4 Execs Explain Why ESports Is At The Nexus Of Consumer Trends

The [a]list summit was packed with meaningful presentations, and one of them centered around the how the relationship between gamers and brands has shifted from one of consumer and creator to mutual collaboration, with a growing emphasis on creating entertainment value together with the gamers.

Michael Cai, Interpret’s senior vice president of research for video games and technology, moderated a discussion Wednesday at the W Hotel in Seattle on how publishers and brands are becoming facilitators of the consumer desire to create and produce.

Andy Swanson, Twitch’s vice president of eSports:

“You can’t say ‘I want to market to eSports.’ You have to be more focused. What is the demographic you want to reach? What level of penetration do you want to have? You have to understand the content. You’re going to want to look for titles and communities that are similar.

“Last year we saw the non-gaming brands standing around the pool, dipping their toes, wondering ‘who’s going to do the cannonball?’

“Brands need to understand the eSports calendar, just as they would with major sports.

“Endemic brands have really powered eSports.

“ESports broadcasts are a lot like poker. It took off two years ago. The eSports industry allows for viewers to see it from another perspective.

“Creating content that’s easily engaging is going to mature.

“The gold rush for games is coming from a publisher’s perspective.

Dan Ciccone, rEvXP’s managing director and agent for OpTic Gaming:

“Don’t get hung up with a particular game. It’s the ‘typical geek culture’ aspect and lifestyle that’s appealing. Some of it is stereotypical, but their social lifestyle revolves around it. But don’t get too hung up on it.

“If you want to understand what the mobile future of eSports will be, download Vainglory or Clash Royale.

“The eSports audience is already there. … It was not a real surprise when Pepsi got involved in the space. 2016 is very transformative because mainstream media is turning it to the limelight.

“ESports has provided a creative opportunity to take a risk. Turtle Wax is a great example … There’s definitely a secret sauce.

“Brands need to bring value into the space.

Rahul Sood, CEO of UNIKRN:

“Imagine watching Russell Wilson practice for six hours, and then go and practice based on what you were just watching. That’s what gamers are doing at home nowadays.

“Brands have to be creative on how to leverage social as a platform. You have to get in front of this audience in a relevant way that is authentic because the gamers are very fickle.

“The audience loves, eats and sleeps this thing day and night.

“There’s no better way to learn eSports than from your kids.

“With League of Legends, Riot Games is like the Ferrari in the space.

“You have to be authentic and relevant in the space. Brands have to think out of the box and not attach media ROI.

“One of the biggest challenges in eSports is underground, unregulated gambling where kids can gamble their virtual currency (real money), and they stream it, too. It needs to be regulated. Our eyes and ears need to be out for this. It shouldn’t be happening.

Matt West, Ayzenberg’s director of content strategy:

“How do I understand what’s happening on the screen with broadcasts? The NFL does a great job of walking you through everything on-screen. ESports needs to create understanding and widen out the opportunity to experience growth. Can you create context? That’s a huge opportunity right now.

“Everyone is going to have a different view of what their KPI and ROI is.

“ESports is trying to align everyone’s interests, and provide a lot of context.

“Mobile eSports is catching up. The technology is definitely there.

“How do we reach bigger people? Investment, structure, organization and align everything.

“Maybe you shouldn’t be there at all. Maybe it’s the not space for you.

[a]listdaily Weekly: Bots Overtake Facebook And Brands Take ESports Seriously

With F8 last week, Facebook got marketers everywhere to wonder what bots could do for their business. Still a relatively new technology, the possibilities with branded one-to-one communication with consumers are promising.

We tackled the subject of bots this week as well as pet influencers and brands embracing the stoner image. You won’t want to miss this installment of [a]listdaily Weekly.

Finding Brand Soulmates Through Predictive Analytics

Dr. Galen Buckwalter is the data scientist who helped develop services such as eHarmony and Payoff.com, and is the scientific advisor to [a]insights. As it turns out, predictive analytics, similar to the ones that help singles find their perfect match, can help brands find their soulmates. Unfortunately, Dr. Buckwalter was unable to attend the [a]list summit this year, but his co-host was able to [a]insights CTO Kai Mildenberger, was able to step-in and explain how sifting through a mountain of data to find a brand soulmate is a lot like finding love.

audience targeting

Mildenberger begins his presentation by expressing how targeting is hard. “The potential audience size is amazing, and finding an audience and what works for your brand—out there in this vast sea—is hard, especially when you’re looking for an exact match, or hyper-target.”

