Twitter Brings Music to Vine

Vine, the short-form video sharing service, is getting a musical infusion from its parent Twitter, according to a report by VentureBeat. “Music has been part of Vine’s culture since the beginning,” notes the new Vine Music website. Now, we re connecting you to the music you love, starting with new ways to discover and create with music on Vine.”

Twitter’s really wants to get artists to share music through Vine, as a way to get discovered. For Vine users who aren’t musicians, this means there should be plenty of music you can add to your own Vines. Vine users can explore the Featured Tracks section, where they can choose tracks to add to their own videos. Twitter noted that the site is working with music publishers to make this happen. “Now that people have the ability to add music to their Vines, we want to make sure they have access to music they can use. Our editorial team selects songs they think our community will enjoy, and then we work with labels, publishers and artist management to license songs and bring them to Vine as Featured Tracks,” said Twitter in a statement to VentureBeat.

This isn’t the first time Twitter has tried to help users discover music; the company launched Twitter Music back in April of 2013, though that was shut down after a year. Now, though, Twitter is looking for the popularity of video to help drive interest in music. If Vine can line up some popular tunes, there’s no doubt people will enjoy putting their very own videos to the music of their favorite artists. We’ll be watching and listening to see how well this goes.

Behind ‘Live/Play’: The Documentary Distributed Inside ‘League of Legends’

Riot Games is taking a new path to drawing interest in its massively popular League of Legends game by distributing a documentary about League of Legends players. That’s not so unusual, as game-related documentaries are becoming more common as gaming becomes a truly mass-market, global cultural phenomenon. What’s interesting about this video is that Riot is not only distributing the documentary on YouTube, but also from within the League of Legends game itself. The documentary traces the day-to-day lives of five very different League of Legends players from around the world, and has already drawn close to 2 million views on YouTube.

Thomas Vu

Riot Games senior producer Thomas Vu spoke with [a]listdaily about the documentary and Riot’s marketing of it, as did the film’s directors Nathan Caswell & Jeremiah Zagar.

Why did Riot decide to distribute Live/Play within the League of Legends client as well as online?

Vu: Our philosophy is to engage players where they play. We have a lot of players who log on to play League everyday so the client is a natural place for us to publish content that we think they would enjoy. The Live / Play documentary was really for our players, and leveraging YouTube via the client allows for players to easily access and engage in the content without having to jump through any hoops.

Do you think documentaries such as Live/Play will change some people’s perceptions of gamers and what they are like?

Vu: I think so, especially for those far outside gamer culture. A good example is the Olympics, which does a great job of this — every four years the Olympics give us insight and deeply connects us to people who engage in an activity or passion of theirs that we might not fully understand but can appreciate their journey.

Documentaries give viewers a window into a world that they may not be familiar with, in our case it is context for why players care so much about League, what connects them and why this community is special to them. Documentaries help construct a common language, and if players share this with people who aren’t familiar with the game, I think it can help connect the dots for them and communicate the passion our players have for League.

Did you finance the production of this documentary, or will you be paying the creators for distributing the documentary?

Vu: As a creative company we are constantly looking for amazing people that may work on things that are far outside our comfort zone and expertise. It’s always about inspired work and from the time we first met Jeremiah and Nathan, we quickly realized that they wanted to tell some amazing stories and they were intrigued by League, so it was an obvious fit for us. In this specific instance, we financed the production of this documentary but left it up to the directors to find and tell the story that they were inspired to tell.

What sort of feedback have you received about Live/Play, and what impact do you expect it to have Do you think League of Legends players and fans will show this to other people to help them understand why they love the game?

Vu: It’s a great representation of League’s global community and players have responded very positively. Each of the players in the documentary represent a very different part of the international community and it’s been great fun reading through the comments and feedback from so many different regions; from Brazil and all the way to Korea. As far as sharing it with non-gamers, well we hope it offers a glimpse into the passionate community and why we love this game. The message at the end hopefully resonates broadly as we are all connected in some way through the communities and activities that we engage in.

