The ‘BattleTech’ Franchise Storms Onto Kickstarter

The storied BattleTech franchise, which has generated a number of best-selling games on a variety of platforms in its over 30 years of existence, is coming back thanks to the new Kickstarter by Hare-Brained Schemes. The team is building a skirmish wargame for PCs using Unity 5, and players will be able to build and customize their own gigantic robotic war machines in the tradition of the franchise. Stretch goals include a single-player campaign (already unlocked after one day!) and ultimately, the much-anticipated multiplayer battle mode that will be built if the campaign reaches $2.5 million.

So far, the BattleTech campaign is off to a roaring start, with over 16,000 backers in little more than a day raising over $1 million, and the numbers are still climbing. It’s a testament to the strength of this gaming brand, and the efforts put in ahead of time by Hare-Brained Schemes to raise awareness about the upcoming Kickstarter. HBS CEO and co-founder Jordan Weisman spoke with [a]listdaily today about the progress of the Kickstarter, marketing, and the evolution of crowdfunding.

You’ve already collected over a $1 million on your first day, with over 16,000 backers. Are you surprised at how fast BattleTech is getting support?

Yes and no. It’s been fantastic, and we had hoped it would be a good start because we met fans at GenCon and PAX, and we’ve been corresponding with them in the various BattleTech communities, and they have been very enthusiastic. We had hoped for a large start Mitch [Gitelman, HBS co-founder and studio manager] had assembled this concept of Alpha Strike, which we tried to really encourage BattleTech fans to be there on Day 1, and boy did they do that. That part exceeded our expectations in how many showed up on Day 1 and how generous they’ve been.

You committed to building the basic BattleTech game yourself to start the Kickstarter off, where most Kickstarters are looking to fund the game entirely. Why did you choose to do things this way?

I think the previous support of the audience has allowed us to create and publish four games, and those games have generated some revenue that allows us to invest in this title. We didn’t think it was fair to ask the backers to bear the responsibility for funding the whole title. We’re not in the position we were three and a half years ago when we went to Kickstarter the first time with Shadowrun where we we really couldn’t have afforded to do anything on the title without their support. Here we can make a good skirmish game, something we’d be very proud of for BattleTech, with our own resources. We knew our own desires, and from talking to the players we knew their desires, but to get to a big rich story campaign, and hopefully multiplayer, those were the extensions we needed to ask the fans to help us with if they wanted to see that in this first title.

Kickstarter has been undergoing some changes, moving to a public benefit corporation structure. Do you think this changes anything for companies like HBS creating projects for Kickstarter?

I don’t think their organizational changes have changed our thinking very much. Crowdfunding overall is, as one would expect, is going to go through continued evolution, like we went from 1.0 to 2.0. I think it’s already been evolving, but that evolution is going to accelerate. It’ll be interesting what happens with the platform and not just Kickstarter, but the concept overall. It’ll be interesting to see how people react to Fig, and people using their own platforms as opposed to a centralized platform like Kickstarter. It’s a creative evolution and it will be interesting to see where things are in a couple of years.

How has your approach to creating, launching, and running a Kickstarter changed since you’ve already done several Kickstarters Is it getting easier or more difficult?

I think overall there’s an increasing amount of sophistication on the part of both the people doing the projects and the audience, the backers, and both of those are good things. It does mean you need to do more prep, you need to do more investment before you come to the platform. It used to be that people would view crowdfunding as a form of marketing. Now you need to do a lot of marketing before you come to crowdfunding in order to build that audience and to break out of the noise. It’s definitely a changing situation.

The biggest thing we’ve learned, and this is someplace that us coming out of pen and paper business all those years ago has been a huge advantage, is that in the pen and paper business you’re used to a very intimate relationship with your audience. As opposed to people who grew up only on the video game side, where you had a very distant relationship with your actual audience. Because of that, this dialog that’s so important, and this transparency that’s so important, and the realtionship that’s forged in crowdfunding between you and your audience, that comes much more natural to Mitch and I and other members of the team because that’s what we grew up with. That comfort level of being really transparent, both with good news and bad news, saying no and being comfortable to say no to requests and being able to explain why, you have to be comfortable and have that level of access to your audience for this thing to go really well.

