ESL Exec On The Evolution Of ESports Stadium Events

ESL One has grown exponentially in just over a year. At the first event at the Commerzbank Arena soccer stadium in Frankfurt, Germany there was only a handful of press as top DotA 2 teams battles for over $200,000 in cash prizes. Fast forward to August 2015 and the LanXess Arena hockey arena in Cologne, Germany and 180 media members were on hand to cover the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament with over $250,000 in cash prizes. The stadium was also nearly sold out with over 11,000 spectators in attendance from around the world.

With ESL One coming to the U.S. Oct. 3-4 at The Theater in Madison Square Garden for a $250,000 DotA 2 tournament, Ulrich Schulze, vice president of Pro Gaming at Turtle Entertainment (which owns ESL One) talks about the place for stadium events in eSports today in this exclusive interview.

What separates ESL One events from anything else that Turtle Entertainment does in eSports?

ESL One is about big stadiums, big arenas, and big crowds. We go to the biggest venues. We have tens of thousands of people there and we always have the biggest teams in the world. We have it for DotA 2 and Counter Strike Global Offensive.

What role does LanXess Arena play in Germany?

It’s the biggest arena in Germany. They have 180 events every year. It’s home to the Cologne ice hockey team and then they have lots of concerts here and festivals. It’s one of the biggest venues in Germany that you can get when it comes to entertainment, and now we’re having eSports here. As a company located in Cologne, it was something we always wanted to do, and this year we saw a perfect opportunity to finally get it going.

How many people attended ESL One at LanXess?

We have 11,000 people here. We’re almost sold out and that’s great for us in the first year of this event. It’s something that we’re always a little nervous about how many people are actually going to show up, and it turned out pretty well for us.

How far away do fans travel to attend ESL One events?

We have a few people that travel really far from the USA, from South Africa, from New Zealand. There are not a lot of events of this size, so it’s natural that if you want to experience something like this you might be ready to travel for a very long distance. We typically have about 70 percent of the people from Germany and lots of people from Europe, but we always see people that take long distance flights just to get a glimpse of this atmosphere.

What is it about CS:GO that it’s seen this explosion on eSports recently?

The game has been around forever in different versions. CS:GO had a difficult start, but it’s turned around pretty well. The devs [at Valve] have done a lot of things right and allowed the scene to grow, establishing the majors as the focus points for the entire community and enabling a good system that motivates people to stay in the game. If you look at it from a point of view of how interesting is it to watch, then there’s always this constant flow and excitement around it, and then it stops for a moment, and then the excitement comes back again. The players have been playing this for years. They’re real characters. They’re stars. They know how to interact with the audience. And that’s the package that makes CS:GO so great for an event like this.

How do you go about choosing which games will be able to sell out a stadium?

The biggest games are the ones that we look at in terms of viewer and player numbers. CS:GO was obviously big enough when it comes to that. We look at the international calendar as well, and we also look at the venue. Germany has traditionally been a big country for Counter Strike, so we knew that we would attract a lot of fans here. At the end of the day I would say 30 to 40 percent is just guess work where we think,”Okay, this might work,”and the rest is looking at overall player and viewer numbers and where a certain game is big and then choosing a venue and a date based on the international calendar for that game.

Can you explain how the pro teams share revenue with Turtle Entertainment at ESL One events?

There’s a base prize pool of $250,000. That’s a lot of money. The winning team takes home $100,000. But there are stickers that are sold where the teams share in the revenue. For ESL One Cologne, the in-game autographs allow the players to directly benefit from that revenue as well. The players obviously get money if they perform well, but they also have an incentive to position themselves as stars that people look up to because that’s the opportunity for them where they can make additional money. It’s millions of dollars that are being put out there, not just the prize money, but at ESL One in Frankfurt this year there was $1.5 million in sticker revenue being shared across the teams and those numbers are larger for Cologne. It’s really a lot of money that is being channeled into the player base through the game.

How are you expanding into the U.S. market with these stadium events this year?

The next event we have for ESL One is at Madison Square Garden. We were there last year with a DotA 2 event, which was pretty good for us. It’s an iconic venue. Obviously, now League of Legends had an event there as well. So it’s a big name, and the East Coast doesn’t really have a lot of high-scale eSports tournaments. We’re pretty happy to go back there for DotA 2. It will be the first big event DotA 2 after Valve’s The International (TI5), so for a lot of the new line-ups it will be a proving grounds of how well they can perform. Were these teams’ TI5 performances something that was just one time, or is it something that they can maintain long-term. And we’re looking forward to seeing that being tested.

And then you also will be heading to California?

