EA: There’s More To Mobile Than Branding

Over the years, Electronic Arts’ mobile division has based a great deal of its success on franchises. The Simpsons Tapped Out continues to be a big draw for the company, alongside its sports games and other titles. And this fall, it’ll continue that push with more releases, including Madden Mobile, FIFA and a game based on Universal’s Minions brand.

However, there’s more to a successful mobile game than just slapping a brand in place, according to the company’s senior vice president and general manager, Bill Mooney. Quality and good gameplay must also play their part to keep consumers coming back, such as is the case with Tapped Out.

GamesBeat recently spoke with Mooney about the company’s mobile approach during the Mobile Gaming USA conference in San Francisco, first discussing the positives and negatives regarding IP licenses for mobile games. “On balance, what I would say is that the value of branded IP – we’re at a point in the market where it’s relatively choked,” he explained. “Acquisition is a huge challenge. I do think table stakes is making a strong game. I think that’s an even higher bar when using other people’s IP or co-developing. With Simpsons, we literally co-developed with them. We have the real writers. The head writer of the show is essentially our game showrunner on their side.

“Why it’s worth doing that is because you capture an audience that loves something. In a place with a million and a half apps, tapping into that – especially a long-running, beloved, powerful IP – gives you access to an audience that would be very difficult to get to otherwise. We can capture casual as well as core, too.”

Mooney also touched on the longevity of Simpsons, now three years old. “The numbers on it demonstrate, for the genre – it has unusually good long-term retention,” he said. “I was the general manager of FarmVille at its biggest. I worked on lots of builders at Zynga. The numbers are very different for Tapped Out. There’s a function of people engaging in content. One thing with branded IP, people talk about the content treadmill. A huge strength of branded IP is, people want new content. You get to tap into somebody’s rich universe and work to expand that.”

He continued, ” First of all, if you’re going to get IP you need to get good IP. It’s not worth paying for Paris Hilton, not to pick on her too much. She had those match-threes, what, seven years ago The IP is worth it when you’re getting that core audience. A limited amount of IP is worthwhile. It will be interesting to see how many of the music games, for example, do well.

“One thing that’s been part of EA’s strategy, with stuff like Madden, we want to go for the premier IPs. That’s where a lot of the benefit comes. What’s powerful about Simpsons is we’ve been able to take it to mobile into live services. I’m not aware of any branded MMO, other than something like Star Trek, where they obviously extended it. Taking a mass-market entertainment brand and essentially almost MMO-ing it on the platform is hard. But we routinely talk to the licensor several times a day. Numerous people work on both sides making sure everything is flowing through. They touch every asset to make sure it’s at quality.”

The full interview can be found here, and the game can be downloaded for iOS and Android now.

Facebook Gains On YouTube: ‘Years of Competition On Horizon’

By Jessica Klein

Facebook has been trying to out-YouTube YouTube for a while now, making moves like tacking “video platform” onto its “social network” epithet, autoplaying videos to grow viewership, allowing for in-video annotations, and suggesting related videos for those using Facebook on mobile devices. Facebook is none too modest to keep from reporting its own success in the video realm, but it still means more when outside sources release figures that show how the social network/video platform is gaining on Google’s YouTube.

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.

‘Halo’ Fans Glimpsed The Future Through HoloLens

This year during E3 those that demoed the Halo 5: Guardians new Warzone multiplayer mode were treated to an exclusive, holographic experience made possible by HoloLens. Instead simply watching a briefing video, fans boarded the UNSC ship Infinity and were guided by vivid, interactive holograms through the pre-gameplay briefing. The popularity of the experience spread quickly throughout E3 and the line certainly didn’t get shorter, but fans seemed to agree, “it was totally worth it.”


‘Fallout Shelter’ Overtakes ‘Candy Crush’ Its First Week

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo had more of a focus on powerhouse sequels and virtual reality, but mobile certainly had its place as well, especially with EA and its showcase, featuring the likes of Minions Paradise, among other games.

But one bombshell that truly dropped this week was Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter, a game that arrived on the App Store as a tie-in with the forthcoming sequel Fallout 4. The game was revealed during the company’s press conference this past Sunday, and made available within just hours after it concluded. The demand for it has been great, but even Bethesda couldn’t have foreseen just how successful the mobile spin-off would become.


