Virtual Reality Is Changing Market Reality

There’s plenty of excitement over VR, but right now the market is mostly virtual since the high-end devices have yet to launch. As a consequence, predictions about the future of VR are subject to change as more data becomes available. Recent surveys and new data present a changing picture of VR, and keeping abreast of the latest changes is important for marketers and anyone else trying to devise strategy for the next year or two.

The latest study by Horizon Media, polling 3,000 people in the US, had some interesting figures on the state of the VR market. Asked about Samsung’s Gear VR, the Oculus Rift, and Google Cardboard:

  • Only 33 percent of the respondents knew about one of those devices.
  • However, 36 percent of the people surveyed said they were interested in owning a VR device.
  • Cost is definitely a factor, as only 25 percent of users are willing to spend more than $250 on a VR device at this point.
  • Young men have greater interest in owning a VR device, with 47 percent of men vs. 25 percent of women.
  • Age groups break down to 54 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds vs. 44 percent of 35-49 (25 percent of 50-64).
  • They are also twice as likely to say they would pay $250+ for a device, 31 percent of men vs. 16 percent of women; 30 percent of under 50 vs. 15 percent of 50-64).
  • Men are three times as likely to have already tried VR technology, 16 percent of men vs. 6 percent of women.

“Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard are low-cost alternatives that lower the barrier to entry,” Horizon Vice President-Trendsights Kirk Olson said. “That benefits marketers because the sooner we see more consumers using VR devices, the sooner we’ll understand what they’re truly good for. Not just what they can do, but what they can do that consumers care about. The ‘caring’ part is the key to creating meaningful and effective consumer connections.”

SuperData Research has revised its forecast for the VR market, lowering the short-term growth but keeping its longer term predictions intact. The firm anticipates the total market for VR content to reach $40 billion by 2020E. Over the next five years, SuperData expects the number of households that owns at least one VR device to increase nine-fold. Mobile will lead with 16.8 million devices sold and PC initially lags at 2.0 million devices until high processor requirements and prices decrease. PlayStation VR sales are currently forecast to reach 2.6 million by the end of this year after anticipation heightened once Sony announced a big reveal at this year’s Game Developer Conference.

VR Adoption

“After conversations with key hardware and software companies, we are confident that our forecasts have been adjusted to more accurately reflect the VR market’s potential,” said SuperData Director of Research and VR lead Stephanie Llamas. “As expected, mobile device adoption will be highest due to accessibility to hardware, lower price points and forced adoption. This will be the key audience for entertainment, the second largest segment, while VR gaming’s $6.9 billion market in 2020E will mostly center on PC and console.”

According to Llamas, “John Riccitiello’s ‘gap of disappointment’ (an initial lull in adoption that eventually grows an increasing rate) helped us understand VR hardware’s place within a historical context.” Hardware adoption has always grown exponentially and, as a result, the new forecasts reflect this trend. “There is a lack of content in the beginning of a new media cycle, which is something that VR is facing now,” Llamas said. “Software revenue will begin with just a half a billion dollars in revenue, growing slowly year-over-year until acceleration begins with $24 billion in 2020. Now that developers see VR’s potential they are clamoring for first-mover advantage leading software revenue to outpace hardware by 2019.”

VR Hardware and Software

Key data points on the current market for Virtual Reality from SuperData Research:

  • Total VR market revenue will reach $40 billion over the next five years, at a CAGR of 61.3 percent.
  • Almost 200 million households worldwide will own at least one VR device by 2020.
  • Mobile manufacturers are on track to sell 17 million VR devices in 2016E, as console hits almost 3 million and PC another 2 million.
  • VR manufacturers will see slow device adoption to start, but will show quick linear growth once John Riccitiello’s “Gap of Disappointment” passes in 2020.
  • Initially gaming will claim three-quarters (77 percent) of the VR software market, eventually giving way to non-gaming content developers.

[a]listdaily spoke with SuperData Research’s director of research and VR lead Stephanie Llamas about some of the latest research on VR.

Is your lowering of VR estimates for this year reflective of lower hardware revenue, lower software revenue, or both?

