How Sony’s Steady Approach To PlayStation VR Will Pay Off

While the competing Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual reality headsets sell for around $600 and $800 respectively, Sony just announced that the PlayStation VR will go for $400 when it releases in October. The price comes with a special virtual reality edition of Star Wars Battlefront, followed by 50 games that will support the headset before the year is out.

Among its features will be a “cinematic mode,” which lets users play non-VR games or watch movies with apps like Netflix. Details on other features are forthcoming.

The company’s been hard at work bolstering the line-up for its PlayStation VR headset for some time, with a recent showcase this past December at the PlayStation Experience event gaining some huge buzz, behind titles like Ace Combat 7, Rez Infinite and 100ft Robot Golf, among others. However, it hasn’t yet announced a release date or price on the headset, although that could change this week. The company is hosting a special event prior to this week’s Game Developers Conference that could shed some light on this department.

While some consumers just want Sony to announce the details already, the company’s slow and steady approach may just be the way to go. There are several reasons for this…

Seeing What the Competition Will Do

Based on the announcements made by HTC and Oculus thus far, virtual reality will be a bit on the expensive side. While most alternatives, like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, go for a much more affordable rate, the Vive and Oculus Rift, respectively, will cost several hundreds of dollars for consumers to pick up. And that’s if you can get your hands on one—both units’ initial shipments have been sold out for weeks, with plenty of backorders logged for each.

Sony, in the meantime, is taking the cautious approach. They have introduced gadgets for PlayStation consoles before–namely the PlayStation Move motion controller–with somewhat mixed results. It’s adapted the “live and learn” motto as a result, and is taking its time when it comes to solidifying details for the PlayStation VR. Several whispers have indicated that the unit will sell for a much more consumer-friendly price, around $400, and release during the holiday season–but that’s just speculation.

Built With PlayStation 4 In Mind

One frustrating factor that some consumers can’t get over with the Vive or the Rift is that both devices require a high-end PC to run in order to get the most out of them. And this is just for desktop computers–rumors indicate that the headsets won’t work on laptops at all.

Sony wants to make sure that the PlayStation VR works in stride with the PlayStation 4, if only because it wants to continue on the “hot streak” that it’s on. The PS4 has already sold 30 million units in just over two years’ time, and will continue its momentum with titles like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Ratchet & Clank, and whatever else it chooses to announce at E3 in just a few months. Sony is making sure that the peripheral is good and ready for a consumer base that feverishly wants it.

Being one of the few VR headsets that works with a game console, the PlayStation VR should be easily accessible compared to other high-end units.

A Killer Game Line-Up

Last but certainly not least, Sony knows that a device is only as good as the games that support it. This might explain why the PlayStation Move didn’t fare as well as the company was hoping, with weak titles like Kung Fu Rider and PlayStation Move Heroes failing to capitalize on the hardware.

So it makes sense that the company wants to pace out the PlayStation VR launch until the games are ready. So far, it’s got a very diverse line-up of games available, with a variety of genres and experiences lining up. Third-party support is picking up as well, with more set to sign up as the peripheral builds up steam.

So, sure, Sony is waiting a little bit longer until it has the games ready that will truly capitalize on what it can do. So far, there’s a lot of potential with what it’s introduced–but chances are we haven’t seen anything yet.

We’ll see whatever Sony has in mind with the PlayStation VR soon enough. It may be playing a waiting game, but it’s one that will certainly pay off, especially with the games and proper marketing campaign to back it up.

[a]list summit Announces Keynote And New Speakers

With the event just over a month away, [a]listdaily is pleased to announce the first batch of speakers for [a]list summit: Frontline Marketing. The event will be taking place at the W Hotel in Seattle, Washington on April 20.

Brand owner of AT&T Foundry, Ruth Yomtoubian will be giving a keynote on “How Innovation Creates Brand Value.” AT&T Foundry is AT&T’s network of “innovation centers” for the purpose of exploring new technology with partners like Ericsson, Cisco, Intel and Amdocs. Yomtoubian will be discussing how AT&T approaches innovation through the Foundry model.

In addition to the keynote, two presentations have been announced. Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman, founders of Two Bit Circus, will be on hand for a presentation about “Blending Physical and Digital Play” with immersive entertainment.

Blending data science with marketing,’s CTO Kai Mildenberger and Dr. Galen Buckwalter, data scientist behind eHarmony and, and scientific advisor to [a]insights, will discuss “How Predictive Analytics Can Help Find Your Brand Soulmates.” 