Will we be seeing more efforts by Riot in the future to help spread the word about League of Legends by using documentaries Are you planning more media surprises like this?

Vu: Earlier this year we released Frequencies, a documentary about the music team at Riot Games and deeper insight into our creative culture. Right before Worlds 2014, we released Road to Worlds, which is a three-part documentary series on the teams vying for a spot at Worlds. When we meet talented creatives who have a unique story to tell about League of Legends, that inspires us. It’s something we take seriously and it’s a huge undertaking to do it right, but as we’ve seen with Live/Play, it can be a powerful window into what we do as developers and the community that sustains us. As long as there are great, inspiring stories to tell about League and our players, we will want to tell them.

League of Legends has a massive fan base and a very active eSports audience. Much of the attention has been focused on the eSports part of League of Legends, with its pro players and multi-million dollar prizes. You chose to focus on the tens of millions of players around the world and from all walks of life — what appealed to you about that part of audience, and that part of the story?

Caswell & Zagar: What we find so appealing about the League of Legends community is its incredible diversity. There are eSports professionals but there are also students, artists, entrepreneurs, and everyday working folks. The community is a terrific example of how we are all regular and exceptional at the same time. You can be a fisherman in Iceland, a robot inventor in South Korea and a student in Egypt, and all have a common language. The game becomes a unifying force that erases our differences.

What were the challenges you encountered in creating this documentary Was it easier or more difficult to film than you originally thought it would be, and why?

Caswell & Zagar: With a player base of tens of millions of players, casting initially seemed like a Sisyphean task. How do we pick just five players to represent nearly 70 million Riot, our Producer Jessica Sherry, and our Associate Producer Alice Dugan, did an incredible job narrowing that player base and organizing them into the “archetypes” that we wanted to feature. We knew we wanted a cosplayer, a pro gamer, someone in an urban environment, someone in nature, etc. Ultimately, casting was a balancing act. The film works because it shows how these players’ lives are different, but also the same. Unfortunately, this meant we had to make the difficult decision to exclude characters we loved. For every person in the film, there were dozens of other incredible candidates we couldn’t include — a bounty hunter in San Francisco, a skateboarder in Manila, an Olympic diver in Spain. All of those were stories we really wanted to tell, but couldn’t.

The most challenging process, by far, was editing. Juggling multiple characters is tough, even in a two hour film, but we wanted Live/Play to be around 30 minutes. That might sound like a hefty chunk of time, but it means six or seven total minutes for your five main characters. And those six minutes get broken down into three or four scenes, roughly two minutes each. Because the film takes place in a single day in each person’s life, you need to advance the story of that day in every scene while also figuring out where you can leave the confines of the day, “jump back in time” and give the characters the backstory that explains a bit about who they are and what they want to achieve. We had to be so economical in how we told the five individual stories, and one communal story.

What surprised you in the course of making this documentary?

Caswell & Zagar: We saw a lot of League being played over the course of making this film, but we were surprised at how exciting it was to see it played at a very high level at the North American Spring Split. The game was just so much faster and more technical than we expected, engagements happened so fast, and were over so quickly. You could really appreciate the skill of the players. There’s a part in the film where Amin talks about seeing a pro game for the first time, that was our “jaw dropping” moment.

Games and gamers as the subject of documentary films are a recent phenomenon. Do you think there are more fascinating documentaries to be created about gamers and game play What does the future hold for such documentaries, and will you be working on a similar project at some point? 

Caswell & Zagar: League of Legends has proven that sports has a powerful future with the inclusion of eSports. There are thousands of players and an enormous fanbase so it is clear that over time, many rich stories will unfold. We don’t have any plans for another film about gamers right now, but who knows what the future holds.

‘Street Fighter V’ Character Reveals Continue With R. Mika

The newest fighter to join the Street Fighter V roster has officially been announced. The 10th challenger out of the 16 to be revealed, is none other than Rainbow Mika.

