Product Placement Is Still Alive and Well ? It’s Just Evolving

Product placement continued to run rampant in 2015, with a number of companies featuring their items in movies, TV shows and other programming across the board. However, how these products got advertised this year saw a bit of change from the usual norm instead of sticking out like a sore thumb, these products managed to blend in and become part of the action. It’s certainly a trend that’s likely to continue from next year forward, too.

Here are just a few examples of how product placement manageably fit in to some of this year’s most popular programming:

Pepsi Builds Itself an Empire

The popular Fox series Empire saw a unique integration with Pepsi products, as the soda maker became part of a three-episode arc that ran over the course of late November/early December. In it, Empire Entertainment teamed up with musician Jamal Lyon, attempting to get him involved in an ad campaign for Pepsi using his song “Ready To Go.”

Not only did Pepsi smoothly work its way into the TV show, but it also went ahead and made the actual commercial with the actor, Jussie Smollett, which ran during an actual commercial break.

Zynga Moves Forward With SponsorPlay

Most of the time, when advertisers cater to gamers, they do so with static ads featured in popular titles. However, Zynga tried a different approach with its SponsoredPLAY program, introducing titles featuring integration with unique products, such as a salad dressing being involved in a typical match-three title by the company.

The deal has attracted many companies, including Progressive Insurance, and is likely to continue drawing in new ones throughout 2016, as the company introduces new games to the mobile front.

The Future Is the Past

The movie Back To the Future celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, and many companies went all out with promotions to tie in with the hit film, allowing nostalgic fans to cash in. Two of the biggest were Pepsi and Nike, which brought forth products introduced in the 1989 sequel Back To the Future II and fans didn’t hesitate to snap them up.

Nike, for example, offered 1,500 replica pairs of self-tying shoes on eBay, raising $4.7 million dollars for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research as a result. More than likely, the company may move forward with plans to make these shoes an actuality in 2016.

In addition, Pepsi was on-board with nostalgia, advertising its Pepsi Perfect, also introduced in the film, in a limited edition bottle. It was a hit with fans, selling for as high as $20 a bottle through online retailers. The television ad, found below, also managed to bring back the future in its own special way.

Getting In On the Action

Finally, some of this year’s bigger sequels managed to draw in a number of sponsorship partners, but instead of going for obvious “look at me” references, they took part in the action.

The James Bond film Spectre, for instance, introduced a new car model that was used during its intense car chases, the Aston Martin DB10. For those of you that are Bond fanatics, you’ll remember that MGM has supported various car models for the superspy over the years, and this was no exception. The film also featured nice little nods with other companies, including Omega Seamaster 300 watch, Belvedere vodka and even top-of-the-line clothes and sunglasses from Tom Ford.

Meanwhile, another blockbuster, Jurassic World, had a number of product nods, but didn’t go overboard with their mentions. These include the use of a Mercedes Benz to get around the island (Bryce Dallas Howard can clearly be seen driving one when the dinosaur escapes containment), Samsung phones, Beats headphones and even Verizon Wireless, which was mentioned as a premium sponsor for a new exhibit for the park. (“Verizon Wireless presents the Indominus Rex.”)

Product placement isn’t likely to slow down at all for 2016, as more companies find unique ways to promote their wares, mostly tied in with other popular means of entertainment. It continues to be effective, so why change a good thing

How Mobile Gaming Will Grow in 2016

Analysts and industry leaders see big changes happening in the mobile games sector in the coming years. The most prominent will be in how the industry will see massive consolidation through acquisitions, until a handful of large companies control most of the games, while small and medium sized companies will have a harder time competing. Activision Blizzard’s $5.9 billion purchase of King Digital Entertainment earlier this year is a sign of things to come.

Speaking to [a]listdaily, Niccolo de Masi, CEO of Glu Mobile discussed how the mobile industry is going through a “maturation phase” that will continue through the next year. Eventually, “there will be fewer big mobile game companies and fewer big mobile games.” In the next five years, the mobile games industry will have big companies looking to acquire smaller ones, most small companies struggling to get noticed so that they can be acquired, and very little in-between. It will also be an opportune time for acquisitions, investments, and partnerships to come from successful Asian companies looking to expand globally.

