‘Cookie Jam’ Developer On How They Will Stay On Top of Mobile Gaming

Famous for popular games like Cookie Jam (trailer featuring comedian Ken Jeong above), Panda Pop, and Juice Jam – all three listed as Best of 2015 games ­across iTunes and Google Play — SGN (which stands for Social Gaming Network) is looking to keep that incredible momentum going. It continues to expand with the recent acquisition of Fat Rascal Games and Kiwi studios, with the goal cranking even more hits in the coming years.

[a]listdaily talks to SGN Senior Vice President Brand Strategy & Marketing, Josh Brooks, to discuss what it will take to stay ahead in the ever-growing world of mobile gaming.

Josh Wall 0009How has mobile gaming changed in the past year  

The volume of gamers has continued to expand, as well as the demographics of those gamers. If multiple Super Bowl commercials for mobile games isn’t an indicator, then I don’t know what is. 

What is the key to having your games stand out against the competition  

Customers are highly critical of the nuances that games offer, and as a result, developers need to be receptive to the feedback given. We make the best possible games not only through our creativity, but by giving the consumers what they’ve asked for. If a level is too hard or too easy, if there’s a mechanic that no one likes, etc. Our games are fun to play and we provide a ton of content per title.

How do you think virtual reality technology will impact mobile gaming  

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. Hopefully someone figures out a way to not make me nauseous, though…

What are some of your marketing goals in the coming year  

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. SGN’s heavily populated network of gamers across multiple titles will be a significant asset to market and build awareness for our new slate of games. 

In what ways do you think mobile gaming will grow and change in the next year  

I think game 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.


Nike Uses ‘NBA 2K16,’ Twitch to Sell Kyrie Irving’s Sneakers

Kyrie Irving and Nike decided on a different way to promote the new “Kyrie 2” kicks, as the athletic apparel company teamed up with NBA 2K16 publisher 2K Sports to endorse the Cleveland Cavaliers all star’s new shoe brand through a special live-streamed event hosted on Twitch.


With the event, fans tuned in and caught the Cavaliers star showcasing his new shoes. It also provided him the opportunity to answer questions regarding the product, as well as engaging with fans in a special challenge through the NBA 2K16s MyPark mode. Anyone who could beat his team in a game would be eligible to win a pair of Kyrie 2 shoes, autographed by the star himself.

It turned out to be a huge success, with Alfie Brody, vice president of marketing for the NBA 2K brand, telling Fortune“What Twitch enables us to do is not only highlight NBA 2K16, but create more impactful live events with special guests like Kyrie who can engage directly with fans while they’re playing,” he explained. “It is really a tremendous platform to better connect our fans with the stars and our community, which makes our game so special.”

Twitch senior manager of partnerships John Imah also expressed the effectiveness behind the campaign. “By broadcasting this on Twitch, the NBA, 2K and Nike can simultaneously reach multiple audiences, including media, gamers, kick collectors and basketball fans,” he explained, per Fortune.

For those that missed this weekend’s event, though, there’s still time to catch it. “There is always value to having a VOD (Video On Demand) available for those who missed the broadcast, which can then be socialized, but like the Super Bowl, people will want to see it when it happens,” Imah added.

Twitch has become a reliable source for viewership outside of the television realm for many companies and not just related to video games. The broadcaster, purchased by Amazon last year, has partnered with a number of companies for unique content, including Old Spice, to drive up numbers. Not only that, but it’s also diversified its content as well, introducing channels devoted to music and art (including a full marathon of The Joy of Painting episodes).

Watch live video from 2K on www.twitch.tv

The Biggest Movie Marketing Campaigns of 2015

When it comes to movies, 2015 was no doubt a big year. We’ve already seen a number of blockbusters produce over a billion dollars in box office revenue worldwide, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens is likely to join the club with ease when it releases this Friday.