Other speakers include:

  • Jim Louderback, Entrepreneur and Business Strategist
  • Sahand Barati, President, IDRA
  • Chris Younger, Principal and Director of Strategy, Ayzenberg
  • Stu Pope, Principal and Creative Director, Ayzenberg
  • Rebecca Markarian, SVP, Social and Digital Media, Ayzenberg
  • Steven Lai, Head of Talent, ION
  • Vincent Juarez, Principal, Ayzenberg & ION
  • Robin Boytos, Director, Analytics, Ayzenberg & [a]insights
  • Joey Jones, VP and Creative Director, Ayzenberg
  • Jon Simon, VP, Integrated Marketing, Ayzenberg
  • Andy Swanson, VP, eSports, Twitch
  • Dan Ciccone, MD, rEVXP, Manager, OpTic Gaming
  • Michael Cai, SVP, Research, Video Games and Technology

Past speakers include:

  • Morgan Neville, Academy Award-winning Documentary Filmmaker
  • Jonathan Murtaugh, US Head of Industry for Film and Television, Facebook & Instagram
  • Stephanie Horbaczewski, CEO, StyleHaul
  • Michelle Phan, YouTube Superstar and Founder ipsy
  • Andy Swanson, VP, eSports, Twitch
  • LeAnne Hackmann, Sr. Director, Global Content Strategy & Activation, Mattel
  • Allison Stern, Co-Founder & VP Marketing and Business Development, Tubular
  • JC Cangilla, SVP of Business Development, New Form Digital
  • Seamus Blackley, Xbox Co-Creator
  • Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Producer, Transformers Franchise
  • Shay Carl, Co-Founding Talent of Maker Studios
  • Peter Levin, President, Interactive Ventures and Games, Lionsgate
  • Terry City, Head of West Coast Operations, Buzzfeed
  • David Hayes, Head of Creative Strategy, Tumblr
  • T.J.Marchetti, CMO, Awesomeness TV
  • Maria Pacheco, Sr. Director, Mobile Marketing, Dreamworks Animation
  • Mary Healey, Global Lead, YouTube Brand Partner Program
  • Elaine Chase, Senior Director, Global Brand Strategy and Marketing, Hasbro
  • Scott Carlis, VP of digital and social media, AEG (LA Kings)
  • Jack and Jack, Influencers
  • Zach King, Influencer
  • Olga Kay, Influencer
  • Nolan Bushnell, Founder of Atari of Chuck E Cheese
  • Ed Lin, Director of Brand Marketing, Warner Bros
  • Jordan Weisman, CEO, Harebrained Schemes
  • Min Kim, CEO, Nexon America
  • Jeanette Liang, Executive Director, Global Digital Marketing, Estee Lauder
  • Mike Webster, Director of Marketing, Capcom
  • Kristian Segerstale, COO, Super Evil MegaCorp
  • Leo Oleb, Director of Marketing, Kabam
  • Ryan Weiner, Director of Marketing, Activision
  • Phil Marineau, Director of Marketing, Electronic Arts
  • Ryan Cameron, Xbox Director of Marketing Communications, Microsoft

For the latest updates and agenda, check out

What People Are Talking About At SXSW 2016

The South By Southwest Festival (SXSW) has grown even bigger with each passing year, and 2016 promises to be the biggest year yet for the interactive music/film festival. Several new venues are being added to this year’s event, and networking will play a key part, as clients will be able to meet and discuss upcoming projects.

There are several hot topics making the rounds at this year’s show, including the following:

Big Talent

Stars usually come out to SXSW in spades to hype their forthcoming products, ranging from AAA superstars to Internet sensations like Grumpy Cat. President Barack Obama recently hosted the opening keynote (to a huge online audience), and others stars like comedian duo Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele (advertising their new movie Keanu, which screened at the event), Pee-Wee Herman (who is promoting a new Netflix film) and more are in attendance this week.

It’s a who’s who of superstars that will be at the event, and that’ll be good news for social media, as names like Obama and Herman will create tremendous online buzz for the show. Plus, surprise appearances from new stars could emerge from forthcoming shows like Preacher, which debuts on AMC this May behind the season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead–which should be big news for the channel.

The Stream Is the Thing

For those that can’t attend the event, various panels and activities are being livestreamed from the event, including keynotes and particular panels. This is a great way for the community to get involved in what’s happening with the festival. Social media has also seen a tremendous boost from this, with more people talking about what’s happening at the event.

