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Engaging The ESports ‘Colossus in the Shadows’

The explosive growth of eSports into a multi-billion dollar industry with a fan base expected to top 1 billion in a few years has been extensively covered by the media. The focus, however, has been on the high-profile professional events — tournaments with millions of dollars in prizes, competitions that fill major sports arenas, and the millions of people that watch eSports livestreams. But that’s just the most visible part of the eSports iceberg, because the massive audience is mostly amateur. One company that’s focused on the entirety of the eSports audience is Battlefy, which provides tournament management services to the world.

Battlefy — which has grown 750 percent over the last 12 months to become the largest, fastest growing, and most active eSports tournament service — has been tracking data on the most popular games and genres on the site. In 2015, Battlefy has registered more than 8,800 tournament organizers from 50 plus countries who will host more than 29,000 amateur and professional qualifying tournaments this year. Of these tournaments, FPS and TCG represent the fastest growing genres this year (362 percent and 255 percent growth respectively). The most popular genre so far in 2015: is the MOBA, with 64 percent of the audience, followed by TCGs (trading card games) at 11 percent, FPS at 8 percent, Strategy / Simulation at 6 percent, and the rest divided between Fighting, Sports, RTS, and MMO.

Jason Xu

Battlefy CEO Jason Xu spoke with [a]listdaily about the massive audience for amateur eSports and the trends he’s seeing in that market.

What are the trends you’re seeing in eSports?

The number one trend we’re seeing is the increase in the creation and participation of eSports leagues at the amateur level. We’ve seen in the last eight to twelve months a rising coverage and a recognition of eSports as a sport, but most of the coverage has been on the professional side. How much money they made, what kind of stadiums they’re selling out, how big a prize pool they’re getting, and how big a viewership they’re getting.. What has been missed is the colossus in the shadows — an extremely large side of the industry, which is your community level or intramurals or inter-college leagues. That is actually where most of the participation happens. Unlike traditional sports, in eSports the playership to viewership ratio is actually very close to one to one. If you watch professional play, you most likely play the game as well.

Who are your players — what’s their demographics?

It’s what everybody would be expecting — 94.6 percent male, both on the organizer side and the player side. In terms of age, about 75 percent is between 18-24, about 21 percent is 25-34, and less than five percent is 35 and older. We’re definitely seeing a shift recently for specific types of games — there are eSports games today, like Hearthstone or World of Tanks, where reflexes do not determine your win success rate. Historically, we have games like Starcraft or the MOBAs where people are counting actions per minute, the APM rate. The faster your APM the more your win rate goes up. With these more strategic games going into the market on different types of devices, APMs don’t matter any more. We’ve seen the average age increase with these type of games. I’ve heard there’s a professional World of Tanks team where the average age is 40.

How is the mix of games changing for your players?

There is definitely a trend happening right now in the market. When we first launched we were very focused on the PC and the MOBA sectors, where we’ve seen the most growth in the last two years. But in 2015 we saw two sectors that were reviving themselves. The TCG market, specifically the Hearthstone market, has really encouraged a lot of new development in this sector., and the adoption around amateur eSports has been very quick. The second sector is first-person shooters (FPS), Counter Strike has really taken off, and Call of Duty after Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘s launch has taken off tremendously. FPSs, and the Crossfires of the world, have seen tremendous growth. The surprising part is a new genre which is coming up — a cross between a MOBA and a sports game, or an arena game and a sports game — Rocket League is good example of that. It’s very simple, but with potentially deep team tactics and strategies. It will be interesting to see over the next quarter or two if they have the sustaining power of some of these existing games, but so far we’ve seen huge interest in these new games.

Do you think the eSports landscape will look very different next year In what ways?

I think evolution is unstoppable. The industry is still in its nascent stages, and the economics have yet to prove itself out. What business model, what media model it’s going to pursue is still up in the air right now. What will stay the same is the fragmented nature of the market, simply because of how easy it is to create one of these games, and how easy it is to create video content and distribute it around the world. Consolidation is something I believe will not occur. That’s the only thing I can predict with a little bit of confidence that will happen next year.

