‘Skylander’s Hits The Road With ‘Superchargers’

The interactive toy/video game market has become quite a boon over the past few years, and leading the charge is Activision which first introduced the medium back in 2011 with the original Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. Since that time, the franchise has been a tremendous seller for the company, with over 250 million toys sold and $3 billion in revenue.

So what’s next With competitors like Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars and Lego Dimensions set for arrival this fall, Activision needed to come up with a new game that would keep the Skylanders series fresh, just as it’s done in the past with Trap Team (featuring talking Portals). Indeed, it’s done just that, introducing a new entry in the series that focuses on vehicles.

The Skylanders will literally take the wheel this fall with Superchargers, a game where users will be able to use their Skylanders figurines – from older games and with new purchases – to fight off the evil forces of the villainous Kaos, both on foot and, for the first time in the game, in a horsepower-driven vehicle.

These vehicles will be able to travel over sky, land and sea, enabling a much wider range of exploration for hidden goodies, as well as bigger levels than ever before. That should please fans of the series, providing some twists to a formula that’s run fairly strong for four years.

The game will come with an all-new Portal (though older portals will still work with the digital version of the game) in a Superchargers Starter Pack, which will also include two Skylanders figurines, one souped-up car, and the game. Over 20 different vehicles and figures will also be available for separate purchase, expanding upon the field of play.

“We created the toys-to-life category and have continued to lead it by bringing new innovations and new magic to the genre with each and every game. First we brought action figures to life, and now we’re bringing vehicles to life with Skylanders SuperChargers,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, Inc. “We love making these games because in order to do it well, you have to constantly tap into your inner kid. What kid hasn’t imagined epic vehicles with amazing powers and dreamed about the adventures they could have with them Skylanders SuperChargers makes those dreams real.”

Even with the stiff competition from Disney and WB Games, retailers are confident that Superchargers will be a big seller. “Since first partnering with Activision to bring the original Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure to our stores, we have believed whole-heartedly in the magic and innovation of this brand, as well as the company’s ability to reimagine and redefine play experiences with the toys-to-life concept,” said Richard Barry, Global Chief Merchandising Officer, Toys ‘R Us, Inc. “With each new introduction, Activision never disappoints its highly loyal fans of the franchise, and we are thrilled to continue to offer the broadest assortment of all Skylanders merchandise, including the newly introduced Skylanders SuperChargers.”

We’ll find out how the game fares when it arrives on September 30th for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Wii and Nintendo 3DS. The debut trailer is below.


‘Clash of Clans’ Rules Digital Advertising

SupercellSupercell is no stranger to “going for it” with its lucrative ad campaign. Along with animated ads featuring games like Clash of Clans and Boom Beach, the company took a $9 million gamble earlier this year with a Super Bowl ad featuring Taken actor Liam Neeson, swearing revenge on a random player who destroyed his village.

The move paid off, becoming one of the most popular ads during the big game and opening up interest in a whole new audience for the game – and business hasn’t slowed down since then, either.

Per Adweek, a recent report from iSpot.tv highlighted the ten most-engaging TV ads for the week, as ranked by digital share of voice. And Clash of Clans‘ latest ad, “Ride of the Hog Riders: Call In the Cavalry” is at the top of the list, becoming a popular favorite during both the NHL and NBA playoffs.

According to the report, the NBA playoffs showed an SOV figure of over 68 percent, while the NHL showed almost 20. That seems like a stark difference between the two, but the bottom line is that the ad is quite popular on both fronts.

That said, not all the numbers are positive. Overall digital share of voice fell from over four percent the previous week to 1.78 percent this week, and online views dropped from over seven million to just over two million, indicating slight signs of fatigue. Social actions also dropped, going down from 22,000 to 12,000. Other ads for Supercell games, including Clans and Boom Beach, fell off the top ten entirely.

Meanwhile, going back to the top ten, Mazda’s “A Driver’s Life: Driving Matters” ad gained huge popularity, moving from seventh (last week) to second place, with a .99 percent increase in SOV online to 1.3 million, and 6,000 in general social actions.

Newer ads also debuted on the list, including KFC’s new campaign, featuring Saturday Night Live actor Darrell Hammond impersonating company spokesperson Colonel Sanders, and a new Batman: Arkham Knight game spot, telling players that they could “Be the Batman”. Other companies, like Apple Watch and FIAT, rounded out the top ten.

