Theme parks are fun, but very pricey. Just ask anyone who has visited Disney World lately. However, Landmark Entertainment may drastically cut ticket and travel prices by creating a new virtual experience that people can visit from the comfort of their homes.
A report from Variety details how The Landmark Entertainment Group intends to create a Virtual’s World’s Fair, expected to launch in 2017, which will allow millions of consumers to enjoy entertainment, shop and take part in other activities using virtual reality headsets. “It’s the world coming together to celebrate the world,” said Landmark president and CEO Tony Christopher.
This virtual space will offer many different forms entertainment, including 3D projection, surround sound and special effects. It’s certainly territory that Landmark is familiar with, as it’s created attractions for theme parks such as Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Terminator 2 3D. Being that it will be a digital environment, a Virtual World’s Fair would not be constrained by real world matters like physics, geography or real estate.
The fair will have appeal for visitors of all ages.”Dataland” will be where smaller children can try things out, while “Passportal” transports users to faraway lands. Special events such as concerts will also be featured. “We want to be seen as a project that is meaningful,” said Christopher.
On a related note, the company revealed plans for a virtual theme park earlier this year, with plans to launch a L.I.V.E. Centre in China in 2018, followed by 20 to 30 locations that could bring in five million visitors a year.
“With virtual reality, we can put you in the African savanna or fly you into outer space,” said Landmark CEO Tony Christopher, speaking with Fortune Magazine about the experience. “This completely changes the idea of an old-fashioned museum by allowing kids to experience prehistoric dinosaurs or legendary creatures as we develop new experiences that keep them coming back for more. We’ll combine education and entertainment into one destination that’s always evolving.”
To help promote The Virtual World’s Fair as it develops, Landmark Entertainment intends to launch a smaller experience, called the Pavilion of Me, in about a year. It will offer the ability to listen to music, enjoy videos and shop in a virtual reality setting. A freemium model will be available, so that users can customize certain parts of the experience at no charge.
The biggest question is whether or not these virtual exhibitions and theme parks will gain many visitors. Consumer virtual reality headsets won’t release until next year, and we don’t know how quickly they’ll take off. Linden Lab, makers of the virtual world Second Life, is also working on a similar idea with Project Sansar.
But we’re sure that there will be plenty of room in the virtual world for multiple experiences. At least you won’t have to wait on long lines.
As the popularity of online game streaming and tournaments continues to grow, so do the number of shows dedicated to capturing the action, personalities, and spirit behind eSports competition. One such show is Legends of Gaming, produced by Endemol Beyond USA in partnership with popular food chain Pizza Hut.
We reported on Legends of Gaming earlier this year, which is a spin-off from a popular U.K. series of the same name, hosted by the popular streamer Toby “Tobuscus” Turner. The video above provides a taste of what viewers can expect. The show will feature top YouTube and eSport personalities as they compete in various games that include FIFA 16 and Counter-Strike.
To get a better idea of what Pizza Hut’s involvement with the show, [a]listdaily sat down with David Daniels, director of Media and Partnerships for the company.
“For one, we grew up as gaming grew up,” said Daniels, discussing why the company was getting involved with gaming. “There s been a connection between our brand and gaming for a long time. The experience has slightly changed, but the enjoyment you get from it has remained the same.
“In terms of why we re interested in it, we know gaming is as popular as ever, and we know that gamers love pizza. It s a great pairing. So, we felt to be involved in a truly organic, non-intrusive way was an opportunity to grow affinity about this audience.”
There’s a lot of potential when reaching out to this audience, according to Daniels. “Gaming is booming, so much so that is has outgrown music and movies in total revenue. From the casual player to the series gamer, we like the ability to provide great experiences along with our great pizzas to this audience.”
As for what part Pizza Hut plays in Legends of Gaming, Daniels explained, “We worked directly with Endemol to figure out an experience that was natural, not forced. Where we landed was an experience that was much like the one most gamers have at home enjoying pizza while others play a game or talking about the game in between turns playing. It s a reminder to the audience that this is where pizza fits in with gaming.”
This experience includes audience engagement and passing out pizza. “We will be giving away free pizzas to viewers of the show, conducting Twitter chats with fans/gamers and looking for other ways to activate throughout the season,” said Daniels.
