Livestreaming Platform VREAL Is Like Twitch—But In Virtual Reality

One of the frequently shared sentiments by virtual reality executives and creative minds across the board is that the immersive experiences they offer are incredibly isolating ones.

The fast-developing industry received a real shot in the arm Wednesday via VREAL—a new platform that teleports users into the live gameplay through a shared social VR environment, right next to their favorite streamers. Think Twitch, or YouTube, or Azubu. Now inject it with a shot of steroids that lets you and your friends dive deep into the VR worlds of your favorite games where one can watch while placed in the native stream, with full 3D freedom.

The technology comes courtesy of Todd Hooper, VREAL’s creator, founder and CEO who’s introduced an antidote to cure the potentially industry plaguing “anti-social” disease that unites streamers and fans.

VREAL—which stands for Virtual Reality Entertainment and Livestreaming—is hardware-agnostic (Oculus, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR) with 360-degree and 2D video viewing on PC and mobile.

The Seattle-based startup received $3.3 million seed funding late last year by a handful of venture capitalist firms. It’s attempting to capitalize on the gargantuan games as entertainment media trend by launching a beta program later this summer.

Todd Hooper is formerly the vice president of online services for Unity Technologies. He joined [a]listdaily at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Expo in San Jose, California to talk about his native game streaming and discovery VR system and platform.


While you were at Unity, at one point did it trigger that “VREAL is where I need to be?”

That’s a good point. I’d seen a number of VR demos over time. Some of them were [Oculus Rift] DK1 and DK2—a lot of people had those. There was a specific demo of the HTC Vive I saw in October 2014 where it was the first time I’d seen a really good headset with really great content from someone like Valve, and they said, ‘we’re launching this in six months.’ I was like ‘Wow. VR is going to be a huge opportunity, and I don’t want to miss it.’ It took a while for the ideas to evolve. Initially, I just immersed myself into VR and found what people were doing. That’s when we started doing some experimenting, and that’s where the VREAL idea came from.

Now that you’ve announced your launch, what’s the next step?

We are laser-focused on getting VREAL out to the hands of gamers and streamers this summer, and seeing what they do with it. We’re working with a lot of developers, which we’ll be announcing in the summer, as well. One thing I’ve learned over the years is ‘you can build something and think people are going to use it in a certain way,’ but I’m pretty confident that by putting VREAL in the hands of streamers, they’re going to blow our minds with the creative things they can do in VR and livestreaming.

What’s your elevator pitch explaining what livestreaming in VR means?

The way I explain it is this: VR is all about the experience. If you as a player have a headset on, and you’re in a virtual world, you want your friends to join you in that virtual world. You want them to literally appear in it. They see you. You see them. And you’re hanging out together while you’re playing a game. We’ve built the ability for people to easily create that in their games, and the ability for the audience to find those games and create those streams. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a desktop, headset, or mobile—regardless of the device, VREAL enables all those people to access some version of the experience.

How do you share a VR story in a non-VR format? How do you overcome that challenge of someone having to actually experience it?

Obviously it is great when we get people to put on a headset. That problem is slowly going away as headsets become more accessible. One of the things VREAL does very well is that we give you this fantastic experience in full VR, but if you have mobile VR, or if you have a web page, we can also give a 2D video experience. That’s something where I think we can add a huge amount of value because that’s been very difficult today—to create a really great, traditional VR video experience. Once we start doing that, it makes VR much more accessible to a wide range of people. It also puts us in an evangelism kind of role, which I love.


What are the different ways you plan on bringing the application with VR/AR/MR to the consumer?

Our initial focus is VR, not AR or MR. We’re very focused on VR in gaming. You’ll see a VREAL app that will be available in different places, and that will let you discover the VREAL games that you can stream.

How will you be building out mobile capability?

Samsung GearVR is a great platform for consuming media, so we have a demo on there. We think people will love watching an experience on the GearVR, so we’re focused on that, too.

One of the main problems currently for VR is people don’t have access to headsets. What is your workaround for people who don’t own the gear?

It’s been fine for us. Obviously, Oculus, HTC and Valve have been very good to us over the last year, and it’s great to see products shipping to the hands of consumers. We’re seeing more every day. I have a meeting next week, and I don’t have to pack my own rig because they own it, too. It’s just the beginning, right? In a year, there will be millions of rigs in the field. … It’s very early, still, for VR. Even over the last few months, it’s gotten substantially better in terms of accessibility of hardware, stability of software and drivers and game engines. Going forward, it’s a very early market. We’re finding early adopters, and the ones passionate about VR—enough to put $800 down. Is it going to be a mass market this year? No. But I think it’s on path in a three-to-five year time frame. And that’s really the time frame we’re thinking about building VREAL. We want it to be a platform that represents livestreaming for VR games, and we think that’s a long-term proposition.


