AMP Energy And Twitch Team Up For ‘Level Up’ Promotion

The livestreaming service Twitch has found a number of effective promotional partners over the last few years, including Coca-Cola, Old Spice and others. But its latest deal with AMP Energy will take its promoting to a whole new space: onto store shelves.

The two have partnered up for a new program which encourages fans to “level up” their gaming experience with a sweepstakes that will involve both consumers and broadcasters, the introduction of limited edition gear, and (for the first time ever) having the Twitch logo appear on a non-gaming retail product, cans of AMP Energy.

The promotion kicks off this week and runs through September 5. During that time, fans can purchase Twitch-branded AMP cans in both original and cherry flavors. In addition, they can also enter into a sweepstakes for a chance to win exclusive gear, including wearable items, Alienware gaming rigs and a chance to attend TwitchCon 2016, taking place in San Diego, CA this September.


To enter, fans are encouraged to use social media to show their love of AMP, with pictures on Facebook or Instagram, where a winner will be chosen from the many submissions that are expected.

Broadcasters will also be getting in on the fun, as a separate deal will run for them from now through August 6, where they can win a homepage carousel placement takeover, hoodies and cash by using the hashtag #AMPSweepstakes during certain times of their sessions.

“Through this partnership with Twitch, we are excited to bring together two brands that have a deep sense of camaraderie and energy,” said Greg Lyons, senior vice president for marketing at AMP Energy. “AMP brings flavor to the energy category so that fans can enjoy the great taste of their energy drinks while they fuel up. Similarly, AMP wants to provide gamers a heightened level of enjoyment by teaming up with Twitch to provide unique experiences and help energize gamers for the challenges they face both in and out of the virtual world.”


“The Twitch community has never seen our brand on this type of consumer packaging or in retail stores in this fashion before,” said Anthony Danzi, senior vice president of client strategy for Twitch. “It’s a fun step for us to partner with a cool brand like AMP and we look forward to our fans taking part in the sweepstakes and hopefully winning some exclusive swag!”

Disney Uses Virtual Reality And Steam To Drop You Into Movie Worlds

Disney is no stranger to the world of VR, having invested in companies like Jaunt, as well as commissioning Epic Games to produce a fun VR demo based in the Star Wars universe. But now, thanks to a new partnership with Nokia Technologies, it has some fun new demos that immerse viewers into its hit movies.

The company released a series of new virtual reality demos that are available for download free of charge on Steam, each featuring a popular Disney franchise. Demos based on The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are available, providing viewers a quick but entertaining look around each respective universe.

For instance, in one of the demos for The Jungle Book, viewers will be engaged by Kaa, the female snake voiced by Scarlett Johannsen, who tries to comfort you before swallowing the viewer whole. Meanwhile, Civil War features a recreation of the movie’s big Hollywood premiere, while The Force Awakens whisks you around the Star Wars universe, complete with an appearance from the BB-8 droid.

The demos utilize Nokia’s OZO technology to enable virtual reality experiences, immersing viewers in better ways than ever before.

“Virtual reality represents a new frontier in storytelling, and we’re thrilled to be bringing this VR technology to the team at Disney,” said Ramzi Haidamus, president at Nokia Technologies, regarding the partnering with Disney last month. “OZO will help Disney bring their film properties to life in new ways through immersive entertainment experiences, and our focus will be on helping them get the most out of VR as they begin to uncover all that it has to offer.”

The companies previously worked together to produce special 360-degree videos for the premiere of The Jungle Book, including the red carpet premiere and interviews with the cast.

With this deal and the introduction of these demo videos, Disney is likely just getting started in the VR world, and could introduce more experiences with upcoming films like Alice Through the Looking Glass and Finding Dory. 

6 Unlikely Investors That Are Helping ESports Grow

There can be no doubt that eSports is a rapidly-growing phenomenon, with global awareness expected to reach one billion people this year, and is expected to hit $1 billion by 2018. It’s no wonder that it’s catching the attention of some unlikely brands and companies, looking to get in on the action while eSports is on the rise. Bud Light is currently looking to put together a group of All-Stars, while professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers explored the growth of eSports. That’s just the start, as more companies are investing in eSports-related teams, leagues and content.


