EA: Engagement Before Economics for Microtransactions

Microtransactions have have become a tremendous part of games over the past few years, especially on mobile. For a small sum, players can purchase content that ranges from add-on expansions to boosters that saves time or provides an advantage, like card packs for Hearthstone, which either earns extra revenue over the initial price of the game or supplements free-to-play titles.

One company that has a lot of experience with microtransactions is Electronic Arts, publisher of popular games like Madden, FIFA and recently released Star Wars: Battlefront. Speaking at the UBS Global Technology Conference (via Gamespot), EA CFO Blake Jorgensen discusses how the best approach toward offering microtransactions involves keeping customers engaged with games.

The first thing he discussed was the general model for downloadable content, which a lot of games have. “Our game teams are all thinking through, ‘What’s the engagement model to keep the consumer, to really entertain the consumer for a long period of time ‘

“When you think about that, it’s not really the economics; the economics come afterward. There might be multiple models of ways to engage people.”

Jorgensen referred specifically to Madden NFL Ultimate Team, explaining, “The fundamental way that we as an organization think about [microtransactions and subscriptions] is all about engagement”

Ultimate Team is an interactive card game, included as a Madden NFL 16 mode, where players assemble a fantasy team, then pit them against other players online. Players can unlock or purchase additions to their decks to put together their dream team.

“How do we engage the consumer as long as possible ” he continued. “In the old days, people played Madden for a few months and then stopped playing. When the Super Bowl finished, they were completely gone. Today, with Ultimate Team, they engage for 12 months, all the way up until the time you start playing a new season.”

madden16 Ultimate team

When it comes to finding an ideal payment model, Jorgensen stated, “What we want to do is give the consumer a great value for their money and keep them deeply engaged in something they love to do.”

However, Jorgensen noted concern over flawed season passes and games that require payment to get the most enjoyment out of them, particularly on the mobile front. “And a lot of mobile games don’t allow you to have fun unless you’ve paid for it,” he said. “So we’re looking at new models of ways to try to alleviate some of that fatigue that’s going on. Some of those might come in the form of subscription-style, but some of them might simply come in different ways to play games over time so you don’t feel like you’re always getting nickel and dimed.”

Feedback on the Star Wars: Battlefront Season Pass, which varies in price depending on which version of the game was purchased, has been mixed. Some players are excited about the new maps and Star Cards (equipment and skill bonuses), while others think more content should have been offered in the main game. However, EA is still keeping its players in mind by offering the Force Awakens-specific Battle of Jakku map on December 8th free of charge.

It appears as though the key to a successful microtransaction or season pass program is to properly engage with players so that they get the most out of their money. Free stuff doesn’t hurt either. Two of EA’s bigger titles for the year, Need For Speed and Rory McIlroy’s PGA Tour, provide free downloadable content for its fans.

EA’s 2016 line-up includes Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and the highly anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda in addition to its annual sports offerings.

Starbreeze CEO On Lighting Up ‘John Wick VR’ Game

John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves as the title character, features a highly skilled hitman who comes out of retirement and seeks revenge against mobsters who killed his dog. A sequel is currently in the works, but to help ramp up the anticipation, Lionsgate has partnered with Starbreeze Studios to develop a virtual reality first-person shooter game based on the movie. The John Wick VR Game is expected to release during the spring of 2016 for all major headsets including the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR.

Other Lionsgate VR experiences include the Insurgent: Shattered Reality, based on the Divergent movie and book series, and The Hunger Games Virtual Reality Experience, both done in partnership with Samsung. While those are 360-degree movie promotions, John Wick VR is expected to be a fully featured standalone game.

Overkill Software, a Starbreeze studio, is uniquely qualified studio to create a John Wick game. Not only is it currently developing a VR game based on The Walking Dead series for StarVR (Starbreeze’s own VR headset), but one of its most prominent games is Payday 2, an over-the-top heist-themed shooter that added John Wick as a playable character last year. More John Wick tie-ins are expected as the sequel comes closer to release.

[a]listdaily speaks to Starbreeze CEO Bo Andersson Klint about creating and promoting virtual reality games and movie tie-ins.