In regard to why we lowered the revenue, it is a combination of both. We overshot Google Cardboard in the beginning but now that they’ve been a bit more forthcoming with their adoption rate, we have more to reference. We also realized later that there just isn’t going to be enough content at first to warrant a higher estimate.

According to the Horizon Media study, only some 33 percent of people are aware of the major VR devices. Do you think these devices are going to need some marketing sooner rather than later?

Yes, they will need marketing. Samsung has been at the forefront of the effort by “forcing” adoption – sending out the Gear VR with S7 pre-orders. They also have a location in NYC where you can play with the headset in a storefront window so people will “watch the watcher” as they call it and get them excited to try. It really comes down to trying the device. If you don’t try the device, you have no idea what to expect. But once you do, it’s mindblowing.

Do you expect to have a better picture of the VR market in the next couple of months, after there’s some high-end VR hardware in consumer hands?

We will definitely have an even sharper picture of the market throughout the year. Our forecasts continue to adapt to new information we get from conversations with industry leaders and newly available data. We are also working on a consumer insights product to learn more about consumer sentiment and intent, so that will give us a better picture of how people who have and haven’t tried it view VR.

Horizon Media’s study showed VR discussions on the Internet revolve around gaming 93 percent of the time. Does this finding match your research?

That finding indeed matches our research, where you’ll see gaming makes up 77 percent of software revenue this year.

As we go into the summer and fall, what key indicators will you be looking at to gauge how well the VR market is doing?

We are mostly interested in how much money is being invested, hardware and software sales figures and the consumer research we do to gauge brand recognition, intent and behavior.

Fnatic CEO Explains Their Approach To ESports

Fnatic is one of the most recognized eSports brands in the world today. The company, which is based in London, is riding high after its Counter-Strike: Global Offensive just beat Luminosity Gaming over the weekend to earn an Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) world championship.

Fnatic currently has over 5 million fans around the world, while tens of thousands of online viewers watching its players’ livestreams every day. That’s in addition to the more than 75 international events the teams compete in annually.

The company has worked with brands such as Monster Energy, MSI, AMD, and Zowie to connect with its worldwide audience. Wouter Sleijffers, CEO at Fnatic, talks about the company’s strategy in this exclusive interview.

WouterSleijffersHow did you end up in eSports?

I have an industrial design engineering degree and I worked in semiconductors on the machinery side of things, and then I moved into digital marketing. I came into eSports by accident because I was working for five years with Skrillm, which used to be MoneyBookers. It was an online payment method. The last few years I was doing all the global marketing, and it was actually Fnatic who came to us to present sponsorship opportunities in eSports. That was four years ago that I first learned about eSports and how it was growing in size. I stayed in touch with Fnatic and a year ago I connected with them. Even though I don’t have an eSports background, my role in the company is to build the Fnatic business and brand. Patrik Sättermon, who is our chief gaming officer, works on the competitive side and makes all the player decisions.

What does your job entail?

First and foremost we’re passionate about the Fnatic brand, so it’s one part about what we want Fnatic to be, and then looking at what others have done. I look at what others have done to become this brand and how did they manage it going forward. So, the Fnatic brand and business is a mixture of who we want to be and how does it fit within the eSports audience.

What does Fnatic want to be?

Fnatic wants to embody eSports as a brand that brings the excitement and also the lifestyle elements for eSports together. Fnatic gear is a concrete example of how we transition from a team brand and a lifestyle brand into eSports. That helps us to grow our business beyond being a team brand and working with sponsorships and merchandizing and in-game revenues.

How many sponsors do you work with?

We work with between six to eight sponsors, which is the ideal number because we don’t rely too much on one sponsor or two sponsors from a risk perspective. We can still put a lot of effort and time into these sponsors to make the sponsorships meaningful. Fnatic has a fairly decent number of staff of about 50. That includes paid volunteers as well as 20 or so full-time staff. These are people from the creative side and marketing side. We’re operating more like an agency where we’re servicing our sponsors beyond brand equity to do meaningful and engaging things.  The Fnatic brand, which has apparel and merchandizing, has grown very fast, but also the service side is really taking off.


Do your sponsorships work across the various competitive games?