In discussing what it will take to compete in mobile gaming, Jeff Erle, CEO of MobilityWare, tells [a]listdaily that “right now in this space, it’s ‘innovate or die,’ and the corollary to that is ‘grow or die.’ One way that you can see this is through the rapid power consolidation at the top whereby small and mid-tier players are being squeezed out… If you aren’t innovating and growing, there are consequences. Conversely, there is great opportunity because companies in this space are at the nexus of 3 growing ecosystems — growth of mobile devices, growth of mobile gaming, and growth of mobile monetization (via IAP and advertising). So there’s a lot of opportunity there for a company to ride this tide.”

However, Josh Brooks, Senior Vice President for Brand Strategy & Marketing at SGN (Cookie Jam) states that the key to standing out in the mobile games market is in quality. “Customers are highly critical of the nuances that games offer, and as a result, developers need to be receptive to the feedback given.”

Yet, Brooks also expresses that “2016 feels like a year where taking risks on acquisition techniques is going to be a must. The competitive landscape in mobile gaming is putting pressure on marketers to find customers where they haven’t done so before…”

Mobile Gaming Settles In

This year saw the launch of multiple devices that casts mobile gaming in an all-new light. Chief among them are living room set-top boxes like the new Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Nvidia Shield Android TV, which all allow mobile games to be played at high quality resolutions on large screen televisions. While this takes the mobility out of mobile gaming, it puts the industry in closer competition with established gaming consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Although de Masi doesn’t see new set top boxes as effective gaming platforms yet, he does note how companies like Apple and Google working to promote a “quad-screen experience” across their respective brands of phones, laptops, tablets and televisions. By crossing multiple devices, companies will look to dominate the living room with a single brand.

Jeff Erle shares a similar outlook. “One of the great things about the Apple eco-system is the connection between devices (desktop > phone > tablet > watch and now TV!) across one OS. Each of these platforms has their own unique strengths and I look at each of them as a challenge for game developers. Apple TV is an obvious extension of the Phone & Tablet and it’s easy to see someone starting a game on their iPhone and continuing that same game on the TV, or vice-versa.”

Watching Wearables and VR

Although the Apple Watch launched in 2015 with a great fanfare and greater expectations, de Masi believes that smart watches “probably won’t sell as well as people think in 2016, and tablet sales will be flat.” Although smartphones will remain the primary gaming device through 2016 and going into 2018, de Masi sees a lot of potential with mobile VR devices like the Samsung Gear VR. While virtual reality might not see a lot big revenues in 2016, mobile VR technology (which relies on smartphones) stands a better chance of mass adoption than fully tethered PC headsets due to their comparative affordability and mobility.

Brooks, excitedly told [a]listdaily “VR will take mobile gaming into a new stratosphere and is beyond exciting. Gameplay, game narrative and social interaction will be turned upside down as the experience is working on a new dimension.”

While Erle, whose company recently released Solitaire for Apple Watch, explains that wearables offer a more extreme version of the quick gameplay sessions mobile is already known for. He also states that, “There is no doubt that VR will enable and empower content creators to conceive new, immersive ways to delight mobile gamers. However, content creators will have to think differently about how they engage their players. VR games will likely take on a different shape from how we experience mobile games today. Players will not necessarily be able to ‘play on the go’ or casually consume content with a few minutes to spare.”

What to Expect from 2016

For Glu, successful games in 2014 like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood continued to be big in 2015, and the elongated life of older games may continue throughout 2016. However, Glu is still expanding with new games with an emphasis on specific celebrities, like the recently released Katy Perry Pop, instead of third party brands. de Masi also predicts that the first mobile first-person shooter to break $200 million in cumulative revenue across its lifetime to release in 2016. Coincidentally, Glu is working to develop a game based on We Fire, a popular shooter in China, so that it can appeal to a global audience.

Brooks states, “..developers and studios will need to be more mindful of the games they are creating and marketing outside of their own locales. Going global means paying attention to the cultural trends and buying habits across the globe, not just where they live. Similar to console games and even movies, we will continue to see the growth of mobile game franchises extending the breath of successful IP.”

apple watch cropLastly, when asked about how he thought mobile gaming would grow and change, he stated ” Most of the good ideas have been taken, so it’s much harder to deliver little true innovation.  It’s no longer good enough to find a better mouse trap you have to figure out a whole new way to trap a mouse.”

