Why Twitch Partnered For ‘Vainglory’ ESports League

Twitch has been on a roll with its latest promotions, from introducing a new cooking channel with a Julia Child The French Chef marathon, to partnering to create a new Rocket League eSports tournament. Now, the livestreaming service is turning its attention to mobile eSports.

The company has announced a partnership with developer Super Evil Megacorp to build a new eSports framework over the next three years, all based around the hit mobile game Vainglory, which has amassed over 150 million minutes watched on the streaming channel in the past year. The recent Winter Championships also drew in a record audience, with over 1.5 million viewers.

As part of the partnership, a new tournament is underway, with three-person teams competing in the Spring Championship for a chance to win part of an $80,000 prize pool.

This is a phenomenal deal for not only Twitch and Super Evil Megacorp, but mobile gaming in general. With that, [a]listdaily sat down with Twitch’s director of eSports operations, Nick Allen, to get more insight behind the partnership and what kind of impact it’s expected to make.

First Rocket League and now Vainglory. How do you decide on the right business partners for eSports tournaments?

It’s a combination of a few things: the game being great, the game’s community being strong and its desire for competition, and the developer’s appetite to make design and business decisions with competitive gameplay in mind.

Twitch has been working with Super Evil Megacorp in the past at events like PAX East. What prompted your team to enter into a full eSports partnership with the company? Does this mean we’ll see even stronger promotion for the game at events?

After working with Kristian and SEMC for a few months around Vainglory and their events, we saw the company continuing to invest and make good decisions toward building a competitive culture around their game. Combined with how the game was growing and its amazing community, we both agreed we should take our relationship to the next level. One of main goals for this partnership is the overall growth of Vainglory, which means getting as many eyeballs on it as possible. With that in mind, you’ll see more promotion!

What does Twitch think about the way the Vainglory community has grown over the years? 

The game has been around for about a year and frankly, before Vainglory, mobile first eSports didn’t exist. In the short time it’s been around, we’ve seen rapid growth on Twitch, which is very exciting.

Mobile is wide open right now. There are considerably more touch screens in the world than PCs, meaning the opportunity for growth is that much higher–meaning this partnership could turn a corner for not just mobile eSports, but eSports as a whole.

Will Vainglory have a big presence at this year’s TwitchCon event in San Diego?

We’re still figuring out what TwitchCon will entail this year, so it’s too early to say!

Do you think we’ll see more of a growth in mobile eSports over the next few years, or will console/PC based titles continue to be the top draws?

Given that there are over three billion touchscreen devices and only around 800 million gaming PCs, mobile eSports definitely has the potential to become a leader in the space.

‘Powers’ Is Kicking, Punching And Flying Its Second Season To New Levels

Superheroes are living large. This month, we saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hit theaters as well as the release of season two of Netflix’s Daredevil. That’s in addition to a long list of blockbuster comic book movies and shows that include Deadpool and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War.

Soon, a different kind of comic book show will be making a return. Powers, based on a comic book series of the same name, is the first original-scripted show produced exclusively for the PlayStation Network, and takes place in a world where certain individuals (referred to as Powers) have fantastic abilities like super strength and invulnerability. They gain fame and become huge celebrities, but don’t necessarily develop a moral compass. The Los Angeles Powers Division is a police force comprised of normal (un-powered) human beings who specialize in superhuman crimes, but some must deal with deep flaws of their own. Especially the lead character, Christian Walker (Sharlto Copely; District 9, Hardcore Henry), who was once a superhero but lost his powers.

The show premiered last year with its first episode available for free on YouTube, but the rest of the season was broadcast over the PlayStation Network, and could be watched on a PlayStation 3 or 4 (with a PlayStation Plus subscription) or computer with a season pass purchase. The entire first season of this dark and mature-themed show is now available for viewing online through the PlayStation Store and Crackle–a streaming service, similar to Hulu, that’s a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment. It will ready audiences for the action-packed premiere of season two on May 31.

John Koller, vice president of platforms marketing at PlayStation, talked to [a]listdaily about what viewers can look forward to in the second season, and what happens when great power doesn’t always come with great responsibility.

John_Koller FINAL

How was Powers chosen as PlayStation Network’s first scripted original series?

We evaluated several scripts before deciding on Powers, but felt that the comic book tie-in was a natural fit for our audience. Since games are at the core of everything we do, it’s important for all of our content to be gaming-inspired and relevant to PlayStation fans.

What has the general response been to the first season of Powers?

Excitement about the series and its creator–famed Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis–helped make Powers the most successful show ever on PlayStation Network (PSN), outperforming all other current-run shows and reruns available on PSN.