To a large extent, yes, given certain limitations for some publishers. We work with Dafabet as one of our main sponsors. That obviously doesn’t work with Riot because Riot prohibits betting brands to be present in League of Legends, which is all fine. We have worked out a way with Riot and Dafabet on how we do that sponsorship.

But gradually as the titles and the teams themselves become big enough, they can go more towards team-specific sponsorships. Within a year’s time, we’ll back away from having global sponsorships and probably have more team-specific sponsorships. If you look at our Dota team, they’re based in Malaysia, so it could also be more for regional sponsorships for that specific team. While eSports is growing globally, it’s also divided into very strong regions and there are opportunities to work directly with regional partners.

Do you see the evolution of eSports teams becoming more like agencies?

To some extent, yes. It’s more the question for the business itself and how far do they want to bring it. We want to be an agency first for Fnatic. If you look at the Manchester United (soccer team), they’re not known as an agency. But what I’ve heard is they still have about 100 staff working in business development, account management, and there are a bunch of creative people working on campaigns and the brand equity. That’s probably bigger than a good bunch of agencies out there that do creative work.

How do you choose how to expand on the team side of what games you’re going to focus on, or even double down on games that are doing well and adding other teams from other regions?

The first dominating factor is audience. It’s important that we expand our reach and our fan base, and that includes the Fnatic fan base as well as the eSports fan base. So, the first question that usually comes up is “are we just attracting the same kind of audience with that title or not?” After that, there are a bunch of questions that we ask ourselves about the potential of that title and the team. Take Dota for example. That game still has a very good reach, and it’s extremely competitive. We want to be present in Dota, but we also look at the region and if it’s a competitive team.

If it’s a big title that we wouldn’t have the chance to be very competitive on the global level, then we might not go that direction. A big part of our Fnatic brand means we’re competitively successful. After that, there are a whole bunch of things that we look into, including monetization, investments in tournaments, and how good the tournament product is.


How do you target different eSports audiences?

From a business perspective we’re London-based, but from a brand perspective we’d borderless. We’re here for anyone who loves eSports. That’s also the beauty of eSports. It has an appeal across the Far East, the Middle East, Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern America, South America, and now people are talking about eSports gaining traction in Africa. That is one of the things that sets eSports apart from other more traditional sports is that it’s truly global. With Fnatic we’re looking for teams having presence in different parts of the world because that’s what makes up Fnatic, that’s what makes up eSports.

Where does the U.S. fit into Fnatic’s plans?

It’s definitely on the radar and it would absolutely make sense for us to be present there. The U.S. is a very important market for eSports. There’s still a lot to prove in the U.S. market in terms of how they’re going to monetize. The salaries have gone up there for players, etc., but with our twelve years of experience in eSports we’re looking to create a sustainable long-term business from a team perspective. And there’s still some proving to be done for the U.S. market to really make it sustainable and long-term. It’s very lucrative and very promising, no doubt about it. You want to be present there.

How do you differentiate Fnatic from the other brands or teams in eSports?

If you look at it from the sponsor perspective, they love winning teams. We’re still in a winning and losing business, and people love winning teams and winning persons. Secondly, I think it’s very important that we’ve had 12 years of continuous success. There might be successful teams out there, but the investment a sponsor is making with us today is more guaranteed to pay off over a longer period of time with Fnatic than maybe another team out there. Thirdly, is our brand. We would not want to have a sponsor that’s bigger than our own brand, and we’re always honest about that when we speak to sponsors. And then another thing that we focus on is the statistics and data, which is why we partnered with research firm Newzoo. That helps us figure out how to approach the market.

‘Hitman’ Gets Real With YouTube Promotion

Hitman is ready to make a killing online, and developer IO Interactive is wasting no time in providing a unique spin on its promotion.

The company has teamed up with Realm Pictures to create a unique promotion where various YouTube superstars (the team from Smosh Games and eSports phenomenon OpTic Gaming) guide a “real-life” Agent 47, the main character from Hitman, through a scenario similar to the forthcoming game.

Players issue commands to an actor portraying the role of Agent 47 as he infiltrates a home in the hopes of taking out a pre-determined assassination target. Things don’t quite go as planned every time, as players will learn from the episodic Hitman game.

