Twitch Discusses the Growing Influence of Livestreaming

Purchased by Amazon last year in a $970 million cash deal, Twitch continues to grow as the premiere platform for livestream broadcasts like eSports tournaments and live event coverage, averaging over 100 million unique viewers per month. It has been an amazing year for Twitch, marked by major events like a 9-day continuous broadcast of all the Joy of Painting episodes.

[a]listdaily talks to Twitch COO Kevin Lin, and the company’s Chief Revenue Officer, Jonathan Simpson-Bint, about some of the changes Twitch has seen in 2015 and what might be in store for the future.

Kevin LinIn what ways has video game streaming grown and changed over the last year

[Kevin] Video game streaming has continued to reach larger and larger audiences in more places. People are consuming more on a daily basis and interacting at higher levels than last year.

In terms of eSports, every major event that took place last year has boasted significantly better viewership numbers than last year, illustrating the movement’s momentum.

Lastly, more game companies and brands than ever before are using live streaming to make major announcements directly to their audience. Twitch has allowed game companies to speak directly to their audience in a medium they really embraces, and we’re seeing a lot of games built from the ground up with streaming in mind.

Have mobile game streams been on the rise, and have they made a significant impact among eSports streams

[Kevin] We haven’t seen too many mobile titles that have built effective streaming communities so far, although some games, such as Vainglory, have shown a lot of promise both in general streaming and eSports potential.

In what ways do you think Twitch streaming will continue to grow in 2016

[Kevin] Audience engagement is at an all-time high, and we believe that we’ll continue to reach more and more people across the globe.

jonathan simpsonbintIn 2015, we saw TV shows like Mr. Robot premiere on Twitch, and a Joy of Painting marathon. Can viewers expect a lot of similar television promotional broadcasts in the future

[Jonathan] The two broadcasts that you highlight are actually very different in terms of how they arrived on Twitch and how we think of them. Mr. Robot and any other promotional TV show partnerships were marketing activations brought in through our media sales team. Entertainment companies are excited about reaching the Twitch audience, and we plan to work with entertainment companies through our Twitch Specials program.

The Bob Ross marathon was a program developed by our internal Twitch Creative team. Since they were launching the category on Bob Ross’ birthday, what better way to celebrate than with a Joy of Painting marathon!

Twitch has become a fantastic place to introduce TV and movie IP to a huge audience that, by the definition of game culture, is already pre-self-selected to have a very high level of interest. We will continue to explore opportunities with brands and programming that fits well with our audience.

How has Twitch worked with advertisers to ensure they’re reaching the right audience

[Jonathan] For most of our advertisers, Twitch is already the right audience. Advertisers come to Twitch because we have a vast and hugely engaged millennial audience. Beyond that, we work really hard with our advertisers to make sure that their campaigns and their creative resonates with the audience and within the social video. Authenticity is critically important, and our creative services team works tirelessly to educate advertisers and deliver compelling and relevant creative.

mr robot

What Tencent’s Ownership of Riot Games Means

In an update on its employment page, League of Legends developer Riot Games announced that it has sold its remaining equity to Tencent, which gives the popular online Chinese game company full ownership.

With the completed purchase, new incentives are opening up for Riot employees. “As a result of our continued growth and changing circumstances, we’re shifting to a new structure to recognize and reward Rioters’ contributions,” reads the post. “and that first involves a big change to our existing equity program. The company confirmed a “cash-based incentive program” for its workers, which leans on its overall success.

Tencent has been a majority stake holder in the company for several years, making its initial investment in 2011. It also invested money for stakes in game companies like Activision Blizzard and Epic Games, which have obviously paid off with a number of successful properties between them.

While some may see this as a surprise, others feel that it was expected of Tencent, in an effort to increase the exposure of games like League of Legends. Joost van Dreunen from SuperData Research, speaking with [a]listdaily, noted, “It’s not unexpected. Tencent operates in a rather transparent way: whenever it sees a particular game or genre rise in popularity on its networks, Tencent either builds its own version or buys itself a piece of the action. Moving to own Riot Games outright is merely an epilogue to Tencent’s earlier investment, and consistent with the company’s overall investment strategy.”

Joost discusses how the acquisition of Riot Games will help with Tencent’s overall growth. Ownership of Riot gives Tencent access to an enormous global audience. Our numbers indicate that League of Legends has around 100 million monthly active users, well beyond the 67 million they reported publicly over a year ago. I have no doubt that Riot s growth played a crucial part in completing the transaction. Beyond revenues, it allows Tencent to leverage Riot s audience for other games and services, thereby further expanding its global entertainment empire.

