Epic: VR Is Good, But AR Has A Future

There’s a lot of hype going into the forthcoming wave of virtual reality-based devices, including Sony’s own Project Morpheus and Facebook’s Oculus Rift technology. However, according to Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, the focus should be going elsewhere – augmented reality, or AR for short.

Speaking with GamesIndustry International, Sweeney doesn’t believe that VR is a “fad”, as Warren Spector recently stated, but it will have its limitations. “VR is a 150 million user audience, but it’s not for the whole world. Whereas AR, if you look out a number of years I bet the majority of mankind will have an AR device – it will redefine interaction with computers and replace computer monitors, tablets, televisions and every kind of play technology. I think it’s the next big development in the history of civilization, if you put it in perspective,” Sweeney stated.

So far, some AR demonstrations have left people less than thrilled (the Minecraft for HoloLens demo at E3 being an exception), though the potential is certainly there with the right developers on board. “It’s a ways out, it’s not going to provide the experience for hardcore gamers in the next couple of years whereas VR is doing that right now,” explained Sweeney.

That doesn’t mean that Epic isn’t preparing for a VR future, though. It’s already adapted its Unreal Engine 4-based technology for the Oculus. “Unreal provides all the hooks for the major VR devices. You focus 95 percent of your effort on building a game and the remaining five percent goes into tweaking it for the different configurations,” said Sweeney.

CTO Kim Libreri added his two cents on the matter, talking about experiences. “We have a large community that makes Unreal experiences and games… I liken it to the birth of film, people are just working out what the laws are. I actually think the openness we’re seeing in the industry about what works, what doesn’t work, how to avoid motion sickness, the coolest way to move a player around a space, these things are really great because we all have to learn these things before we can make a great experience. We’re very happy to be part of that,” he said.

There is plenty of excitement behind virtual reality, and for good reason, according to Libreri. “I think creatively, people like new challenges when they’re building stuff – you get into games or any creative [career] because you love it and you want to innovate and have your consumers, your audience experience a new thing. Even though there’s this whole new rule set that has to be established for this next generation of VR games, most designers and developers love this challenge because it levels the playing field. For this first few years of this new medium, you’re not going to have to necessarily make the big AAA Call of Duty style games. I think people will just be very happy to be entertained, as long as they believe in the space or the characters and world that’s presented to them.

“They don’t have to have a very complicated experience because they’re novel and new. On the technical side, we try to help people by supporting the major platforms to make it a little bit easier – but we do have the issue that you’re trying to render very high resolution frames in stereo at a high frame rate. You have to be clever about your content and make sure performance is something you think about, but it’s the creative challenges that are all new; they’re not scary, people love it.”

More of the interview can be found here.

Nintendo’s ‘Skylanders’ Team-Up Is A Huge Win

Last week’s Electronics Entertainment Expo produced a number of surprises for fans around the industry, including a few from Nintendo, such as the introduction of a new StarFox game. However, what’s even more surprising is how the publisher is collaborating with Activision to produce a special version of Skylanders SuperChargers for Nintendo systems.

The companies announced this past week that the Wii U, Wii and Nintendo 3DS versions of Skylanders will be compatible with two special figures and vehicles straight from Nintendo’s library of characters – Bowser and Donkey Kong. In fact, those who pre-order the game will get both of these characters, along with their respective vehicles, with the Starter Pack of the game when it becomes available on September 20th. (Better still, the Donkey Kong and Bowser figurines can also double as amiibo figurines for other games, like Super Smash Bros. and others.)

This is a huge win for Nintendo, an exclusive that will no doubt make the Nintendo versions of the game more popular than the ones appearing on other platforms.

“Activision Blizzard has always cherished our collaboration with Nintendo, and we are grateful for decades of partnership. Since we made the first toys-to-life game, some of our most dedicated players have been Nintendo fans around the world. Skylanders is delighted to welcome beloved guest stars Donkey Kong and Bowser into its magical world,” said Activision Blizzard chief executive officer Bobby Kotick, speaking with Business Wire.

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata also praised the team-up, indicating that this unique approach would make the franchise more appealing on Nintendo platforms – even older ones like the Wii.

Both Donkey Kong and Bowser bring their own signature attacks to the game, such as Donkey Kong calling flinging barrels at foes and pounding the ground with his hands, and Bowser turning into a “mega” version of himself, stomping around and breathing fire. He can also call upon loyal Koopas to do his dirty work for him, or stomp on their backs and create powerful projectiles to hit foes.