Twitch also has a tremendous showing, partnering with the team at Razer for a variety of activities, including an eSports tournament stage, a free-play Arcade Bunker and an Indie Corner Geek Stage. A good portion of its activities will be streamed as well, so its vast community of gamers can take part.

Popular “Nerd” Channels Are Thriving

SXSW has seen greater exposure across more areas than film and music over the last few years, thanks to big-name partners that stage their own events during the festival.

This year is no exception, as Nerdist is hosting a number of activities based around its TV shows and programming. Other channels following suit are Geek & Sundry, along with other partners like Rooster Teeth and AMC. These showcases also provide an alternate place for attendees to go if they can’t get into the SXSW venue itself, giving great exposure from outside the main event and creating buzz for particular programs, like the highly anticipated Preacher.

Tech Has Major Appeal At SXSW

While CES, which took place earlier this year, was a haven for new technology (like the Internet of Things-related devices and televisions), SXSW is carving its own niche with technological breakthroughs. For instance, Sony is on hand to showcase its new headset technology, which takes away the traditional cup-over-ear design in favor of something more sleek and effective. Other companies at the event include Samsung (showcasing a new app where songs can be identified by humming them), and Paypal (with its interactive app, which synchs up with car service Lyft).

But the show is also an opportunity for up-and-comers to gain buzz with crowds, like the four students from Stanford Center for Design Research who have managed to make one of the show’s hottest draws, a mobile trash can with built-in cameras to record interactions with people. The team showcased its recordings with consumers who see the trash can, with surprisingly positive results.

Virtual Reality Reigns Supreme

With virtual reality ready to make a killing in the market this year between launches of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and other headsets, it should be no surprise that it’s managed to gain popularity during this week’s SXSW event. A number of companies are showing interest in the technology, demonstrating its potential across various categories, including music, sports and even adult entertainment.

Fortune recently noted a number of examples that include the following:

  • Music companies. A lot of companies are looking into recreating the concert experience for those that are unable to attend, as well as innovation with music videos, creating a new way for artists to share with their fanbase, while at the same time remaining profitable.
  • Professional athletes. Sports are starting to play a big part in VR, with former Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III talking this week about how the technology can help with sports training, as well as improving player performance on the field with simulated activities.
  • Advertising and marketing. Of course, a number of companies are looking into ways to innovate advertising with virtual reality, with several panels this week focusing on how to effectively make that happen. This includes creating virtual shopping experiences or seeing potential vacation spots to visit – something Marriott has already heavily invested in. Even McDonald’s is getting in on the action.
  • Video games. Of course, video games are the “big one” when it comes to virtual reality investment, since they create immersive experiences that players won’t be able to get enough of. A number of games are dominating SXSW’s Gaming section.

‘Star Wars’ Ready To Make Big Jump Into Virtual Reality

This past year has been a huge one for the Star Wars franchise, with The Force Awakens earning over $2 billion worldwide at the box office, and games like Star Wars: Battlefront and Disney Infinity 3.0 selling well. It appears that the franchise will be taking extra steps to bring fans closer to a galaxy far, far away using virtual reality.

Engadget recently reported that a new trailer for a Star Wars-related virtual reality experience for the HTC Vive was leaked for a short time on YouTube before being removed. Dubbed Trials On Tattooine: A Cinematic Virtual Reality Experiment, it looks to be the project Industrial Light & Magic Experience Lab was working on when the division launched with this trailer last year.

This isn’t Star Wars‘ first foray into the world of virtual reality, as the Star Wars mobile app added the Jakku Spy VR game last fall to help further promote the launch of The Force Awakens. However, this experience (intended for high-end headsets like the HTC Vive) promises much greater immersion, with the screenshot below indicating that users will get to fight in an interactive lightsaber duel.

Star 2

A launch date for Trials On Tattooine hasn’t been given yet, but signs point to an April 5th debut. Not only is that the day that the HTC Vive will launch in market, but also the day that Star Wars: The Force Awakens releases on Blu-Ray and DVD. So, the timing is perfect for both Star Wars and Vive fans.

When it comes to potential virtual reality projects to blow consumers away, The Force is certainly strong with Star Wars.

UPDATE: A new teaser has become available online, confirming that Trials On Tattooine is officially on the way.

Google Working On Livestreaming For Mobile Games

Last year, an official Android blog post discussed the potential of streaming gaming videos based on its Android platform, describing it as a “growing phenomenon” with more than 144 billion minutes being viewed on YouTube. That’s a big audience to have and Google is already hard at work to expand game-viewing capabilities.