What’s the future hold for Battlefy?

A lot of it is continuing on what we have done really well inside the market. What kind of features will be forward-looking in pushing this industry along from a sports perspective A lot of these features relate to how we handle communications between the players and the organizations within the game, and that has to do with scalability. A good example is if you have 32 basketball games happening at the same time and you only had two referees, what would you do Put that online — what if you had 300 games going on at the same time, or 3000 games going at the same time How would handle that with two or three referees Will that scenario be a regular occurrence Yes it is, because the natural scalability of eSports is something that never happens in traditional sports.

Our integrations with the games have proven that with the right set of tools you will see these leagues expand. That’s an area we’re going to be focused on. The premise of Battlefy is built on technology. The focus within the eSports industry has been around production, media, and professional teams. Those things of course drive the industry as a whole, but without infrastructure this industry will face challenges scaling and growing. The problem we want to solve is on a macro scale: What can eSports be that sports cannot be In our mind it’s about three million people managed by some 18 year old somewhere, or producing tens of thousands of hours of amateur gameplay that anyone, anywhere can access.

Snapchat Puts a Price On Ephemerality

The platform that has built its userbase on the ephemerality of its content has debuted today a new monetization stream with its very first in-app purchase: the ability to Replay Snaps. While the Replay feature has been around for some time, users have been limited to just one Replay per day.

“We introduced Replay in Additional Services almost two years ago, and we’ve used it to relive those amazing moments (or the ones we weren’t paying attention to . . . ) just one more time before they disappear. We’ve provided one Replay per Snapchatter per day, sometimes frustrating the millions of Snapchatters who receive many daily Snaps deserving of a Replay,” said Snapchat in a blog post.

No longer will Snapchat frustrate its users. It will give them what they want. For a price.

“Today, U.S. Snapchatters can purchase extra Replays, starting at three for $0.99. You can use a Replay on any Snap you receive, but you can only Replay any Snap once. They’re a little pricey — but time is money! ;)”

At the same time, Snapchat has also unveiled a new way to Selfie in a move to keep users happy. With Lenses, users can distort their own faces with animated lenses. To power this, Snapchat has acquired Looksery, a startup that specializes in facial recognition tomfoolery.

Sony Announces PlayStation Virtual Reality

Sony held a big press conference at the Tokyo Game Show earlier today, announcing many new games and finally providing the consumer branding for its long-running Project Morpheus virtual reality (VR) headset. The system will be called PlayStation VR when it hits the market at some point “early in 2016.” Sony still hasn’t provided a retail price or a more precise release date for the VR device. We do now that PlayStation VR will be connected to your PlayStation 4 console, and use PlayStation Move controllers along with the PlayStation Eye camera.

The name PlayStation VR not only directly expresses an entirely new experience from PlayStation that allows players to feel as if they are physically inside the virtual world of a game, but it also reflects our hopes that we want our users to feel a sense of familiarity as they enjoy this amazing experience, said Masayasu Ito, EVP, Division president of PS Product Business and VP, Software Design Division. We will continue to refine the hardware from various aspects, while working alongside third party developers and publishers and SCE Worldwide Studios, in order to bring content that deliver exciting experiences only made possible with VR.

There are already many developers working on PlayStation VR products, and Sony’s got some impressive titles like Final Fantasy XIV (from Square Enix) lined up. We can expect more titles and information about PlayStation VR at the upcoming PlayStation Experience, coming this December 5-6 in San Francisco.

Marketing With a Whisper

There’s a new social medium that’s gaining ground rapidly, with more than 10 million users, 10 billion page views a month, and 1 million app users every minute. That is Whisper, the Los Angeles-based startup that offers users anonymity, unlike most social media. Now the platform is reaching out to advertisers, running promos for brands like Coca-Cola, Hulu, and 20th Century Fox, and preparing a series of public service ads for the Ad Council.

Whisper CEO Michael Heyward feels that the success of an anonymous platform shouldn’t be a surprise he feels it’s a core human need. He feels there’s value in being the opposite of other social media.