It has been a long-awaited return for Rainbow Mika (aka R. Mika) since she was last seen in her debut appearance in Street Fighter Alpha 3. As with each of the nine previously announced new and returning characters (Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Cammy, Vega, M. Bison, Birdie, Charlie Nash, and Necalli), Capcom accompanied the news with an enticing video previewing what audiences can expect from Rainbow Mika.

The video features gameplay footage of the high-flying flamboyant wrestler and includes insight into new moves, upgraded graphics and, of course, the incredible power Rainbow Mika bears with her gargantuan glutes.

Capcom’s marketing tactics with Street Fighter 5 provide audiences with in-depth character-by character profiles. This is big for all of the eager and loyal fans that exist in the Street Fighter universe. Now fans can follow, research, and gain access to info on their favorite Street Fighter characters in each reveal.

The legendary fighting franchise will return in the spring of 2016 along with new and stunning visuals that are sure to depict the next generation of World Warriors in unprecedented detail. Exciting and accessible battle mechanics will also deliver endless fighting fun that both beginners and veterans will enjoy.

According to Capcom, for the first time in Street Fighter history, all post-launch gameplay-related content in Street Fighter V can be earnable via gameplay for free. All balance and system adjustments will also be available for free, so players will always have access to the most current version. Through a strategic partnership between Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. and Capcom, the next generation Street Fighter experience will offer cross-platform play that will unite PlayStation 4 and PC fans into a centralized player base for the first time.

Cox Debuts Flare Kids Video App

A lot more companies these days are trying to cater to younger audiences, in the hopes of appealing to both them and their parents. Joining the likes of Comcast and Verizon is Cox Communication, which announced (per Variety) that it is launching a new mobile online video service called Flare Kids.

The service, which launched on the App Store for iPad {link no longer active} a few days ago, enables viewers to access free and ad-free access to clips and episodes from various TV favorites, including Cailou, Sesame Street, SpongeBob SquarePants and Doc McStuffins, among others.

The service offers a total of 10 networks across various publishers, including PBS Kids, the Disney Channel, Nick Jr. and National Geographic Kids. Instead of direct licensing agreements, however, it’s simply aggregating content already available on other services.

The purpose of the app, according to a Cox spokesperson, is to help parents “safely navigate the multitude of existing, free online content for children.” They added, “Additional content such as eBooks, games and music will be added to the app in the future and we will have more to share soon.”

Based on the screenshot above, the service offers a fairly easy interface for younger viewers and families alike, and also sets up time limits based on content restrictions for each profile entered into the system, so parents won’t have to worry about over-consumption.

With the exception of Texas, people in all states are able to experience Flare’s Kids channel. There’s no reason yet as to why Texas isn’t allowed to stream it yet.

A business model isn’t in place, as the app is free to download and features available in-app purchases, including the ability to buy personalized themes for $.99 a pop. Otherwise, programming is free to watch.

Even with the lack of licensing agreements, Flare Kids could certainly be worth a look to those looking to watch programming with their children. The video below gives a strong example of what potential viewers could expect.

{video link no longer active}


Mobile Ad Cost Per Loyal User Increases

The cost per install (CPI) for mobile users is a vital statistic for mobile game and app marketers, as it tracks one of the key costs for marketers seeking to grow their audience. As CPI rises, game developers may be rethinking spending on typical user acquisition. It seems marketers aren’t having any trouble with the bumped-up cost, though, according to new numbers from Fiksu.

As reported by VentureBeat, Fiksu’s report indicates that for the month of July the cost to acquire loyal users through CPI stood at $2.98. While that’s a seven percent drop from the previous month, it shows an increase as a whole compared to the previous year, by 51 percent.

Acquiring new users for apps and games is getting more costly, particularly with developers trying to compete for attention in a market flooded with millions of apps. Still, as mentioned, some marketers are willing to go the distance with that cost.

Over on iOS, the CPI rose to $1.43, a 24 percent increase since June, and a 16 percent increase over the previous year. Android is much higher at $2.73, up 29 percent over the previous month and 115 percent over the previous year.