While the slight fatigue in Clash of Clans‘ ads may be a bit alarming for some, Supercell is likely planning some new campaign to keep interest going. Who knows, it may just call upon Liam Neeson again. It worked the first time…


Joyus Raises $24 Million To Do More ‘Shoppable Videos’

by Sahil Patel

Joyus has raised $24 million to bring its “shoppable videos” to more platforms across the web.

The financing was led by Marker LLC and Steamboat Ventures, a venture-capital firm affiliated with Disney. Existing investors including Accel PartnersInterWest, and Time Warner Investments, also contributed to the round.

The San Jose-based company said it will use the new capital to invest in product, engineering, and expanding distribution for its video network.

If you’re not familiar with Joyus, it’s one of a small group of companies doing “shoppable videos.” Essentially, it works with brands to produce videos for fashion, beauty, health, and lifestyle products that women would want to buy. It has its own interactive video player, which is available on its website and across a number of sites owned by publishing partners such as People, AOL, Hearst, Real Simple, Hollywood Life, and others. The company takes about half of the revenue generated from purchases, with publishing partners also getting a cut.

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

How One Mobile Strategy Game Is Conquering

The mobile game industry is seeing a shift in the nature of the games being made for mobile devices. While casual games in a variety of forms (puzzles, runners, word games, and more) have generally dominated the business, increasingly companies are looking to build games with more depth, something that can have the longevity and earning power of a Clash of Clans or a Game of War: Fire Age. This has also attracted the attention of veteran console and PC game developers who are seeing mobile as the place to reach the largest audience. The launch of DomiNations from Big Huge Games (published by Nexon M) two months ago was a prime example of this trend, as notable developers Brian Reynolds and Tim Train brought their experience with world history and strategy games to mobile.

Developer Tim Train spoke with [a]listdaily about the progress of the game in the two months since its release, and the infographic provided shows some interesting metrics the game has already garnered so far.

When we first talked, DomiNations was just about to launch. How has the game progressed since then, and has it met your expectations?

We launched almost exactly two months ago, and we’re pretty excited that DomiNations has performed at the top end of our reasonable expectations for an awesome launch. We’ve been super happy with it, spent a lot of time in the top 30. In Top Strategy Games we’re just behind the Supercell titles and Game of War, which feels to us like a good strong launch. Now we’re getting ready to launch our first content update, which is themed around what we’re calling the Oil Boom. Oil Boom adds American Civil War type stuff to the game, so you have the rise of the first machine guns and partisan warfare.

What have been some of the more effective marketing tactics that DomiNations has used to grow?

The biggest thing for us was taking human history as the subject matter. We’ve worked in history for most of our careers, and we think that it’s great subject matter. A lot of times marketing departments don’t really think of history as great subject matter, they think it’s kind of dry and everybody thinks of learning stuff in school that’s pretty boring. We think it’s actually a great subject matter for a game because everyone in the world knows something about human history, and everyone has a point of connection into human history.

Combining our iterative design philosophy of prototyping out game play with the power of the mobile strategy ecosystem to bring in new players, with world history as a subject matter, to us that’s a thing guaranteed to get a lot of people interested. There’s not really a competitive game on the landscape. When we started a few years ago, one of our strategic questions was would somebody beat us to market with a well-executed world history game, and so far that just hasn’t happened.

What’s next for DomiNations — how will you be adding to the game in the future Do you have a schedule for future content releases?

Our strategy has mostly been just when it’s done. We know some of the things we want to do in moving through all of the ages, we know we want to add some more multiplayer features that will be upcoming in future releases. The thing that’s most important to us is to be sure that we get the gameplay balance right, and that we have new features that people are really excited by. To do that we just have to play it every day, talk about what’s fun and not fun, rip out the stuff that’s not fun, add new ideas for cool features, and eventually we get to the point where it’s pretty fun. Then we start the process of debugging and releasing. I guess we are on less of a strict timeline than some other games would be, because we want to be sure everything we put out is cool, fun, and balanced.

Have social media and influencers helped DomiNations grow? What’s the community response been to the game?

Broadly speaking the community seem to really enjoy the game. To speak of the community as a single monolithic entity is probably incorrect, but we were really excited even when it was in geo-lock and justout in the Phillippines. After a few days we had several Facebook pages for alliances of players. As we moved into different countries we would see new communities of players springing up We get really good discussions online about which nation is best to pick — the best nation seems to be Japan right now, for instance,m but a lot of those top players who are making a run at being one of the top fifty players in the world seem to be zeroing in on the Romans. For us it’s all great — it means our goal with the nations was to create nations that are compelling with each play style. We love that different people are certain that their pick for which nation to play are so different, and there isn’t one clear answer depending on what kind of player you are.