Daniels wouldn’t divulge exact how many Pizza Hut lovers they hoped to reach, but says, “I can tell you that some of our most loyal customers would classify themselves as gamers, which to us is very exciting.”
If the show is a success, Pizza Hut could more closely tie its brand with gaming culture. “We will find the best ways to authentically make a connection in this space,” said Daniels.
As for general strategy behind the show, Daniels kept it simple. “Pizza is best served with a group of friends and a great game, and we believe Legends of Gaming hits that target.”
The first episodes are available for viewing on Smasher’s YouTube channel now, with plenty more to come. Time to order a pizza to and get watching.
Super Evil Megacorp’s Kristian Segerstrale has a big mission: for core gamers to begin to consider their touchscreen devices as their primary gaming platforms. “We ourselves grew up with PC gaming as a thing we did all night long with friends,” says Segerstrale. “We feel like the touchscreen generation deserves that gaming experience.”
Ultimately, for Super Evil Megacorp, the device the game is played on is really besides the point. “We are paranoid about control. As gamers ourselves, we don’t even want to think about what device we’re playing on … We don’t really care about fundamentally what device we’re playing on.”
This kind of experience on mobile, as Kristian puts it, ” where you’re battling your opponent, not the device” has been a key focus for the company as they continue to shift perceptions of mobile as merely a casual gaming device. Responsiveness has been a key factor that Super Evil Megacorp has improved upon, building a sub-30 millisecond control input into Vainglory‘s engine.
“The overall sense of responsiveness of the game has been a really important part of what we’re creating.” Segerstrale hopes this will create a gaming experience that will be worthy of core gamers’ attentions and win them over to the mobile experience.
“What’s important to us is our players, and empowering our players to create content and share that content with others.”
These folks aren’t limiting themselves to just 6.5 seconds anymore. Nope! Periscope has been offering live streamers and their viewers an altogether different experience where live interaction is at the core. Here are Periscope’s finest, who are offering millions of viewers a candid conversation, a peep into their lives and more.
Saara Bergström, CMO of Next Games, speaks with [a]listdaily about marketing a licensed IP with The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land and what’s ahead of the indie mobile game company.
Congrats on the launch of your second game The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land! How the heck did a little indie studio based in Finland manage to license the rights to create the official mobile game for one of the hottest TV shows in the world from AMC?
It all started in 2013, the year Next Games was founded, when the first five of us got together to crystallize the company strategy. It was clear that we wanted to work on both our own ideas and create our own IP. Since the world is full of fantastic stories and IP that people love – great platforms toÂ build games on, we wanted to base the company strategy on both own and third party IP games.
When that was decided, we just simply went to the IP we loved and the world loves and the decision to go after The Walking Dead was done. We feel that it is imperative that the game team is passionate about the IP they are working on in order to make a good game.
We put a lot of effort to the concept, went through a lot of work to get through to the right people at AMC, and pitched hard. Us and AMC had very similar thoughts on how the show would translate into a game and what the experience should be. That was what in the end sealed the deal plus our 10+ years experience in the games business We like to think it’s the Finnish guts, “sisu,” that got us to where we are today.
Needless to say, we are extremely happy on how well the game has been received and grateful for the fantastic support from our partners at AMC. We accumulated well over 1 million downloads on iOS alone on the opening weekend with an exceptional rating of 4.63 out of 5. As a developer, it’s such a pleasure to read the App Store reviews.
There are two WalkingÂ Dead mobile games out there, with LA-based Scopely having the other one, The Walking Dead Road To Survival, based on licensing Robert Kirkman’s comics. How is your game different in terms of gameplay and how did you go about segmenting the market?
Guided by Daryl Dixon, the fan-favorite character from the TV show played by Norman Reedus, players are in charge of their own unique group of survivors and their fate. The game features very similar themes as the series. You will face hordes of walkers, there will be narrow escapes, and just like in the TV show, you will lose people to the walkers and sometimes have to let someone go if they don’t fit in with your group. There are also many details that connect the game to the TV show such as locations like Terminus and the Prison, signature weapons, and content coming up that’s unique to Season Six. We even have the original TV theme song!