Realm Pictures was approached by the developer in the hopes of bringing the project to life, following the team’s release of the Real Life First Person Shooter video that became a hit with nearly 10 million views.

Real Life Hitman takes a similar approach, but focuses on characters and scenarios from the stealth game, including details like stealing a worker’s uniform to get closer to the target.

The company also detailed how it put the Real Life Hitman project together with a behind-the-scenes video, which shows just how loyal it was to the in-game content.

It’s a unique and thrilling promotion for the game. Hitman releases this Friday (March 11) for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.


Facebook Developing Software That Detects And Collects Slang

Buzzwords and catchphrases tend to spread like wildfire across social media. Just ask anyone who calls their significant other “bae,” or saying that someone’s hair looks “on fleek.” Now, Facebook wants to identify cool terminology before it manages to catch on.

Business Insider reports that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the company has patented software that will enable it to search for emerging terms and nicknames for storage within a “social glossary.”

Filed last month, this patent will take a closer look at posts and messages on Facebook that will seek out neologisms. This consists of new pieces of language that are used by people online, even if they don’t quite fit common terminology. Such words include “oversharer,” “digital detox” and “sick” (in a good way), according to Grammar Monster’s recent examples of neologisms.

The goal of the software is to catch on to these terms so that they’re ready for popularity, even though not all of them may reach the ubiquity of “bae.”

Facebook outlined the process, which starts with discovering new textual terms and ends with removing obsolete ones.

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The process checks for terms that may or may not be already in use, seeking out “slang, terms of art, portmanteaus, syllabic abbreviations, abbreviations, acronyms, names, nicknames, re-purposed words or phrases, or any other type of coined word or phrase.” If popular enough, they become added to the glossary.

Facebook hasn’t revealed how the the social glossary will be used, but it could include words from the glossary as choices for conversation in traditional posts or with its Messenger app.

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Glu Mobile And PacSun Partner To Showcase Kendall And Kylie’s Sense Of Style

Following up on Glu Mobile’s freemium mega-hit Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, Kendall & Kylie features the fashion and reality TV celebrities Kendall and Kylie Jenner. In the game, the pair help players build careers in fashion and media while showcasing a unique sense of personal style.

The free-to-play mobile game recently stepped up its fashion sense with the inclusion of pieces from the real-life PacSun Kendall and Kylie’s Spring 2016 collection—a clothing line designed by the duo. With this partnership between Glu and PacSun, fans are able to dress their avatars in the new clothes before they become available in stores.

Niccolo de Masi, chairman and CEO of Glu Mobile, talked to [a]listdaily about bringing real-world fashion into virtual life, and the importance of always staying in style.

What inspired the idea to pre-release the PacSun Kendall and Kylie’s Spring 2016 collection through the game?

The idea was derived from the desire to offer Kendall & Kylie players with a unique experience not available to the mass market. This kind of exclusivity provides our players with a tremendous amount of value. Being that the collection was designed by Kendall and Kylie themselves, it adds an additional layer of transparency that already permeates the game.

In what ways does including a real-world brand and products enhance the gaming experience?

When players are granted access to interact with a brand’s product, even virtually, it allows for more of an intimate connection. The caveat of this, however, is that those brands must feel authentic to the game’s experience in order to create a genuine gameplay experience.

Can you describe some PacSun fashions players can shop for?

Kendall and Kylie’s Spring 2016 collection for PacSun embodies a contemporary ’70s aesthetic. Players can enjoy styling their avatars from an array of separates from frilly crop tops, feminine skirts, denim shorts and whimsical rompers.

Can we expect more PacSun collections to be added to the game in the future?

There aren’t any current plans, however we’re definitely interested in building long-term brand partnerships.

Cable Networks Benefit From Commercial-Free Premieres

Commercials are the backbone of broadcast and basic cable, providing the main source of revenue for channels. That isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but some cable networks have begun toying with a commercial-free format, with a general sponsor for a show instead of routine ads … and it’s a move that is apparently paying off.

