The State of The Digital Shift

The shift from physical media to digital has been a long time in the making, marked by digital music, video, and book sales. Video games are no different. Although some still prefer the “classic” feel of having a physical game copy, especially if they’re special collectible editions, downloading a game allows consumers don’t have to worry about a store selling out, waiting on line, or finding storage space for the piles of discs.Having a “pre-load” option, where a encrypted version downloads ahead of the game’s release, makes the prospect of buying digitally even more enticing, since fans can start playing the minute a game releases.

Yet, shifting to digital game releases has been relatively slow going, mainly due to their size (ranging anywhere from smaller 1-2GB games to juggernauts like the 60GB Halo 5: Guardians). For years, a number of distributors, including Steam, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, have offered games for digital download in favor of purchasing physical copies of games. However, the easily availability and the sheer number of games means that consumers could afford to hold out and wait for a big sale instead of buying them at full price at launch.

Much of that reasoning goes out the window when it comes to Fallout 4. According to SuperData Research, the highly-anticipated sequel set sales records last week to the tune of $750 million, of which 1.87 million units were sold digitally. That’s a small, but still significant, portion of the 12 million units shipped overall, but there’s a reason that number counts so much.

Out of those numbers, 1.2 million digital copies of the game were accounted for on PC (making up a third of total digital sales), while the remainder were purchased for consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The report shows that PC gamers don’t “exclusively purchase games at a huge discount and instead prove themselves willing to shell out full price for select titles.”

SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen, speaking with [a]listdaily, estimates that digital sales of the game account for $100 million, a big number for a title that also released in physical format. As to when digital will become the new normal, he answers In many ways, we re already there,” said van Dreunen regarding the growth of digital sales. “What tends to drive digital sales on console is a wider offering of content. Both Sony and Microsoft are aggressively pursuing digital strategies by exploring, for instance, free-to-play console games. Offering a wider, more diverse selection of games will ultimately drive digital sales on console.

Marketing also plays a key part in advertising for digital versions, as it did for Bethesda’s juggernaut. “Fallout 4 has been a fan favorite since E3. The release of its iOS version [Fallout Shelter] received a warm response, and subsequent revenues, and triggered several months of increasing anticipation for the release of its main title,” said van Dreunen. “At the same time, PC and console audiences have been in the midst of transitioning to purchasing and downloading games digitally rather than through retail. Keep in mind, however, that the various promotional efforts (e.g. the Mini Nuke and Bobbleheads) kept digital sales relatively low in the first few days: around 1 in 6 sold copies for Fallout 4 were digital, compared to an industry average of 1 in 4 or 5.

As for the appeal of digital sales to the point that they could be a big factor in overall game sales, van Dreunen added, “Last year we were watching digital holiday sales very closely, but ultimately retail was the bigger channel. We anticipate that this holiday season the tables will turn for the first time. Keep in mind that throughout the rest of the year retail sales in the US amount to $300-$500M on a monthly basis, compared to $900-$1,100M for digital. But the holiday season is the last bastion for retail-based sales.

Much of the appeal from the publisher’s side of things is being able to cut out the “middle man” in terms of game sales. For physical copies, consumers usually need to go to a location like Best Buy, Gamestop and others in order to take the game home. By selling digitally, Bethesda and others are able to bypass that process, making more money on the product as a result. Thus, why $1.87 million in digital sales is such a significant number, compared to copies shipped.

Other titles sell exclusively online, and with big results. Last year, Yacht Club Games released Shovel Knight on Wii U and other platforms as a digital download. It performed remarkably well for a digital-only indie game, selling over 700,000 units as of July. That prompted the developer to give physical releases a try, which released last month. Although physical editions will always be important, especially when they come with collectibles or are bundled in with consoles, the benefits of digital editions are on the rise. There’s no worry of stores stocking the game on shelves, shipping physical goods, or any of the other issues associated with physical retail.

One possible barrier to for some console users may be the use of virtual currency. Although Steam uses real money, and Microsoft’s Xbox Live service switched to real money transactions for game and media purchases years ago, companies like Sony still require the purchase of virtual currency in order to buy items from the PlayStation Network. Some might not take well to the two-step purchasing.

