Twitch: ‘Seeing The Maturity Of eSports’

The explosive growth of eSports owes a great deal to livestreaming, and when you’re talking about livestreaming video you’re talking about Twitch. Twitch’s rise to over 100 million monthly viewers in a few short years has been because of a symbiotic relationship with eSports, and that mutually beneficial relationship continues. Twitch is now a part of Amazon, and that backing is giving the company plenty of confidence has it moves forward.

The growth of Twitch has, of course, attracted scores of competitors like Azubu and Hitbox, but there biggest entry into the livestreaming market has to be Google, which is pushing to make YouTube into a top livestreaming site as well as a top spot for videos. It’s a busy time for Twitch, which isn’t slowing down at all as it moves ahead with multiple initiatives, including the first TwitchCon coming up this September. Andy Swanson, VP of eSports and Events for Twitch, spoke with [a]listdaily about the past, present, and future of Twitch. Swanson will be part of the upcoming [a]list Video Summit in August, where he will expand on this topic.

We’ve seen explosive growth in eSports over the last few years, with Twitch being a major factor in that. Will the strong growth continue When might it level off?

Twitch was actually founded on an eSports pivot point. On Justin TV, the biggest thing that we were seeing growth in was people playing competitive Starcraft. That area was something the exec team had identified as something that had stickiness and continual growth, as well as anrea they were passionate about.

Throughout Twitch’s growth, eSports is a huge, huge part of it. When I came on board eSports was roughly 70 percent of the content on Twitch, and now it’s somewhere between 40 and 50% – but that doesn’t mean eSports has shrunk in any way, shape, or form. If anything, it’s grown significantly. It’s just because the pie for Twitch has diversified. not because it has shrunk. What we’re seeing now is the maturity of eSports. We’re actually starting to see organized seasons, leagues that are consistent for many years, teams being established in a regular circuit. We’re starting to realize where the big tournaments are, where the big money is, where the big sponsors are looking to go.

What’s really interesting is we’re also starting to see a whole lot of interest in eSports from traditional game publishers. We’re starting to see the console game companies, the big guys really eying the space as well. With that often comes a lot of big brand opportunities.

How are brands working with Twitch, and how is that changing?

The Twitch Media Group, which I helped launch, the actual direct sales of brands on Twitch itself is only two years old, which is really new considering things like IGN and Future and GameSpot which have been around for over a dozen years. Originally with Twitch the first category that jumped on board was the endemics, and that makes a lot of sense — the game publishers and the game developers. For them it was really understanding what was happening on Twitch, what was really going on, what were the opportunities for them to speak directly with their own community, to create content and cultivate relationships with streamers. The game companies came first, then we saw Hollywood come in a big way, TV, theatrical and then DVD. They really saw this as an opportunity because this is where their demographic was, this is where they were able to showcase live video, this is where they saw incredible engagement.

We’ve started to see an incredible growth in what we call non-endemics, non-gaming categories. We’ve seen Old Spice, Duracell, you name it — any category we’ve had explored. It’s because of the uniqueness of what Twitch is,, the way people consume content differently, the quantities in which they are consuming it, and the social engagement while they are consuming it.

Two years ago we would have been very heavy from a brand perspective on gaming — and they still support us in a major, major way — now, more of our inbounds are from non-gaming brands. Which is why we’ve staffed up our New York and Chicago efforts significantly.

What’s next for Twitch and eSports and the relationships with brands What’s coming up in the year ahead?

The core endemic brands that support eSports in a big way are often technology companies, where the technology is based on the games — Logitech, Razer, Astro Gaming, Gigabyte, Alienware. Those companies have been supporting eSports for a long time. I’ve never been involved with an industry where there’s so much growth and so many interested parties, where everybody wants to learn about eSports. The example I use is all the big brands are sitting around the pool, and some of them are touching their toes in the pool. I feel like we’re just waiting for that one big brand to do a cannonball, and then everybody’s going to jump in the pool.

What are the key things a brand needs to know about Twitch and eSports, particularly when it comes to global reach?

Traditional distribution on cable is going to limit your audience, where we are global. Part of the challenge is also part of the opportunity when you’re looking at it from a brand perspective, particularly when you’re talking about integrating within a particular eSport. Do you only care about the North American market The way I describe eSports to folks is that it’s way more like the Olympics or the World Cup where it is an international experience. If you want to just surface on the US or North American feed, we can do that. But you do have to realize when ESL or League of Legends host international events, when they are in Stockholm or Poland or in Asia, you’re going to still have a significant amount of people in the United States watching.

How is TwitchCon shaping up What are you hoping to accomplish with it?

