games really are just as fundamental. You can’t wave your magic wand and make something a game. It’s more about being playful and exploring. With games you feel like the way to explore things in a light-hearted way a lot of times, and not even goal-directed. You’re going where one takes you, or trying to see what happens if you do this. Even when I’m surfing the Web, it feels playful to me. It’s not a game, but it definitely feels playful. A lot of things people make on the Web are more in the spirit of play, but in terms of the Thred app, it was very focused on the kinesthetic of it in the same way that we’re presenting a game. One of the first things you might want to dive into is the controls and how they feel. I wanted the browsing to feel utterly fluid and fun to window shop. There’s a game that a lot of people play when they’re making content and it’s about social currency. Facebook is a game where you put up a post you go back and look at how many comments you got and that’s your score. People experiment with different posts and the ones that get the most response from your audience is your highest score. So for a lot of people I think in their minds they’re gamifying it.

Where did the idea for Thred come from?

This phone that’s in my pocket has a lot of data about me, whether it’s my location or my Facebook posts or music I’m listening to or photos I take. I have all these different piles of data living in different places and they feel totally disconnected. In my mind I was trying to think of how can we take all these data statements in one place and allow the user to sift through and pick out the place that interests them and turn it into something that they can share or becomes a form of self-expression.

What is a Thred?

We call these things threds, which are basically just a series of sequence of panels of images you can browse very rapidly. You can dive into whenever one you want to. One of the things we have on the app at the bottom is tabs for your day, your camera roll, and your GPS. But we’ll be adding more very soon. And when you open that it will shows you data points that’s been collected about you. It might be where you were at 4:00 p.m. It might be a picture you took. You tap on whichever ones you want and it turns those into panels automatically. So if it was location it will actually go out and find an image. It will even add a narration to it. With the key tabs you can go through your vacation or some event and it will automatically create a backbone of a story for you. And you can go in and add as much as you want to it. We have cartoon tools where I can put in little avatars, or I can put in thought bubbles, or I can do photo filters.

Where does the gaming potential come with Threds?

The most important thing is the links that you can add into these scenes. These links can be places, people, other stories, or hashtags, so a user basically can build a branching story. It can be a travel guide. It can be a troubleshooting thing. You can build something through hyper links very much like the Web but in a mobile format, so that’s where you can now use this thing to create games or other things like that. The location, like Union Square (in San Francisco) becomes the container for stories of everyone who was at that place and created a thred. As you move around the environment, sometimes these stories will be spatially distributed. You can open your phone at any point and what things happened there at the 34th Street Subway Station. So that, plus the other types of links, would be the basis of creating a location-based game. But it can also just be hashtag-based or a person. You can put yourself in as a link and when they click on you there goes all the threds that you created.

How does the social element of  Thred work?

It will look at your contacts and you can invite them in. When you make threds you can share them internally as a thread or publish them externally to Facebook or whatever other social networks you want.

How receptive are people to sharing all of this personal data?

It’s very much a generational thing. The 20-year-olds out there have a totally different definition of personal information then my generation or your generation. And when you have these data feeds you choose which ones to subscribe to, so you can opt out of any of them. We never send your photos up to our servers unless you choose to publish them from your data feed. For the most part, we keep all the stuff down on your phone.

When it comes to the location-based game you’re designing, what can you tell us about it?

I’m just digging into it right now. I’ve been using it and trying to figure out all the different things I can do with it. One of my things is Russian space history, so I’ve been writing stories in here. Or when I travel I try to do my travels very quickly. I’m just trying to use it in a lot of different use cases, and it just occurred to me a few days ago that I can do some kind of cool game in that. So I’m really not far enough along yet.

GamesBeat Summit 2015 Highlights

The GamesBeat Summit just concluded, and as expected there was plenty of good information, insights, and networking to be found there. Some of the key info from the first day included industry projections and some veterans of the game industry looking ahead at the next few years.