On the other hand, as players become more comfortable with virtual currency as they become accustomed to digital purchasing, as exemplified by the record-breaking Call of Duty: Black Ops III digital sales on the PS4. Especially around the holiday season, as companies like Nintendo plan to mark down several of its titles by 50 percent during Black Friday week. When looking at Amazon’s recent best seller list, gift cards take up most of the company’s top 20 digital sellers.

It just goes to show that digital video games are slowly but surely finding their place in the market, right alongside the physical release. If marketing can continue to give them a proper push, the only limit to digital sales will be available hard drive space.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3v9X1vXDE6Q

NextVR Lands $30.5M in Funding, Looks to Pioneer the Promise of VR

When the Golden State Warriors opened the NBA season last month, it marked a watershed moment. Yes, they were celebrating their first championship in 40 years, but more importantly they were a part of tech history when their game against the Pelicans was streamed over the Internet live in virtual reality — becoming the first such broadcast of any major U.S. sporting event. Fans were able to bypass paying more than $3,700 a pop for courtside seats as they enjoyed NextVR’s 360-degree views from the comforts of their couch.

NextVR, a purveyor of live and on-demand virtual reality programming with such credits as concerts, sporting events, award shows and even the recent Democratic Presidential Debate, is carving its place into the evolving world of VR. The steady stream of bets on virtual reality are getting bolder by the day. The latest case is brought to you by television giants Time Warner and Comcast (among a group of others) — who funded NextVR with $30.5 million to continue building on its deeply immersive viewing experiences.

“NextVR is at the forefront of a transformative technology that is revolutionizing how live-action content will be consumed,” said Scott Levine, managing director of Time Warner Investments. “We are thrilled to be a part of an experience that consumers will really love and excited about the opportunities ahead.”

“For virtual reality to really start taking off — and we expect it will in 2016 — there must be great content delivered through great technology,” said Brian Koo, a founding member of Formation 8, the group that spearheaded the Series A funding. NextVR had previously raised $5.5 million in September 2014.

David Cole, co-founder of NextVR and a 3D tech vet who’s co-authored 14 patents in VR and stereoscopic technology, joined [a]listdaily to further intimate a popular notion: the VR revolution is coming.

NextVR NBArig resize

What are some of the ways the newly acquired $30.5 million will be used? What does having the backing of big media companies like Comcast and Time Warner mean for NextVR, and the industry as a whole? 

This allows us to move decisively to launch our portal on all VR platforms while building a pipeline of live and a catalog of recorded VR content to distribute just in time for the arrival of the VR mass market.

Our strategic investors, such as Time Warner, Comcast and others bring an expansive set of content assets and content relationships to the table, as well as a world-class operation experience as global media creators and distributors.

What’s next as you build out capability? 

Ramping to multiple VR platforms simultaneously with beginning to operate a sustained pipeline delivery of content.

How have the live streams of the Democratic Presidential Debate and the NBA’s season opening games been received by the viewers? How do you produce compelling broadcasts? 

Exceedingly well. Both were firsts. Both were widely viewed by the VR audiences. Both were regarded as pioneering displays of the promise of VR, and as reminders that the headset technology has room to improve.

We have amassed a huge set or best practices in VR production — most of which is carefully guarded trade secrets. One thing that is proving itself with every broadcast is that we accomplish immersing the audience in the experience completely delivers the greatest value. VR is not television 2.0. VR is presence 1.0.

How is NextVR different from other VR platforms? 

We’re based on a mature, live-broadcast platform originally built for 3DTV. Broadcast is in our DNA. We can deliver a live VR stream over very minimal bandwidth (4 to 6 mbps). This is absolutely unique to NextVR.

What kind of opportunities are there for marketers in VR? 

Brands and products can be experienced (not just seen) in VR. Viewers can ‘try’ the car, ‘see’ the clothing as if they’re looking at the store rack and ‘take’ the vacation. All of these elements can be targeted to each individual viewer — similar to web-based advertising.

What kind of VR events can viewers look forward to NextVR putting on in the future? What can people expect from the rapidly rising virtual reality viewing experience? 

