Video Game, Comic Book Events Drawing Big Bucks

While the Electronic Entertainment Expo has come and gone, there are still plenty of events for fans to get excited about in the coming months. The San Diego Comic-Con will take place next week; PAX Prime will open up to its many fans in late August; and other small shows here and there, like Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo and Disney’s D23 event, will have big audiences.

What most folks may not realize, however, is just what kind of fans these events are drawing. VentureBeat recently reported that a study of 2,000 fans by ticketing and event company Eventbrite shows that there’s a great deal of excitement with attendees and “cosplayers,” or fans that like dressing up as their favorite characters at events. In fact, the study results, posted below, indicate some very big numbers, with an economic push that goes well into billions of dollars.

According to the chart above, nearly half of those surveyed go to cons quite frequently, attending at least three events per year (including the much-hyped San Diego Comic-Con). 60 percent attend at least one event that’s not local, while 85 percent of those surveyed are in the 23-56 age group — indicating that playing “dress-up” isn’t just for kids anymore.

Other results from the survey indicate that 72 percent of those that attend these conventions purchase some form of fashion, whether it’s a t-shirt, accessories or other wear tied in with their favorite brands. 78 percent prefer original artwork or prints offered by artists or companies; 66 percent buy collectibles, usually exclusives provided by retailers at these events; and 70 percent go after collectible merchandise, such as toys, figures or props.

Speaking about the results, Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture author Rob Salkowitz noted that event planners should be aware of these trends. He also pointed out that 48.9 percent of those surveyed were female, followed by 48.7 percent male — which indicates that events such as these are a huge draw for both sexes. (2.4 percent, meanwhile, were classified as “non-binary/other”).

Women show the highest interest with comic and genre-based media, with a 59 percent lead. Men, meanwhile, show more interest in general comics and graphic novels, leading by 64 percent. A lot of them are single as well, as the survey indicates that 50 percent of singles at these events are men, while 47 percent are women. (This might indicate why nerd “date night” panels at these events are picking up in popularity).

So where does the “billions of dollars” figure come into play? Through purchases. 59 percent of those surveyed indicate that they spend anywhere from $100 to $500 at these events, and that doesn’t include purchases for tickets, food or parking.

That’s not to say that everyone’s big spending, though. Only around 20 percent of those surveyed indicate that they purchase celebrity autographs at conventions, instead wishing to spend money on items like original art or toys. That’s not to say stars aren’t big draws, however — Hall H, the most popular hall at Comic-Con, consistently has a line of people waiting to get in. This year’s showcase will be no exception, featuring everything from Warner Bros.’ comic book TV shows to a panel devoted to the forthcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

More information on the survey results can be found here. And for those attending Comic-Con that wish to get more input from Salkowitz, he’ll be hosting a Future of Fan Culture panel at the event, taking place Sunday, July 12, at 3:30 p.m.

Facebook Says 10 Seconds Counts As A Video View

If you’ve been unhappy with what Facebook constitutes as a video view, they have certainly heard you. Wall Street Journal reports that the company has decided to provide a new pricing option for marketers to find out which ads are really being watched, by electing to pay for a video ad that plays for at least 10 seconds.

“We don’t believe it’s the best option in terms of capturing the best value and brand objectives marketers care about, but we want to give them control and choice over how they buy,” said a Facebook spokeswoman.

The move is one that shows that while Facebook has been busy ramping up its video business to directly position themselves as an opponent to YouTube, they won’t be doing so without making sure marketers are happy. It’s easy to see why, because ads on the platform are Facebook’s bread and butter, with $3.3 billion of $3.54 billion in revenue coming from advertising. Mobile accounts for 69 percent of that already.

Previously, Facebook’s video ads worked on something similar to a cost-per-impression model, with in-stream autoplay accounting for views/impressions. The option to now weigh each model against the other is now there.

Among marketers and between Facebook and YouTube themselves, what constitutes a real view is still up for debate. For YouTube, that number is 30 seconds, three times as long as Facebook’s.

Presently, Facebook’s video traffic is up to 4 billion views each day, the same number of views YouTube boasted in 2012.


Calling All Lara Crofts: Xbox Wants You To Head To Comic Con

Lara Crofts from all over the world arrive in San Diego for Comic-Con next week to represent the spirit and embodiment of one of the most recognizable female characters in gaming. This year, Xbox is bringing them together at the Xbox Lounge on July 11th for a full day of exclusive access to all things Rise of the Tomb Raider which launches this fall

Xbox and Crystal Dynamics are working together with Ayzenberg to promote the event which will culminate in the largest gathering of Laras ever.  The call to Croft cosplayers went out from Crystal Dynamics’ Senior Community Manager, Meagan Marie, via YouTube and prompts those Laras that answer the call to RSVP via Facebook. It even provides a series of instructional videos from influencers like Lady Lemon, Sara Croft, Jenn Croft and more on how to properly cosplay Lara Croft.