What is the feedback from people once they experience VREAL?

It’s been fantastic—we’ve done about 200 demos to date, with 70 at GDC, and it was uniformly, extremely positive. People respond to it immediately. It has an impact of ‘this is extremely engaging and it’s very social.’ I think it’s initially a difficult concept to explain, but we’ve gotten better at it. But nothing beats putting on a headset and showing people. Within five minutes, it’s ‘Oh, I get it now. What you’re doing is mind blowing.’ We love doing demos and getting feedback.

Why are there more people watching than playing video games? Why is that such a phenomenon? What changes when VR enters the picture?

I think it’s a generational thing. When I first saw it, it was young guys in the office using their second screen watching something. That audience has disconnected from traditional broadcast media, and they’re watching 90 minutes of streaming content they’re interested in per day. Twitch and YouTube have capitalized on that very nicely. When you bring VR in, I think there is a whole new angle to that. Video as a medium has been great in the past for traditional games. VR, it’s not really matched. We think there is an opportunity when we build this new technology that lets us re-render the game in realtime. I’m a player. I have my view of the game. You’re watching, and you feel like you’re in the game with me. You get that social interaction, and you also get that experience. If you’re talking about VR games as an experience, then you have to put on the headset. I can’t tell you about it by showing a little flatscreen.

How can entrepreneurs use the current technological flaws in VR to create new media?

VR is a novelty, still. There’s a lot of people that are passionate about it and want to jump into it because of the novelty, but novelty is not going to sustain a long-term marketplace. It is innovation, great new content and people thinking deeply about VR and coming up with something we haven’t seen before. Just bringing genres and sorts of games that we’ve seen directly to VR is probably going to be challenging. It’s an opportunity. There will be a Bungie of VR, and there will be a Riot Games of VR, and it will be one of these new companies that’s experimenting and learning new things, and ready to surprise us with something we haven’t seen coming.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan.


SuperData: ‘The Division’ And ‘Clash Royale’ Gain Top Revenues For March 2016

SuperData has provided its newest report, which covers worldwide digital game sales for March 2016, and Tom Clancy’s The Division from Ubisoft continues to be an unstoppable juggernaut.

Joost van Dreunen, CEO for SuperData, reported that digital game sales for the month of March rose five percent, totaling $6.2 billion. “Digital console again sees the fastest growth of any segment for both revenue (up 23 percent year-over-year) and audience (up 15 percent year-over-year),” he said. “Mobile, free-to-play MMO and digital PC also show YoY growth in revenue and monthly active users as digital full game downloads and free-to-play games take market share from physical games.” He also noted a slight drop-off in social gaming revenue (down by ten percent) with more casual gamers moving over to mobile.

In regards to top games for the month of March, Clash Royale was the top mobile pick; League of Legends continued to be the go-to title for free-to-play MMO fans; and DoubleDown Casino was still the top social draw.

However, the month clearly belonged to Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division, which dominated at first place for both digital console sales and PC downloadable content. “Excitement pushed sales to over $109 million, making The Division the highest grossing digital console title in March, $48 million ahead of runner-up Call of Duty: Black Ops III,” said van Dreunen. “Black Ops III’s 17 percent month-over-month revenue decrease means The Division siphoned off attention and spending from Call of Duty fans.” Madden NFL 16 also saw a drop-off, though that’s expected since the football season came to an end a couple of months ago.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on Microsoft, who recently announced the discontinuation of the Xbox 360, as van Dreunen believes it will be announcing a more modified Xbox One shortly, possibly at the forthcoming E3 event. “Microsoft is making a lot of changes in its competition with Sony’s PlayStation 4,” he said. “After a ten and a half year stint, the company announced plans to stop manufacturing new Xbox 360 consoles, although existing inventory will still be sold.

“Additionally, two recent hardware patent filings by Microsoft fuel speculation that Xbox One is due for an upgrade. If true, this fits with Microsoft’s new strategy of abandoning new console releases every five to seven years in favor of incremental upgrades. Xbox players can expect a lot of changes as the console becomes less of a standalone platform than a piece of connective hardware for all Microsoft-related gaming.”

Van Dreunen also touched on the success of Clash Royale on mobile. “Supercell’s newest game earned a whopping $133 million in revenue the past month, beating Clash of Clans to become the highest grossing mobile title worldwide. Supercell now has two games occupying first and second place in worldwide grossing ranks with a combined March revenue of $251 million.