“July’s results reveal the most important metric that marketers should be focusing on: the cost to acquire a loyal user. This month is indicative of what it looks like when marketers spend smarter,” said Micah Adler, the CEO of Fiksu, in a statement. “We can see month over month that marketers are still getting accustomed to this shift in audience targeting, but they are beginning to realize the power of putting the right messages in front of the right people at the right time.”

Meanwhile, app downloads decreased by 10 percent over the previous month, down to 7.5 million daily downloads for the top 200 free iOS apps, according to the Competitive Index. Part of that is due to the typical summer slowdown in app releases, although that’s likely to pick back up over the holiday season, with the iOS 9 launch and new iPhones expected to arrive sometime next month.

Fiksu advises marketers to prepare for this transition, initiating re-engagement with existing users and ensuring that the app remains relevant, so it doesn’t run the risk of being removed or replaced.

YouTube Gaming Is Already Drawing Marketers

YouTube Gaming just got its start this week, in the hopes of catching on to the popular game streaming interface that’s made Twitch such a hit on both the eSports and casual circuits. But one thing is for certain it’s definitely got the attention of some advertisers.

A report from AdWeek indicates that, even with the specifics that YouTube is looking for with advertising on the channel (including popular favorites like HikePlay, Squadrom or Driftor, advertisers are still coming on board for it, with ads that will run alongside gaming-related clips through Google Preferred and Google AdWords.

Wendy’s is on board with the channel, running ads promoting its Spicy Chicken Sandwich through TrueView promos, while Kotex is pointing more towards a female gamer demographic with its 30-second spot, offering free samples as part of its “Save the Undies” campaign.

Other companies on board include Best Buy, Anheuser-Busch’s Stella Artois brand, Taco Bell, Angry Orchard and Carrabba’s Italian Grill and more are likely to join up in the weeks ahead.

NBC Universal is one of the bigger partners at the moment, looking to draw a big gamer-related audience for two of its upcoming properties, including the M. Night Shyamalan horror film The Visit (hitting theaters September 11th) and its forthcoming fall comedy Truth Be Told.

Though the marketing plans are pretty well laid out, the effectiveness of YouTube Gaming ads has yet to be gauged. After all, not all gamers are going to be thrilled with seeing an ad that promotes a “Save the Undies” campaign, and Stella Artois seems to aim towards an older demographic, instead of younger viewers looking for content based on games like, for instance, Super Mario Maker.

However, there’s a large audience just waiting to be reached with this new portal, and if companies can find the right reach to them, they could very well have a success on their hands. We’ll see how YouTube’s Gaming channel as a whole fares over the next few weeks.

Snapchat Brings Gaming And Tech Content With IGN And Mashable

Millions of users accessing Snapchat on a daily basis. Now, it’s getting even bigger, as the company has announced a trio of new publishers that will be joining it.

Re/code reports that the three new publishers, Mashable, IGN, and food and travel network Tastemade, are joining Snapchat today. In a curious move, however, they aren’t replacing older publishers on the site. Instead, Snapchat is expanding the team as a whole to make room for the new ones in its Discover section, bringing the total to 15. In addition, the app team is also looking to sign on even more publishers throughout the month.

The signing on of new publishers makes sense when it comes to making revenue, as both Snapchat and its publishing partners have been successfully selling ad space alongside the Discover content since it launched earlier in the year. According to Re/code, the more channels Snapchat has available to users, the more content that becomes available to monetize.

Even with reports of small decline following the debut of Discover, many partners insist that there’s still plenty of demand. Tastemade co-founder Steven Kydd stated that the conversations with advertisers in the program have been “very, very positive.”

Furthermore, the publishers already have key partners on board with them. Coca-Cola, for example, is sponsoring Tastemade’s channel with today’s launch, and IGN has teamed up with Universal Pictures for a promotion on its forthcoming horror film The Visit, set to debut in theaters September 11th.