Gone are the days when you could look up a Nielsen demographic profile to find the suburban mother with a college education, has two kids and owns a home. It’s not so easy in the world of mass globalized markets, especially when you add in millennials and the digital natives that are following them, who are not so easily profiled.

But Mildenberger also notes that there is a big bright side: we live in a world of sharing. “People are sharing at an incredible clip,” he states, and it is being done directly, freely and publically on a large scale with peers, family and friends. “They’re creating original and authentic content at a massive clip, but where is all of that data going? They’re going into social networks.” As a result, social networks are creating a massive ocean of data.

social network aggregators


But now the problem is going sorting through that ocean, which would take a team decades. Mildenberger then presented the history of computers of artificial intelligence, which went from predicting where nuclear strikes would fall to driving cars. However, AI hasn’t had an easy road. In 2004, no autonomous car could complete the Darpa Challenge. Then Mildenberger showcased videos from last year of humanoid robots that all had major mobility issues. Processing technology had reached a point of stagnation, and was no longer compliant with Moore’s Law.

But something magical happened that nobody expected. “The best things come from serendipity and left field,” Mildenberger explained. Powerful graphics cards, like Nvidia’s Titan Z, saved Silicon Valley by ushering in a new era. It was these high-end graphics cards that broke through the ceiling by enabling a massive amount of data processing.

Mildenberger exclaimed, “We thank all of you gamers for pushing the hardware. Without gamers, this would not have happened.”

Nvidia Algorithm


Algorithms, like the one shown on the right side, of Mildenberger illustration, can now be run against massive amounts of data, which is only possible because of the powerful graphics processor. Progress is now happening so fast, that we don’t even have a name for the era. Cars can now effectively drive themselves on highways and humanoid robots can walk across a variety of uneven surfaces while performing tasks.

That technology makes predictive analytics, at the scale brands want, possible. “Now we can go through that massive data, aggregated through social networks, to find an audience,” said Mildenberger, and the technology can even go one better. “We can find a voice, creator or influencer inside of that audience that is a perfect match for the goals, ideals and feel of your brand.”

The key is in psychometrics, and there are currently two schools of thought on the influencer tech side. “Most of the market is going the Tinder route,” Mildenberger explains, “which is transaction and dual-side market based.” It’s really quick with no curation. The other side (which Dr. Buckwalter is on) spends the extra time, effort and brain power to go the eHarmony route, because they think “your brand is way too valuable for a bad one-night stand.”

Using the data to find out who these people are and how they work is really important. The presentation concluded with a quote from Dr. Buckwalter, which sums up the long-term goal of the eHarmony approach.

“In this age of personalization, people want the equivalent of their neighborhood bar—where they can walk in and not just ask the bartender for the regular, but can ask the bartender to surprise them and find the result delightful.”

Brand Soulmates

Can Drone Racing Turn Into The New NASCAR?

Is drone racing the next big sport? Fresh off striking a multi-year, international media distribution deal with ESPN last week, Dr. Scot Refsland came to [a]list summit at the W Hotel in Seattle on Wednesday thinking it will be.

Refsland, chairman of the International Drone Racing Association who was instrumental in signing the deal, has caught lightning in a bottle in what may be the next newest sport—a mixed, multi-reality one that combines pilots competing head-to-head with small flying drones while wearing first-person-view goggles.

“Drone racing is the fastest sport and technology I’ve ever seen,” Refsland said. “It’s an intense activity. You have to (be there mentally), or else you’re going to crash. … Anybody can fly a drone, and be a superhero. You don’t have to be six-feet tall. I’m curious to see where the next celebrity will come out of.”

The fast-growing extreme sport has been around as a semi-professional one for the last two years—it’s currently on a quest to become America’s next big sport. Having celebrity backers like Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and his $1 million investment into the space doesn’t hurt, either. Drone racing’s perception has largely been shaped by social media, as it went from backyard to major broadcast. In short order, however, ESPN quickly bought in and is ready to unleash it a wider audience. The IDRA will be producing the content for ESPN, which will debut on ESPN with the U.S. National Drone Racing Championships beginning August 5 in New York.