With Intel Extreme Masters we go into San Jose and SAS Arena (home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks hockey team). We were there last year and had a good event. It’s the home of Intel, so it’s a pretty special place for them. We’ll be there again this year with League of Legends and Counter Strike for the first time. It will be the first huge event in North America for Counter Strike and we’re looking forward to it. North American fans have suffered a little bit when it comes to how many events they were able to attend for Counter Strike, but there’s a big community there so we’re hoping that they will travel to San Jose with several other thousands of fans to experience the same thing that people saw in Cologne.

Instagram’s New Advertising Initiatives

Instagram has found a great deal of success in its video and display ads, making a reasonable amount of money in the process. Now, it’s ready to push forward with a couple of new initiatives.

First up, according to this story from The Drum, the company is readying a new advertising push for Apple’s forthcoming 6S and 6S Plus models, which were unveiled this past week during Apple’s latest press conference. With this new ad program, Instagram intends to make use of the Apple’s 3D Touch displays for an elaborate new campaign, using the “three degrees of force” to create shortcuts and enable the user interface for better streamlining.

On top of that, Instagram also announced, via this report from Fortune, that it will expand its new “self-serve” option to any company in 30 countries, enabling more brands to advertise on its service. Previously, it had limited the program to a handful of specific brands in the United States.

Instagram made a statement about these new initiatives, stating, We re thrilled to make it easier for businesses of all sizes to reach people with more relevant ads on Instagram. We will continue to improve the feedback mechanisms within Instagram to give people greater control and improve the relevance of the ads they see.

Instagram has already seen a fair share of success from its advertising sales, although pressure is certainly there to keep performing well considering Facebook’s $1 billion investment in Instagram. Still, some believe that the company is ready for an even larger bankroll. Analysts at marketing software company Kenshoo believes that Instagram is already in line for an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue across the next three to four years, a reasonable piece of Facebook’s estimated $12.4 billion in annual revenue.

Clickthrough rates for Instagram’s ads are already showing that kind of progress, with users being two and a half times more likely to click on ads than on other social media platforms, according to Kenshoo. David Zelniker, product manager for the team, stated that advertisers are prepared to move out of the “experimental” phase with Instagram, ready to reach users on a whole new level.

Now it’s just a matter of seeing how effective these new formats are and how delicately Instagram handles ads so that they don’t flood the overall experience. We’ll see how it fares over the next few years.

Native Videos Taking Over Twitter

Facebook has already come a long way when it comes to native videos on its website, drawing a huge audience as a result. Now, according to a report from social analytics provider Socialbakers, it’s Twitter’s turn.

Initially reported by Adweek‘s Social Times page, the report states that, based on analytics from the 500 largest brand profiles on Twitter for the first half of the year, two facts have clearly emerged:

  • Native videos are about to surpass videos shared from YouTube.
  • Brands are posting slightly more videos from Periscope than from Vine.

As you can see from the first chart above, YouTube videos have had a strong lead when it comes to videos posted by the top 500 brands out there. However, there’s a strong indication that Twitter has seen a rise, going from around 500 at the start of the year to 1,200 — and closing in on YouTube’s figures. Meanwhile, Vine and Periscope videos seem to be going neck-and-neck, following what appeared to be a large gap between the two at the beginning of the year. Both now sit around the 300 mark.

This second chart has a story to tell as well. Based on interactions on videos posted to Twitter by the top 500 brands over the six month period, there’s been very little difference, although native videos on Twitter seem to have a strong hold. Across the six months, the popularity of these videos have shown, going anywhere between 62 percent and just over 70 percent. Meanwhile, YouTube video interactions have only been in the ten to 20 percent range, while Vine videos have grown to about the same level as they started out at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, Periscope video interactions are growing slowly but surely, with July 2015 showing about a four percent mark — higher than at the start of the year.

While it’s unknown if  Twitter’s native video division could be as popular as Facebook’s, these numbers are bound to be music to a few marketers’ ears.

ION Ranks YouTube’s Biggest Unboxing Stars

It’s true. There are some YouTubers out there who have made a name for themselves and built huge audiences just by unboxing some cool stuff from brands. Boxes aren’t just things holding objects anymore: the act of unboxing is an experience that viewers are vicariously getting a lot out of.

Gaming Insiders: ‘Cutting Edge Insights and Real Data’

The games industry, like other major industries, has its fair share of trade shows, conventions, and gatherings to bring members of the industry together. Gaming Insiders Summit isn’t trying to be a trade show or an exhibition, but instead it’s bringing together professionals in the game industry to network and discuss the top issues of the day.