We’re happy the community has helped balance the game. We are excited to be collecting their ideas for new features and what they’d like to see in future releases.

How has DomiNations been performing geographically — are some areas doing better than others?

So far we’ve been doing pretty well around the world. Again, one of those strengths of world history is that everybody has that connection to it. Broadly speaking, everywhere I’ve checked our chart position it’s been pretty strong. We do seem to do exceptionally well in Europe, where we’ve spent a lot of time in the top ten of various countries. Even going back to our days working on Civilization,Europe was always a really strong market for us. We’re seeing some of that repeated for this generation of world history games.

What have you learned about making a successful mobile game?

One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is that the market is interested in deeper strategic experiences in game play. There was a first generation of mobile titles that were a little bit more casual, aiming for a more casual player. We’re really happy that as the marketplace has evolved, you still have those great casual titles that people can enjoy for five minutes, but you’re also seeing new layers of depths getting added to strategy games. One of the explicit goals for DomiNations was to make a deeper strategy game experience, but not so complicated you’re just off into super hardcore land. We feel like we executed pretty well on making a game that had create new layers of depth, and is part of the next generation of mobile strategy games.

Radio Stations Embracing Video Ads

Radio stations, in the past, have used more traditional means for advertisements in-between top 40 plays and other content devoted to their message. However, in the face of rising popularity with video advertising, it appears that the times, they are a-changing.

Inside Radio reports that more traditional radio stations are starting to accept the idea of utilizing digital video for advertising. Findings from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (or IAB for short) indicate that more than two-thirds of marketers and agency executives (68 percent, to be precise) will see their digital video ad budgets increase over the next 12 months.

The report also says that the same number of people indicate that their broadcast and cable TV budgets will either stay the same or shrink down as a result, indicating a “changing of the guard” when it comes to their approach in advertising. And it’s a method where advertisers can see where their dollars go, with proof that their products are being seen by a larger audience – and one that, hopefully, keeps growing.

That said, the IAB did state that most of those stations surveyed believe that bigger ad budgets will be what drives overall digital video ad growth, through a number of different categories. These include categories like automotive, packaged goods, financial services, retail and telecom.

These findings are based on data put together from talking with over 300 buy-side executives through Advertiser Perceptions.

Association of National Advertisers CEO Bob Liodice said that there are “technical challenges” to accepting the new advertising medium, and that the digital ad community has to find a way for marketers to pay for only what ends up being viewed.

“If an ad is not viewable, then the marketer should not bear the obligation to pay for it,” he said, speaking at the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference in Phoenix this week. He also noted that doing this would put digital ad buying on a “comparable foundation” compared to other forms of media buying.

We’ll just have to see how radio stations will “tune in” to this new strategy, just to see how well it works.

U.S. Game Industry Will Get Even Bigger

The U.S. video game industry couldn’t be stronger right now, as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 continue to be big sellers, while the eSports community continues to grow at a rapid pace. In fact, if numbers are any indication, it’s likely to get even bigger.

VentureBeat has reported that the industry will grow 30 percent from $15 billion this past year all the way to $19.6 billion by 2019, based on numbers reported by accounting firm PwC. That shows an overall annual growth rate of 5.5 percent.

This includes not only the traditional console games market (for both digital and physical releases) but also the PC market, which has been thriving again thanks to a number of new products on Steam and other services. These numbers also include browser-based games, apps and game advertising, which play a tremendous part in the market right now.

That said, there is a slight waning in interest. In overall media and entertainment market numbers, it’s managed to drop .4 percent over the last five years, from 2.9 percent to 2.5 percent. However, that’s not nearly as big of a drop as filmed entertainment, which went from 6.3 percent to 4.6 percent in that same time frame.

But as you can see from the chart above, games aren’t going anywhere soon. A slow but steady growth in millions of dollars is expected over the next few years, fueled by a number of popular franchises. Social/casual games (both app and browser based), PC games and others intend to pick up in numbers as well.

Granted, some factors aren’t being considered in the report, like hardware sales of gaming PC’s, consoles and other devices that run games. However, based on these measurements, the software’s the thing, and with the introduction of new and familiar franchises alike, business is likely to continue booming.