Sports, music, news, events, big award shows, natural history, horror, theatrical (produced) pieces. One big change that is yet to come is positionally-tracked video. The road to the holodeck, positionally-tracked video is a giant step forward. This allows some ability to physically move around within the video experience. This is coming. NextVR will be showing it soon.

What will it take for VR technology to emerge into the next great platform in 2016? 

Content. A sustainable pipeline of high-quality content. The hardware is already on a path of refinement and perfection. The hardware is going to be amazing. The content needs to be there to take advantage of it.

‘Fallout 4’ Continues Trend of Revitalized Game Marketing

Video games continue to sell monumentally well leading into the holiday season, and November could be an even bigger month, with games like Fallout 4 leading the charge.

Developer and publisher Bethesda Softworks announced on its official blog that the long-awaited sequel, has had a tremendous launch this week, with 12 million units shipped since the game released on Tuesday, and has generated around $750 million in sales so far. Even though 12 million copies shipped doesn’t equal copies sold, Bethesda has already begun shipping additional units to retailers, “to meet ongoing market demand” in time for the forthcoming holiday rush.

Fallout 4‘s success mainly relied on a lucrative marketing campaign, one that involved a number of factors, including pre-order hype (particularly surrounding the Pip-Boy Edition of the game, which sold out quickly via pre-orders) through various retailers, online advertisements for the game, previews through a number of notable game sites, and, most television spots, including the well-received live-action TV ad.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3v9X1vXDE6Q

Fallout 4 is just the latest success story for 2015 in terms of both marketing and sales, as other companies have seen big-number launches for its franchises. This includes The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, which is an open-world role-playing game that became one of the biggest success stories of the year. It received a strong following with its advertising and word-of-mouth from avid gamers. The game also got a surge from the introduction of an add-on, Hearts of Stone, which released last month. Another DLC pack, Blood and Wine, is due for release next year, which will shift attention back to the game.

Super Mario Maker, the do-it-yourself adventure featuring the iconic plumber, has sold more than one million units since its release, and has helped bolster sales of Nintendo Wii U consoles. Additionally, Splatoon, a new franchise that was introduced this past May, has become a big breadwinner for the company, with 1.6 million units sold as of July. Both had strong marketing behind them, including television ads, Internet campaigns, promotional events (including one for Splatoon featuring Hollywood star James Marsden) and other advertising, and the push is likely to continue for Nintendo’s holiday line-up, which includes Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Nintendo also announced a Wii U bundle that includes Splatoon and Super Smash Bros. for $279, which will be available before Black Friday, so that should receive lots of promotional push.

Halo 5: Guardians has become a huge best-seller for Microsoft. The game generated $400 million in global sales over its first week, topping the $300 million record set by Halo 4 three years prior. The game got big attention from its TV campaign and record-breaking online streaming sessions. It played a part in pushing the Xbox One console over PlayStation 4 for the month of October, as part of the “greatest line-up in gaming history.” That line-up also includes Forza Motorsport 6 and the newly-released Rise of the Tomb Raider. It too will receive a push as the holidays go on, especially for those that don’t have an Xbox One, as a special 1TB bundle is available with a custom-designed Halo controller and game system.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=ejMqe1WBtEQ

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 launch sale figures blew many away, which made its live-action launch trailer, featuring Fantastic Four actor Michael B. Jordan, football player Marshawn Lynch and fashion model Cara Delevingne very fitting. “In its first three days, the blockbuster title exceeded $550 million in sell-through worldwide, according to Activision estimates. The opening weekend haul is the biggest entertainment launch of 2015, including theatrical box office, music and book launches,” said the company in a press release. However, this announcement came before the release of Fallout 4. Regardless of who has the bigger success, Black Ops will continue to see a strong push into the holidays and beyond, not only by Activision, but also by Sony, who has signed an exclusive content deal with the company that will enable PlayStation 4 owners to get access to maps and other downloadable content before Xbox One and PC.

Now, all eyes are on EA, as its heavily hyped Star Wars: Battlefront prepares for release this Tuesday. With the the extensive marketing (like a trailer featuring Anna Kendrick) and much-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie releasing next month, Battlefront stands a good chance of using The Force to come out far ahead this holiday season. This will likely continue over the next few months, following the film’s release and with a variety of downloadable content on deck, something that will be right up the alley of its millions of devoted fans. The company is stirring up further excitement using the EA Access program on Xbox One, which lets subscribers play the game five days prior to its official release.