With that, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest and most effective movie marketing campaigns for the year.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Ever since the debut of its initial trailer last year at San Diego Comic-Con, Mad Max: Fury Road built up an incredible amount of steam in terms of social buzz. The high-octane action film, starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, got even more popular with each new trailer release, featuring a heavy amount of explosive action and stylish direction that only series creator George Miller could deliver.

With over $9 million spent in advertising across a number of networks (including during the NBA playoffs and on MTV and Comedy Central), the buzz simply kept building. Even though the film released against the likes of Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron in May, it held its own, grossing $375 million worldwide and assuring that we haven’t seen the last of the Road Warrior. On top of that, the Golden Globe nominations announced last week as well as rumors that the film could see a re-release in black-and-white form next year have buzz building for Max all over again.


“King Bobbbbbbb!” Considering the success of the first two Despicable Me films (2013’s film nearly cleared a billion dollars in box office growth), it was just a matter of time before Universal Pictures gave the gibberish-speaking Minions their own film. What no one expected, however, was the immense marketing blitz that came with it.

Universal partnered with many companies to promote the delightful little Minions, including Amazon, Electronic Arts (with its mobile game Minions Paradise) and other companies that, in turn, would create “Minion mania” for the studio, leading up to the prequel’s summer release.

It’s a release that paid off, as the film handily crossed the $1.1 billion dollar mark worldwide, affirming Universal’s place in the computer animation field (alongside the studio team at Illumination Entertainment). The film should also do quite well on the home video front, backed by a multi-million dollar television advertising campaign. 

This all bodes well for the minions’ eventual return to the big-screen in 2017, when Despicable Me 3 is set to hit theaters.

Jurassic World

Considering we haven’t seen a new Jurassic film from Universal Pictures in over a decade (with the last one, Jurassic Park III, being an overall disappointment), the studio was wondering if it could jump-start it again with Jurassic World, from director Colin Trevorrow.

The film, featuring actor Chris Pratt and a lot of angry dinosaurs, got a huge promotional push from the company, including a massive amount of TV advertising and a number of partnerships with brands including Mercedes-Benz and Hilton Hotels. That gave it just the traction it needed to get big box-office records, including the top opening weekend of all time, making $208 million and eventually leading to a $1.6 billion haul worldwide.

It proved that the series still had legs, and that fans still had plenty of excitement in seeing dinosaurs hit the big screen. Of course, having the star power of Pratt didn’t hurt either, especially when it came to behind-the-scenes vignettes for the film, which drove up its social media as well.

Jurassic World also managed to score big on the home video front behind a lucrative campaign, selling three million copies in its first week on DVD and Blu-Ray as well. That bodes well for eventual sequels, which could start coming our way as soon as 2018.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Marvel Studios’ films have done quite well in the past, and considering that 2012’s The Avengers was the biggest moneymaker in the bunch (with $1.5 billion worldwide), the movie studio spared no expense in promoting the forthcoming Age of Ultron like crazy.

After a teaser trailer debuted in late 2014 (featuring a strong voiceover by actor James Spader), buzz began to build for the film, with many Marvel fans speculating what new additions we could see, including glimpses of newcomers like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.

Eventually, the buzz built to a fever pitch, with more trailer reveals and a number of marketing deals, including a tie-in with Gillette, which introduced The Hulk Razor an item that sold reasonably well in the shaving market. Toys also came out before the film’s release, opting fans to pick up everything Captain America and Iron Man-related.

The film was a modest success, grossing over $450 million in the U.S. and $1.4 billion worldwide, despite the fact that it didn’t quite reach the original’s gross. No matter, as home video sales for the film have been steady, indicating that Marvel is still all systems go with everything Avengers. Not only that, but the company’s off-shoot film Ant-Man fared rather well, grossing over $450 million worldwide and creating another niche character that we’ll see on the big-screen again in 2018.