What are some of the challenges in promoting a series that’s exclusive to the PlayStation Network?

The primary challenge we initially faced was how to broaden viewership, while also giving something special and unique to PlayStation Plus members. We feel our Plus members are a priority, so we created the first exclusive window for them. We then solved the broader viewership challenge by launching the first episode on sites across the web, including YouTube and IGN, to allow the non-Plus members a taste of PlayStation original content. This effectively broadened viewership to a range of Plus and non-Plus members.

How important is a scripted series like Powers to growing the PlayStation console and PlayStation Network’s audience?

Fundamentally, PlayStation is a company driven by great narratives and fantastic storytelling. Powers fits perfectly into the PlayStation brand, helping solidify our position in the market as the best place to play. We know the PlayStation brand is a big part of why PS4 has been so successful, and the best way to continue this momentum is through authentic, rich, content and experiences.

There are some very popular superhero-themed shows on both television and streaming. What do you think makes superhero shows so attractive, and how does Powers stand out?

We’re really in the midst of a superhero resurgence, which is great news for those of us who grew up with favorite shows like Justice League and Super Friends. What makes today’s shows unique is that most of them tackle current day and relatable issues, which brings the idea of a superhero world closer to home. The Powers story establishes early on that a large range of superheroes live amongst us, but it questions how we all coexist. In the Powers world, not all superheroes are for good or for evil–some are just for themselves and their own self-interest. It’s a very mature view of culture, making viewers question how they would respond if they lived in this dynamic world.

The first season of Powers released as weekly scheduled episodes. Has any thought been given to releasing an entire season at once, the way Netflix and others do?

We wrestled with this decision because there are good outcomes that can come from both approaches. Ultimately, we decided the upside of people talking about and advocating to friends about the latest Powers episode between show drops outweighed giving the viewer every episode all at once. We continue to build equity in Powers and we believe that scheduled episode releases helps build this momentum.

What lessons were learned from season one that will be applied to the next season?

We learned quite a bit. The production teams and executives at Sony Pictures TV are incredibly talented and have been through many show launches–such as Blacklist, Breaking Bad and Preacher–so they have a real sense for good writing and overall talent. We learned–with their direction–that good writers are the key to a great production. Investing heavily in top script writers was the first big decision we made entering season two, and it will be noticed immediately by viewers.

This season has so many intense twists and turns that will really leave the viewer wanting more. We also learned the value of continuity at the showrunner level, which is why we brought back Remi Aubuchon, one of Hollywood’s best executive producers, and gave him the reigns to shape Powers along with creator Brian Michael Bendis’ vision. I can’t wait for viewers to watch.

How did Tricia Helfer and Enrico Colantoni become involved with Powers?  

Both Tricia and Enrico are well known in the gamer community for their work on hit shows, and we all believed that involving them with critical roles in Powers would bring both great acting talent and broad appeal to the show. Tricia plays Agent Lange, an ex-love interest to detective Walker, who plays a hardened FBI agent in charge, and who has, let’s say–unique powers. Enrico plays senator Bailey Brown, who used to be a Power named Cobalt Knight. I think viewers are going to love what both Tricia and Enrico bring to the cast.

Any hints on what else fans can expect from season two?

Bendis has created Powers to challenge many of our beliefs, one of which is: What if those without powers could wield as much power as those who do? The story is intricate, dynamic and is well produced. This season will be really special.

Powers Season 2


BMW Drives Forward With Virtual Assistance

Consumers already know how dependable virtual assistants can be, using their mobile devices to find information with the help of Siri, Cortana and other assistants. Now car manufacturer BMW wants to get in on the action with its own specialized app.

The BMW connected app for iPhone was announced during this week’s Microsoft Build event, which will serve as an always-on assistant for drivers, according to Engadget. The tool is meant to assist on-the-go drivers with setting up appointments, providing notifications for traffic, and more.

While many apps can already perform these functions, BMW’s ConnectedDrive app will pair up directly with its vehicles. As such, it’ll learn from driving routines so it can give directions and tips for the route, along with performing other functions like accessing door locks, flashing lights, or starting it up so that it warms on a cold winter day.

BMW also promised that it will update its ConnectedDrive app with continuous features, although it didn’t detail what would be coming yet.

It’s too early to tell at this point if BMW’s app will be as effective as the popular Siri or Cortana, but it’s a promising move by the automaker. It could be a feature that resonates well with consumers looking to pair up their devices for the ultimate convenience and driving experience.

The Challenge Of Marketing Mobile Games Globally

Gaming markets can vary. What may work in one particular market doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily fly in another. While some competitive games like League of LegendsDota 2, and World of Warcraft might have global appeal, they are the exceptions, not the rule.