That business will reach critical heights in just a couple of weeks at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, where game makers from around the world will showcase its upcoming products for the next year and beyond. There are already many waves from revealed projects that will be at the show, including Bethesda’s Fallout 4, which was unveiled this morning. Since the trailer’s debut, it’s become a huge success in social media, indicating that it’ll be another best seller for the company. The trailer is below.


‘Minions’ Take Over Amazon In New Promotion

It’s official – the Minions are trying to take over the world.

With the success of the Despicable Me films ($1.5 billion worldwide and rising), Universal has put a lot of work into making the gibberish-speaking minions from the film superstars. And it’ll test their mettle on July 10th with the forthcoming film Minions, a prequel that tells their side of the story as they team up with a new supervillain, voiced by Sandra Bullock.

But now the Minions are taking over Amazon, as a new partnership between the mega-retailer, Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment has been announced. Per TechCrunch, the deal enables customers’ orders through the site to ship in bright yellow delivery boxes, featuring characters from the Minions film. This marks the first time ever that Amazon has changed its packaging specifically through a marketing deal.

The Minions have already left a huge mark in the retail world, with a number of products ranging from dolls to figurines selling well for Universal, and other products like board games, video games and other toys being introduced in time for the film’s debut next month.

Minions packaging not only includes labeling of specific characters from the film (to go with the bright yellow coloring), but also promotion for the movie itself, including the release date and a special Amazon URL where shoppers can purchase even more products featuring the adorable anti-heroes. The company will carry a full line of these toys, with more being added as they’re introduced.

Amazon was teasing the team-up for some time, through a variety of tweets and Facebook posts last month, saying that the three different minions – Stuart, Bob and Kevin – would be arriving on consumers’ doorsteps “soon.” Shipments are taking place now and will run through July 10th, leaving plenty of room for people to take part in the promotion.

So far, the deal is a big success for the company, with some people even ordering from the company just to get hold of one of the collector’s boxes.

There’s no word yet if Amazon is doing this with any other partners in the future, but the company is certainly open to the idea.

Let’s just hope it’s not going to ship out any lipstick tasers with those minions.

The trailer for the film can be found below.


Disney Introduces Playmation Interactive Tech

Disney is already keeping busy enough in the interactive toy division, having announced a new Disney Infinity game that will feature playsets from various universes, including Star Wars, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Disney/Pixar’s upcoming film Inside Out. However, that isn’t stopping the company from trying something new in the interactive field.

TechCrunch has reported that Disney will be releasing a new product called Playmation later this year, which will combine the usage of figurines based on characters with wearable devices to create interactive adventures, in which kids can use to explore the universes surrounding said characters. So far, two major power players – Marvel and Star Wars, both Disney licenses – will be involved with the project, although more based on other properties could be introduced in the future.

The set will launch with an Avengers starter pack, hitting shelves in October for the retail price of $119.99. It will feature an Iron Man-inspired Repulsor that can be strapped onto a child’s arm, along with two Power Activators and Smart Figures that will interact with the device (for this particular set, Captain America and Iron Skull).

Once activated, the Repulsor device provides audio guidance from Jarvis (Tony Stark’s helpful computer assistant) in terms of how to get into the adventure. No word yet on who’s being considered for the Star Wars set (which doesn’t have a release date, but is likely to arrive in time for the winter debut of The Force Awakens in theaters), but Yoda seems a likely choice.

Playmation utilizes sensors and wireless communication technology that recognizes actions from the wearer of the Repulsor, which in turn enables players to experience actions within the universe by running, jumping and exploring certain areas. There will also be a competitive head-to-head factor with each set, where players can battle it out in epic superhero fashion. Could this mean lightsaber battles in Star Wars Maybe.

“Innovation and creativity are the driving forces behind Disney, and our goal is to inspire children to unleash the power of their imaginations through the stories we tell and the experiences we create. With Playmation, we’re taking the next step in that tradition – bringing the worlds of play, storytelling, and technology together – in a new and very exciting way,” said Leslie Ferraro, president of Disney Consumer Products. “Playmation takes the best the digital world has to offer and uses it to create supercharged, real world play. This is play updated for today’s kids – bringing their imaginations to life as they go on active adventures alongside their favorite characters.”

“The study highlights a major opportunity to meet the needs of both parents and kids with a new way to play,” said Kareem Daniel, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Business Development. “Playmation uses technology to make active, physical play even more fun. It puts kids at the center of our stories in a way we’ve never been able to before.”