What’s your marketing plan beyond Kickstarter, as you get into launch What have you learned from your other games?

It’s a really important point. There are a lot of companies both digital and tabletop now, whose only marketing and delivery is through Kickstarter. For us we view Kickstarter and our backers as the people who are bringing this title to a wider audience. In Shadowrun that’s been very successful. By the time the game comes to market and has been there a couple of years, our backers were a small percentage of our total audience size for Shadowrun. That’s our plan for BattleTech as well.

We spend considerably more than every dollar we get, so if we don’t sell the game to a lot more people afterwards we’re in real trouble. But we do view this as help getting through the starting point as opposed to being the ending point of the product. In terms of marketing, we do have to spend money on marketing as the games launch. We haven’t spent huge amounts of money on marketing because we’re not at a size yet where we can really afford to do that. One of the other benefits of having built a community before the game launches is that members of the community themselves are a big part of helping us get the word out. In the case of Shadowrun, we had more than 30,000 people who were already in the camp when that came out, and they were able to tell people “Wow, this game’s good!” That helped an enormous amount.

Glu Ushers In A New ‘Bond’ Era On Mobile

There’s a brand new James Bond movie, Spectre, opening Nov. 6 from Sony Pictures and MGM, but for the first time in the modern Bond era there’s no new console game. Activision, which released Quantum of Solace, James Bond: Blood Stone, 007 Goldeneye and 007 Legends with previous Daniel Craig film releases, is out of the Bond games business. Instead, EON Productions and MGM Interactive have partnered with Glu Mobile to launch James Bond: World of Espionage, a narrative-based, strategy role-playing game (RPG) platform that will evolve over the coming years as a parallel universe that offers tie-ins to the next two Bond films.

The freemium game puts players in the role of commander of their very own intelligence agency as they work to take on the coveted role of “M” head of MI6 HQ in London. In addition to featuring photos from the entire cast of Spectre, the game includes over 100 real-world actors and models as agents and villains that players will interact with.

Glu Mobile CEO Niccolo de Masi explains why this new game is the only option for Bond fans for the foreseeable future in this exclusive interview.

Niccolo de Masi, Glu Mobile CEO

Niccolo de Masi, Glu Mobile CEO

What were your goals heading into James Bond: World of Espionage?

This game is the product of an over two-year collaboration between Glu, MGM Interactive, and EON Productions. It’s part of the evolution of the Bond franchise from the Pierce Brosnan era to the Daniel Craig era to make the franchise more cerebral and closer to the roots of the Ian Fleming novels. This game will follow the films’ tone in that it’s a darker world that involves moral decision-making and ethical dilemmas. It’s a strategy game where you’re deploying Bond and other agents and competing with other players around the world to build the most successful MI6 spy agency.

How did you design this gameplay experience?

Like the recent films, the game’s about deploying resources to use your brain as well as brawn with on-the-ground tactics to achieve missions that your country needs. We did a lot of research with real former members of MI6 and other intelligence officers.

We believe this strategy game opens up an audience beyond male gamers. Because you’re using your brain to make decisions and not shooting, there’s more appeal to women than prior Bond games. We interviewed a number of people from MI6 and there’s much more intrigue than punching someone in the face when it comes to the intelligence field. That’s what we’re bringing to this game.

What separates this mobile experience from any previous James Bond games?

We’ve designed this photorealistic RTS/RPG game so it can be played together in short sessions. It’s not a Twitch game. It’s not a shooter.

The mobile space is a platform perfectly designed for RTS/RPGs like Clash of Clans and Game of War. This is a new take that’s modern and photorealistic. It doesn’t feature cartoony graphics or fantasy elements. It’s serious with its own story. We’ll have updates with tie-ins to Spectre and the next movie.

How did you work with the cast of Spectre?

This is the first James Bond game with its own cast. We cast 100 real-life people using help from MGM and EON to build out the cast of the game. We’ve also added in Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes and the current cast of Spectre.

We have our own universe which connects to the cast of the film and we’ve been working with MGM and EON on a more relaxed basis to develop this game, since we don’t have to follow a film release schedule. This game’s relation to the film is more like Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD television show and the Marvel’s Avengers films.

Do you see this as the end of James Bond console games?

