Snapchat Ready To Make Money With Selfie Features

The selfie. We all take them, whether we’re on vacation, attending a sporting event, or just want to show the world whatever we’re doing at the time, to capture us “in the moment.” And now, in its latest move in advertising, Snapchat wants to take selfies to another level.

The Financial Times recently reported that the company has begun offering sponsored “lenses” on its service, which enables users to add graphics, such as big eyes or vomiting rainbows, to their photos and videos that are shared with other users.

The ad format rolled out a couple of weeks ago, and Snapchat is asking companies to pay $750,000 for a one-day use of the program with their particular products. This is during “big name” holidays like Halloween and Christmas. The rest of the year, the charge will only be $450,000 a day.

That’s pretty steep, but Snapchat is no stranger to charging big bucks for advertising on its service which some companies showed hesitation over. Regardless, it’s proven to be a worthy investment, as we’ve noted in the past, thanks to Snapchat’s millions of users. Even if the message is only temporary, it’s still sounded loud and clear for them to see.

A recent campaign for iHeartRadio, for instance, managed to nail 340 million impressions over two days, while other popular creators, such as Gary Rojas and ScottySire, manage to wrangle an average of 300,000 to 400,000 views per Snapchat Story.

The introduction of such a program introduces a personal touch to the service, similar to other ones that have been rolled out in the past, in the hopes of optimizing the user’s service so that they can add something personal to it. Companies can easily add items from their products that would find use in videos and photos, such as a biking helmet for a popular motorcycle chain, or characters from a popular video game. (These are merely examples, but you can see how easily they would work.)

We’ll see just how effective this program is and more importantly, who buys in over the next few months.

The State of Indie Gaming

One of the most impressive advances in the game industry over the past few years has been the tremendous expansion of independent (“indie”) game developers. This is a return to the roots of electronic gaming, when games we constructed in their entirety by a single person. It wasn’t until graphics became more detailed, and hardware became more complicated, that more than one person was needed to create games. This evolved into a world where the top, AAA games could have teams in the hundreds, with budgets surpassing $100 million.

Throughout this evolution, though, the desire to create games on a smaller, more personal level remained. Indie developers were scarce until Flash-based games were put on the Internet, and sites like Kongregate (now owned by GameStop) provided a way to bring lots of people to the games. Now, with far better tools for building games that are free to small developers (like Unity and Unreal Engine), hundreds of university programs offering degrees in game design and creation, and mulitple fully developed digital distribution systems like Steam, the App Store, and Google Play, the number of indie developers has exploded. Now we have over 4 million Unity developers, to cite just one game creation engine. Every day, according to the company, over 600 million gamers play a game created with Unity.

Indie games have now become a common part of every major game platform. The vast majority of games you’ll find on mobile devices come from indie developers, for example. Sure, most of them don’t have much of an audience or create much revenue, but we still regularly see an indie game like Crossy Road become a huge hit. A number of indie developers are now creating successful games for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 and even the Wii U, as all the console manufacturers have realized that having more games (and interesting variety of them) is beneficial to the platform.

What benefits do indie games have for the industry One of the most important is providing a level of innovation that’s hard to find with major game publishers. As game budgets increase, there’s a very natural tendency to become more conservative in game design choices. Would you risk $50 million on a completely new game design that’s very different from anything else, or a sequel to a known hit with some minor changes and advances The choice is an easy one for large game publishers.

For indie game developers, though, the logic works the other way. Building a game that’s very much like an existing blockbuster game from a major publisher is a losing strategy the big publisher’s already got a huge audience and a vast marketing budget and a known brand. Why would more than a handful of contrarians try your little game They wouldn’t, at least not in enough numbers to make you a living. So indies typically take more creative risks in an effort to stand out from the crowd and attract an audience. Yes, that usually fails, but occasionally it’s a moderate success and sometimes it’s a mega-hit.