That said, changes to day-to-day business aren’t likely to be that jarring. I don t expect to see any changes. Tencent understands that it makes little sense to change a winning formula. Likely, Tencent will initiate an even more aggressive push behind LoL s eSports effort and a re-commitment to expanding the user experience,” Joost added.

Tencent’s buyout of Riot Games is just the latest acquisition to take place in the year, “Whereas Western publishers are trying to breach the Asian games markets by localizing existing games, Eastern publishers tend to acquire or invest in existing game companies. It s not immediately obvious whether the games market is changing in terms of available content, but certainly the list of top firms is getting smaller. Combined with Activision s recent acquisition of King and a slew of smaller mergers, the games industry is entering a phase of consolidation that typically follows a period of disruption.

Overall, this could mean a larger interest in consolidation between the U.S. and China, since games are incredibly popular in both markets. To operate on a global scale requires vast resources, and a disciplined approach to game development and publishing. This makes the group of companies that is equipped to do so is increasingly smaller, and raises the barriers to entry.”

Newzoo’s Peter Warman looked at the bigger picture when regarding the news. Speaking with [a]listdaily, he explained that Tencent owned 93 percent of Riot Games already, therefore, “Tencent acquiring the remaining 7 percent of Riot Games is not big news. It comes almost exactly five years after their biggest share increase in 2011. It most probably is the final buy-out of the founders who, as part of the 2011 deal, would keep (part of) their shares for a period of five years securing their leadership. Now that they have succeeded in building world s leading PC game and esports franchise, they deserve a good payday.

“More interesting is to look at it in a larger perspective. Tencent controls a significant share of Glu Mobile and has a considerable stake in worlds second largest company by game revenues: Activision Blizzard, (which) recently bought King, boosting their combined H1 2015 revenues to $3.4 billion, with Tencent at $4.2 billion,” Warman continued. “When Activision Blizzard broke loose from Vivendi back in July 2013 in a deal sized at $8.2 billion, a consortium called ASAC II, purchased $2.34 billion, or almost 25 percent worth of shares. Guess who was a large contributor to this consortium… indeed, Tencent.”

As for how the buyout might shake up the video game industry, Warman states that Tencent indirectly and partially “controls about a third of the revenues generated by the top 10 global companies by game revenues.” This could prompt Tencent’s chief rival, Netease, to take further action. “I would not be surprised if Netease makes an effort to acquire EA before the power of Tencent in the Western market is behind their horizon.”

Evolve Labs Enters ESports Arena With BlackFlag

Evolve Labs is expanding beyond its PC gaming social media platform, Evolve. The company is entering the eSports arena for the first time with BlackFlag, a new paid service that will charge League of Legends teams of five a $5 entry fee to compete with other teams of similar skills for cash prizes. 

Evolve Labs is working with Riot Games and will use the League of Legends Tournament API to facilitate fair matches through BlackFlag. For now, this new service is a standalone product, but still affiliated with the Evolve collaboration platform. League of Legends players from Evolve’s 2 million users have been part of early testing and BlackFlag arenas will eventually be natively supported within Evolve.

The service will first be available to players 18 and older in 45 out of the 50 States and all of Canada, with plans to roll out globally wherever permitted by law. Adam Selke, co-founder and CEO of Evolve, talks about this entry into eSports in this exclusive interview.

adamselkeWhat did Evolve launch as originally back in 2010

Evolve was launched in 2010 with a mission to make gaming more simple, more social, and more fun. We started as a sort of Facebook for gamers that combined an in-game instant messaging app with an easy-to-use virtual private network that enabled gamers to connect and play videogames together over the internet.

How did Evolve amass this audience of 1.8 million gamers

Evolve has grown mostly through word of mouth. In January 2013 we had less than 100,000 members. Twenty-four months later we hit our first million. This year we’re doubling that.

Why did you decide to enter the eSports arena now

ESports is one of the most exciting things happening in gaming today. It’s been a huge contributing factor in the resurgence of the PC as gaming platform, and in Evolve’s growth in general. We witnessed first-hand its influence through our affiliation with Twitch and the popularity of eSports titles like League of Legends and DoTA on Evolve. We wanted to find a more immediate way to engage this market.

How did you devise BlackFlag

When we started building Evolve 2.0 we were looking for ways to incorporate eSports directly into the platform, but the costs and timelines to fully integrate the experience conflicted with other priorities. That’s when part of our team went rogue and developed BlackFlag as a more focused, standalone MVP in order to test the concept and bring it to market sooner than later. It’s been a true labor of love.

How have you worked with Riot Games in bringing League of Legends into the fold

We’ve been working with Whalen Rozelle, director of eSports at Riot and J. Eckert, their developer relations guy, on their new Tournament API. Gaining reliable access to game data direct from the source helps add to our commitment to building a high-integrity product.