Bo Andersson

How do you promote an experience that requires emerging technology like virtual reality 

It’s really about trying the experience, if you’ve never tried it it’s hard to comprehend how immersive it can actually be. We’re very active in play testing and making sure to get different VR experiences into the hands of as many people as possible.

How integral is established media, like movies, to getting the public used to the idea of VR 

Well, it’s one thing to do a movie theatre setting within VR as a first test or simple demo, but we believe immersing the user in an VR-tailored experience really does the trick. Rather than just putting a movie into a VR headset, why not tailor an experience directly for it, where the user can actually interact with the setting and characters of the same movie

With so many VR headsets releasing, including the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and Starbreeze’s own StarVR Project, how do you decide which brand to back 

We’re really looking to provide the best experiences over-all in VR. We now have our own hardware, which we acquired partly to be able to be the best in creating content for VR. Also having the highest specced headset with an outstanding quality of course helped in the acquisition process. So far we’ve said we’ll try to support as much hardware as it makes sense for us to do. Steam OpenVR will be one of the first services we’ll support, and through there potentially several hardware manufacturers.

Given how VR has a limited audience right now, how will experiences like the John Wick VR game and The Walking Dead Experience remain on the forefront as these headsets become available to consumers 

As with any game, being there as a launch product for a platform is usually a nice place to be, you do get to be a part of something new and outstanding where people are really excited and eager to test new things. But we’re of course also invested in bringing more experiences to VR in the times to come. VR isn’t something new per-se, it’s been around for a good many years, but it’s only now we have the fidelity to actually provide feasible experiences to the masses. We can already now imagine and test how to best immerse our users in our products, but it’s really a learning experience for us all in the VR business. What we do today will surely last but we’re absolutely ecstatic to see what we can do in the near future.

What is the key difference between promoting a VR experience and a game developed for traditional consoles and PCs

Getting it into the hands of the customers, no doubt. Anyone who’s tested VR will be able to relate and understand what a VR experience is about, but the key to unlocking the market is really to get it into the hands of the user.

Sega Discusses Dr. Eggman’s Diabolical Twitter Takeover

Sonic fans around the globe had a very special treat last week when Dr. Eggman hacked into Sonic s official Twitter page to wreak havoc.

The original idea came about a short time ago here in Sega’s new offices in Los Angeles. Aaron Webber (PR and Social Media Manager), Kenneth Lindenbaum (Senior Marketing Manager) and I were talking about some of the terrific Sonic-specific elements we have to work with across TV, licensed products and games to surprise and delight fans, said Ivo Gerscovich, Chief Brand Officer for Sonic, in speaking with [a]listdaily. Finding unique ways to bring the Sonic the Hedgehog characters to life quickly became the focal point of our discussion. After brainstorming a bit more, we honed in on Dr. Eggman’s hilarious antics and actor Mike Pollock’s 12 years voicing the zany character.

For Gerscovich, the idea felt very natural. The day of the takeover, Mike Pollock worked with Sonic s social media team and longtime Sonic writers to engage with fans in real-time. Dr. Eggman responded on Twitter with personalized messages and egged on celebrities like Kel Mitchell and Roger Craig Smith for nearly an entire day with the hashtag #AskEggman. 

The idea of being able to ask him wild questions in a sort of AMA style event and actually hearing his wacky responses felt like a powerful mix, he said. We wanted to go even further with this concept and make it more interactive by throwing in some entertaining video that ran while fans interacted with him in an unprecedented way.

Sonic fans loved it, praising Sonic s Twitter account and creating all kinds of fan art to show their appreciation as #AskEggman began trending.

Twitter has been a major priority for the Sonic brand over the last few months, said Kenneth Lindenbaum, Senior Marketing Manager for Sonic. We did not want to simply regurgitate expected marketing directives on our social channels like check out this new trailer or pre-order here. We wanted to be more engaging than that.

“On social, we re pioneering a new strategy that throws the old, boring, marketing text out the window, and replaces it with something fun, new, and engaging. It fits perfectly with Sonic s signature attitude and the tone and style that once made him so popular,” said Aaron Webber, PR and Social Media Manager for Sonic.