Clash Royale firmly solidifies Supercell’s status as the world’s most lucrative mobile gaming company, a significant achievement in an increasingly competitive market,” he continued. “The $32.8 billion mobile market is set to grow ten percent between 2016 and 2017, but higher user-acquisition costs mean fiercer competition among top companies.” He also noted Machine Zone’s recent plans for diversification in attempting to open a “new business segment.”

Finally, van Dreunen discussed the potential of VR. Although SuperData recently revised its VR revenue forecast by taking shipping delays into account, but installing 500,000 PlayStation VR units at GameStop locations will get consumers excited for the technology when the device launches in October. The HTC Vive will also be demoed at various Microsoft stores and GameStop locations by year’s end. “As such, hardware demos in brick and mortar stores will play an essential role in driving virtual reality’s $5.7 billion 2017 market by putting premium gear directly in the hands of consumers.”

Snapchat Gets 10 Billion Daily Video Views

We knew Snapchat has had questionable popularity lately, but a new report from Bloomberg suggests that its video traffic has skyrocketed higher than we could have imagined.

The social media channel reports that users are watching 10 billion videos a day, a rise from the eight billion that was reported in February. Snapchat recently reported this news to its investors, confirming its continued success in the social market.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, since a large number of users like to log in and create Stories for people to see, using a combination of quick video snippets and pictures to show the highlights of their day. A tremendous amount of these video views come from this feature alone.

Snapchat stated in its report that the app isn’t just about consuming content, but also creating and broadcasting more of it. Users have the option to immediately share videos with friends, choose where it disappears after viewing, or whether it should go into a Snapchat Story, which can be viewed by a wide audience for 24 hours.

Last February, CEO and founder Evan Spiegel confirmed that the app had more than 100 million daily users, who spent an average of 25 to 30 minutes a day using it, and 60 percent of them were creating custom Stories with photos and videos.

Although Facebook has similar numbers with its growing video business, keep in mind that Snapchat has a much smaller user base at the moment. In addition, Facebook measures its video based on auto-play and views counted after three seconds of viewing time, whereas Snapchat gauges its numbers based on when users start Snaps.

Regardless, these numbers continue to show Snapchat’s immense growth in the social media field, and it isn’t done yet.

The Nintendo NX Marketing Impact On 2016

Nintendo’s announcement that its new console, currently codenamed the NX, will launch globally in March of 2017 has huge implications for game marketers this Christmas. Of course, there’s also a major impact on Nintendo as well. The landscape of the console market for the next couple of years is beginning to come into focus, and this upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) should tell us a great deal about the console game market’s future.

Nintendo’s statement about the NX was brief: “For our dedicated video game platform business, Nintendo is currently developing a gaming platform codenamed “NX” with a brand new concept. NX will be launched in March 2017 globally.” Additionally, Nintendo confirmed that the new Zelda title already announced for the Wii U would be a launch title for the NX, and that the NX would not be shown at E3 in June. Nintendo did, however, announce its next two mobile games in development are based on the Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem brands, but no time frame was given.

The Current State Of Nintendo

Nintendo’s earnings report for the year just ended revealed that the company’s revenues continued to slide, down by over 8 percent for FY2015 to $4.5 billion, with profits down 60 percent to $149 million. Nintendo’s projection for FY2016, which ends up in March 2017, showed continuing decline in revenue by about 1 percent, though projecting profits improve by 36 percent. The NX system will ship too late in FY2016 to affect the revenue or profit numbers, just days before the end of the fiscal year.

The Wii U is clearly coming to a halt—Nintendo sold 3.26 million in FY2015, and projects sales of only 800,000 in FY2016. Nintendo did have good sales with Splatoon (4.27 million units) and Super Mario Maker (3.52 million units), impressive on an installed base of only 12.8 million Wii U consoles. Nintendo needs to get a much larger installed base for the NX, so that the company can get back to selling massive amounts of its hit software.Mario and Luigi

The Marketing Implications For Nintendo

Nintendo has been pretty clear about its marketing intentions for the rest of 2016, albeit indirectly. With no NX at E3, the focus of the June show for Nintendo will be its upcoming Wii U and 3DS titles. That is essentially what the company will be selling for the rest of this year. We can also infer from Nintendo’s financial projections for the remainder of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017 that the company doesn’t plan an extensive marketing spend—it’s projecting flat sales but a 36 percent improvement in profits, which means that some spending is going to be cut back. With a new console on the way, you can bet that cutback won’t be in hardware or software development. That leaves general overhead, but the easiest target is probably the marketing budget.

