‘Angry Birds 2’ Has More Than 20 Million Downloads Its First Week

Developers at Rovio have been expanding the Angry Birds franchise for years, with new releases featuring the original effort Stella and the promotional tie-in with Angry Birds: Transformers. There hasn’t been a sequel, though — but that’s changed in a big way this week.

A report from GamesIndustry International indicates that the just-released Angry Birds 2 for iOS and Android {links no longer active} set some impressive numbers, as the game has been downloaded 20 million times in its first week alone. As a result, it’s managed to become the most downloaded app in over 100 territories worldwide, proving that, yes, the Birds can still be dominant.

“When we were developing and testing Angry Birds 2, we had good reason to believe we were on to a good thing, but the enormous groundswell of enthusiasm for the game from loyal fans and casual newcomers alike has been humbling,” said Rovio creative director Patrick Liu. “It took the first Angry Birds game more than nine months to reach this many players, and we thank all our fans for growing the flock so quickly!”

Thus far, the game is ranking 37th in the grossing charts in the US and the UK, based on a new free-to-play structure that has yet to fully catch on. Regardless, complaints about this system have been minimal, and players have really been enjoying the more lively art style that comes with the game.

Over 1.4 billion birds have been launched thus far, clearing away 300 million levels.

Rovio did address its struggles last year, especially on the consumer side. “On the consumer product side, 2014 was not a satisfactory year,” said CEO Pekka Rantala. “However, the upcoming Angry Birds feature film (coming in 2016) is getting very positive reactions from major retail and license partners as well as from consumer focus groups. This will have a positive impact on licensing in the coming years. In the next few months, we expect major announcements of partnerships in the licensing space.” (A partnership with Lego certainly doesn’t hurt either.)

Here’s hoping that the Birds keep on the straight and narrow heading into next year.

A Closer Look At Instagram’s Brand Engagement

Earlier this week, we posted a story on how Instagram is set to make a fortune on display ads, with an estimated $595 million for this year alone, rising up to $2.81 billion in the next couple of years. However, a new report from eMarketer digs a little deeper into this story, regarding how there’s major engagement between both paid ads and organic marketing.

According to eMarketer‘s numbers, brand engagement on Instagram has easily expanded over other social networks, with Instagram increasing by 108 percent compared to Twitter (32 percent) and Facebook (27 percent). And on the organic side of things, Instagram users have the ability to see every post from their accounts, depending on how often they log in. As a result, there’s instantly higher engagement, instead of hit-and-miss ads that appear in news feeds, and can easily be scrolled past.

One example of this engagement is retailer Dot & Bo, who has both Facebook and Instagram accounts. Allyson Campa, the company’s vice president of marketing, explained that it has a similar number of “likes” across both pages — although it has under 9,000 followers on Instagram and over 620,000 on Facebook.

They aren’t the only success story. A Mini USA spokesperson also reported that more than 20 percent of its followers typically see posts through its account, at a higher rate than on Facebook.

Ad engagement has also seen an increase on Instagram, as the company noted that advertisers in Canada have seen a brand lift from 14 to 45 points — not too shabby.

“if you think about ad recall on the platform, it’s nearly three times what you would see across the industry, generally speaking,” said Jim Square, Instagram’s director of market operations.

Now it’s just a matter of seeing if Instagram can live up to its prediction numbers. This will mainly come with ad rollout, as well as pitches that come from marketers. So far, the company appears to be taking it slow, so that it doesn’t irritate users with a flood of advertisements, instead going for a more organic approach.

We’ll see how it pays off over the next few months.

Top 10: Vine Musicians

Anyone out there who still defines that time spent in the limelight by 15 seconds should take a look at Vine’s biggest music-makers. These talented folks are doing a whole lot with a whole little and are managing to keep their audiences rapt, loop after loop.