“The core motivation behind sharing on Facebook or Instagram is to show everyone how awesome and cool I am, right It tends to be very ego driven,” Heyward noted in an interview with Adweek.. “The whole idea with Whisper is allowing people to share things like, “Hey, I’m 19, and I’ve never had a girlfriend.” You are probably not going to share that on Facebook.”

Whisper is putting some serious effort behind its move into advertising, hiring digital veterans Mark Troughton as president and Shelby Huston Haro as the VP of sales. The company has raised $61 million so far, and is growing its ad revenue.

“We’re being more proactive in [brand-related] conversations,” said Heyward. That includes offering brands keyword targeting, and looking at data around places and topics.

The one concern that’s been raised about “dark social” media is the potential for cyber-bullying, but Heyward has a ready answer for that.

“People have an affiliation in their head that anonymity equals bullying or saying things without accountability when those two things don’t always go hand in hand,” Heyward noted. “We’ve always been very clear that we only allow people to use anonymity as a shield and not a sword. And we have, actually, over 130 full-time human moderators combined with [automated moderating].”



2015 Global Ad Spend Slows

While global ad spending is still massive, the latest numbers show that earlier expectations for the year won’t be met, according to eMarketer. Back in March of this year, eMarketer had forecast $577.79 billion for the total worldwide spend in 2015, but now has revised that figure down to $569.65 billion. The cause, it seems, is “lower-than-expected ad spending in Latin America, North America, and Western Europe,” according to eMarketer.

Still, there are plenty of bright spots in the ad spending landscape. Paid media spend worldwide will grow 5.7 percent worldwide, largely from an increase in digital media spend. Global digital ad spend is projected to rise 18 percent for the year, hitting $170.17 billion — that’s almost 30 percent of the total advertising spend, a new high mark for digital.

Overall, the outlook through 2019 still appears good, with worldwide ad spend projected to reach $719.2 billion by the end of that year. Right now North America has the highest ad sepnding, but Asia-Pacific is projected to overtake North America (by $1.35 billion) in 2019.

“Advertising investments in traditional media like TV, newspapers and magazines have been negatively affected by increased spending in digital formats, such as online editions for magazines and newspapers, and digital video replacing traditional TV,” said eMarketer analyst Shelleen Shum.

While slower growth in China and the continuing slowness in Europe and Latin America may hold back some of the pace of ad spending, it’s still going to be a hot market in digital, particularly mobile. The audience is spending more and more time on mobile devices, so advertising dollars are sure to follow.

Michelle Phan’s Ipsy Startup Raises $100 Million

Michelle Phan has found such great success with her beauty-based YouTube videos that she’s managed to create a start-up company called Ipsy, which concentrates on beauty-related products. Today, Ipsy got a big boost by announcing an immense round of funding.

Variety reports that Phan’s company has managed to raise a staggering $100 million through Series B funding from TPG Growth and Sherpa Capital. This is on top of the three million dollars that was previously raised from investors like 500 Startups and Crosscut Ventures, as well as the recently reported $150 million in revenue it’s gotten from its 1.5 million subscribers across the U.S. and Canada. It s a silent little company that grew aggressively off the back of YouTube influencers, said one anonymous investor, speaking with Fortune.

This is a strong indication that investors believe the site will see strong, continuing profits down the road. 

“Ipsy’s goal has always been to create a community that inspires women around the world to express their own unique beauty,” said Phan. “This investment is key to our continued commitment to the next generation of storytellers and creators everywhere it’s going to be a beautiful future.”

TPG partner David Trujillo also spoke on the funding, stating, “We see consumer preferences shifting dynamically across industries and Ipsy embodies this trend for beauty. Ipsy has created a platform through which brands can be more easily access customers, creators can connect with and expand their audiences, and consumers can discover new products and share these experiences via social media.”

Phan had a chance to speak at the recent [a]list Daily Summit in Hollywood a few weeks back, alongside CEO and co-founder of Ipsy, Marcelo Camberos. When we were developing Ipsy, we knew how important content was,” she explained during the interview. That video can be found below.


