Facebook Preps Elaborate Mobile Ads

Facebook has already revealed its lavish plans for its mobile advertising, and it appears that these plans are finally going into motion, according to a report from Re/Code.

The social site has begun running a new content-heavy mobile ad system, where ads are put into place through image carousels and autoplay videos, all into one convenient product.

At first, looks can be deceiving, as the ad comes across as just another Facebook post. However, it soon unfolds into a full-screen ad that works like a mini-version of one of its partners advertising websites. From there, users can scroll through many pages of the ad, checking out video and images to go along with the text. Although there s a link to visit that company s particular site through it, most of the ad content is hosted by Facebook itself.

The video below provides an overview of just how the new ad format will work.

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Facebook hinted at this format earlier this year during the Cannes Lions event, but this is the first time it s actually been operating, as that was just a mock-up model. It definitely presents a unique format compared to the usual News Feed posts, and enables brands to show their items in a high-quality setting. It also enables the site to keep most of its traffic enclosed, without going over to another site (except for external link clicking, of course).Right now, only a certain group of partners are testing out the format, including Gatorade, Michael Kors, Mr. Porter and Carrefour Spain, as Facebook intends to roll out this new format gradually. However, if it s accepted enough by its audience, don t be surprised if it starts becoming the norm on the mobile front. It s just a matter of seeing how popular they are and how well they re accepted.

Why Apple’s Dedicated Gaming Twitter Account Matters

For years, Apple and developers have made billions of dollars from games in the App Store, although Apple has not done much in terms of promotion to make this happen. However, it appears that s on the verge of changing, especially with the rumors that the company is about to become more devoted in the games business.

VentureBeat reports that Apple has launched a new devoted Twitter account (under the name @AppStoreGames) with the primary purpose of sharing new information about games with its consumers, including new releases that join the store, as well as deals on popular titles. The posts are put together by Apple s App Store editors, the same team responsible for choosing the Featured Apps that are highlighted on the store itself.

Although there haven t been too many tweets on the account just yet, it has made some interesting references, including shared promotions with certain mobile developers, as well as a nod to the classic Legend of Zelda series.

While this bodes well for consumers buying games for their mobile devices in Apple s App Store, there could be bigger tie-ins with the account as well. The company has scheduled an event next week, where rumors say it could be introducing a new Apple TV that finally allows an App Store, which means Apple TV will become a game-playing console — with potentially thousands of developers racing to add games for the device.

Considering that mobile gaming currently sits at a whopping $30 billion in annual revenue, it would be no surprise that Apple wants to get further into the market, offering console-like experiences through the convenience of a small device, complete with Bluetooth controller support. The Twitter account is an indication that Apple is taking gaming more seriously, which is quite reasonable considering games account for more than 80 percent of the $10 billion in revenue the App Store brought in during 2014. That amount is only rising this year, and perhaps by a considerable amount if the new Apple TV adds games to its capabilities.

We ll have to wait until next week to see what Apple s big picture on gaming is. For now, definitely give the @AppStoreGames account a follow. It looks like it ll definitely dial in with the right crowd.

Mobile Game Highlights: Week of 9/4

Welcome back to another edition of the Mobile Game Highlights. We’ve got five new titles that are ripe for downloading, so let’s get started!

Pokémon Shuffle (The Pokémon Company, free-to-play, available for iOS and Google Play)


After debuting on the Nintendo 3DS a little while ago (as its first free-to-play title), Pokémon Shuffle has finally made its way to mobile devices. Players will attempt to capture hundreds of unique Pokémon characters through traditional match-three battles, while at the same time exploring amazing new locales. The game does require in-game purchases from time-to-time, particularly with upgrades to equipment, but it’s still worth a try for those who just gotta catch em’ all.

Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition (Klei Entertainment, $4.99, available for iOS)

The independent darling Don’t Starve has been making the rounds on consoles for several months now, and Klei has finally brought the experience to mobile with the Pocket Edition. In Starve, you portray Wilson, a scientist forced to survive in the deep wilderness by using the environment to his advantage, whether it’s keeping his health from dwindling or facing off against sinister forces that may show up. The game definitely requires a great deal of thought, but it’s good fun for those who prefer a bit of scientific strategy.