Casual Connect SF 2015 Preview: Michael Eisner Keynotes

The Casual Connect conference next week in San Francisco is anything but casual for the game industry — serious business gets conducted here, insights from industry movers and shakers are presented and discussed, and there are plenty of networking opportunities. For a marketer, there’s a lot to pay attention to at this event, whether you are there in person or following it from afar. The show covers three full days in San Francisco at the Here’s a look at some of what promises to be the most interesting people, insights, and sessions at the show.

The keynote attraction for Casual Connect San Francisco is Michael Eisner, the media titan who formerly at ABC and Paramount but most famously CEO of Disney for over twenty years. In 2005 he founded and heads up the Tornante Company, which invests, acquires, and operates media companies — like Topps, the baseball card company that’s moving into mobile. He’s being interviewed by John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity (and former CEO of Electronic Arts), talking about the interplay between content and technology. It should be fascinating to hear what these seasoned execs have to say about where we’re headed. This talk takes place at 11:00 am Tuesday morning, and it should be packed.

There’s plenty of material for marketers to look forward to beyond the keynote. Amazon’s director of game services, Chris Drury, will talk about The Mobile Gaming Landscape: How Monetization is Evolving at 9:30 on Tuesday. This is about the mst important topic of all for game marketers, because if your game isn’t monetizing it doesn’t matter how good you are at building awareness. Other key sessions Tuesday morning include Finding Success in the Next Generation of Mobile Game Publishing, a panel discussion including execs from FunPlus, Chillingo, App Annie, Spil Games, and Tencent North America, taking place at 10 am; at the same time another panel discussion, The Consumer As Producer – Games & Video Converge to Lead a Revolution, brings execs from Twitch, ESL, Super Evil Megacorp, and Theorist, moderated by Newzoo CEO Peter Warman. The message underlying both of these sessions is that gaming is still evolving, and marketers need to be on top of the latest changes in order to keep up.

Tuesday afternoon’s sessions continue to hit key topics, such as the panel discussion Games Go Hollywood, featuring execs from Universal Pictures, WME, RED Games, Skybound Interactive, and Pocket Gems, moderated by Facebook’s head of strategic developer relations. We continue to see leading mobile publishers creating games based on hit movies, and knowing more about that trend is important. Marketers also might glean some important thoughts from Yuval Rechter, SVP of business development for Babyfirst Mobile, as he speaks about A Multi-Channel App Marketing Strategy to show how acquisition can work across multiple marketing fronts.

Wednesday has an interesting lineup for marketers looking to know more about the potential for VR and AR. The co-founder of Resolution games speaks on Why Casual Games May be the Key to Bringing VR to the Masses, and that seems to be a topic that hasn’t been aired much before. There’s also Mapping Opportunities for Mobile Game Developers in Mobile VR by the CEO of Sidekick games, and Design Challenges for VR by Google’s chief game designer Noah Falstein. In the afternoon, the VR Roundup – Looking for What’s Around the Corner panel discussion with execs from Oculus, Epic Games, Google, and Unity should give you a clear idea of what’s coming next in this hot field.

On the practical side, Monetization: How to Triple Your Earnings From Ad Networks presented by the founder and CEO of Appodeal promises to provide some solid information on how to improve revenue from in-game ads. An overview of mobile game advertising can be found with the panel discussion on Monetization Experts Present: The Advertising User Manual.

While the first two days were packed with these and many other sessions, the pace doesn’t let up for Thursday. Indie Marketing Strategy: Considering the Big Picture is a panel discussion that focuses on what smaller developers can do to get noticed, featuring execs from Versus Evil, Massive Damage, Double Fine, and Execution Labs. There’s also a number of sessions on bringing games to other markets, such as Cracking Japan: How Foreign Developers Can Enter the World’s Most Lucrative Mobile Games Market by Dr. Serkan Toto, and Going Global – Bringing Games from the West to China by Ryan DeSanto, director of business development for NetEase, and Opportunities in Southeast Asia with panelists from all over the region. If those markets aren’t enough, check out the panel discussion on India is the New China: Land of Opportunity, or the discussion on South Korea: The Latest Learnings from One of Asia’s Powerhouse Markets.