Gaming Insiders, which bills itself as “the leading network for professionals in the videogame industry,” offers a weekly newsletter as well as carefully curated communities for professionals to share ideas on topics such as Growth, Free to Play games, Design, Kids, VR, and Tech. The upcoming Gaming Insiders Summit 2015, being held this September 24th and 25th at the Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco, brings together a wide range of professionals to make deals, share knowledge, and network.

The founder of Gaming Insiders, David Kaye, spoke with [a]listdaily about the Summit and what it means to the participants.

David Kaye

Gaming Insiders Summit is a unique event for gaming professionals — can you tell us how it started, and how it’s grown to its current size and importance?

Gaming Insiders grew out of our online community of gaming professionals who use our network to share their thoughts, opinions and contacts. The Summit has grown alongside the community, and we’ve always tried hard to curate the events as carefully as the membership. I think that’s given us a reputation for putting the right people in the same room.

Why should industry professionals, and especially marketers, attend the Gaming Insiders Summit?

For marketers in particular, our Growth group has become the largest and most active group of professionals sharing cutting edge insights and real data. We’ve drawn the speakers for the Growth track (our largest at the Summit) directly from this group. There are two kinds of people you learn the most from: domain experts who have solved similar problems, and people with different experiences that can help you approach things from another perspective. You’ll find both in our sessions.

Tell us about some the speakers and what they’re speaking about at the Summit.

There’s a lot I’m looking forward to, but here are a few: Alex Rigopulos will be talking about the future of Harmonix on new platforms and the changing publishing and funding landscape. Warner Bros Interactive has had an incredible year — David Haddad will be talking about their secret sauce. Dan Gray from ustwo, who led development on Monument Valley, will be talking about why they chose VR for their next project.

What do you think are going to be the hottest issues in the gaming industry that will be discussed at the Summit and beyond?

Several themes and questions run through several of the sessions. First, where are the new market opportunities, both geographically and from a platform perspective How do you deal, both tactically and strategically, with a gaming landscape that is so diverse and competitive Now that commercial VR is on the horizon, what kind of experiences will bring in mainstream audiences

What’s the game you are most looking forward to playing in the next few months?

Fallout 4 and Campo Santo’s Firewatch. The Campo Santo team is phenomenally talented, and I think it’s going to be one of the most compelling narrative gaming experiences of the year. You can catch Sean Vanaman from Campo Santo at the Summit.

How GoPro Became The Internet’s Most Social Brand

GoPro is a company that isn t afraid to go to the extreme, judging by all the sports athletes and other people that use its camera line. And thanks to some savvy marketing by the company, it appears to be paying off in a big way.

This report from Adweek states that the company s know-how in digital marketing has been a big pay-offs, as the NPD estimates that the top five best-selling digital cameras and camcorders are all in the GoPro line. One observer made note last year of this trend, stating, “GoPro has gone from being a niche tech brand to an almost unprecedented digital chronicler of life in all its forms.”

The company managed to do this on a small budget, working within a multi-channel strategy with its video line-up. As a result, it s become one of YouTube s hottest brands, estimating one billion total views thus far and rising.

This success was reached with a combination of in-house curators, strategic partners and camera-brandishing consumers, according to the article. User-generated content helped drum up business on a minimal budget, and enabled it to extend its social outreach to over 20 million followers on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other channels.

With the user content, GoPro was able to gather data based on its consumers and products, putting it to good use for its social feeds. There are different things for each site, like a guidance tool for cameras on Reddit and specific channels, such as Family Time and Love, on Pinterest. Its slogan, Be a Hero, also inspires newcomers to give the gear a try in many unique ways.

“We believe there’s a strong correlation between viewership of GoPro content and sales of our products,” GoPro CEO Nick Woodman noted recently. “We refer to this as our virtuous cycle. Our investments and product development efforts center around reducing the friction associated with capturing, editing and sharing engaging content, which goes on to virally drive awareness of our brand and adoption of our products.”

Partnerships have gone a long way for the company as well, including Xbox, Roku, Virgin America in-flight entertainment and Vessel, with the ability to watch content and even purchase gear in not-so-typical shopping fashion.

With an array of engaging content, GoPro has managed to do quite well for itself with its digital marketing, even without the muscle of a full-blown, multi-million dollar budget. In fact, some marketing companies would probably be wise to set up a similar program, in the hopes of riding the wave.

More information on this report can be found here. Sample videos of GoPro s success can be seen below.

Uber Takes Cues From Airlines, Gets Into Content

When consumers travel on airlines, they usually have the convenience of reading an in-flight magazine to pass the time. Now, it appears that Uber is following suit.