Never say never. But I do believe that we’re the first game launching of the new Bond era. It’s the first free-to-play game and mobile game. I’m not aware of a console game coming out with the new film. And there’s certainly no game coming out like this one. It’s going to have the field to itself.

Skyfall has broken all box office records and the Broccoli/Wilson family believe that’s happened because they’ve evolved the Bond franchise in the right direction for this audience and it goes back to Bond’s roots.

What opportunities does the Spectre film release open up for this game?

We’ll be in the perception stream for the movie marketing around Spectre. We can capitalize on that awareness for the movie. There will be updates to the game that will add the Spectre content between now and the end of the year.

Ultimately, there will be updates for a number of years. There will be characters and narrative that complements a movie launch. But we’re never going to be a movie game. We’re not trying to promote the movies. We’ve had a lot of creative freedom to develop this game as its own parallel universe.

Will there be advertising in movie theaters for the game attached to Spectre?

james bond mobile game

Screenshot provided by Glu Mobile.

Mobile games can have 100 million installs, but movie advertising doesn’t drive that many consumers to a game. It’ll come from its standalone gameplay. Strategy gamers are very engaged and they drive very high lifetime value for games. It’s not the volume that matters, but the players who make it competitive. This genre has an intrinsically narrower audience, but the Bond IP could broaden it out and we’ve designed our game to appeal to both male and female gamers.

How are you marketing this game?

We’re focusing on digital advertising and targeting mobile gamers. As a company, we make 20% of revenue on ads and we spend 20% of revenue on ads. We are global experts on how we target advertising. We see Bond as an overlap yellow property that you can advertise in the mobile ecosystem and target both male and female gamers.

Can you talk about the online gameplay experience?

This is an online only game; and the most connected game Glu has ever built. It’s a heavily clan-based experience. We’ll be updating it weekly and listening to player feedback on how the experience evolves when it comes to things like clan engagement and their own experiences with the game.

We could potentially have a competition and the winners could make it into the game as an official character. This is the kind of experience we want for the next generation of Bond gamers. And we’ll listen to what our players want.

Why not go the direction of a mobile shooter?

We’re expecting a lot more people to play the game by virtue of the Bond IP than otherwise. Some people will be disappointed that it’s not a shooter, but the game is reflecting the modern day Bond franchise. It’s not about shooting someone in the head.

The RTS/RPG genre is more effective in mobile than shooters, and it fits with the IP direction. It was a brave editorial decision when they cast Daniel Craig as the new Bond, but that risk paid off. There’s a lot of enthusiasm around us doing this in the gaming space. We’re in this for the long haul. It’ll take some time for people to realize where Bond and gaming is today.

How eSports Will Become A Billion Dollar Business

eSports has been on the rise for several years now, building up speed not only with big tournaments, but also with streaming on Twitch and even broadcasts on channels like ESPN and forthcoming coverage from TBS. But just how much money is it primed to make over the next few years

According to estimates from Newzoo, it has the potential to reach the billion-dollar mark by 2020 — yep, eSports are likely to become that popular.

Revenues have gained with tournaments, partnerships, players and other degrees of eSports, and have also reached mainstream audiences through its various broadcasts and other products. But it’s all about how eSports keeps this momentum going in the long run, if Newzoo’s numbers are correct.

The company broke down the success of eSports into five different factors, which can be found below, taken straight from the article:

Diversity of Game Genres?

The vast majority of eSports titles are PC games that fall into a few major genres, with MOBAs like League of Legends, Smite, Heroes of the Storm and DotA2 being some of the most popular in terms of participation. However, with their complex game play, MOBA games can be difficult for viewers who don’t play them to understand and for gamers to master. Would more accessible game genres and segments gain a wider audience and player base

Riding the wave of ESL One, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Valve’s multiplayer first-person shooter, took over Twitch with the most hours watched for a game in one day, beating out even League of Legends. In August and September of this year, Philippines mobile operator Smart Communications held the Philippine Clash 2015, a Clash of Clans tournament that has set records as the largest prize pool for a mobile gaming competition in the country. US-based Super Evil Megacorp held its first World Invitational tournament in Korea last summer based on its mobile MOBA Vainglory. Last week, Blizzard announced the creation of a new worldwide eSports league for the popular console first-person shooter series Call of Duty. A wide variety of game publishers are boosting eSports activities for franchises around which competitive gaming already exists in some shape or form, organized by game enthusiasts themselves.