Refsland’s believes he’s landed at a new threshold of what a sport can do and also sees a future in the sport where the audience can impact the race. As for his goals, when he first dived into the space, he had two of them: Getting a deal done with ESPN, and Red Bull. His work is halfway done on that front.

“It leverages all of the new technologies really well,” said Refsland. “We’re at a new threshold of what a sport can do.”

Getting To The Heart Of Compelling Social Media Content

Keeping up with social media developments while creating compelling content for brands requires a fast-moving strategy. To help marketers engage with social media platforms, Ayzenberg’s SVP of Social and Digital Media, Rebecca Markarian, sat down with Dennis Todisco, head of digital creator community for Twitter’s Niche platform—which provides social analytics and for creators on a variety of social channels and helps them monetize content—at the [a]list summit presentation titled, “How To Be Creative at the Speed of Conversation.” In it, Todisco offers valuable advice and insight to help brands achieve superior results from their social media campaigns.

In the talk, Markarian asks how brands can move at a fast enough pace to stay relevant with ever-changing trends. Todisco explains that creators are on top of trends, and they know what’s up. A creator won’t make a “Damn, Daniel” video right now. At the same time, they’re also making trends themselves. One example is how a creator recorded a video of himself playing a song while smiling, which turned into a huge trend. Another successful campaign is a sitcom that was put on Snapchat to promote Starbucks Rewards.

But how do companies work with creators so that they don’t damage the brand, or be seen as off-brand? Todisco states that, “when you think of creators as transactional, that’s when you’re not going to get good results.” Niche works with creators as partners, and is a creators-first platform. That vision is explained to brand partners, and many of them are very forward-thinking, so they also regard creators as partners.

As an example, Todisco refers to an Amazon campaign around the Super Bowl and Final Four, where clients were actually in the field, working with creators on the ground, to make sure the content was on-brand but also authentic to the creator. This was described as, “moving at the speed of real-time,” without emails or texts back-and-forth, or having a playbook. “Being in the field makes a world of difference, and the content speaks for itself.”

Markarian also asked about what the best strategy was for engaging with a global audience. Was it better to pick one big global influencer with pull across all channels, or to try to go more micro, creating pockets that are relevant to different cultures?

“The key to success is creating content that’s language agnostic, and creating content that symbolic and universally understood,” said Todisco. As an example, he cited how Coca-Cola did a big campaign in Brazil, and one creator of that content was based out of Whales and the other Minnesota. The content was iconic, since they were both artists, and one of them painted something while the other did an amazing stop-motion piece.

Finally, following the adage of having to listen, create and share—with the key part being listening, and following creators as they make content and trends—Todisco was asked to list three creators to keep a close eye on.

His picks were:

Zack King, who is probably the top magician social media right now, and his campaign for the Comcast Xfinity X1 Box.

Robby Jayala, who did the Bend the Rules campaign for HP, which features a fun Vine where a person breaks a laptop by bending it backwards to turn it into a tablet.

And Clau Marra, who is  a stop-motion artist based out of Mexico. She made an amazing piece for Lancôme using different tones of make-up being applied to a person’s face.



Two Bit Circus Combines Physical And Digital Play For Consumers To Share

It’s Saturday night, and the quintessential question that proves to be the backbone of any thriving and coexisting relationship suddenly strikes: What should we do tonight?

There are the usual suspects of bars, restaurants, movies, video game arcades, and the like, but people ultimately want to have new, special and engaging experiences—and share them, too. That is the impetus of Two Bit Circus, a venture-backed circus that has a fine eye on old-school showbiz paired with contemporary immersive experiences.

“Consumers now want to have an experience unlike anything they’ve seen, or had before,” said Eric Gradman, co-founder and chief technology officer at Two Bit Circus. “They want new and novel experiences. And they want to have a social media takeaway to share with their friends.”

Gradman, a self-professed nerd who spent his ‘20s wearing every hat in a travelling circus, is now combining his creative juices to blend physical and digital play, the interactive artist told attendees at the [a]list summit at the W Hotel in Seattle on Wednesday.

With an eye toward searching for opportunities to share everywhere, Gradman and company came up with the social immersion game Story Room, which was introduced at the Dave & Busters the Great America in the Mall in San Jose, California. The in-real-life-installation brings six-to-eight players together to experience something that’s a TV episode, video game and interactive theater experience.