What are your rollout plans for other eSports titles

There are a few titles on our radar, but there are no immediate plans to support specific titles. In short, any game with a way to ensure fair matches and honest outcomes could be supported.

Fantasy Sports has come under a lot of heat of late in multiple states. How does this offering circumvent those issues

Daily Fantasy is taking some heat, but it is also vigorously defending its legitimacy as a game of skill. That said, head-to-head competitive arenas are even further to the right of the game of chance versus game of skill debate, so even if something were to change in the Fantasy space, BlackFlag has its own relative position on it.

How much money can be won by playing a League of Legends match with this service

We’ll be testing different fee and prize structures as we roll out, but initially, prizes will be $8.50 per team, per match. There is no maximum limit.

How big an audience do you see for this service

The market is still somewhat new, and compared with Daily Fantasy Sports, still relatively small. However there are 67M LoL players, playing an estimated 30M matches a month. We thought it was a sizable enough to explore.  

How are you marketing BlackFlag

To start, we’re engaging the 250,000 members of Evolve who play League of Legends to be early testers on BlackFlag. Beyond the Evolve community we’ll be reaching out to various game-related and LoL-specific media partners, bloggers, and streamers to help us get the word out.

What are your long-term goals with this technology

We’re definitely excited about adding native instant competitive match support to Evolve. We think it will add a whole new level of excitement and engagement to the platform.

Google Reveals The Top Trending Games of 2015

Google has wasted no time breaking down some of the biggest trending topics for 2015, including top Searches, Movies, People and other topics, including offbeat interests like Celebrity Pregnancies and Celebrity Weddings. However, one list that should be of interest is Video Games, as the top spot doesn’t belong to an established franchise, but rather a surprising favorite.

The web browser based game managed to take the number one spot when it came to trending video game topics. In the game, players compete against one another online, portraying circles that absorb smaller circles in a limited playfield, growing larger as a result. The game has amassed millions of players this year, thus making it an obvious favorite. 

However, the rest of this year’s top trending games are quite familiar:

2. Fallout 4. Bethesda’s hit sequel benefitted from a huge marketing blitz this year, alongside its popular mobile tie-in, Fallout Shelter, which has become one of this year’s biggest free-to-play hits.

3. Mortal Kombat X. The blood-soaked fighting sequel didn’t disappoint, selling millions of copies across the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Its success will continue in 2016 with the announcement of several new fighters, including the Xenomorph from the Alien films and Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. 

4. Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Activision’s latest entry in the fast-paced first-person shooting franchise has been a huge sales success, and has also seen a strong marketing push in its own right. 2016 will be big for it as well, between forthcoming downloadable content for the game and the introduction of an eSports-based World League.

5. Star Wars: Battlefront. Battlefront‘s success shouldn’t be that big a surprise, since the Star Wars-labeled shooter has tie-ins with the forthcoming The Force Awakens, as well as a large offering of multiplayer modes. It should no doubt be one of the most popular games for the overall holiday season.

6. Pokémon GO! A game that will no doubt take the mobile playing world by storm, Pokémon GO! ingeniously combines real-world terrain with in-game actions, as players attempt to “catch ’em all” across a number of places. With hundreds of Pokémon characters available, this should attract fans with ease.

7. Madden NFL 16. EA Sports’ officially licensed football game continues to draw in millions of fans around the world, and with various promotions happening this year, it continued to be a top trender on the Google front as well. Don’t be surprised if Madden NFL 17 follows suit next year.

8. NBA 2K16. 2K Sports’ slam-dunk of a basketball franchise continued to be a best-seller this year, with millions of units sold throughout the holidays. The game has gained big buzz through a number of promotions as well, including a recent team-up with Twitch to reveal Kyrie Irving’s new Nike shoes. Look for this trend to continue well into next year’s NBA season as well, leading up to the release of NBA 2K17.

9. Bloodborne. Sony Computer Entertainment had big success this year, with over 30 million PlayStation 4 systems sold. Leading the charge was an array of strong original titles, including this brutal hack and slash game from the creators of the Dark Souls series, From Software. Bloodborne drew a large audience since its release earlier in the year, and its success continued on with additional downloadable content and new challenges. 

10. Battlefield Hardline. Battlefront wasn’t the only big success for Electronic Arts this year, as its latest Battlefield game, set in the world of cops and robbers, also drew a big online crowd since its release earlier in the year. Featuring a number of multiplayer options that fans have become used to, along with an action-packed single player campaign, Hardline had no problem boosting its popularity on the social front. 