As for Marvel’s continuing success into 2016, it’s likely to keep going. Last month, the first trailer for Captain America: Civil War made its debut, and racked up a record 61 million views in its first 24 hours. Needless to say, it’ll be a big hit when it arrives in May 2016.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

When it comes to the biggest promotional campaign of the year for a film, nothing comes close to Star Wars. The Force Awakens is taking part in a huge program that includes a number of partners, ranging from Subway to Cover Girl to Duracell. Not only that, but promotional tie-ins for products have gone through the roof, with a number of toys, high-tech goodies (like the Sphero BB-8 droid) and video games (such as Star Wars: Battlefront) being offered to the public and selling quickly.

Social media buzz has been immense for the sequel, with new trailers getting millions of views within a matter of hours, and mentions of both the new film and older films using the #StarWars hashtag, amongst other special ones being offered via Twitter.

It’s too soon to tell what the film’s box office will look like, as it doesn’t arrive in theaters until Friday. However, reports indicate that it should no doubt clear the billion dollar mark within a matter of days, as the film has already generated $50 million in early ticket sales. Plus, considering the tremendous push Disney is putting behind the film, it should have no trouble keeping interest into the Christmas season and through early 2016.

This should bode well for the future of the franchise as well, as other films, like the forthcoming Rogue One spin-off due for release in late 2016 and Episode VIII coming in 2017, should fare just as well in terms of promotional push and success. For now, though, everything’s coming up Force Awakens and for good reason.

‘Everest VR’ Takes Immersive Experiences To New Heights

The last time I climbed a mountain in sub-zero temperature as snow flurries flew by face and my vital organs felt like it was seconds away from giving out was never, but there I was at the summit of Mt. Everest anyway, mere minutes after driving through the gridlock traffic in Los Angeles.

I’d ascended the world’s-highest mountain faster than it took me to find parking in the building where Kjartan Pierre Emilsson, the mind behind Sólfar Studios Everest VR experience, waits in an empty room.

With my expedition essentials still conveniently stocked at a sporting goods store, I embark on my pilgrimage equipped with slacks, dress shoes and an HTC Vive strapped to head. This is when I’m immediately transplanted from a calibrated room the size of a wrestling ring to the borders of Tibet and Nepal.

I begin to control my view of the jaw-dropping peaks by simply moving my head as soft-music plays in my headphones; the panoramic views are vivid; looking down brings butterflies; climbing a ladder feels weird, yet fun as you hear the creaks; tip-toeing the mountain’s edges triggers fear; the emotions are real; I respect the mountain. But everything is OK once I aimlessly approach the room’s wall, a green grid appears in my goggles, and I remember this is all fake.

If you’re big on fantasy worlds, then virtual reality is right up your range thanks to people like Emilsson, who’s made the trek from Iceland to L.A. to showcase his latest project.

Much like the expected coming-out party for the industry, Everest VR is due in 2016 on all major platforms. Emilsson believes Everest VR checks a lot of boxes in the virtual reality gamut. It’s educational, experiential, and from a brand recognition point of view, Mt. Everest is something everyone can identify with, making it easy to explain the product. “It attracts a large demographic group, and not only hardcore gamers. Your mom and dad will even understand it because it’s a known entity.”

Sólfar Studios is currently building out the capability with key moments in the scripted experience, which is expected to elapse anywhere from 90-to-120 minutes. The company teamed up with Icelandic special effects company RVX, who already holds credits in the movie “Everest“ that debuted in September. Leaning on RVX’s expertise with the mountain allowed for the acquisition of more photo-realistic models and data.

“An important part of VR is feeling immersion and being able to affect the world that you’re in,” Emilsson says. “Virtual tourism is going to be a powerful aspect of VR. We always try to make the environment the interface in VR where action triggers the experience,” he says.

Emilsson is a physicist who has a PhD in chaos theory and started dabbling in gaming 20 years ago with multi-user virtual experiences on the Internet. He’s now going all-in with VR.

Another project for Sólfar is Godling, scheduled for release in 2016. In this experience, you’re a toddler god born into a natural environment and begin to explore a world where flowers are as big as trees and snails are as big as houses. It was presented at E3 this year.

