Oculus Story Studio Brings ‘Really The First Character’ To VR

by Jessica Klein

Oculus’s Story Studio has announced its second film, Henry, about a hedgehog who wants nothing more than to be able to hug his friends without hurting them.

Described as a film containing “really the first character in virtual reality” by Edward Saatchi, a producer at Story Studio, “Henry” takes viewers inside of the hedgehog’s animated world, starting in his home on his birthday. The film brings virtual reality to a more whimsical place than is generally presented by the medium, which often favors science fiction over heartwarming, family fun.

Here’s a little preview of Henry, including commentary from its Story Studio creators…

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.

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Kickstarter Marketing: ‘The Bard’s Tale IV’ Redefines What’s Required

One of the most storied RPG (roleplaying game) franchises of all times is headed for a new installment, as InXile Entertainment launches a Kickstarter seeking $1.25 million (which the company will match if the goal is reached) to create The Bard’s Tale IV for PC, Mac and Linux. This follows InXile’s successful Kickstarters for Wasteland II and Torment: Tides of Numenera, and brings CEO Brian Fargo’s 30-year gaming career full circle to his original 1985 game. The first day of the Kickstarter isn’t even over yet, and the total raised is already over $600,000 as of this writing.

The Bard’s Tale IV will feature labyrinths and dungeons chock-full of dangerous traps, puzzles, and challenges, as well as the winding streets of the city of Skara Brae and its outlying environments,” said the company’s press release. “Exploration will take place in the first-person dungeon crawler style of the original trilogy. Utilizing the Unreal 4 engine, The Bard’s Tale IV will also represent a graphical leap forward in the genre, immersing you in a highly detailed and lush world you’ll want to map to its farthest reaches. The Bard’s Tale IV enriches the setting from the original trilogy with Scottish culture, including a soundtrack inspired by Gaelic music.”


It’s been an amazing last 30 years and I feel so fortunate to continue in the games business for this long,” says Brian Fargo, CEO. “And it is only because of the incredible support our fans have given us that I’m still here today working on these great role playing games. After so many years, I couldn’t be more excited to revive the classic Bard’s Tale.”

Fargo spoke with [a]listdaily about The Bard’s Tale IV and the lessons he’s learned from his successful Kickstarters, and how the market has changed.

How has the Kickstarter process changed since you first succeeded so well with Wasteland II?

The sheer number of assets you need to prepare for the entire Kickstarter campaign is much more intensive than the early days. We’ve had several original songs created, a handmade reliquary box, a video of in game footage (coming soon), and high definition renders of the creatures. For Wasteland we had none of these things but we did create more for Torment but nothing like the video of in game footage. We certainly put more pressure on ourselves for these latter campaigns.

The Bard’s Tale is one of the iconic RPGs in the industry. so it’s easy to see why you think long-time game players will be excited to see it come back. How well do you expect it to appeal to gamers who haven’t experienced the original series, and why?

Our first priority always has to be to make sure we hit the right keys for the original players. Bard’s Tale was enjoyed because it was party based, because it was hard, and because people liked the more structured approach to design. These are all elements that are still enjoyable and I’m certain it wasn’t scrolling text, 3 frame animation and the inability to see what your characters looked like that was part of the thrill. Keep in mind that we play a lot of modern games like Shadows of Mordor or Demon Souls, so we plan to make things graphically advanced with UI’s that are appropriate for today’s gamer. If we accomplish the original tenets and make it look graphically outstanding I believe the new gamer will enjoy it as much as the old.

What are the key things you’ve learned about doing a successful Kickstarter, and how has that affected the Bard’s Tale IV Kickstarter?

I think of the more important things to consider is what kind of news or social media ideas you can roll out during the campaign. Our backers want us to succeed and bring in as much money as possible, helping us every step of the way. We have to consider ideas that are newsworthy post launch and can extend beyond the base. This is always easier said than done.

It sounds like you’re really taking a step forward with the audiovisual presentation of Bard’s Tale IV, and adding in the Scottish culture. Are you hoping this will help attract an even broader audience?

My focus is to make sure it is an engaging experience as possible and better graphics and sounds always allow that. Why show a small dungeon in the upper left hand corner of the window when you can make it full screen with atmospheric lighting and professionally created music A game with an over-the-shoulder sex appeal is always going to attract a broader audience, but it’s best to really focus on the experience. We’ve always made games for our core and let the chips fall where they may.