It’s been almost two years since the ESPN president, John Skipper, when talking about eSports, famously said, “It’s not a sport—it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition. Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports.” The statement was made even after ESPN had partnered with MLG to bring eSports to X Games Austin for the first time, which led to sold-out tickets. Soon after, eSports would make an appearance at X Games Aspen, and has been featured at every X Games event afterwards. Halo 5: Guardians was added to the X Games Aspen eSports offerings last January as part of the Halo World Championship Tour.

If that weren’t enough to show ESPN’s growing interest in eSports, then what almost certainly cemented it is how Heroes of the Dorm (featuring Heroes of the Storm) aired on ESPN 2, marking the first time the network broadcast a collegiate eSports competition on television. Audiences saw a rather swift embrace of eSports this year, with the launch of an eSports vertical on in January, followed with how Heroes of the Dorm aired on ESPN 2 again with its second season.

Recently, ESPN published a news story detailing reasons why eSports was a smart investment, including how Newzoo predicted that eSports’ global revenues will reach $463 million in 2016. Although the move to eSports coverage was not without its detractors, with some believing it was outside of ESPN’s scope, the new direction is working well towards diversifying content. This is especially important when you consider how interest in traditional sports like football, baseball, soccer and basketball is in decline.

Television Networks

Television networks are experimenting with eSports in interesting ways. Turner Broadcasting is looking to bring Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitions to TBS as part of its primetime lineup, a move that is supported by Turner Sports president Lenny Daniels, who said, “This is a way to bring eSports to light and the 90 million homes TBS is in.”

The Swedish media company, Modern Times Group, acquired a majority stake in Turtle Entertainment, the holding company for ESL, for $87 million last summer. It is now using it to form a 24/7 eSports broadcast network, with a roll-out starting in Nordic and Baltic countries.

Meanwhile, the CW took a more cautious approach to broadcasting eSports. In January, a Mortal Kombat X-themed documentary series called Chasing the Cup was shown on the station’s online presence, CW Seed. The five-episode season featured contestants looking to win $100,000 in prize money during the ESL Mortal Kombat X Pro League Finals. The finale was shown as a two-hour primetime special, which aired on the CW Network on February 15.

This could be a sign to come, since Pizza Hut partnered with Endemol Beyond USA last year to bring the web-based eSports series, Legends of Gaming, from the UK to the U.S. If the web series continues to grow in success, there’s a chance that broadcast television stations could take notice.


Activision Blizzard has been working aggressively to further bring eSports into the mainstream since it launched the Activision Blizzard Media Network Division last fall. That’s hardly a surprise, considering how many high-profile eSports games the company publishes, including the Call of Duty franchise, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, and StarCraft II. With that kind of history, Overwatch—which releases next week—is almost guaranteed to become an eSport.

Now the company is working to create a stronger eSports presence on social media in partnership with Facebook. Activision, which acquired MLG in January, is set to broadcast the MLG Anaheim Open—a two-day Call of Duty: Black Ops III tournament that begins on June 10—over Facebook Live. Facebook, which has been actively seeking new partners to promote its highly successful video service, is making its first entry into the world of eSports by giving millions of potential viewers worldwide a chance to watch a live tournament.


The audio technology giant, Dolby, is entering into the eSports world by sponsoring a $10,000 Overwatch tournament called Agents Rising. The event will be held at the eSports Arena in Santa Ana, California on May 28 and 29—four days after the game itself officially releases. Since Overwatch is the first game to take advantage of Dolby Atmos technology over headphones, which allows audio to move around in a 3D space (much like at the movies), the event would be the ideal setting to promote it. The PC release of Star Wars Battlefront was the first game to take advantage of the technology in general, using standing speakers or sound bars.



Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that the livestreaming platform, which broadcasts a tremendous amount of content from tournaments, would become further involved with eSports. However, the level of commitment and its partnerships should be commended. In March, Twitch announced a partnership with Psyonix to organize the Rocket League Championship Series, featuring a $75,000 prize pool.

Not content with having just one professional eSports league, Twitch announced a second partnership a few weeks later, this one with Super Evil Megacorp, to build a new eSports framework over the next three years centered around the hit mobile game, Vainglory. The partnership kicks off with a Spring Championship tournament, featuring an $80,000 prize pool. The qualifying rounds concluded earlier this month, and the tournament is planned to take place sometime in June.