‘Crossy Road’ Heads To Mobile Success

Hipster Whale’s Crossy Road, a variation of the Sega classic Frogger with some new touches that make it more contemporary, has met with immense success on the mobile front since its release last year. We previously reported on how it made a great deal of money based on its fair monetization structure. However, Chartboost recently posted an article {link no longer active} that explains how its success grew to even larger heights than anyone could have imagined.

The game has managed to make a whopping $6 million with its integrated video ads within its first 90 days of release, and continues to have a top spot in the App Store charts, an impressive feat considering it was released eight months ago.

Chartboost discussed this success with the game’s co-creators, Matt Hall and Andy Sum, who went over various steps in its process – such as how it focused more on sharing and retention, rather than the usual UA and monetization circles.

“We wanted to make a game that was popular, but not necessarily one that would make a lot of money per user. That was the intention. Anything that got in the way of it being popular, we threw away. If you’re investing in user acquisition, you have to make a game that earns a certain amount per user and that greatly restricts the types of games that can be made. We wanted to make something different,” said the team in the interview.

“We only started talking about monetization about six weeks into the process [at the halfway point]. At first we thought we’d just sell coins like everyone else, but then once we sat down and started to talk about it within the context of the characters, we realized the game would have a very strong family appeal.”

Rather than monetization, the duo focused on a different set of numbers. “The main metric we focused on was retention. That was the most important thing for us — that someone who is playing today would want to come back tomorrow. We put a lot of effort into that. Our retention was really high when we started testing the game — around 65 percent — and the moment we saw that, we thought ‘Oh, this is going to go pretty well.’ Other than that I didn’t trace analytics. It’s not that important to me. I don’t really care about grinding the maximum amount of money per player, it’s really just about making a game that as many people as possible can enjoy.”

The team also had advice for developers who were looking to maintain integrity with their games, while still seeking mobile success. “Ads are a great way of doing that. They free you from having to sell coin packs and that sort of thing. They allow you to be flexible with the kind of game you can make. Disco Zoo was the first game I saw that had really strong integrated rewarded video and that game formed the blueprint we wanted to achieve. Now, of course, everyone’s seeing what we did with rewarded video and I’m sure more people will be making games of this type … and we will, too!”

The full interview can be found here  {link no longer active}, and the game can be downloaded for iOS here {link no longer active}.

E3: Attendance Reaches Record High For 2015 Show

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo is over, but it certainly left quite an impact on the industry, with several big titles set for release over the next year and beyond. With that, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has reported that the show just had its biggest attendance yet.

A story from GamesIndustry International indicates that attendance of this year’s event has reached a record high, with 52,200 people visiting from over 100 countries worldwide. This includes enthusiasts who were invited to the industry-only event at the first time, representing a “prosumer” piece of the market.

More than 1,600 products from 300 exhibitors were on full display for all to see, and social media saw a tremendous jump as well, with over 6.3 million posts related to the show on Twitter, and over 7.5 million likes with E3-related posts on Instagram.

Video played a big part as well, as we previously reported with Twitch. More than one half million concurrent viewers tuned in to the press conferences on the live streaming channel, while YouTube garnered its own audience with over one million E3-related videos on its site.

“More than any other E3, this year was about the gamer. E3 demonstrated both the remarkable transformation of entertainment taking place on all video game platforms-virtual reality, augmented reality, hardware, mobile and handheld-and awesome games,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA. “As a driving force for technological and entertainment trends across the globe, the video game industry clearly demonstrated how it is revolutionizing the way people consume, engage and interact with media. Congratulations to our incredibly creative exhibitors, members, partners and the millions of video game consumers who celebrated a spectacular E3 event.”

The promise of next year’s event is building as well, especially with Nintendo’s forthcoming NX console and new releases from Sony and Microsoft, such as The Last Guardian and Gears of War 4, respectively. It will once again return to the Los Angeles Convention Center, taking place from June 14-16. Of course, we’ll be there…

‘Hitman’ Takes a New Approach

One of the games introduced this past week during Sony’s E3 press conference was Hitman, the self-titled return of Square Enix’s popular series focusing on anti-hero Agent 47. In the game, he once again returns to take out a series of new targets, putting his assassination skills to the test every step of the way.