Two Bit Circus, which secured $6.5 in funding last year and has already been named as a top startup to watch, is also proving to be a full-service pipeline in virtual reality with haptic platforms via Steam Carnival.

Two Bit Circus has been instrumental for such VR showcases for IndyCar and showing users what it’s like to drive really fast, as well as 360-degree projects with the NBA and Samsung and the U.S. Olympics Committee’s “Road to Rio” series. They were also front-and-center at Super Bowl XXLV last year in Arizona by presenting over 30,000 attendees a full immersive experience of what its like for an NFL player to ply their trade on the gridiron.

“We’re building stuff no one has ever seen before,” said Gradman. “Bringing those experiences to people is my dream. We want to give them another choice.”

This marked the twelfth installment of the [a]list summit, which emphasized a frontline marketing approach. The summit featured keynotes from Paul Peterman, global marketing solutions for Facebook, Activision Blizzard Media Network senior vice president and MLG co-founder Mike Sepso, and Ruth Yomtoubian, director of AT&T Foundry.

Bridging The Gap Between Startup And Corporate Culture

The 12th edition of the [a]list summit is underway today from Seattle, where marketing experts come together to exemplify what it means to be Frontline. Keynote speakers included Ruth Yomtoubian, director at AT&T Foundry, which creates, implements and commercializes innovative projects for AT&T. Its network of innovation centers explore new technologies that help serve startups, developers and partners like Cisco, Ericsson and Intel.

Yomtoubian’s keynote explained AT&T’s approach to innovating an experiential and Frontline brand using the Foundry model. She recounted her history in bridging the gap between startup and corporate culture, starting with her time living in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where conditions forced business owners to become entrepreneurs as they rebuilt the city. Then she spoke about her first year at AT&T, where she managed a team of technicians in Oakland and Berkley, sometimes literally driving an F-150 around and learning to understand the dashboards and operational mindset.

She also states of AT&T has a 100-year legacy of transformation, but can sometimes fall into a trap of being unable to take risks, which is why the Foundry was formed. You have to “disrupt from the inside out,” and have the room to bring in new ideas and absorb them.

Innovation is continuously changing and covers a huge multitude of topics according to the times. Plus, there’s a lot of “faux innovation,” where something is just called innovative without looking any deeper into it. So, in order to handle the “innovation overload,” brands have to find ways to cut through the noise.

To this end, Yomtoubian offers nine brand indicators that the Foundry uses:

  • Open and flexible space: A team’s mindset is completely changed when everyone isn’t in cubicles and walled off. There’s a better exchange of ideas.
  • People: In a process referred to as Engineering Serendipity, you need the right people in an innovation center, because they represent your brand. They need to be collaborative and open, and most importantly,  they need to be able to handle ambiguity. Prospective team members are asked how have they been able to create value in an environment of ambiguity in interviews. They have to be willing to try new things.
  • Culture: A team’s culture has to be collaborative and experimental. We have to, as a culture support each other, in talking to startups and developing new technology. Partnerships are in the DNA of the Foundry.
  • Outreach and inreach strategy: The team must connect with stakeholders with an informed point of view. Startups may come knocking on our door, and the brand should be aware of the technology that’s available, or already in the works. Sometimes, companies just some perspective on what’s innovative. The Foundry has interacted with over 1,500 start-ups, VCs, developers and thought leaders to forge new partnerships. It has also spoken to Government representatives about the meaning of innovation and how they can support it. The goal is to create an entire digital experience, but people won’t know that if they’re not openly communicating it.
  • Approach to work: Yomtoubian discusses a “bias towards action.” For example, the Foundry was approached with an acoustic recognition technology that could potentially help with public safety. Instead of creating a budget and plan, the team decided to experiment with the technology first, then come up with applications. Long development cycle has a low tolerance for risk, so projects at the Foundry are generally comprised of 90-day sprints. Teams offer a one or two-page inception document and get to work on a proof of concept instead of doing long-term projects.
  • Projects as catalyst: Companies must ensure work can be absorbed back into the business. The On Ramp connected car platform explored what experiences consumers wanted from a connected car. They discovered new ways consumers wanted to use the connected car, then created a platform and APIs to support them. A similar approach was used for Cascade, messaging service that unified different phone numbers into one. It became a catalyst for other projects involving identities.
  • Engaging with startups: In order to bridge the gap between startups and corporate culture, the Foundry must act in the role of both translator and guide. They help coach startups on how to talk to AT&T executives, so that they don’t spend too much time talking about the wrong topic. At the same time, it helps startups understand how different organizations can help them.
  • Provide a platform: AT&T is showcased as a thought leader in the broader tech industry through an online video series called Futurecast. These are curated, intimate discussions with thought leaders designed to vet, debate and ultimately spark ideas that will help determine the course of technology. As a result, startups benefit in the “reflected glory” of the AT&T brand, where it becomes a platform for them to share their technologies and thoughts. These speakers end up becoming “brand ambassadors,” because they have their own following that they bring, which helps elevate AT&T’s brand as a future-thinking and innovative.
  • Partnerships: The Foundry seeks to find “alignment at the cusp of startups and corporate.” They do so by sponsoring discussions, like with the Futurecast platform, to find brand alignment. A prime example of this is with the exploration of drone technology, which is expressed through partnerships with companies like RocketSpace. RocketSpace helped create a futurist report to showcase AT&T’s point of view around drone technology.