It looks like the Kickstarter for The Bard’s Tale IV is already off to a strong start, over halfway to your goal already. How will you be spreading the word about the Kickstarter, and do you have some surprises planned along the way?

We’re very happy to have achieved almost 50 percent of our goal in the first eight hours, good times. Our entire existence is based on the viral attention we have received from our fans and this will be no different. And as I teased above we have quite a few surprises in store to announce over the following few weeks.

Ad Blocking Is On The Rise

Sometimes users just don’t want to look at ads. Having to sit through a 30-second promo to get to a favorite show or removing a full-page banner to check a favorite web page can be annoying to some —and, as a result, they’ve turned to ad-blocking services to help alleviate the problem.

DigiDay recently posted a number of charts that indicate just how popular ad-blocking services have become, and while they’re a saving grace for users, they’re a thorn in the side of companies trying to meet their advertising bottom lines.

This chart, generated by Google, shows just how much usage of ad blockers have increased over the past ten years. They were minimally used in 2005, but these days, searches under the names “ad blocker”, “adblock plus” and “ad block” are used quite extensively. AdBlock plus seems to get the most traffic, but the other two have shown an increase in interest as well.

AdBlock has also seen more results in its searches as well. The chart above indicates that the service, which is used consistently to stop pop-ups and other obtrusions from getting in the way of browsing sessions, will top 236 million monthly users, according to a report from PageFair. This is a large climb from 144 million last year, and 21 million back in 2010. The AdBlock Plus service generates an average of 2.3 million downloads a week, starting back from 2013.

As far as which sites are most affected by ad blocking, gaming has the number one spot with 55 percent, followed by tech and comics at 35 percent, and entertainment, science and fashion and lifestyle rounding out the list just below 30 percent each. These numbers, reported by Secret Media, are generated based upon certain audiences. Gaming sites, for instance, have young, male and tech-literate visitors that use ad-blocking services regularly.

One would think that the United States would be the biggest nation to use ad-blocking services, but this chart indicates that other countries use them regularly as well. Poland leads the pack with 33.7 percent of all ads blocked, followed by Argentina (33.5 percent), Sweden (33.4 percent), Finland (32.2 percent) and Germany (30.4 percent). The U.S. is on the list, but its usage sits at a lowly 15 percent.

“I personally suspect that in some of these countries, citizens are more concerned about their personal privacy, perhaps for historical reasons,” said PageFair CEO Sean Blanchfield.

While blocking services do make things more convenient for the user, it creates a new challenge for companies to overcome with creation of an effective ad campaign. The bottom line is that they’ll just have to keep trying — pop-up ads just aren’t doing it anymore.

Scott Brinker Explains Massive Marketing Technology Landscape

Massive marketing technology has come a long way over the last few years. And if you don’t believe that statement, you’ll want to hear what Scott Brinker has to say.

The co-founder and CTO of interactive content provider Ion Interactive previously posted an outlook at the general marketing technology landscape, and somehow crammed it all into one detail-oriented chart, which you can find below. There are well over 2,000 companies involved in this post, and that has led to some confusion when it comes to sorting, even with their categorization.

Brinker’s point with the report was to show just how much it’s grown, with so many companies involved, according to VentureBeat. “I didn’t mean to scare the beejeezus out of everything,” he stated, speaking at VentureBeat’s GrowthBeat Summit in Boston this week.

He began scoping out this landscape way back in 2011, when there were only 100 companies. That means thousands jumped into the industry over the last four years, creating an overabundance of involved partners and marketers. Brinker also noted that even a relatively new category of interactive content can see a number of players, with more than 70 companies involved.

Brinker then explained what’s behind this explosion of the Landscape, with more products, media channels and ways to build and adopt software. He also noted that companies received a great deal of funding, with more than $30 billion in investment expected over the next three years.

He believes, though, that “the tech is a distraction,” and that marketing itself is changing “in fundamental ways.”

What started as a “business of communications,” relying on basic copywriting, has built more into a “business of experience,” where marketers address consumers through every step of a “journey,” from considering a purchase to coming back for repeat business. In short, story has become a part of technology.

This is where people within companies need to step up to keep the story going, according to VentureBeat CEO Matt Marshall. This includes a number of items in the code, like software, interaction and configurations to consumer’s needs. “In a digital world,” he noted, “software is your hand and eyes.”

Don’t be surprised if this chart manages to grow even further over the next few years. Brinker’s going to need a bigger page.