Gameplay-wise we wanted to take a tactical approach to the game, to bring XCOM-style depth but rework it into an approachable, mobile-native environment. This worked well with us also wanting to highlight the drama and tension of the show where walkers closing in is always bad news.
This one is very different from your first game, Compass Point: West, which is an original IP. Is licensing IP’s a new strategic direction for the company If The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land continues to do well, do you see Next Games developing a diversified portfolio of both original and licensed IP in the future
Absolutely. We aim at strongly standing on both of the cornerstones of our strategy: licensed and own IP. Both ways of making games involve different risks and rewards and we feel like the balance is what matters.
Can you tell us a little about the marketing plan for The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land to date and how you’re integrating to maximize all the hype around the launch of Season Six of the TV series?
From the very beginning, we had a very similar vision with AMC of the game we wanted to make and how we would translate the TV show into a mobile game. This is a very important point and extends throughout every detail of the whole project, including marketing. We wanted to combine this great IP with deep marketing collaboration to find the best way to reach the show’s fans, focus on being on-brand and close to the TV show as well as involve the show’s talent to create an authentic experience for the show’s fans.
The Walking Dead fans are our main priority and target group. At launch we have been very focused on reaching them through a rich mix of various marketing channels and vehicles.
1) To tie the game and the TV show together, we created a storyline that has a starting point in the TV show, but the player takes control of their own fate eventually. Our cinematic trailer, which is also available in the game as cut-scenes tells this in a compact way:
2) We worked with Norman Reedus, New York ComicCon and Twitch to introduce the game live from ComicCon. This was a great opportunity to speak to both the TV show fans at the event and online as well as reach gamers on Twitch who may not even watch the show. Norman has been a huge supporter for us and we are very happy he likes the game and also talks about it to his fans.
AMC also put on a fantastic show at Madison Square Garden two nights before the TV premiere for their fans with an exclusive premiere of the first episode for 14,000 fans. We were lucky to be a part of that as well.
3) We have worked very closely with AMC especially on our social media plans and content strategy. We are taking a lot of elements from the TV show into our social media marketing and stay on-brand with our messaging towards the players. A good, simple example is for example, this Facebook post we did the after the first episode had aired.
We make a subtle reference to the episode that the fans who’ve seen the episode will definitely get this and this strategy seems to be resonating with the audience.
4) For advertising, we use a mix of mobile advertising and TV ads. Since the main priority is to reach The Walking Dead fans, we have placed ads strategically around the TV show air times. Our TV creative also has a very unique angle. Most mobile game companies opt in to make a polished TV version of their mobile ads. We wanted to go with a mix of high quality cinematic and gameplay. Here too, we wanted to stay very close to the TV show’s brand to the minute detail. Here’s one of our TV ads where anyone who has seen the show can instantly recognize what this is all about:
5) We’ve also integrated the TV show’s content in the game in other means, than just gameplay and visuals. Players will be able to watch short exclusive cuts from The Walking Dead season six episodes and behind the scenes. This is a great way to drive the TV show fans to the game where they can enjoy both the game and bespoke TV show cuts tailored for touch screens.
We have loads of ideas and new campaigns in works for the next game updates. The whole process has been a lot of fun. We’ve had the chance to visit the production team in Atlanta, we’ve worked with Norman Reedus on his character, we have gotten advice from Greg Nicotero even on details like walker blood pressure.
What’s next for Next Games?
We are fully focused on working on our current live titles The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land and Compass Point: West. We have a ton of ideas and concepts though, so definitely will be looking forward to starting a third project at a point where it makes sense. The world is full of amazing stories and great IP’s, so we are always on the lookout for great partners for our next third party projects.
Although product placement is still common, like the Samsung and Verizon Wireless products in Jurassic World, that doesn’t mean it’s the go-to tool across all mediums.
A new article in the Wall Street Journal indicates that product placement has seen a drop-off as far as prime time television is concerned. The report indicates, per numbers provided by Nielsen, that product placement appearances during the new broadcast season’s debut week saw a decline, down 45% to 104, compared to 2014’s premiere week.
This isn’t a recent decline, either. Last year’s broadcasts also saw a decrease in product placements, with just under 4,500 for the entire broadcast TV season a 3% drop from the previous year, and a 20% decrease from the 2012-2013 season.