Not even the mobile gaming market, which is a beast over in China, is an exception to this. But with such a big audience, Western developers are up for taking on the challenge. They just need to figure out what experiences are in highest demand.

For instance, TechInAsia recently reported on the continuing success on The Legend of Mir Mobile. The game still manages to earn anywhere between $92 to $107 million (in U.S. dollars) on a monthly basis, based on massive-multiplayer online (MMO) action. But here’s the thing–it’s not a recent release. In fact, the game is over 15 years old, continuing to be a popular draw after all this time. A lot of mobile developers would be satisfied just having a fifth of that popularity.

The Legend of Mir Mobile capitalizes on the nostalgia of China’s early PC gamers, the people who were playing this game on PC in Internet cafes 15 years ago,” said Shanda Games vice-chair Zhu Xiaojing, speaking with Sina Tech. “Many of those gamers are now adults with white-collar jobs. They may or may not still be hardcore PC gamers, but virtually all of them own smartphones, and being able to play what many consider a classic game from their youth on a phone is too tempting to pass up. And of course, their enthusiasm has helped attract a whole new generation of players to the game as well.”

How a game is marketed is also very crucial, as something that works well on the Western market may not do so in China, and vice versa, depending on the diverse gaming audience. In a previous interview, Glu Mobile president Niccolo de Masi noted that the company has to tweak certain things to make a game experience work. For instance, Western shooters aren’t that popular in China, and a Chinese brand won’t always find stateside success. But the right partnership and strategy could change that. We Fire, which is a hit overseas, won’t be brought over in its original form. Instead, the game engine will be transformed into something else. “A Western consumer will not know that this is We Fire. They will know it as Frontline Commando or Contract Killer,” de Masi stated.

Simon Hade, co-founder and COO of Space Ape, also expressed similar logic with bringing games over. “Mobile game companies cannot just localize language and launch their game in the West successfully. While features like Gacha [collectible characters] are becoming more widely adopted in the West, games from Asia generally do not directly translate. In order to successfully bring a game to the West, you must invest resources, which takes time and money. The companies and games that invest well will have a better chance to create a top 20 game.

“We’re seeing more and more Chinese game mechanics translating to the West,” he added. “It’s still the case that China, Korea and Japan are each very different markets and a lot of the charts are dominated by local players addressing local tastes. However, it’s feeling more and more like the concepts that work in China are easier to adapt for the West (e.g. Game of War). One big difference is around the pace of content. Chinese players consume content very quickly, and your monetization needs to reflect that behavior in order to make a game viable.”

But there’s still that possibility of connecting with certain content, as Newzoo CEO and co-founder Peter Warman previously noted. “Every global player has an interest in China in some way. It can be as consumer market or as a country that provides new partnerships and investments. From a Newzoo perspective, our partnership with leading Chinese big data company TalkingData is crucial for us to be a true global player. We spoke at their corporate event in Beijing a couple weeks ago that attracted over 2,000 people giving us a unique entry into the market. This is in addition to having data on 800 million iOS and Android smart devices used every month that provides unique insights to Western companies with an interest in the Chinese mobile landscape. I expect there will be a lot more consolidation of Western and Chinese game companies over the coming years.”

As both the Chinese and American mobile game markets continue to thrive with billions of dollars ever year, changes could come to better adapt marketing content for certain games, which could also include development level changes, depending on the games that are being considered.

For now, companies are looking to find new ways to become the next the 15-year old hit, like Legend of Mir Mobile.

If You Can’t Beat Virtual Reality, Connect To It

Virtual reality’s ability to seize both the public’s imagination, and that of the various entertainment businesses, is undeniable. Much of the reporting out of the Game Developer’s Conference centered around VR, and we’re likely to see that repeated at other upcoming conferences and events as VR hardware hits the market this year. The collective weight of billions of dollars of investment has so far generated massive interest, even though revenues are yet to be realized.

One thing is clear, development time and resources are coming from a broad array of small to medium size developers, mostly funded by investment from venture capital and from the makers of VR hardware. Big game publishers in mobile, console and PC are staying on the sidelines for the most part. They’ve got more predictable places to invest their time and development resources than in the uncertainties of VR titles, so this makes sense.

Yet, shouldn’t all kinds of game makers be looking to capitalize on this obvious excitement for VR? Isn’t there some way to add the luster of VR to existing brands without betting huge sums of money? There are, in fact, several things that game publishers at every level can do to take advantage of VR’s appeal without actually creating their own VR game.