GameFly Adds Streaming, Vows To Become ‘Netflix of Games’

Video game streaming is a well-established technology, but making it a viable business has proven even more challenging than getting the tech working. For years, OnLive attempted to capitalize on an audience with its cloud-based gaming, eventually being bought out by Sony to improve its PlayStation Now service. However, GameFly wants a piece of this action, and it’s got a big asset helping it along.

VentureBeat has reported that the company has acquired cloud-streaming company Playcast, which will lead to the creation of an online game platform for games – similar in a digital distribution manner as Netflix’s movie streaming platform.

The company plans to debut the new service later this year exclusively on Amazon Fire TV devices at launch, although it also intends to bring its game streaming to other electronic devices, including smart TV’s.

GameFly has already announced several hit games that will be part of the service, including the Batman: Arkham series (although it didn’t confirm if this month’s Batman: Arkham Knight would be part of it), Darksiders II and DiRT 3, among others. It intends to sell packages that range around $7 in price. Players will be able to stream their game sessions with ease, although there’s no word on what kind of server support is being planned just yet.

While some gamers may not be used to on-demand game services, GameFly director Michael Moritz believes that it will catch on with the avid gaming community. He noted that “consumers have expressed strong interest in streaming games, much as they do with TV and movies.”

“This represents the perfect evolution of GameFly by extending its mission of providing the highest quality video games available to gamers however they want to play,” said GameFly chief executive officer David Hodess.

Even though GameFly is a far more popular service than OnLIve ever was (a recent ad campaign featured L.A. Clippers superstar Blake Griffin hyping game rentals), there’s still the lingering possibility that its game streaming service may not click. Although it has confidence that gamers are “ready” for this service, Sony’s PlayStation Now has had a slow adoption rate for fans upon introduction, mainly due to high rental rates. However, Sony has since remedied the problem with an affordable subscription plan, and introducing more high-profile titles like Puppeteer and Uncharted 3.

If GameFly can keep up on the back-end of playable games and make its service accessible across more devices (including desktop and laptop computers), it might really get somewhere with game streaming.

Apple Updates App Store Game Lists

In the past, the recommendation lists on Apple’s App Store were pretty basic, highlighting new games that have been added to the service, along with popular favorites that have achieved a high number of downloads. However, the company made some interesting changes to the Store that will highlight applications with a better recommendation, from an editorial standpoint.

TechCrunch recently posted a story discussing the changes, which were made quietly last month. In the place of routine “New”, “What’s Hot” and “All iPhone (Free & Paid)” lists are more editorially curated lists, featuring recommendations for casual and devoted players alike.

The “All iPhone (Free & Paid)” removal makes sense, as many developers were abusing the system with listings on their games starting with “AAA” or “AAAAA” so that they’d appear first, according to TechCrunch. With this new change, more useful lists will be available for users to root through, getting right to high-quality and popular apps that are worth checking out.

As for the removal of “New,” since it was based more on download volume instead of alphabetical releases, some apps managed to miss the cut.

Replacing these older categories are “Best New Games” and “All Time Greats,” put together by Apple editors and changed on a weekly basis. Other personally related lists, like “More Games You Might Like” and “Pay Once & Play”, still remain up on the Store.

This could pose a problem for some developers, though. In the past, some developers relied more on algorithmically generated lists highlighting new and trending titles for their games to be found. This way, however, they’ll have their work cut out for them, as they must have quality-based titles to catch up with the competition. Some developers have reported a drop-off in organic downloads with the changes, ranging anywhere from 30 to 90 percent, during the first week after they were made.

Still, this will enable teams to work harder when it comes to creating quality app downloads, instead of “quickie” games simply put into the store to make a fast buck.

For now, the changes only seem to be in effect for the U.S. market, as part of Apple’s continuous efforts to introduce curated content in the App Store. More countries could see these changes in the future, but a timeline hasn’t been given yet.

Considering that the App Store now has 1.4 million apps to choose from – perhaps even more, if updated estimates are revealed at this month’s WWDC event – this new system should easily sort out the clones (we’re looking at you, Flappy Bird rip-off artists) and point out the games worth downloading. Of course, it doesn’t help to check out our weekly Mobile Game Highlights as well…

Vimeo Enters Subscription Video Business With New Tools For Creators

by Sahil Patel

Vimeo is offering a new way for individual video creators to make money on its platform — as part of a broader expansion the company has planned to get into the subscription video business.