According to Engadget, the company is looking into adding a livestreaming feature to Android, enabling users to share popular mobile games in a more streamlined process. This should help mobile gamers reach out to a new audience with just a few simple button presses, making the feature all the more alluring for those that aren’t used to streaming.

In addition, Google is also looking into a preview system with app streaming, through a special marketing format known as the “Search Trial Run Ad.” With this format, players can try out Android games within their browser for up to 10 minutes. This lets users try games without having to download them, giving them an idea of what they can expect from the game experience. It’s a feature that can can benefit the Android audience by allowing better discovery of new play experiences.

Between both these features, Google is looking to promote the YouTube Gaming channel and gain the advantage it needs to catch up to its nearest competitor, Twitch.

‘The Brookhaven Experiment’ Ups HTC Vive’s Fear Factor

With the commercial versions of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive releasing soon and a major announcement regarding the PlayStation VR expected during GDC this week, excitement over virtual reality is reaching an all-time high. However, even the best hardware will need great experiences to drive consumer adoption. That’s where games like The Brookhaven Experiment come in.

Developed by Phosphor Games (known for Heroes Reborn: Gemini, Nether and the mobile game, Horn) The Brookhaven Experiment is a virtual reality horror survival game releasing on the HTC Vive on April 26. A demo is available now, and although it was put together in just three weeks by two developers, it already promises to be one of the scariest experiences to hit virtual reality.

Jeremy Chapman, VR director, and Steve Bowler, creative director at Phosphor Games—the two developers who put The Brookhaven Experiment together—talk to [a]listdaily about how fear reaches new heights in virtual reality.

Steve and JeremyWhat is The Brookhaven Experiment?

The Brookhaven Experiment is a survival horror shooter experience for the HTC Vive. Something has gone horribly wrong: The Brookhaven Experiment has torn a hole in reality. Terrible creatures are now everywhere throughout Chicago, and as one of the lone human survivors it is up to you to save humanity from these monsters from another reality.

After games like Horn and Nether, what inspired Phosphor to develop a game for VR?

We have a lot of freedom to play around with dev hardware here and one day Jeremy Chapman decided he was going to take one of the Vive dev kits we had home over Thanksgiving weekend and he rocked the original prototype for Brookhaven in a few days. After he showed it to the rest of the office, Steve Bowler got inspired and started prototyping other VR ideas while Chip Sineni (director of Phosphor Games) started prototyping a project on the Oculus Rift hardware. After we wound up demo-ing Brookhaven at a couple of Chicago VR meet-ups, we realized it was the crowd favorite, so Jeremy and Steve dropped everything they were working on and cranked out the full Brookhaven demo in just a few weeks.

What convinced Phosphor to create a game for the HTC Vive, as opposed to the Oculus Rift?

It turns out we’re looking at both! We didn’t pick just one and run with it. For now, Brookhaven is a Vive experience because of the increased presence of seeing your hands and having pure skill be the survival differentiator. We are currently looking at porting it to Oculus Touch when those become available to the public, but we obviously need to finish Brookhaven first!

What made Phosphor decide on an all-new game, instead of adding VR support to existing PC games?

The first thing we learned back when Jeremy and Steve were doing some internal prototypes with the Oculus DK2 and later the Vive was that VR needs to be its own platform. Even first-person shooters, which are the closest analogy to VR from traditional video games, really don’t compare to what happens when you experience VR for the first time. We quickly realized that all of our previous ideas we had for video game conventions had to be re-evaluated when working with VR and we approach working in VR as its own medium.

How does a VR horror experience compare with that of a traditional game?

There’s this unique power dynamic in play with a horror game versus typical gameplay mechanics and controls. Steve took a look into what makes a horror game tick a few years ago, but it essentially boils down to this: true horror or fear can only occur when the player feels a lack of control. That’s really tricky to make feel right, because video games are largely about a power fantasy—the concept of being more in control of something than we could possibly be in real life.

So, to give that sensation of not being in control and not doing any jump scares, we’re doing a lot of really subtle things—the first of which is taking your vision away from you and making it really dark. Then when we give you a flashlight—it only illuminates a short area and a limited distance in front of you and the batteries drain really fast. Every time you think you’re in control, we find a way to take it away from you in a subtle, limiting way. When you put all of those sorts of puzzle pieces together, you can start scaring people pretty effectively.

Are there extra challenges in promoting a VR horror game, compared to a traditional one?