“Since nobody really knows where the virtual reality market is going, it’s important not to wager everything on a single type of product or experience. The jury is still out on what will be the killer app for VR. The evolution will lead to a more mobile experience likely in the headset alone. There’s still a long way to go to make this perfectly accessible.”

For a small company in an emerging market, Emilsson is taking a step in the right direction in his quest to reach the top of the summit.

ION Ranks The World’s Best Vloggers

They make us laugh, they make us cry, they entertain us to no end and take us inside their everyday lives. They’re vloggers. This week’s ION Top 10 takes a look at the world’s best vloggers and the content they create that keeps millions coming back for more.

Hitbox CEO Explains Why 4K Is The Future Of ESports

Hitbox has focused on its technology since launching two years ago. The company has attracted over 50 million uniques to date, and has just surpassed 1 billion views. On Dec. 6, Hitbox held a 4K Heroes of the Storm exhibition match at KaoS Industries Studios in the Netherlands featuring G2 eSports, TCM Gaming, Team Liquid, and Virtus Pro with $4,000 in prizes. The livestream of the event can be viewed here.

Martin Klimscha, CEO and co-founder of Hitbox, talks about the platform’s success and explains why technology will play an important role in future growth in this exclusive interview.

How many viewers have you grown to since launch

It’s a perfect time to ask about that, as we’ve just reached 50 million unique users on the platform since we launched two years ago. We’re also celebrating that we’ve hit more than 1 billion views this month. Being first to bring new technology and features to our broadcasters, as well as our focus on games, has helped us grow.

hitbox Martin Klimscha 1

Martin Klimscha, CEO, Hitbox

What type of 4K gaming audience is there out there on the PC side

Hardware adoption is still growing, but shipments grew 600 percent last year and today you can grab a great 4K monitor for less than $400. More and more PC games are getting released with 4K level graphics, including recent AAA titles Star Wars Battlefront, Fallout, FIFA, Tomb Raider, Witcher 3, and Black Ops 3. These games look stunning in 4K, and we will see more games with a focus on 4K that push the boundaries of game textures.

How important is 4K to gamers, especially with no consoles supporting 4K at the moment

Exactly, “at the moment” PC gamers have a long tradition of leading consoles in tomorrow’s gaming technology so it’s only a matter of time before consoles catch up. Every major consumer tech company is investing in 4K, and I can’t imagine Sony and Microsoft not considering it for consoles in the near term. Our development team has always pushed forward to be the first in key technologies that make watching games and interacting with friends more fun.  We know our community will want 4K soon, and now we are ready.

Which PC eSports games support 4K today

All of the top eSports games look best in 4K. Given the need to showcase games on big screens and show all of the intricate, blazing fast action, we’ll soon see more titles built from the ground up with 4K in mind.

How important is 4K for developers and leagues that show events on huge screens

ESports events are exploding, and just like in traditional sports, fans want to gather to cheer on their favorite teams. Huge screens make them feel like they are sitting right next to their favorite players, and 4K will give them a much better experience.

Azubu recently told me all streaming companies will have 4K at some point soon. What do you feel differentiates Hitbox outside of 4K

We are absolutely convinced that 4k is the future, and in contrast to other streaming companies, we have been driving technological innovation since day one and see it as an accomplishment that others are following us. And unlike others in this space, we are building our own tech front to back – to offer all the things we ourselves want to experience as gamers and eSports players.

Our advantage has always been in our technology. We’ve never been a company satisfied with our current offering. If there is a new feature or a technology that could make watching games more fun or engaging, we’re going after it, whether the mass market is ready yet or not. Our fans love that about us. We were the first to offer HTML5 chat and video, 1080p 60fps, game integrations, and now 4K at 60fps. Striving to innovate enables us to implement new features that excite our users, including the lowest chat delay in the industry, more opportunities for fans to be expressive with embedded videos and gifs within chat, integrated polls and contests for a more interactive experience, and game integrations to learn more about what they’re watching. And, there’s more to come. 