How ‘Infinity Blade’ Developer Partnered with J.J. Abrams to Create a Video Game

Usually, putting a Hollywood company together with a video game developer is like mixing oil and water, but that relationship could change with the development of Spyjinx — a collaborative project that is currently being put together by filmmaker J.J. Abram’s company Bad Robot Interactive and ChAIR Entertainment.

J.J. Abrams (who is currently working on Star Trek Beyond) and ChAIR co-Founder Donald Mustard surprised the world in a video that announced how they were working together to develop an action-strategy role-playing adventure game. As a director and producer, Abrams has had a hand in different projects including the latest Star Trek movies, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the TV show Lost. ChAIR has developed a number of high-profile games, the most recent being the Infinity Blade series, which is credited as being the first mobile game created using the Unreal Engine.

[a]listdaily talks to Donald Mustard, ChAIR co-Founder and Creative Director, about how the unexpected partnership with Bad Robot came about.

DonaldMustard

What led to the partnership between Chair Entertainment and Bad Robot

We’d always been huge fans of Bad Robot and J.J., and were so excited to hear they’d not only played our Shadow Complex and Infinity Blade games, but that they were also fans. So, we jumped at the chance to meet when a mutual partner offered to do an introduction in 2013. Our initial conversations were really about things we had in common, similar creative inspirations like games and movies, and core values that guide our companies. But we found that those early conversations quickly evolved into ideas for how we could work together, ideas for games we could make, etc. Co-developing a new IP was something very different for both of our companies, but the more comfortable we became in our conversations, the more we knew we had to work together.

What was your reaction when J.J. Abrams wanted ChAIR’s help in creating a game

J.J. and the team at Bad Robot are all gamers and it was evident to us from early meetings that their desire to move into more interactive entertainment was a very natural step for them. For ChAIR, one of the things that we enjoy, and we are particularly good at, is developing partnerships with other creators, whether they be writers, like Brandon Sanderson, or musicians like Imagine Dragons, and various other partners over the years, and then working with them to extend the game into a larger entertainment experience.

How are the two companies collaborating to develop this game What are some of the goals

This is a true collaboration where both companies have been involved in every phase of development — from ideas about the world in which the game is set, to determining art style, to game design and ideas for unique new game play. And thanks to the flexibility of Unreal Engine 4, we’ve got our team at ChAIR working on the game and checking in code, and then artists and musicians at Bad Robot seeing that same code and then checking their stuff into the game from their side.

J.J. has a very unique approach to character and story development and a real gift for making people care about characters and the situations he’s put them in and worlds he’s built around them. As game developers, we’ve always felt that if we could gain a better understanding of his process and his approach, that we could develop game systems that can attempt to duplicate that process and add something really unique for players. Systems that might not be obvious to the player, but that help the player have a more memorable, enjoyable experience. And to then give them tools to help them shape that experience.

We’re two very busy studios so it’s been exciting to work together these past two years — whether it be in face-to-face meetings at ChAIR, Bad Robot, or wherever we happen to be, via various video conferencing systems, and via phone and email.

Abrams has said, “typically, Hollywood and games have not gone together well.” What is the key to making this partnership work

Unlike other partnerships that attempt to make games or movies from existing IP, we feel strongly that the key is we’re working on something completely original, from the ground up, that utilizes the strengths of both our teams. And that it’s a true collaboration between creative partners that can be flexible in finding the right way to work together, rather than shoe-horning one team into another’s process or working on something that isn’t a good fit for one or both.

Given the success of the Infinity Blade series, what would you say is the most important part of promoting a new game on mobile

ChAIR is not traditionally a “mobile developer” and our previous games were on console (Spyjinx will be PC and mobile), so Infinity Blade was somewhat of an experiment for us, thanks to opportunity we were given to make the first Unreal Engine-powered mobile game. We are so grateful for the success we’ve had on mobile with Infinity Blade and for all that it taught us. Mostly, that there are very distinct differences between console and mobile gamers. But, that there is also great opportunity to create deeper, more core gamer experiences on mobile devices. Like all games, you need to be mindful of the platform your designing for and to make sure the game utilizes the unique qualities of that platform so that it can deliver something that’s new and unique.