Cutting the marketing budget back makes sense with a new console launch coming after the holiday season. It’s better to conserve those funds for a better launch campaign when you can expect to sell much more important new hardware and oodles of profitable software to go with it. The bottom line is this: Don’t expect any significant marketing spend from Nintendo for the rest of this year.

One last question needs to be addressed: Why is Nintendo launching the NX in March, of all times? Why not for the holiday season in 2016, or the holiday season in 2017? While Nintendo isn’t likely to explain, it’s easy to come up with some likely reasons. Certainly a holiday launch is the most desirable time, which is why nearly every major console from every manufacturer has launched then. So Nintendo didn’t choose March because it was the best time—the company felt it had to.

Several reasons come to mind. One is to allow more time for software to be ready for launch, both from Nintendo and from third-parties. Nintendo saw very clearly what a lack of strong software at launch did to the Wii U; avoiding that problem is a good reason to miss the holiday season. Another is that there are often production issues with the latest chips (likely to be in the NX), limiting supply—providing more time allows more inventory to be built, especially important since Nintendo stated it wants to launch the NX globally in March 2017. That means providing an adequate supply in Japan, North America, and Europe. While shortages that last a week or two can be tolerated, months-long shortages will drive buyers to the numerous other alternatives for spending their gaming dollars.

Why not just move the NX launch to holiday 2017? That would mean another year of terrible sales for Nintendo. The company wants to get back to ‘Nintendo-like’ profits sooner rather than later, and waiting another six months just gives more time for the market to move past whatever you are planning. So March 2017 is the NX launch date.

What features will the NX have? What will be its price? While those are interesting questions, they are not as critical to the success of the NX as the software. Nintendo has to find a way to release strong NX titles that use iconic Nintendo brands both at launch and on a regular basis thereafter—every month or two would be best, but no more than three months apart. Reworking old titles is fine if they are strong ones, but Nintendo has to provide a steady stream of first-party software. Third-party support is all well and good, but it’s no substitute for Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong, Smash Bros. and others.

The reality is there are millions of Nintendo fans who would plunk down several hundred dollars to play an awesome-looking new Zelda title, with regular Nintendo titles to follow. Yes, expanding the user base beyond the hardcore Nintendo fans will to some extent depend on price points, features, and third-party support. But without software, a console is a very expensive doorstop. Hopefully the NX will have some great features, including being easy to program for, and a reasonable price. But even with a high price and not-really-unique features the NX will sell if it delivers premium Nintendo experiences.


Massive Marketing Implications For Gaming

Knowing that Nintendo is launching the NX in March 2017 has important strategic implications for marketers of console game products. Yes, this holiday season will belong to Microsoft and Sony, marketing the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4—plus, perhaps, any new versions of those consoles that may be introduced. Sony, for sure, will be putting a lot of effort into marketing the PlayStation VR as well.

Console game publishers will be focused on Xbox and PlayStation versions of their games, even if they are planning to do versions for the NX. Why have consumers put off purchases until next year? Better to go along with whatever marketing Nintendo is planning for the NX launch than to spend money on NX software marketing months in advance.

What’s important to realize is that Nintendo’s decision means that the first six months of 2017, and likely E3 2017 as well, will be largely consumed by the NX, NX software, and its relative success or lack thereof. Gaming media will be all over this story, and it will be harder for other brands to get traction in that time period. Releasing some DLC in February 2017 for that new console game you shipped in November 2016? Good luck getting more than a cursory notice on major game web sites, unless you’ve planned well in advance.

Console game marketers are advised to take this into consideration for holiday 2016 marketing plans. Get those players locked into your brands and upcoming content before their attention is diverted by the tsunami of Nintendo PR that will rise up in 2017. If you have something planned for the first half of 2017, figure out how you’re going to get the attention you want when Nintendo stories will be exerting a magnetic attraction. If you’ve got something connecting to the NX, take full advantage of it. This is a major challenge and opportunity that only comes along every few years, so make the most of it.

Great America’s ‘Mass Effect’ Attraction Opens Next Month

Electronic Arts has been looking to promote its franchises in innovative and exciting ways, and now sci-fi fans can look forward to the greatest attraction to date.

After partnering with Cedar Fair Entertainment to introduce the Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare: 3Z Arena in Charlotte, NC earlier this month, the two are ready to launch in even bigger attraction at California’s Great America park in Santa Clara, and this one is built around the much-loved science fiction series Mass Effect.