‘The Incorruptibles’ Takes on the Mobile Gaming World

With development led by industry veteran Bruce Shelley, along with other creative minds at BonusXP who are behind popular strategy games like Age of Empires and Halo Wars, The Incorruptibles is a newly released real-time strategy game for mobile devices and tablets. With it, players control the action and manage resources while taking part in lightning fast battles.

BCS cropped[a]listdaily speaks with Bruce Shelley [pictured right], Chief Designer at BonusXP, and MaxPlay’s Head of Marketing, Chip Blundell, to get a look behind The Incorruptibles‘ marketing campaign, and find out what it takes to compete in an increasingly crowded mobile market.

Tell us about The Incorruptibles, and how it stands apart from other mobile games.

[Bruce] We believe it is a true real-time strategy game, which we have not seen much of on mobile devices. A player in The Incorruptibles controls the battles, directing all unit movement and attacks. That is the big difference from other popular mobile strategy games where the battles are run by the device while the player just watches. Incorruptibles gives the player more control which, in our experience, is more gratifying. We also have an overarching story and deep crafting, both of which encourage players to upgrade heroes to handle the tougher battles as the game progresses.

In what ways are you promoting The Incorruptibles

chip blundell[Chip] Working with a quality developer like BonusXP and their game pedigree (Age of Empires, Halo Wars, Civilization, etc), team talent and design expertise gives us so much to work with to promote the game. We have been promoting The Incorruptibles on the merits of the game’s quality, the BonusXP team experience, and the product’s core positioning.

It’s very difficult to get consumers’ attention or the folks at Apple or Google if you don’t have a quality game with a hook and unique selling proposition. The Incorruptibles positioning as a “true RTS game built for the mobile player” has helped us get featured as one of the Best New Games in the App Store as well as continue to receive media coverage by gaming sources like Pocket Gamer, TouchArcade & Slide to Play to name just a few.

Bruce Shelley has been doing media interviews and other two-way conversations with gamers such as his Reddit AMA event. We also created a humorous video series that has fun with the current competitive landscape and the exorbitant amount of money being spent on mobile advertising and how that makes it tough on the indie developers. The video campaign and all of our activities and coverage are being pushed heavily within our social networks. We are also of course, promoting the product through paid media advertising on Facebook, Google Adwords and other top tier mobile ad networks. We will continue to promote the game with significant app store updates and in-game events to keep the players engaged.

Tell us a little about the making of the “Game of Ads” Video Series

[Chip] The underlying concept of the campaign, “we spent all of our resources making a badass real-time strategy game, and had nothing left over for advertising,” was primarily inspired by two things:

The first relates to strategy. It was simply the reality that as small independent developers, we would be unable to compete head-to-head on pure media dollars being spent by the big mega publishers; especially in the strategy genre. Not only are the these publishers spending tens of millions on television advertising, we are seeing their impact via traditional user acquisition, where their unprecedented spending is driving up cost per installs (CPI) on literally all of the mobile networks. Spending at those levels was not a model that made sense for an independent developer like us who has to prioritize our budgets on optimizing the game quality over a massive marketing spend. Especially when initially launching a new product. We knew we had to do something different to get gamers attention, it had to be sharable to drive down eCPI costs and had to make the game the star.

Inspiration also came from the over-the-top creative itself, that mega publishers unleashed with ubiquity upon the world. Super high-gloss video ads for various games, including Game of War (featuring Kate Upton), had the sustained presence that only FanDuel and DraftKings have achieved. If you can’t go toe-to-toe with regard to media spend, what do you do We needed to create a story that gamers would relate to, and be willing to share. 

MaxPlay’s Bill Young came up with the idea of spoofing those campaigns, developed some concepts, and sourced the right director who could pull this type of humor off. Over the months between concept and execution, it was quite common for a bunch of us to riff and joke around about it – like, what would a low-budget version of those incredibly expensive ads look like This ultimately helped frame the idea in a context that made sense for The Incorruptibles. 

The best ideas came through the use of parody and gamer humor, which allowed us to have some fun with the shoot in the process. The juxtaposition for the creative is that the video ads themselves are super lo-fi, but the game is awesome. We knew that The Incorruptibles was going to be a great game – potentially the best RTS ever for mobile; it just needed a platform to be heard. 

What is the most important thing to keep in mind when promoting a new mobile game

[Chip] Stay true to the game and target audience. Use soft launch long enough to optimize key retention and monetization goals while fine tuning target audience, paid user acquisition costs and channels. Start conversations with the App Store early and stay in touch over the course of soft launch and planning periods. Find a creative hook that helps the game stand out and as always have fun promoting it. 