2015 Sets the Tone for Virtual Reality

Virtual reality headsets like the PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will become commercially available in 2016, which made 2015 critical for paving the way using creative promotions to give consumers a taste of what’s to come. Here are just a few examples of how much its momentum shifted over these past few months:

The Expansion of Apps

Even though their consumer market hasn’t opened entirely yet, virtual reality headsets are already seeing a number of appealing apps that make the most of the medium. For instance, Disney has introduced a Google Cardboard VR experience called Jakku Spy into its Star Wars app, which tells a story that ties in with The Force Awakens.

In addition, The North Face has recreated some extreme sports activities, like rock climbing and visiting exotic locales, thanks to the help of a partnership with Jaunt; Square Enix has created a unique Wingsuit Experience that ties in with its action/adventure game Just Cause 3; and other immersive experiences are in the works, ranging from Everest VR to a theme park that revolves around a World’s Fair style of exhibit.

Enhancing the Virtual Experience

No company took better advantage the “travel” theme of VR than the Marriott hotel chain when it introduced virtual reality-based headsets into hotel rooms, enabling guests to visit exotic locations from the convenience of their room. This is a huge step up from what it had worked on the previous year with its immersive 4D travel experience.

Those who wanted to upgrade their home could do so using VR apps. Netflix partnered with the Samsung Gear VR to give users a unique living room experience, complete with an extra large television screen, to watch streaming TV and movies. It’s not the only one, either, as other companies, like Lionsgate, Twitch and Hulu also got into the program with their own introductions. Expect these programs to gain popularity over the course of 2016, with new features being added to immerse even more users.

Gaming Goes a Long Way

Video games embraced virtual reality in a big way in 2015, mainly through public demonstrations at events like PlayStation Experience and the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Nevertheless, the introduction of immersive game experiences certainly has a few fans excited.

Oculus led the charge with the debut of several new original titles for its forthcoming headset, including the space shooter EVE: Valkyrie and the suspenseful adventure Edge of Nowhere, being developed by Insomniac Games. It even introduced a new controller that enabled players to get more involved with their experiences.

PlayStation VR also saw a boost, not only with various demonstrations at events like Game Developers Conference and other events, but also various partners coming on board. During this month’s PlayStation Experience, a variety of new titles were introduced, including Rez Infinite (seen below) and Ace Combat 7. Although the demonstrations were very well received, Sony has not officially announced a price or release date yet, other than sometime in spring 2016.

Even Microsoft, which is developing its own HoloLens augmented reality headset, pitched in on virtual reality by partnering with Oculus to introduce a “living room experience” with the Oculus Rift. Players could stream games from an Xbox One to an Oculus Rift headset, which puts them inside a virtual movie theater with a gigantic screen. 

Minecraft, the best-selling hit from Mojang, will also be making its way to headsets in 2016. That’s certainly enough news to get fans excited.

Last but certainly not least, Epic Games produced a mini-series titled Sense of Presence that explained the excitement revolving around development for virtual reality headsets, as well as what the technology can do for video games in general. Check out the sample episode below.

VR Goes To the Movies

Finally, the pairing of virtual reality and movies goes a little more hand-in-hand than you might expect, as last year’s San Diego Comic-Con saw promotions revolving around Pacific Rim, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Into the Storm that utilized Oculus technology.

This year was no exception, as a pair of major studio releases tied in with VR for different promotions. Paramount teamed with HTC Vive to recreate a spooky experience for Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, where viewers could interact with the environment before going to see the film. That experience will make its way to headsets in early 2016.

The blockbuster sequel The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 also saw a great VR-based tie-in, with Samsung debuting a Virtual Reality Experience in New York where fans could work their way into Katniss’ troubled world. Lasting six minutes total, the demo went a long way to introduce fans to a whole new side of the cinematic world that they’ve only seen on the big-screen.

Lionsgate is also working with Starbreeze to create a John Wick VR game to pave the way for the upcoming movie sequel. These promotions, and many more like them, will continue well into 2016, as movie studios work alongside developers and major headset manufacturers to bring virtual worlds to life.

Although virtual reality has yet to hit the consumer market, there are those who believe that it will hit its stride in no time, making as much as $6.7 billion within the next twelve months alone. Considering all the innovations we’ve seen in preparation, that number might not be too far-fetched.