There really are. We have to present the game in a light where it looks just scary enough that people are curious of how that works and want to try it, but hopefully can laugh at themselves at the same time. The fear you’re going to feel in Brookhaven is real. We’re not using a single jump scare. We’ve created “situational horror,” and even when you think you’re performing brilliantly, you’re eventually going to make a mistake, and suddenly you went from feeling unstoppable to completely terrified.

We’ve had people scream… loudly. They instinctively jump backwards from the threat and lash out with their hands. It’s your body’s natural fight or flight response reacting to threats your brain is perceiving as very real things in front of you. That’s the magic of “presence” in VR when you get it right; we’ve fooled your entire self that this threat is real. So, we have a really fine balancing act of trying to make the player have a heart-pounding scare of their life, mitigated with feeling like they’re accomplishing feats they could never face down in the real world. That’s a huge challenge, and I think we’ve found a happy medium, as everyone keeps coming back and asking for another run at it.

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

We love this question, because we’re there now and most folks haven’t realized it yet. This is it! We’re at the very cusp of mass adoption. Ten years from now when everyone is enjoying VR in their home and work, possibly in their self-driving cars, we’re going to look back at 2016 as the year the magic happened and people got to experience VR for the first time.

Oculus ships at the end of this month. Vive ships a week after that! PlayStation VR, which is VR on your home game console you already own, is later this year. You’ve got GearVR which is a great entry-level experience using just your phone and a $99 piece of equipment that’s been out since Christmas 2015. If this isn’t the dawn of mainstream VR, we don’t know what is. We’ve only met a handful of people who, after trying the current VR systems, aren’t immediate converts. Seeing really is believing. Literally in weeks, you will be able to go over to a family member or friend’s house, try VR, and see it for yourself.

CBS Digital Is At VR’s Forefront With Visual Effects And Virtual Sets

The process of creating motion-picture content has not changed over the last century. It still involves four core categories: a great story, actors, crew and sets and locations.

Decades-long pipedreams of scripts seeing Hollywood daylight often come to a mortal end due to production companies dealing with cash-strapped budgets. George Bloom, an executive producer at CBS Digital, says, “Every year, 50,000 people graduate from film school. Approximately 100,000 movie scripts are floating around Hollywood trying to get sold. Last year, theatrically, there was less than 700 movies that got made,” Bloom says. “The opportunities of getting your picture made is very, very low.”

Bloom says one of the biggest obstacles to sharing your story on screen is acquiring a budget—a sizable portion of which is swallowed by securing sets and locations. To help save producers money, Bloom and his CBS Digital crew have laser-scanned endless locations over the years with thousands of hi-res images to capture the perfect geometry of a site. They’ve built fully functional, 3D, 360-degree virtual sets—all of which import into virtual reality.

“CBS [Digital] is definitely planting a flag in the [virtual reality] space,” Bloom told [a]listdaily. “How deep it’s going to go? I don’t know.”

Bloom leads a visual effects team at CBS Digital that creates content for various shows, studios and networks. He said this accounts to about 40 percent of the core business for the network. Some of the shows are already asking to test out VR experiences as well.

A lot of Bloom’s business revolves around creating visual effects and virtual sets for shows like The Last Man on Earth, Transparent, Modern Family and Netflix original shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Another recent campaign included Rihanna’s Super Bowl 50 promo.

Bloom says CBS Digital is also working on building out “spatial dynamic fusion,” which blends moving lidar and video together for real-time captures so that real actors can be imbedded in a 3D environment. He says they’re at “third base” with this.

In order to capitalize on the virtual reality market, Bloom notes that one must stay ahead of the curve. He brings up the Gold Rush as a classic example—the ones who really struck gold were those selling picks and shovels.

A former vice president of creative content at Disney and Pixar Studios, and the vice president of special ops at 20th Century Fox Film Studios, Bloom’s portfolio includes producing original animation for movies like Toy Story 3, Ice Age 2, Cars 2, Ratatouille, Tangled, Alice in Wonderland and X-Men: The Last Stand, among others.

The avid astrophotographer joined [a]listdaily to share his thoughts on how the wild west known as the metaverse could perhaps soon mirror California of the 1850s.


How did you end up working in virtual reality?

I started as a director for about 17 years. It started with music videos. I directed television commercials. I had a turning point in my career where I actually sold a movie script (The Savior) to the Weinstein Studio, and was about to direct it. Then I had the opportunity to become a studio executive at Walt Disney Pictures as the vice president of creative content in the marketing division for theatrical. I decided to pass on directing a movie and to step in and climb a new mountain and work within the ecosystem of a studio. I knew that if I wanted to be well-rounded as an individual in content, I needed to understand the other side.