Naturally, doing a live global fan event like this while producing real time audio and video together with the voice actor presented a slew of risks and challenges. After a lot of preparation together with Ayzenberg, it was all systems go!” said Gerscovich.

In the end, all of the elements came together and culminated in a rewarding real time social experience for fans and the Sega team.

Watching the Dr. Eggman Twitter Takeover unfold in real time, seeing the fans light up as word quickly spread about the surprise event, and then seeing the analytics was a real highlight for the new Sonic team.


VideoAmp Talks $15M Investment To Develop And Market Its Video Ad Platform

Investors are lining up outside VideoAmp’s headquarters with wheelbarrows filled with cash. It’s a turn of events co-founder Ross McCray s machine-learning algorithms likely could never calculate. After accumulating $2.2 million in seed financing last December, the Santa Monica, California-based startup procured a $15 million Series A investment from the German entertainment media network RTL Group. VideoAmp is a video ad platform built to buy, optimize and measure video ads across TV, mobile and desktop.

“VideoAmp fits perfectly into RTL Group’s digital strategy as it is complementary to our current ad tech businesses SpotX and Clypd,” said Rhys Noelke, RTL Group s senior vice president of strategy. “The transaction with VideoAmp positions RTL Group as the first European broadcaster to invest in the increasingly important field of cross-field expertise. With this move into the digital space with VideoAmp, RTL Group strengthens the advertising technology arm of the recently created RTL Digital Hub.”

McCray, who serves as VideoAmp’s 24-year-old CEO, and chief business officer Jay Prasad, joined [a]listdaily to discuss the software company’s immediate future and upcoming marketing tactics.

What are some of ways the newly acquired $15 million will be used? What does having the backing of big media companies like the RTL Group mean for VideoAmp, and the industry as a whole? 

Ross: We’re using the funds to continue developing our engineering, data science and sales departments. We also plan to do a lot of product research/white papers next year. Having RTL gives us scale and proves the global trend toward audience-based buying and selling.

What’s next as you build out capability? 

Ross: We spent most of 2015 heads-down building our product suite and opening it up the market. 2016 is really all about taking what we have, making it better and scaling.

With recent investments from European media companies in L.A. video companies Bertelsmann/MTG, et al … what are the opportunities for brands in today’s online video landscape? 

Jay: I believe that this is in relation to brand advertisers and online video: Brands have a lot more opportunity as digital video has become a format with multiple “screen factors” versus just YouTube. Creative options have never been so plentiful, between sequential storytelling across screens, creating custom content for SnapChat, brands can be omnipresent without being oppressive.

How do you see the future of video developing? 

Ross: It’s very clear that the market is shifting toward total video and tearing down the walls of TV and digital.

How do you market to buyers that VideoAmp plans, purchases and measures as a one-stop shop? 

Jay: Buyers of media and technology of course would like the simplicity of buying from a one-stop shop. That however may not be in their long term best interests. The most important criteria seems to be transparency, efficiency and automating certain functions. For the most part that s done by working with the best of breed solutions.


Marketing May Forget Millennials Next Year

Millennials remain a crucial audience to reach out to, but it’s find the right way to cater to them is always a challenge, since the wrong way can backfire in big ways. However, a recent study indicates that some companies could be changing the way they think about advertising to this audience next year.

A number of marketing and communications-based companies will stop trying to push towards millennials as a single demographic, and instead cater to younger consumers based on what they’re passionate about or take a liking to. The Communications Trends Report gathered data from over 400 communicators across 22 countries, and concluded that a more “age-agnostic” program could be more effective, zeroing in specifically on certain values depending on their tastes.

Additionally, the report also points out how some companies are scrambling to find a solution to ad-blocking, which has been on the rise over the past few months for both desktop and mobile devices. These solutions include better native advertising, as well as sponsored podcasts and influencer partnerships.