We’re very pleased with the amount of sponsors we’re seeing there, which for year one is pretty exciting. TwitchCon in its purest form is really meant to be a celebration of our broadcasters and our viewers. We actually toyed early on with not bringing in sponsors, and having it be a totally pure event. The idea is celebrating our broadcasters, celebrating our community, and teaching fledgling broadcasters. Go to the TwitchCon page and look at the agenda and you’ll see how focused it is on the community and the broadcasters themselves and how they can become better. One of the major areas we have is for sponsors that have some sort of technology that’s part of streaming — headsets, microphones, green-screen — and that improves the ability to stream. We’ve got over 2600 broadcasters coming already, with over 800 at the partner level, which are the folks that are the top tier. The rest of it’s going to be fans who want to meet their favorite Twitch celebrities. We’re also going to have game companies along, the hardware guys, and we’re actually starting to see some significant non-endemics as well that want to reach that audience.

ESL Exec Explains Strong Stance Against Drugs in ESports

If only real sports like Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Football League (NFL) acted as quickly and swiftly as eSports company ESL did. Just nine days after former Cloud9 pro gamer Kory “Semphis” Friesen said in an on-camera interview that his entire team was using Adderall at ESL One Katowice 2015, ESL has doubled down on its ban of illegal performance-enhancing drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall.

The company has partnered with NADA (NationaleAnti DopingAgentur, located in Bonn, Germany) to help research and determine an anti-PEDs policy that is fair, feasible and respects the privacy of the players, while simultaneously providing conclusive testing results. Additionally, ESL will meet with WADA (World Anti Doping Agency, with headquarters located in Montreal, Canada) to actively involve them in the making, enforcing and further internationalizing of this policy to regions such as United States, Asia and Australia.

ESL will use the expertise of NADA and WADA to create a PEDs prevention program, which will be distributed to all players participating in eSports competitions organized, hosted or produced by ESL. The goal of this program is to ensure players are provided with information and structural support to help them manage the physical and emotional pressure that the highest level of competitive gaming puts on many of them.

The company is also instituting randomized PEDs skin tests at the ESL One Cologne event this August. In addition, it will perform those tests at every event in the Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One and ESL ESEA Pro League competitions as soon as the policy is established and the tournament rules are updated. Trevor Schmidt, senior manager at ESL America, explains why there’s no place for cheating in eSports in this exclusive interview.

How big a problem do you think Adderall or PEDs really are in eSports today?

There’s has never been testing before in the eSports industry and there is no significant case of a player admitting to or being caught under the influence of PEDs. So without data it’s impossible to say how specifically challenging PED use is in eSports. While the issue has the potential of being widespread, even one player under the influence hurts the integrity of the league. The recent incident has brought the realization to our entire industry that we need to take this seriously before it reaches levels that damage the entire sport.

What impact do you feel the increased amount of winnings in tournaments has had on pressure to perform?

We see this as a critical issue. Ten years ago, this was a hobby for players played in high school gyms or garages. Today almost all of the player base sees this as a full time job. ESL recently held an event in a World Cup football stadium for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes. To many players this is more than a full time job, it’s their passion.

Doping has been part of real sports like Tour de France and Major League Baseball  for a long time. How important is it to send a message to pro gamers about drug use being illegal?

ESL believes setting a tone now is critical. The longer we allow the issue to stay behind the scenes the more it becomes a requirement to be a pro gamer, and we don’t want that. One of the keys to eSports is the accessibility of the sport. Allowing PEDs to have any part in that ecosystem hurts the long term development of the sport.

ESL is one of many companies involved in eSports. Are there any plans to have a unified drug enforcement policy across all games and companies involved?

Up until today, there has been no talk of testing for PEDs. ESL is really taking the first step and we hope that the entire industry is willing to join us in improving the integrity of all eSports events.

Do you feel anyone caught using drugs should be given a second or even third chance before potentially banning them?

ESL is still considering our punishment. We understand there needs to be a very thoughtful approach to policy. With in-gaming cheating, such as wall hacks that let you see through walls, we have a very detailed and strong policy. We have spent years developing these punishments for players caught with hacks. We expect to do the same with PEDs and determine the best ways to punish players.

With the ability for pro gamers to play across different leagues, how much weight is a ban in ESL if they can go and play in MLG or someplace else? 

ESL has conducted 18 major events in our ESL One and Intel Extreme Master’s events plus additional leagues during 2014-2015. All those featuring large scale prizes. If we were to ban a player from ESL events, it would be a serious punishment and make a career in eSports very challenging.