Tim Merel of Digi-Capital led off the GamesBeat Summit with some facts and figures from his latest reports about mobile games and the emerging AR/VR market. Mobile will become largest game software segment, according to Merel, climbing from $29 billion this year to $45 billion by 2018. The rise in mobile gaming is global, but is clearly driven by China. Merel says that Asia in 2018 will equal US and Europe mobile game sales combined, and China will be the largest mobile game market.

As to which platform is commanding, Merel looked at both iOS and Android. “Traditional logic and research would tell you that iOS has already been exceeded by Google Play in number of downloads, and nobody would argue with that,” Merel said. “But when you start to think about iOS versus Android and the number of different Android stores in China, you get a different picture. If you look at it in revenue terms, this year iOS is going to be the largest single app store in terms of revenue. Going forward, we expect Google Play and Android app stores to have over half of all mobile games revenue. But it isn’t all about raw numbers. Even though Android will overtake iOS in terms of revenue, iOS remains far and away the best app store for monetization for games.”

Merel believes that augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have big potential for games in the next few years. He sees the total AR/VR market will hit $150 billion by 2020, though games are only a part of that. AR will be by far the biggest market, and in Merel’s view “AR can not only outgrow VR, but also has the potential to cannibalize the mobile market.” Merel believes that AR looks like smartphone market, wth the potential for hundreds of millions of users, versus tens of millions of users for VR. Breaking down that $150 billion, Merel projects the total VR market at $30 billion by 2020, and AR $120 billion. The biggest chunk of that AR revenue is hardware, though, and games are just a small part of the revenue potential with many other categories providing significant revenue. Even though the overall market for AR is bigger than VR, games on AR will not be as big as games on VR.

John Riccitiello

Video game pioneer Nolan Bushnell followed Merel, sitting down with VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi for a conversation about games and the future. He’s often approached by people who have games they want to show him.” I’m always looking for destructive innovation, not evolutionary,” Bushnell said. “Most of what I see is evolutionary, pedestrian, sophomoric. I tend to not like that. I like to get involved with things that are truly revolutionary and look like they’re going to be important.” Still, Bushnell made the point that even great games don’t usually have a long life span. “The half life of a typical game, a really good game, is six months to a year,” Bushnell said. “What you want to do is find the threads that have sustainability.”

Bushnell’s vision for the future of games is clear. “The mobile space to me right now is very, very noisy, so I’m always looking for the next reset,” Bushnell opined. “The next reset is clearly AR or VR, and I have a little wager on each one. My gut says AR is going to be more important.”

The CEO of Unity, John Riccitiello, followed Bushnell with some pointed commentary on the state of the games business, informed not only by his current position but by his many years as the CEO of Electronic Arts. Riccitiello discussed Unity and how it’s become a huge platform. “In a given month 1.1 million developers are creating content on Unity,” Riccitiello noted. “We see 700 or 800 million Unity games being downloaded every month.”

While Riccitiello is working to improve Unity on many levels, including its technical performance, he’s also looking to give Unity developers help with their business. “One of the bigger problems developers have today is monetizing their game,” Riccitello said. “Finding an audience for it, getting paid for it, whether it’s advertising or virtual goods. We have a huge team of people working on the simple thesis that game developers are probably collecting 30 cents on the dollar of what the potential is for their game. We want to get them 100 cents on the dollar. We’re going to put a suite of programs together that will help developers get that extra 70 cents they’re not getting now.”

Riccitiello believes that marketing, analytics, and audience building are all subjects that need more effort in the games industry. “The vast majority of independent developers today lose money,” Riccitiello said. “Frankly, many major publishers on too many of their titles lose money because they aren’t able to get the monetization they want. If someone doesn’t solve that problem, our ecosystem isn’t going to fill rooms like this someday. We need to solve monetization.”

Images courtesy of VentureBeat

YouTube Teams Up With Stan Lee’s Pow! Entertainment

by Sahil Patel

Stan Lee’s Pow! Entertainment and YouTube are coming together on a new global production program that will allow various YouTube stars and channels to create original superhero-themed videos.

As part of the deal between Pow! and YouTube, starting this week, select creators will get the chance to “develop an original superhero concept” and produce that content using unique sets and other production resources provided by YouTube Spaces in Los Angeles, New York, London, Tokyo, and Sao Paulo. Creators and channels participating in this program include The Brothers Riedell,  Adi Shankar,  Lana McKissack, and Machinima.