At CBS Digital, we’re always focusing on what we can create that’s very innovative and disruptive. We worked on a platform called Parallax—which is creating virtual sets for television shows. One of the biggest expenses is having to go out on location, for filmmakers, and storytellers. We created a virtual set by laser-scanning locations. We realized as Oculus was starting to come out with [their] new product, that this was going to work well for virtual reality. As I started to really look under the hood, I realized that VR was going to be the next place for us. It was a good match doing virtual sets. That’s kind of how it started. It was a migration.

How does the laser-scanning process work?

One of the keys to building a virtual set is you need to laser-scan the location. The laser-scanner actually creates an exact replica—a geometric, 3D model—that you’re actually able to replicate the location. From there, you put still photography on top of the geometry to build a fully functional, 3D set.

How can developers deliver compelling content for movies? 

Some of it is theory. Some of it I know will work. It’s just the time to build some of the structure out of the virtual story engine. If you’re looking at the movie business, it’s a three-act structure: a beginning, a middle and an end. But I believe because of virtual reality, there’s going to be a whole new language that’s going to come out. You’re going to be able to take the stories into whole different directions. You’re going to have more interactivity. We’re really just at the beginning of a whole new era of how to communicate on film, and be able to communicate something in VR and take the audience on a new adventure they haven’t experienced before. By having virtual sets, you’re allowing someone to work in a 3D, 360 [degree] environment. When I speak about ‘Hollywood in a box,’ that old model of filmmaking where you need the big crews, you need to have all that expense . . . you’re going to be able to kind of do it in your own living room—a couple of computers, a small crew, creating content. It’s a little similar to the YouTube model, but you have to think of it in 3D space, and storylines aren’t going to have such a linear fashion.

How will virtual reality change the theater and at-home, TV-viewing experience? What are the challenges of marketing to viewers?

How is the viewer going to enjoy content in VR? It’s still to be determined. It’s the $64,000 question. How do we communicate in that space, and create something that’s compelling? Because right now, a lot of things are just an experience. So now, we’re stepping into the next space where with three-axis tracking hardware you’re actually going to be able to walk in that environment. With the hand controllers, you’re going to be able to touch the environment. The more connective you create the experience, as a story maker, you’re going to make something deeper and compelling. The audience is going to have to participate with that experience. I think you’re going to see a hybrid with passive and interactive (experiences) where you’re going to have to make some of the decisions on your own to make that story work. There is a lot of discovery that has to happen. But what you want to do is create something that’s only going to work in virtual reality. If you make something and say ‘let’s dub this movie and put it in a VR viewer’ you’re ruining it. You want to create something that’s so compelling that has to be experienced in VR, and I think that’s where a lot of people are headed. That’s why it’s such an exciting space . . . It’s the wild west. People still don’t have a language. It’s just being established now.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 10.36.27 AM

How can major television networks like CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX make virtual reality adopted by the masses?

A major advantage is brand awareness. Right now, the revenue for a major television studio is advertisers. There’s a lot of people that can watch TV. There’s not a lot of people that can watch VR. So, number one, it’s the monetization model. Once people adopt to the space, then I think you’re going to have an ecosystem that allows revenue to occur. So once you have the revenue come in, you have to create great content. A major network like CBS has one advantage. We have great content, great characters, great stories that we’re able to draft behind . . . That’s why Disney and most studios (will eventually) make ‘Iron Man 11. It’s too much risk creating new awareness than it is to create something that you already have an existing I.P.

What are your concerns within the space of virtual reality?

It’s still at a level of experimentation. With spherical video, everyone has their GoPro rigs, the Jaunt, and I think it’s great for just a passive experience, but we’ll really have to work in a 3D environment to be able to interact with that environment, so I think the passive video experience is exciting, and it’s great hype but we’re all going to have to work in a medium where we head more toward the metaverse.

What opportunities does the metaverse present?

The great thing is I see big opportunities in the metaverse and virtual reality. We’ve leveled the playing field, and there’s a whole new space out there. Anybody who has some basic skills is now going to be able to create something that you can use, and kind of be the captain of their own ship and have Hollywood in a box—and that’s what I’m excited about. The next generation of young people who are going to have a voice and tell a story.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan.

Hearthstone ‘Old Gods’ Expansion Breaks Into New Territory

Digital card games have really blown up, with a variety of developers offering their own takes, like the Plants vs. Zombies-themed collectible card game. However, even with the rise in popularity, Blizzard continues to dominate the genre with Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.