The Mass Effect: New Earth 4D holographic theater experience is set to open on May 18, and promises to immerse fans into the video game franchise like never before. Using characters, events and environments taken from best-selling games like Mass Effect 3, the ride promises an innovative experience that takes attendees on a thrill ride that includes wind, water and “poking” effects along with live performances to make them feel like they’re in the reaches of space.

Christian Dieckmann, corporate vice president of strategic growth at Cedar Fair Entertainment, (speaking with Fortune) explained how vital it was that the nature of the ride matches with the mantra of the series. “It’s very important that we create an attraction that fits seamlessly in the world of Mass Effect, while including the elements we know are critical to making a good amusement park experience,” he noted. “We want to ensure that dedicated fans and park-goers being introduced to the franchise alike walk away thrilled and excited.”

The ride utilizes a custom-built 60-foot 3D LED screen to make the theater experience truly immersive. “3D LED is like a live VR experience,” said 3D Live co-founder and CEO Nathan Huber, in charge of the technology. “We have a performer (playing the captain of the ship) interacting on stage with the holographic screen. The 80-seat theater feels like you’re in a spaceship thanks to motion seats with wind, water, leg pokers and neck ticklers with 80-channel atmospheric surround sound arrays. It’s a full sensory bombardment.”

The Mass Effect amusement park attraction is timed perfectly to promote the video game series, as a new chapter, Mass Effect: Andromeda, is currently in development and is expected to arrive sometime next year. EA intends to give the game primary focus at its EA Play presentation during E3 week in June.

The Marketing Power Of DLC

Downloadable content, or DLC, is almost a standard part of major game releases these days. You’ll find DLC with console games, PC games and even mobile games—though mobile games will often provide new content as part of a game update, rather than making it a separate item to download (and pay for separately). This is an enormous change from how games were previously marketed. Games were complete in and of themselves, and while sequels to hit games were expected, add-on content was not.

Now that DLC is a standard part of the product, it’s become more than just another project for product development to work on—DLC is a marketing opportunity, and developed properly it can be a powerful marketing tool.

Marketers have been learning how to take advantage of DLC’s power for some years now, and the results are impressive. Yet far too many still don’t take full advantage of this gaming trend. Even more important, there’s plenty of innovation left in the field of DLC, both in marketing and in game design, so this is an area that can reward study by marketers.

What Is DLC?

DLC can come in many flavors and types, and is often discussed in different terms depending on the nature of the content and the platform. In-app purchases are often DLC, but not always. DLC can be skins, maps, characters, weapons, scenarios, game modes or even entirely new games built using the same game engine. Adding to the complexity is the fact that DLC can be found in many different sizes, from a relatively small piece of art to a complex, multi-gigabyte game mode or entirely new game built on the core game’s engine. DLC can be cheap, fast and easy to develop in terms of production, or it can be an enormous effort that can take more than a year. With the variation in development cost and time, it follows that DLC can be priced anywhere from free to $20 or more.

There are certain patterns to DLC and what can be found in games, and this is normally similar within games of a particular genre on a particular platform. Console first-person-shooters for instance, tend to have DLC that is centered around new maps, and often priced at around $10 or $15 for a set of maps (often bundled with a new character class, weapons, scenarios, or even a new game mode). Console games have fallen into a pattern of announcing DLC plans with the launch of the game, and offering a “season pass” to all of the game’s DLC for the next year, usually at a discount. A typical offering might be a $60 core game and then four $15 DLC releases over the next year, with a season pass discounted to $40 or $50.

PC games follow different patterns. World of Warcraft, for instance, has been delivering major expansion packs (the term they use for their DLC) about every 18 months or so, which is not unreasonable given the huge amount of work that goes into each one. The next expansion, Legion, is $49.99, and there’s a Collector’s Edition for $89.99 as well. Both include new areas, a new character class, and many changes to the game. When you look at games like League of Legends though, you’ll find many inexpensive skins (collections of art and animation) to buy for prices ranging from a few dollars to nearly $25, while champions can be had for less than $7 for the most part.

Mobile games often have continually added new content, as well as content that can be purchased within the game. Often the major game purchases for mobile games are not content per se, but added game time.

The Dangers Of DLC

While DLC is a mainstay of gaming, and usually a major profit contributor, there are dangers involved. First of all, the DLC provided must not cause an imbalance in the game (this can be fatal to a game’s long-term viability!), and it must provide a good value. Trying to sell simple artwork changes for $10 will leave your players feeling abused and unlikely to buy anything from you in the future.