Perhaps the best example of how indie games can affect the entire industry is the incredible success of Minecraft. This was a game created by a lone programmer, which gradually found an audience in its early days of alpha builds. The game spread virally and has become an enormous hit, with somewhere in the region of 50 million copies sold. Microsoft bought the company that created Minecraft for $2.5 billion, and most observers feel the company got a bargain. The game has, among other things, shown that a $6.99 mobile game can sell tens of millions of copies. Also, that clearly not every game needs terrific graphics to be an incredible success, and that user-generated content that’s readily shareable is a valuable marketing tool (as the billions of Minecraft YouTube video views can attest).

Major publishers are supportive of indie developers, even in some cases allowing in-house projects to create “indie” games. Ubisoft did this with Child of Light, a critically acclaimed game that was built in-house. Both Microsoft and Sony have been increasing their support for indie developers, now regularly featuring those developers and their games on-stage at major press events. Apple has been bringing on indie developers during its last few major hardware introductions to show off the power of the new hardware.

In fact, the huge number of indie developers and indie games has sparked concerns that we me heading towards an “indiepocalypse,” where too many developers creating too many games may drive many of these small developers out of business. “Everyone’s looking back at this golden age of indie games, when you released a game and it got coverage and you made a ton of money,” said tinyBuild’s Alex Nichiporchik. “Times change. Everyone’s making games now. All of the engines are competing on which one makes it easiest to make a game. It’s great for the industry and for creativity, but it does mean that unless you take that extra step or do something special it’s going to be really, really difficult for you.”

Nichiporchik’s answer has been to develop games across a wide variety of platforms.In targeting multiple platforms, Nichiporchik says, tinyBuild has noticed a surprising amount of crossover between communities, with sales and activity on one platform generally leading to more sales and more activity on another. “We released Divide By Sheep on Steam and on mobile, and there was a cumulative effect,” he says. “People playing it, streaming it and making user videos on Steam, and that translating directly into sales for mobile.”

The IndieCade Festival 2015 is coming up in Los Angeles later this month it’s the biggest event dedicated to celebrating independent games, and this year it looks to be bigger than ever. Attendees will get the chance to play over 150 indie games, and check out the latest innovations in game design. It’s a perfect opportunity to gauge for yourself the impact that indie games continue to have on the game industry in general.

Organic Retention Is Strongest For Apps

While the effectiveness of certain mobile app advertisements may be in question — especially with so many ad-blocker services available — it appears that organic ads still click with certain audiences.

A report from AppsFlyer (as reported by Adweek) {link no longer active} indicates that, according to their study, organic installs actually have a higher retention rate than ad-based installs. This was based upon more than 450 million installs from clients across both iOS and Android platforms, from May to July. However, only applications with more than 5,000 installs were considered.


The chart above, tracking Android devices, indicates that organic retention actually has a higher effective rate than paid apps, with 46 percent on the first day, rocketing up to 156 percent by Day 30.

Chart 10022

Meanwhile, over on IOS, the day one lead was a little smaller at 20 percent, but it showed similar results, as by Day 30, it reached a whopping 133 percent advantage over paid apps.

Facebook and Twitter also do quite well on both platforms when it comes to achieving application retention. In fact, apps advertised on Twitter managed to have a higher retention rate on Android, while Facebook did moderately well on both platforms.

Ran Avrahamy, head of marketing for AppsFlyer, had a lot to say when it came to the power of social networks in apps. “Just like in our Performance Index for the gaming industry, Facebook still reigns supreme in our power rankings, coming in at the top spot on both iOS and Android because of its rare combination of strong retention and unrivaled scale. Meanwhile, Twitter made the most significant leap in the power rankings, in large part due to its exceptional retention rates.”

Chart 10023

The measurements continued with this third chart, showcasing the top 25 non-gaming apps for Apple devices. Facebook’s dominance is easy to see, with Twitter not far behind, and Google AdWords, AppLovin and DataLead rounding out the top five.

Chart 10024

Meanwhile, over on Android, it’s a different story, as Twitter didn’t even crack the top five. Facebook is on top, followed by Mobvista, Cheetah Mobile, Google AdWords and AppFlood.