How do you see the mobile games industry growing and changing in the coming year

[Bruce] It is difficult to predict, but my best guess is to look at what has been particularly successful recently and assume people are looking to compete in those areas. I would expect more collectible card games to compete with Hearthstone, for example. New games coming should be positive for gamers. Smaller studios have difficulty competing with massive advertising campaigns, so we have to compete by making better games and better experiences. I would anticipate a number of quality games to appear, but you may have to look carefully to find them.

What are your thoughts on virtual reality and how it might impact mobile gaming

[Bruce] I don’t see VR being a competitive platform in the near term. It will take one or two years (or more) to gain traction. It is one thing to whip out your phone or pad to play a quick fifteen minute game; it’s another thing to get geared up.

I believe it’s a significantly different experience to put on the headset and any other gear required for VR. I think form factor and content will play a role in the successful VR companies. If VR gets to the point of being not much more than a large set of glasses, then maybe the market changes faster. But will people being wearing those as they commute on a train, or while they eat lunch, watch TV with one eye, etc Then there is the issue of how many popular game genres will translate to VR orwill VR create new game genres that will be incredibly compelling Certainly exciting times and will be fun to see how it unfolds.

Tech-Savvy Audiences Using Ad Block Make Marketers Think Macro

With companies like Adblock Plus trying to change the future of advertising by encouraging better ad formats and innovation, the hands of agencies, publishers and brands are forced to re-think strategies to put the user experience first.

Of the over 198 million people globally who run ad blockers each month, gaming and entertainment segments are hit the hardest because they have more sophisticated, tech-savvy audiences, Rebecca Markarian, senior vice president of digital and social media for the Ayzenberg Group, a full-service advertising agency, tells [a]listdaily. (Editor’s note: [a]listdaily is the media arm of the Ayzenberg Group.)

This industry needs to aggressively push ourselves away from banner-type ads to content and native advertising to continue to reach our audiences. The fragmentation of the platforms these audiences are getting information from is also getting more diverse, adding to the complexity, Markarian said.

According to anti-ad blocking firm PageFair, ad blocking estimated to cost publishers nearly $22 billion during 2015. In the U.S., ad blocking grew by 48 percent to reach 45 million active users in 12 months up to June 2015 a growth of 41 percent globally.

IGN’s high-tech audience of 80 million users each month is running ad-block at a ballooning rate of 40 percent compared to 25 percent last year.

“We don’t have a lot of data on who an ad blocker is, but my guess is those are some of the most valuable people that advertisers want to reach the most,” said Todd Northcutt, IGN s vice president of Product Innovation, per Digiday. “How do you appeal to your audience in ways where they are not explicitly telling you ‘I don’t want this ‘ I do wonder if they are objecting to display ads and pre rolls ads with ad blocker and if reaching them through another vehicle will be effective.”

The trends don t lie and the message for marketers is as clear as day: it s time to make a change. Markarian says it s not enough just to think mobile and desktop anymore either.

We have to think about gaming consoles, home entertainment devices, social channels and customize all the content to that particular channel putting the user experience first and foremost. It s both exciting and challenging. In 2016 marketers will definitely have their work cut out for them.

The Best of Music Marketing 2015

While album sales may have been on a decline for certain artists, between the return of various breakout performers and the establishment of new services  including Apple Music   2015 was still a big year for the music industry. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the best music marketing stories we’ve seen this year.

Debut of New Music Services

While Pandora and Spotify continued to establish their audiences with streaming music channels, several competitors stepped up and introduced their own in an attempt to get a piece of the streaming pie that has entertained millions of listeners.

YouTube introduced a new music app that enabled listeners to choose from 50 million songs across both audio and video formats, under a plan that charges a small monthly fee. Although an exact listener count hasn’t been revealed yet, it’s been pretty popular since its introduction.

Likewise, Apple found itself jumping into the music game with its own devoted channel, including devoted stations, exclusive content from artists and live events, including the Taylor Swift 1989 concert that will take place this week. It’s been pretty popular as well, thanks to the three-month trial period that enables customers to give it a try without paying a cent.

Tidal also introduced its service this year, featuring a number of exclusive shows for members, including performances by Jay-Z and Deadmau5, partners in the music channel. There have been talks that it hasn’t been as popular as its competitors, but it’s still seeing a lot of exclusive content.

Even with the launch of these channels, however, Pandora and Spotify have continued to endure, and are potentially looking into new plans that could bring revenue to its channels as well. We’ll see just how effective these plans are when 2016 rolls around.

Music Finds Its Footing In Social

Another means for artists to reach out to their audience came in the form of social media, whether it was through sharing the debut of a music video, sharing a new song through the likes of Soundcloud, or, in the case of Drake, inadvertent popularity through memes.