Fragmenting your user base is also a concern for multiplayer games in situations where the available pool of players may be diminished because of DLC. If only the players who have a particular map pack are available in a multiplayer selection round, this can reduce the number of matches available enough to lengthen the wait time for a match to annoying levels. Some games avoid this by making all maps available to everyone, and instead selling different types of DLC that don’t impact the play experience.

One final danger to be aware of is an overabundance of choice. A store with hundreds of choices of things to buy may baffle players, especially newer ones who don’t know enough about the game to make good choices. Possible solutions are to carefully organize the store, provide detailed explanations of why someone might want a particular piece of content, or just making some content available only for a limited period of time. (You can always bring it back later for a special event.)

DLC Marketing Done Right

What does DLC do for marketing? A tremendous amount. First of all, DLC is another reason for you to communicate with the players. The best DLC for marketers is exciting and unusual, and perhaps topical so it’s connected to the events of the day. We often see DLC connected with holidays, for instance, as games add in content based around Halloween or Christmas or other recognizable dates.

Going a step further is Rocket League, with its recent release of Hoops mode—it’s a new game, essentially, based around basketball instead of soccer. This is timed for the NBA playoffs and the high point of the basketball season, getting lots of attention.

Another fine example is what League of Legends has done with its steady stream of new skins and champions. Riot Games regularly builds videos around these new items, and teases them ahead of time—using the DLC to build renewed interest in the game. The DJ Sona skin, for instance, was so beautifully done that it generated immense interest and comment among League fans, and plenty of media coverage as well.

The Future Of DLC And Marketing

We’ve seen how DLC can generate renewed engagement with a game’s fan base, and provide a great opportunity for marketing to connect with players. There’s certainly room to innovate with pricing and timing, though. Could we see subscription pricing for DLC that can be generated regularly and reliably? How about more experimentation with limited availability? Sales? Or working the fine line of the random element, as we already see with games like Hearthstone where you buy packs of cards not knowing exactly what you’ll get? Or the Japanese favorite “gachapon” technique where you try to collect sets of items through a random mechanism (be wary of that one, though, as it can easily be abused).

Marketers should be involved with the creation of DLC, perhaps even coming up with the ideas for some DLC. The extension of a game world is something that, done correctly, means the game can live for years, generating revenue regularly. World of Warcraft has made billions of dollars, and the regular introduction of DLC is the primary reason for the game’s longevity and profitability. Remember that as you plan for the next piece of DLC—the marketer’s friend.

Sony ‘Creatives’ Video Series Markets Studio To Fans And Recruits

Sony Interactive Entertainment has released a series of recruitment videos for its Santa Monica, California studio that manages to inspire both potential recruits and video game fans alike. The four-part video series titled, Santa Monica Studio Creatives takes viewers behind the scenes with the message, “Quality is everything, and creativity rules.”

[a]listdaily spoke with Santa Monica Studio head, Shannon Studstill about how creating a recruitment video became a passion project that hopes to inspire confidence in both potential job applicants and fans looking forward to the next game. To make the latest PlayStation 4 project a reality, Santa Monica Studio is “hiring in a major way.”

“Looking for the best talent can be a bit daunting,” said Studstill. “That’s why we wanted to do something profound to cut through the noise. A job and salary on paper may attract someone, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the people. We believe it’s the company culture that will win the day. That’s how Santa Monica Studio Creatives was born.”

Each of the four videos focuses on a member of the team from art to programming to management, detailing the journey of how they came to work at the game studio. “Raf, Bart, Rich and Shannon all unearthed incredible stories about what this studio means to them,” added Studstill, “It’s our hope these stories connect with people who want to join our team.”

Although promoting company culture is important to any recruiting effort, Santa Monica Studio Creatives highlights the company’s diversity—from personality to country of origin.

“When we started exploring ideas for the series,” Studstill explained, “We wanted to shine a light on the fact that all of our team members have an interesting story to tell. As a studio, we greatly value different perspectives, so we tried to convey that through the team members’ stories, which include their individual life experiences, different upbringings and motivations for their career paths. We are constantly looking for ways to celebrate our differences, and we encourage the sharing of ideas at every level. Our diversity is one of the things that makes our creative culture so special.”

While Shannon Studstill calls their marketing campaign “a resounding success thus far,” she was delighted to learn that their efforts touched viewers at a more personal level. “The response to the series thus far has been heartwarming and uplifting,” she told us. “It has allowed us to connect with our various audiences.”

Those audiences range from game development hopefuls to YouTube users demanding God of War 4. We asked Studstill what kind of message they want to convey to everyone who watches the videos. “We hope that anyone who watches the series comes away with a true sense of the studio and our philosophy: Quality is everything, and creativity rules. In short, we like to have fun creating fun!”