Another issue real sports face is gambling and Fantasy Sports — which are now part of eSports. Does the rise of this new business and the temptation it opens up warrant additional changes for ESL to be proactive?

ESL works with its partners such as Microsoft, Blizzard, Valve and Riot to address issues that hurt eSports — gambling is one of them. ESL needs to take a leadership role with its partners to not support and even regulate companies that hurt the integrity of eSports.

Blizzard’s New ‘Hearthstone’ Expansion Nears

As it’s proven in the past, Activision Blizzard is doing very well with Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, its hit PC/mobile game where players use cards from decks to battle other players online. And now, with the announcement of a Grand Tournament expansion, business is likely to pick up even more.

Per a report from PC Mag, Blizzard announced the expansion yesterday, with Grand Tournament set to arrive for both the mobile and PC versions next month. It will feature 1332 new cards that can be won through Hearthstone‘s Arena mode, although players will also have the option to purchase them direct, using either real money or in-game currency.

The expansion will enable players to visit the cold confines of Northrend, where the argent Crusade once held a tournament to get together the greatest fighters in Azeroth and prepare them for a forthcoming battle. “The competitive atmosphere’s just a lot more playful (and a bit warmer) than it used to be,” said Blizzard on the official blog page.

Hearthstone has become a global success for the company in a short amount of time, effectively providing a way to impact the global market while keeping its highly popular Warcraft theme in mind. It’s also gained popularity on the Twitch front, with hundreds of gamers, professional and casual, broadcasting their sessions on a daily basis to a growing audience.

With that, Blizzard will more than likely begin a promotional campaign to get the word out about Grand Tournament. The company didn’t go into details, but a new TV trailer – similar to the one it aired earlier this summer for Heroes of the Storm, viewable below – and plenty of online ads are to be expected. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Blizzard teamed up with bigger partners, such as Twitch, to feature a glimpse of what’s to come with the expansion.

YouTube Goes Full Circle With 360-Degree Video Ads

Using video for advertising is nothing new for either Facebook or YouTube, who have built a thriving video advertising business with multiple major brands reaching a vast audience. The competition between the two rivals for new business is intense, and bringing out a new technology is one way to try and get an edge. YouTube is looking to get a boost in advertising by introducing a new format that could help marketers and brands bring messages full circle with their ads – literally.

Per a report from The Next Web, Google has announced that the new format of 360-degree video advertisements will now be supported for both iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as the Google Chrome desktop browser. Utilizing the company’s TrueView ad platform, users can use their mouse or tilt a device to pan around a field of view in a video, getting a look at the whole perspective of the ad however they please. This takes ad interaction to another level, and hopefully will get users both more interested in ads and engaged with the ad for a longer period of time.

Bud Light has launched its own campaign to show this in action, with its latest “Up For Whatever” video showcasing a number of fans jumping into a parade and having a good time. The video can be seen below. (Note: if you’re viewing on a computer, other browsers aside from Google Chrome won’t work with the format. Not yet, anyway.)

Google initially announced 360-degree video support a few months back, where users could upload interactive videos to YouTube with ease, in an attempt to garner more viewers interested in the interactive format. It seems to have paid off, as the company reported that these videos have performed 36 percent better than standard videos – which indicates that ads with the 360-degree format would be far more effective than watching a routine commercial.More videos of these types – with more sponsors tied in – should be introduced over the next few months. Here’s hoping that Google continues to make it compatible with other browsers, including Safari, Windows and Firefox, so that no one will miss the 360-degree party.

 

 

Twitter Introduces Ad Campaigns That Revolve Around Events

When it comes to massively popular events, social media just explodes. It could be an awards show, a sporting event like the Super Bowl, or even the airing of a popular movie like this week’s Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (popular in some sense, at least). Now, Twitter has come up with a way to take advantage of these events, while opening the door for potential advertisers to join in the fun.

Re/Code has reported that Twitter intends to reach out to marketers that can target people based on these events. With it, they will be able to tie in ads to anyone who cares about such events, such as introducing a shark documentary while they talk about Sharknado 3, or talking up back-to-school deals as people prepare for the return of the school season.

Although the popular social site has seen a small drop in revenue over this last quarter, it still has quite a few users that jump online to talk about such events. With this targeting option, marketers can potentially jump in and spread the word without being obtrusive, although the effects of this campaign have yet to be seen.

Twitter has already put together a dashboard with a calendar featuring big events, along with demographic data that breaks down the people who showed interest in similar events over the previous year, in the hopes of giving advertisers an idea of what’s popular.