Drake’s own “Hotline Bling” became a hit song in the top 40, but also managed to produce a video in which users could put their own creative touch with a repository of memes. 

Most of these edited clips managed to go viral, helping generate interest in the original clip. Even if they were meant for laughs, they certainly assisted the artist with exposure and brought out some creativity in fans as well.

Taylor Swift also saw a huge push in social media with the hashtag “#SquadGoals,” driving up the force in girl power through a series of music videos, live shows and appearances at award events. The term has now become commonplace in social media, continuing to drive Swift’s strong success in the music business.

Just keep it simple

One of the biggest success stories in the music industry for 2015 was Adele, who made a monumental comeback with her new album 25. With it, she managed to sell 3.38 million copies in the first week, prior to announcing a world tour for 2016 that’s set to see record ticket sales.

That was just the beginning, though, as Adele’s simply produced “Hello” would see major exposure online as well. The music video generated a massive audience on Vevo, with more than 27.7 million views in the first 24 hours of its posting.

All of this, managed to be done with minimal marketing, indicating that, hey, sometimes you just have to be yourself and show what skills you’re capable of as an artist. Adele obviously has no problem doing this, and should see big sales once 2016 rolls around.

Meanwhile, Justin Bieber managed to see a turn-around for 2015 as well, foregoing all the reckless acts that made him such a controversy over the past few years and instead going with a simple approach for his latest album, Purpose. As a result, his Beliebers remain as strong as ever, and the album fared well, landing in the No. 1 spot his sixth in a row. 

Innovation goes a long way

Finally, one trend that was hard to ignore in the music industry was the use of innovative means to promote your work, and some artists found this to be a pretty common practice.

For example, The Weeknd utilized virtual reality technology to promote its new music video, “The Hills.” Using 360-degree perspective so that the users can interact with the video, it’s created a trend that a lot of artists are beginning to adopt to.

Interlude has also done a fair share of interactive videos as of late, and collaborated with both Warner Music Group and S-Curve Records for a special project involving AJR. This is the latest work by the company that utilizes this format, and it probably won’t be a surprise if it continues to flourish in 2016, keeping fans entertained in the process. This interactive take on Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Under Foot” is also worth checking out.

Fresh perspectives pay off. Action Bronson recently partnered with GoPro to use their gear during special events, putting users in the “you are there” perspective whenever he performs. The video below demonstrates how effectively this technology can be used with such a performance.

Overall, the music industry has seen a lot of trends technology, social media, or even just going back to simple roots that have worked, and we’re certain to see more experimentation as the New Year rolls around.

The Telltale Games Method for Success

Telltale games has a reputation for creating compelling, character-driven, adventure games based on popular comic book and television series, such as the award-winning The Walking Dead: Season 1. Each game season is comprised a number of episodes, which release at regular intervals, with story outcomes that are guided by critical decisions players make throughout. Telltale’s other breakthrough hits include The Wolf Among Us (based on the Fables comic books), Game of Thrones, and Tales from the Borderlands (based on the Borderlands video game franchise) along with many others.

The company shows no sign of slowing down, with the recent release of Minecraft: Story Mode, an adventure set in the best-selling Minecraft game universe, along with another game set in The Walking Dead universe, and the announcement of an upcoming series based on the Batman comic books.

[a]listdaily speaks to Steve Allison, Senior Vice President of Publishing at Telltale Games, to talk about how these partnerships have grown, what it takes to promote an adventure game in today’s market, and what gaming might look like in the coming year.

Telltale recently announced an upcoming game based on the Batman comic books. Tell us a little about how this partnership came about.

We’re huge fans of Batman here at Telltale and have had an established working relationship with Warner & DC Comics now for a few years that started with The Wolf Among Us.  It’s pretty safe to say we earned a great deal of their trust with the work we did on their Fables IP with Wolf and we’d been expressing our interest on Batman for quite some time. It all worked out and were super excited with what we’re going to bring to fans next year.

screenshot bigbywolfoutTelltale has partnered to create adventure games based in diverse worlds such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Borderlands and Minecraft. How do you decide which projects to pursue

When we decide on a license there’s a bit of science on the front end about the size of the potential addressable audience for a Telltale game based on the size of the IP and in combination that can mean book sales, box office grosses, games sold, WW TV ratings or a combination of some/all those things depending on the IP. We also look at intangible passion for franchises which shows up more in pop culture or things like Google Trends and that points us at a pretty short list. After that bit of work it matters if we as a team have passion for the things on that list and if they are available to us and then we take things from there as far as trying to partner up with folks. In all cases to date have initiated every conversation that led to a product based on this internal process. It’s also important to note that demographics for franchises are also an important part of working through the potential of an IP as a Telltale Games series. We are really focused on the 17-35 year old demographic here and what that IP that group is passionate about.