Speaking with (a)list daily, Avrahamy added, “We put this list together to help app marketers identify the best performing sources of high quality installs. Our research doesn’t say that mobile app ads don’t lead to high user retention, because they certainly do, especially in the cases of Twitter, Google AdWords, Cheetah Mobile, Facebook, AppLovin and the other networks in our Top 25.  As everyone knows, organic installs that come through word-of-mouth or from browsing the app store are always going to have higher retention, but app ads can absolutely drive highly engaged, long-time users as well.”

The full report can be found here.

Image source

Paul Kontonis Talks Marketing At Digiday

Digiday has certainly come a long way over the past few years, becoming one of the key sites out there for digital and marketing news. And now it’s got someone who will take its marketing to new heights.

Paul Kontonis has become the Chief Marketing and Communications officer for the site, prepared to assist with taking it to new heights. We recently had a chance to catch up with him about his new position, as well as the challenges that lie within it.

First of all, we talked about what initially brought him to the site. “I have been a reader of Digiday for a few years now and have always enjoyed their coverage of modern media and marketing,” he said. “They confront the underlying truths, trends and issues facing brands, agencies and publishers.”

Regarding his new role, Kontonis stated that “my focus will be on building the Digiday brand and influence across all forms of media. We have amazing editorial that is matched by impressive events and meaningful awards programs so we have a lot to offer our consumers.”

And even though Digiday has come a long way over the past few years, there’s plenty of room for it to grow. “The Digiday brand is about honesty over spin, curiosity and tenacity.  I see the brand as a true resource and authority in the world of digital media by a becoming the gathering point for influencers and enthusiasts alike online and in real life,” he said.

As for what brand and agency sides should be paying attention to when it comes to the marketing game, Kontonis stated, “Ad blocking is definitely a big issue that is not getting talked about enough. Tim Armstrong just said this week during Advertising Week, ‘Ad blocking is a definitive sign that marketers have to get our butt in gear.’ He was referring to the media industry as a whole with the ‘our butt’ comment.”

Not only are the websites evolving, but also relationships when it comes to brands, agencies and publishers, according to Kontonis. “Brands, agencies and publishers can be friends, lovers, enemies or strangers depending on the moment and sometimes they are all at once. Our editorial team, led by Brian Morrissey, tries to keep them all honest and highlight the success, failures and misfirings in a way to help them better navigate their interconnected businesses. It’s a unforgiving task at times but someone has to do it.”

You can check out Kontonis’ work along with the rest of the Digiday staff at this link. We’d like to congratulate him on the new position!

‘Block N Load’ Builds On Success

Despite the growth of mobile gaming, PC games continue to show strong success, between streaming sessions on Twitch and growing communities that show support for them. One of these games is Block N Load, an innovative first-person shooter from the publishers of Runescape, Jagex.

The game has gotten quite a bit of attention since its release earlier this year, with its unique visuals and fun, constantly-changing gameplay, as you can see from the trailer below. And now, Jagex hopes to continue that success, as the game has officially gone free-to-play, so anyone can try it out without gouging their wallets.

We had a chance to sit down with the game’s design director, Ben Smedstad, to get a better idea of just how successful Block N Load has become, as well as what’s coming next.

First off, what would you say about Block N Load‘s success in its first few months of release Has your team already built up an ample community surrounding the game?

We have a core of passionate, skilled gamers that make up the center of the Block N Load community. They are very active on the message boards, join our twice weekly streams and participate in our chats and matches. Block N Load would not be where it is today, either in depth or quality, without their support and involvement.

For those who aren’t familiar with Block N Load, what’s the best way to describe it?

It’s hard to do without clichés! It s a game where building is definitely as important as shooting. You have a wide selection of Heroes, each with special weapons, abilities and blocks.  You team up with four other folks, and are presented with an arena. You then have five minutes to build defenses around your bases, be as devious and smart as possible with turrets and landmines, traps and more. After those few minutes, the barriers are dropped and both teams set out to destroy enemy bases while defending their own. It s about teamwork, acting and reacting to what the other team is building and trying. Every single match is different and a win always feels rewarding. Lots of intense fun, in-game building and destroying. It s a whole new dimension in an FPS.