The reason for this Many think that new advertising platforms, such as influencer advertising, are leading the way. “There are so many more options available for advertising now and every year it grows,” said Chad Dreas, managing director of media analytics for Nielsen.
Another factor to consider is keeping advertisers in the fray. Andy Donchin, chief investment officer for Amplify US, notes that it’s a “big commitment” in terms of keeping them around. “There is an out of pocket premium” that advertisers need to pay, and it doesn’t always make sense.
Companies also seek better integration of products into shows, not just a TV character grabbing a product secondarily as they continue acting. That said, there are examples of when product placement still works, but with less subtlety. The video above demonstrates how Stephen Colbert incorporated Sabra roasted red pepper hummus into his debut episode of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. The talk show host also gave Oreos a nod during a Donald Trump segment.
Some companies, like Cigna Corp. health insurance, are still involved with this form of advertising, which can be seen in various ABC programs. This includes some audience members from Jimmy Kimmel Live having a double do their jobs so they can get medical check-ups. Stephen Cassell, global branding officer at Cigna, explains that this integration “amplifies the commercial message.”
Dreas also added that product integrations “add value and increase the effectiveness” of ads, although there is still that question of other methods, and how they can work with advertisers.
This includes the growing power of influencer marketing. A recent study showed that 60% of marketers planned on increasing the budget allocated to it. With it, a number of other advertising methods could prove effective without obvious plugs. These include word of mouth across social media platforms, which have better ROI (which range anywhere from $2 to $6.50 per dollar spent, depending on the program) and utilize data to a better effect.
“Influencer campaigns are so much more accountable than traditional vehicles like broadcast or outdoor billboards. Ultimately, those figures are estimates based off industry standards,” says Steven Lai, talent group director for ION. “But digital content like influencer campaigns can be granularly tracked from impressions/views to clicks to purchase. Setting up campaigns properly, we can track every action a user takes as they progress through the purchase funnel and optimize in real time.”
The overwhelming use of emojis in social media is undeniable, and the variety includes everything from happy faces or the “smiley poop.” Now it appears as though the popularity of emojis may overtake common words.
A pair of reports from eMarketer helps gives some solid evidence. The first one, titled “Who Needs Words When You Have Emojis ” discusses how half of the comments on Instagram are made up on emojis and how they’re increasingly used in captions.
Based on numbers provided by AYTM Market Research, 48.9 percent of adult users on the Internet in the U.S. have used some form of emoji, either in social media or in text messages.
The chart breaks down the frequency of emoji use across social media and messages. 22.7 percent indicate that they use them only sometimes, while 14 percent state they used them often. However, the poll does not include teens, who are a prime demographic for emoji use.
Emojis also take brand interaction a long way. A poll conducted by Iconosquare last year indicates that “publishing content and using hashtags provided by brands” was one unique and effective way for Instagram users to interact with contests on the Facebook-owned social platform.
Estimates show that from the 77.6 million people in the U.S.will access Instagram across all devices, showing a a year-over-year growth of 20.9%. That audience may grow to 111.6 million by 2019, with four in ten web users and a third of the population using the site and emojis as an expressive tool.
Emojis are more commonly used by U.S. users both online and through mobile devices. The top reason “They help me more accurately express what I am thinking,” say 70% of responses. The second most-cited reason is “It makes it easy for other people to understand me” at 64.7 percent, and “They help create a more personal connection with the other person” in third with under 50 percent.
Brands have taken note, and have been increasingly open to including emojis as a form of communication. Brands like GE, Goldman Sachs and Chevy are just a few notables. Chevy even went as far to center a campaign, #ChevyGoesEmoji, around them this summer, bringing in Norm MacDonald on board for a series of Emoji Academy videos.
Emogi, a communications company, conducted a study that indicates around nine in ten U.S. Internet users use Emojis in one form or another. Out of that group, seven of these ten said they use them to better expression their thoughts, while 65 percent believe that people better understand them.
So brands’ enthusiasm for emojis is almost certainly valid. Just make sure if you’re playing, you’re playing it cool.