A report from TechCrunch indicates that the popular catch a ride company has launched a new in-car magazine that launched in New York this week. Titled Arriving Now, the publication enables riders to have something to read as they travel to their destination.

This blog post details just what consumers can expect from the magazine, including the quick summary below:

In celebration of Fashion Week (which kicks off today in NYC), Arriving Now’s first edition is packed with pro tips, hotspots, and exclusive details about upcoming promotions. You may also recognize cover girl Olivia Palermo, one of NYC s more influential fashionistas, who dishes on her favorite shops, trends, and love of New York inside Arriving Now.

While it may seem odd for a car-based company to launch its own magazine, it does make sense, considering that Uber has a large user base that relies on the call-for-a-ride service on a daily basis. And it could improve upon its brand experience with a number of other services, as suggested by TechCrunch.

Always-on touch screens could probably be coming soon enough to a car near you, allowing users more ways to interact with Uber s continually growing on-demadn services that don t necessarily involve getting people from place-to-place, it reads. This includes making suggestions near your destination, such as where to grab a bite to eat or other information regarding the area.

Uber hasn t stated when the magazine will expand to new markets, or when (or even if) the touch-screen technology is on par to arrive soon. But one thing s for sure in one form or another, it ll keep trying to make its ride smoother for consumers.

Instagram Users Are 3x More Likely To Use Snapchat

We already know how wildly popular Snapchat is, with millions of users partaking in temporary messages through their mobile devices. However, it may not be the only player in the game when it comes to quick sharing.

AdWeek recently reported that, based on findings by GlobalWebIndex, Instagram Direct could have the potential to take market share from Snapchat, despite the fact that Snapchat has been around since December 2013.

“It’s only a recent upgrade that has brought the service’s in-app chat feature into the spotlight,” Said GWI.

“Instagram’s active users are already keen on instant messaging apps. More than one-half are actively using Facebook Messenger, and 47 percent are WhatsApp users. What’s more, over two-thirds are using at least one of the two Facebook-owned apps. However, poaching users from these platforms is unlikely to be the reasoning behind Instagram Direct.

“Instead, we should be looking at what is arguably Direct’s most obvious competition — Snapchat. Instagrammers are more than three times as likely as the average to be using Evan Spiegel’s chat app, and hence, Instagram Direct could give these users a reason to stay in the platform.”

The infographic above also shows the potential of messaging apps amongst Instagram users, including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp with a majority of the percentage, followed by Snapchat in a distant fourth place with 19 percent.

It’s a little too soon to tell at this point if Instagram really does pose a serious threat, especially considering how popular Snapchat has become over the past year, with its various partners and millions of users. That said, there’s always room for new competition. Case in point — Meerkat was trying to dominate the mobile streaming scene, only to have Twitter’s Periscope come in and steal its thunder.

We’ll just have to see how much Instagram Direct builds from here.

Soft Launching A Mobile Game Increases Retention 5-10% On Day One

Most mobile games these days have similar behavior when it comes to launch — they get attention the first few weeks, only to see it drift off as new applications arise. However, according to deltaDNA’s Dr. Isaac Roseboom, there may be a strategy that can keep retention on the rise.

Pocket Gamer recently posted an article featuring Roseboom’s thoughts on the matter, where the article states, “the most important part of the process is how and when you introduce your game to its potential audience. Of course, this can be done in many ways; from internal concept testing to friends and family, closed alphas and betas, etc.”

The article also indicates that soft launch is critical for a game’s success. “What used to be a quick ‘month in Canada’ to bug check has now in some cases become a year long iterative process in half a dozen countries, including in Asia and the Middle East, to carve out the game that players actually want from the designer’s initial concept.”

Roseboom stated that launch can be everything. “The most obvious and important thing to focus on during soft launch is your game’s onboarding funnel,” he said, pointing out a process where players download the game and play through a tutorial, hoping to find something for the long-term. “You need to test everything. Who’s dropping out during the download. Why Are you seeing lots of people quitting during the tutorial How about post-tutorial”

As you can see from the chart below, certain games tend to have different retention following launches, with a soft launch having better stability for retention in the long run.

The only problem is how to make the tutorial process work for the player. Some companies go too far with polish on that end, to the point that they’re stuck going through an automatic loop, instead of putting the game in the player’s hands.

According to Roseboom, the median time for a mobile game in “soft launch” is 40 days, and 68 percent of mobile game spending actually goes towards titles that last more than one month in soft launch.

Other stats from Roseboom indicate that games that spend less than one month in soft launch have a median day one retention of 27 percent, but games that spend more than one month in soft launch have a higher day one retention of 32 percent.