It appears that Activision is pledging itself to the Wii U again. The company was stagnant last year, with only a new Skylanders game for the system and no sign of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, but this year tells a different story, between this partnership and the forthcoming music sim Guitar Hero Live, which will come to the platform this October. There’s still no word on Call of Duty: Black Ops III, though.

The trailer for SuperChargers is below.


Redbox Takes PS4 and Xbox One Titles Nationwide

While attention has focused on new console games in retail stores and as digital downloads, there’s another very important retail channel that’s becoming much more important for console game publishers: the rental kiosks found in so many places across the USA. Redbox, America’s destination for new-release entertainment, has announced plans to expand the availability of new generation games to all kiosks nationwide in 2015. “We believe that now is the time to make new gen content more accessible to mainstream consumers,” said Mark Horak, president of Redbox, “and through our 35,000 kiosk locations, digital network of 90 million touch points, affordable price point and content recommendation engine, we are committed to accelerating the adoption of both new gen hardware and software for the industry.”

“We look forward to partnering with publishers to execute title-specific marketing plans as we expand new gen nationally,” said Bill West, vice president of games at Redbox. “Research tells us that our customers rent titles to help inform game purchase decisions. As our offering expands, we’re helping publishers reach their goals of raising awareness and making trial more convenient and affordable for consumers nationwide.” West spoke exclusively with [a]listdaily about the importance of Redbox to game marketers.

Tell us about Redbox’s latest move and what it does for the newest generation of consoles — what does it mean for marketers?

Redbox entered the game space in 2011, and has since expanded with the last generation, PS3 and Xbox 360. About two years ago we started the entry into new-gen, when Xbox One and PS 4 launched. What we announced last week was that we are expanding our new-gen offering, where we had been at 5,000 kiosks, we are expanding nationwide to all of our kiosks, some 42,000. We think we canb really help the industry with the transition, really drive our mainstream consumers to new-gen, as well as help our consumers who have already transitioned to offer them the convenience of all of our locations and all of these new-gen games that they might want to try before they buy.

What have you learned from the way people rent games, and about the people who rent games from you?

What I can say is we see a very similar demand to what you would see in what people purchase. I think a lot of that goes to our wonderful stat that 73% of our consumers are trying the game before they buy it — they’re trying to gather information on do they like this game, is this a game that I want to invest in You can look at what’s popular in the industry and see that we have similar popular games in our kiosks.

We have more mainstream consumers, we don’t have a majority of hardcore gamers. We have mainstream consumers who want to play more games, who want to try more, and then eventually convert them into purchase.

How many games do you carry, and how quickly do you get new games into your kiosks?

There’s a lot of new-gen console games, and we give our consumers a lot of options. We will carry at any given time about15-20 games. We follow the publisher release schedules, so as publishers are releasing games we’re putting new games into the kiosks. We can have it day and date, whenever they release it to us.

How do you reach consumers, and how many can you touch with your marketing?

We have a great network of consumers. We actually have 40 million emails, a total of 90 million touch points between our emails, our apps, our text club. We have a lot of communication with our consumers so we can see what they want us to carry, what they’re interested in trying.

What kind of marketing opportunities do you offer to publishers?

Having those 90 million touch points, and having the 42,000 kiosks, we get 350 million impressions per week. There’s a lot of opportunity. We’re really looking forward to talking about specific marketing plans with each of our publishing partners so we can help drive that mainstream gamer that is just now starting to come into that new generation, that is obviously key for publishers. We think we can drive that push — yes, you have to spend on purchasing a console, but we give you a lot of opportunities to come to our kiosk, try all these different types of games and play it for the weekend. We’re looking at multiple types of promotions with our publishing partners that we can really encourgae our consumers to rent specific games.

What’s next strategically for Redbox in the rest of this year and beyond?

I want to spend the next twelve months growing the new-gen business on our end, making games a larger percentage of our business, and as we do that we are looking at other strategic opportunities that I can’t talk to, that we can continue to grow the business from a games perspective in the overall Redbox portfolio.

Microsoft Gives Games With Gold A Boost With More Freebies

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since Microsoft initially introduced its Games With Gold program, in which certain game titles are offered free of charge to users who subscribe to Xbox Live Gold. The program has matured quite a bit over the years, offering more blockbuster titles, as well as exclusive first-day releases, such as Pool Nation FX and #IDARB.

Now, the program is expanding even further. According to the Xbox Wire page, starting with next month’s offerings, Xbox Live members will now get double the games on a monthly basis on the Xbox One, instead of just the one default title. Over the past few months, Microsoft has been hinting at such an expansion, offering two titles instead of the usual one, including the likes of the role-playing adventure Massive Chalice and other titles.