VR as a marketing tool

One of the immediate ways to utilize VR is as a tool for marketing your products. We’ve seen this already with companies like McDonald’s and Marriott taking great advantage of the sizzle of VR to draw interest and engagement for their own products.

For games, Sony announced a partnership with LucasFilm and Electronic Arts to bring Star Wars: Battlefront to the PlayStation VR. “Battlefront is going to be one of those games that will really show gamers what it means to be in the world of VR,” said John Koller, vice president of marketing at Sony Interactive Entertainment, per Forbes. “It’s very special. And just by the nature of it being designed as a VR experience, it’s going to be very different than the PlayStation 4 game.”

It’s not clear, at this point, what will be in this game or how it might connect to the existing Star Wars: Battlefront game. But it’s clearly an important step for Sony, and the company has already gotten a great deal of marketing mileage from this announcement. Electronic Arts has benefited too, with its existing game generating terrific media attention and a nice glow from the connection with VR.

Licensing to VR; ports to VR

One easy and inexpensive way for a publisher to take advantage of VR is to simply license its brand to another company to create a VR game. The VR developer gets the benefit of the brand equity, while the publisher gets the benefit of a VR game without the expense of creating it. The next step in this path is porting an existing title to VR, which like other ports would be done by a third-party studio under contract. While such games usually aren’t great ways to utilize a new platform, they have the advantage of being inexpensive and somewhat more predictable as far as revenue goes. At least, it will once the market for the platform is established well enough to allow for revenue projections.

Cross-game connection

When a new platform really gets going, publishers will begin to see the usefulness of connecting the new platform to their existing ones via games that cross over in some way–usually with gear or characters. Many mobile games now fall into this category, as publishers develop mobile games that connect with console games so you can stay engaged with the game and brand when you’re away from your console. These companion apps might let you rearrange your inventory, change outfits, or go shopping for new gear on mobile devices, then play your revised character in the hardcore console game.

Similarly, VR games could be made to offer a special experience that carries over from your existing console or PC game. Perhaps there could be a certain battle mode available in VR, or a special location you can experience, and then you could bring your character back out with new items or more experience points. Such a connected VR game would add marketing luster to the basic console game, and give it a special way to stand out (if competing games didn’t have such a mode). Perhaps Sony’s VR Battlefront may do this.

The Art Of The Reboot: 3 Ways To Revitalize A Legacy

Whether it’s to reach a new audience, explore an advanced medium or capitalize on childhood nostalgia, intellectual property (IP), holders turn to the reboot to breath fresh life into beloved franchises. In recent years, this technique has become prevalent across multiple mediums, yielding mostly positive results. From Marvel’s All New, All Different comic book campaign to the award-winning Tomb Raider video game reboot, the success of a franchise re-imagining hinges on current events, the intended audience and above all, loyalty to what made the IP popular in the first place.

Rebooting to celebrate a legacy

In order to preserve said loyalty, the narrative can make or break a reboot.


“When I worked with Crystal Dynamics to reboot Tomb Raider in 2013, we put the reimagining of Lara Croft and her journey front and centre of the whole experience,” Rhianna Pratchett, a video game writer, narrative designer and journalist, wrote in the March issue of Develop Mazagine. “We cultivated a respect for the character which not only went through her narrative, but also her art, animation and performance. It became the fastest-selling title in the franchise, shifting over 8.5 million units and reinvigorating the franchise like never before.”

Thanks to a lot of thought and even more respect, Crystal Dynamics is enjoying the fruits of a well-planned reboot just in time to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the franchise. This brave venture into an all-new Lara Croft story has not only reintroduced a iconic heroine to a new generation of gamers, but celebrates every game and movie that led to this moment.

When reboots go wrong, they can still go right

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for the successful reboot. Dredd, the bloody, but accurate 2012 film remake, was critically acclaimed for being true to the franchise. Despite loyalty to the source material and an award-winning marketing campaign by Lionsgate, Dredd earned just over $41 million at the box office against an estimated production budget of $45 million. Although not considered a financial success, the film is well-liked among fans and currently ranks an average 3.5/5 on film review website Rotten Tomatoes.

A once-successful franchise doesn’t mean it will yield an unending stream of hype-fueled income and undying loyalty from fans. This became painfully clear when the all-female Ghostbusters trailer was revealed, garnering criticism and praise alike. The YouTube video has received more than two times the amount of down votes than thumbs up, resulting in AdWeek calling it “the most polarizing movie of the year.”

The debate for and against an all-girl Ghostbusters is probably not what Sony Pictures Entertainment anticipated, but it could be argued that despite criticism, the reboot has rallied the fans–new and purists alike. A debate gets the world talking about your brand; and time will tell this summer whether the resulting controversy will result in box office success.