Will Xbox pull off the largest Gathering ever We’ll have to see but one thing is certain – there are going to be a lot of badass Lara Crofts at Comic Con this year and we can’t wait to see them!


Ooyala Adds Process Power With Nativ Acquisition

by Allen Weiner

Online video publishing platform provider Ooyala has announced the acquisition of media logistics software and services company Nativ, based in London, whose MioEverywhere media logistics platform adds a cloud-based workplace and process management service to the California company’s already rich publishing system.

MioEverywhere has the ability to remotely validate and securely ingestcontent from any source  in a completely secure and transparent environment. As a key part of the process MioEverwhere validates content before it leaves the management console desktop to provide the assurance that video and audio files are in the right format and and aren’t missing anything important (like an audio track).

Keep reading…

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 for the latest news and stories, delivered right to your inbox.

Astro Gaming: Making Gaming Brands Part of People’s Lives

The accessories market is expanding as new consoles notch ever-higher sales, but it’s more competitive than ever. One brand that’s had years of success in the audio accessory market is Astro Gaming, known for its iconic A40 and A50 headsets that are widely desired by eSports professionals and hardcore gamers alike. Astro Gaming sees itself as more than just a hardware maker, though, taking a more expansive view. From the company’s web site: “Our company lives at the epicenter of technology, lifestyle and design… now that video gaming has become a leading form of entertainment, with “gaming lifestyle” quickly taking root, we decided to leverage our experience and give people an authentic gaming brand to rally around at the heart of this culture.”

Astro Gaming’s partnership with Microsoft has resulted in the A50 Halo Edition headset, and the two companies have more plans in the works as Halo 5 comes to market later this year. Astro Gaming vice president of marketing Aron Drayer spoke with [a]listdaily about working with such an iconic brand as Halo, and how the company delivers high-end products to the dedicated gamers.

Aron Drayer

You released a branded Halo A50 headset last Christmas. How has this done for you, and why did you choose to create this product?

The Halo headset has done really well — it did much better than we thought it was going to. I think it speaks to how we think about brands and branding. It’s not tied to any one game. We license franchises, not games. That’s a great philosophy that’s worked well for us. As we thought about that product, Master Chief is so iconic this is a great way to celebrate him as a character and give Halo fans what they want in terms of finishes and materials, but do something classy and restrained enough that it wouldn’t seem like it was just something that had giant Halo logos slapped all over it. If you look at the product, there’s really only only one Halo logo on this product, right here at the top. Yet you would look at this from any angle and immediately know it was tied to Halo.

I think that’s really critical to the way we’ve treated these brands and these partnerships, we’ve tried to really deal with them in the way we think our consumer wants. If you’re going to spend $300 on this then you don’t want something that has logos covering it, and it feels like it’s tied to a certain moment in time. Master Chief is a timeless game character that’s going to live in people’s imaginations for a very long time, and obviously is a part of Halo 5 this year too. That’s really who we’re trying to play to, the lifelong fan of Halo, the brand and the franchise.

This headset at $300 has to be one of the most expensive items you can get as a Halo fan. Did you have any worries about producing such an expensive licensed item?

If you were to look at NPD data, you would never think that a $300 licensed product would be successful. Most of the licensed products that succeed in the headset space tend to be at $99 and below, and they are very opportunistic. I think it’s indicative of the way we think as a brand an a company. We see gaming as a part of people’s lives, and we’re trying to figure out how to represent that part of their lifestyle. We’re not just trying to throw a logo on a product and sell as many as we can to them. We’re trying to do it in a tasteful way that is really going to appeal to the fans of these games. Because that’s the way we think — if we didn’t all like this at Astro, then it wouldn’t get made. We need to be fans of this too.

What was it like working with Microsoft on this licensed product?

When you can have both a high quality product and a high quality representing the brand, you’re really winning. A lot of credit to the Halo team at Microsoft and the 343 team to buying into that philosophy also. We went to them and said ‘We want this to be about the franchise. We want this to be a celebration of the brand, we don’t want it to be tied to one title or one moment in time, and obviously with Master Chief Collection and other things they were doing it made sense. So it really came together very nicely. They are very good partners, extremely supportive, very collaborative, and I think you’ll see just how collaborative when we get to Gamescom.

What’s the profile of the customers you are aiming at with Astro Gaming products?