Geographic Expansion of Leagues?

For eSports leagues to tap into bigger advertising budgets, they need to exist on national, regional and global levels as traditional sports does. Few advertisers have a significant global advertising or sponsoring budget, as most marketing money is spent on a local level. Currently, only League of Legends has a structure that resembles this hierarchy, with regional league structures in North America, Europe, South-East Asia, Oceania and Latin America, and country-based league structures in China, South Korea and Turkey.

eSports Growth Scenarios

The chart above breaks down just what kind of revenues are divided by fans, as well as eSports growth scenarios per eSports enthusiast. It’s easy to see just what kind of growth is expected, and how far eSports have come.

Regulation of Competitions?

eSports has grown beyond the small grass roots venues where small groups of gamers were competing. More and more companies are seeing the potential to make money in eSports. Most recently, FanDuel purchased the daily-fantasy startup AlphaDraft, a day after competitor Draft Kings announced it was expanding into eSports with daily fantasy games for League of Legends. With multi-million dollar prize pools now at stake, and increasing amounts of money being bet on the outcome of these games, new rules and regulations are needed to combat cheating and match fixing.

In an attempt to prevent match fixing, software manipulation and use of performance-enhancing drugs, ESL and some betting companies such as Unikrn have become strong advocates of rules and regulations to prevent and/or detect fixing by tracking all in-game data and betting data and using software to detect any irregularities that indicate dubious activities. Other eSports organizations have implemented supportive measures for players themselves.

Wouter Sleijffers, CEO at FNatic, comments from an eSports team perspective: “A player’s career can involve the pressure of matches and fan expectations, frequent international travel, and in some cases living away from home in another country for long periods of time. An environment like that can place a strain on any person. At Fnatic, our goal is to offer our players the most secure and friendly environment in the industry, with the best supporting organization behind them to help them succeed as teams, grow as individuals, and to develop skills and experience they can use during and after their gaming careers.”

Ownership of Media Rights?

One of the larger regulation voids in eSports is the current structure around content rights. As of now, it is uncertain who owns the rights to eSports content. Games played during events are owned by publishers or the event organizers, while videos made by fans and streams that contain game content are owned by the fans and streamers themselves. Thus far, content rights have not really been a focus for publishers, as fan-generated content has served as free advertising for their games. As direct eSports revenues grow, this may change.

Alignment of Digital & Traditional Media?

While competitive gaming would surely benefit from broadcaster advertising and its budgets, eSports and traditional media have not yet aligned. Will the all-digital eSports world adapt to the traditional media ecosystem or vice versa Turner Broadcasting and WME/IMG just announced that they will form a Counter Strike: Global Offensive league that will be aired on TBS on Friday nights for 20 weeks in 2016. TBS isn’t the first cable network to show interest in eSports. ESPN has been increasingly recognizing the legitimacy of competitive gaming as a sport, covering more and more eSports events, including a collegiate-level Heroes of the Storm competition (“Heroes of the Dorm”), and Valve’s multimillion-dollar DotA2 tournament “The International.” Earlier this month, ESPN began its search for an eSports editor.

Hollywood media and entertainment veteran Rich Melcombe, CEO at Richmel Media & Entertainment, adds: “I’d argue that brands do not understand the value of games, most game companies do not know how to sell advertising, and game ad tech needs to be re-imagined. Where most ad tech companies fail is that they do not try to make an emotional connection with the players or create an environment conducive to advertisers or brands. Advertising has to work for both games and brands — each has a very different agenda. Games also need to take a more integrated media approach and own and connect the media surrounding their games to increase value.”

More information on these findings, including the particular challenges that lie within each of these categories, can be found here.

Image source

Mobcrush Discusses Mobile Game Streaming

Streaming video games has become big business just take a look at how far Twitch has come over the past few years and now Mobcrush wants to get a piece of the action with its recent beta launch of its Android game streaming service.

With strong support across the board for several games, along with picture-in-picture camera viewing and the ability to chat with others in real time, the service certainly has a lot going for it. But, of course, further progress can be made as it proceeds through its beta.