One popular method for celebrating the anniversary of a franchise is to remaster it for technologies that have advanced since the initial release, rather than start over. Disney employs this method often, remastering classic films into special edition Blu-ray collections. Video game publisher Capcom is currently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Resident Evil not with a reboot, but with a remastered version for next-gen video game platforms. When Star Wars turned 20, the controversial, yet financially successful special edition trilogy revitalized the franchise for a whole new generation.

Although often debated, rebooting a franchise can create buzz and discussion among existing fans and curiosity among newcomers. The reboot can be a successful marketing tool, when employed alongside thoughtful narrative, timely release and the celebration of a legacy. Respect for the source material, while introducing new elements are the key to this popular, and largely successful marketing strategy.

Square Enix Details ‘Final Fantasy XV’ Free Game Demo, Movie, And Anime Series

Ahead of the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV live event at the Shrine Auditorium in front of over 6,000 fans, Square Enix executives were on hand to discuss the company’s transmedia approach to launching the next big game in its bestselling franchise.

While Final Fantasy XV won’t launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One until September 30, a free playable Platinum Demo is available now for both platforms. The 45-minute experience, which I was able to play through early, puts players in control of a young Noctis Lucis Caelum (the central protagonist in Final Fantasy XV) as he wanders through a dreamscape in search of an exit to awaken.

Hajime Tabata, director of the game, said this demo is an exclusive experience that won’t be part of the retail version of Final Fantasy XV. Players who complete the demo will unlock a Carbuncle creature that can be used as DLC in the full game experience.

“The original inspiration was to show the new gameplay and the depth of the new technologies we used to as many people as possible,” Tabata said. “We made this game for the modern age and for the modern player, to show people how far Final Fantasy has come.”

Tabata said by exploring this demo, players will become attached to him as a character now, long before they embark on the full adventure this fall.

“Also, a lot of people have been waiting for this game for 10 years, so we wanted to give them something they could enjoy now,” Tabata said, referring to the game’s origins as Final Fantasy Versus XIII.

That game was completely scrapped and Tabata and his team set out to create Final Fantasy XV with new technology and new gameplay features such as open world exploration and real-time combat.

“All the stuff we’d shown the world that was going to be in Final Fantasy Versus XIII we tried to keep in Final Fantasy XV,” Tabata said. “And then the stuff we hadn’t shown we reevaluated to see if it would fit in the new game. There were a number of elements that we hadn’t revealed, but we felt wouldn’t work when we rebuilt the game as Final Fantasy XV.”

The Platinum Demo also ties into the other two big transmedia projects that will be released ahead of the full game. Square Enix has partnered with A-1 Pictures to develop a five-part anime series called Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, which will be delivered free to fans. The first episode is available now.

Each episode of the series will run 10 minutes in length and follow the friendship of Noctis and his friends Ignis Stupeo Scientia, Gladiolus Amicitia and Prompto Argentum from childhood to adulthood. It’s during one of the episodes in this series that Noctis gets injured and falls into a deep dreamscape, which can be played through in the Platinum Demo.

Brotherhood shows the bonds and strengths of the camaraderie between these friends, and cel-shaded animation was the best form to show that,” Tamada said.

Perhaps the grandest of the linear efforts from Square Enix is the computer-generated feature film, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. This movie was directed by Square Enix’ Takeshi Nozue, who was co-director of the company’s last CGI movie, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, back in 2005. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the movie ahead of the game launch this fall. The movie will be streamed and available for digital download, bypassing theaters.

Nozue said he approached the movies very differently because Advent Children came out after Final Fantasy VII and Kingsglaive is coming out before Final Fantasy XV.

“The objective is to get as many people as possible into the story, so we needed to have a much more general style of storytelling,” Nozue said. “The film is an introduction to the game, and it’s telling a different story than the game. We needed to focus on showing that human emotion and drama, which is one reason we brought up the technology level for both the film and the game.”

The CGI in the movie will go beyond the visuals of the game, but there will be many similarities. In fact, King Regis was redesigned for the game to fit in with the look of the movie. This helps make the transition more seamless for those fans that soak up every piece of these transmedia offerings.

The movie’s plot takes place during Final Fantasy XV timeline, but the story is focused on King Regis and the Crown City after Noctis leaves for his road trip to wed Luna, which players will live through in the game.

The film features Game of Thrones alumni Lena Headey as the voice of Luna and Sean Bean as King Regis, and Need for Speed actor Aaron Paul plays Nyx, one of the elite task force members (similar to knights) who formed Kingsglaive.