ESports have come a long way over the past few years, and with an increasing number of leagues dedicated to specific games like Call of Duty. Now, ArenaNet wants to take the popular Guild Wars 2 to a new level.
ArenaNet announced a partnership with the Electronic Sports League to create the ESL Guild Wars 2 Pro League, which includes two seven-week seasons of tournaments, with qualifiers starting November 14th, and $400,000 (broken down to $200,000 per season) in prizes. This is a huge bounty compared to most eSports tournaments.
Part of the reason Guild Wars 2 is such an eSports darling stems from ArenaNet’s decision to make the game free-to-play this past August, garnering a bigger audience as a result. “Since the base game has gone free, we’ve seen a huge influx of audiences from countries like Brazil, Poland, Russia, Spain, and Turkey,” said John Corpening, competitive game director for the game.
The structure for the tournament is broken down above, going from the Open Qualifier to the World Championship. “From a business perspective, [the pro league] is important to us because playtime is increased if we can make players excited about playing PVP (player vs. player),” said Steve Fowler, head of global marketing at ArenaNet.
The average player that doesn’t engage in PVP takes part in approximately 722 minutes (12 hours) of action per week. With PVP, that number increases to “744 minutes per week,” said Fowler. That’s a lot of time to practice for a big prize.
PVP has a huge part in the Guild Wars 2 competitions, and a player only has to get to level two to access it, so it’s wide open for everyone to jump in and compete, according to ArenaNet. The tournament will support both amateur and professional teams alike, so everyone has the opportunity to win.
Building a league not only presents a chance for eSports to shine on yet another stage, but it also opens up promotion for Guild Wars 2’s existing community, as a new expansion for Guild Wars 2, titled Heart of Thorns, is set to release on October 23rd.
Speaking exclusively with [a]listdaily, Fowler added, “We are extremely excited about our new partnership with ESL on Guild Wars 2 Pro Leagues. It is the natural evolution of the relationship we have built with them supporting Guild Wars 2 competitive community over the last 15 months. The league is a direct response to supporting the fastest growing part of Guild Wars 2, PvP, and happens to come at a time when Guild Wars 2 is experiencing massive new interest in anticipation of the release of our first expansion, Heart of Thorns, and the recently released Play for Free version of the core game.”
Dennis “Thresh” Fong has parlayed his success in the early days of eSports with Quake and Doom into a serial entrepreneurial career focused on gaming, community and eSports. His latest venture as founder and CEO of Raptr is Plays.tv, which has over 1.5 million monthly active users. The social gameplay video recorder has been integrated into World of Tanks, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Fong explains why this technology is important for the eSports ecosystem and explains his expansion plans in this exclusive interview.
How does Plays.tv work?
Plays.tv is a platform with two main components. It’s a desktop client that does capturing and sharing of gameplay and works with any game. It auto records all gameplay and also can record a webcam and mic as well, which is great for streamers. It’s unique because it’s smart. When you install it, it’s lightweight and automatically knows when to record and stop. It’s like the Replay concept except it works with any game. You simply hit a hotkey to bookmark a moment and when you exit you can edit, stitch, and share gameplay clips.
How are you connecting with eSports fans?
We started with League of Legends. And now we’re adding CS:GO. We have a Highlights feature which reads the live game data of what’s happening in-game and automatically creates highlights. Every kill, death assist, baron fight, or dragon fight is recorded. We know the second you’re doing damage to the second you killed the guy, so there’s no wasted footage and no editing required. We get the exact moments you want to save.
How have eSports pros used Plays.tv?
It’s used by most of the top pro teams for both analysis in reviewing their own play from a learning tool perspective, and also to share their best and most memorable moments. In short time, we’re doing the same thing for CS:GO. Every death and kill and bomb plant and diffuse is auto-bookmarked and the highlights are saved.
How has Plays.tv changed the way pros connect with their fans?
We saw with League where these pros spend 12 to 14 hours a day practicing in scrimmages against other teams or playing on their own. They live, breathe, and practically eat playing the game they’re professionals at. They don’t have the patience or the time to capture and share videos. Imagine recording a four-hour scrimmage and having to remember where in the video you had five kills. Even for a one-hour video it would be hard. You’d have to rewatch it. That’s why most people don’t share videos.