Keynotes From Facebook, Activision Blizzard And AT&T Foundry

Can’t make it to Seattle on April 20 for the[a]list summit? You’ll be able to stream it live from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT on alistsummit.com.

Check out the full agenda of speakers for the upcoming [a]list Frontline Marketing summit. The event brings together marketers from around the country to spend the day to learn and mingle with other forward-thinking marketers and thought leaders from top companies and platforms as well as creators.

With new 60-second branded video on Instagram and Facebook’s now-notorious strength in mobile video, marketers will have to now contend a video-driven environment on social media. Facebook and Instagram’s head of industry for global marketing solutions, Paul Peterman, will be giving a keynote on adapting and creating content for the mobile experience.

Activision Blizzard Media Network senior vice president and MLG co-founder Mike Sepso will keynote the event to talk about how the company is building the ESPN of eSports. Sepso will give the audience a look into Activision Blizzard’s strategy to deliver a best-in-class fan experience across games, geographies and platforms, to further the development of their leading eSports ecosystem.

From creating premium content and leveraging its broadcast technology platform, to hiring ESPN’s former CEO, Steve Bornstein, Activision Blizzard Media Networks sees a future with giant stadiums, megastar players organized in big leagues, super-fans and big business. ESports represents marketing opportunities beyond traditional gaming.

Leading the charge of a whole different kind of streaming experience, YouNow’s Paula Batson, VP of PR and Communications at the platform, will be giving a presentation about what makes a successful streamer and how to grow a streaming audience.

YouTube sensation Connor Franta and his business partner Andrew Graham, senior talent manager at Big Frame, will participate in a fireside chat with Steven Lai, head of talent at ION. Their conversation will delve into the latest trends in creating authentic content together with brands. Franta, who boasts millions of subscribers across his two channels, is also becoming a savvy marketer in his own right by releasing his own line of coffee, Common Culture Coffee, as well as his record label, Heard Well.

The future is now and AI is already all around us—Cortana, Siri, Google Now, IBM Watson… Creative Director of the Halo Franchise, at 343 Industries/Microsoft, Frank O’Connor will be on hand to compare and contrast the fictional and real aspects of AI and how marketers and mankind should prepare.

Dr. Scot Refsland, founder and CEO of RotorSports, will join [a]listdaily‘s Jay Baage for a fireside chat about a new phenomenon which is exploding on the Internet, drone racing. Drone racing is a fast-growing extreme sport in which pilots compete head-to-head with small flying drones while wearing first-person-view goggles. It’s all fueled by a highly engaged social media community.

RotorSports produces the U.S. National Drone Racing Championships and the inaugural 2016 World Drone Racing Championships in Hawaii which attracted over 40 participating countries. Scot has a Ph.D. in virtual and augmented reality and is is particularly interested in the intersection of drone racing, eSports and mixed reality technologies. He serves as an advisor to the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA).

Shiraz Akmal is CEO and co-founder of SPACES, an independent virtual and mixed reality company formed by the members of DreamWorks Animation’s DreamLab, an innovation center that spent the last three years creating virtual reality experiences for major movie studios, technology and products. SPACES will share examples of how global brands are leveraging the magic of virtual reality to teleport their audiences anywhere.