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3 Things Marketers Benefitted Most From In 2015

Year-end lists are hitting the Internet like the bubonic plague, and no, we’re not immune to it either. With that disclaimer out of the way, lets unpack three of the year’s biggest darlings that were a major key to success for marketers.



Editor’s note: Do you sing Akon’s “Smack That” every time you read “Snapchat,” too? We’re asking for a friend.

If we were to hand out high school yearbook-like awards, Snapchat would win “most likely to succeed” honors. The social media darling experienced explosive growth in 2015 thanks to in large part to leveraging the 6 billion daily views of its temporary videos.

Although the launch of video apps like Meerkat and Periscope made big waves within the industry, Snapchat separated itself from the pack and likely has the most staying power. Social media platforms like Vine still churn out celebrities in six-seconds or less, and even though they’re trying to reinvent themselves in some ways, the platform is beginning to look antiquated.

Brands on Snapchat have been able to blitz through social’s walls and engage directly with their consumers — hello Star Wars. Already estimated to be worth sixteen billion big ones, brands like Coca Cola are hiring influencers to advertise and build their audience through the platform.

Which brings us to …

Influencer marketing


The Influencer Orchestration Network has been exhaustively covering this burgeoning beat. From Microsoft using influencer marketing to launch their new Surface devices to Marriott using YouTuber Rachel Talbott for their A Different Everyday series, brands our constantly staying ahead of the curve by implementing new marketing tactics to reach customers. Vloggers, Instagrammers and the like have real world-wide reach and gravitas.

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It resonates more when, say DJ Khaled offers life lessons — or the fitness model you get googly-eyed for starts shelling fat burners into your feed. You guessed: they’re influencers.

IONs already identified three marketing mistakes to avoid next year, so make sure you don’t make our hit list in December 2016:

1) Working only with the biggest influencers
2) Not taking influencers seriously
3) Using influencer marketing like a regular ad buy

Native advertising 

Is it a sponsored post is it branded content Is it in an advertorial It’s probably all of it, but the correct buzzword is “native advertising,” and publishers and content creators are using it like a buzzsaw to cut through antediluvian methods of marketing.

Content budgets are rising — nearly half of forward-thinking marketing types are spending 20 percent more. Those who are implementing the strategy right are knocking it out of the park: Netflix, for one, formed a digital partnership with the Wall Street Journal to promote the bilingual chronicle of Colombian cocaine lord Pablo Escobar for the hit show Narcos. You can even “cut” the headline in the multimedia story. It’s campaigns like this that has the industry high on native ads.

Over the course of 2015, in addition to brands, publishers were big on native, too. The New York Times said it wanted to double digital revenue to $800 million while placing increased focus on native ads, BuzzFeed launched native video political advertising and The Atlantic revealed that people spend more than 4 minutes on its native ads.

Brands like Marriott and L’Oreal are operating fully staffed and functional content studios to ramp up original content efforts.

Incorporating best practices will only lead to better results — and that’s a New Year’s resolution everyone can subscribe to.

Here’s How Streaming Entertainment Has Changed In 2015

A new report from broadband services company Sandvine, indicates that 70 percent of North American Internet traffic during evening hours comes from streaming entertainment, namely video and audio through sites like Netflix and YouTube. This is nearly double the number that viewers invested in “real-time entertainment,” when it was only at 35 percent.

Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Video are the top three sources when it comes to video traffic, with Netflix having a healthy lead by 37 percent.

This just goes to show that streaming entertainment has become more commonplace with today’s audience. Here are a few examples of just how much it changed in 2015.

Music. Pandora and Spotify are no longer the only primary music services in town. A number of new competitors stepped up this year to grab a piece of the streaming audio pie, and grab it they did. Apple Music was introduced mid-year, providing listeners with not only a variety of artist choices for a small monthly fee, but also exclusive playlist from celebrity musicians, as well as exclusive shows, like this month’s presentation of the 1989 tour featuring Taylor Swift. YouTube also debuted its long-awaited music service, with access to thousands of artists as part of its newly introduced YouTube Red service. Finally, several artists rounded around the new Tidal service, providing not only lossless audio and various music choices, but also its own exclusive events, like Jay-Z concerts. No matter which way music artists wanted to go this year, various choices definitely became available.