A new Hitman game shouldn’t be a surprise, considering both the popularity of the series and the face that the movie Hitman: Agent 47 will be releasing on August 21. However, what should be a surprise is what format the new game will take when it arrives for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on December 8th.

Speaking with Videogamer.com, Square Enix had indicated that the game will be released as scheduled, but not “complete,” as the company intends to add new content regularly, well through 2016. However, it will do so with “no DLC or microtransactions,” as all the content will be free of charge. That makes sense, considering that the game will release at a full retail price of $60.

There may be some concerns about this, but IO Interactive studio head Hannes Seifert offered an explanation. “It is fully complete at launch but it is not finished,” he said. “What we do is we start the journey on December 8 and what we put out there is going to be a big game. But over the course of 2016 we’ll add more locations, more missions and we’ll have things like targets that only appear for, say, two days. That’s something you can only do in the live world.”

Releasing a game in an “unfinished” state sounds like something fresh out of Valve’s Early Access program, or the new indie label that Microsoft will introduce for its Xbox One console later this year, where users can try out unfinished games before buying them early. However, Seifert was quick to say, “We’re not an Early Access game because Early access games are unfinished by definition – you’re part of the development.

“Everything we ship on December 8 will be completely finished, it will be a very polished experience. It’s also going to be a very big game. There are other products that sell a game for $60 and then try to sell you a Season Pass for another $40 on top, so you spend $100 or $120 for all the stuff that happens later on. We said no, we don’t want to do that,” he continued.

“We think it’s wrong to approach players like that because players want to be part of that experience but they don’t necessarily want to be ripped off. What we’re going to see is all of that but it’s for a one-price package.”

However, there is one question regarding how much content players will get on day one. “We haven’t really decided yet what will come out at what point in time but I can promise you that it will be a very big release on day one,” Seifert continued. “There will be hours and hours of gameplay. You will travel the world to different locations. We start with Fashionable Paris that you’ve seen and you’ll go to the bustling market of Marrakesh and the Italian coastline and way beyond that. What we can tell people is that we will have content coming every week. There will be an event every week and people can actually engage right away.”

Seifert reassured that this will be a full Hitman experience, though. “This is a full-fledged Hitman,” Seifert promises. “Actually it’s a bigger Hitman game than ever before, it will be more than Absolution. Our biggest levels are way bigger than anything we had in Blood Money. The AI entities, we have about 300 of them when we used to have 40 or 50 in the previous games. So it’s a very big game [that] we will keep updating. It’s $60, no dollar more, no DLC or microtransactions or stuff like that. You will buy it and you will have entertainment for a few months on top.”

We’ll see how this strategy plays out when the game arrives later this year. The trailer for the game is below.


Four Trends We Noticed At E3 This Year

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) week for 2015 is over, but the massive coverage in the media is only beginning. While most places are focusing on the games, E3 is an important occasion to learn about the state of the business, and where game marketing is going. Let’s take a deeper look at what’s going on in the games industry.

At its core, E3 is focused on console gaming, and this year it’s clear that the marketing focus has shifted from making people aware and excited about new console hardware to let’s get people excited about all the great games that are coming. Beyond that shift, though, there are some major trends occurring in gaming that E3 highlighted clearly when you looked at the bigger picture.

Mobile and console games can work together

Out with the old, in with the new
Sometimes it’s what you don’t see that tells you something important. Was there an Xbox 360 or a PS3 to be found anywhere at the show Not anywhere in the Microsoft or Sony booths. (For that matter, there was barely a trace of a PS Vita, and the PlayStation TV seemed missing in action as well.) Is this a bad thing Not at all, it means that Sony and Microsoft are doing well enough with the newest consoles that they don’t really care much about the older ones. Both manufacturers now have a backwards compatibility solution for their latest consoles, too, so keeping the old hardware going means less than ever. (Microsoft will be making Xbox 360 titles available directly on the Xbox One, while Sony offers its PlayStation Now streaming service to let you play PS3 titles on your PS4.)

For publishers, though, it means they shouldn’t expect to sell too many of their titles for Xbox 360 or PS3. That message has certainly come through, as no one was showing any titles for those old systems, anyway. Though there was no official ceremony to make their passing, we can say goodbye to the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 (and the Wii, though that passed away last year). Thanks for all of your service. The only question remaining is how much, if any, shelf space these older consoles will take up at retail stores by the time the holiday rolls around. Probably not much.