“The player experience is what matters most and, as developers, we are constantly faced with creative decisions that impact our fans. There is something to be said for how carefully we select only the most passionate, talented and inspiring people to make those decisions. We hope that builds confidence in our products and, ultimately, in our brand.” – Shannon Studstill

As for marketing Sony’s brand within the company, Studstill hopes that their video series will have a similar, positive impact on existing development teams.

“While the themes of the videos (imagination, connection and teamwork) won’t come as a surprise to anyone in our group,” she told us, “There is a clear message that we all bring something unique to the table. Hopefully, this also reminds our team that inspiration has a ripple effect. In watching these stories about the people they collaborate with on a daily basis, it might make them reflect on their own strengths, their approach to work and their ability to inspire others. There is definitely a sense of pride here. Watching the PlayStation Santa Monica Studio Creatives series is a reminder that we are all part of the same family and working toward a common goal.”

To learn more about PlayStation’s Santa Monica Studio, please visit their site at

‘Stage Presence’ Playfully Brings Your Worst Nightmare To Life In VR

TinyBuild started as an independent game developer that created No Time To Explain, but has since grown into a publisher that helps other startup developers succeed. It has released a multitude of games with a unique sense of humor for PC and mobile, including Punch Club (which sold over 300,000 copies when it released last month), a shooter called Lovely Planet, and a furniture eating simulator called Not the Robots. As a sign of the company’s growth, TinyBuild hosted “Four-nification Week” last January, where it announced a new game every 24 hours—with four titles in total.

Then there’s SpeedRunners (a kind of superhero-themed on-foot racing game with power-ups and weapons), which reached $1 million in sales when it hit Early Access in 2013, and continued to build on that success after it officially released earlier this month. Promotion for games like SpeedRunners relied heavily on Twitch streaming and partnering with popular YouTube broadcasters to help get the word out about the game—all in addition to making some fantastic animated gifs.

Now the company is preparing to enter into virtual reality gaming with Stage Presence, which was announced live from the Twitch stage at PAX East over the weekend, and attendees were the first to give the game a try. The game, which is expected to release for Oculus Rift and PC this summer, simulates one of the worst possible scenarios a musician can end up in, and players must use their voices to entertain a restless crowd that’s prone to throwing items and heckling the player.

Mike Rose, producer for Stage Presence, talks to [a]listdaily about promoting TinyBuild’s first VR game and how to overcome stage fright.

Mike RoseWhat is Stage Presence about and how does it work?

Stage Presence is essentially about the ultimate virtual stage fright experience. You’re on stage playing a gig, and it’s all going great… then the electricity on stage blows, and the only equipment now working is your microphone. You then have to keep the crowd happy for a few minutes with just the power of your voice, using that microphone. The game has full VR support, so you really feel like you’ve been dropped in the deep end.

How does Stage Presence differ from current music and rhythm games?

Stage Presence honestly isn’t really comparable to any music game out there. You can sing, rap, shout, talk or rile up the crowd any way you want, but the crowd is going to constantly want something different from you each time you play. Working out exactly what that is is part of the challenge.

How will Twitch be integrated into the VR game?

There’s tons of Twitch integration in there, and plenty more on the way. The Twitch chat will appear as a lyrics sheet in front of you, and the chat will be able to type in commands to take over people in the crowd and throw bottles of piss at you. There’s plenty of stupid Twitch stuff in there, as you’d expect from a TinyBuild game.

What convinced TinyBuild to offer Stage Presence as its first VR game?

TinyBuild has been experimenting in-house with VR for a while now, so when we saw Stage Presence, signing the game was a no-brainer. The feeling of helplessness you get from the experience is super immersive, and everything we were looking for in a first VR experience from our company.

How will you be getting the word out about Stage Presence?

In terms of getting the word out, I’m sure you’re aware of the crazy stuff we come up with when it comes to marketing our games. Much of the shouting about the game will revolve around Twitch, gifs of people playing, and general silliness. It’s worked for us for a long time, so I’m sure it’ll work wonders here too. We’ve also been in talks with Oculus about features on its storefront, so that will no doubt be useful too.

What are the challenges in promoting an independently developed game for emerging technology like VR?

Obviously, when it comes to VR games, it’s quite a niche right now. The hope is that when PlayStation VR comes out, the VR space will really go mainstream and be adopted by as many people as possible. Fortunately, Stage Presence is perfectly playable without VR, although it does lose some of its edge, as you might expect.