Video Games. Although the OnLive service may have bitten the dust, cloud-streaming video games became the norm once again, namely due to the PlayStation Now service. With it, players can select from a number of popular PlayStation 3 games, which can be streamed through various Sony consoles, including the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita, along with various Sony TV models. With the introduction of an affordable subscription model, the service has become quite popular with certain fans, and should expand even further in 2016 with access to more devices, as well as more popular games, such as Bioshock Infinite and the Uncharted series.

Video. More and more “cable cutters” have arisen, mainly due to the introduction of TV-based subscription services that have become quite popular with the viewing public. Sony has its own PlayStation Vue service, which has seen growth across more states in 2015, offering a fair streaming alternative to audiences seeking out their favorite channels. In addition, more premium and network-based channels have begun providing streaming entertainment through specific apps (for a small fee), including Starz, HBO (with HBO Now) and CBS. More of these are likely to appear in 2016, giving viewers alternatives to just simply having a cable connection. This, on top of the thriving popularity of apps like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, should help see enough of an upswing for digital video to overcome television programming within just a few months.

Original programming. 2015 wasn’t just a year for TV shows and movies to grow, but also original programming, which is drawing in more and more viewers. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon each saw their fair examples of original shows, including big hits like Jessica Jones. However, it was also the year that other popular streaming channels, like YouTube and Twitch, got into the act.

For instance, YouTube introduced a new Red service that provides exclusive programming to those who pay its small monthly fee, including a humorous series revolving around gaming superstar PewDiePie as he gets “scared” by particular pranks, as set up by the show’s co-founder, The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman.

Twitch, a service usually devoted to video game tournaments and personality-laden game streamers, also diversified in 2015 with the introduction of various new promotions and events. It did a number of great things this year, including teaming up with HBO to promote Silicon Valley, expanding its music service to allow access to more little-known artists (thus providing them with great exposure in the process), and even going as far as appealing to artists, with classic episodes of Bob Ross’ painting show being streamed in a marathon which in turn has resulted in a tremendous audience. As a result, more artists are now streaming on Twitch, gaining almost as much popularity as the gamers before them.

Streaming has certainly come a long way in 2015 and it appears that the medium is just getting started.

TV Ad Market Seems to Be Thriving, But the Reasons Are Murkier

With the digital viewing market is going the way it is, some companies are questioning whether there’s still value in advertising on television. However, a report from the Standard Media Index indicates that there’s still profitability, even if the picture isn’t quite so clear.

SMI’s report (via The Wall Street Journal) indicates that TV advertising managed to grow 33 percent from the previous year, based on data from 80 percent of all U.S. ad agency spending. In addition, broadcast advertising spending has also increased by 44 percent in the “scatter” market, which is where advertising is sold closer to an air date instead of during the usual “upfront” time frame, when new shows make their premieres. It’s like buying into mid-season, instead of at the start. Cable also showed an increase in this market, 24 percent over the previous year.

It all comes down to supply and demand in the market, as shorter ratings for programs lead to networks having to make up airtime for certain advertisers. As a result, the window for new advertisers shrinks a bit, with the shorter supply resulting in improved pricing for the networks. This has led to a boost in arrangements for the mid-season, with “scatter” pricing set to pick back up as soon as January.

“There’s no doubt prices have increased in scatter, but the underlying reasons for that aren’t necessarily strengths that the networks would like everyone to believe,” said Dave Campanelli, Horizon Media’s director of national TV.

The “scatter” market also saw a pick-up over the holiday season, as more companies opted to release ads in the hopes of bringing in more consumers during the Black Friday/holiday season.

Even with these numbers, the television advertising picture is still a bit murky. Magna Global, part of Interpublic Group, reported that national television ad sales saw a very minor growth this year, only by 0.3 percent, although it still came in at $42 billion. However, a slight drop-off is expected next year, with “non-recurring events” (like the forthcoming Summer Olympics) excluded.

Jason Kanefsky, executive vice president and director of strategic investments for Havas Media, pointed out that big spending from a number of companies, mainly within pharmaceuticals, along with tighter ad inventory, have helped create a stronger “scatter” market overall. This is causing some networks to bring into question certain aspects of digital advertising, which has attracted a fair share of companies along the way. Toby Byrne, president of ad sales for Fox Network Group, stated that those investing in Web ads are “not exactly getting what they’re paying for, and what they’re getting may not be as effective or engaging.”