Plum’s Creaturizer (PBS Kids, free-to-play, available for iOS)

Parents that are looking for an experience that will bring out the creative side of their children will want to check out PBS’ Plum’s Creaturizer. In it, players can build up to a billion different creations, using over 100 different unique parts. From there, they can take their creatures anywhere in the outdoors and take pictures with them, adding to the fun! There are also photo missions available, daring young players to take particular shots with their new creations. It’s a unique and enjoyable experience that everyone can enjoy.

Unkilled (Madfinger Games, free-to-play, available for iOS and Google Play)

Fans that can’t get enough of killing zombies in video games will love Unkilled, an adventure that puts them right into the heart of New York City, where a plague of the undead has emerged. As a member of the military-driven Wolfpack, it’s up to players to save the day, using a variety of weapons that are available. With beautiful visuals and non-stop action, Unkilled promises to change the zombie game as most players know it — even if some secondary purchases may be required to get the most out of the game.

Power Ping Pong (Chillingo, $3.99, available for iOS and Android)


Players have experienced the classic Ping-Pong game before, but Chillingo provides a new spin on the game that makes it much more exciting with Power Ping Pong. In it, players will face off against a number of adversaries while mastering a number of amazing trick shots, and unlocking a horde of new paddles and opponents to face off against. With a sweet arcade style gameplay system and plenty of challenges, this one will challenge even the most zen-like of Ping-Pong masters!

See you next time for more mobile game picks!

DDM: Marketing Begins When Game Development Starts

The games industry ultimately runs on the creative people that make the games, and that’s who Digital Development Management, the leading video game business and talent agency, represents. The company has been in business for ten years, and today announced that its founder Jeffrey Hilbert has transitioned from day-to-day operations to being a board member and active advisor. The company’s executive team and Hilbert have been preparing for this evolution for the past year.

“I’ve been an agent for over 25 years and am ready to step away from ongoing management activities to focus on some large partnerships on behalf of DDM as well as a few personal projects,” said Hilbert. “DDM has a strong executive team that has been running the company for all intents and purposes for some time, and I’m glad to now make this official.”

DDM’s longtime President, Joe Minton, has worked at the company since its founding. “Jeff and I built DDM from a couple clients, and just the two of us into the leading agency in the business with over $580 million of deals secured from seven worldwide offices,” said Minton. “I’m thrilled for Jeff that the company’s solid footing allows him to pursue additional endeavors.” DDM’s executive team includes Maarten de Koning and Ben Judd, each also partners and executive directors of Business Development.

Minton spoke with [a]listdaily about the move and the state of the games industry in the wake of all the changes in the business over the last few years.

Joe Minton

Tell us more about this move and what it means for DDM.

The key thing is that this is part of an evolution that’s been going on for a while. We’ve been running DDM together for ten years, and he’s been an agent for twenty-five years. DDM is strong enough and has a team that can run day-to-day operations, which allows him to focus on big deals and opportunities and other things he hasn’t really had to take a crack at because he’s been focused on day-to-day. For the last year , as Martin and Ben became partners and have been oversseing the agency side of the business, Jeff has been making this transition and now we’re making it official. So for us it’s much more of an evolution. He’s still going to be working, scouting out interesting things in the business amongst the many things he’s doing.

We’re in the middle of our best year ever for the ten years we’ve been in business. We’ve been growing every year, and we’re closing in on the $600 million mark on development deals secured for our clients. We’re working distribution deals for every major territory out of our seven offices. We’re knitting together the global business. We’re really happy about that.

How has the game industry been changing in the past few years from your agency’s perspective?

What we’re seeing is it’s a world where there is no one dominant area of the business. It had been in the past — ‘console is huge now!’ or ‘PC is huge now!’ or ‘mobile is taking over!’ but really, there’s been an ‘and’ between everything. What we’re seeing is a much more diffuse industry, where on mobile there’s both premium opportunities and free-to-play opportunities, and there are different types of opportunity by region. We’re seeing strong business in digital premium sales on Steam or digital consoles (the Xbox one and PlayStation digital stores), which are monetizing really well.