Did you get strong reception at the recent TwitchCon event What did you think about the event as a whole?

I wish I could have gone, but I had a lot of friends and former colleagues go to San Francisco to the Con. All were very excited when they came back, basically with the same message: You haven t seen anything yet, Twitch and streaming is going places.  I argue it already has and am really looking forward to seeing how far this medium can go.

Would you say a game like Block n Load can thrive with online streaming sessions on Twitch?

Block N Load is great fun to watch. When you get two teams going against each other who know what they are doing, the ballet of building and destruction is amazing to witness: The moves they make; the clever traps and choke points; fighting over vision, the supply drops or the Blockbuster Boost – or just stopping an attack on a generator, get your popcorn out… It s worth the watch. Our official streams are Mondays and Thursdays at 8pm BST and the community team will take good care of you.

You stated that some “major changes” are coming to Block n Load. What are players to expect from these changes, and when would you say they’re coming?

This is a complete re-launch, not just an update.  Here is a small summary of the changes:

A new Player and Hero Progression and rewards system; an entirely new Perks System; a challenge system; three new Heroes (for a total of 12); a new physics system; updated matchmaking and queuing; league features; a completely redone user interface; and more changes, balance tweaks and fixes than we can list here. A lot of work has gone into this Free-to-Play release, and we will continue to balance, polish and improve it for as long as it takes.

What’s probably the toughest part of promoting a game such as this to the Steam community or would you say the process is pretty easy?

Steam and its player community is great to be on and work with. We have found that people who try Block N Load for even a few matches, tend to stay and play and have a great time, but we have to get their interest in the first place. From there you hopefully have enough players to organically grow and say, Hey I tried out this game, it s cool and free, check it out, to others.

Is there any chance we’ll see Block n Load emerge on other platform’s consoles, perhaps?

Our focus is on PC right now, but nothing is off the table!

Finally, can we expect any expansions or sequels in the future?

Releasing our Free-to-Play update is just the next step for the game, not the last. New Heroes, new arenas, new modes and a lot more are on the way. We are listening and chatting to our community to see what they want in the future, whether it is specific heroes or balance, or whole new features they want to see in the future. That interaction really helps us to make the right decisions and prioritize what will come next for Block N Load.

Block n Load can be downloaded here.

Snapchat’s Content May Disappear, But It’s Influencers Aren’t

Snapchat has gone through many different evolutions in public perception. It’s latest evolution is largely due to the influence it’s strongest creators have had on the platform. They’re using it as a medium to create amazing art, distribute side-splittingly funny jokes and show what it’s like behind the scenes in their sometimes glamourous lives. You’ll see a few cross-over stars as well. Brittany Furlan, known as that very funny woman from Vine, and Casey Neistat, YouTube personality extraordinaire have both garnered sizeable audiences on the platform.

Although we may not be able to put numbers to the audience size these influencers wield on Snapchat quite yet, we suspect that shouldn’t matter to brands who want to engage with these Snapchatters’ tuned-in audiences.

Amazon’s Mike Frazzini on Community-Driven Gaming

Of all the vast changes in the game industry over the past few decades, perhaps none is more profound than the emergence of the gaming community. Yes, there have always been fans of games, but prior to the widespread adoption of the Internet those communities were fragmented and weakly connected. Game publishers spent most of their efforts connecting with retail store buyers, not customers. Now, though, with the Internet and social media connecting the world, publishers are finding that they need to develop an ongoing relationship with their audience.