Even with networks and cable channels admitting that the “scatter” market is doing well in terms of advertising, there is still cause for concern regarding the popularity of the digital entertainment, mainly with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. Digital ad spending could be in for a monumental shift, with the medium eclipsing television for the first time. Magna Global sees this as the reason more companies are hopping on board digital advertising instead of routine television ads.

How Virtual Reality Will Take Hold in 2016

With headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR launching within a few months, 2016 is poised to become a landmark year  one where consumers can enter into the age of virtual reality devices. According to some estimates, the VR industry could grow to $6.7 billion in 2016 alone, driven mainly by hardware sales as the main contenders battle for market dominance.

We’ve already seen companies experiment with VR marketing and entertainment by offering companion experiences to movies and products using apps and mobile technology like Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR, which uses mobile phones instead of dedicated headsets that must be hooked into computers. As Glu Mobile CEO Niccolo de Masi told [a]listdaily in his predictions for 2016, the future of VR is likely to grow fastest using mobile devices, given how “not only does its low cost make it more accessible, but it’s more compelling for people traveling on a train or plane, or even kids in the back of a car.” de Masi also notes that most companies won’t see big revenues come from VR in 2016, but we’re likely to see one-hundred million devices on the market by 2020.

Despite predictions like these, companies like Nvidia remain optimistic about the growth of VR headwear. Jason Paul, Nvidia’s General Manager for GeForce Experience and virtual reality, is working to grow “the installed base of GeForce VR Ready PCs to grow from 5 million today, to over 130 million by 2020.” Talking to [a]listdaily, Paul discussed how the high price of VR was bound to drop, and that “VR ready PCs have already been announced for under $1,000, and there are tens of millions of customers who can become VR-ready simply by upgrading their graphics card.” Nvidia and other technology and entertainment companies will be working hard to promote the adoption of VR technology by creating immersive experiences like Everest VR.

The key to VR taking off will be in offering unforgettable experiences, and while companies like The New York Times, Vrse and others are creating interactive videos, video games (by nature) offer the best opportunities for promoting the technology. Virtual reality can be seen as both the launch of an accessory and an all-new platform, but it’s one that video game fans are eager to dive into, if the PlayStation VR announcements at the PlayStation Experience are any indication. Sony’s strength is in PlayStation 4 gaming, and it’s working to ensure fans can look forward to deep experiences from PlayStation VR.

In addition to projects like The Walking Dead VR Experience, game developer Starbreeze is currently at work developing a John Wick VR game to help pave the way for the movie sequel. Starbreeze CEO, Bo Andersson Klint, told [a]listdaily that “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.”

That sentiment is echoed by Crytek’s Executive Producer, Elijah Freeman, who explained 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.” Crytek is currently developing Robinson: The Journey for PlayStation VR and The Climb for Oculus Rift.

No matter which technology comes out ahead, consumers can look forward to virtual reality becoming a bigger part of their daily lives starting in 2016. Retail stores are already looking into ways to incorporate the experiential technology into their brand marketing, with some featuring more creative uses than others. The technology will become more affordable as consumers grow more accustomed to VR, and perhaps in a year or two we’ll wonder  much like we already do with smartphones  how we ever managed life without it.

The Top 5 ESports Events of 2015

This year we saw a number of eSports tournament take place at fan conventions like BlizzCon, which hosted tournaments for StarCraft II, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and Heroes of the Storm. Sony hosted a Street Fighter Tournament for The Capcom Cup at the PlayStation Experience event held earlier this month.

There are few better opportunities to engage directly with eSports fans than at these large scale conventions. Estimates indicate that eSports viewership will grow to 300 million by 2017, and will one billion in revenue by 2018. Activision Blizzard’s Mike Sepso stated that, “Data shows that eSports spectators are more engaged, and will spend twice as much on peripherals, and 30 percent more on hardware and software than players that don’t watch.” Without further ado, here are the Top 5 eSports events of the year.

Dota 2 – The International

When it comes to eSports, Dota 2 is practically legendary. With 16 teams competing over a prize pool worth over $18 million at the Keyarena at Seattle Center last August, The International tournament reportedly brought in 4.6 million viewers at its peak this year.