These are just a fraction of the sessions being presented at Casual Connect, and it leaves out entirely the value you can derive from the booths presenting different products and services as well as the numerous networking opportunities. Casual Connect is a concentrated way to stay in touch with the latest developments in the wide-ranging, fast-moving world of gaming. We hope to see you there!

Blizzard Took To Gamescom To Showcase World of Warcraft’s Expansion: Legion

Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is still by far the world’s largest MMORPG, even though subscription numbers have been dropping (WoW has dropped down to 5.6 million players, down from 7.1 million players earlier this year.) The publisher has, of course, been planning something for the world of Azeroth to turn this around, and the news just dropped.

This morning at the massive Gamescom consumer game show in Germany, Blizzard revealed the latest expansion in the series, titled Legion. In it, players will find themselves fighting against the Burning Legion and its horde, as Azeroth falls into dark hands. The trailer for the expansion is below.


Blizzard has implemented a number of new features that they hope will build its audience back up, including a level cap increase to 110 (up from 100), a new Demon Hunter hero class with new characters to play, and the ability to put together grounds in class halls. In addition, new iconic artifact weapons will be on hand, including the Doomhammer and the Ashbringer. Finally, a new continent, the Broken Isles, will also be included.

So far, the responses to Legion‘s announcement have been mostly positive on social networks. Jenna Busch, a writer for the website Legion of Leia, stated on Twitter, “Had to get @GoReadSomething to write this because TOO EXCITED TO TYPE!” Joel Martin, a developer for Robot Entertainment, added, “Oh. My. Lord. This looks amazing. DEMON HUNTER!!! @warcraft’s new expansion: Legion!!!” And Pixel, a video game fan from Australia, noted the following tweet:

It appears that the biggest item for fans is the addition of a Demon Hunter class, although other things, like the level cap increase and the new PvP mode, are huge draws as well. The only question is what the expansion will do for increasing the audience base once it’s released.

Legion doesn’t have a release date, but a beta for it is expected to release later this year.

Facebook Limits Livestreaming To Celebrities… For Now

Live streaming has become a huge phenomenon over the past few years, allowing people of all types to broadcast their activities with ease. Whether it’s showcasing gaming skills on Twitch or exploring their day-to-day lives with Twitter’s Periscope and Meerkat, there are plenty of ways to get caught up with it. Now, Facebook is taking a turn with the debut of a new service, but it’s not for everyone.

Popular Science has reported that the social site has launched Live, a new feature that will allow public figures to livestream their activities to their followers. For now, the service is only limited to a handful of celebrities, deemed as “public figures”.

Talking about the feature on the Facebook blog page, product manager Vadim Lavrusik explained that Live is an evolution of celebrity interactivity, a step above the Facebook Mentions section they normally use. “Live is a new and immersive way for public figures using Mentions to share and talk with their fans on Facebook,” said Lavrusik.

A number of celebrities are taking part, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, tennis player Serena Williams, Ashley Tisdale, Martha Stewart and performer Michael Buble, among others. More public figures are being added, according to the site.

With this feature, these types of folks can easily establish a bigger fan base, as well as interact directly with said fans, and keep any given videos for them to view at any time.

While it’s disappointing to some that Live hasn’t been adapted into a full-on streaming service, it could easily be testing ground for something bigger. After all, Facebook has been dabbling in video integration for the past few months now, with very good results, and this could be the next step in pushing it even further.

Meanwhile, those who fit the “Public Figures” role can stop over at Facebook Mentions and give live video streaming a try.

Jordan Maron Talks Building A Gaming Fortress

If you’re good at something, usually you stick with it — although sometimes you can’t help but wonder, “So what if I tried this?” That’s exactly what Jordan “CaptainSparklez” Maron did.