We really think about the use case. Who is this person, how are they using the product, where are they using the product. We know that we have one consumer that is an elite older consumer, we call our prosumer. They’re in their 30s, they grew up gaming. They just want best in class products and best in class experiences across anything they’re doing. They’re driving Audis, not VWs. They’re buying Nikes, not Reeboks — no offense to Reebok or VW. They want the best. Part of it is prestige, part of it is performance, part of it is they think it fits their lifestyle better. A lot of times that guy is older, they’re probably more affluent but they also don’t have as much time to put into gaming every day. So when they are gaming, they want it all to work perfectly, they want an easy experience, and one that sounds incredible and feels great. So when they finally get the kid to bed and have an hour to play Call of Duty, it’s the best possible experience it can be. That’s who buys our A50.

We market to two very specific people. We market to that guy, and we market to the pro, aspiring pro, and livestreamer. That’s our other audience — that’s the guy who’s using an A40. They’re typically sitting at a desk, where our prosumer is sitting on a couch. They’re in a desktop environment, they have a streaming setup, they have a computer plugged in, and usually multiple screens. Because of their proximity to the screen and their whole setup they typically want a wired product, not a wireless product.

As you construct your marketing strategy for Halo-related products, what are the important touch points for you to reach your customers?

That’s a good question. I think it all does stem from online muliplayer to some degree, I think that’s what really drives headset usage. Yes, it’s great playing a single-player game with one of our headsets, too, but it’s the voice communication and the full experience of playing an online game that drives somebody into this kind of price point product. I think we’ll be leaning really heavily on what they’re doing in online multiplayer, and really trying to feature that part of it.

Obviously we expect that’s going to extend into eSports as well, so we’ll be heavily integrated, hopefully, into whatever kind of eSports plans that they have. This has been a great year for HCS already, and I would expect, looking ahead to Halo 5, that they’re really going to try to feature that and push that part of the game as much as they can. The community’s really come back around and has been really responsive to the Master Chief Collection, and I really think this is going to give that community another thing to rally around and have fun with. Those are going to be things that help us drive headsets.

Mark Cuban Invests In eSports Company Unikrn’s Global Expansion

The competitive side of eSports has shown impressive growth over the past few years, with a number of publishers paying attention to big-name tournaments, and competitions coming to other mediums, including television.

One company that’s heavily invested in eSports is Unikrn, a company that has launched a new eSports platform alongside Tabcorp that’s set to tap into the audience of over ten million gamers across 100 countries. We previously spoke with the company’s CEO and co-founder, Rahul Sood, in this interview, but today, it’s upped the stakes with the announcement of new investors coming aboard.

Unikrn has announced that it has raised an additional $7 million through a number of high-profile investors, bringing its overall funding to over $10 million. Binary Capital is one of the key investors in the group, led by Jonathan Teo and Justin Caldbeck, along with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Advancit Capital, Freelands Group, 500 Startups, Indicator Ventures, Tabcorp and others.

Through this investment, Unikrn will continue its push into the popular eSports industry. A number of big-name tournaments have drawn massive audiences both in person and online, including the 2014 finals of the League of Legends World Championship, which drew 27 million people.

Binary Capital is the big name here, as that company has invested in a number of other socially based channels, including Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, along with others. “Working with Jonathan and his team has been an experience to say the least.  They have helped us pivot at the beginning, and they always refer to us as ‘we’ even before they pulled the trigger.  They’re an incredible partner with vast consumer branding and eSports experience, ” said Rahul Sood, CEO and co-founder, Unikrn.  “And, with the help of our other amazing investors, our vision of bringing safe and legal wagering on eSports to consumers around the world is now well within our grasp.”

“Millions of people watch competitive gaming globally, we believe the industry has hit an inflection point and this is just the tip of the iceberg for where this new sport can go,” said Jonathan Teo, Binary Capital.  “We fully believe in the Unikrn executive team, what they are building, and their vision of how they want to heighten people’s engagement with eSports across all mediums.”

“Hundreds of companies every year try to get me to invest, whether on Shark Tank or off camera. However, I only put my money and my name on the companies that I feel will be successful, truly advance an industry and have a leadership team that I respect.  Unikrn fits all these requirements,” said Mark Cuban. “The rapid growth of eSports has created an entire new category of competition and I am proud to partner with Rahul Sood and his team to help bring eSports to an even greater audience. As a sports fanatic and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, I’m excited to be involved with a new sport just as it’s poised for huge growth.”

Unikrn will have a continued investment in eSports, seeing how its growth isn’t about to slow down anytime soon. In a couple of months, Valve will be hosting its DOTA 2-driven International tournament in Seattle, with millions of dollars being offered as a grand prize.