For further context, be sure to check out our interview with Phan, straight from the [a]list Daily Summit, at this link.


Nintendo Reorganizes, Names New President

Despite the fact that Nintendo has returned to profitability, things have been a bit rough for the company lately. Satoru Iwata, who had been serving as the company’s president since 2002, passed away unexpectedly back in July, with game producer Shigeru Miyamoto and Wii architect Genyo Takeda filling in ever since.

Today, Nintendo announced Iwata’s successor as company president, Tatsumi Kimishima. Kimishima previously served with Nintendo’s human resources division, as well as a managing director. It’s part of an overall corporate restructuring which will “strengthen and enhance the management structure of the company,” according to a press release posted earlier today.

Kimishima has plenty of experience with the role, originally serving as president of Nintendo of America from 2002-2006 before Reggie Fils-Aime filled the role. He also worked as the CFO for the Pokémon Company, and had a presence in various Nintendo Direct broadcasts over the years. Whether he will have a presence in future videos like Iwata had with his many appearances is not yet known.

Miyamoto and Takeda will continue to play strong roles in the company, with their new roles of “Creative Fellow” and “Technology Fellow” noted in the press release. Even though the names sound casual, Nintendo indicated that a “fellow” is “an individual selected from among the Representative Directors who has advanced knowledge and extensive experience, and holds the role of providing advice and guidance regarding organizational operations in a specialized area.”

These changes are crucial ones for the company, as Nintendo attempts to both enter the mobile market (in its partnership with DeNA) and introduce its new NX hardware next year, which is likely to get its worldwide debut at the next Electronic Entertainment Expo event in Los Angeles.

In the meantime, Nintendo is preparing for a strong line-of up games that will include a number of franchise favorites in new adventures, including the user-friendly Super Mario Maker that just released last week, along with the forthcoming StarFox Zero for Wii U, The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes for Nintendo 3DS, and fan favorite Xenoblade Chronicles X for Wii U, all set to arrive in time for the bustling holiday season.

Kimishima’s appointment, in the eyes of many analysts, seems to reflect a desire to move forward along the company’s current path with an experienced hand at the tiller. This is not someone likely to take bold new directions, but rather someone that can ably execute the strategy the company’s executives have collectively put together over the last year or two. The next year should be very interesting for Nintendo as its major new initiatives begin to appear, and we see how they are received in the marketplace.

Image source: Tech News Today

Rooster Teeth Leaps To Mobile

The content creators at Rooster Teeth have been around for years, putting together memorable science fiction/comedy programming that includes the likes of Red vs. Blue (which utilizes footage from the Halo games for humorous results), Achievement Hunter and more. Now, following its acquisition by multichannel network Fullscreen back in 2014, it’s making more of a push onto the mobile scene.

Variety reports that the studio has launched a pair of video apps for both iOS and Android devices. With these apps, the company hopes to increase subscriptions to its premium service, which goes for $4.99 a month or $15.99 through a six-month package.

The apps will provide the usual Rooster Teeth content as we’ve come to expect, along with exclusive programming that isn’t available anywhere else. This includes Let’s Play Live: The Documentary, which made its premiere today, covering the launch of its first online-gaming event with the Achievement Hunter team, as well as a new weekly talk show called Rooster Teeth Entertainment System, hosted by Colton Dunn, set to premiere on September 27th.

“The apps are about expanding the subscription service nowadays, people call it ‘SVOD’,” Matt Hullum, CEO of Rooster Teeth, explained. “We’re going to be putting some excellent, premium content on there.”

The team will stay true to its humble roots, however, referring to consumers as “sponsors” instead of subscribers and providing plenty of exclusive goodies for them to take in, as well as the shows they’ve come to know and love.

This comes on the heels of the company’s announcement to launch a feature-length movie, titled Lazer Team. Set to premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s Fantastic Fest in Austin later this month, the film will also be available through the app following its release.