Spyjinx is currently in development, and is expected to release on PC and mobile in 2016. Closed beta sign-ups are currently underway.

On Facebook, VR Meets Marketing

Facebook has fully embraced video advertising with tools that help mesh them into News Feeds. Now, it’s ready to take things further with a set of 360-degree virtual reality ads, backed by partners like AT&T, Nestle, Mondelez and Samsung, and others.

Facebook unveiled the new format, providing virtual reality-based ads that show how easily the format can be embraced. This ties in with the company’s video creation tool, which debuted in September, enabling brands to post 360-degree clips to their page with an organic process.

Although previous clips only worked on computer screens and Android devices, these new 360-degree videos can be experienced using iOS devices and the Samsung Gear VR.

The move into virtual reality-friendly waters shouldn’t be a surprise, considering how Facebook poured $2 billion into its purchase of Oculus and its heavily hyped Rift technology. It also stated in the past that VR was likely to be used for more than just games, even though that remains a heavy focus with the tech.

Users can interact with these videos by looking around the screen with touch or gestures and seeing the world around them in real-time. It certainly represents a new level of interaction with ads that hasn’t been seen before, and is likely to get more attention than the typical static ads.

In addition to providing formatting tools for potential business partners, Facebook also launched a microsite that provides would-be video makers with a number of guidelines, FAQs and practice details in terms of helping them make the best one possible.

disney 360

A couple of the samples include an AT&T clip from inside a race car, and a video supplied by Walt Disney that provides a “full experience” from its Disney World resort, along with short videos from Samsung and Nestle.

Videos that take advantage of the 360-degree format will be clearly earmarked, indicating that users can play around with them however they see fit.

How well the ad format will be received has yet to be seen, but it’s gaining big buzz so far, and could tie in with plans Facebook has for the Oculus technology. Considering that eight billion videos are viewed daily on the site, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it more integrated with additional ads in the future.

NPD October 2015: ‘Halo 5’ Rises To The Top Along With Xbox One Elite Controller

The NPD Group {link no longer active} has reported video game retail and online sales for the month of October, one of the biggest months leading into the forthcoming holiday season, and the numbers are looking strong.

Industry analyst Liam Callahan reported, “Overall sales across physical software, hardware and accessories experienced a modest two percent growth in October 2015 compared to October 2014. This was driven entirely by accessory sales, which grew by 18 percent, or just under $30MM.”

Callahan further noted that hardware “sales were flat from October 2014 to October 2015, with sales totaling $270.3MM. Cones sales were up three percent as portables declined 27 percent due to difficult comparisons to October 2014 sales.

“Console hardware sales increase by three percent over October 2014. This was due entirely to 8th generation console hardware sales, which rose by 12 percent to offset the 66 percent decrease in hardware sales for 7th generation consoles (like PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360),” he continued.

“Bundles were the primary way consumers were purchasing hardware this month, as bundles represented 96 percent of unit sales in October 2015, up from 53 percent in October 2014.” This includes recently announced bundles like Sony’s custom Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Star Wars: Battlefront packages, as well as Microsoft’s various bundles, ranging from Halo 5: Guardians to a triple pack featuring Ori and the Blind Forest, Rare Replay and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition.

Meanwhile video game sales dropped by three percent over the previous year, but titles like Halo 5: Guardians, managed to thrive, despite a five percent decrease in new title launches. Super Mario Maker, one of Nintendo’s bigger holiday hits for the season, also managed to stay quite relevant, even though it launched in September.

The report also notes how the return of the music & rhythm genre, marked by Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live, made significant impact. “Rock Band 4 ranked 10th, and Guitar Hero Live ranked 11th (based on units sold). However, the ranking changes to 4th and 6th, respectively, when ranking on dollars,” said Callahan.