“The advertiser response has been incredible,” said Vivek Shah, CEO of IGN’s parent company, Ziff Davis. “I think that’s as much a credit to advertiser interest in Snapchat as it is to interest in IGN on Snapchat.”

The only question left about the new partners is with formatting. The current format page for Snapchat happily fits twelve partners to a page, and 15 could make it a little fuller than expected. The team is working on it, according to a source close to the project, although the final result hasn’t been unveiled just yet.

Regardless, Snapchat appears to be full speed ahead in the publishing game, and of course, that means more money for its controversial but still well-received business model.

Resolution Games CEO On Marketing VR Games

Today, virtual reality (VR) games studio Resolution Games announced it has closed a $6 million Series A funding round, which to date marks the single largest investment round for any VR games developer. Google Ventures led the round, which marks GV’s first investment in a Swedish company since the firm’s expansion into Europe.

“We’re focused on VR for the long run with nimble, small teams creating lots of new concepts, establishing best practices and quickly landing on successful titles to add content for emerging VR devices. To date we’ve already created seven prototype games, released our first title and are working on our next release, which will be a fishing themed VR game to be released in early 2016,” said Tommy Palm, co-founder and CEO of Resolution Games. “The funds will also give us the ability to ensure our longevity. As we learned with the mobile games market, perseverance is critical for building a successful company in an emerging market. Resolution Games will be around for years to come and will be able to focus on making the correct strategic choices to help the VR Games market grow into its potential.”

Resolution Games’ CEO and co-founder Tommy Palm spoke with [a]listdaily about some of the marketing challenges ahead for VR games. You can read more about what Palm had to say regarding VR game design over on GamesIndustry International.

Implicit in the idea of bringing casual games to VR is that VR can eventually be a large, broad audience. What will it take for VR to reach a really large audience?

We’re seeing several different initiatives on the hardware side. Two different categories are the mobile VR and the connected VR. From my point of view, purely performance-wise, a modern-day smartphone is really a fantastic gaming device even for something as demanding as VR. If you look at the graphical quality we are able to get out of Solitaire Jester for Gear VR, nobody who looks at that environment would say that is sub-par when it comes to graphical standards. I am seeing mobile VR as being one very exciting way forward, where the investment is much smaller from a consumer point of view. When you have under $200 headsets, you are able to have a very immersive 3D VR experience with your regular smartphone.

How do you see monetization working for VR games Will this just be an extension of mobile games, or will it be premium, or something else?

Initially we’re going to see a lot of premium payment models, especially since the in-app purchase APIs are not ready for most of these platforms. I personally think that micro-transactions are a better system for games, when as a consumer you can download a game for free before making a purchase decision. There are so many games out there, and it’s really hard to tell if this is something you’re ready to spend money on. Going forward we’ll see a lot of games being free-to-download before you have to pay. I don’t want to use the term free-to-play because it brings the mindset of a lot of the games we see in the mobile space, and it doesn’t necessarily have to look like that. One of great thing with micro-transactions as a developer is you can choose for yourself what makes sense for your games. There are a lot of good examples and a lot of bad examples.

Solitaire Jester

How do you plan to market the VR games you are creating?

One important ingredient in this early stage is having a great working relationship with the manufacturers. That is a similar approach to how I worked with mobile games, I started out very early working with the companies that were doing a lot of research and development in the mobile games market early on, which later proved very useful as the market took off. That is one part of it, but from the indie game developer’s perspective today with so much competition going on, it definitely makes sense to take a professional grip on marketing in the early phase of your development cycle for the design of the products.

Social media and streaming have been very important recently in marketing PC, console and mobile games. Will this be true for VR games — can you stream a VR game and make it fun to watch and to share, even if you don’t have the VR hardware?