With League we’ve seen smart recording divide a four-hour clip into seven different games. And we read the live game data and divide it with that data. Click on one of those matches and every key moment is already booked for you. You can find that Ace and sharing it and takes 10 to 15 seconds.
Why have pros gravitated to this tech?
The pros use it because it’s drop-dead simple and it becomes part of their workflow. It’s enabled them to help build their own brand outside of streaming or Twitter. It’s a new social platform to build a new fan base and keep fans engaged.
The most popular League team is TSM and within a day of us introducing the tool to the team, two players had clips on the front page of Reddit and they had over 100,000 views. In this way, the pros have control over engaging with the fans, rather than having someone else monetizing off of that.
What’s the business model for Plays.tv?
Eventually it will be ad-driven through sponsorships. As of now it’s ad-free. Our goal is to enable the users and creators to share in that revenue as well like the YouTube or Twitch model.
How are you working with ESL and Wargaming?
We built the best recording and sharing technology in the world. There’s no service or app that does these key features. Tournament organizers and eSports organizations recognized that as well. Our partnerships with ESL and Wargaming allows them to install and run the Plays.tv client in all of the competition machines. It’s the first time either of them has done anything like that.
What does Plays.tv open up to the fan perspective?
When you look at any eSports competition in the world — even Valve and Riot and ESL large-scale ones — they’re all lacking point-of-view video. When you watch League and CS:GO it’s from an observer view. We believe there’s a better experience to be had. The first step was to have an app to run on every tournament machine. Spectator is an externally connected account that watches the game. It’s not on the tournament machines because of the impact it has on the PC. But our tech has no impact on the actual machine. Then we can record the point-of-view from every player’s perspective. When you play league as a Jungler — you watch because you want to learn. You’d want to watch the game completely from the Jungler perspective.
And these views aren’t part of the live-streaming?
This is not live-streaming. We have a Web experience where you can watch the regular broadcast view and you can switch to any players point-of-view. This is available after the official match has streamed. We have 11 videos after the match that we need to upload them to make available. We’ve done it at a few ESL events and people can switch and watch from anyone’s perspective rather than be controlled by a cameraman. The cameraman can only do so much, so he misses some things.
Which events have you used this at?
Wargaming went live at the North American Finals event Oct. 3. We did IEM at Gamescom and Shenzhen, and we’ll be at SAP Centre in San Jose for IEM Nov. 21-22 for the first CS:GO event and the first League event after Worlds.
How are you targeting games for this technology?
World of Tanks gets 60 million monthly active viewers. CS:GO will eclipse League in the next few years. CS:GO is on an insane growth curve now. Having the top two eSports is a pretty big deal for us. Our goal is to cover all of the major eSports. You can bet Dota 2 will be following soon.
Are you finding that fans still watch events live and then spend time on Plays.tv afterward?
Fans are watching events live and then watching the multi-view on Plays.tv. Our site is a different take on video and eSports and gaming. It’s a follow model like Twitter or Instagram. It’s centered around gaming clubs. It’s less about sitting down for hours and more about watching key moments that are shared. It’s a more social take on gaming video that’s different than Youtube or Twitch.
A lot of Plays.tv users will say, “That’s a Plays.tv moment” during a match the same way people Instagram things. You see the world in a different light because you’re looking for moments that are Instagram-worthy. It makes you appreciate those moments more. Now those moments from games can be captured and shared and relived.
How active are pros with the Plays.tv community?
It’s an integrated experience where maybe half the people are famous pros and the other people are friends and people you met on Plays.tv. There’s a lot of fun and engaging interaction. If something crazy happens in Skyrim like when kill your first dragon, there’s an experience and interaction built around that now that previously didn’t exist. The moments you share to Plays.tv are the moments why you play games in the first place. You want to relive beating the boss or the glitch, and you want to relive them with the community. It’s not like sharing with YouTube and it going into the ether.
At GamesBeat 2015, Dean Takahashi had a Mystery Guest scheduled for Monday, and it was a worthy guest indeed Gabe Leydon, CEO of Machine Zone, the creators of Game of War: Fire Age. That’s the mobile game that’s been consistently #2 or # in the top-grossing charts for both Android and iOS since soon after it appeared, and that’s generating enough revenue to put Machine Zone (according to rumor) nearing $1 billion in annual revenue. Not bad for a single game. Leydon spoke in a fireside chat with GamesBeat lead writer Dean Takahashi, providing a rare glimpse inside of Machine Zone.