Accessories also played a big part in sales numbers for October. “Video game accessory sales rose 18 percent in October 2015, with sales driven by point/subscription cards, gamepads and headsets/headphones,” he said. “Video game point/subscription cards had a particularly large increase in sales, up 38 percent from October 2014, making this the best October for video game point/subscription on record.” This indicates that a lot of people are turning to digital purchases on their system, either with specific online-only releases or full titles in digital form.

“Gamepad sales increased by 29 percent year-over-year, which was due to a 163 percent increase in Xbox One sales with the release of the Xbox One Elite Controller,” he noted. The $149-priced controller has been sold out at retailers since its release, making it a hot commodity for the holiday season.

The top ten sellers in physical form for the month break down as follows:

  1. Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One)
  2. NBA 2K16 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
  3. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
  4. Madden NFL 16 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
  5. WWE 2K16 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
  6. FIFA 16 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
  7. Destiny: The Taken King (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
  8. Yoshi’s Woolly World (Wii U)
  9. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (PlayStation 4)
  10. Rock Band 4 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4)

Sports games are still among the top sellers, but Halo 5 proved to be a dominant champion yet again, based on its record-setting launch numbers, producing the highest numbers for the series to date.

November is likely to tell a different story. Both Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Bethesda’s Fallout 4 have produced record launch numbers, ranging around $550 million and $750 million, respectively. That could easily put a dent in Halo 5’s numbers, especially considering both titles are multi-platform, where Halo is Xbox One exclusive. There are other titles that could factor in as well, like Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, Microsoft’s own Rise of the Tomb Raider and EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront, which is gaining tremendous buzz leading into its release next week.

Hyatt: It’s Really About In-Culture Marketing

From grand openings to renovations and reopenings, Hyatt’s all-inclusive residences have been in transformation in recent months. And just like the suites in their hotels, it was time for a branding change in their executive room, too.

Lara Migliassi, who has nearly 20 years managing culturally relevant marketing strategies, was appointed as Hyatt’s vice president of global brands earlier this month.

Based in Miami, she’ll be responsible for the brand development and management of Hyatt Zilara, Hyatt Ziva, as well as the Hyatt Residence Club brands and Hyatt branded residences.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge and deep experience in developing integrated marketing campaigns that drive business growth, with particular expertise in understanding the Latin American markets,” said Sandra Cordova Micek, Hyatt’s senior vice president of global brands.

Migliassi joined [a]listdaily to discuss the global hospitality company’s upcoming marketing strategies, and how she’ll be approaching its international brands.

LaraMigliassi

How are you planning to integrate marketing campaigns that will drive business growth? What is your No. 1 priority? 

My number one priority is to create awareness and preference for Hyatt brands among consumers. Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos just recently reopened following last year’s hurricane and Hyatt Ziva Cancun is opening next week. Hyatt Ziva Cancun, located in Punta Cancun, has undergone an $85 million renovation and will be our flagship Hyatt all inclusive resort. We’re leveraging the Hyatt’s all-inclusive resort openings to drive more consumer awareness through targeted advertising, social media and public relations efforts.

How will Hyatt enhance all-inclusive and vacation ownership brands? 

At Hyatt, we’re redefining what an ‘all inclusive’ resort can offer. Our Hyatt Zilara and Hyatt Ziva are breathtaking, contemporary properties that are situated in the most desirable destinations, but what really sets Hyatt all inclusive resorts apart is the impeccable service and outstanding food and beverage at the resorts. Our Hyatt Residence Club brand offers loyal Hyatt guests a home away from home with vacation ownership in beautiful locations, including Maui, Carmel and Sedona, to name a few. Our guests return each year because they feel a part of the Hyatt family and enjoy Hyatt’s level of service and caliber of properties.

Miami is one of the hospitality capitals of the United States. How has your experience working in the market prepped you for your upcoming challenge on the international level? 

In the hospitality business, it’s about creating experiences and memories for both our guests and our colleagues. Miami is one of the top travel destinations and offers a breadth of experiences for travelers coming from all over the world, and Hyatt is in the business of creating memorable experiences for both our guests and colleagues, whether in Miami or another travel destination. Our purpose is to care for people so they can be their best.

You are coming from Univision, where you served as senior vice president of corporate marketing. What kind of marketing tactics are most successful, specifically for the Latin American markets? 