Ameet Ranadive, senior director of revenue products for Twitter, stated that the site uses a handful of signals to determine whether or not users may care about a particular event. Through it, she explains, it takes a look at people that are followed, as well as specific tweets and engagement with other tweets. It works in a similar manner to the company’s TV targeting, but looking at trends with events rather than programming.

Again, though, its effects have yet to be seen. Twitter has already been toying around with several ideas in advertising, even taking the drastic step of removing users’ custom backgrounds on home pages with the possibility of replacing them with advertising (although this hasn’t been confirmed just yet – but many users have already complained about the “plain white background” approach). Maybe this will turn it around – even with the help of a Sharknado.

MTV’s Susanne Daniels Joining YouTube As VP Of Originals

By Todd Longwell

Susanne Daniels is leaving her post as president of programming of MTV to join YouTube in the newly-created role of VP of YouTube Originals. She will join the company this fall, working out of its offices in Beverly Hills.

According to a release announcing the hire, Daniels duties will include managing the YouTube Originals development pipeline, overseeing production and working “cross-functionally” to bring new series to fans. She will report to Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s head of content and business operations.

Alex Carloss, who has headed YouTube’s original programming efforts for the past four years, will report to Daniels.

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.

China’s NetEase Launches Mobile Game Success Fund

As the mobile game industry grows globally, publishers are looking to expand internationally — taking their success in one region and trying to succeed across the major markets of the world. The latest example of this trend comes from NetEase, ranked as the #5 mobile publisher globally in revenue and the #2 iOS publisher in China. NetEase recently opened its first overseas office in North America, and today announced the formation of the NetEase Success Fund. The new funding initiative provides up to $500,000 for independent developers to fund marketing and advertising for their mobile game. NetEase notes that the program is designed to empower developers to retain the rights, creative control, and full ownership of their products.

Unlike typical publisher deals, the title-based NetEase Success Fund is a revenue sharing program in which NetEase will only receive a pre-defined set dollar amount as repayment. Once the revenue share cap is reached, the developer will have no additional financial obligations to NetEase.”There are so many developers with games that have great potential, but are constrained by rising user acquisition costs,” said Ryan DeSanto, director of business development at NetEase North America, who is managing the fund. “Our goal is to create an alternative to the traditional mobile game publishing model, where developers can gain access to the resources necessary to scale their audience without giving up control of their business.”

“Not only are we committed to bringing NetEase’s games to a Western audience, but also to becoming an active member of the global game developer community,” stated David Ting, general manager of NetEase North America. “The NetEase Success Fund gives us the opportunity to expand our reach in the mobile space and help more developers bring fun experiences to gamers.” Ting spoke with [a]listdaily to provide more details of NetEase’s Success Fund.

Why did NetEase decide to set up the NetEase Success Fund for mobile developers?

As mobile game developers and marketers ourselves, we recognized that there is a gap in funding options for independent developers who need a little extra help to get noticed but want to retain ownership rights to their products.

One of our goals as an organization over the next few years is to continue expanding our business into global markets. We wanted to dig deeper into the industry and start establishing stronger partnerships with some of the quality game development studios out there. In the mobile industry, there are many small studios making really incredible games that might not otherwise have the resources to get noticed on today’s app marketplaces. Additionally, while they’re focused on making a great game, most don’t have the resources to then shift their attention to the business side of launching a product.

We noticed that the biggest challenge to developers was negotiating revenue share and ownership of the IP, so we set out to offer a program that completely eliminates these concerns while providing a foundation of support for the business side of game launches.

How many games does NetEase anticipate enrolling in the program this year?

There’s really no telling at this point, but based on early conversations we’ve had with developers so far, we’re already seeing a positive response to how much control they’ll have over their games and the financial upside. Ultimately, though, it comes down to quality. We’re not interested in signing a high number of developers just to make the program look popular. We’re focused on working with developers who make great games that are fun to play.

Is NetEase looking for particular genres or types of games, or developers with a certain track record What sort of proposal would be most likely to be accepted by NetEase for the Success Fund?

No specific genres, and our focus will be Free-to-Play but we’re open to other opportunities. It’s more about the quality of the game and the team behind it. More importantly, any submission that can make their ambitions and creative skills shine will most certainly catch our attention. We want to hear about games that are still in the concept stage to games that have already been live for a year.

It’s interesting that NetEase has chosen to only receive a set dollar amount as repayment rather than an ongoing percentage of revenue. Why did you choose to structure the fund this way?

We set up this fund to target developers that have games that are looking for an alternative to current financing options available. We think that the way the repayment model is structured will make this fund more accessible to a larger number of developers who would not normally work with a publisher because of traditional payment terms. We’re excited to hopefully attract some great content and introduce mobile consumers to some new high quality games.

