How Consumers Connect With Stores Through Mobile Shopping

Mobile shopping has come a long way over the past few years, with a reported 120 percent increase in shopping-related searches on smartphone and tablet devices, and many stores presenting a new kind of experience when it comes to finding and buying products online.

Google recently compiled a report that looks at five key factors that connect consumers with online stores and shops. Here’s how marketers can optimize the mobile shopping experience.

1. The “front door to the store” is vital
Target recently noted that three-quarters of its guests begin their shopping on mobile devices, while one-third of guests who engage in such a search eventually make a trip to the store to complete their purchase. Meanwhile, Sprint noted that one in four people who look up their mobile search ads also end up at a store. This could be key when it comes to introducing a new shopping experience, getting consumers comfortable with what’s offered before they make the journey.

2. Local information goes a long way
A lot of consumers prefer a local shopping experience compared to buying something from a national shop, as “near me” searches have increased nearly two and a half times year-over-year. A recent survey indicates that 50 percent of consumers who take part in a local search visit a nearby store within a day’s time, while 18 percent said searches eventually lead to a purchase. It’s another key factor in making a shopping experience more personal to a consumer.

3. If an item is in stock, consumers will go get it
Indicating the real-time stock of an item is a useful tool to a consumer. Usually, one in four people avoid stores merely because they’re unsure if an item is ready for pick-up. However, more companies have been taking advantage of Local Inventory Ads, which provides inventory across thousands of items. As a result, some retailers like Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores have seen a whopping 122 percent increase over store visits. Such ads have generated $8 in in-store sales for each dollar invested.

4. Smartphones do a lot of good with research
Eighty-two percent of shoppers indicated that they use their phones when it comes to purchases they’re making within a store, while only one in four shoppers stated that they’ve changed their minds while in a checkout line if they see additional details on their smartphone. Sephora, for example, has taken full advantage of in-store mobile behavior, offering consumers the option to scan products into its specialized mobile app to see product ratings, reviews and other details.

5. Omni-channel consumers tend to spend more
MasterCard recently reported that consumers who shop both offline and online with a particular retailer tend to buy 250 percent. Macy’s, for example, saw eight times more value from its omni-channel shoppers, rather than those that visit a single channel.

Mobile is changing shopper behavior in a big way, providing more information and emphasis when it comes to visiting a store and completing a purchase.

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Adrian Grenier Is Using Virtual Reality To Help Preserve The Oceans

Adrian Grenier will forever be known in Hollywood circles as the laid-back alpha bro Vincent Chase on the hit show Entourage, but the 39-year-old actor is familiar with one particular script that circles around in Tinsletown: You’re endlessly reinventing and reintroducing yourself.

“I’m always thinking of new ways to connect to people, and bringing them into the conversation to psyche their imagination for a better world, but also to recognize the limitations of our current world,” the actor told [a]listdaily in an interview.

Grenier says his days of delivering conspicuous consumption are in the past, and he’s solely focused on a conscious-consumption agenda and educating others for the future. He introduced a different way with a powerful, social-conscious endeavor that better understands the plight of whales, and addresses issues in oceans through the feature film 52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale. It documents the search for “the loneliest whale,” a creature who’s lived most of his life in isolation because its calls were too high to be heard.

The The Lonely Whale Foundation – which focuses on ocean-health awareness through dialogue and education – released the film. The initial Kickstarter even captivated the attention of longtime environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, who donated $50,000 to the cause. The passion project eventually yielded Grenier’s foray into a new form of filmmaking: virtual reality.

Dell made Grenier the company’s first Social Good Advocate because of his involvement and credibility in sustainable matters at SXSW last year. The partnership produced the underwater virtual reality experience Cry Out: The Lonely Whale Experience, a three-minute, 360-degree film that transports viewers into the sea to witness underwater life and how pollution has disrupted it.

“VR is one of the cutting-edge storytelling technologies that has people’s attention right now and has a lot of potential for expansive storytelling that is new, fresh and exciting,” Grenier says. “I’m thinking about it from a filmmaker’s perspective. How can I use this to tell a story with the potential that it offers?”

Cry Out debuted at Art Basel Miami, and then the United Nations Paris Climate Conference last December. The underwater VR expedition was created by 3D Live with Dell Precision, Alienware, AMD and HTC technology. Nathan Huber, CEO of the VR production company 3D Live, says Grenier wanted to push boundaries from unique filmmaking perspectives.