The console transition to the Xbox One and the PS4 has been at the maximum end of everyone’s projection charts from a few years ago. There were some real doomsayer projections, and the high end was just kind of OK on publisher’s charts while they were figuring out what they were going to spend. But it’s been at or exceeded those high-end numbers, which means more dollars are coming into console products. We’re seeing lots of everything, but not one spot where it’s all happening. more numbers but not just one spot where everything that is happening. That has meant it’s even more important that a development studio is really good at what it is that they do, because there’s a lot of competition out there and they can’t claim to be the best mobile and the best digital premium and the best console developer and so on. Pick where you’re going to be great, we really counsel folks for that.

It’s really a different environment now, where studios have to worry about how they create an audience as well as how they create a game, isn’t it?

You can’t just have the big marketing campaign for a crappy game that fools a whole bunch of people to but it in the first three weeks it’s on sale, then you move on. We’re past that world now, which is great for games. But then it comes back to it’s gotta be good, it has to be a good game, it has to be compelling. There needs to be money, energy, and effort put into making a really great product.

What do advise developers about marketing these days?

One key thing is to make sure not to get stuck on the other side of the generational divide, and not be the grumpy old time game makers who don’t understand the fact that so many millions of views happen constantly around game play. Really watch the Twitch streams, watch the influencers, understand that world because it’s so powerful and it’s so compelling, and it’s so genuine to the content, versus an advertisement which is all about creating a momentary feeling that may or may not have anything to do with that game.

Make sure that they have some champions within the team who, under PR guidelines, directly relating to and participating in that whole world. There needs to be great care that messaging stays on target, but if done well it allows for so much more of interesting marketing campaign.

Do you advise developers to think about marketing from the very start of their game projects?

That’s totally right. Even in a very traditionally funded game, where a publisher is taking the game from the early stages and funding it through development, even in that model when we’re in pitch meetings the marketing and production teams at the publishers are generally looking at that messaging from the beginning. They’re not just looking at how the development studio is pitching this, they’re looking at how the messaging is going to be from the game to the end user even in those early meetings.

We’re seeing so many games on so many platforms, with new business models and new areas of the world opening up — it seems like a very exciting time in games, doesn’t it?

This is the most exciting time in the twenty-three years I’ve been in the games business. I’m just floored by what I see in creativity from around the world. The barriers are dropping — compelling, excellent engines are within reach of even indie teams, digital distribution — all the barriers are falling to allow great ideas to be made more than ever. It’s really exciting. I look at the Wii bubble, with its mass-market appeal, and Minecraft, which has been woven into the social fabric of our country the same way Star Wars is woven into our social fabric, these things have established gaming in a much broader way throughout society than it ever has been before. Not everyone’s going to be a hardcore gamer, but everyone’s a gamer.

The #ForceFriday Is Strong With Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ Toys

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens set to debut in less than four months (and no doubt take some box office records upon its release), Disney is already feeling the Force, as it were, with the return of the popular space franchise. Tomorrow, a new force will arise with the arrival of various toys based on Force Awakens, as part of an event that’s being named “Force Friday”.

As reported by USA Today, various toys based on the film will arrive on store shelves tonight at midnight, with millions of fans picking up everything from action figures to Sphero’s custom BB-8 droid to other knick-knacks – including the return of the Millennium Falcon spaceship, which hasn’t been in production since the old Kenner days.

Steve Sansweet, an avid Star Wars collector and author who works as Lucasfilm’s fan relations advisor, stated, “There’s a synergistic history between the toys and the movies. If you go back to the very beginning, and that memory is still there in a lot of people, it was the start of merchandising of motion pictures.”

The main location to be — at least, according to Sansweet, is Toys ‘R’ Us in Times Square, New York City, where a massive midnight launch will take place, featuring action figures and more. Other retailers are taking part as well, selling everything from Lego kits to a custom pilot jacket (worn by Finn in the film) that’s being sold at the Disney Store.

Back when the original Star Wars film, A New Hope, launched way back in 1977, licensing for toys was far different, as they weren’t released at the same time as the film. And how people played with them was, too. “There was no home video,” said Sansweet. “So it was really the only way, by taking your action figures and vehicles and things like that, for kids to really re-create scenes from Star Wars.”

LucasFilm had plenty to say about the “Force Friday” event. “Star Wars toys have always played an important role in how our fans interact with the saga,” said LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy. The new products, she assured, “will continue that tradition.”

The “Force Friday” event has certainly been gaining huge buzz online. Last week, a massive YouTube event took place, where the new toys were unveiled for the first time. (A portion of that livestream can be found below.) On top of that, the #ForceFriday hashtag has a serious amount of traction on Twitter, where fans and companies alike are discussing the forthcoming toys — including the “life-size” model of the BB-8 droid being introduced. (It’ll set consumers back $150.)

Meanwhile, the wait for the actual movie continues, as The Force Awakens isn’t set to hit theaters until December 18th. Still, at least people have something to play with in the meantime.

Instagram Benefits From Brand Engagement

Instagram recently introduced a brand engagement program to help marketers get the word out about their products on the popular photo/video site and it looks like it’s paying off quite well for consumers.

A report from Digiday indicates that the program is doing incredibly well, even to the point where it’s rivaling Instagram’s parent company Facebook. Some sources indicated that they’re paying a very good rate for its video ads, paying as little as two cents a view.

“CPM’s (cost per thousand views) are averaging close to $3,” said an ad tech source for a firm that works very closely with advertising on Instagram. “It’s been highly efficient compared to marketing on Facebook proper.”

The program, which launched this summer, was only available to a few select brands upon its debut. At that time, Instagram paid close attention to the ads that were submitted, reviewing every sponsored image and video that was turned in.

These days, with the program being more widespread, it’s still paying attention and pushing for some form of creative control, but that hasn’t stopped the number of participating advertisers from coming in, including buy-through partners such as Salesforce and Sprinklr.

Salesforce has stated that its advertisers pay an average CPM of $6.29 higher than the figure above, but still very effective in terms of advertising and price. Another ad partner stated that it sees a $3 fee per 1,000 views, along with videos that range for about two cents a view. (Instagram has similar rules to Facebook when it comes to what makes a video view count, by way of watching it for at least three seconds.)

Overall, fees in general rarely run high with the program. Some advertisers pay as much (or as little, depending on perspective) as six cents a video view.

“The recent buzz around Instagram video ad pricing efficiency is really interesting but I think we shouldn t lose site of the fact that Instagram s true value is the ability to engage audiences,” said Ayzenberg‘s Vincent Juarez.

A lot of sites are investing more in mobile video, but Instagram’s rates enable it to be a true competitor, even with the likes of Snapchat and YouTube.

With that, Instagram has become one of the leaders in premium ad space. Salesforce stated that its ads on the site get double the clicks of Facebook, 1.5 percent compared to .84 percent.

“Facebook and Instagram ad products are evolving and becoming increasingly similar it ll be telling to see how custom audiences, cross-platform retargeting, campaigns through the power editor and auction based pricing will affect video engagement and cost efficiencies,” added Juarez.

As to whether the program will lose its momentum, the unnamed ad partner (speaking on anonymity) stated, “It will be interesting to see whether on average the quality goes down. That’s what you have to look out for.”

Juarez had more to add to this. “In the future, auction based pricing could effectively drive up pricing from my perspective, premiums are acceptable as long as engagement rates are maintained or increased through better placement and targeting,” he said.

Pizza Hut Works With Toby “Tobuscus” Turner On ‘Legends of Gaming’ Series

With competitive gaming and eSports at an all-time high right now, it seems everyone is hopping on board including more promotional partners.

Adweek reports that digital content network Endemol Beyond USA has partnered up with the Pizza Hut pizza chain for a new web series called Legends of Gaming. The series, based on a U.K. series under the same name, will focus primarily on eSports and competitive gaming, and will launch alongside the company’s new gaming digital channel Smasher. Toby “Tobuscus” Turner will host the show.

“My channel is about my own lack of video gaming talent and showcasing my lack of abilities,” said Turner, speaking with Adweek in a joking manner. “This is a chance for me to make fun of other people’s lack of abilities.”

The show will focus on four teams of two gamers each, who will be coached by legends within the eSports industry, including Fatal1ty, Perfect Legends, HotShot!GG, Hafu and others. The games will vary, including competitions in FIFA 16, Counter-Strike: Global Terrorism, and Doom 3: BFG Edition. (The gamers collectively boast 43 million subscribers and more than 6.5 billion viewers across their YouTube pages, Adweek noted.) And, of course, with Pizza Hut being a primary partner, look for its branding during the show as well, including logos on the set itself.

The video below shows a teaser of what players should expect from the show, which will last 37 episodes and feature player profiles and blooper reels for fans to enjoy. It’s just part of Endemol’s total of 147 different videos for Legends of Gaming.


“We picked games that we knew each of our pro gamers would excel at,” said Turner. “It was a game in each realm that the experts specialized in.”

Considering the original U.K. show managed to garner 32 million views during its run, it’s possible Endemol could be on a huge success here if done the right way, of course.

While it may seem like a debut for Pizza Hut in the video game world, that’s certainly not the case. A few years ago, the chain hired pro gamer David “Walshy” Walsh to help promote its application for the Xbox 360, working in conjunction with the Kinect motion device. Obviously, Legends of Gaming is a huge step up from that even if you can’t order pizza directly from it.


Mobile Games Are Officially Outspending Consoles On TV

Some big dollars are being spent on TV advertisements, especially when it comes to video games. What may surprise some of you, however, is that mobile game publishers are actually spending more than the likes of Sony and Microsoft.

A new report published by VentureBeat (in conjunction with iSpot.tv) indicates that game companies spent nearly $30 million for TV advertising last month, with 33 different brands airing nearly 90 spots nationwide over 18,000 times. The total is about the same as last month’s, with overall spending for the year reaching $430 million thus far.

Mobile actually accounts for a big chunk of that, with three of the top five advertisers being from that field. That includes Machine Zone, which accounted for over 22 percent of TV spending, along with King.com (nine percent) and InnoGames (seven percent). The other two companies in the top five Disney Interactive, advertising the latest Disney Infinity, and Nintendo.

As for the top five ads for the month, only one was made for consoles a spot for Madden NFL 16 that featured a five-minute mini-film. The rest belonged to mobile games like Game of War and Candy Crush Soda Saga.

Here’s a top five breakdown of the commercials that got the most spending for the month:

1. Game of War: Fire Age ($5.1 million)

2. Candy Crush Soda Saga ($2.3 million)

3. Madden NFL 16 ($1.5 million)

4. Forge of Empires ($1.4 million)

5. Splatoon ($1.4 million)

Two of the most noteworthy ads are included below, including Machine Zone’s Game of War: Fire Age ad and Madden: The Movie from EA Sports.


Even with the Christmas push behind some key titles (like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Skylanders Superchargers), this is a trend that’s likely to continue in the months ahead, especially with the success of titles like Game of War and Clash of Clans. We’ll see where the next few months lead in terms of numbers.

Top 10 YouTube Food Channels

Cooking shows are getting a new lease on life in the form of YouTube cooking tutorials. Some of them, like Rosanna Pansino, have become household names for their ability to turn making food into a very entertaining activity. Of course brands (and not just food brands!) are eager to get in on the action.

GameStop Expo Reveals What’s Hot for the Holidays

The GameStop Expo opened yesterday to GameStop store managers, and today it’s being flooded with consumers checking out the very latest games and hardware from all of the top companies in the console game business. The show has been packed this year, and GameStop’s director of merchandising Eric Bright took some time to speak with [a]listdaily about the news from the show and what the retail front looks like for the fall and holiday season ahead.

Eric Bright

What’s the exciting news from GameStop Expo?

As it has been in prior years, this is really the kickoff as we bring in our store managers and fill them with all the great information about all the great new releases that are going to be coming out for the fall and holiday seasons. Everyone from Activision to EA to Ubisoft to Disney have done a great job at unveiling first-at-GameStop presentation of information. Activision unveiled a brand-new zombie level here at the show, and managers got to see it for the first time. Ubisoft unveiled a brand-new trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. There a lots of bits of new information that store managers are going to be armed with to be able to go back and evangelize not only their employees, but also all of the customers that are going to be pouring into our stores during the holiday season.