A number of networks have been trying out commercial-free programming, including Syfy’s premiere of The Magicians back in December, and TBS’s recent 25-hour run of its screwball comedy series Angie Tribeca, both of which featured general content sponsored by companies like Dunkin’ Donuts and Intuit’s TurboTax. WGN will follow suit this month with the forthcoming premiere of Underground.

Focusing on the programming itself could be a bold move for these networks, while still gaining the sponsorship needed to keep it going. “We’re obviously an ad-supported network, and our advertising partners are really important to us, but for me, nothing is more important than the shows launching successfully,” said Matt Chernis, president and general manager for WGN America and Tribune Studios, per Adweek. He noted that “the short-term experience of how much money you might generate off one episode of television versus the long-term of keeping an audience involved and getting them hooked on a show to the extent that they’re going to come back for weeks two, three, four and beyond” definitely plays a part.

More networks are trying the practice, as the National Geographic Channel recently premiered a new documentary called He Named Me Malala, focusing on Pakistani teen activist Malala Yousafzai. Instead of focusing on advertisements, the program was simply sponsored by Geico, with an ad aired before the film. “If a project merits treating it differently or finding some alternative business model, we’ll do that,” noted Courteney Monroe, CEO for National Geographic Global Networks.

Since audiences are becoming more interested in watching programs without commercials–as they can with subscriptions to services like Netflix—more networks may consider taking a chance on sponsored programming.

“We’re willing to sacrifice whatever benefit we’re going to get out of that one episode if we can get the next Walking Dead,” said David Campanelli, senior vice president and director of national broadcast for Horizon Media, noting AMC’s wild success with its zombie-based show. “That’s obviously lofty standards, but TV needs hits, and that’s harder and harder to do in an ad-supported way. If that’s a way to jump-start it and get attention, we’re all for it.”

“No one expects the TV ad model to change 100 percent, but stunts like this that stand out and are different than what we’re used to, you’ll see more of it for sure,” he added. “Because it’s a tense battle out there for the networks to stand out.”

So far, it’s an overall success, as both Magicians and Angie Tribeca have been big enough hits to warrant season two renewals, and WGN’s recent premiere of Outsiders in January has drawn a 3.9 million viewing audience.

Expect more broadcast companies to experiment with this model in the months ahead.

Snapchat’s Temporary Content Still Means Big Business

Snapchat has become one of the bigger social media success stories of the past year, with millions of users providing content for others to see, and brands taking part to a much larger degree. Now, new numbers indicate that its success is as strong as ever.

The Wall Street Journal recently posted a video explaining how the company has grown to 100 million monthly users, a new landmark record for a social media application. On top of that, it managed to raise another $175 million in its latest round of funding, although its valuation still remains at $16 billion. Although some behind-the-scenes business types are concerned that the valuation hasn’t risen since last year, there’s no questioning the effectiveness of its business model.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg Business recently explained how Snapchat was able to build a $16-billion dollar business based on a younger viewer demographic, “confusing olds” in the process. It mostly focuses on 40-year-old music producer Khaled Khaled, also known as DJ Khaled, who is rising in the ranks as one of the app’s more popular users, having amassed an audience of over six million followers since last October. “Life is like flowers,” he noted. “You grow. You blossom. You become great.”

Granted, a lot of that success can come from involvement with the right people, like how Khaled worked alongside Ciroc Vodka to produce Snapchat ads, but it still demonstrates that even a service based on temporary content can thrive. “DJ Khaled has completely cracked the platform,” noted Emmanuel Seuge, senior vice president for content at Coca-Cola, which does quite a bit of advertising on the app. “He’s the king of Snapchat.”

Of course, Snapchat isn’t for everyone. It’s built specifically for users to share their stories, instead of simply embarrassing themselves or making a channel without much purpose. “It’s much more for sharing personal moments than it is about this public display,” noted co-founder Evan Spiegel earlier this year.

Elissa Ayadi, vice president of social strategy for Ayzenberg, noted, “Snapchat is building a best friends network. They get confusingly lumped into social networks, but that’s not what they’re trying to be. They’re specializing in one-to-one communication.”