What does 4K add to eSports

The game publishers, players, and fans who grew up constantly upgrading their PC to play the latest game with the best experience understand why 4K matters. They always drive adoption for new technology in the industry. 4K offers the best viewing experience available; it makes everything you see on the screen better, so we had to have it.

What opportunities does 4K open up with all of the Consumer Electronics companies marketing 4K TVs and monitors this holiday and beyond

With more 4K monitors in the market, consumers have more options and costs come down. But content will drive further adoption, and any of those companies will tell you we need much more content. We want to be a leader in 4K content.  

How did your initial 4K livestream go from an audience perspective

It went great! Heroes of the Storm looked gorgeous in 4K 60fps and we were excited to have some of the best teams compete: G2 Esports, Team Liquid, TCM Gaming, and the 4K Heroes champions: Fnatic. Thousands of viewers tuned in, many were following the results on Twitter, and the crowd grew throughout the event. The chat window was filled with activity and we also got the opportunity to answer a lot of questions about 4K.

How often do you plan on hosting these moving forward

This event was a proof-of-concept test of our 4K infrastructure and we’re in talks with many developers and publishers about the future.


How ‘The Walking Dead’ is Built to Survive the Mobile Game Market

Mobile gaming has been dominated in recent years by a handful of companies, and competing for top spots with new games is tougher than ever. However, that doesn’t keep companies like Scopely, known for games like Yahtzee with Buddies, from trying to break through to the top of the mobile charts with releases like The Walking Dead: Road to Survival, which challenges players bring together a group of characters and level up their skills to survive in zombie-filled The Walking Dead comic book universe.  

Road to Survival reached more than 4 million downloads in its first week, and ranked among the Top 25 Grossing Games across 17 countries. The company also recently announced a cross-over event with the Telltale Games, which involves iconic characters from the critically-acclaimed Walking Dead adventure game series appearing in Road to Survival from December 10 to January 31. Scopely itself has been listed as among the Top 10 fastest growing companies in America in 2015 by Inc. and Deloitte consulting.

Jamie Berger[a]listdaily speaks to Scopely’s head of product marketing, Jamie Berger, and product manager Steve Wu, to discuss The Road to Survival cross-over event and what it takes to make a new mobile game a success.

How can mobile games stand out in an increasingly crowded market

[Jamie] We see aligning with great brands and intellectual properties as a critical path to success in a market that offer consumers essentially unlimited content choices. Brands like Yahtzee and The Walking Dead are ideal because they naturally translate to great game experiences, and come with mass awareness and a deep reservoir of consumer affinity. With strong brands you already “stand out” in a crowd of generic content, It’s then a matter of activating and exciting the fan base.

What steps can brands like The Walking Dead: Road to Survival do to grow audiences beyond the comic book and television series fans

[Jamie] Even with a an incredible brand like The Walking Dead, there are still millions of players who love the role-playing game genre and would enjoy Road to Survival even if they’re not a core fan of the IP. A successful branded game needs to innovate in design and features to reach beyond the core and attract new fans. Social play and features are a big part of growth for a branded game as well. If you are a fan of the comics and download Road to Survival because it’s a Walking Dead game that’s great. If you then join an in-game faction and recruit a friend of yours who may only be a casual fan of the IP then you are able to create sustainable growth within the existing audience.

What’s the most important thing to keep in mind after a game releases

[Jamie] You can’t stand still. In our product features, in-game content and marketing, we are constantly telling consumers something new and exciting – and making the game a better experience today than it was the week before. It can be an all-new way to play with others like “Dice Duels” in Yahtzee with Buddies, or surprising new content like our current Telltale Games cross-over event in Walking Dead: Road to Survival. This enables us to be more effective marketers; engaging our current player base through CRM, and successfully attracting new players through advertising and social.