How do you make single-player adventure games stand out in a market dominated by fast-paced action games

People love narrative. It’s what drives TV, books and film – and it’s what drives our products.  We make interactive scripted entertainment that works on devices that have large 17-35 year old audiences and we seek to work on franchises that those people are passionate about. The difference that makes a Telltale Game Series different than TV/Books/Film is that we give folks “a lean in” scripted entertainment experience in which they can participate and influence the narrative based on what they choose to say, or do – to jump into a story rather than sit back and consume it. In that sense we compliment fast paced action games and live in harmony with them. Hardcore gamers, casual gamers and all players in between can enjoy what we do because it is about the crafted story experience we provide based on an IP people are passionate about, and our teams are passionate about making.

What are the challenges in promoting an episodic game series, especially ones that release for console, PC and mobile platforms

What makes us different in terms of how we stand out from other game genres is also our biggest challenge. We aren’t a twitch based action experience, we make stories that you get to play and influence which gives you a tailored experience based on what you say and do. It’s a heady thing and challenging to explain that to the broad market and we constantly are working on optimizing how we do that. Also cadence in the delivery of our episodes is critical, especially once you get people who are really into what you’re doing, they want their episodes on a reasonable schedule. We have struggled with that at times in the post Walking Dead Season 1 era and there is nothing more important to us than giving great episodes on a nice cadence at the moment. We’ve been able to do this on Minecraft: Story Mode and we’re working hard to maintain that on the things that follow.

zombiepoleWhat would you say players love most about Telltale Games’ adventures, and how do you grow that audience

When we deliver a good story and within that story a good role playing experience that hits an emotional chord, it’s in those moments that we make fans for life. Whether it’s a shocking dramatic moment or making someone cry when we craft those right and they hit we really hook a large group of people who keep coming back for more. We grow our audiences by expanding our demographics.

Minecraft: Story Mode appeals to a large group of 10-17 year old players that is pretty new for us in addition to the very large 17-35 year old audience and we’re likely going to explore some projects that can appeal to this 10-17 year old group in the future if it makes sense. We also have a strong pattern of cross franchise buying that has grown over the years that transcends the vertical nature of having a range of licenses and appealing just to each core audience, we now have real Telltale fans that do buy and play everything we make and that has really grown year over year.

What are your thoughts on virtual reality technology, and how do you think it will impact video gaming

We are very interested in VR. In the abstract telling a crafted story in the VR space is an exciting problem to try and solve and we talk about it often. There’s also the idea of adding extended VR experiences to our game series that are affected and influenced by playing one of our regular game series enhancing the overall experience for someone who has a VR setup. We’ll definitely be talking about our plans for VR publicly attached to a project of ours in the next year.

How do you see video games continuing to grow and change in the coming year

The range of interactive content that’s available that have successfully defied traditional gaming conventions has grown exponentially in the last few years in terms of what people are playing in mobile, home console and PC.

The range of successful new types of games that are mega hits is astounding; from Clash of Clans on mobile, or the types of content we’ve been able to bring out very successfully across all platforms, to the types of games we see coming out of Steam Early Access that are legitimate multi-million unit sellers that will go on to even bigger things on console born from the approach games like Minecraft created not that long ago. It’s just an amazing time for our industry.

These pathways to success defy the traditional publishing model and we’re going to continue to see big products born by companies who leverage the evolution of our business in the coming 1-2 years. VR is going to be an interesting catalyst as well.

Public Opinion On Games Is Changing

The Pew Research Center dug deep into the complicated attitudes toward video gaming, indicating that, while half of all American adults play video games, only ten percent identify themselves as “gamers” – indicating that it’s more of a casual approach with some players, instead of being “hardcore.”

In addition, the report also revealed that:

  • 50 percent of men and 48 percent of women play games to some extent
  • Meanwhile, 60 percent of those surveyed indicated that they believe most people who play games are male.
  • 15 percent of men and 6 percent of women refer to themselves with the “gamer” term.
  • In the 18-29 year old age group, 33 percent of men use the term “gamer,” while only 9 percent of women do.

Violence in video games was also a major factor.

  • 53 percent of those polled feel that the statement “people who play violent video games are more likely to be violent themselves” as untrue.
  • However, 40 percent feel that there is some form of relationship between video game violence and violent behavior.
  • 32 percent of the audience that do play games feel that there is some form of connection with games and violence, although women seem to be stronger to agree than men (47 percent versus 31 percent) that video games make people violent. 