Other takeaways from the report are broken down as follows:

  • While brands will continue to post plenty of content on their channels, there will be more team-ups with distribution services, including LinkedIn Pulse and Medium, to round out the effectiveness of certain marketing campaigns.
  • Digital video is seeing an increase in audience, with more “cord cutters” joining every day. As a result, some marketers could utilize different tools, such as production experts and accounts, to find effective formats for their advertising plans.
  • Brands will still heavily use communications strategies, but value will take more of a focus, particularly with social and political issues that are gaining buzz.
  • Marketing needs to find a way to “give back,” and some companies will launch campaigns that cater more as services to consumers.
  • Singling out smaller pieces of hyper-targeted content won’t be enough for advertisers. The report suggests that they get at least 10 specific messages set up for subset groups within the identified audience.
  • Real-time content should take a larger focus next year, with less time spent on planned editorial calendars. Spontaneity with certain programs could possibly pay off.
  • The consumer will pay a vital part in certain programs, leading more companies to create targeted campaigns and content to encourage them to buy directly from them, instead of e-tailers such as Amazon.
  • Other mediums could play a huge part in programs, including virtual reality, which will get a huge push across the board next year. Look for marketers and advertisers alike to find a way to integrate its content into this medium, among other formats.

Marriott Masters Travel Entertainment

The prominent hotel chain, Marriott, has taken a decidedly unconventional approach toward catering to customers. Not only has it tried to expand upon visitors’ travel experiences with innovations in virtual reality, but it’s also gone as far as to open up its own content studio to create programming you normally wouldn’t expect from a hotel chain.

ClickZ reports the company’s pick-up in content marketing, which makes full use of the studio and creative partners to help put together memorable features that consumers will remember, including video ads with a distinct cinematic feel.

It’s one example of many revolving around brands shifting away from teaming up with ad agencies, and are taking their own approach to create programmatic advertising. It’s a method that appears to be paying off.

“You can’t argue with the numbers,” said David Beebe, vice president of global creative and content marketing for Marriott. “Consumers are not engaging with traditional marketing anymore. Anything that’s interruptive in nature, we don’t care about, and anything that’s not relevant to us, we ignore, delete, then we move on.”

The team that runs the content studio is a who’s who of talent, working on a number of strengths for programs that cater to consumers with a side of story-telling. This includes a YouTube web series called Do Not Disturb, standout travel articles for the Medium publication, and, best of all, an action-packed short film called Two Bellmen, which focuses on a pair of heroic Marriott employees subduing would-be art thieves. Two Bellmen was such a hit that Marriott has already green-lit a sequel, which has begun filming in Dubai.

It helps to have direction when putting your best foot forward with a studio, though. “One of the biggest mistakes brands make in content marketing is when they build a physical studio and spend $10 million to create it and then go, ‘What the hell are we going to do with this thing ‘” said Beebe.

The company is focusing on what it calls the “three C’s” when it comes to this process: content, community and commerce. With a team of over 65 employees devoted to it (including former journalists and agency representatives), it’s a process that Marriott is taking seriously.

“You’re seeing people associate (our original creative content) with the brand,” continued Beebe. “We’re not trying to trick anyone; they know it’s from a brand, but we’re also not trying to sell them anything. The biggest mistake marketers make is creating content that doesn’t provide value. If it’s all about you, nobody’s going to watch it.”

One other big draw to a process like this is teaming up with an influencer and giving them a majority of creative control. This creates a smooth-flowing process that will make them want to return. “What happens when brands try to create their own content in-house at scale, they often get in their own way and it becomes a commercial and an advertisement,” said Beebe. “You have to partner with the creative community, get out of their way, take some risks and let them do what they do best, which is tell stories.”

Finding the right partners is also key. For instance, Snapchatters have managed to take the company’s account to new heights, along with Jack Harris, a travel vlogger with a huge following, with over four million YouTube subscribers. Harris’ visits Istanbul with a camera attached to his head in one of his videos, providing a first-person “you are there” perspective. He also isn’t too overt with brand placement, by simply making a casual reference to Marriott at the end of the video, putting the focus more on exploration rather than the brand.