Rebecca Markarian, Ayzenberg’s senior vice president of social and digital media, will hold a Q&A with Dennis Todisco, Twitter and Niche’s head of digital creator community. The two will discuss how brands can be creative at the speed of conversation on social media.

Joey Jones, Ayzenberg’s vice president and creative director, will address how successful stories have worked over the ages through various mediums in light of today’s advents in VR, AR and 360-degree cameras.

[a]insights’ data scientist and advisor, Dr. J. Galen Buckwalter, and chief technology officer Kai Mildenberger will be on hand to give attendees a look into the future of predictive marketing analytics through their work on developing Brand Soulmates to line up ideal influencers with premium brands.

Previously announced speakers include:

  • Jim Louderback, Entrepreneur and Business Strategist
  • Ruth Yomtoubian, Director, AT&T Foundry
  • Eric Gradman, CTO, Two Bit Circus
  • Chris Younger, Principal and Director of Strategy, Ayzenberg
  • Stu Pope, Principal and Creative Director, Ayzenberg
  • Vincent Juarez, Principal, Ayzenberg & ION
  • Robin Boytos, Director, Analytics, Ayzenberg & [a]insights
  • 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 alistsummit.com.

Scoring Big: Marketing Through Video Game Soundtracks

Video game soundtracks have come a long way since the ‘beeps and boops’ of the arcade era. As 8-bit graphics gave way to hyper-realistic worlds, electronic sound effects evolved into epic scores worthy of the big screen. A memorable soundtrack can be as powerful a marketing tool as compelling characters when it comes to the legacy of an intellectual property (IP), and publishers have recognized this.

Last month, Capcom debuted an international concert series called Capcom LIVE, which combines rock music with a live orchestra to celebrate the music from its many franchises. Meanwhile, developer diaries take fans behind-the-scenes of the next big game, and they not only showcase gameplay, but the soundtracks as well. For example, to promote the game Bloodborne, PlayStation shared video footage of various orchestral recording sessions.

As games earn respect as an interactive art form, video game composers are being recognized for their talents. In 2012, Austin Wintory’s score for Journey received the very first Grammy nomination for a video game, an honor that was finally won by Christopher Tin for Civilization IV. Studios are allocating larger budgets for renowned composers like Hans Zimmer (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2) and the soundtracks are being recorded internationally at studios usually reserved for film scores.

Even casual games like King Digital’s Candy Crush: Soda Saga are going big with soundtracks by recording them from the historic Abbey Road Studios in London:

Music publishers are finding video games to be a new and potentially successful way to market artists or albums. Utilized to evoke an emotional response, a strategically-placed song in a trailer or dramatic gameplay moment can be beneficial to both video game and music publisher. Microsoft has traditionally used this technique to promote its Gears of War franchise with songs like the Gary Jules cover of Mad World and most recently, the Disturbed cover of The Sound of Silence.

“In recent years, the video game industry has been the fastest growing area of the entertainment business,” writes Todd Brabec, ASCAP Executive VP of Membership, “And music is a major part of many of these games. For songwriters, recording artists (new or old), film and television composers, music publishers and record companies, the video game industry represents a new and valuable source of income.”

From the iconic, Gregorian chants of Halo to featuring the music of First Aid Kit in The Walking Dead: Michonne, music and video games are marketing their products in new and interesting ways. Prior to the release of Halo 5, Microsoft made the soundtrack by Kazuma Jinnouchi available for streaming on Soundcloud. Just after the launch of Bioshock, Irrational Games released the soundtrack for free to their fans so “you can take the world of Bioshock with you wherever you go.” With scores like these, it’s no wonder that publishers announce the availability of their game soundtracks on iTunes as enthusiastically as the games themselves.

In-Game Ads On Mobile Can Be A Huge Plus

If you’re wondering about the best way to utilize in-game ads in mobile games, you’re not alone. Finding the best and most efficient way to utilize in-game ads is vitally important to many mobile game developers, even to ones who don’t currently use any form of in-game advertising. That’s why this new report from Unity Technologies, In-Game Advertising the Right Way, is so important.