It’s really about ‘in-culture’ marketing. Whether I’m marketing a product or service to a U.S. Hispanic consumer, a Canadian consumer or in-country such as Mexico, the positioning of the brand, and ultimately the product, has to resonate with your audience. At the end of the day, experiences are what speak to guests and that is what we are creating at Hyatt hotels and resorts around the world.

Analysts Weigh In On Activision’s Hollywood Entry

With Activision Blizzard Studios now producing Skylanders Academy and exploring development opportunities for film and television shows around Call of Duty, we asked some leading video game analysts what that means for Activision Blizzard Inc. and the video game industry as a whole.

Moving into films and Hollywood branding is the next logical step for strong franchises that resonate with a wide audience, Wanda Meloni, CEO of M2 Advisory Group, said. With the success of movies like The Hunger Games series, Insurgent and Mad Max: Fury Road the idea of powerful characters that cross gender lines is something that is not only welcome, but frankly something that has been lacking in entertainment for some time.

Blizzard Entertainment is working with Legendary Entertainment and Universal Pictures to bring Warcraft to the big screen next summer through a prior relationship and deal. Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research, said the strength of many of Activision’s franchises comes from a deep underlying lore.

The industry has come a long way from a time when game-based movies were outright terrible to a point where a rich, narrative economy for games like World of Warcraft allow for the development of movie franchises, van Dreunen said. The transition to digital and the growth of the games market as a whole are key to this: even though we now see a much larger, global market it has also exacerbated discovery issues. By leveraging traditional channels, both Activision and Ubisoft are trying to diversify their marketing approach and cultivate customer loyalty.

Joe Dodson, analyst at EEDAR, said Skylanders Academy will help Activision compete with newer toys-to-life games from Disney Interactive and Warner Bros. Games. While Activision was first to market with and has generated over $3 billion in revenues, the stakes have changed of late.

“Skylanders is in a very difficult competition with two competitors with extremely powerful licenses, and Disney Infinity is consuming more market share every year,” Dodson said.

Despite the power of Marvel/Disney/Star Wars, the television content for those brands is not strong for very young children and toddlers. Lego, on the other hand, has The Lego Movie, as well as Lego DC content. That may be the blueprint that Activision follows with Skylanders. By creating a show that appeals to young children, they could find themselves competing for brand recognition with just Lego, instead of Lego and Disney and Marvel and Star Wars.

From an investor standpoint, we are going to see a lot more reach and cross-over between the different properties and platforms to push revenue across multiple properties, Meloni said. Activision believes in supporting strong properties and ultimately that is a consumer play. They are the leader in interactive entertainment and I’m looking forward to see how they mesh their tightly-knit closed ecosystems with the more open and social play options that mobile devices enable. There are a lot of new areas for exploration there and time will tell how that will play out over time financially.

Activision is following Ubisoft into Hollywood. The French game publisher launched Ubisoft Films in 2011 and has had success with a Rabbids TV series and is developing several Tom Clancy films, as well as filming an Assassin s Creed movie with Michael Fassbender at Pinewood Studios in England right now.

Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, said, “Initially, I think Activision will hire a production company with a profit share, but they are bigger risk takers and have better IP than Ubisoft, so they can take greater risk.”

This new Hollywood approach also should connect with Activision s new eSports division, which is being helmed by former ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein and Major League Gaming co-founder and president Mike Sepso. The eSports division will build on the company s competitive gaming leadership by creating all-new ways to deliver the best-in-class fan experience across games, platforms and geographies, furthering the development of its world-leading eSports ecosystem.

“Activision Blizzard Studios will definitely complement Activision’s new eSports division,” Meloni said. Activision is a master at partnering their properties with strong consumer brands. I see this as another added layer to what Activision has up its sleeve for us in 2016 and beyond.

Not every analyst is sold on this expansion into linear entertainment. Peter Warman, CEO of Newzoo, said adding a professional movie studio business to their portfolio is something he would have argued against, especially as they need all their talent and focus on making the acquisition of King work.

Being based close to Hollywood this is tempting, but big investments should have an impact on a global scale and I am not sure if making movies would do that for them, Warman said.