The titles will be offered on a monthly basis, but broken out into two-week periods. Up first, free from July 1st to 31st, is the Ubisoft pirating adventure Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Following on July 16th (through August 15th) is the puzzle/platforming adventure So Many Me’s.

The program will also continue on the Xbox 360 with two titles offered every month. July 1-15 will see the availability of PopCap’s puzzle game Plants Vs. Zombies, while the classic sequel Gears of War 3 will be offered from July 16-31.

“It’s been two years and we hope you’ve enjoyed playing all the amazing games as much as we have,” said the company in a statement. “We look forward to many more games to share with the Xbox community.”

Such a move is an effective one by Microsoft, as it not only allows the company to thank its hardcore gaming community, but also bolsters the opportunity to sell more Xbox Live Gold subscriptions. Adding freebie games to a service such as this will certainly serve as a benefit, especially if more AAA-based game titles like Black Flag are involved.

The full details on the Games With Gold program can be found here.

How Twitter Is Helping Brands Win The Moment

A lot of brands like using Twitter when it comes to spreading the world about their products, but some of them are still hesitant, mainly due to concerns that they can’t quite convey their ads as effectively as they’d like. Fortunately, there’s a team for that.

Twitter’s Ross Hoffman, alongside his team, helps plan certain aspects of social media on the site. The team helps lay the groundwork for campaigns that in turn would help these companies “win the moment” with the right catchy message.

It looks like a simple marketing effort, but a lot of work goes into it, according to Hoffman, who recently spoke about it during a visit to Cannes. “Our mission here is to meet with our largest brand and agency partners for the week to talk about the second half of the year and talk about 2016 to get as upstream as possible,” he explained.

Hoffman is leading the drive when it comes to assisting brands to advertise on all of Twitter’s channels, including the short-form Vine video format, live streaming Periscope and autoplay. Niche, a recently formed creative agency that focuses on web celebrities, is also improved to an extent.

It’s all about the brands finding the right message, according to Hoffman. “They understand that they want to be on the platform but having the content strategy is something they look to us for,” he said. Brands usually point out something along the lines of “This is your product. Help us out.” In which Hoffman and his team oblige with a number of strategies.

One example of how a campaign can be effective on Twitter is with Coca-Coca’s recent stint, where personalized messages were sent via virtual bottles to users, as part of its “Share a Coke” campaign. “You see a Promoted Tweet with your name on it and you’re like, ‘Whoa, how does that work ” said Hoffman. It’s mainly through “serendipitous, cool moments for consumers with the brand, at scale.”

And it’s a practice that Facebook and Google are starting to take notice with, and perfect on their own – a job easier said than done considering their different formats.

As for other formats, like Periscope, there’s a lot of potential, as French-based telecom company Orange recently proved per the video below.


Is Verizon Really Well-Positioned For The Streaming TV Business?

by Allen Weiner

Those who follow the overlapping worlds of online video, streaming services, live online TV, and all of its permutations have short (or perhaps selective) memories. The excitement over Verizon closing the mega-deal to purchase AOL is, to say the least, misplaced. Many believe VZ’s assets in the area of a live-TV platform (the one it bought from Intel), snazzy ad-tech platform (from AOL), and infrastructure pieces (which it calls Acquire) make it a sure-fire bet to launch a successful service to compete with SlingSony Vue, and others who want to place a bet on the video services roulette wheel.

The facts tell us that Verizon will face more than a few challenges in its attempt to innovate in the TV service space. Wait, Verizon already is in the TV services space with an IPTV product called FIOS. What’s this we hear, customers, partners, and municipalities are PO-ed at Verizon for not living up to its promises when given permission to operate in their jurisdiction When the biggest city in the US calls your service “an egregious failure,” what are you chances for goodwill in any future similar endeavors Seven years ago, Verizon promised everyone in New York who wanted the service they would be granted their wish. As many reports point out, that was an empty promise.

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.


Mattel’s Barbie Takes On Video Blogging

It’s hard to believe that Mattel’s Barbie doll has been around for well over 50 years. What’s even harder to believe is that she hasn’t taken up “vlogging” – or video blogging – until just recently.

But that’s just what happened to the iconic female doll, who recently posted her first video blog over on her official YouTube page. According to The Daily Dot, the video, which has already seen more than 100,000 views, features the popular doll talking about things going on in her virtual life, from the comfort of her bedroom.

“My friends and I just really love sharing new ideas. New music, favorite movies, videos, tips on personal style,” Barbie says in the clip, talking about why she wanted to give “vlogging” a try.