“Your success comes from one game. How do you explain it ” Takahashi asked Leydon. “The game we wanted to make is incredibly complex,” Leydon said. “When we started building Game of War back in 2011, we wanted to build something that a whole global ecosystem could play together at the same time. We built it to be a very engaging, very complex experience, with tremendous amounts of concurrency and translation systems we built to support this global community. It’s an ultra-hardcore experience that was the exact opposite of what everybody else was doing, which was Apple-esque UI, simple, easy-to-understand experience. No one was thinking about games with thousands of options. If you look at the PC or console market they’re pretty much all like that. It’s close to something like EVE Online, it’s the largest single-shard game in the world ever it’s bigger than Second Life or EVE Online. It’s very, very hard to manage.”
“The back end is built on something we call real-time messaging,” continued Leydon.. “It’s not a typical game server. We’re able to process all the actions incredibly quickly. We can handle over a million players playing together at once, there’s no other game in the world that can do that. It’s very complicated experience and it’s very hard to run.”
Once you understand how complicated Game of War: Fire Age is behind the scenes, it’s easier to understand why Machine Zone just has one game right now. As Leydon put it when Takahashi asked him about this, “Why doesn’t someone just do four World of Warcrafts ” Leydon noted that Machine Zone is currently staffed at about 550 people, “and frankly we are understaffed, we could use more,” he said. Leydon noted that they are opening a facility in Las Vegas and plan on adding a couple of hundred people in customer support.
“In 2011 you predicted user acquisition costs were going to soar,” Takahashi said. “How do you look back on that prediction ” “It’s kind of obvious, Leydon replied. “There’s $40 billion or so spent on brand marketing digitally on desktop. Currently only about 15-20% of that has moved over to mobile. You’re going from these very large screens that can show maybe eight to ten ads at a time ads down to these very small screens that can show maybe two. So there’s a ton of congestion when that $40 billion moves from a very large screen size down to a small screen size. There’s all this money coming from brands going to the mobile space and it’s going to cause tremendous inflation on the CPM cost. It’s been ramping up more and more, and you’ll see a lot this Christmas. I think by 2017 the majority of the digital spend will be on mobile, and mobile phones can’t support that many impressions. There’s going to be a tremendous amount of money fighting over a much smaller impression pool.”
Leydon noted the top mobile games on the list haven’t changed much in the past few years. “If you look at top-grossing let’s say the top 25 most of the apps are from 2012, there’s a few from 2014. I don’t think there’s any from 2015, at least in the US. There are in Japan and China. Game of War was from 2013, but I think the majority of them were developed in 2011,” Leydon said. “What keeps it there is the rapidly increasing cost of distribution. The early guys probably aren’t get as much traffic as they used to, but they have enough traffic to maintain where they are.”
Takahashi asked how important TV ads have been to Game of War: Fire Age‘s success. “I’m a big fan of Asian free-to-play, and if you look at them there’s a lot of celebrities involved in the marketing of these games,” Leydon said. He went on to explain why they picked Kate Upton as their initial spokesperson. “We were focusing on American football, and so we picked someone who was a five-time Sports Illustrated cover model. If you watch football you probably know who she is. We went out thinking we were just going to market on American football, and that was it.” Leydon admitted that they did the TV advertising “mainly just to see what would happen we weren’t sure how any of it would go.”
“TV is very interesting, it’s really hard to get right but if you get it right it can work,” Leydon continued. “But it takes an orchestrated effort across TV and digital. You can’t just do TV, you have to be really good on the digital side to make it work.”
Leydon reflected on how much impact TV has culturally, even though digital reaches more people. “Machine Zone has been big in the digital ad space for a while. Even though we were blasting out ads, I don’t think the general public knew what Game of War was,” Leydon said. “But as soon as you go on TV, people think it’s a brand, it’s really weird. Even though digital is way, way bigger than television, there’s just something that happens as soon as you go on TV it becomes a very big deal.”
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