This is something we noticed very quickly just with our Solitaire Jester game, it’s actually very difficult to share this experience to people who don’t have access to headsets, and very few people do at this point. Other people are working on making it easier to share or stream gameplay videos from VR game experiences, however it is going to be hard because of the nature of VR. You can’t really follow another player because you can get very nauseous trying to see whatever they saw or move wherever they moved. It’s definitely some very new, interesting challenges. A lot of smart people are going to have to figure out how to do this the best way.

The hardware for VR really won’t be arriving in quantity for consumers until early 2016. When do you think VR is finally going to be making money for game developers Will it be summer 2016, holiday 2016, or beyond?

Very good question. We still haven’t seen consumer products out in the market, but we are getting close. The first initiative with Samsung Gear VR is launching before Christmas this year. We’ll see a lot of other manufacturers following that. From a game developer perspective, before we have a large enough audience it’s going to take a little bit of time. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted a fairly big investment, to have the longevity to get into the market early and learn, while at the same time being there when VR takes off and we can focus all our resources on creating great content, which is entirely needed.

Mobile Games Highlights: August 26

Welcome back to Mobile Games Highlights for the week of August 26. There are plenty of great mobile games this week, so let’s get started!

Lara Croft GO (Square Enix, $4.99, releasing tomorrow for iOS and Android)

After the success of Square Enix’s board game-style strategy game Hitman GO, {link no longer active} the publisher has opted to repeat its success, but this time with its iconic Tomb Raider hero. In Lara Croft GO, players will work their way through a number of stages, solving puzzles and battling with various monsters in order to get to the next stage. Featuring turn-based strategy (similar to Hitman) and sharp visuals that match the decor of previous Tomb Raider games, it should be a big hit when it arrives later this week — and a fine tie-in for Rise of the Tomb Raider when it debuts on Xbox One on November 10th.

Pac-Man 256 (Bandai Namco, free-to-play, available for iOS and Android {links no longer active})

Following the success of its hit game Crossy Road, the developers at Hipster Whale have chosen to tackle an old-school favorite — Bandai Namco’s Pac-Man. In the endless runner Pac-Man 256, players will need to navigate a maze, collecting fruit and eating ghosts with power pellets (in the classic Pac-Man tradition) while avoiding an upcoming “glitch wave” that could easily wipe him out. With in-game transactions that are more than fair (mainly for power-ups and lives when players run out) and a retro vibe that players of all ages can enjoy, Pac-Man 256 is sure to eat up plenty of attention.

Final Fantasy VII (Square Enix, $15.99, available for iOS {link no longer active}, coming soon for Android)

Final Fantasy VII is easily one of the best classic role-playing games from the PlayStation era, so it should be no surprise that Square Enix has brought it to mobile devices, almost completely intact. Although the touch-screen controls take some getting used to, the visual design and story for the game remain timeless, with plenty of exciting battles for fans of the series to engage in. The game is a bit on the expensive side, but to some people — namely those that grew up with the series — it’ll certainly be worth it.

Horizon Chase: World Tour (Aquiris Game Studio, $2.99, available for iOS {link no longer active})

Fans of older racing games like the Cruis’n series or Sega’s Outrun will find something to like in Horizon Chase: World Tour, the latest offering from Aquiris Game Studio). Featuring bright, colorful visuals, a variety of tracks to choose from, and quick-to-adapt-to gameplay where speed is everything, the game offers a lot of fun. In addition, car customization is available at no additional charge, and a variety of vehicles and locales can be unlocked as well. Rev that engine, because Horizon Chase is ready to take players on a ride.


Tales From the Borderlands Episode Four (Telltale Games, $4.99, available for iOS and Android {links no longer active})

Over the past few months, Telltale Games has been telling an interesting story with Tales From the Borderlands, a spin-off of Gearbox Software’s successful shooter series. With episode four, Escape Plan Bravo, things pick up greatly for the two characters, Rhys and Fiona, as they experience new dangers. The key component with this game is the storytelling, as it’s quite refreshing — and in some ways, hilarious — based on the choice of the player. Fans won’t want to miss it, and for those that are new to the series, a full season pack of all five episodes can be purchased for $14.99.