While the revenue for the app is reportedly small–around $200 million annually according to various press reports–its cavalcade of advertisers and business venues make up a steady stream of revenue flow. Partners like Pepsi, Amazon and Budweiser paid over $1 million to feature ads coordinated with Super Bowl coverage–far less than the asking price CBS had for televised advertising during the “big game” itself.

But brands aren’t necessarily encouraged to use the Snapchat app the “normal” way, according to Ayadi. “Snapchat actually doesn’t encourage brands to be on the platform. They encourage them to use their paid options like photo filters or the Discovery channels.”

Khaled also manages to attract a younger demographic and his videos bring in between three to four million viewers each time. Considering how a similar demographic, 3.3 million in the 12-34 age range, watches The Big Bang Theory on CBS, that’s pretty significant.

“Snapchat lends itself well to people like DJ Khaled because it enables that one-to-one communication. He’s creating content that feels personal. It feels like content you can’t get anywhere else and like something you’d send to your best friend. It’s not overly marketed—it’s not overly produced—if he tells you to go get his new single, he’ll do it with his characteristic key emoji,” noted Ayadi.

That same age group also watches Live Stories regularly, with around 41 percent of adults under the age of 35 spending time viewing this content on Snapchat. “Everybody from 14 to 24 in America, it’s either the No. 1 or No. 2 app in their lives” following Instagram, states Gary Vaynerchuk, angel investor and entrepreneur.

As for where Snapchat finds its value, it mostly lies between Stories, Selfie Mode, its various Filters (which usually find sponsorships) and Live Stories. Out of all of these, Live Stories appears to be the biggest, attracting everything from sports to music.



“If brands decide to have an organic presence on Snapchat, they have to create content that is compelling. They have to create content that is within the lens of Snapchat and get a little outside of their brand’s comfort zone. Things like offers or sales and traditional marketing messages are not appropriate for Snapchat,” said Ayadi.

She also noted that the right approach should be used when it comes to creating content. “Snapchat’s content creation can be very involved. It’s meant to be up-to-the-second and because Snapchat’s content is typically captured in the app, it has a certain quality bar that users expect which is actually very low. Trying to do anything super high-concept, super-branded, or in the case of a brand working with an agency, content that requires approvals ahead of time, is almost impossible.”

It’s clear that Snapchat’s success is hardly “flash in the pan,” and superstars like Khaled continue to keep it going strong.

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[a]list summit Hosts Session On Social And Influencer Marketing ROI

How do you track the ROI of social media, content and influencer marketing? Ayzenberg Group recently provided guidance on this frequently asked question by making their proprietary index of earned media values available to the industry. The result is the Ayzenberg Earned Media Value Index Report. The primary authors of this research will be on hand to discuss the Index during a session at [a]list summit on April 20 at Seattle’s W Hotel.

During this session hosted by Robin Boytos, director of analytics, and Vincent Juarez, principal at ION, the Influencer Orchestration Network, the speakers will discuss their methodology for researching and maintaining the Index, discuss its use for reporting, and lead a Q&A session with the audience.

“We report earned media value on these actions for clients like Microsoft, Amazon, Marriott and Mattel regularly, so we need accurate numbers,” Boytos said in a press release. “We could see a need in the marketplace for the kind of baseline values we already maintained through our internal experience and research, collaboration with key social networks and third-party reporting. To help set industry standards, we decided to make our Index available to the public.”

Boytos added, “I’m very much looking forward to showing off our newly released Ayzenberg Earned Media Value Index! It will be great to get feedback from those attending the [a]list summit on how the industry is already making use of this effective way to track the ROI of social, content and influencer marketing efforts.”


How Electronic Arts Uses Free Content To Add Premium Value

Electronic Arts continues to be a juggernaut in the video game business, between both its traditional game titles and its lineup of sports hits like FIFA and Madden along with charming puzzle adventure games like Unravel. While we wait to see what the company will reveal at its forthcoming EA Play event in June, there is one interesting note in its business model: free content.

Sure, the company still relies on Season Pass content for some games, like Star Wars: Battlefront and Ultimate Team-themed goodies for FIFA and Madden, but lately the company has been experimenting more with free content updates for games, along with goodies offered through both EA Origin and EA Access. And it’s a move that’s certainly paid off for the better–even with “freebies” involved.