Beebe thinks it’s a novel approach. “We’re trying to inspire people to travel, to think about traveling. Hopefully they’ll remember our content and think about us, the next time they go to book,” he said.

Speaking at the recent Contently Summit in New York City, Beebe made a solid point about who the content is reaching out to. “We’re in the hospitality business; we take care of people and have a very intimate relationship with our customers,” he explained. “They sleep with us, after all.”

Teaming with YouTube talents and other web celebrities may be a novel approach for advertisers, especially when it focuses more on creative content and less on obvious messages like “use us!” For instance, Taryn Southern recently teamed up with Moxy Hotels for a special talk show called “Between the Sheets,” which features interviews with others while being filmed, yes, in a Moxy location. Again, the message is presented casually, giving audiences something to be interested in.

In summation, having a strong relationship with talent, trying new things, carefully keeping control of a budget and handling branding with care are all key ingredients that seem to be working for Marriott and others.

How Ronda Rousey Pinned Down the ‘EA Sports UFC 2’ Cover

A little over 24 hours before her anticipated match with Holly Holm, undefeated UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey was at the zenith of her career. She was 12-0, touted as the Best Female Athlete Ever and already had made appearances in The Expendables 3, Furious 7, Entourage and even Wrestlemania.

On Friday, EA announced that the baddest woman on the planet would grace the cover of EA Sports UFC 2, the mixed martial arts game currently in development. Then, the improbable happened when Rousey suffered one of the most shocking and devastating defeats in sports history the day after the cover announcement. Nevertheless, she still carries a huge amount of marketing clout, and her road to redemption in the coming months will be an interesting one to monitor.

[a]listdaily spoke to EA Sports UFC 2 s Senior Product Manager Jeff Sharma following Saturday night’s fight about selecting Rousey for the cover.

How was Ronda Rousey selected as the cover athlete for EA Sports UFC 2

Ronda is one of the most dominant fighters in the world, and has really transcended MMA. She’s universally recognized, and her star is still on the rise. She’s also a passionate gamer, which is always a great addition for any EA Sports cover athlete.

What does a transcendent athlete like Ronda Rousey afford the game s title that no other UFC fighter could accomplish

A few other fighters have been able to cross-over into pop culture and star in movies or other entertainment properties but Ronda is by far the most popular right now. Regardless of her loss last weekend, she has massive appeal as an athlete, actor, personality and, importantly to us, as a fan of video games. So it’s really about partnering with someone that understands and fits with our brand and who also has extensive reach across many entertainment verticals.

Was a two-athlete cover with a male champion like Chris Weidman and Jose Aldo ever considered

You’ll find out more about who will join Ronda on the cover later in our campaign.

The FIFA 16 cover features Alex Morgan, so this is a big time for female athletes appearing in EA Sports games. Is this representative of an growing global interest in female athletics

I think we live in unprecedented times when it comes to being able to watch female sports on a global scale. With world class female athletes as impressive as Alex and Ronda on TV sets around the globe, and with them being excellent ambassadors of their sports and those leagues/divisions/sports being integrated into our games, it makes sense for EA to partner with them.

How has the success of Ronda Rousey and the United States Women s Soccer Team impacted EA s marketing to female gamers

I think all fans of our games appreciate athletes who compete at a high level, regardless of gender. That said, the success of the USWNT and Ronda definitely provide a platform for us to engage in a more specific conversation with female fans about our collective love for soccer and MMA.

Why Brands and Marketers Need To Start Using 360-Degree Virtual Reality

Advertisers and publishers alike are lining up in droves for the latest phenomenon: 360-degree virtual reality ads. And why not Backed by $2 billion in funds, Facebook recently unveiled the new format. “360 video represents an exciting creative opportunity for marketers that allows them to tell immersive stories, optimized for mobile devices,” the social media network announced. Facebook even has a microsite that provides brands and video creators help in producing in the format.

Brands like AT&T, Corona, NescafeRitz CrackersSamsungWalt Disney World, Lucasfilm and GoPro have already jumped on the new engagement method’s bandwagon.