“The future of entertainment is creating immersive experiences, and Adrian is excited to do that while bringing awareness to a just cause, and we are too,” Huber says. “He’s passionate, and has a lot of drive. He’s at a place in his life that he wants to make a change, and the way people think. He has the right energy, drive, voice and platform. It’s a perfect marriage.”

Grenier says VR technology still has a long way to go, but it’s enough for content creators and Hollywood types to begin experimenting with. Taking a shot at making VR films now will have the industry “ready” whenever the tech is.

“I’m really looking forward to arena-style VR experiences where we can all have communal, shared experiences, or somehow, what we’re seeing includes the audience,” Grenier says. “We take for granted how a story is told, and how it unfolds from the viewer’s experience. What your focus and takeaways are. These are all a part of classic filmmaking. Now that we have an audience of one that has the ability to look away from what you’re trying to show them, it’s a new obstacle. In trying to overcome that, we’re finding new solutions to innovate storytelling altogether.”

Grenier’s post-Entourage life now draws some parallels to the one he sometimes played in the show – a powerful symbol for how humankind can be better by diving deep into the ocean and addressing its issues.

Aquaman would be proud.

Worldwide Digital Game Sales Rise In January, Thanks To ‘Tomb Raider’

Digital game sales continue to rise, as revealed in Superdata’s latest report, which recaps worldwide digital game sales for the month of January. Digital sales totals have reached $6.3 billion for the month, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year.

Part of that success comes from the PC release of Square Enix’s hit sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider, following its exclusive debut on Xbox One back in November. “As one of Square Enix’s most visible franchises, the Tomb Raider franchise performed in January, receiving both strong industry recognition and benefitting from a seasonal lull of AAA games,” said Superdata CEO Joost Van Dreunen. “The game sold almost three times as many units on PC than it did on console during its first month.”

The top digital seller of the month was once again Activision Blizzard’s popular first-person shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops III. However, other mainstays like FIFA 16 and Grand Theft Auto V continued to populate the list, and Fallout 4 continued to be a huge draw.

Van Dreunen also noted, “Add-on content drives 88 percent of FIFA 16‘s digital console revenues in January. Electronic Arts’ game remains near the top of the console charts thanks to strong sales of FIFA Ultimate Team card packs. (It) earns a greater share of digital revenue from additional content than any other console game in the top five.”

World of WarCraft led the list in pay-to-play, while League of Legends continued to dominate in the free-to-play market. Activision Blizzard also scored a victory in the PC DLC category, with StarCraft II holding a steady first-place spot.

However, Van Dreunen was quick to note other favorites like H1Z1 and Elite: Dangerous, and their recent expansions. “(They) have repurposed their games’ core mechanics and launched H1Z1: King of the Kill and Elite Dangerous: Arena. Despite steady player bases for each, both games aim to expand their reach by attracting competitive players and eSports audiences who have less of an interest in persistent worlds and in-game economies.”

H1Z1 is paying off better than expected, thanks to 11,000 concurrent viewers on average on Twitch, and a total of 7.9 million hours played for the month.

Finally, the mobile market continued to see domination from Supercell’s Clash of Clans, although Monster Strike and Puzzle & Dragons continued to be hits, alongside King’s Candy Crush Saga titles. “The market for mobile VR gaming is on track to hit $861 million,” noted Van Dreunen about the future of mobile.

With the introduction of Supercell’s recently released Clash Royale, its dominance will likely continue. “(It) comes at a critical time,” he said. “Over the past year, marketing costs on mobile have continued to increase, and Supercell now faces a growing number of both Western and Eastern publishers with deep pockets. Given the company’s financial momentum, with Clash of Clans earning an estimated $1.3 billion in 2015, Clash Royale will likely have enough runway to prove itself.”

Jesse Schell On Virtual Reality: ‘Don’t Copy What Came Before’

Game designer Jesse Schell is an industry lifer, and a self-described VR-aholic. At first glance he appears to be a caffeine-aholic because he brings more energy and enthusiasm than a Starbucks barista to every conversation about virtual reality.

The affable Schell has worn many hats in the gaming industry and is part of the one percent who actually has a polished dossier to talk about VR. He earned a masters in computer networking and virtual reality – in 1994. He’s since authored books, headed international game developer associations, done Ted Talks and served as creative director of the Walt Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio.

Twenty-two years after getting his master’s at Carnegie Mellon, he now teaches students how to build virtual worlds at his alma mater. And, oh by the way, he’s the CEO of the Pennsylvania-based game studio Schell Games for the last 14 years where they’ve already released VR titles like the award-winning I Expect You to Die for the soon-to-be-released Oculus Rift.

Schell says he has more educational and transformational games in development because VR is finally here to stay. “VR headsets will permanently stay in the market from 2016 and beyond – forever,” Schell told [a]listdaily. “Maybe the Best Buy it’s sold in will go away, but VR won’t. People are going to want it, and pay for it. Virtual worlds promise utopia.”

Schell joined [a]listdaily to discuss tech’s hottest topic.


What made you so passionate about virtual reality?

I’m always excited about how you can use media and new technologies in order to help people transform themselves for the better. VR is just one of those technologies that is going to do incredible wonders, to break down barriers in education and deliver world-class educational experiences to everyone in the world – not to mention what it could do for empathy. It’s one thing to see about a situation on television. It’s a whole other thing to be in it and have it feel real all around you. One of the things that’s really important is that VR is going to bring us closer together as species, as a culture, because it’s going to allow us to go places we’ve never been able before.

What are some of the momentum-shifting events that need to happen for VR to fully take off?

People need to believe in it. Most people don’t believe in it because they haven’t experienced good VR. They’ve either had no VR experiences, or the weaker experiences from the past. The technology recently has crossed a threshold that can’t be shown on television or described with words. People have to try it, and feel it to see how powerful it is. When you have technologies like that, they somewhat lead to slow adoption. We saw the same thing with DVR … 2016 is going to be a lot of (people saying) ‘have you seen this’ and ‘have you tried that.’ There’s going to be a lot of talk, particularly centered around Christmas season.

How are gamers in the epicenter of the VR movement? How do you market them?

Yes, gamers are definitely going to be the ones most passionate about it. Gamers are already excited about new kinds of virtual worlds. They want something new, better and exciting, and they’re willing to pay for it. As a result, they are going to be the early adopters. They’re going to be at the heart of it in the beginning.

How do you bridge the real and virtual gap for enhanced experiences with the current projects you’re working on?

There’s so much to figure out in terms of how to bring these things into the creative space. We do things all over the map with different ways to bridge between physical and virtual reality. We do everything from stuff that’s kind of a pure VR play to things that are like museum and theme park experiences, and even with interactive toys. We’re actually doing an interactive one now that lets you build molecules with physical toys, and then you use your app to create an augmented reality experience that lets you figure out what molecules you’ve built. We’re doing everything from that to also working with the Google Tango and a Jenga experience. We’re just so excited because there’s so many things happening on so many different fronts.


What did it mean to win the “Inspire Award” at inaugural Vision Summit for your VR game I Expect You to Die?

It’s a game we’re excited about. Personally, I’m so excited what’s happening in VR right now. I’ve been working on VR for over 20 years, and to have it finally come into the mainstream, and to take everything we’ve learned over all that time and put it into experiences is just absolutely thrilling.

If there’s one piece of advice you could share with VR content creators, what would it be?

My main advice would be ‘don’t copy what came before.’ Don’t just say, ‘I’m going to take my favorite game from consoles growing up’ and just make it in VR because it’s unlikely to work very easily. You want to figure out what the medium is actually good at, and build around it. You can figure that out partly with experiment, but look back at the 30 years of experimentation that’s already been done.

You predicted Madden will have a VR edition to the game by 2020. How will sports experiences carry over into VR?

It’s a really big question – exactly how sports are going to blend into VR, certainly. We are going to see a lot of casual sports games – think bowling. We’re going to see a lot of stuff like that in the beginning as people are experimenting. Part of what’s exciting about sports is the feeling of being on the field with famous athletes. VR is going to give that feeling like we’ve never had before. The question comes down to: How much are people going to want to have virtual interfaces or be actually involved in the process of throwing a ball or blocking a shot? There’s going to be a lot of experimentation that needs to be done, but I feel certain that being in the same space with athletes is going to be a huge draw. The problems are hard to solve, but people are going to tackle them. … The most important sports experience is going to be the broadcasts of live events.

Attending sporting events costs a pretty penny, and can sometimes be problematic in actually physically getting there. Can VR easily replace the in-person viewing experience?

Hardcore sports fans will spend huge amounts of money to follow and be near a team they care about. Take a look back into history … who bought the first big-screen TVs? It was sports fans. Sports fans buying high-end VR that’s going to make them feel like they are right there at the game is totally going to happen. Will it replace the live element? I’m doubtful that VR is going to steal that away, but it will complement it. I would argue that it would actually make you want to go in-person even more.


What will it take for VR to not be a flash in the pan? What does it need to overcome?

Isolation. When you put on the gear, it’s an incredibly isolating experience. We don’t really have a way right now for you and I to be sitting side-by-side, each put on our helmets, and each have a 360-degree experience and still have a social experience. We don’t know how that works yet. No one has cracked that nut. … And I haven’t seen anything even remotely close to it yet.

What are you teaching the current crop of students at Carnegie Mellon that will soon hit the work force?

I teach classes like ‘Building Virtual Worlds’ and ‘Game Design’ at the Entertainment Technology Center. What we really focus on there is interdisciplinary innovation. We take artists and engineers and put them on teams together and have them invent new things that they couldn’t have invented alone. We’re very careful to make sure the students are not focused on the technology of today. We try very hard to have them looking forward and to be working with technologies that are still coming out. If you can get in the habit of mastering it, you’re always going to be in place to make the biggest difference in the world.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan.

Tubular Lists Top Video Brands and Influencers For January

The team at Tubular Labs has released the official rankings for the most watched online video creators for January, and Buzzfeed has certainly left its mark.

The company’s Tasty channel has managed to find a strong number one spot in the overall video creators category (across global and devices) with over three billion views. Pop star Justin Bieber followed closely behind in the second place position with 962 million views.

Buzzfeed’s Tasty channel has seen a good amount of attention for the month, garnering 18.6 million new followers and keeping an engagement rate of 2.93 percent. It has also managed to beat a previous record as a result, as channels hovered just around the one million view mark months before. Bieber gained 6.6 million new followers and 4.33 percent engagement.

The full top ten is as follows:

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It’s an interesting mix of entertainment, kids and family and sports categories, as the top 100 video brands and influencers overall managed to generate a total of 42 billion cross-platform views for the month – a 12 percent increase from December.

In the Facebook category, food content again led the charge with Tasty (along with its UK equivalent), Tastemade, Tip Hero and Buzzfeed Food taking over the top six spots, with the NBA cracking the top 10 with 351 million views.

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On Instagram, it was all Bieber and the NBA, as the two climbed into the top spots, alongside Black Jaguar-White Tiger, to dominate the top-three spots. Additionally, the official Instagram channel saw plenty of attention, with 53 million views and over eight million new followers.

As for YouTube, Beiber showed no signs of slowing down with 824 million views and 1.3 million new subscribers. However, WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) dropped a spot to make room for Ryan ToysReview, which took hold with 667 million views and 364,000 new followers. Still, WWE is probably pleased with the third place spot, with 576 million views and over 500,000 new followers.

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When it comes to global brands, nothing seems to stop Red Bull. The company held a clear lead in the top ten with 233 million views and 470,000 new followers, followed closely behind by Lego (147 million views) and Supercell’s popular Clash of Clans (75 million).

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Snapchat Introduces New Geofilter System

Between its high user count and its partnerships with companies like Sony, Snapchat has turned into a major force over the last few months. The company continues to find new ways to reel-in revenue, as it has introduced a new geofilter system that could generate big bucks.

Snapchat recently introduced the ability to put geofilters into users’ pictures, providing an opportunity for brands and marketers to submit imagery into the app. Creating temporary geofilters for the service could cost as little as $5 a shot.

on_demand_6Geofilters create locations and symbolic drawings that can be embedded with user images to create a “you were there” sort of illusion. Companies have experimented with such images in the past, with McDonald’s, for example, showcasing just how its food products could be thrown into the fray.

Snapchat can set up these geofilters in an on-demand fashion so that they can be used for parties, weddings or business events, the company noted. They’re being offered for use anywhere between an hour, or up to 30 days, with space ranging anywhere from 20,000 square feet to five million square feet. Of course, the price for such geofilters increases depending on how much square footage is used, and how long they remain in place.

However, it’s also opening up the option to its users, suggesting that they submit ideas in terms of geofilters that could become permanent on the service. So far, nearly 500,000 ideas have already poured in, including suggestions based on Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

The company is taking its time in reviewing “on-demand” submissions, but the fact that it’s already getting such a massive response is good news for Snapchat, adding a significant personalization to its service while, at the same time, opening the door for even more potential business partners and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Companies will also be able to keep track of how many times a geofilter is used in the app, so it can see which ones are effective compared to others.

We’ll see just how effective this plan is, and how many companies are willing to cover “a few city blocks” in the months ahead.

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The Growing Concern Over Mobile Ad Blocking

Ad blocking has already been a concern for companies on desktop computers, but now it’s really leaving an impact with advertisers when it comes to mobile.

The Financial Times recently reported that ad-blocking is on the rise on both smartphones and tablets, as more than 200 million people worldwide use some form of software to block ads out – double the number from what was reported two years ago, according to PageFair and Adobe.

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This is a concerning trend for companies. Studies from the Times indicate that 37 percent of mobile users have stated that they have blocked ads on their device within the last month. That’s quite a problem, considering the spend that’s going into digital ads (and the cost of ad-block), but it gets worse.

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The survey also noted that 70 percent of respondents showed interest in blocking ads, either by doing so already or planning to in the future.

Charles Vasquez, vice president of digital media for Ayzenberg, said, “Ad blocking comes down to the fundamental issue of user experience from the relevance of the ads they receive to issues surrounding privacy. It’s forcing marketers to not only work around ad blocking technology but to improve the contextual relevance of their messages. We know, for example,  that younger mobile audiences are a bit of a paradox. On one hand they are self-proclaimed to being ‘ad-resistant’ but on the other hand they accept brand messages when it comes through as relevant, informative and authentic. As ad blocking adoption grows, marketers will need to adopt more tailored messaging with pinpoint accuracy – something they should already be doing.”

Ayzenberg’s vice president of social strategy, Siobhan O’Neill, added, “We respectfully suggest to our clients that the ad-blocking trend presents an opportunity to connect business objectives to outcomes using creative solutions; it presents an opportunity to innovate around new mediums and content formats in ways that not just get attention, but deliver value in terms of information, entertainment, or deep-end fan experience. … Brands can take a cue from that and work to develop new models that leverage the relationships they have with their audiences to develop quality content that enhances, not detracts, from their overall experience, be it on mobile, tablet, gaming device – wherever they happen to be.” (Editor’s note: [a]listdaily is the media arm of the Ayzenberg Group.)

In essence, ad-blocking is a wake-up call for brands to better implement best advertising practices. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how — and when — companies adapt.

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King Digital Discusses What Motivates In-Game Purchases

Even before its acquisition by Activision Blizzard, King Digital was the world’s largest mobile games developer, thanks to the phenomenal success of the Candy Crush franchise. So, it’s no surprise that the company knows what motivates players to purchase items from a free-to-play game. It’s down to a science.

Michele Airoldi, business manager at King Digital, will be speaking at this year’s GDC in a session titled, “To Buy or Not to Buy” — where he will discuss the factors that lead-up to purchasing in-game items so that developers can better build a successful game economy using “a new and simple purchase decision model based on the interplay of the product, the offer and the player.”

[a]listdaily talks to Airoldi about some of what will be covered at the GDC session and the nature of in-app purchasing decisions.

Michele ArioldiSpending money on a free-to-play game might sound like a contradiction to some people. What is your response to that?

All of our games at King are free to download and play, and they are designed to provide our players with some light entertainment when they have a few minutes’ spare.

I think that the huge growth and success of the free-to-play model shows that the vast majority of players accept and like it. In order for us to build and maintain a good relationship with our players, it’s essential that we continue to make games that are fun and engaging to play, and accessible to anyone, anywhere. It is not essential for our players to buy items in order to progress through the game.

What kinds of premium content do players generally prefer?

The types of content we offer our players generally depends on the genre of game but as the majority of our offering is casual puzzle games, we tend to sell boosters and gold bars, which players love as you can use them to buy lives and help you on some of our trickier levels.

We also released our first resource management game last year called Paradise Bay, and players can choose to spend to speed up tasks, as well as purchase cosmetic items to customize their island.

How do you present paid content without disrupting the game?

We always want to make sure that the player has the best possible experience every time they open and play one of our games. So that we don’t disrupt the game in any way, we only show players the items they need when they need them, separate from the game play.

For example, the player has to purposely click into the Gold Bar shop in order to see it. A player will also be given the option to use or buy gold bars if they have failed a level and need additional lives.

Does King have to invest heavily to promote paid content, or are dedicated players naturally drawn to it?

As I mentioned, the player experience is what is most important to us when we are thinking about designing or releasing a new game. Carefully thinking about the experience from start to finish and avoiding disrupting the player is key.

Promoting paid content aggressively would go against their preference and, ultimately, our interest and so we prefer to invest more in understanding what our players want and need. From this we can see that engaged and dedicated players understand our offers and are naturally drawn to them.

Does premium content have to be tailored to a specific game, or will an item that works well with Candy Crush Saga work equally well with a different game?

Before and after we release a game, our teams conduct a series of tests to find out what people like or dislike so that we can offer our players exactly what they want.

As I spoke about before, our premium content offering in the puzzle games tends to consist of boosters and gold bars, which have proved hugely popular with our players over the years. However, the type of booster or power-up we sell will change depending on the game.

We recently launched a new booster in Candy Crush Jelly Saga, the third game in the Candy Crush franchise, which was an evolution of the very popular lollipop hammer from Candy Crush Soda Saga.

We are very data-driven and we closely monitor our metrics to tune our offer to our player in the best possible way.

What is the most important thing to keep in mind when developing premium game content?

The most important thing to bear in mind when developing premium game content is thinking outside the obvious “functional product” categories and focusing more on how to integrate the content into the user experience. In our industry it’s not so much ‘what’ you sell that matters, but ‘how’ you do.

At King, we take into account that our player making a special and important decision when purchasing one of our products, and the context for doing so is very different from simply buying groceries in a supermarket or a book online.

[a]list summit is Heading to Seattle on April 20

We’re excited to announce the newest edition of the [a]list summit is coming on April 20. We’re bringing the event up to the Pacific Northwest city of Seattle. The last time the [a]list summit was held in the city was back in 2012 and at that time the theme was “evolve.” Since then, both [a]list summit as an event and the brands who have participated have indeed evolved. 

The theme for this year’s Seattle summit held at W hotel is Frontline Marketing. As usual you can expect to hear from progressive media companies and forward-thinking Fortune 500 companies which personify what it means to be frontline – going beyond looking at just engagement and adopting a synergistic approach to meeting consumers’ desires more effectively.

“Seattle is thrilled to welcome the 12th [a]list summit. This city is a natural for the event, with 10 Fortune-500 companies based throughout the region and a technology brain trust that influences innovation across the globe,” says David Blandford, V.P., Communications at Visit Seattle, Seattle and King County’s official marketing organization.

Some of the hottest topics of discussion so far this year on [a]listdaily is also making it’s way into the summit program. We’ll be tackling subjects like streaming, podcasting, eSports and augmented and virtual reality.

We’re excited that long-time [a]listdaily friend Jim Louderback has agreed to MC this year’s event. Many of you know him from VidCon, past [a]list summits, or his long career as a trailblazer in online video.

We’ll have many exciting speakers to announce in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, we want to hear from you. What topics are you the most curious hearing more about?

Who would you like to hear speak at the next [a]list summit? We’re all ears! Just shoot us an email. Of course, don’t forget to register now to secure your spot.

Microsoft’s Market-Boosting Plan Takes Off

Microsoft is in the process of unleashing a powerful new weapon in the console wars, and it’s something that may be an important factor in the ongoing battle for market share against Sony. The idea, announced last year at the Game Developers Conference, is simple: buy a game on the Xbox One, get the Windows 10 PC version for free. This has been intended as an optional plan for publishers, and now one of Microsoft’s most highly anticipated Xbox One games, Quantum Break, has been announced as part of this cross-buy program.

It’s a daring move that, for some Xbox One owners, was problematic. A few gamers were annoyed that Microsoft was no longer making the game exclusive to the Xbox One. Xbox head Phil Spencer was responsive on Twitter, albeit incredulous that someone would be annoyed because another person gets to play a game. That minor issue will no doubt be quickly forgotten as the larger benefits of Microsoft’s plan begin to be felt.

At first glance, this might look like a problem for the Xbox One by reducing the number of exclusives for the hardware, and thus reducing the reasons for someone to buy the Xbox One. Phil Spencer was quick to point out a key reason against this: “High end PC gaming rigs aren’t the price of a console. People play on console because they love that experience, same for PC,” Spencer said on Twitter. Just so – getting a powerful gaming rig for $350 in the form of an Xbox One is a good deal, all the more so since fewer people are buying desktop PCs these days. Laptops, tablets and phones are handling more and more everyday computing tasks for people, and none of those play games like an Xbox One.

The more important reason why this cross-buy program is good becomes clearer when you look at Microsoft’s overall strategy. “Under the auspices of CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has shifted its focus away from trying to strong-arm competitors out of the market, and towards a future of providing apps and services on the iPhones, Android phones, and Macs that they already love using,” said Matt Weinberger in a recent Business Insider article.

Microsoft benefits by making its games more broadly available, and boosting the subscription revenue it’s getting from Xbox Live. The Xbox is being put more firmly into the overall family of Microsoft products and services, and that’s a good thing. Microsoft is not as concerned over the number of hardware units it sells as it is over the number of subscribers it has to various services. The software and the service is more important than the hardware, and we’re just seeing that principle applied to consoles.

Microsoft would like Xbox Live to be the most important thing for customers, because that’s a service you pay for year after year, long after you’ve purchased the hardware. And there’s more margin there, and potential for upselling to other digital products and services. Eventually, you’ll probably be seeing Xbox Live on other hardware than Xbox consoles.

With the Microsoft Cross-Buy program, exciting games like Quantum Break will not only help sell Xbox One consoles, they’ll help bring more excitement to Windows 10 as a gaming platform. Looked at another way, it expands the market from about 20 million Xbox One consoles to the over 200 million Windows 10 devices, which suddenly makes the PlayStation 4 market look small (at less than 40 million).

Market size is important, not just because it influences where publishers decide to invest resources. Many multiplayer games get better when the pool of players is larger, because finding balanced matches happens more swiftly. And, of course, the revenue potential for selling virtual goods and other DLC is much higher when the market is larger.

This also helps broaden the appeal of future Microsoft products and services. When the HoloLens finally becomes available, as a Windows 10 device it will automatically be both a business/enterprise device and a gaming accessory. This neatly avoids the issues surrounding the original Kinect, which took forever to get a Windows version and then never caught on in the business side of things. Now future devices will have the largest possible market to find success in, because the consoles are much more tightly integrated with the PC side of things.

Sony has also been signing up some exclusives on both PC and PlayStation 4, such as the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky. Yet, Sony’s plan appears to still center around the PlayStation ecosystem, which has been expanding with PlayStation Now, the PlayStation Network, and the upcoming PlayStation VR. Sony doesn’t have to support a broader ecosystem, but instead seems to be adding as much value as it can to its ever-stronger game brand. Many observers and analysts feel that Sony’s VR entry, PlayStation VR, will have a strong bid for market share with tens of millions of people already owning the hardware needed to drive the VR headset (a PlayStation 4) without the need to buy a new PC.

Don’t forget, that Microsoft has a strong position in the VR market, even without its own hardware. The Oculus Rift comes with an Xbox One controller to drive it, and you’ll need a powerful Windows PC to power the headset. The other high-end VR device, the HTC Vive, also runs from a powerful Windows PC. Will Microsoft take advantage of these VR connections? You’d better believe it. Nothing’s been announced, but at the very least you’d expect Microsoft to tout the fact that its software is behind two of the most powerful VR systems on the market. Beyond that, we may see some other marketing or product or service initiatives as well, especially as the market unfolds this year.

Microsoft will definitely be pushing more of its own titles into the cross-buy program, and will continue to encourage other publishers to take advantage of it as well. It makes good sense for game publishers to expand their market, and many are already planning PC versions of their games. The key sticking point would be the possibility of reduced revenue, but it doesn’t seem very likely that people would buy both a version for an Xbox One and a PC version. You’re not losing a sale by giving a buyer both copies; you’re creating a more satisfied customer. That, in the end, should prove more valuable to Microsoft.