League of Legends World Tournament

16 teams went head-to-head for a prize pool worth over $2 million in October at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin. In total, the tournament got 360 million hours of viewership, with a cumulative 4.2 million concurrent viewers were seen over 73 games. During the finals, the peak number of concurrent viewers reportedly reached 14 million, while the total unique viewer count hit 36 million – the highest in eSports history.

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Smite World Championship

Released in 2014, and coming to the Xbox One for the first time this year, Smite is a relative newcomer to the eSports space. However, that hasn’t stopped it from hosting a tournament with over $2.6 million in prizes. Over one million viewers watched the final day of the tournament via Twitch. In additional to the number of people who watched the tournament live from Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, Smite reported got 2.9 million cumulative daily unique online viewers throughout the tournament. The Smite World Championship 2016 will take place January 7-10, 2016. 

smite championships

Counter-Strike Global Offensive – ESL One Cologne

Unlike DOTA 2, there is no single grand CS:GO tournament. Instead, organizations like Dreamhack and ESL host their own annual competitions with prize pools of up to $250,000. This year, 27 million people reportedly watched the ESL One Cologne 2015 tournament on Twitch, with 1.3 million concurrent viewers at its peak.

Call of Duty Championships

Last September, Activision announced the Call of Duty World League, which promises new opportunities for winners to earn a spot in the Call of Duty Championship, along increasing the potential winnings to $3 million, awarded throughout the year. This kind of support is likely to grow the COD Championship viewership, which averaged 60,000-80,000 concurrent viewers this year as teams vied for a piece of a $1 million prize pool.

Marketers will need to keep a few things in mind to properly engage with eSports audiences as they continue to grow and evolve. Like in traditional sports, every eSports fan base has its own unique energy and jargon. Marketers need to learn how to best cater to that energy. Secondly, marketers need to understand why fans attend or tune in to eSports tournaments. According to an July 2015 EEDAR report, eSports viewers are largely young males who are very enthusiastic about their favorite games. An earlier Eventbrite report further indicates that the majority of viewers live in the US and Europe.

However, when asked why they watched eSporting events, the most common answer was to watch skilled players at work, followed by how they wanted to learn strategies and techniques to improve their own skills. Supporting a specific team or player ended up being the least popular reasons, according to the EEDAR report.

Newzoo Examines the 2015 Mobile Games Landscape

Just in time for an end of the year perspective, Newzoo has published a new report that takes a look at just how much the mobile games landscape has changed over the last twelve months.

Titled The Mobile Games Landscape In 2015 & The Power Users Who Shaped It, it takes a dynamic look into how key developments and particular “power users” that are driving them helped shape the market into a successful one.

George Osborn, owner of Mobile Mavericks, had plenty to say about the mobile industry. With the sector generating revenues of over $30 billion and King, arguably the biggest player in the market, valued at $6 billion, it s fair to say that mobile gaming has reached heights in 2015 that few of us would have expected a decade ago

“Unfortunately, what this means for the industry now and in the future has been clouded by antagonistic models of thinking. Whether deliberately or otherwise, mobile gaming s success has tended to be framed as a battle with console or PC. When I unpacked the data from this report, a different picture emerged.  In contrast to the usual narratives about mobile versus console or PC within the industry, it s clear that most players are not in one camp or the other; they re in both.”

The report has several key points, including the following:

  • With $30 billion estimated for this year, the mobile games market has managed to see a $5.5 billion increase over the previous year. Newzoo noted that China was the number one games market for the year, leading to a huge amount of growth in Asia Pacific.
  • In addition to the Pacific showing progress, Southeast Asia has also become popular in the mobile market, as more Western mobile game developers are finding ways to expand into that market.
  • When Activision acquired King for a record $5.9 billion back in November, it knew what it was buying into, as it becomes the number two public game company in terms of worldwide revenue, with a reach of well over 81 million gamers and that’s just in the U.S. market.
  • 90 million mobile gamers consider themselves Free Marketers, players that spend no money but do invest huge amounts of time on their games. Some companies miss out on the fact that they’re a valuable group for success.
  • 49.3 million mobile gamers are considered Big Spends, buying items for their favorite mobile games. The report also notes that 71 percent of those also purchase items for their favorite games on consoles.
  • Out of all the countries with the highest Day 7 retention rates across both iOS and Android, Belgian and Austrian mobile gamers top the list, although Saudi Arabia continues to be number one when it comes to average revenues per daily active user.