If her video, posted below, looks familiar, that’s because it emulates a style similar to other popular “vloggers,” including Bethany Mota and Meg DeAngelis.

With creating the video, Mattel made sure it covered the “vlogging” basics, as Barbie basically discusses “fun facts about me,” similar to Mota’s “5 Random Facts About Me” {link no longer active} clip posted back in 2010.

This marks the latest move by the popular doll into social media, following opening up an Instagram account that has attracted quite the audience, with over 828,000 followers and counting. As you might expect, the account consists of a number of photos featuring Barbie performing day-to-day activities.

With the “vlogging” page, however, Barbie is able to exhibit more of a personality that fans can relate to, while at the same time giving a nod to fellow “vloggers” who have found similar success in their art form.

Whether Mattel can retain this consistency with future videos has yet to be seen, but considering the popularity of this first entry, Barbie could have quite a “vlogging” future ahead of her.


‘Terminator Genisys’ Gets New Interactive Game In Theaters

The Terminator has been making quite a few headlines in the social media world lately. First, he appeared in a virtual reality-enabled video put together by YouTube; then he was the subject of a series of GIF videos to advertise his return. Now, with Terminator Genisys ready to hit movie screens in just a few days, he’s coming back with a new interactive game for select theaters.

The Business Insider reports that Paramount has announced a special interactive game that will allow players to keep up with on-screen actions at select IMAX locations at AMC theaters. With it, audience members who sit down can join a secure Wi-Fi network (without the need to load a secondary app) and join in a team-based game, where they must fight off against waves of incoming Terminators.

Players will be assigned to one of four teams fighting against the killer robots, based on settings from the Genisys film. From there, these players can point their phones at the movie screen while clicking a button to shoot and kill Terminator cyborgs. In short, it turns your mobile device into a temporary light gun, similar to what the NES did with the Zapper and Duck Hunt. (But obviously on a much larger scale – and with Terminators.) The page that users will load appears as follows.

The game only lasts three minutes — and stops when the movie starts — but it provides a fun activity while waiting for it to start. In addition, the winning team for each showing at participating theaters will walk away with a collectible Terminator Genisys poster

Only five locations — York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Dallas — will take part in the game, but with enough success, future projects could come to more movie screens.

“For the first time ever, moviegoers can engage with each other in an interactive, digital setting from their own theater seats,” said Megan Wahtera, Senior Vice President of Interactive Marketing, Paramount Pictures in a press release. “This unique opportunity is a great way to bring rich online experiences to the big screen to celebrate the release of ‘Terminator Genisys.'”

For those that can’t take part in the big-screen fun, there’s also a mobile game, Terminator Genisys: Revolution. It is available for download now on iOS and Android {link no longer active}.

Genisys releases in theaters July 1st. The movie trailer is below.



Viewers Are Watching Longer Content on Smaller Screens

By Jessica Klein

All around the world, people are increasingly tailoring their viewing experiences to fit their lives—as opposed to the other way around—using mobile devices to watch while they’re on the move and frequently opting for personalized, recommended content.

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.


Facebook Messenger Could Soon Outpace Its Main App

The popularity of Facebook Messenger on mobile devices is through the roof – and it could soon very well eclipse the social site that launched it.

Variety reports that the social site is now enabling users in various countries to sign up for Messenger without first setting up an account on the main Facebook site. This includes consumers in the United States, as well as Canada, Peru and Venezuela. As a result, this could help Messenger eventually gain even more users than those on the main Facebook app itself.

Even though sign-up doesn’t require a Facebook account in these countries (needing only a name and a working phone number), it still encourages users to use their Facebook account for Messenger, as indicated by this blog post. With this, users will have better ways to find contacts, as well as access Messenger features on desktop and laptop devices, without having a secondary user list.

Messaging has really gone to great strides, following Facebook’s $19 billion investment in messaging service WhatsApp last year, which led to the launch of the Messenger app just last year.

Since its launch, Messenger has spread like wildfire, breaking away from the main Facebook application and becoming the most popular free app on Google Play. It’s also quite popular in the App Store as well, with continuous top ten placement. With over 700 million users and counting on a monthly basis (according to numbers provided by CEO Mark Zuckerberg), it’s easy to see why.

Messenger still has a catch-up game ahead of it when it comes to Facebook’s main audience. That site still has 1.4 billion active users on a monthly basis, just half of where Messenger sites. However, it’s shown quite a bit of growth, going from 500 million users in November to 600 million this past March. At that pace, it could catch up to Facebook by sometime next year – and with this new sign-up feature, maybe even quicker.

For Facebook, it seems that the message is certainly clear.