Games that spend more than a month in soft launch during retention by five to ten percent, which results in a boost in terms of in-game spending by 16-33 percent.

Keeping players engaged is a crucial part of the process, according to Roseboom, and making sure that monetization is properly tested. “Sometimes people can worry too much about their KPIs, especially when it comes to soft launch monetization,” he said. “In reality, there is a grace period once you’ve launched your game globally when you can tweak monetization, but this doesn’t apply to retention, as you risk turning off your most loyal fans in the early days with bad gameplay.”

“You can always monetize a fun game,” he concluded.

More info on Roseboom’s findings can be found here.

DeNA West CEO: ‘Marketing Is More Expensive Than Creating a Game’

As the mobile games industry continues to grow, it’s altered the landscape of the gaming industry forever. While some of long-time game publishers are still thriving by adapting to the changes, others have departed (like THQ). Meanwhile, new companies have grown to join the ranks of the game companies with more than one billion dollars in annual revenue, though that is still a select club.

One of the companies to become a giant in the last decade is Japanese mobile game publisher DeNA, which is busy expanding its scope beyond Japan. With games like Star Wars: Galactic Defense, Marvel Mighty Heroes, and Transformers: Battle Tactics, DeNA is gaining ground in China, North America, and beyond. The company took a dramatic step earlier this year by announcing a business alliance with Nintendo, working together to create mobile games using Nintendo’s world-class intellectual property (IP).

DeNA West, the company’s San Francisco-based studio, is headed by CEO Shintaro Asako, who took some time from his busy day to speak with [a]listdaily about succeeding with mobile games

What’s the key to getting a good audience for your mobile game?

Your game has to be discoverable and sexy enough that people find your game and decide to download it, that’s really the first step. If you use [licensed] IP, chances are high that people will want to try your game. If you are not using [licensed] IP, you’d better have extremely interesting icons, or a massively effective marketing campaign, or convince Apple and Google to promote your game — whatever that is, you have to make your game discoverable. Not only that, then it has to be good enough, out of many other games, that the user decides try your game. There are tens of thousands of games available every day, and becoming one of the one or two games that people decide to try is pretty hard.

The game has to grab your attention right away. It has to be easy to understand, and there’s a mini game that keeps you coming back. Then, after a few days, you realize the game is not about that, it’s about a much deeper cycle.

We’ve seen more and more mobile games based on licenses like Star Wars, Marvel, Kim Kardashian, and The Walking Dead. Will licensed IP be used more often in the future to bring in players to mobile games Is it really that effective?

It’s become a really difficult market for small and medium sized studios. The top ten mobile publishers have over a billion dollar valuation, so they tend to acquire bigger IP to distinguish their games from the rest of them. Those IP based titles give you must more efficient user acquisition. Some people spend a million dollars to create a game, some spend five million dollars to create a game. But really, the marketing the game — especially user acquisition — is way more expensive than creating the game itself. The reality is that by using IP, you get much better CPI (cost per install), versus a non-IP based title. So even if you have to pay 15 percent or even 20 percent to the IP holder, the efficiency of acquiring a user is quite high.

DeNA has entered into a historic partnership with Nintendo to create mobile games based on Nintendo’s IP. What’s the potential for these games in a mobile marketplace that’s already crowded with titles?

Hundreds of millions of people have bought Nintendo consoles. Those are people who decided to spend a minimum of $200 just to get access to Nintendo IP. That number is already twice as big as the Candy Crush total user base. Not only that, every single person buying Nintendo devices spends an average of about $100 per year on software. So I have no question that when Nintendo’s mobile games come out, at least 150 or 200 million people will try it. These people are super core Nintendo fans who used to spending $150 to $250 just to access the content.

What marketing strategy do you think will be necessary for Nintendo’s mobile games

We know Nintendo IP is powerful, but we need to let people know the game is coming out. From that perspective I think mass marketing makes sense for Nintendo games. Usually you have more on digital marketing and later on the mass marketing kicks in, because you don’t want to start mass marketing until you’ve evaluated LTV (long-term value), because otherwise you might be wasting money. When you have strong IP like Nintendo you can kind of predict what kind of installs you can get, so to reach the level of mass-marketing isn’t that much of a risk.

There’s been several high-profile TV advertising campaigns for mobile games, during the last year. Will we be seeing more TV advertising for mobile games from DeNA?

While we haven’t spent a significant amount of money on TV advertising in the US, I think the best target TV program is something you have to see live, like sports. We try to measure the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns, and if you watch the TV program on a delay I can’t do that. That’s why we want to pick live games so that we can see if the installs spike up, so we know exactly who came in through the TV commercial. Then we can keep track of these people and how much money they spend.