Tabata, who developed the film’s story with Nozue, said the parent/child relationship between King Regis and his son, Noctis, is explored in-depth in the film. The game’s story was reworked from its original form to focus on Noctis’ point of view.

“The bond between father and son is shown differently in the game and in the movie, but these two experiences create one holistic story in which both sides of the relationship are explored,” Tabata said.

Square Enix is using different forms of media to explore the relationships between the central characters in unique ways. Tabata said all of these elements combined create the composite on which the Final Fantasy XV narrative can be fully experienced.

Ultimately, the goal was to create different entry points into this game universe for new people who haven’t played it, or for gamers who played it when they were younger and haven’t played it in a while.

“We’re trying to get as many people as possible interested in Final Fantasy XV so they’ll play the game,” Tabata said.

That game will also have a different feel, as it’s ultimately a road trip journey among friends. And it’s a game that starts off with more modern day elements, including smart watches and convertible cars. Tabata said that, too, was a deliberate approach to attract more gamers.

“We wanted to create a world closer to the real world we live in – for both the game and the movie,” Tabata said. “It helps immerse players in the characters’ shoes if their world is close to ours. And then we can journey into the more fantastical.”

In another offshoot of the franchise, Square Enix will launch Justice Monsters V, a pinball mini-game available in Final Fantasy XV, for mobile devices separately this fall.

The Deluxe and Ultimate Collector’s Editions of Final Fantasy XV are available for pre-order now.

You can follow John on Twitter @JohnGaudiosi.


Don’t Panic: Why Instagram’s Algorithm Change Is Great For Engagement

Editor’s Note: Lindsey Buchanan is the director of social media at Ayzenberg. [a]listdaily is the editorial arm of Ayzenberg Group.

Earlier this month, Instagram broke the news they would be transitioning from a chronological feed to a more algorithmic experience. They assured that all the posts will still be there (floating around in the Insta-universe), just presented in a different order. Instagram will order posts “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting, and the timeliness of the post.”

How do users feel about this exactly? Well, the jury is still out.

In some ways, it makes total sense. It’s become harder and harder for users to keep track of posts. According to Instagram, the average user misses a whopping 70 percent of what’s in their feed. Now that may seem like a large number, but considering how much content is out there, it’s not that surprising. With a chronological feed, you’re somewhat limited to the amount of accounts you can follow before your feed becomes congested.

Introducing the algorithm is an attempt to alleviate this problem by making feeds more relevant and engaging. This will make it less daunting to follow more accounts, which could potentially increase follower count as a side effect. That said, the number of followers one has could become less relevant as people start to pay more attention to actual engagement. In addition, the algorithm could be a bit crippling for up-and-coming artists who won’t exactly have a level playing field now.

What does the algorithm change mean for Instagram’s users?

It means you don’t have to be there—checking your feed and likes—multiple times a day. The sense of immediacy isn’t there. Time is no longer of the essence. By having the most popular posts first, users could be discouraged from posting because their posts may not see as much engagement as in the past.

What does this mean for brands and influencers?

Brands will need to put more dollars behind their social or be *so awesome* that their content trends organically and remains at the top of the feed chain.

Sure, some were upset by the announcement, like the 328,018 who signed the Change.org petition to “Keep Instagram Chronological”. But—let’s be honest—the move was pretty much inevitable, but not all of us adapt well to change. Fortunately, Instagram knows this, which is why they’re approaching it in stages. Just before the announcement, Instagram sneakily moved a post’s time stamp from the top right to the bottom left. One assumes they did this to shift the focus from the time of day so the emphasis is not on how content appears chronologically.

Flash-forward a week later and people are taking matters into their own “handles” by posting personal prompts with the hashtags #turnmeon #letsstaytogether, in the hopes that their followers will be swayed to turn on notifications for all their posts.

People are clearly freaking out over the change, including many brands, celebs and aspiring influencers who don’t want to see their Insta-stock plummet overnight.  The panic was all over the internet this week. Like brands, celebrities and influencers want to remain at the top and will do whatever they need to do to stay there, even if it means annoying people with shameless posts.

Or, you could do what this guy did and make fun of it while finding a way to use reverse psychology on his followers. Well done, @Fwiz.

Sick of seeing these posts on my feed

A photo posted by Ryan Wyatt (@fwiz) on

And then there is überinfluencer, @kellyoxford, who uses her usual humor to be cool and act like she’s not jonesin’ for followers.

I MADE A MEME!!!! #happyMonday

A photo posted by kellyoxford (@kellyoxford) on

And the lovely @gracehelbig who does what everybody else is thinking. 

So what’s next for Instagram?