Today, the third major Hearthstone expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, was announced to millions of fans that play the game on PC and mobile devices. It continues to grow the digital card game market overall, which has now topped $1.2 billion according to SuperData Research.

SuperData also noted that continued updates improvements, along with the general support provided by Blizzard, have helped push Hearthstone to become a huge success, and with revenues reaching over $500 million thus far. But to keep players interested, Blizzard is looking to shake things up. Old Gods includes the launch of new Standard and Wildcard formats. An update coming next week includes features like addition deck slots and new “Deck Recipes” (pre-selected decks) to help players build up their arsenal. On top of that, the expansion introduces a story that lets players explore a new, dark, territory—just the incentive needed to keep fans hooked.

To help promote the forthcoming expansion, Blizzard is giving away a special legendary card, featuring the C’Thun, a powerful creature with tentacles, as well as two different forms of one of its cultists, the Beckoner of Evil. This should no doubt draw in thousands of players as the promotion kicks off for Old Gods in late April to early May.

Blizzard has done a great job supporting the game, opening up potential tournaments and keeping the game freshly updated, between regular updates and expansions, to continue holding players’ interest.

Spencer ‘Hiko’ Martin Explains How ‘Counter-Strike’ Stood The Test Of Time

Spencer “Hiko” Martin is spending this weekend playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for a different reason. The pro gamer isn’t shooting enemies for cash prize pools or ranking. Instead, he’s raising money for Gamers for Giving at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center. The event aims to raise $100,000 to place GO Karts (Gamers Outreach Karts) in more children’s hospitals. More than 78,000 children in 16 hospitals across the country are currently supported by the GO Kart program, which supplies portable, medical-grade video game kiosks to hospital rooms so kids can get their minds off of being sick.

Mike “Flamesword” Chaves and Lindsay Elyse will also compete in the event, which is hosted by David “Walshy” Walsh and Scott “SirScoots” Smith. Featured tournaments include: League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Starcraft II, Halo 5 Guardians, Call of Duty Black Ops III, Super Smash Bros and HearthStone. Over 2,000 gamers are expected to attend the eighth annual fundraiser, and the event will be livestreamed to the world via Twitch.

Martin talks about raising money for a good cause, and explains his own journey into the professional ranks of eSports, in this exclusive interview.

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How did you get involved in professional eSports?

About five years ago, I was working a job in the office of a concrete company. I was putting a lot of hours into CS and always wanted to go “pro,” but was never able to. A team that had a serious sponsor contacted me and asked if I wanted to join them, and I immediately took the opportunity, which meant I had to start traveling to tournaments. I remember having to make a choice of either keeping my job and making money that way, or taking a leap of faith to see if I could make it as a professional video game player. I knew people were able to make money off of playing games and it was always my dream job—which is why I decided to chase the dream of becoming a pro. For the last six years I’ve been playing professional competitive eSports, and looking back I wouldn’t have changed anything on my path to get to where I am today.

What’s the skill difference between a pro and someone who thinks he’s good at CS:GO?

Usually when someone thinks they’re skilled at CS:GO they think they have really good aim and can kill most people that pop up in front of them. Being a professional means you’re proficient in all of the aspects of the game: aiming, timing, movement, positioning, and teamwork. CS:GO is a 5v5 team game, so just having really good individual skills doesn’t necessarily mean you’re fit to be a pro, or that you will even work well in a team environment.

I hear a lot of times that people who play a lot of matchmaking think that once they get the highest rank (Global Elite) they’re on par with the pros. This is a very wrong mentality because the mentality and environment in a matchmaking game is so much different than an actual official team 5v5 league match.

What do you attribute to the recent meteoric rise of Counter-Strike?

CS has always been somewhat popular around the world for the past 15 years. Right at the end of the [version] 1.6 era, DirecTV came into play and started their own exclusive league in CS:Source. The majority of players all switched to Source to take advantage of this opportunity, and I remember talking to a lot of the players about how much they actually hated the game. Ultimately, the DirecTV deal flopped and players were owed thousands of dollars. A lot of the players just ended up quitting and never looking back, and it hurt the CS community as a whole because most of the top talent left the game.

When CS:GO came out, there were a lot of doubts about if the game would even become popular. I think the goal was to merge both the 1.6 and Source communities into one, and initially people refused to adopt the new game. I remember going to a couple of tournaments that actually held separate brackets for both 1.6 and CS:GO, and people thought of the CS:GO players as less skilled than the 1.6 players.