Speaking exclusively with [a]listdaily, Sood stated, “We never would have guessed 6 months ago that we’d be sitting here today. The looks on some people’s faces when we told them that there are as many fans of eSports as there are the NHL was always entertaining. Unikrn raised 10 million dollars in total, we formed an exclusive partnership with one of the largest and most respected publicly traded betting companies in the world, we hired an amazing team, built an MVP, and launched in multiple countries. We get calls from VCs almost every day, and we’re backed by some of the brightest investors and business people on the planet. Imagine what the world will say when they see Mark Cuban backed an eSports company. It’s time for us to show the world what eSports is all about, and we only just started 7 months ago.”

As far as the company’s growth is concerned, Sood added, “We will be investing heavily in product development, we’re also hiring a head of marketing — looking for a growth hacker type to lead our marketing efforts. Of course we’ll also be spending some money on marketing, but we know that our investors will help us carry our story and amplify it globally.”

Those interested in Unikrn’s coverage of eSports can learn more about it here. It’s certainly going places.

Merge VR’s Andrew Trickett On Mixing Augmented and Virtual Reality

The challenge for VR and AR companies this year is, according to Merge VR co-founder Andrew Trickett, is getting the device on someone’s face.

“We have to put it out there into the public where they can try it out,” he said. “What we’re finding is when we have people try it out, they instantly want to buy one.”

Watch our interview with Trickett below where he talks about how Merge VR has been creatively mixing AR and VR:


Binge Viewing Is Going Up According To Study

Binge watching. It’s more popular than it’s ever been, especially with so many TV series at a viewer’s fingertips. Netflix has taken this practice in stride, offering seasons of original shows like Marvel’s Daredevil and Orange Is the New Black all at once, making it easy for fans to sit back and watch 13 hours of programming in one shot.

However, binge watching is picking up more than some people may expect. A new report from TiVo Research indicates that while consumers are excited about the concept, they also feel a bit sad, with 52 percent of those surveyed experiencing down time once they come to the end of a TV show, according to MediaPost. Losing sleep can also play a factor, as 31 percent of those surveyed have “lost sleep to binging,” as some people can’t get enough of their favorite show.

It sounds like the findings are negative, but, in truth, binge watching has become quite popular. Overall, “binging is booming,” according to TiVo, with 92 percent of respondents in a March poll indicating they’ve taken part in finishing a show to its completion.

So why the popularity TiVo states there’s more to binge watching than just the repeat programming that appears on networks over the summer. Having a full season on hand through Netflix, Hulu and Amazon is a big plus, with Netflix leading the charge with 66 percent of those polled taking part in its video-on-demand service.

And to balance out the somewhat negative numbers above, TiVo indicated that negative perception of binge watching has dropped, going down to 30 percent compared to 53 percent from two years ago. (That’s mainly due to a lot more quality programming being offered – Marvel’s Daredevil, for instance, has been a massive hit with critics and audiences alike, despite its mature themes. A second season is in the works for next year)

Some folks won’t be even bother to watch a show until they have the time to watch a season in its entirety, according to TiVo’s findings. 32 percent of those surveyed deliberately wait until the time is right, showing a slight increase from last year. In addition, 61 percent watch three or more episodes of the same show in one day, just to catch up from a previous viewing.

The findings also show that 45 percent admitted binging because they learn about the show after episodes have already aired, putting them in catch-up mode; and 40 percent state that shows are better when watching on a back-to-back basis, instead of building up anticipation waiting for the next airing.

So those of you who think you’re the only one sitting through every season of House of Cards…you’re certainly not alone.

More details on the findings can be found here.

Disney Aligning Its Two Consumer Electronics Divisions

Disney has certainly been keeping busy combining physical devices and electronic game play, between announcements involving its new Playmation Interactive Tech and the latest release in its Disney Infinity line-up, which will have a primary focus on Star Wars. But now, it appears that the companies behind these two projects, Disney Consumer Products and Disney Interactive, are about to work together a lot more closely.

Game Informer recently reported that Disney is combining these two divisions into one unit, under the name Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media – or DCPI for short. Through the union, Disney indicated that they will work together to better align the technology development ongoing in both divisions, while keeping focus on the projects at hand. So Disney Infinity will still play like Disney Infinity, while the new Playmation project will involve players in a different way.

Jimmy Pitaro and Leslie Ferraro, two members of the Disney Consumer Products division, will head up the team, while retaining their titles as presidents of both companies. With the group, the focus will be on “cutting edge technology and immersive products.” Other responsibilities will include traditional retail product development, licensing for consumer products, social game publishing, and, of course, everything Infinity.