Has any consideration been given to developing Stage Presence for mobile VR?

We haven’t currently explored mobile VR, but it’s definitely a possibility once the game has been released for PC.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Looks At The Evolution Of ESports

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) media and communications leader for entertainment, Deborah Bothun, spoke about the potential of growth in eSports earlier this month, and it looks like the audit and financial consulting network has moved from interest to analysis. The company recently published a report on competitive gaming in the latest addition to its Consumer Intelligence Series, The Burgeoning Evolution of eSports: From the Fringes To Front and Center.

In the report, PwC explains who the eSports consumer really is, in addition to information related to competition, and the devices used for watching tournaments and other events. To start, the company touched on awareness of eSports, with 57 percent of “self-identified hardcore gamers” marking the highest out of all audiences, with 34 percent of fans between the ages of 18 and 24 years old.

From there, PwC discussed the growth of eSports into a much bigger medium, from back in August 2013, when the League of Legends finals sold out L.A.’s Staples Center with more than 10,000 fans, to earlier this year, when ESPN and Yahoo individually launched eSports initiatives. It also made note of how the U.S. is leading the overall global market with a 38 percent share of overall revenues, and how the overall market will hit $463 million this year–a 43 percent increase from the previous year.

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PwC claims that first-person shooters are the most watched genre, regardless of age, gender or type of gamer, coming in at 63 percent compared to 37 percent for MOBA games, 36 percent for fighting games (like Street Fighter V) and 28 percent for MMORPG’s. However, it should be noted that many of the report’s findings are based on a 757-respondent survey where 56 percent of the participants were male and 44 percent were female.

PwC also pointed out other factors in the report, including:

  • ESport consumers spend the most overall, around $309 on a monthly basis compared to $245 of general respondents and $163 for non-eSports consumers.
  • ESports’ popularity is likely to continue in the years ahead, as most consumers are likely to either increase or maintain their current viewership, by 83 percent and participation, at 72 percent, in the next coming year.
  • Some eSports players aren’t fond of tournament-style play at events, as 70 percent of them feel that it’s best to compete from home, as opposed to taking on opponents in person or during competitions.
  • When it comes to viewing these events, 57 percent of those polled have watched some form of competition either on a laptop or desktop computer. However, more mobile services are becoming available, so mobile device popularity could pick up over the next few years. They currently stand at 26 percent for smartphones and 24 percent for tablets.
  • Viewership continues to be on the rise, with the average consumer watching 19 days of eSports competition a year, and self-identified hardcore gamers tuning in for an average of 32 days a year.

PwC’s eSports report serves as a short introduction to the eSports demographic, but more findings should continue to develop as the industry evolves. As Deborah Bothun stated, “ESports is only getting bigger, and with such growth comes investment opportunities for brands and marketers who hope to capitalize on the success. One does not have to be a gaming company to get in on the action. Viewers can be reached beyond traditional advertising and sponsorships such as merchandising, mobile apps that provide data such as scores and stats, or fantasy betting. Other examples to start with include branded uniforms, branded hydration, and branded transportation.”



Cracker Jack Replacing Toys With Digital Game Codes

Remember when you were a kid and dug into your first box of Cracker Jack? Some were excited to root through the whole box just to find the prize inside, whether it was a spinning top, decoder ring or other goodies. Well, it looks like times are changing.

PepsiCo (which owns the Cracker Jack brand through the Frito-Lay division) announced in a press release that the snack food, initially introduced in 1896, will replace the traditional toy prizes with “mobile digital experiences,” using codes that enable users to download baseball-style games through the Blippar app.


The promotion is part of a tie-in with the current baseball season, in the hopes of getting more fans to join in on the fun. “The Cracker Jack Prize Inside has been as much a part of the nostalgia and love for the brand as the unforgettable combination of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts,” said Haston Lewis, senior director of marketing for Frito-Lay. “The New Prize Inside allows families to enjoy their favorite baseball moments through a new one-of-a-kind mobile experience, leveraging digital technology to bring the iconic Prize Inside to life.”


Players simply need to find a slip inside, which has instructions on how to download the free Blippar app to their mobile device, and redeem the code to play a number of baseball-inspired mini-games. Four games in all will be available through the promotion, including Dot Dash, Dance Cam, Get Carded and Baseball Star.

A redesign of the product’s cover will also be part of the promotion.

“We are a brand that authentically reminds people of simpler times, childhood memories and family experiences,” said Lewis. “With this redesign and new mobile game experience, the Cracker Jack brand embraces a modernized, young-at-heart attitude while keeping that treasured feeling of childhood wistfulness.”