“We continue to refine and build upon the great beta experiences we have for Android and iOS but there s a lot more we would like to do,” said co-heads of business development Greg Essig and Koh Kim, alongside director of community and content partnerships Eric Doty, Sr. “We are definitely getting closer to removing the beta tag from our apps and will make an announcement once we are ready. Our marketing plan will be multichannel in approach but one of the key tenants of that is working with our passionate community to share their experiences and evangelize Mobcrush.”

The group also indicated the importance of influencers in the early days of the service. “It s tough to beat the enthusiasm of current Mobcrush members and content partners who have been using the service every day through the alpha and beta stages of the product,” they said. “Our community grows larger each week as we continue to roll out new features for them. So, if it wasn t clear already, influencers are a huge part of our strategy.

“I like to think that the service is as much theirs as it is ours. We re extremely thankful for everyone that is using Mobcrush through the beta. I make sure that comes through in our messaging and investment in supporting them. In today s social media-driven world, word of mouth is extremely powerful, especially when it s homegrown mobile game players who grew a fan base on your platform. It s amazing what happens when you build the right tools for an audience who has been mostly ignored up until this point.”

As for the approach when it comes to engaging a mobile community (compared, to, say, PC gaming), the group stated that “humor and brevity” play a big part. “This is an audience that tends to be younger than other platforms,” they explained. “You need to reach them on the services that they re already on. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are just the beginning. You have to understand the strengths of each platform and speak the language of each. I consider certain games as platforms unto their own. Each has their own community, language, and influencers. Learning how to engage each of those audiences in a way that shows them that we re building something special for them is vital to build a relationship with our users.”

As for the importance of streaming, the group added, “Streaming is important to gamers now more than ever. It has been growing for the last couple of years; however, streaming mobile games required complicated setups with expensive PC rigs or capture cards. Now anyone with a mobile phone or consumer PC has the tools needed to share his or her voice and build a community around it. Video on demand will continue to have a place, but you can t overestimate the power of interacting with your favorite gamers in real time while they re playing. The act of spectating can be seen as a form of playing along.”

And once the service takes off, Mobcrush intends to modify the experience so that users get the most out of it. “We ll continue to evolve the service in a way that best serves the expectations of the Mobcrush community. Even in beta we ve earned a lot of trust by listening to their requests through watching streams, interacting in chat, and reading every email and tweet that comes our way,” said the group.

To learn more about mobile streaming, be sure to check out our earlier interview with CEO Royce Disini, which can be found here.

YouTube’s Subscription Service Moves Forward And Backward

There’s been quite a bit of talk in the past about YouTube looking into some form of subscription service, which would cut down on excessive ads and offer premium features for fans of the site. According to a story from Re/Code, it appears that this service may finally be ready to launch.

A blast email was sent from YouTube to a number of content owners that share ad revenue with the popular Google-owned video channel, indicating that new terms will have to be agreed to on October 22nd, or their “videos will no longer be available for public display or monetization in the United States.” The full email can be found here.

With that, sources indicate that the premium membership will offer two services for the price of one, including an update on its music service (which left a few creative artists a bit stifled) and the video service, which will be ad-free upon purchase of subscription.

YouTube didn’t confirm of the service just yet, but several video-oriented sources indicate that Google has a plan to charge $10 monthly for access to both of these options.

While this may be good news for some (particularly those who have been bothered with ads to the point that they purchased ad-blocking services), there is some cause for concern with creators. SocialTimes recently posted a story focusing on independent musician and composer Zoe Keating, who took exception to several of the terms noted in the email. She posted a list of these in her blog, but the sum-up can be found below in terms of what she takes biggest exception to:

  • All of my catalog must be included in both the free and premium music service.
  • All songs will be set to “monetize”, meaning there will be ads on them.
  • I will be required to release new music on YouTube at the same time I release it anywhere else.
  • The contract lasts for five years.

By not signing, Keating can lose quite a bit, and considering the amount of build-up she put into the channel, it can also result in a weaker contract.

David Holmes, East Coast editor for Pando Daily, noted, “Unless she signs, not only will Keating lose the free promotion and analytics that she currently receives as a YouTube partner, but she won’t be able to monetize through ContentID at all.” And refusal to sign the agreement at all could result in a total loss of funds, not partial.