Today marks the release of free updates for a pair of the company’s bigger titles, Star Wars: Battlefront and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. It’s a smart business tactic to help keep players involved with games, and possibly lead them to purchase premium content like in-game currency, items and cosmetic upgrades. While many of these items can be earned by playing, and none are required to win, getting players to stay with fresh content encourages more investment in the game.

While the original Garden Warfare saw an abundance of free content with its release, it’s great to see “bigger” games like Battlefront, which proved to be one of the company’s top sellers last year with 13 million-plus copies sold, grasp onto the formula. And chances are the trend could continue with other big games on the horizon for the next year, including a new Battlefield game for the holidays and a sequel to the multiplayer shooter Titanfall. Mass Effect 3 experimented with a similar model with its multiplayer mode, with the release of three free updates in addition to offering premium content to encourage players to return. It’s a feature repeated with Dragon Age: Inquisition, and is likely to return with the upcoming Mass Effect Andromeda.

Outside of content updates, the company has also been experimenting with free game offerings. On the PC, Origin offers an “On the House” program, with a select classic being available free of charge or obligation to consumers. This entices consumers to adopt the platform, and perhaps stick around to shop for games to go along with their free copy of Jade Empire or Plants vs. Zombies.

But that’s not to say that the free content is needed for every situation. Players still engage with blockbuster sports games like FIFA and Madden without any extra incentive. Both still rake in a ton of money with their Ultimate Team modes, which are almost certain to return when Madden NFL 17 and FIFA 17 release next year.

Sometimes it pays to offer a little something for free. Perhaps other companies can learn from the example.


Augmented Reality Helps Children Engage In Classrooms

One of the biggest challenges for parents and teachers in a digital-first world is keeping their children engaged in school.

According to a 2013 University College London report, up to 10 percent of the population is affected by learning disabilities.

ZooKazam is bringing animals and the imagination of children to life with their educational and engaging app. It features more than 40 holographic and interactive animals that are coupled with information about each animal and environmental scene selections.

Navid Yavari, co-founder and one of the creative members of the Atlanta-based ZooKazam, joined [a]listdaily to talk about his “magical animals.”

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How did the idea for ZooKazam come about? 

Our team was working on a new product launch for a designer art toy and discovered a way to implement AR into the marketing scheme. We brainstormed on a new application that would showcase the high-quality work our team is able to create, and ZooKazam was born. 

Why did you choose “magical animals?”

Animals are universally loved. This gave us a chance to appeal to a wide variety of adults and children. Later we discovered that many teachers were using our app in classrooms and so we focused our app to provide more educational content.

How are parents, and children, reacting to the AR experience? 

The response from teachers is ‘wow!’ There is a huge wow factor in our app. All audiences are amazed at the technology and find the realistic feel of the animals very intriguing. Once children get hooked, they are very eager to take selfies with the AR animals and share their videos and pictures with their friends on social media.

How is ZooKazam being used in the classroom? 

Teachers are sharing the app on iPads within a classroom setting. ZooKazam gets the attention of students and then they can learn about the animals with infographics and voiceovers that tell them about each animal. Teachers can also choose from two content options, one for a more grown-up voiceover and one for children to listen to.

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What makes ZooKazam different from other learning tools currently only the market?

Clearly the attention-grabbing effect of ZooKazam is the key to get children in the mood to try out the app. Visual graphics are fundamental to learning. Studies have shown that visual learning is important to understanding a subject. With ZooKazam, the 3D visuals are far better that 2D-printed books and apps.

One of the biggest benefits for augmented and virtual reality is that it empowers those who yearn for education. What practices are you employing to capture that audience?  

We are getting more and more support from educators. Most of our new content is coming from teachers that have asked ZooKazam to add more information to help students learn. We are attending more teacher conferences and participating in teacher blogs to promote ZooKazam within the classroom.

How does AR enable content creators better than VR? 

AR is far easier and cheaper to deploy in the classroom. Most classrooms are already using tablets and smartphones that can easily run ZooKazam. VR requires very expensive equipment and takes too long to set up. The current VR headsets are not very user friendly and many doubt its future without further refinement.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan.