MaxPlay’s Future-Focused View For VR Development

Although pre-orders for Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive virtual reality headsets have already sold out for the spring, the success of these devices rests on the quality of content that is made available. To this end, both Epic’s Unreal Engine and Unity have revealed tools for developing for virtual reality. But now there’s a new player looking to take game development to the next level: MaxPlay.

MaxPlay Game is a “future-focused” cloud-enabled development suite that allows development teams to collaborate more efficiently to create games for every platform. That includes consoles, mobile devices, and emerging platforms like virtual and augmented reality. The company announced a set of premium technology partners like Nvidia, FMOD Studios and EMotion FX. MaxPlay will also be demonstrating its tools at GDC next week.

[a]listdaily talks to Sinjin Bain, CEO at MaxPlay, to discuss creating content for virtual reality.

sinjin_bainWhat is MaxPlay?

MaxPlay was founded by a group of game industry and enterprise cloud software veterans. Our company is founded with the purpose to provide a next generation game and interactive development environment for all platforms. We so much experience in making and deploying content, and we don’t have any legacy architecture, so we provide a fresh look at the existing issue developers have.

We asked, “How do we enable developers to ‘get to fun’ faster, and make more money?” And focused on making that available. Our architecture enables real-time collaborative development and provides developers with insight and analytics, so that they can see telemetry in the development environment in meaningful ways to impact what they’re doing.

We also have very compelling, forward-looking, runtime architecture for rendering and running games, which has big implications in terms of virtual and mixed reality. We’re building an environment that’s going to be a paradigm shift in a very positive way for developers.

MaxPlay is described as a “future-focused” game development suite. What does that mean?

It means our architecture is built for the future. We’ve constructed an open architecture that lets developers write plug-ins in very easy ways. Developers can go in to modify and extend the platform as new opportunities present themselves. For example, nobody really understands what super-compelling virtual reality experiences will be.

Developers will need to be able to modify their platform to be more creative in a new medium. The same goes for telemetry. You don’t know how something like eye-tracking telemetry will be used, but we know that it’s significant, so we need to get it to developers so that they can use it in meaningful ways. This and other features make up future enabled implementation.

We can also take advantage of four, six, eight, twelve core hardware that’s here and coming that enable the multi-view and multi-depth rendering that is required for VR and AR. Although today’s mobile devices, PCs and consoles are functionally multi-threaded, the existing technology doesn’t take full advantage of today and tomorrow’s hardware.

How does partnering with companies like Nvidia and FMOD help future-focused development?

As an example, FMOD is developing audio software, and the ability to plug-in, distribute and modify that software is seamless with MaxPlay. It enables the developers to access and use the audio in new and creative ways that don’t exist in standard platforms. Intel is coming out with chipsets that have more cores. Our architecture lets very sophisticated developers reserve a core for specific reasons, like processing audio. Several content creators like Fox and Technicolor believe that audio is an important aspect of virtual reality media.

In short, we can combine our partnerships to use our architecture to do special things, like more audio events, and take fuller advantage of the technology FMOD provides without degrading performance. We can’t predict what developers will need exactly — we just know that they’ll want to do things in VR and AR that they can’t do today. We’re future aware enough to provide them with flexible and creative tools to help them this year, the year after, and the one after that.

What challenges do developers face when working with emerging technologies like VR?

I think that it will be the transition from single screen games to VR and AR. You’re fundamentally changing the way users are experiencing and consuming content. That might mean that developers have increased pressure to explore that new experience in ways that they haven’t thought of before.

You need to be able to iterate and fail faster. We’ve developed an environment in which developers can do things quicker, work tighter as a team, and experience what they’ve done faster, so they can see what doesn’t work and move on to something different. I think the difficulty in moving into new creative spaces is that it puts more pressure on iteration time, so you need tools that help you do that better. That’s fundamentally what we at MaxPlay are providing.

How long do you think it will be before we see mass adoption of VR?

I think mass adoption is a couple of years out, but then you look around and see how Samsung is bundling the Gear VR with their phones. There are some very big players invested in accelerating hardware adoption and accessibility. That’s a really good sign for consumers. Then it’s a matter of how fast great content gets developed.

All the ingredients are coming online right now to enable very fast adoption of VR. You have the fact that VR can be done on current generation phones in a meaningful way. Then you have companies like Facebook, Samsung, Google, and Apple investing. So, I think we’re going to see numbers in 2018. We’re learning how to make great content in 2016 and 2017, and developers are excited about this platform.

There’s still a practical reality of getting a broad consumer base, but I think people are going to be surprised in 2018.

MaxPlay is relatively new to the scene. How would you say it compares to existing tools like Unreal Engine or Unity?

The way we would compare ourselves is that because we don’t have legacy architecture, we’ve been able to bring a lot of expertise and fresh thinking to the space. So, I think our strength is in our open architecture, and how it provides more ways for teams to work together so that they can be more productive and creative — with superior performance on devices.

It’s a big industry that’s growing rapidly. There are developers that will want to stick with Unreal or Unity, and then there are people who will see what we’re doing and try our tools.

What do you think developers should keep in mind when starting out, especially when there are so many diverse platforms?

I think a developer needs to keep in mind that, when they pick tools and technologies, they need to look and understand how the flexible the platform they’re investing in is. What does it let them do out of the gate, and what does it let them do as they are developing their product? How do their tools and technologies enable them to do their jobs, and where do they get in the way?

Another thing I would focus on is how it’s a big world out there, with different types of communities. How do their toolsets and platforms enable them to work with other people in productive ways. People who might not necessarily be in the next office, but could be across town or in a different state or country. Teams are distributed now, and that’s sort of the new reality. You need to make sure, as a developer, you’re plugged into that world.

AR/VR Investments Already Over $1 Billion For 2016

The market for augmented and virtual reality is just about ready for take off, with competitors like Oculus, HTC, Sony and Microsoft set to launch their products sometime over the year. However, for the first two months of the year, investments in the technology have already eclipsed what last year’s spending was, according to a new report from Digi-Capital.

The report (via GamesIndustry International) shows that the combined augmented and virtual reality fields have managed to get $1.1 billion in investment already, beating out the $700 million overall spending for last year. Most of that came from Magic Leap’s recent round of Series C Funding, which brought in a healthy chunk of money.

“Nearly $800 million came from the monster Magic Leap round, but another $300 million went into AR/VR solutions/services, VR hardware, advertising/marketing, distribution, video, peripherals, apps and games,” said Digi-Capital founder and CEO Tim Merel about the report. “Even without Magic Leap, investment is up 20 percent in Q1 2016 compared to the $250 million invested in Q4 2015. Plus there’s another four weeks left for investors to boost AR/VR this quarter.”

DigiCapital-VRAR Spending 2016

The company has been busy making adjustments on its virtual/augmented reality forecasts, initially saying the market would bring in $150 billion annually by 2020 before adjusting it back down to $120 billion. Even with that change, however, it appears there’s a lot of money to be made with virtual technology.

While there may be some question regarding the affordability of virtual reality, with the HTC Vive selling for $799 and Oculus Rift rounding out at $599, there’s no question that people are getting excited for the technology. Especially since a majority of pre-orders for both devices quickly quickly sold out. Sony is expected to follow suit with details on the PlayStation VR, which could be revealed as soon as next week during its presentation at the Game Developers Conference.

Google Gets Social With Experimental Podium For Brands, Public Figures

Google is looking to get more social with particular celebrities, brands and even politicians, and Google Posts might do the trick.

Google Posts enables particular people to publish entries on Google, and communicate through text, images and videos directly on the site. “Creating content is fast and simple, and, once published, posts will appear instantly in search results related to the candidate,” says the site, indicating that the program is initially intended for presidential hopefuls. “Each post can also be shared on popular social networks, amplifying the message even further.”

Google

While the program is currently limited to political figures, the site notes that, “In the future, we plan to make it available to other prominent figures and organizations.” This includes popular celebrities and brands, and although Google didn’t reveal any interested parties yet, it did open up a wait list.

Using a real-time approach via Google Posts could be ideal for politicians to find an outreach to potential voters. Once the program picks up some speed, it will give brands and celebrities a new way to communicate with consumers and fans doing searches on them. It could also be the next step for the company’s social media plans as it slowly tries to move consumers away from the somewhat mixed Google+.

Meerkat Shifting Gears With Social Network Approach

Last year, Meerkat hoped to rise to success with its livestreaming video app. However, when facing major competition from juggernauts like Twitter’s Periscope, it just couldn’t keep up. So, now, the app is changing course.

Re/Code reported that Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin has acknowledged the failure of the app when it came to its livestreaming focus, and intends to take it in a whole new direction, where “everybody is always live.”

“It was a fucking hard decision to say ‘it’s not going to work, thank you everyone for the support,'” said Rubin. “One-too-many (broadcasting) is not more than a feature on top of a platform, and if we want to be independent, we have to change the course.”

Meerkat later pointed out these changes on an official blog post, with Rubin explaining, “The distribution advantages of Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live drew more early users to them away from us and we were not able to grow as quickly alongside as we had planned.”

Despite this, Rubin did note a “bright spot” with the Meerkat business model before the changes. “We found the best Meerkat moments happened when people who knew each other (either in person or online) came together live and interacted in real-time. We saw this in the conversations when the threads would go on and on. We especially saw this in cameo when broadcasters were able to see their audience and interact in a more human way, people passed around the camera for a campfire chat session. And we saw many of these groups have the best repeat behavior of everyone.

“With the support of our board and the enthusiasm of the entire team, we began building a new product in October around this concept and are feeling good about its potential. At the same time, we’ve kept Meerkat running and stable and plan to monitor the network for anything that begins to draw new attention,” Rubin added.

While the business model hasn’t been fully revealed as of yet, these are likely to be changes for the better overall for the company – though it’s still unknown how well it’ll be able to keep up with Periscope’s surging success. Only time will tell.

World Drone Prix Takes Drone Racing To The Next Level

The first World Drone Prix event will be held at Skydive Dubai this March 11-12 with the top 32 teams—out of the 100 flown to the Middle East for March 7-8 preliminaries—competing for $1 million in cash prizes. The inaugural event was organized by Sheikh Hamdan, crown prince of Dubai, UAE, and the World Organization of Racing Drones (WORD). Co-producers of this new league are the Aerial Grand Prix and the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA).

Sponsored by Skydive Dubai, X Dubai, Dubai Calendar and RTA, the World Drone Prix is the largest drone racing event ever held, many times larger than any previous race, and it’s the first drone racing event to feature a custom-built, physical track complete with wild turns and dips designed for spectators.

Sahand Barati, president of the IDRA, helped organize this first event. He talks about the future of drone racing and what it’s opening up to sponsors and spectators in this exclusive interview.

Why did you found the IDRA?

IDRA was founded on the belief that the passion for the sport of drone racing will usher a new era of innovation towards drone technology. In the same way that the early roots of Formula 1 grew the automobile industry, hobbyists and passionate tinkerers got together in garages all over the world and paved the way for the current technology that we have in our modern day cars. The IDRA loves the potential for a growing/learning community of people. Bringing together the hobbyists, professionals, and industry leaders through our competitive events is ingrained in our DNA.

How has the organization grown since launching?

IDRA has grown from a concept to an international body that is 50,000 strong within a matter of months. We started out with zero cash. Our passion and ambition partnered with our strategic marketing plans to grow the sport has been the fuel to our relatively fast success.

How big is drone racing today in the US, and in the world?

Drone racing is still a relatively small industry because it is so young. The first real race that got any publicity was the 2015 US Drone Nationals held in June at the California State Fair. The event was a first of its kind and attracted around 150 pilots from across the country. It had a relatively small spectator crowd because at the time no one knew what drone racing was. Fast-forward a few months to present-day and you can see that drone racing is experiencing hyper growth. You now have races popping up all over the world. The number of pilots has grown tremendously over the last few months, and is expected to grow faster in the coming years as the barrier to entry becomes less difficult through flight simulators and RTF aircraft.

Are there any comparisons with drone racing and other traditional racing sports based on where you see this heading?

Drone racing does have some elements of conventional racing within it but for the most part it is its own beast. No other form of racing combines the best of the virtual and physical worlds into a unique experience. Unlike auto, boat, airplane, or horse racing, the technology necessary for drone racing is accessible to anyone, and the initial monetary investment is relatively minimal.

How did the IDRA work with the World Drone Prix on this Dubai event?

The IDRA is one of the co-founding organizations that created the WDP along with the Aerial Grand Prix. One week before our IDRA California Cup Championship, we were flown out to Dubai to discuss the opportunities of expanding the sport. We were blown away by the generosity of Sheikh Hamdan, the crown prince of Dubai, in providing the necessary resources to really bring our dreams to life. The boost that the government of Dubai and Sheikh Hamdan gave our industry brings legitimacy to the industry and will take us over the hurdle of transitioning from a hobby to a full-fledged sport.

What role do you see this World Drone Prix playing in the drone racing landscape?

The World Drone Prix stakeholders believe that the drone racing community is made up of some the best innovators on the planet. They see the positive impact drones can have on society and want to support advancements within industry. Drones have become very popular recently, but the technology still has a long way to go in many areas like battery life, obstacle avoidance, situational awareness, etc. The stakeholders believe the best way to promote innovation is through competition.

Through racing and other various competitions like the Drones Are For Good Expo (which is also held in Dubai), they empower and support the best and brightest minds within this industry in the hopes that their breakthroughs in drone technology will benefit humanity. Given Dubai’s long history of racing, their goals are to turn the WDP into a full F1-style international series.

Can you explain what the racecourse is actually like and how it may differ from other venues (including any preliminary venues for this competition)?

The race course from Dubai was designed by Film Masters. They took our dream track and made it into reality. The course layout has hairpin turns, a 30-foot rise and vertical drop, and a lightshow that rivals the best concerts in the world. The biggest difference between a racetrack for cars and a drone racecourse is the ability to move on the z-axis; that dynamic is absolutely thrilling when you see it in person. 

What are typical IDRA racecourses like?

The typical IDRA racecourse, along with all the other racing leagues, consist mainly of feather flags outlining the turns, air gates that designate the drops, and exercise cones to outline the course. The track designed in Dubai ushers in a more professional and broadcast-ready track that is critical to growing the sport.

How will the IDRA continue to operate separately with its own league plans?

IDRA plans to move forward just as we have in the past. First, we believe that the community needs to be much larger. Inviting new adopters to the sport is paramount to the growth of the industry. Secondly, we are working with private investors that believe in the future of this technology. Bigger drones and high-definition transmission is key for broadcast and the only way we can develop those devices is by having investors and industry leaders partner with us. IDRA spends a considerable amount of effort on media. Exposure and coverage of our events is a keystone to our company.

How have you seen sponsors and prize money increase in this space?

The rapid exponential growth of sponsorship and prize money has been a big shock to the industry as a whole. From prizes ranging from $10,000 to now a purse totaling $1 million in just a matter of a few months is astounding! It just shows that there are key people that believe in the potential of this sport and industry.

What opportunities do you see 360-degree video opening up for drone racing in the future?

I believe 360-degree video and virtual reality goggles will be synonymous with drone racing. For the first time in the history of man, the spectator will be able to see and interact with a live view of the aircraft. They can move their head around as the drone races through the track and actually feel as if they themselves are piloting the aircraft, kind of like entering the mind of the pilot, if you will.

Where do you see drone racing five years from now?

Our hope is that by 2018, IDRA and the other leagues will have the capital to continue to grow the community of users. By 2020, we hope to have large-scale drones racing on full Formula One tracks, and by 2021 drone racing will be sought after on every sports broadcast outlet in the world. We hope to look back at Dubai and say that we’ve come a long way since then, and we are very grateful for the opportunity that Sheikh Hamdan has given the sport.

ESL Explains Growth Of Intel Extreme Masters

Over 100,000 people are in Katowice, Poland right now to watch the best eSports players in the world compete across games like League of Legends, StarCraft II, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), which is produced by ESL, is celebrating 10 years of global eSports. And the biggest event on the calendar is the IEM World Championship in Spodek arena March 4-to-6.

It’s more than just a showcase of eSports across three huge stages. Other games such as Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege are being played competitively throughout the arena. And it’s also  a gaming festival with plenty of hands-on opportunities for attendees, who travel from across Europe for the event.

This year, even more people will be watching the livestreams of the professional gaming matches. ESL has opened its content to Twitch, Azubu, Hitbox and the new Yahoo eSports streaming platforms.

Jesse Sell, senior manager of pro gaming and business strategy at ESL, explains the importance of Katowice in the eSports ecosystem in this exclusive interview.

jessesell

What separates Katowice from other IEM events when it comes to the sheer amount of live attendees?

Katowice is the IEM World Championship — it’s got the top eSports titles, the greatest teams and a fantastic venue; it’s always going to draw a big crowd. Beyond that, we go all-out. It’s the biggest event in the city for the weekend. We’ve got events and activations going on in three separate locations with seven live tournaments. In terms of scale, Katowice is the most gargantuan event we put on all year. We try to make sure our attendees have plenty to do when they’re on-site at these events. IEM Katowice has become something like a gaming trade show in its own right.

How have you seen attendance there grow over the years (and how does that attendance compare to other tour stops)?

We’ve seen massive year-on-year growth. With our fourth trip to Katowice we’re expecting an even bigger turnout than ever before, and we’ve amplified the event accordingly. Every IEM stop is a bit different, we can’t have seating for the same number of people at IEM Cologne or IEM Taipei that we can at stops like IEM San Jose (at the SAP Center) or IEM Katowice (at the Spodek arena). If you look at IEM San Jose though, we saw over 100 percent year-to-year growth in attendance. Every time we return to a location, the crowds get larger. It shows the growing appetite for these events in the markets we’re hitting.

What was the live streaming number from last year’s Katowice and from the last San Jose stop?

In terms of single-stream viewership, we peaked at over one million concurrent viewers with over 75 million sessions over the course of the weekend for Katowice in 2015. IEM Katowice is still the most-watched esports event of all time on Twitch. For the most recent IEM San Jose event, we had over 17 million sessions, but it’s important to note the sheer amount of content coming out of Katowice, which features more games over more days than IEM San Jose.

How far away do you see IEM being able to attract 100,000 attendees in the United States?

The U.S. is a rapidly growing eSports market. The year-on-year success of both IEM San Jose as well as ESL One New York show that growth in raw data. We can also point to Riot’s show at Madison Square Garden as an indication that eSports is ready to pack U.S. stadiums. It’s just a matter of patience. Getting 100,000 attendees isn’t something that will happen overnight. It’s not a ‘if you build it they will come’ mentality that’s going to fill seats. As an industry, we’ve got a lot of work to do to ensure that attending an eSports event in the U.S. is a truly unforgettable experience worth traveling coast to coast to see. That’s the sort of work that we look forward to in the off-season; honing in on what makes folks enjoy attending these events and making sure we’re catering to their wants and desires.

How has the prize pool for IEM grown over the last decade?

In season one we had 160,000 Euro on the line. Last year we awarded 535,000 and this year we’ve increased the number yet again. (The prize money for all seasons can be found here.)

What impact has the popularity of CS:GO had on IEM’s growth trajectory?

IEM will always feature the top eSports titles in a season. Any time one of those titles performs extremely well, IEM is better off for it. With CS:GO in particular it’s clearly had an impact on our attendance numbers and viewership numbers. We’re really in a scenario where all boats rise. The better the games perform, the better our product can be.

What do you feel separates IEM from other ESL eSports tournaments?

IEM is our only global circuit of events that culminates with a world championship at the end of a season. ESL One events are each massive stand alone events. They’re not connected in the same way as IEM. Both models are successful. As the market continues to grow and diversify, it’s important for us to have products that tell different stories. IEM is more like a Grand Prix, while ESL One is more like a The Kentucky Derby​. ​

How the HTC Vive Became An Overnight VR Sensation

It can be argued that virtual reality became something to be taken seriously when Facebook purchased Oculus VR in 2014 for $2 billion. However, the field didn’t really become a race until the HTC Vive was announced at the 2015 Mobile World Congress, eclipsing most other news and announcements that came from the event. Developed in partnership with Valve, creators of the Steam gaming platform, this premium headset would give the Oculus Rift some genuine competition, and soon after, you rarely heard one mentioned without the other.

This is how a virtual reality device from a phone manufacturer leapt into the spotlight a year ago go head-to-head against the Oculus Rift.

Steam Powered

Although the games on Steam don’t necessarily favor the HTC Vive (in fact, many of them are developed for the Oculus Rift), being associated with Valve goes a long way. Valve has long been a highly respected company that has developed incredibly successful games like the Half-life series, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and DOTA 2. Partnering with HTC to develop a headset alongside the SteamVR platform gave the Vive instant credibility, and it soon grabbed as much attention as the Oculus Rift, which had been covered by tech media for months, even before the Facebook purchase.

That credibility was later backed by hands-on demonstrations which took place a week after its announcement, at GDC 2015. Everyone who tried the device was blown away, and it seemed like the Vive might overtake the Oculus Rift in popularity. Especially since it announced the Lighthouse interactive motion tracking technology, which relies on sensors that can be installed into a wall, months before Oculus Touch was revealed.

htc vive

Perhaps the most compelling news to come from the announcement was that the consumer version was expected to release in the fall of 2015, giving it an early lead over Oculus. Even though the device quietly missed that release window, and got delayed to April 2016, consumers were quick to forgive. The partnership continued to pay off, with Valve hosting a SteamVR Showcase in January, which included 12 games for attendees to play. This helped to strengthen the future of VR, since its success will be rely heavily on content. Furthermore, a link to pre-purchase the HTC Vive is prominently displayed on Steam, exposing it to millions of users.

Premium Hardware

With a $800 price tag ($200 more than the Oculus Rift), it’s clear that the HTC Vive is at the top of premium VR headsets. However, that hasn’t stopped the first 15,000 pre-order units from selling out within 10 minutes, according to an HTC employee.

However, early adopters will be getting quite a bit for their money. The HTC Vive boasts a better screen, and it almost stole the Oculus Rift’s thunder when it demonstrated how Lighthouse could track more than head movements. It could track a person’s whole body, which allowed users to stand up and walk around a 15×15 foot space. The sensors could also detect walls and objects, and helped prevent people from bumping into them.

HTC revealed in January that the headset would include a front-facing camera, which lets users see real world objects without having to leave the virtual one. While that might seem like a minor feature, it turned out to be a major innovation that allows users to walk freely and interact with others without being cut-off from the real world.

The company also announced partnerships with hardware manufacturers like HP, Alienware (Dell), and MSI to promote their brands of “Vive Optimized” systems to take some the guesswork out of finding the right computer to power the headset.

In addition to being bundled with wireless VR controllers, the HTC Vive will also include three games: Job Simulator, Fantastic Contraption and Tilt Brush by Google. Although the Oculus might initially offer a broader library of games, which includes EVE Valkyrie, many experiences may work on either device. Plus, the partnership with Valve will continue to make the Vive a premiere device for developers to consider.

So, despite the higher price tag, and the Oculus Rift became available for purchase first, the HTC Vive manages to keep a tight race going through strategic partnerships and incredible presentations.

Marketing Technology Getting More Focus In 2016

Marketing technology finally appears to be getting attention from a majority of marketers, according to a new eMarketer report.

Compiled from a December 2015 study conducted by Rocket Fuel, the report indicates that two marketing trends will see increased focus in 2016: the programmatic buying of television and data management platforms (DMPs).

Out of formats that get the most attention from senior level and marketing professionals, digital display continues to be king, with 69 percent of marketers currently using it, and up to 81 percent planning on using it in some capacity. However, TV also plays a big part on the chart. Thus far, 13 percent utilize programmatic ads for it, but 24 percent indicated they would soon be on board. Meanwhile, print continues to dwell at the bottom of the list, and interest appears to be waning.

Marketing

As for DMPs, which assist with aggregate marketing information across various channels, it was of great interest to marketers. Of those polled, 91 percent stated that they’re interested in learning more about it – even more than multichannel attribution (81 percent) and programmatic TV (80 percent).

Marketing 2

A higher emphasis on programmatic means reaching more of a high-tech audience. Considering how programmatic ads reached an all-time high last year, and how video plays a huge part, its continued growth shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Additionally, there’s always potential for programmatic advertising to reach beyond television, like with wearables.

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Google Maps Teams With ‘The Legend of Zelda’

It’s dangerous to go alone, so use a map.

Google Maps has introduced its latest promotion, one that involves the heroic character Link from Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda franchise. With it, users can start up Google Maps through their browser and see a yellow “street view” icon with a sword and green outfit. This is the traditional costume that Link wears in the Zelda games, complete with his iconic blue shield.

As a result, he becomes an interactive part in searches, and will run around the map while you pinpoint your next location before dropping down into “street view.” Link is also featured in the app’s current icon, as pictured below.

Google

The promotion is timed with the release of Nintendo’s latest Zelda game for the Wii U, Twilight Princess HD, which is a remake of one of its most popular games, initially released in 2006 for the GameCube and Wii consoles.

YouTube user Jeffrey Grubb posted a clip of just how effectively Link is used with the program.

Google has a history of toying around with video game-related Easter eggs. Typing “do a barrel roll” – an iconic line of dialogue featured in Nintendo’s classic Star Fox 64 – into the search box will result in the screen doing a full 360-degree spin. Users can also type in “zerg rush” (a term from the Blizzard game StarCraft) and watch as “O’s”appear and destroy items on the screen.

As an April Fool’s Day joke, Google Maps once let you find Pokémon among the streets and buildings. This no doubt helped inspire the upcoming Pokémon Go.

Last year probably got the most attention for the app, as Google Maps launched a cool April Fool’s promotion where any map could be turned into an interactive Pac-Man game, complete with dots and ghosts from the classic arcade game.

Similarly, Google partnered to create a whole Force Awakened experience last fall, which applied a Star Wars theme to everything from Gmail to Google Maps. Also, for one day, typing “a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away” displayed search results in the same iconic scrolling format from the movies.

Meanwhile, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is online on the eShop now.

How Brands Are Exploring Livestreaming For True Engagement

Whether it’s on Twitch or popular apps like Twitter’s Periscope, some executives feel that livestreams are a genuine way for brands to reach out to audiences.

A new study by Brandlive (via AdWeek) indicates that livestreaming is gaining as much interest as pre-recorded video clips when it comes to brand engagement. Out of those polled, 20 percent plan to test livestreaming to some extent with their marketing plans this year.

According to the poll, pre-recorded video clips still have great interest, but livestreaming is definitely on the rise, with over 25 percent feeling that it’s important. This number could change even more next year, as livestreaming’s popularity continues to rise.

Chart

Why do so many prefer this format? Those polled indicated that the most important reason for considering livestreaming has to do with a more authentic interaction with audience, compared to pre-planned and filmed content, like commercials and ad placements. Some also feel that this brings a human element to digital marketing, whether it’s with a popular Twitch star or a streamer that knows how to engage an audience. Furthermore, broadcasts can be viewed again on sites like YouTube.

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Steve Gehlen, vice president of Brandlive, had this to say about the report: “Based on the survey results, it’s clear that many consumer product brands and retailers are exploring livestreaming video as a new digital communication channel. With live video, they are interacting with their employees, partners and consumers in a new way that is authentic, engaging and scalable.”

Some companies have already proven how effective livestreaming advertising can be. Last year, Old Spice teamed up with Twitch for a “Nature Adventure” promotion, where users could command an on-screen hero to do wacky things in the environment. The Pokémon Company also took part in live-streaming engagement, airing a marathon of movies and other content to celebrate the recent anniversary of the franchise.