The general public appears to have mixed feelings when it comes to attitudes toward video games. Some people feel that games are a waste of time, while others believe they’s beneficial in helping to develop good problem solving skills, or promote teamwork and communication, which is something players often in multiplayer games like Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege.

ResizedImage600383 Screen Shot 2015 12 15 at 1.20.06 PMAs for opinions of how women are portrayed in games:

  • 27 percent of those polled believe that women are portrayed badly in some games, but not all.
  • 14 percent believe most games portray women poorly.
  • 18 percent felt that this was not true for most games on the market.

When it comes to minorities:

  • 33 percent felt that minorities are not portrayed poorly in games.
  • 20 percent felt it was true in some cases.
  • 9 percent believed it occurred often in games.

The full delves deep into the conflicted relationship between gaming and identifying as a “gamer.” Although a small percentage of people might see themselves as gamers, the video game market continues to surge, and should do so well into 2016.

Adblock Is Trying To Change the Future of Advertising

Ad blocking is a power player commanding serious attention in the digital media industry table. It’a changing how ads are sold, presenting marketers with new worries and challenges by the day. Some are even wondering if the obstruction of intrusive, distracting and irrelevant ads is the end of Internet advertising as we’ve known it.

Over 198 million people globally run ad blockers each month, according to anti-ad blocking firm PageFair, per Digiday. The permeating hot topic has even penetrated its way through pop culture as South Park and Howard Stern have provided satire on the subject.

Browser extensions like Adblock Plus eat a sizable part of European and American publishers’ business. It’s forcing brands, agencies and publishers to re-think strategies to put the user experience first.

Ben Williams, operations manager for German-based Eyeo GmbH — the parent company of Adblock Plus, which operates under the “surf the web without annoying ads” modus operandi — tells [a]listdaily that a marketer’s solution to the increasing use of ad blocking is simple: Make ads that users accept.

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Ben Williams

How did we get here?
It’s been an incredible few years for ad blocking — and by extension for user control and innovation in the ad industry. Ad blocking began in 2006 when our co-founder Wladimir Palant made Adblock Plus. It quickly skyrocketed to the number one browser extension ever.

But that presented Wladimir with a problem: the free Internet depends on ad revenue, so wasn’t ad blocking merely destructive Well, he thought it didn’t have to be. So he tried a few solutions to responsibly block ads before coming upon the Acceptable Ads initiative, which is a certification process for better ads based upon user-generated criteria for ‘acceptable’ advertising. That was in 2011. Since then, both Acceptable Ads and ad blocking in general have once again exploded. Since around 2013, we’ve been averaging three million downloads per week. And the train doesn’t seem to want to stop. In that time ad blocking has become more than just popular. It’s now an innovative force in online ads: with every one of those downloads it is a vote for better ads.

Eyeo GmbH was founded to “pursue a different vision of online advertising.” What is that vision? 
That vision is finding ads that ad blockers find acceptable and thereby encouraging better ad formats and innovation. This is how it works:

  • Advertisers and publishers apply to have certain — not all — of their ads whitelisted.
  • We check to see if they fit our criteria.
  • If they do, we whitelist them. If they don’t we either work with the advertiser in question to help get them in line or we have to reject them.
  • The ads are whitelisted.

Whitelisting does two important things: it provides us with a way to monetize. Our product is free, so we ask that approximately the top 10 percent of the companies on the whitelist pay a licensing fee after they agree to meet the criteria. Second, it encourages better ad formats. This is our vision for a better Internet — ads that monetize free content effectively and that even ad blockers can live with. We’re not there yet, but the discussion happening within advertising right now — which acknowledges the need to improve ads (see the IAB’s Lean initiative, for instance) — is encouraging.

How scared should marketers be of AdBlockers? 
Not at all. We want to work with marketers to develop better ad formats. In fact, up until this point we’ve ran Acceptable Ads, basing many of our decisions on user feedback, surveys and studies. But starting in mid-2016 we will hand over full control of the criteria for acceptability to an independent committee — and we of course want marketers to be part of that committee.

Is there a typical AdBlock user? Who is using it What about mobile? 
We don’t collect information on our users, so we don’t really know. But from some of the other studies that have been conducted, the typical ad blocker would seem to be younger, male, educated and tech-savvy. Regarding mobile, I don’t think enough people know they can block ads on their iPhones yet — which is why they should check out Adblock Plus for iOS of course.

How’s native advertising impacting the industry? 
If it is labeled clearly and correctly, for example as “advertisement” or “sponsored content,” and it is differentiated from the editorial content, it’s a great development in advertising. Native advertising done right is contextual, nonintrusive and creative.