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Indie Devs On How Casual Titles Changed Everything

Indie games are one of the largest things to change the gaming industry over the past decade. Empowered by digital distribution methods and cheaper tools for software creation, indie games have exploded, evolving from niche offerings to being a burgeoning business in and of itself. While more people are making games (and playing games) than ever before, Jason Grinblat of Freehold Games notes that humans of every stripe have always loved games.

“The face of gaming is changing, and the face of gaming is staying the same,” said Grinblat. “Now that’s a contradiction if I’ve ever written one. But it’s true. While the public spotlight broadens to reveal a more diverse swath of people who identify as gamers, and for whom representation in games is an important issue, it also obscures a parallel truth: that they were always here.”

“Gaming has always been diverse. Gaming is made diverse by our nature,” he added. “We’re a playful species that uses games to feel out the spaces we inhabit, to stretch our arms and legs, to contemplate ourselves in ways we cannot when we’re charged with the urgency of the ‘serious.’ Cordoning off a time and place for play is essential to our growth and our sanity — especially for people for whom the ‘real’ world is often a hostile place. It’s self-absorbed to assume that play is the domain of only one kind of person, and it’s selfish to try to enact that philosophy or get in the way of people who are reforming the institutions that have unfortunately presumed it to be true”

Mykhaylo Kotys, founder of Maya Gameworks, this new audience has changed whom developers are targeting in their titles, namely the broader, more casual audience. “When you think about the changes that have occurred in ‘gamer culture’ over recent years, the first thing that comes to mind is the large influx of ‘casual gamers’ due to the rise in popularity of mobile games,” said Kotys. “Most classic (console/PC) games tended to be too difficult for these new individuals or demand more of their time than they could spend on games. Another large group of “casual gamers” came with the invention of social games such as FarmVille, which can be played at work or with friends while browsing Facebook. These events increased the number of ‘gamers’ drastically over the last few years. However, even though someone might have become a gamer by playing FarmVille or Angry Birds, this doesn’t mean that her/his tastes will stay the same over time. Just like with any hobby, a person starting out as a ‘newbie’ tries every flavor that a particular hobby has and then stops at some point after finds a ‘niche.’ ”

“The path of a ‘hardcore gamer’ might be as follows: Start by playing Angry Birds on an iPhone, move into Call of Duty on a console — and then try Skyrim and Dark Souls after growing bored of the repetitiveness. And then, the player still wants something new, move into playing indie games of various types,” Kotys continued. “However, most gamers will remain casual — and this, in my opinion, will always push any big game developer (who constantly seeks to expand its player base) to make its new title more appealing to this new audience. To speak simply, this will most like make upcoming big titles less and less clever.”

While many developers are focused squarely on a broad audience, Valentin Gukov of AtomicTorch Studio asserts that lessons from the origins of the gaming industry about overcoming adversity should not be lost. “Twenty years ago, games mercilessly tested your skills, patience, willpower. They made you the strongest and the best, the person who wins, the person who is really proud of his/her achievements and can prove it,” wrote Gukov. “Nowadays, games are different: They ‘care’ about you and try not to annoy the player who pays the money. They are replacing the thirst for victory with some nice images and sweet lies. Many of the deepest and ‘high-end’ projects have boring and repetitive gameplay — and they lose retention because they’re unable to give everything they have to the player. Even if those projects are really ambitious, this is only in terms of earning money — rather than giving the player full challenge and satisfaction.”

That gives us the portrait of modern gamer: slightly bored, slightly uninvolved, slightly under-skilled and soft-core — but perfectly aware of the price of each cent they paid for the game.

“As professionals, we cannot deny the progress of our civilization and won’t try to make the games too old-school: modern ideas in design, usability, technologies must be in our products,” he added. “As indie developers, we want to see players who are highly involved with the awesomeness of our worlds. Players need to consider only one thing: The taste of victory is not a taste of stale burger or strawberry candies. Victory tastes of sweat and blood.”