The other big news coming out at the Expo is around our collectibles business. Not too long ago we acquired ThinkGeek and GeekNet. Today at the Expo we announced the opening in Orlando of our new ThinkGeek store. The store managers are thrilled and excited about that.

What are the biggest game launches for GameStop from a merchandising perspective leading up to the holidays?

You have to start the title which has always been the largest from a historical perspective, Call of Duty: Black Ops III is going to be an absolute phenomenon for the back half of the year. Then there’s tremendous buzz around Star Wars Battlefront and Fallout. An absolutely excited customer base — and excited associates — interested in getting all the news about it.

What’s going to be happening in the stores — displays, standups, stacks of games?

It’s really going to be more around what I would call lifestyle merchandising. Instead of just focusing in on the Call of Duty game or the Halo game or the Star Wars game, with our focus on collectibles or Loot, you’re going to see us not only selling the game but all of the collectible merchandise that goes around it. For Call of Duty we’ll have a full assortment of T-shirts and hats and posters and keychains for that customer. You can imagine the merchandising possibilities that exist with such a strong property like Star Wars that we’ll be able to really maximize. Then there’s other titles like Halo and Assassin’s Creed that really have strong merchandise, that our associates are thrilled about and our customers are thrilled as well. We opened up a ThinkGeek store within the Expo to see how a store devoted to this type of merchandise would do, and it looks like they’re going to sell out today.

The individual booths brought so much excitement as well. For Warner Bros., they brought in Stan Lee who was doing signings. Sony brought in the first way for consumers to experience Morpheus. Store managers are able to play Overwatch, the new title from Blizzard, for the first time. So there are lots of experience that store managers and consumers are having today that aren’t experiences that exist outside of E3.

There will now be four major contenders in the toy/game hybrid space: Skylanders, Disney Infinity, Nintendo’s Amiibo, and LEGO Dimensions. Is GameStop increasing the shelf space devoted to this category, or will they have to compete in the current space?

I’m really glad that you brought that up. It’s something that we’ve been discussing inside GameStop for quite some time. When we had just Skylanders it was a business that GameStop was able to get in and talk about with consumers. Then we had Disney Infinity come in, and this year Amiibo and LEGO Dimensions. What we have found with each new iteration that comes out is that overall, the pie grows. Each one is adding incremental business to the overall ecosystem. There’s definitely room for all four properties, and each one is completely unique.

This year you’re starting to see some crossover — Activision announced they are doing a crossover with Nintendo, where you’ll have Skylanders that also function as Amiibos. It is exciting, especially when you’re talking about characters like Donkey Kong and Bowser having those in the Skylanders universe and in the Skylanders universe is fantastic. Each of these properties is adding something new this year. Skylanders adding vehicles is taking it to another dimension. Disney with Star Wars, you can’t get better timing for that than with the film coming out this year. You have Amiibo and the passion around the Nintendo characters as strong as ever. With LEGO Dimensions, I don’t have to tell you how strong that is at retail. They are incorporating all the DC characters like Superman and Batman and the Lord of the Rings characters and Wizard of Oz, all existing in the same universe — that’s very powerful.

GameStop’s CEO said in the last earnings call “we will continue to remodel GameStop stores to give more linear footage to Loot merchandise and less to video games.” What sort of Loot do you expect to do well?

We’re seeing tremendous success in trading cards, tremendous success in plush, and we’re also seeing tremendous success in what I would call niche collectible items. Things from Minecraft swords to Pokemon toys to true collectible statues and figurines.

What sort of merchandising do you expect for consoles this holiday? Will there be changes as the market for the latest consoles is maturing?

There’s been several exciting announcements about hardware. With Sony, you’re looking at the excitment around the Star Wars bundle, and there’s Destiny bundle that’s coming out. Sony definitely believes in the value add of a bundle. At GameStop we’ll be having bundles with physical games in them, we believe that adds and extra value than just giving a customer a digital code. You’re going to see exciting bundles from Microsoft as well. We had a great program on the Xbox side with a Madden soft bundle that did very well. Microsoft is also introducing the Xbox Elite bundle, and that’s absolutely fantastic. GameStop will have an exclusive Elite controller to sell separately for a limited time. We’re also getting a special Optic White controller that will also be a GameStop exclusive.