While Rooster Teeth didn’t provide an exact count of subscribers thus far, it did indicate that it has more than 19 million subscribers with more than five billion views overall. This includes three million unique monthly visitors and 1.8 million registered members on its website,

We’ll have a follow-up interview with the team shortly. In the meantime, the trailer for Let’s Play Live is below.

Cultivating Community: The Force Behind Powerful Brands

The transformation of marketing in the last ten years has been sweeping, affecting every part of the art and science that is effective marketing. One of the fundamental shifts has been moving to engaging with an audience in a conversation, rather than just shouting at them through advertising. The real power that some brands are embracing, though, comes from turning that level of engagement into something deeper and more far-reaching than a conversation. It’s encouraging your audience to become a community.

At its core, a community is just a group of people with some things in common — which might be interests, or location, or opinions, or shared experiences. For a brand, of course, it’s important that the brand itself (or the products and services associated with it) are at the core of this community. A successful, long-lasting community means a long-lasting relationship with a brand — and potentially long-term profits for the brand.

Creating a community isn’t an easy task, and certainly it’s more difficult for some brands than others. The nature of your product or service matters a great deal — while it may well be possible to create a community around paper clips, that’s going to be a much hard task than creating a community around a lifestyle item or a game or a movie. This is certainly going to be propelled, too, by the quality of the goods or services — and often by some of the details involved.

The benefits of a community for brands are very clear — user engagement and retention, leading to more revenue. More than that, though, you can get great feedback from a community that makes your product better, and create an eager core of brand evangelists who work on their own to amplify your messages. It’s a long effort to build a strong community, but the benefits can last even longer.

Take a look at what Starbucks has done with their simple My Starbucks Idea. It’s a way for the chain’s customers to voice their opinions and make suggestions on improving Starbucks, and since Starbucks began this in 2008 over 300 new innovations have come from this. That includes the free Wi-Fi we all take for granted at Starbucks, which many consider an essential part of the experience. Watching that feedback become fact helps create a sense of community, which helps propel the strength of the brand.

For a different take on community building, take a look at TEDx, the extension of the resoundingly successful TED conference into local communities. This is a way for individuals to create their own TED experience in their community, bringing out the best in ideas from the remarkable people all around us. These videos are used to not only empower the local TEDx communities, but help engage the larger TEDx community on a global basis. The amount of effort on display is astonishing, and that in turn fuels an even greater commitment on the part of the participants.

For an example from the game industry, look no further than what Sony has accomplished with its PlayStation brand and the forums it provides. Users come together to share tips and hints and content, as well as experiences. This sort of commuinity function is widespread in gaming, and it’s part of what’s propelled World of Warcraft for ten years, or made Valve’s Steam into the digital distribution powerhouse it is today. The games industry has been a leader in community building for decades, stretching back into the tabletop era when brand communities connected via dial-up bulletin board systems and later AOL. The game forums and communities online were always one of the biggest and most active parts of those early online communities.

Back then, game publishers often didn’t create those communities — they were self-organizing as fans found each other. Now that game publishers recognize the incredible power of communities, they are usually quick to try and organize communities using social media and influencers — but you can’;t accomplish that overnight. The best game communities are like gardens — you plant the seeds in the right soil, give them plenty of sunshine and the right amount of water (and, yes, fertilizer, but let’s not stretch this metaphor too far), and with enough time a bountiful community will grow.

Brands do well to remember, though, not to try and create something that’s too forced or artificial, or to push a brand beyond what it really can be. Yes, you could spend a lot of money and effort trying to build a community around paper clips, and create amusing cartoon paper clips (or, perhaps, resurrect Clippy) and tell great stories . . . but you’re never going to get people all that excited about paper clips. Although some companies have taken up challenges almost as immense, and made some interesting communities — the new Old Spice, with its quirky commercials and characters and live streams, comes to mind.

The savvy marketer should have an eye on creating a community from the beginning of a new product or service, or look to engage an existing community for a product that’s been around for a while. That’s ultimately the best use of those wonderful social media tools — not just bombarding people with messages, but building a social structure that will last.