Revenue sharing has gone a long way on the channel for its many partners, and while this subscription plan may seem like an ideal way for Google to “cash in” with its millions of fans, it could also put said creators into a bind, unless they enter a marketing partnership with another company to continue earning funds. (And some companies are doing that, but not all.)

Holmes was quick to note that, if this move enters into fruition and forces YouTube creators to make a decision, that “with (these contracts), YouTube has gone from the most artist-friendly major music platform on the planet to the least.”

Now all eyes are on YouTube to see what comes of the launch of its subscription service and if it will indeed stand firm with the many notations it made in its recent email.

SuperData: ‘Star Wars Battlefront’ Won’t Reverse The ‘Battlefield’ Decline

As the games industry approaches its usual annual frenzy towards the year’s end, speculation on who will be among the big winners or losers tends to run wild. One title that sits at the center of this discussion is EA’s upcoming Star Wars Battlefront. Following the lineage of the Battlefield series, the November 17 release is set in the familiar Star Wars universe and features a variety of missions and gameplay options familiar to regular first person shooter players. This coming holiday season has the makings of one of the biggest sales periods in the industry yet. With the console cycle reaching its peak, demand for new games is at an all-time high. With NFL 16 and FIFA 16, Star Wars Battlefront is also EA’s chance to do well during this holiday period. The big question is: will it?

Mechanically, Star Wars Battlefront is based firmly in EA’s Battlefield franchise. With 7 million copies sold across platforms, including 1.7 million via full game download on console, Battlefield 4 proved successful, though heralded the decline of the franchise. Even as the console user base expands, sales of each new addition to the franchise has seen faster post-launch-month drops and digital earnings keep dropping faster.

SuperData Chart 1

Difficulties during the months following its release played a significant role in this — in particular, the absence of a server browser for its multiplayer component. Rather than being able to peruse and select servers on their own, players are expected to wait in a lobby before being matched with other players. EA’s recent confirmation that “Star Wars Battlefront will not offer a server browser,” will hinder the game from reaching a critical mass of online players quickly and lessen its appeal. Instead, the publisher is promising “a new skill-based matchmaking system,” but has yet to explain what that means exactly.SuperData Twitter

Furthermore, the planned November 17 release date for Star Wars Battlefront follows three equally well-known franchises: Halo 5 Guardians on October 27, Call of Duty: Black Ops III on November 6, and Fallout 4 on November 10. All four of these are shooter games, although Fallout 4 should arguably be considered a role-playing rather than an action game. Nonetheless, several of the major publishers have timed the release of their main franchises with the frenzy of the holiday season and during the peak of the current generation console cycle.SuperData Chart 2

Finally, to maximize its earnings potential, EA is launching Star Wars Battlefront as a prelude to the theatrical release of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens in December. This gives the game a much broader appeal. Although neither of the involved companies released any details, we assume a minimum guarantee of $12 million and a royalty payout structure between 10%-15%, valuing the total deal at around $110 million for Disney at the high end.

SuperData Chart 3

Because of the well-known franchise to which it belongs, the game stands to do well among those purchasing the game as a gift for someone else. At the same time, this will also limit its digital appeal, as most people tend to want to give a wrapped gift rather than a download code. Nonetheless, by timing the game’s release with the movie, it will reach maximum exposure right before the holiday season. In a parallel universe, however, we observe that the Star Wars IP proved unable to turn the tides for Angry Birds. After its initial success, Rovio has fallen on harder times, having to let go of several hundred employees in the past 18 months.

Let’s see how strong, exactly, the force will be with this one.

As part of our offering, we occasionally release forecasts on specific titles. Previously we predicted $165 million in DLC earnings for Grand Theft Auto 5 for the first year, which proved accurate within a 3.7% margin of error (actuals were $158.9 million). Our estimates and forecasts are for marketing purposes only and do not represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities of any kind.

SuperData Research, Inc. is a global research group dedicated to supporting accurate measurement and representation of key titles, franchises, and markets in the digital video game sector. Any data supplied and any discussion via phone or in person does not represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities of any kind.