This introduces a whole new area for Disney to capitalize on its franchises, while at the same time opening the door for wearable tech to continue moving in to today’s modern marketing arena. Although the equivalent is similar to the classic laser tag game, the interaction with popular characters – through a playset that offers exploration on top of having fun with familiar favorites – should make it a big hit with kids this holiday season.

Other playsets are already in the works for Playmation, including one based on the popular film Frozen, where kids will no doubt be able to play through a winter wonderland. Individual sets, however, haven’t been priced just yet.

The only question is how Disney intends to market Playmation so that it doesn’t get in the way of its Infinity product. Both will feature high-value brands, both have a level of interactivity that offer something unique, and it’s uncertain whether Playmation items will work with Infinity and vice versa – though probably unlikely. That said, Disney will probably have a big multi-million dollar campaign in place that amicably supports both products as they head to retail this holiday season.

In the meantime, interested parties can learn more about the Playmation project in the trailer below.


The Next Generation Of ‘Influen’Zer’ Does It Their Way, Together


Jonathan Roth, Executive Director of IONJonathan Roth, Executive Director of ION, Ayzenberg’s Influencer Agency

Congratulations to any and all marketers out there who after years of trying feel comfortable in figuring out how best to reach the millennial generation. Please feel free to lose the undercover look and style as well: you can finally shave those hipster beards, take off the ironic glasses and stop pretending you actually like vegan food because if you’ve more or less done it by now. You’ve reached a population of 80 million in the U.S alone, the largest in the U.S. with respect to any that preceded it and a generation on the verge of spending $1.4 trillion per year, or about 30 percent of all retail sales, annually by 2020.

Nice job. Really. Big target, big numbers. Sure, there will be challenges and shifts and changes based on who and how they are, but good work all in all to connect with their “bespoke and artisanal” selves, even if just a little bit.

Then again, as the late author and my college classmate David Rakoff once said in the title of one of his best-selling books, Don’t Get Too Comfortable.

Why Because here comes Generation Z, and guess what, we’ve got a whole new ballgame to play. If you think Millennials are tough to deal with when it comes to traditional forms of online and offline advertising and marketing, buckle up folks, because it is going to be a long bumpy ride with these kids.

So who are they and why will they be more resistant than any generation before them to “top down” advertising and marketing in all its forms? Why is Influencer marketing the best and perhaps the primary way to reach them.

With many thanks and credit to Sparks + Honey for putting a complete profile together, Generation Z is comprised of Americans born from 1995 to present who are currently under the age of 18. Gen Z is first and foremost a population tsunami. They already represent 25.9 percent of the U.S. population according the U.S. Census Bureau, a percentage which exceeds that of the Millennials.

Think they don’t have money yet That they are too young to matter Not so. Gen Z according to Mintel receives $16.90 per week in allowance, which translates already to $44 billion a year in spending power.

Key characteristics for marketers to understand include the fact that they like to collaborate, they like to share, and that they prefer what they deem authentic content to any other type — and they really like to make their own rules, so to them, whatever they say, goes. They are pure digital natives — some call them “screenagers” — who like to interact, like to collaborate and prefer the influence and opinion of each other more than any other generation that preceded them. They are technologically savvy and prefer to innovate rather than to just receive information or messaging, or expertise.

Key words when thinking about Gen Z and their characteristics include: authenticity, collaboration, two-way perpetual dialogue, independent, self-authority. As a result, Gen Z digital experiences need to drive value around authentic content. Brands need to be integrated into what they are experiencing and doing online and offline. Brand messages must be consumed voluntarily as part of an organic integration with what they are experiencing, seeing, watching, playing and doing.

Armed with the existing knowledge that consumers in general across all generations trust a referral from their personal network at a rate of 90 percent and also that this number will go up with this generation, marketers must prioritize the influencer as the way to reach them. That said, marketers must be careful in doing so — the influencers they choose must be truly recognized as such, and anything that smacks of pure promotion without true integration into the ebbs and flows of what this group is doing digitally and in the real world simply will not work.

Generation Z influencers have power over a cohort comprising roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population and which by 2020 account for 40 percent of the population.

This population has no interest in anyone else’s authority but via its own peer-to-peer or elevated “peer influencer-to-peer” interactions both digitally and in the real world. Figuring out how to manage and scale the two sided network of brands and these influencers, the best of whom will be true “brand soulmates” for these brands. They are capable of influencing vast and high-spending consumer audiences and will be critical to the ability to successfully market to the largest generation in U.S. history for many years to come.