Disney Interactive saw a boost in operating income from last year’s Disney Infinity, which focused on the Marvel Universe, by 86 percent. That said, there were still losses in the second quarter when it came to revenues, down 12 percent. Meanwhile, general consumer products saw an increase in revenue by 10 percent, with operating income picking up by 32 percent, mainly due to licensed products in both the Frozen and Avengers toy lines.

With this team-up, both Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars and Playmation will see heavy pushes moving into the fall season, although they’ll obviously be sold much differently since they’re both unique products that offer something new to the market. We’ll see how they fare once September rolls around.

Nexon M’s Secrets Of Mobile Game Success

Nexon M is the mobile arm of Korean game publisher Nexon, and it’s expanding its mobile game footprint with some topflight titles by proven talent. Big Huge Games’ DomiNations, created by Brian Reynolds and Tim Train, has performed very well since it’s launch two months ago. At E3 Nexon M took the wraps off of Shiver, the new studio co-founded by EA and Zynga veteran John Schappert, who showed off their new real-time mobile strategy game Beasts Vs. Bots.

Beasts vs Bots brings real-time strategy gaming to mobile. It features all of the mechanics you love from full-featured core PC RTS games: base building, strategic combat, individual troop control, and real-time PvP with back-to-back battles,” said John Schappert, CEO and co-founder, Shiver Entertainment. “Gamers have been yearning for real-time battles on mobile and Beasts vs Bots delivers — from innovative touch controls to five-minute battles to an expansive and rewarding base-building experience with your chosen faction.”

The general manager of Nexon M, John Robinson, spoke with [a]listdaily about the company’s view of mobile games and how to market them in a rapidly changing market.

John Robinson

The E3 show is dominated by sequels and remakes, but the games you’re doing all seem to be different from each other and brand-new IPs. Is that a conscious choice for Nexon?

We’ve been really happy our portfolio is original IPs. We like core games a lot, that’s what we play in the studio, that’s what we like at Nexon. It’s what we’re good at helping developers with, so our portfolio is always going to skew more towards those types of games.

It seem like mobile games are transitioning away from being mostly casual games to games that have a deeper appeal with deeper gameplay, while still trying to be accessible to a large number of people. Is that what you are seeing?

I think it’s definitely not mutually exclusive. Like with DomiNations, there’s some core mechanics and some core game play that I don’t think anyone would say is casual. We already have seven million people playing the game, and we’re hoping that will be 50 or 60 million in the next couple of years. One of the things we want to do is make sure these games reach the broadest audience possible.

There are so many mobile games competing for people’s attention these days. What do see as the most important way to break through the clutter and get people to download and play your games?

It’s telling a story. Tim [Train] and John [Schappert] just did a great job with each of their games there [DomiNations and Shiver, respectively]. We don’t think about just putting our games in the App Store and just doing a bunch of user acquisition. It’s the brand, it’s the story, it’s doing something that’s totally different than what other people are doing. We think that helps our games stand out in the market.

One of the things that’s stood out in the PC and console game market in the last few years is the rise of influencers as a key part of the marketing strategy. Are we going to be seeing that with mobile games as well?

Absolutely. For DomiNations we now have someone who has an Instagram account named DomiNations Tom. It was started on the game on day one, just showing his progress in building his own community. We’re starting to see that with a lot of great games, and it’s great to see that with DomiNations. The community itself is building a following.

Building a community for mobile gamers is more difficult than for a PC game, isn’t it? How do you see that evolving?

I think it’s totally evolving. Community as we see it today is mostly YouTube, a little bit on Twitch, on Instagram, Facebook. It’s native to mobile, it’s just where people are spending their time. They’re not necessarily going back to their PC and logging into the forums, but rather behaving as they would normally. DomiNations and the other games are now just a part of that on each of the other channels. The way we think about community is that wherever our fans are is where we want to be. We’re not going to dictate ‘Here’s the forum, here’s where you should go.’  We’re going to find pockets of our fans whether it’s on Reddit, YouTube, or Instagram. We’re going to be there to give them more information on the game and give them a better experience.

It feels like there’s plenty of room for innovation not only in mobile game design but in mobile game monetization. Is that the way you see it?

Our monetization design philosophy is we only focus on retention. Full stop. Because we think that if you build games that people are going to love to play for years to come, our business will do just fine. If you look at some of the games out there that have had the greatest success, like some Nexon games in Korea, or League of Legends, or Hearthstone, I don’t think anyone would say they are heavily monetized or over-monetized. They are building great communities that have a lot of fun. That’s certainly where we take our inspiration.