Over two thousand mobile developers and mobile game players were surveyed by Unity “to get a better understanding of their experience using ads.” The developers were eligible to provide data regardless of what development tools they used, and the players used a variety of mobile platforms.

Unity’s approach to the issue of in-game advertising is different than most because of the company’s business, which is primarily creating development tools such as Unity Engine, and assisting developers in using those tools. So Unity’s interest is in developer success, and figuring out which types of advertising are the most lucrative for developers is clearly to Unity’s advantage. At the same time, Unity also wants to identify any types of advertising that might affect developers in a negative way.

One of the first interesting things to know is that almost two-thirds of the developers surveyed have already used ads in their mobile games. “The reasons why so many choose to work with ads is a simple one to understand,” the report states. “A small share of players will actually pay using in-app purchases, placing a significant status on a tiny user-base to fund a game. In-game mobile ads, meanwhile, draw revenue even when players choose to spend nothing, never directly asking for cash, and without preventing those who choose to engage with IAP from spending in-game. The potential of ads to serve mobile games, then, is strikingly apparent, is important, and offers vast potential, not just to individual games, but to the longevity of the studios that make them.”

Unity ad report 1On the player side, 71 percent of players watch in-game video ads, and 54 percent chose “rewarded” video specifically, as their preferred way to ‘pay’ for a mobile game. Compare that to 17 percent that liked interstitial video ads, 18 percent who preferred to pay upfront, and only 11 percent who preferred in-app purchases (IAP). That’s rather startling, since the assumption of many game designers (and marketers) is that in-app purchases are the more refined way of paying for a game, and one that should be preferred over advertising.

This may perhaps be spillover from the success of some free-to-play PC games like League of Legends, where IAP is the only way the game monetizes, and the fans seem to love that method. That also seems to be true with other PC games such as World of Tanks, Hearthstone, and others, where you never see ads and don’t have to pay if you don’t want to, but many people do. Most mobile games have yet to reach this sort of engagement and user satisfaction with IAP, let alone the kind of revenue that these successful PC games achieve.

The games industry has learned a lot about getting mobile game ads right, and rewarded video ads are emerging as a powerful option for every kind of games maker. Overall, the message from this survey is clear: Video ads are the best form for mobile games, and more precisely rewarded video ads (where players get some sort of in-game benefit) are preferred by players.

“Rewarded video ads are the consumers’ first choice, and thus one that monetizes well, especially since many consumers view static interstitials as intrusive,” the report noted. “After all, happy players are staying players, and with rewarded video ads in mobile games higher retention means more viewed ads. That, in turn, boosts LTV and ARPU.”

Here’s some of the other key information from the report:

  • 52 percent of mobile game developers surveyed identified video ads as providing the highest revenue per user compared to any other type of in-game advertising
  • Almost 80 percent of players confirmed they are open to engaging with video ads for in-game rewards
  • Less than 1-in-10 developers saw retention drop after introducing rewarded video ads
  • 86 percent of developers who integrated rewarded video ads saw increased or unaffected in-app purchasing
  • 58 percent of games makers are most likely to recommend rewarded video ads over any other in-game ad form to their game development peers

“Rewarded video ads are a key monetization and engagement method quickly growing in popularity with today’s mobile game developer community,” said Jarkko Rajamaki, director of ads for Unity Technologies. “When properly integrated into gameplay, video ads, especially rewarded video ads, have a positive impact on the player’s experience and can help developers monetize their games and increase player engagement.”

Another important finding is that ads do not reduce the desire to make in-app purchases. In fact, the data shows that ads increase IAP. While 14 percent of users spend less on IAP when there are ads in the game, 70 percent said it had no impact, and 16 percent said they spent more.

The use of in-game ads in mobile games should be seen as a very important source of revenue, and one that doesn’t necessarily cause problems with players if executed properly. Of course, there are plenty of other considerations to make in deciding when and how to use in-game ads, and a huge number of choices if you’re looking at various ad networks. The genre of game can also make a big difference to the perception and use of ads. Integrating ads into the game design along with rewards is an important issue for marketers and game designers to consider. Clumsy positioning of inappropriate ads can make a bad impression on players, and that’s not something any marketer wants.

Moreover, the demographics of the audience may be an important factor. Carefully examining similar games and their use of in-game advertising can provide some ideas of what to do and what to avoid.