Steve WuTell us about the partnership between Scopely and Telltale Games. How did it come about

[Steve] If you’re a fan of great gaming, then you’re probably a fan of Telltale Games, and the entire Walking Dead: Road to Survival team are huge fans of Telltale’s Walking Dead series; so, for us it was an aspiration to collaborate with them after our launch. Fortunately we share the same partnership with Skybound Entertainment, who set up a conversation earlier this year where we could show them our concept for a mobile RPG that incorporated the entire cast of characters and storylines from the comic series. We are continuously expanding the game with new stories, missions, and characters, so it was a natural opportunity to expand on the stories of the Season 1 characters, and particularly Lee and Clementine.

How will the Telltale characters fit in to the Road to Survival world What will happen to them after January 31

[Steve] We’re launching our events with a special roadmap area that follows the Telltale storyline and gives players an opportunity to battle alongside iconic Telltale characters. These characters will all be playable recruits that players can earn through in-game events and will appear throughout the game as permanent additions to player rosters, fighting alongside other recruits in the Road to Survival world.

Will the Telltale characters include any special abilities that set them apart from existing ones

[Steve] Each Telltale character will have unique character stats, leader skills and Adrenaline Rushes that set them apart from existing characters in the game. Additionally, we are very excited to announce that Telltale characters will be the first characters ever to be released with our new Specialist ability which is a new, reactive set of skills that can trigger during combat based on certain conditions. These skills will greatly broaden the game’s depth and provide players with more options and considerations when putting together their teams

Does this event indicate future cross-overs between Telltale’s The Walking Dead and Road to Survival

[Steve] This cross-over event will evolve over the next 30 days as we release new story-driven missions and characters from Telltale’s Season 1. So far the fan reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, so possibly this leads to new collaborations in the future.

How will Scopely and Telltale promote this limited time event

[Steve] There is a huge community of Telltale fans who will be excited about the opportunity to go on a new adventure with Lee and Clementine, so we’re actively promoting with Skybound and Telltale across our range of social and community channels as well as aggressive promotion to our millions of current player via our CRM platform. To welcome all these new players, Scopely is giving away a “Lee” in game character to all of our new and existing players during this event.

How 360 Game Is Helping U.S. Developers Find Success In China

The mobile gaming market is booming right now, but some developers feel that their product could thrive if it could have a greater outreach to other markets. That only brings up one question: can it be done effectively

Chinese game platform operator 360 Game believes there’s a way for U.S. game developers to build a successful bridge into overseas and it lies in the company’s new tool, Qihoo360.

“Qihoo’s 360 Game is the biggest Android mobile game platform in China,” said the company in a statement, per Mobile Advertising Watch. “360 Game provides a wide selection of high quality free mobile games to hundreds of millions of users in China. Additionally, 360 Game provides a customized service for game developers to help them publish their games in China.”

The company has already proven its track record, having formed alliances with a number of big-name mobile developers to release their games in China, including Blizzard, Disney and Goodgame.

“360 Game is one of the most successful PC web-game publishing companies in China and publishes hundreds of popular web games and reaches over 200 million users,” the company noted. “(It) also aggregates two web game platforms (360 Game Center and Youxi.com) and 360 Game Lobby to provide high quality web games and services to gamers.”

Obviously it’s not an easy process, as some localization is involved in making sure the game caters to the right crowd, and success isn’t always guaranteed, continuing the stiff competition with other popular titles. Nevertheless, developers can still find motivation in trying something new, and potentially expanding its games so that new players can see what it’s all about.

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NPD November 2015: ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops III’ Leads Holiday Sales

The NPD Group has posted its numbers for November 2015’s U.S. video game retail and digital sales, and marking a strong month for the holiday season. Liam Callahan, analyst for the Group, reported that “across physical software, hardware and accessories, sales experience a growth of two percent this November compared to November 2014. Growth in hardware and accessories helped offset software declines, leading to overall growth.”

In addition, “video games increased its share of spend on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday (versus last year), making it one of the top performing categories at retail over the holiday weekend.”

Not everything was positive, as portable hardware saw a 31 percent drop over the previous sales period. However, console hardware sales were up 14 percent, with Sony’s PlayStation 4 leading the charge over Microsoft’s Xbox One and Nintendo’s Wii U. Total unit sales overall surpassed last year’s numbers with ease.