Amazon’s Mike Frazzini, the vice president of Amazon Games, spoke at the Gaming Insiders Summit on Community-Driven Gaming. Amazon’s been in the business of games long before it started producing its own games or before it bought Twitch last year for nearly $1 billion. Frazzini noted that many game developers use Amazon Web Services to provide a scalable back end for their games. “AWS is heavily used by game developers,” Frazzini said. “The cloud takes the fixed costs associated with back-ends and make it a variable cost.” That’s a huge benefit to game publishers, who unlike many other service providers tend to see enormous changes over time in server usage. A new game often has a huge initial server load as everyone tries to play online at once, and then it can rapidly fall back to a lower level. Just as quickly, though, server usage can ramp up when a marketing campaign hits or some new DLC is released, so flexibility is valuable.

But Amazon has gone far beyond providing the unseen plumbing for games. Now Amazon’s commitment to games includes Twitch, which is heavily game-focused (with over 50% of its traffic coming from gaming content), and Amazon Game Studios, which is building PC games.

“Why did Amazon acquire Twitch ,” asked interviewer Michael Metzger. “We always start with the customers and players stream games,” Frazzini said. “Twitch showed gamers coming together to create new experiences,” he added, which was an important feature for Amazon. The company is looking for ways to engage gamers and get them excited, and Twitch was demonstrating that in new ways. Moreover, it was engaging the gaming community and building new communities around games.

“What has happened with Twitch since the acquisition ,” Metzger inquired. Frazzini didn’t hesitate. “What we said was job one was to not change a whole lot,” Frazzini stated. He explained that decision was an easy one for Amazon to make. “If you’ve met them [the Twitch team], the team is very focused on the long term,” Frazzini noted. “Twitch has1.5 million unique broadcasters every month, over 20 billion minutes viewed every month, and 100 million viewers every month.” Why would anyone want to mess with that sort of success Not Amazon.

Still, Amazon saw more in Twitch than just the impressive numbers. “Community is central to where the game industry is going,” Frazzini said. Twitch’s terrific numbers flow from that reality, as gamers are thrilled to share with one another their fascinating experiences in gaming. “What are the rise of community-driven games, and what does it mean ,” Metzger asked. “Games bring people together, they always have,” Frazzini said. “From the earliest days of gaming there were vibrant communities. In the ’90s the idea of local co-op emerged. Later, online gaming really brought it out. Now we see communities expanding along many dimensions, very quickly.”

Frazzini used a simple illustration to underscore the importance of community. “The notion that so much of your Star Wars experience exists outside of the movies, that informs what we do with games,” Frazzini said. He noted that for the huge number of Star Wars fans, the experience isn’t just the movies it’s the books, the toys, the games, the t-shirts, and the animated discussions that fans have with each other over the minute details of the Star Wars universe. For fans, Star Wars doesn’t just mean experiences it means friends, and a community drawn together by a common passion. That’s what drives game communities.

Frazzini saw tremendous value in eSports as another passion that helps build gaming communities. “We think eSports is just getting started,” Frazzini said. “We’re going to see more games where eSports are deeply contemplated early in the development process. As an example, on Twitch the final for the Rocket League tournament was ridiculously exciting.” Frazzini sees eSports as a key driver for the future of Twtich.

“What advice would you give to developers ,” Metzger inquired. Frazzini responded, “Mobile, free-to-play, VR, they are all fantastic things. But I think that experience and the community are more important how do you get people engaged and enjoying your product That’s what you need to figure out first. Then you can decide on the platform. Create a community and build from that base.”

‘Hunt the Truth’ Campaign Takes Cinemagraphs A Step Further With Audio

If you haven’t noticed, cinemagraphs have been having a moment. Brands like Budweiser, Toyota and Netflix have utilised the format to draw eyes with the subtly animated images. It’s easy to see why these eye-catching visuals are hard to ignore in your stream. To draw in Halo fans to the Hunt the Truth podcast, Ayzenberg took cinemagraphs to the next level to convert more listeners: they added audio.


By pairing the most compelling audio moments from the podcast with these cinemagraphs, it created a new, unique medium that provided fans with a stand-alone experience to enjoy. Somewhere between the gif and a video, audio cinemagraphs have served as something of a trailer for the podcast’s second season. Check out our interview with Noah Eichen about creating the audio series and how it fits into the Halo universe.