According to Instagram’s blog, they are now offering 60-second video to everyone. Video view numbers are also available. Given Instagram is such a visual platform, it will be interesting to see if  the platform’s algorithm will also factor in image recognition technology. For instance, if a user’s behavior shows that they tend to like pictures or videos of food or sunsets, will the algorithm be able to detect that and feed the user more food and sunsets? Time will tell, as we continue to receive more and more updates on the visually-stimulating yet time-sucking platform.

Lindsey Buchanan is the director of social media at Ayzenberg. Her work is a hodgepodge of creative strategy, entertainment marketing and technology, bringing content, brands and audiences together in unique and innovative ways. She enjoys coloring outside the lines and speaking in riddles and rhymes. 

‘Werewolves Within’ Brings Social Gaming To Virtual Reality

While many virtual reality games and experiences focus on taking people to far-off places and worlds, Ubisoft and Red Storm Entertainment decided to use the technology to bring people closer together with the announcement of Werewolves Within. The virtual reality game, which launches this fall for platforms like the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, lets five-to-eight players gather around a campfire to play detective. Set in the medieval village of Gallowston, players are challenged to use their skills of persuasion and deduction to find out which among them is a werewolf. At the same time, werewolves must find ways to throw off suspicion.

The virtual reality experience is enhanced with the ability to secretly whisper to other players, and special technology that animates the avatar according to the player’s movements and voice inflections. When taken together, the social-multiplayer game feels very much like a physical social gathering.

David Votypka, senior creative director on Werewolves Within, talked to [a]listdaily about social gaming in virtual reality and how to properly detect a werewolf in your midst.

David VotypkaWhat inspired the development of Werewolves Within?

A small team at Red Storm had been working on social multiplayer gaming for some time before we started working on it in VR. In the fall of 2014, we took one of those prototypes and got it running in VR. This had us seated across a table from each other, and when we saw the movement of the character model being driven by real human motion (as opposed to pre-made animations), we immediately felt like we were there with another human being. We had just experienced shared presence for the first time, and it was profound.

Soon after, a team of us built a prototype focused on classic social deduction-style games. I chose this direction simply because I wanted to start by leveraging an already proven social gameplay formula, so that we and others could solely evaluate the prototype based on the merits of how effective VR is as a social gaming medium. The results were very compelling, and everyone we played it with had the exact same reaction. As time went on, we felt it was worth turning this into a full VR game by creating our own version of a social deduction game, complete with unique mechanics that can only be realized with VR.

What convinced you to develop a social multiplayer game, considering Red Storm’s history with action games?

While a large part of the studio has been working on action games such as Far Cry and Tom Clancy’s The Division, a small team here had been focused on social multiplayer gaming–prior to VR–as part of an research and development mandate we agreed upon with Ubisoft HQ a couple of years ago. Our initial goal was to increase the depth and variety of social dynamics in online multiplayer gaming, and to empower players to use their social skills online.

We built a few different prototypes with original designs that largely focused on social deduction experiences. These ranged from paper prototypes, to a full-on board game, to 3D digital prototypes. They generally featured a hidden traitor or potential traitor of some sort, with gameplay that centered around building trust through cooperation, while having a risk of betrayal. We learned a lot and had some compelling social gaming come out of this work. Ultimately though, the idea of allowing players to truly use their social skills online was somewhat elusive until VR resurfaced and gave us a powerful new toolset to leverage.

Can you explain how VR is becoming an ideal social platform, and how Werewolves Within takes advantage of that?

The concept of social presence, in a digital environment, wasn’t really practical before VR. In order to feel like you are sharing the same digital environment with another person, your mind needs to be convinced that you are there, and that the character you are looking at is another human being. It’s difficult to explain until you try it for yourself, but I’ll just say that your brain can tell the difference when looking at a pre-animated character, versus one that’s being controlled by the actual movements and body language of a real person. Because of this, VR has the potential to open up all sorts of social experiences, in games and otherwise. Additional technologies are being explored such as VR headsets being able to track facial expressions, as well as tracking the eyes of the user. Social VR is already compelling, and it’s only going to get better as time goes on.

With Werewolves Within we can deliver a multiplayer video game that has its gameplay driven by verbal discussion, player personality, and social interaction. While gameplay of this type in the physical world has been around since the dawn of humanity, it is now possible and compelling in the digital space. The technology also allows us to include unique gameplay mechanics that utilize the VR hardware such as physically leaning over to whisper to the player next to you in the game, or literally standing up to perform a monologue. In digital format we can hide and share information with players in ways that aren’t possible in the physical format of social gaming, and many of the role abilities in Werewolves Within leverage this benefit.