As for game sales, “new physical software sales decreased by seven percent as portable software sales drop 66 percent with console software sales down a modest one percent,” Callahan added. “Eighth generation software sales increased by 37 percent, and largely offset the decrease in spending for (previous) generation consoles, which decreased by 60 percent.”

As for games, “Call of Duty: Black Ops III was the top title in November 2015 with sales exceeding that of its predecessor. Fallout 4 performed extremely as, adjusting for days within the data month, this was the best Fallout launch in the history of the franchise, having sold over 70 percent more units than New Vegas and nine percent more units than Fallout 3.”

Star Wars: Battlefront also performed admirably, selling 21 percent higher than the previously released Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and showing plenty of strength in the franchise, in time for next week’s premiere of The Force Awakens.

When it comes to accessories, “gamepads, point/subscription cards and headset/headphones helped increase overall accessory sales by seven percent from November 2014 to 2015,” said Callahan. “November 2015 was the third best-selling month ever for video game points and subscription cards,” which points to a bigger push in sales for digital/downloadable games on consoles and PC.

The top ten games for November 2015 are as follows:

  1. Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Activision)
  2. Fallout 4 (Bethesda)
  3. Star Wars: Battlefront (EA)
  4. Madden NFL 16 (EA Sports)
  5. NBA 2K16 (2K)
  6. FIFA 16 (EA Sports)
  7. Need For Speed (EA)
  8. Halo 5: Guardians (Microsoft)
  9. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (Ubisoft)
  10. Just Dance 2016 (Ubisoft)

Overall, total video game sales for the month reached $2.47 billion, a small but steady rise from the $2.42 billion the year before. Game hardware reached $1.12 billion; software sales dropped to $993.9 million, and accessories reached $357.7 million.

Which goes to show that video games are still the hot seller for the holiday season, in spite of format.

Mattel Releases Christmas Season’s Wackiest Toy and Infomercial Combo

Crickets are eponymous for creeping people out and providing the soothing soundtrack for countless sleep-deprived nights each summer. Turns out, they’re mere existence is more meaningful and multifold, thanks to Mattel.

The toy manufacturing company has married nature with technology by releasing Bug Racer, a cricket-controlled car — and even paired it with a wacky infomercial to boot.

The car has sensors that track the motion of the cricket, steering it left or right depending on which side the insect scurries toward. Mattel describes the landmark day as “the first vehicle that puts real crickets behind the wheel.” The news immediately makes 16-year old drivers the second-most dangerous species in the world.

One thing is clear from the get-go: The toy car is a haven for crickets to be in their familiar habitat. It’s equipped with a living area, dining area for feedings and a magnified cockpit, making it more like a JW Marriott than an insect incarceration center.

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The masterminds at Mattel were even mindful to release an infomercial marketing the launch, where bug whisperer Jeffery X. Bugmann turns into a Billy Mays lookalike. Bugmann even pays homage to his middle name — and Dez Bryant — by throwing up the X before exclaiming “crickets are the ticket!”

“You’re trying to show people this really cool product, but you’re also trying to lampoon the infomercial. It’s a really fine line,” says Andrew Volpe, copywriter at Ayzenberg, who was tasked to bring Bugmann to life in the spot. (Editor’s note: [a]listdaily is the media arm of the Ayzenberg Group.)

Mattel certainly has built buzz around the improbable product and pitchman and validated its authenticity — it even made its TV debut on Fox News. The toy is an interesting concept that eliminates a controller and smart tech, and signals a change of directions for Mattel’s generally clear-cut campaigns.

“I just love the fact it’s getting all the chatter that it’s getting and it’s cool to get do so something that you would make in your spare time for fun,” says Volpe. “It’s been really exciting.”

As with most toys, insects are like batteries, and it’s not included with Bug Racer. But thanks to pet stores, you can buy crickets by the batches, or just retrieve them from your bushes.

If you’re truly blessed this holiday season, you might even have one gifted from the gardens of the Earnhardt family.