The biggest challenge for mobile games is discovery — how will NetEase help with that for games in the Success Fund What’s NetEase’s marketing strategy for customer acquisition?

The two main problems smaller developers face when launching a mobile game are access to capital and the expertise required to raise awareness among mobile consumers. This program helps to address these challenges and we can offer support where needed. As long as the quality of the game is there, supplying the additional support for marketing through this program should, hopefully result in great success.

NetEase has a strong market position in China but is not well known in North America. How do you intend to grow NetEase in North America — by bringing games over from China, or by creating new titles in the West?

Prior to introducing this program, our North America office was set up to identify and work on a pipeline of games that our Chinese teams are driving, getting involved in development early to find and culturize games that are ideal for Western audiences. In other words, we have our own pipeline of first-party titles being developed out of China that we’ll reveal throughout the year, starting with the already-announced Speedy Ninja, launching later this summer. These aren’t simple ports of games already available in China, but culturalized products that we feel have the most potential and ensuring that everything from game mechanics to monetization and art style will appeal to Western gamers. Combined with the huge successes realized by our team in China, we strongly believe that we can build a successful business that reaches around the globe.

‘Cookie Jam’ Publisher SGN Gets Huge Investment

Sometimes all it takes to shake up the mobile landscape is the right investment – and it appears that’s just what South Korea-based Netmarble Games has done with SGN.

Variety has reported that Netmarble, considered to be the top mobile games publisher for its region, has invested a whopping $130 million into SGN, the creators of such games as The Book of Life (based on the film of the same name) and the free-to-play hit Cookie Jam. That makes the Korea-based team the largest shareholder in the company, even with the $28 million share held by co-founder and CEO Chris DeWolfe, formerly of MySpace.

Through this deal, SGN expects its games to have a bigger outreach overseas, namely in Asia. Meanwhile, Netmarble benefits as well, reaching out more to a U.S.-based audience, as well as other territories, according to the report.

“The industry is consolidating,” said DeWolfe regarding the deal. “There are increasing barriers to entry to new players, and to be a leader requires lots of capital and lots of infrastructure.”

SGN plans to use its new investment to create an “aggressive” M&A strategy for its games, with acquisitions of other game studios in the worlds, as well as better expansion into television and online marketing. Growth of international distribution is in the works as well, according to DeWolfe.

The popularity of games like Book of Life has done quite well for the team, as it “continues to grow even though the film is out-of-window basically,” said DeWolfe. That kind of strength is a good sign for Netmarble, especially when it comes to expansion in new markets.

“SGN is a rapidly growing company with proven experience in developing and servicing top grossing casual games in the West,” Netmarble CEO Youngsig Kwon said in a statement. “With SGN’s many years of experience in global marketing, I am confident that SGN will make a perfect partner for Netmarble to enter the Western market.”

SGN is expected to generate over $280 million in revenue for this year alone – although, with its expansion into new markets, that number could easily rise.

Digital Ad Market Growing In 2016

While worldwide advertising spending was originally projected to drop this year from previous estimates, U.K. based marketing research service Warc has changed its tune, mainly due to the shifting of online Internet advertising.

A report from Mediapost indicates that advertising spending is now expected to rise 2.3 percent for the year, mainly due to the U.S. and Chinese markets. Separately, the U.S. will grow 1.4 percent and China will increase even more by nine percent. India is expected to go even higher by 16.1 percent, while Russia will actually drop by 13.1 percent

In this report, Warc also details a drop in worldwide TV advertising, by 1.9 percent for this year, although it’s expected to pick back up again by next year, by 2.5 percent.

So where is the rise in this spending Online. The report shows that Internet advertising will actually become the biggest ad medium for next year, with 16.1 percent this year and 12.9 percent over the next year. Considering that the Internet is already the biggest ad platform in half of the world’s markets, this will expand this growth even further.

However, that doesn’t mean all the markets will thrive. With the big shift to digital, regular print – magazines and newspapers – will see a drop. Declines of 10.4 percent for magazines and 9.2 percent for newspapers are expected this year, and even more next year, by 7.4 and 5.8 percent, respectively.

As far as which markets will dominate in terms of advertising share, the United States will continue to have a hefty part of it, leading with 36.9 percent. Coming up in second is China by 19.3 percent, Japan in third with 8.9 percent, and the U.K. (5.6 percent), Germany (5.5 percent) and Brazil and India (5.2 percent each) rounding out the list.

These estimates aren’t likely to change, but considering the popularity of certain ad mediums – like in mobile – there’s always a possibility.