The company, which has long eschewed the ad-supported model, has released a new set of tools for creators to sell and control monthly subscriptions across Vimeo’s distribution footprint. This means that creators can now offer subscriptions via the Vimeo On Demand storefront, Vimeo’sPublisher Network (which includes more than 100 publishers offering curated libraries to their respective audiences), and on any website using Vimeo’s embeddable HD player.

Creators will also retain a lot of control over how their subscriptions work. With the new tools, they can set pricing, offer subscriptions worldwide or restrict them to select countries, and offer their fans additional perks such as free subscription trials, free episodes, and exclusive bonus material.

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.

Best Buy Exec Talks Nintendo World Championships

The competition has officially begun for the Nintendo World Championships 2015 — after a 25 year hiatus. The eSports event kicked off May 30 at eight Best Buy locations around the country with qualifying events that will weed out the best from the best for the big event at E3 on June 14 at the Nokia Theater at LA Live in Los Angeles.

The qualifying competition featured the Championship mode of the Ultimate NEX Remix for Nintendo 3DS. In this mode, players competed across three score-based challenges in Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3 and Dr. Mario. The top scorer from each of the eight regional competitions will move on to the final event in Los Angeles, which will be a multi-round competition with a variety of Nintendo games. An additional eight competitors selected by Nintendo will also compete in the Nintendo World Championships 2015.

Best Buy has also partnered with Nintendo to deliver a piece of its E3 experience to consumers nationwide, with two hands-on sampling days of the upcoming Mario Maker Wii U at select stores. The events will take place 4-9 p.m. local time on Wednesday, June 17, and noon-5 p.m. local time on Saturday, June 20. Attendees will receive a sweet 30th anniversary Super Mario Bros. pin while supplies last. Chris Koller, vice president of gaming at Best Buy, talks about this unique partnership in this exclusive interview.

How did Best Buy get involved in the Nintendo World Championship?

This is the third year in a row that Best Buy and Nintendo have partnered on a major event around the E3 timeframe. Last year we hosted “Smash-Fest” at our stores and the turnout was tremendous. So when Nintendo came to us with the idea of Best Buy stores hosting the qualifying rounds of the Nintendo World Championships, we were more than game for it.

What opportunity do you see for eSports competitions like this in extending the Best Buy brand with gamers?

We’re always looking for ways to better connect with gamers and provide experiences showing that Best Buy is the place to go for gaming.

How did you choose the eight Best Buy locations for this competition?

We scattered the events across the country to ensure that as many people as possible could participate. As for the stores themselves, they are all important stores in their markets — locations that are perfect for hosting fantastic customer events like this one.

Retro gaming is also very popular today with indie games and big publishers. How do you see this World Championship tapping into that popularity?

Never underestimate nostalgia. We’re seeing great interest from gamers all around the country.

For fans who can’t attend live, what type of livestreaming of these early rounds will there be?

The Nintendo World Championships qualifiers held at the eight Best Buy stores is an in-store only event.

What role will Best Buy play in the Finals at E3 in terms of marketing or cross-promoting the brand?

It will be a thrill to see the regional winners — who came out of our stores — competing on the national stage.

Do you see this as a potential annual event?

Our gaming customers love these in-store events and we enjoy partnering with Nintendo to host them.

How Netflix Can Do So Much More Than Pre-Roll Ads

Today Motherboard reported that Netflix is testing out running advertisements that run before and after a user watches a video, showing that Netflix is caving a bit to pressure to have more of a Hulu/HBO-like model. In fact, there have been predictions that Netflix would have to look into this form of advertising to be more profitable at some point.

As Netflix’s growth continues to be strong with an acute focus on acquiring and retaining users by way of creating their own content, this move seems like a huge step back, not just for Netflix, but for advertising, too.

“Internet TV is divorced of the need of advertising revenue because we can develop direct relationships with the consumer,” said Neil Hunt, Netflix’s chief product officer back in May of last year. Hunt even went on to say that marketers will have to “find a different place to advertise.”

For a company who has been eager to advertise their shows through immaculate use of native advertising, I find it curious that they are not seeing the opportunities for brands to “advertise” within their own content.

Why make over-the-top services look more like linear TV Why not innovate and push back You’re marketing to consumers who were raised on ad-skipping through TiVo and now they’re doing the same thing with YouTube adblockers. It doesn’t matter how long, short or entertaining your spot is, they are skipping it. The very reason why users are electing to opt for paid streaming services is so that they no longer have to deal with the intrusion. It’s only a matter of time before users find a way to get around those too.