Publishers and other people and organizations using 360-degree video include: ABC NewsBuzzFeedFrontlineVice Media, NickelodeonNBC’s Saturday Night Live , Fox’s Scream Queens, the New Orleans Saints and LeBron James.

Rebecca Markarian, senior vice president of digital and social media for Ayzenberg, a full-service advertising agency, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how brands and marketers can use the new format to their advantage. (Editor’s note[a]listdaily is the media arm of the Ayzenberg Group.)

With Facebook enabling and championing virtual reality content, what kind of new engagement and immersive marketing opportunities does it offer advertisers, and users?

Only what marketers and creators can imagine. The format is great to build really immersive experiences we ve only seen in digital executions previously right into the video experience.

Considering these videos can be viewed on iOS, Android and the web, what does “360-degree marketing” allow that separates itself from more traditional options? 

Freedom of viewer choice and deeper immersion. Viewers will be able to pick where they re looking and thus have the experience they want versus one that is forced upon them. But the video framework will still keep it tied to the story or intent so it s one-part open world one-part pre-defined story. Additionally, since there is 180 degrees more to see, immersion and completion rates will be higher as fans want to be sure they didn t miss anything.

What kind of budgets should brands be looking at to make these kind of videos? 

Like any other video, you’ll see it all price points. Basic videos could probably be done for a few thousand but for those that really invest in story and quality and take the time to build out the immersive nature by delighting the viewer with something special at every angle it could be hundreds of thousands. The investment brands make should be appropriately aligned to their overall budget and KPIs. For the big spenders, just be sure you re using it to drive the result you want.

How can brands take a native advertising approach How would you describe the boundaries of what’s possible for marketing through virtual reality? 

It’s so early in this medium I would say there are no boundaries outside of what we can imagine. As for native advertising, as with traditional video, it’s always about the story and authenticity. As long as you have that then native should be pretty easy.

Do you think Super Bowl 50 will be a coming out party of sorts for 360 ads? Will we see an infiltration of the format by February 2016? 

Super Bowl is still so focused on TV that, while I’m sure it will be present, I don’t think it will be that huge. I suspect there won’t be one big moment that we’ll just see more and more brands trying it tied to regular campaign cadence.

How do you see virtual reality developing in the next five years What s realistic

As marketing teams learn the tech and begin to think in 360 I think the boundaries are infinite. I think we’re going to see video become a more immersive experience that can match that of digital which then provides brands and marketers with some interesting options. What’s out there today still feels a pretty rudimentary so I think we ll see higher quality visuals and more powerful story telling emerge as well.

Crytek Talks About Starting a Dinosaur Stampede on PlayStation VR

Crytek is famous for creating fantastically life-like games such as the Crysis series and Ryse: Son of Rome using its own proprietary CryEngine development tools. In an unexpected move, the company announced its support for the PlayStation VR, the PlayStation 4’s virtual reality headset, with the reveal Robinson: The Journey, a sci-fi action game that involves a robot drone and a dinosaur stampede.

[a]listdaily talks to Crytek’s Executive Producer, Elijah Freeman, about the company’s first virtual reality game, its partnership with Sony’s PlayStation VR, and going on the ultimate journey.

Elijah Freeman 1

What led to partnering with Sony’s PlayStation VR

We’ve always sought to create the best possible games for multiple platforms, as well as enabling other developers to do the same with CryEngine. We’ve created games for PC, console, and mobile devices down the years, and CryEngine is also supporting a growing list of VR technologies.

We believe PlayStation VR is the ideal platform for Robinson: The Journey because of how well the game fits with Sony’s ambitions for home VR. The type of experience we hope to deliver with Robinson: The Journey blends very nicely with the type of VR experiences Sony is aiming to offer PS4 players.

The CryEngine is famous for creating lifelike realism in its environments and characters. What makes PlayStation VR the ideal platform to encourage more developers to use it for their projects

With CryEngine we want to enable developers to create unique and compelling VR experiences on the platform of their choice. Sony’s commitment to VR and the huge install base of PS4 present a great opportunity for developers.