Thankfully, through a series of updates and map balance changes, the majority of players did switch over to CS:GO and we’ve seen amazing growth in the last 2 years. One of the main reasons CS:GO is so popular is because it’s very spectator-friendly. You could know nothing about the game, but after you watch for a few minutes, you already understand the basics, and it is very entertaining. Add in the fact that there are already virtual “betting” sites where you could bet on your teams to win, and the ease of access of watching all games through live streaming platforms like Twitch makes the game almost the perfect spectator eSport.

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Why did you decide to get involved with Gamers for Giving?

I attended Gamers for Giving last year and was really impressed by the amount of people willing to support an amazing cause. Last year, the atmosphere was amazing and something I was looking forward to doing again this year.

How are you able to use your social media following for good through a charity like this?

To be able to promote awareness and support for kids. People don’t really think about something as basic as providing entertainment for a child in a hospital, and how much good it could actually do for them. Hopefully, finding out about this event motivates people to want to help support a great cause.

What role do you see video games playing for kids in children’s hospitals?

Giving kids that are in a hospital environment something to do is such a great thing. To a child, the thought of a hospital is pretty scary and never associated with a good thing. Hopefully, allowing them to play video games while they are stuck in the hospital takes their mind off the unfortunate circumstance that they’re in, and they’re able to actually have fun.

How has Twitch and livestreaming opened up new opportunities to raise money for charities like this?

Crowdfunding and raising awareness has improved so much over the last few years because of livestreaming and Twitch. You’re able to target a wide range of audiences, educate them on the charity you’re trying to help, and ultimately motivate them to join the cause. It’s really amazing seeing big charity events get so much recognition online (think of AGDQ) and how much support they’re able to receive just from crowdfunding.

How generous are the eSports fans out there when it comes to not only charity causes, but helping pros through crowdfunded events like The International?

Historically, crowdfunded events have been bigger than any regular event. TI4 alone started at $1.6 million, and through crowdfunding, raised nearly an additional $10 million. In CS:GO, at Valve “major” tournaments, you’re able to buy team stickers or player signature stickers that you’re able to put on your guns, which helps support players. Generally, crowdfunding has always been successful and it seems eSports fans are very willing to spend their money to improve tournaments. As far as CS:GO is concerned, there hasn’t been many charity tournaments to help raise money. I’m interested to see how the CS:GO community takes to a charity event and I’m confident they will be amazing!

Nintendo Prepares For Push Onto Mobile

Fans have been excitedly awaiting the release of Miitomo ever since Nintendo announced last year that it was partnering with DeNA to debut a new game for mobile devices. Judging from the hype surrounding project Miitomo, it’s more than ready to take on the new challenge.

The company confirmed (in Japanese) via Twitter yesterday that the free-to-play social app, which utilizes the same custom Mii characters that appear in a number of Wii U games, will arrive next week in Japan on March 17, with a worldwide release to follow shortly thereafter. It will enable players to use Mii characters to communicate with others through messages, and will feature a photography mode that will enable sharing through social media.

“Miitomo is a uniquely entertaining mobile experience that only Nintendo can deliver,” said Scott Moffitt, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the company’s American division. “Featuring Mii characters, users will be able to interact with their friends in an entirely new way that transforms communication into a form of play.”

The game also provides an opportunity for Nintendo to utilize its Nintendo Network services in a whole new way, as users can potentially connect through both mobile devices and gaming console systems. The Nintendo Wii, 3DS and Wii U have already made proper use of these online services through games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros., and the company’s next console, the rumored NX, is very likely to tie in with it.

But Miitomo also takes advantage of the My Nintendo program, which replaces the now-closed Club Nintendo service. With it, players could earn credits through Miitomo and other services, which could then be turned around for a number of rewards, including digital purchases and possible physical goods. Nintendo hasn’t broken this program down just yet, but we should learn more in the days ahead as the game prepares for its Western release.

It’s a bold business move on Nintendo’s part, but could very well show how it’s ready to evolve in both the console and mobile gaming markets. Miitomo has great potential in terms of finding strong outreach past existing Nintendo console fans, and its free-to-play structure should make it easy to grasp with young and old players alike. Plus, being able to put a personally designed face with a Mii avatar will help it stand out from other social networks.

We’ll see how Miitomo fares when it makes its debut this month. As for the rest of Nintendo’s plans, we should find out in just a few months when E3 rolls around.