How does the positional tracking and voice inflection technology work?

The position (and orientation) tracking is all done by the VR headset which is fed to the game. We then take this data and network it to the rest of the players which allows everyone to see where everyone else is looking. In addition, since the position of a human’s torso is largely driven by their head and neck, we are able to accurately portray where each player is leaning, i.e. whether they’re sitting upright, leaning forward, or to the side. All of these factors contribute the perception of looking at a real person.

Regarding voice inflection, hand tracking was not in the initial design or plans for the game, so what we did instead was to include automated speaking gestures that are driven by the player’s voice input. The technology actually came out of our pre-VR social prototypes, which is an algorithm that chooses speaking gestures based on various properties of the voice input that is received and analyzed in real-time. For example analyzing patterns of intensity and pitch will determine whether the avatar should play a subtle speaking gesture animation, or a more exaggerated one. Ubisoft Barcelona also built technology that analyzes the player’s voice input to create real-time lip sync animations and play logical facial expressions based on voice analysis. All of this tech helps support the believability and natural feeling of the social interactions amongst the group.

What are some of the things to keep in mind when searching out a werewolf?

Looking for long pointy nails and overly hairy hands! No, actually there are a number of strategies. For example, werewolves can use the whisper mechanic to their advantage. If two players whisper together and one of them is a werewolf, then after five seconds the werewolf player will sniff out the other player’s role. So, werewolves are generally quite inclined to whisper with others which can be something to watch for. Secondly, each townsfolk player has an ability to gain a little bit of information, and if the group shares information they gather it usually helps narrow down the possibilities of who the most likely culprits are. Assuming, of course, that the people sharing the information aren’t lying to put you off their trail!

How quickly do you think virtual reality will catch on?

I can’t really speculate on a date, but I will say that more and more people are becoming convinced that it’s not a question of if, but when. VR has already caught on for many people, namely those that have had the chance to try it and have tried quality experiences. The VR hardware manufacturers are doing great work in making compelling VR possible and empowering software developers to deliver great content, which is most definitely our goal at Red Storm and at Ubisoft.

Alien Day Is Coming: Movie Franchise ‘Alien’ Celebrates Its Special Day

“In space…no one can hear you scream.”

With that, a legacy was introduced in 1979 with the 20th Century Fox film Alien, a terrifying thriller where a space exploration team was introduced to a sinister xenomorph.

The film has since created a legacy built behind a number of sequels (namely James Cameron’s action packed 1986 film Aliens), comic books, video games and other memorabilia. Next month, Fox will celebrate that legacy in spades with “Alien Day” featuring events that tie-in with the series.

Based on the planet LV-426 (featured in the first movies), Alien Day is set to take place on April 26 and will have a number of social giveaways that tie in with the official Alien Anthology Twitter account. Fans will be able to take part in the Ultimate Trivia Challenge for the series, which will allow them to win prizes every 42.6 minutes on the social channel. Users can reply with the hashtags #AlienDay426 and #Contest for a chance to win.

That’s just the beginning of the hype surrounding Alien Day, as Reebok has announced that it will release a limited run of shoes worn by characters in Aliens, including Ripley’s infamous Alien Stomper hightops and Android Bishop’s mid-tops. The shoes will be available for purchase starting on the 26th at Reebok.com and retail stores.



Other products are being planned for release to celebrate Ripley’s fight against an alien monster. They include: figures produced by NECA based on Aliens characters Lieutenant Vasquez and Newt; a new series of Dark Horse Comics featuring exclusive covers from the Aliens film; a special 30th anniversary hardcover edition of the original Aliens; an Aliens: Out of the Shadows Audible drama featuring Rutger Hauer and Corey Johnson; a special double feature of the original films being shown at Alamo Drafthouse; a trio of new Alien-themed digital pinball tables for the Pinball FX 2 and Zen Pinball 2 platforms across consoles, PC and mobile devices.

“We noticed that fans of the Alien films were starting to rally around the calendar date of April 26th–given the connection to the planet LV-426,” said Jeffrey Godsik, president of 20th Century Fox Consumer Products. “Quite simply, it gave us the idea to do something special on this day; to officially mark the occasion alongside fans and to build excitement online, in stores and once again, in theaters.”

Fox hopes that the event will catch on similarly to the May the 4th social event for Star Wars, and last year’s Back To the Future day, which was held on October 21–the date Marty McFly and Doc Brown head to in Back To The Future Part II.

Considering the franchise’s fan base, Alien Day is likely to be a big hit, which will be good news for 20th Century Fox as it moves forward on several Alien-related projects, including a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 2012 movie, Prometheus.