Nevertheless, Activision has officially gone Hollywood and it has some of the biggest gaming IP’s lined up with a global audience that s used to forking over $60 or more for interactive experiences. Now the question is whether this new linear venture can have the same type of success in Hollywood, where video game movies and TV shows have struggled to connect with gamers over the years.

 

 

‘Tomb Raider’ Brand Director Talks Twitch Interactive Experience

For years, Lara Croft has been one of video gaming’s biggest icons. Since her debut in the original Tomb Raider back in 1996, her adventures have sold millions of copies, solidifying her in video game history as one of the most popular female lead characters around.

Rise of the Tomb Raider released this week for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles, which continues the story from the 2013 reboot. Lara once again battles the odds as she attempts to find a lost treasure and fulfill her explorer father’s legacy.

The game has earned critical acclaim, and Microsoft has spared no expense giving the game a huge marketing blitz, including a fun little promotional competition where eight devoted fans spend 24 hours on a billboard, undergoing harsh weather conditions as voted on by viewers, to show just how far they can go to “survive” like Lara. The 24-hour promotion, called Survival Billboard, can be seen here.

But perhaps one of the biggest promotional tie-ins involves the live broadcast streaming service, Twitch. Viewers who tune in to a Rise of the Tomb Raider stream from the Xbox One will receive gifts, in the form of Expedition Card Packs (used in special challenge mode), which must be redeemed within 30 days. Additionally, those that stream Expedition Mode on Twitch have the option of letting viewers impact gameplay by letting them select one of two Expedition Cards, adding a bit of unpredictability to the challenge.

Broken down here on the official Twitch blog, the choices viewers make during live streams can lead to unpredictable results, as cards are applied to the game session that range in effectiveness. For instance, “Big Head Mode”, a popular feature in older games, balloons Lara’s skull to a larger comical size, and makes aiming more difficult. However, there can also be more challenging effects, like only giving players one life to complete a particular challenge.

This is a unique approach for both the Tomb Raider franchise and usage in terms of Twitch, as it offers a new level of interactivity with live experiences. That’s not the first time we’ve seen this in action, as Old Spice’s previous promotion with the channel led to unpredictable and fun results with viewers.

[a]listdaily catches up with Tomb Raider brand director Rich Briggs about how the Twitch interactive experience works.

Rich Briggs

Tell us how this Twitch-enabled feature works. 

Rise of the Tomb Raider’s Twitch feature lets fans watching an Expedition Mode stream vote between two Expedition Cards. These Expedition Cards will make the streamer’s experience temporarily more challenging, easier, or entertaining. Once voting is triggered, a 60-second timer starts and viewers choose the one they want to see via the chat. The Expedition Card with the most votes gets activated when the timer runs out, and then the streamer has to deal with the consequences.

How did Crystal Dynamics come up with this idea

This feature was a collaboration between Crystal Dynamics, Twitch, and Microsoft. Our team is always looking for ways to elevate our player experience, and streaming is no different. This feature adds a layer of engagement for viewers, as they can influence the gameplay while watching. It also increases the challenge for the streamer, as they’ll have to quickly adapt to whatever new conditions are set by the Expedition Card that is chosen.

Tell us how the reward system works.

Rise of the Tomb Raider rewards Xbox One Twitch viewers when the streamer completes Side Missions, Challenges, Challenge Tombs, Crypts, and other specific achievements during the single player campaign. Viewers receive 500 in-game credits each time, which can be used to purchase Expedition Card Packs. These card packs give players access to different modifiers, weapons, and outfits in the Expedition Modes.

What has been the response thus far to the promotion

So far the response has been very positive. Streaming is such a huge part of gaming, and we’ve taken a feature that our community was already excited about and added a level of engagement and interaction, not to mention receiving in-game rewards just for watching. It’s a win-win scenario, and Crystal Dynamics, Microsoft, and Twitch have all been promoting the features to our audiences.

It looks like the game has gotten great response from critics and fans. How’s it feel to finally get Rise of the Tomb Raider out the door for players to experience

Thank you very much! It’s so exciting to have the game in the hands of our fans and the rest of the industry. It’s also very gratifying to have our labor of love being received so well.