New technologies beckon
You couldn’t walk very far at E3 without running into some example of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR). Sony had Project Morpheus on prominent display in several places in its booth. Oculus had a crowd around its booth. Bigger publishers tended to have something in their booth to show how they are experimenting with VR or AR, and a number of smaller companies were scattered around hoping to garner attention for their AR or VR related products. Whether or not VR and AR become major consumer markets in the near future, marketing will be using them to show how future-oriented a company is.

More than VR and AR, though, we saw plenty of new hardware from accessories companies. The new generation of consoles has reached sufficient size and momentum that new lines of accessories are being created and introduced in a big way. New lines of headsets, extra data storage, keyboards for yur console controller, and more were on display. It’s going to mean plenty of marketing this fall as these companies compete for all those Xbox One and PS4 owners to upgrade their accessories.

Even Microsoft is jumping into the fun with its Xbox Elite controller, a $150 (!) controller for the Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs that’s fully customizable in both hardware and software. It’s a premium device with a premium price for the hardest of the hardcore gamers. The biggest concern for Microsoft about this should be manufacturing enough to meet the demand, which is likely to be high.

Project Morpheus on the wall at Sony’s booth

Marketing moves to the masses
You could not avoid the presence of Twitch at E3, with monitors everywhere showing the constant streams from the show floor. Multiple companies were streaming from E3, and no doubt plenty of Periscope and Meerkat moments joined them. Gloriously, the LA Convention Center seems to have fixed its massive connectivity problems, and thus social media could have a field day at the show. The crowd of 50,000 plus attendees obliged, with a massive wave of sharing.

The larger trend that’s evident, though, is how much of the marketing is being taken over by the masses. In the past, companies were in tight control of the messaging, with carefully orchestrated press events and carefully screened journalists in controlled interviews. Yes, that still occurs, but it’s much less important than the influencers on social media and video who are giving their own impressions to millions of devoted followers. Working with your audience is now primary, not just lecturing to them.

Even the E3 show itself recognizes this, as it began to open up its doors to those outside the industry. Exhibitors got 5,000 badges to give away, and most choose to give those their biggest influencers and fans. You can expect to see this again in the future, and in general more and more marketing will be about supporting the voices of your biggest fans rather than just trying to directly create some fans.

E3’s show floor is merely the tip of the gaming iceberg
For all of the attention directed at the E3 show floor this last week, it’s not the majority of the game business. PC online games are racking up billions of dollars, and the mobile game business worldwide is surpassing consoles, and eSports are becoming vastly more popular globally. All of those trends are strongly affecting console games. Ubisoft’s Just Dance 2016 uses smartphones to expand its audience to all console owners, not just those with a Kinect or a PlayStation Eye. Beyond that, even, Just Dance Now lets you play with just your smartphone or tablet… that console experience has gone mobile.

Fallout Shelter is now the #3 top-grossing iOS title in just a few days, kicking King’s Candy Crush Saga out of its position among the top three titles its held since 2013. This astonishing development came after the surprise announcement of the mobile game at Bethesda’s E3 press event on Sunday, which was all about console and PC games. If there was any doubt whether hardcore console gamers paid attention to mobile, this should answer that question with finality.

In the larger sense, mobile games are aiming at the core. Zynga’s upcoming CSR Racing 2 will go beyond console graphics with astonishing visuals. Nexon/Big Huge Games’ DomiNations is aiming right for core gamers, and in two months has already garnered more fans than all the games Big Huge Games ever produced in the past put together, according to Big Huge CEO Tim Train. Electronic Arts is pushing to make Madden Football as big a hit on mobile as it is on consoles, and its FIFA Ultimate Team is already a terrific mobile success that boosts the console and PC FIFA games. Activision/Blizzard’s Hearthstone has acquired an audience of over 30 million because it’s gone beyond PCs and made a great tablet and smartphone version of the game, tremendously broadening the appeal.

While you are marveling at the new console games being celebrated at E3, it’s important to realize that gaming on other platforms is right there with them — and in many cases going beyond them. Gaming is expanding into the future on many fronts, and success in the future will go to those who realize this trend and take full advantage of it.