This YouTube personality has managed to build an audience of 8.5 million subscribers, with more than 1.6 billion video views — and that’s enough to keep most people content. However, Maron has teamed up with video game pioneer Howard Marks to create XREAL LLC, a company that specializes in producing games like Fortress Fury, which recently launched with over two million downloads. Not bad at all for a first try.

We had a chance to chat with Maron about making the move to mobile, as well as its reaching its goal of $2 million in non-binding interest in just over a month’s time.

First off, congratulations on the success of your YouTube channel. 8.5 million subscribers is a huge number. What do you think is the most vital ingredient in terms of keeping viewers happy on the channel?

I try my best to stick to a consistent schedule of videos so that subscribers know when to expect something new. Other than that all I can really do is try to make sure each video I’m doing is as interesting as possible. I find as long as I’m having fun, it usually translates into something most viewers enjoy.

Quick question out of curiosity — how’d you come up with the name “CaptainSparklez?”

A bit over five years ago, I had another YouTube channel with a slightly less appropriate name, and was contemplating changing it to something else. I was chatting with a friend about it, and they jokingly suggested I go with Captain Sparkles. Not thinking it would amount to much, I decided to go with it. The s was taken so I added the z instead. Now here we are.

Now let’s move on to your new business venture, XREAL. What gave you the idea of creating your own game studio alongside Howard Marks? Who approached who to get things started?

I had always been interested in game development, and thought it was a logical next step to go from playing third party games on my channel to being able to play something I helped to create first hand. That said, when Howard reached out, given his long history in the games industry, I figured it could be a beneficial partnership. When our initial, Minecraft related project concept didn’t pan out, I suggested creating a mobile game, and after a few months of brainstorming, came up with the concept for Fortress Fury.

Tell us about Fortress Fury and what players can expect from it upon starting it up.

Fortress Fury is a real time, competitive multiplayer game where players are able to use a set of items to construct a Fortress that they can then take into battle against other players. As they complete battles, they collect resources which can be used to craft more advanced items they can add to their Fortresses.

Fortress Fury has been downloaded over two million times. Congrats! What would you say is the best part about releasing a mobile game?

When we launched, it was great to see the feedback from people downloading the game. When you’ve been working on a game every day for over nine months, you reach a point where you lose the ability to relate to the mentality of a first time user in determining whether or not the game is fun, so to see a majority of players enjoying it was very exciting.

How did you come about utilizing equity crowdfunding to get things moving?  Do you think it’s a great business structure for other up-and-comers?

On top of being my partner and co-founder for XREAL, Howard is also the chairman of the Start Engine crowdfunding platform, which made equity crowdfunding a logical next step for us. I think the opportunity for early adopters to share the long term upside of a company’s success is a pretty fantastic thing, and I certainly hope it becomes a new standard. That said, because Reg A+ (The SEC’s new policy allowing equity crowdfunding) came into effect only just over a month ago, there haven’t yet been any companies to complete a round, so we’re sitting here waiting patiently hoping it works out for the best. So far we’ve received significant interest in the way of reservations, so we are very optimistic.

What’s probably the toughest part in getting a company like XREAL off the ground, you think?

I wish I could say that things have become a breeze now that we’ve been going for a year, but along with every step comes a series of challenges that we must face. We’re still very much in the early startup phase, and I think most of what we’ve done so far has been equally challenging and rewarding.

Now that XREAL is a success, what’s next on the plate for you? More game releases? More YouTube content? A little bit of both?

I think both XREAL and my YouTube content will continue to be my primary focus going forward. We plan to continue developing Fortress Fury as our sole title, hopefully building it into a large mobile e-sports title. Once we’ve reached that point, then perhaps we can think about a new game, but for now we’ll keep on refining what we have. On the YouTube side of things, I plan to keep on making videos as long as there are folks out there interested in watching.