Why choose develop an all-new game for a VR debut, instead of using an established franchise like Crysis, Ryse: Son of Rome, or Warface

As a company we’re always working on new ideas and looking for the best possible way to bring them into being. VR is a powerful medium that will allow players to experience a lot of firsts, and it seems fitting to us that we would create an entirely new IP for this exciting new era in gaming. VR also presents new challenges and opportunities in terms of game design, and we wanted to begin development with an open mind.

How has Sony helped in creating “the most immersive and unique home VR experiences imaginable”

Ultimately, players will determine which VR experiences they feel are the most unique and immersive, but PlayStation VR certainly has the power to deliver something special to PS4 players. As a developer, we look at everything around PlayStation VR-things like the headset, the controllers, the install base, and the PS4 itself-and see an ecosystem that we think is a great fit with Robinson: The Journey. As we said, Sony want to deliver the most immerse and unique home VR experiences, and that’s something we want to do too!

What are some of the challenges in promoting a game that’s being developed for virtual reality, a technology that most consumers haven’t been able to try yet

Great question! One of the most commonly repeated phrases around VR is “seeing is believing”, and there’s a lot of truth in that. It can be challenging to try and fully communicate the sensation of VR, and we’ve seen lots of instances at industry events where people changed from being skeptics to believers in a matter of seconds. That sudden realization of what this new medium can do is incredibly powerful, and we think the whole VR space will benefit from the inevitable word of mouth effect that will follow the launch of VR hardware. Until then, we will show Robinson: The Journey through traditional channels and encourage people to remember that what they are seeing in 2D takes on a stunning new life in VR.


‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Rolls Into Virtual Reality, Opening New Spaces

For decades, the Dungeons & Dragons franchise has been a huge best-seller amongst the tabletop gaming community, and became the basis for the quintessential fantasy video game, TV and movie experience. Now, AltspaceVR is ready to bring it into a whole new dimension virtual reality.

TechCrunch reports that AltSpaceVR, a social company that specializes in VR experiences, has teamed up with publisher Wizards of the Coast on a new game, custom-made for VR. The game, which is available now, includes everything you might expect from a virtual tabletop experience. It provides a strong social angle for players with a special room where participants can watch, chat, gesture and see reactions from players as each battle commences.

Even though Dungeons & Dragons is based around tabletop play, and not a first-person adventure, it does seem like a suitable fit for virtual reality, as players can simply walk up and take part in a game, just as they would in real life.

This is just the latest step by AltStateVR to move forward in VR development, as the company raised $10.3 million earlier this year to increase its chat room and communication platform support. That brings its overall funding to $15.7 million thus far, and the Dungeons & Dragons brand name could certainly drive it to greater success.

“AltSpaceVR bridges the gap between Dungeons & Dragons video games and physically sitting around a table with friends,” Nathan Steward, brand director for the Dungeons project, said in a statement. “You get the same sense of excitement and drama in the AltSpaceVR tavern, from laughing at your buddy’s funny goblin voice to watching the d20 (dice) bounce and finally land on the natural 20 you needed to hit the beholder terrorizing your party.”

Those interested in the experience, and masters of rolling the virtual dice, can sign up at AltSpaceVR’s page.

The introduction of Dungeons & Dragons to the virtual space could be AltSpaceVR’s first step into its business plan in which its fundraising was based upon, involving selling admission to virtual gatherings. While the company hasn’t elaborated on future plans yet, top goals could involve celebrities and world leaders. Should AltSpaceVR or a similar company decide to launch a free ad-supported version of these virtual hubs, the walls or entire rooms could be made to taste.

Projects like AltSpaceVR’s social hub take advantage of how virtual reality can bring people from far-off places around the world to a single interactive location where they can play and socialize. Other ambitious hubs include Landmark Entertainment’s recently revealed plans for a virtual world’s fair, complete with 3D interactive exhibits. Various projects also see recreations of scenarios from popular films, including the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (which releases in theaters this Friday) and the horror film Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. These, amongst other VR-related projects (like Marriott’s VR experiment) help create the “being there” sort of feel, while keeping users in their current space.

For now, though, this looks to be good news for gamers that want to get together with friends for a little gaming action.