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Giving Back: The Games Industry’s Top Charitable Promotions of 2015

It’s the season of giving, which makes it the perfect time to take a look back at some of the biggest and best charitable promotions of 2015.


Twitch recently released an infographic that details some of the record-breaking charitable contributions made using the platform in 2015. The Twitch communities managed to raise a total of $17 million across 55 different assisted charities, an increase of $11.1 million from the previous year. In addition, the amount of streams raising at least $50,000 for such causes have doubled over the previous year, up to 25.

Top charitable campaigns include Extra Life for Children’s Miracle Network (over $7 million), Games Done Quick for Doctors Without Borders (over $2.8 million) and Gaming for Good for Save the Children (over $1.3 million raised).

It’s just proof positive that gamers, even those that make a living playing games on Twitch, can take the time to give back to charitable causes. It’s a win-win scenario, and one that should continue to thrive for years to come.

Charity Infographic FINAL

Call of Duty Endowment

While Activision easily makes millions with its popular Call of Duty franchise year after year, it does give back to veterans through its charitable Call of Duty Endowment foundation. This public benefit foundation got its start back in 2011, following the company’s Call of Duty XP event, where all ticket sales were donated to assist veterans in finding work and establishing careers.

Every year, the Endowment group has done very well, with millions of dollars raised through events and sales of special items to fans, like special dogtags, challenge coins, and other branded goods sold through retailers like Gamestop and Costco. A number of other campaigns held in 2015 helped boost charitable earnings into the millions. 

One particular tournament took place back in November, when several pro players took part in #TheRace, streaming live from the offices of Treyarch, the developers of Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Fans watching the event managed to raise $200,000, which Activision matched dollar for dollar. $50,000 was also raised through a number of sponsors, bringing the overall total to nearly half a million dollars.

There was also a great promotion hosted by Omaze, in which donors were entered into a drawing for the opportunity to have their likeness appear as a zombie in Black Ops III. It managed to raise millions of dollars for the group. Many celebrities took part in the promotion, including voice actor Nolan North, who offered to give one of the winners an outgoing voicemail message recorded in the voice of his Call of Duty character, Dr. Richtofen.

Additionally, several celebrities also got into the Omaze promotion by pretending to be zombies, leading to some humorous results. These included Metallica frontman James Hetfield, web superstar iJustine, and actors from the game, including North.

 More events for the Call of Duty Endowment are likely to keep going next year, especially with the forthcoming launch of Activision’s World League tournament, which should be underway in just a few days’ time.


While the yearly Bethesda-hosted QuakeCon event is a great place for fans to discuss everything from Doom to Fallout 4, it’s also an ideal place for fans to give back in a number of ways, as various charitable organizations take part in the event. 2015 definitely followed suit. 

Leading the charge was the American Red Cross, taking blood donations in a drive to help those that needed it. Those that took the time to donate got a Bethesda-related gift for their efforts. This year’s event reportedly saw a huge line of fans willing to donate throughout its four days, just like when it was first introduced in 2014 to promote the blood-soaked horror game, The Evil Within.

In addition, a number of other charitable partners joined in, including Take This, Dallas Pets Alive, Extra Life and Big Brothers & Big Sisters of North Texas.

An event such as QuakeCon is an ideal place for charitable partners to take part, as thousands of fans easily contribute back to their respective communities, while at the same time still having fun with games and other events provided by Bethesda. Look for these partnerships to continue enduring with 2016’s QuakeCon and beyond. 

Insomniac Games

Finally, the developers of the forthcoming Ratchet & Clank have been rather busy this year. Along with preparing its big PlayStation 4 exclusive, it also released its first PC title, an action puzzle game called Slow Down, Bull that would be a direct contributor to the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

The game features a stressed out bull character vying for a more peaceful, art-creating lifestyle, running through streets and trying to collect as much crafty pieces as he can find. It’s a fun game for all ages, and one that packs a lot of joy and good feeling in for a relatively low price. 50 percent of the game’s overall proceeds go to the Starlight Children’s Foundation, which works to improve the health of children and families around the world. 

Although Insomniac Games didn’t have any promotional partners on the project, it thrived anyway, mainly due to a strong social push by the publisher, including livestreams, development blog posts, and social media.