Finally, if you could work on any type of mobile game, what would you like it to be? A puzzle game? Something action-oriented?

In creating Fortress Fury, I tried to come up with a game that I would be appealing not only to a specific audience, but also to me. That said, I think I’m already working on my ideal game.

Fortress Fury is now available for iOS and Android devices {links no longer active}.

Netmarble Invests $130 Million In SGN

When the leading mobile game publisher in South Korea, Netmarble, makes a $130 million investment in one of the fastest-growing mobile game publishers in the West, SGN, it attracts plenty of attention. While the mobile games market continues to grow, it’s getting increasingly difficult for new games to break into the top-grossing tier. “The industry is consolidating,” said co-founder and CEO of SGN Chris DeWolfe. “There are increasing barriers to entry to new players, and to be a leader requires lots of capital and lots of infrastructure.”

The deal makes good sense for both companies by combining strengths. SGN plans to use the cash to acquire smaller game producers, expand marketing efforts, and gain a greater foothold in Asian markets. Netmarble looks to use SGN to expand its presence in Western 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. “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 president, COO, and co-founder Josh Yguado spoke with [a]listdaily about the investment and what it means for SGN and mobile gaming in general.

The substantial investment from Netmarble is partly intended for game studio acquisitions, according to the press release. What sort of game studios are you looking for — small or large? With experience in casual games or other games?

Size is less of a determining factor in our target selection than quality and proven success. We are looking for studios that have at least one title that proves that the team has the vision and experience to execute at a top-tier level.

Our preference is casual, which allows for more strategic synergy — but we’re open to all genres. Any space in which the studio believes they are ahead of the pack creating a best-of-breed game in their genre.

When you look to accelerate organic growth in the mobile games market, what are the best ways to do that — other than just releasing more games?

Growth is driven more by quality than quantity. Look at the most successful developers in the space — most only have 2-5 titles in the top 100. Supercell is probably the biggest Western developer by revenue right now with only three titles.

SGN has solidly established itself in the casual games market. Strategically, do you think the best growth opportunity lies in that area or in expanding into other types of games?

We are already working to expand into other genres, but we want to do so in a thoughtful and methodical way. We tend to focus on genres where we have a leg up and believe we can create a top downloaded game in that space.

Will this investment change SGN’s strategy regarding the mix of original IP and licensed IP the company will publish?

We will continue to explore licensed IP on an opportunistic basis. In general, however, I would be surprised to see more than a third of our games at any time from licensed IP. We have a top-tier creative team at SGN with designers and artists from companies like Pixar, EA, Activision and Disney. When looking at a potential IP project, there has to be confidence in the brand/characters/story and its ability to drive actionable awareness — almost as a substitute for dollars we would otherwise use to market the game.

Looking ahead for the next year, what’s got you most excited in the gaming industry?

As the market continues to evolve, we see top players taking bigger and bigger risks in new titles. This means higher production values, as well as more original IP and game mechanics. We think the bar is going to continue to rise over the next 12-24 months as the top games become bigger and better than ever before.

LGD Gaming Exec On The Importance Of Valve’s $18 Million ‘The International’

Chinese eSports team LGD Gaming made the news earlier this year when team member Xiao8 switched teams earlier this year for a transfer fee of $320,000. The Dota 2 team is one of the favorites at the 16-team The International Dota 2 Championships, which is taking place through Aug. 8 at Seattle’s KeyArena. The team is competing for a share of the record-breaking $18 million prize pool, in which the winning team will pocket $6.5 million.

Orrin Xu, manager of business development at LGD Gaming, a Razer-sponsored team, is close to the eSports action on a day-to-day basis. Since starting his career in eSports, Xu has seen firsthand how much money can be made in this industry. He talks about the Dota 2 gaming audience and how brands like Razer can benefit from this hardcore PC audience in this exclusive interview.

What impact is this $18 million prize pool having on the overall attention to eSports?

I think globally, more people are a tuning in to the fact that eSports is a big deal. It gets people that are not invested in eSports to talk about an event that has more prize money than traditional sports.

How inventive was the in-game micro-transactions that Valve instituted with The International in eSports overall?

Valve’s micro-transactions really revolutionized the way eSports can support itself. Having large prize pools without having to come up with the cash upfront has been a real boon, not just to the organizers, but also to players and fans alike. Players can now compete in tournaments full-time as opposed to many years ago where winning as little as $500 was the goal.

Why do you think Riot Games hasn’t replicated this or tried to compete with the large prize pool of The International?

Dustin Beck’s view is that they want a more long term sustainable approach that relies more on sponsors, partners and advertisers. Each approach has its pros and cons in developing its own ecosystem. To be honest, I think publishers shouldn’t be in the business of trying to out-do each other’s premier event, but focus on the longevity of their own eSports scene.

How have you seen The International evolve over the last five years?

The very first TI was at Gamescom in 2011 and was also the first time Dota 2 was revealed to the world. Since then, it has moved to both Benaroya Hall and KeyArena for two years each. I’ve always been an online spectator and I’ve seen how the production value each year has increased, with more and more community figures getting involved. TI has become a celebration of DOTA2 eSports, where people who’ve made a difference in the scene — players, managers, artists, and other contributors — can come together and enjoy something they are so heavily invested into. Aside from the money, the biggest change that I’ve seen from the evolution of TI is the aftermath of The International and the gradual acceptance in the wider community.

How does the Dota 2 gamer and audience differ from League of Legends?

The average Dota 2 player is a lot older than the League of Legends player, with many of them already in the workplace. My personal experience is that the average Dota 2 player cares more about the competitive scene than the average LoL player. The core essence of both scenes is the same: the gamer is extremely competitive and wants to win.

What does this mean for sponsors involved in the International?

By inference, sponsors involved in The International are targeting a viewer base that is affluent with high purchasing power.

How has Razer been involved with The International?

Razer has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for teams to make it to The International. It’s year round support of Teams, Community Tournaments and Events, Community Figures provides players the platform they need to be heard by the community and then be shortlisted into TI. A grassroots approach is the key to making eSports a legitimate career path, and I believe Razer thinks that way, too.

What does being involved with this type of huge event bring to your brand?

LGD being a part of TI and hopefully placing highly opens up many opportunities for the team, be it sponsorships or partnerships. But more importantly it’s giving back to the fans who follow us throughout the year, during the good times and bad times.

What do you think having The International on 400 movie theater screens will add to this year’s event?

Similar to the Pubstomp movement, the 400 movie theater screens provides the opportunity for fans to come together and celebrate Dota 2 and eSports. These satellite events are no different to watching a soccer World Cup at the theater, getting involved with TI without being at Seattle.

ESPN is also back again. How important is that for eSports as a real sport?

In terms of viewership, I think whether ESPN shows it or not is irrelevant, since the bulk of viewers are used to watching Twitch/Azubu/Hitbox. That said, I think TV networks are important for eSports to be accepted by people who don’t understand eSports. Obviously, there’s been a lot of backlash when it’s been shown on ESPN by its traditional viewer base, but I think once people get used to the fact that eSports is growing and isn’t going away, this attitude will slowly change.

Over 20 million people tuned in last year. What does this open up for sponsors?

For sponsors that are already in eSports, this is a further gratification for investing in the eSports space. For sponsors sitting on the fence, the numbers are there that it’s worth making the leap into eSports and getting in front of this demographic. People in eSports know the figures that teens and young adults aren’t watching TV, and are using ad-block on VODs. Getting exposure via tournament sponsorship and team sponsorship is a great way to get the brand out there, especially since eSports isn’t at the mega million dollars like traditional sports yet. That said, we’re still a while off before the floodgates truly open. Traditional companies still feel like this is just a “game,” and it’s going to take a cultural shift for management to change their opinions.