As it turns out, a number of ex-sports stars see great potential in eSports. Last year, former Celtics and Lakers player, Rick Fox, dove straight into eSports by purchasing the professional League of Legends team, Echo Fox (renamed from Gravity Gaming). However, the athlete turned actor, model, dancer and basketball analyst is just one of a list of sports stars and celebrities who felt purchasing a team would be an excellent investment.

In November, a group led by two Sacramento Kings co-owners, Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov, purchased pro League of Legends team NRG. That group was later joined by other sports celebrities including ex-NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, and baseball players Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins. But even they were part of a growing trend, as the St. Louis Rams offensive lineman, Rodger Saffold, purchased the professional Call of Duty team, Rise Nation Gaming, in 2014 after attending the MLG Anaheim eSports competition the year before.

Other investors found different ways to get into eSports. Last summer, billionaire (and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks) Mark Cuban made a $7 million investment in Unikrn (pronounced “unicorn”), an eSports betting platform. Actor, Ashton Kutcher, also invested in Unikrn a few months later.

MTV’s ‘Scream’ Social Media Promotions Are Killing It

MTV is taking a social approach to promoting the second season of the horror comedy series, Scream . . . and it’s making a killing.

Yesterday, the company took to Facebook Live to showcase a new teaser from the series and an exclusive clip, along with a quick Q&A with cast member Tom Maden, who is a favorite on the show. The event turned out to be a huge hit, with thousands tuning in to get a glimpse of what’s coming next and perhaps find out who was likely to die next.

But this was just the beginning of MTV’s promotion, as it also had a unique event the following week on social media, on Friday the 13th. With Scream LIVE!, fans not only got a peek at seven minutes of new footage from the premiere, but also took part in what was labeled a “15-minute murder spree,” with members of the audience vanishing and fake blood being spilled on-screen as fans interacted in real time across both Facebook and Periscope.

Of course, it was all in fun—no one died—but it matches the scary atmosphere of the show, and kept fans truly involved.

Speaking with Mashable, director of digital strategy and fan engagement, Matt McDonough, and supervising producer of video/digital production Kim Thai went into more detail regarding the social integration, and how fans enjoyed being involved with something happening in real time.

“Last season, our whole promo campaign was centered around killing all of the MTV celebrities, and the idea of killing MTV as you know it,” noted McDonough. “This campaign theme is more along the lines of ‘You can’t trust anybody, even our own marketing.’ We wanted the audience…we wanted to trick them everywhere they go. We want to be able to make them question who they can trust on air, when they see ads on the side of buses, and when they log into their Twitter and Facebook accounts.”

Thai added, “From a visual culture perspective, we’re always trying to look for that thing to engage with our audience. We wanted to play with them, we wanted to trick them a little bit, and it was all us leaning into knowing the user behavior and knowing the specifics that came from that actual fan base.”

Maden was thrilled with the promotion as well. “I love what they’re doing, they’re trying to be different,” he said. “They’re trying to have interaction with people, which is where I think the future of TV and movies is.”

On top of that, the interaction took a turn when the actors began taking cues based on the comments from users. “[The other actors] had some funny moments, and they wouldn’t have said those things if they hadn’t read what people were writing. A team of writers can sit down for three months and nail all those different moments eventually, but because there’s a live interaction, these are new ideas from totally different people.”

With the success of these livestream sessions, don’t be surprised if MTV continues to promote new series with similar methods, although they probably won’t be as bloody.

Scream Season 2 premieres on May 30 on MTV.

OpTic Gaming CEO Discusses Turtle Beach Partnership

OpTic Gaming has entered into a new marketing partnership with Turtle Beach to use its Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset, Elite Pro Tactical Audio Controller (T.A.C.), and Elite Pro accessories in eSports competitions, during daily practice sessions, and activities. The team, which previously worked with Astro Gaming, is already using the new Elite Pro in competitions. OpTic Gaming just won the Call of Duty eSports World Convention tournament in Paris on May 8.

This deal is the latest for OpTic Gaming, which is also working with PepsiCo Brisk Mate iced tea and Turtle Wax. The team also has a new paperback book, OpTic Gaming: The Making of eSports Champions, out May 17 from HarperCollins Publishers.

Hector Rodriguez, owner and CEO of OpTic Gaming, explains why a headset partnership is so important for eSports and how the new book will help all of these new sponsors.

Why did you decide to work with Turtle Beach?

As our previous headset sponsorship was coming to an end, we decided to try the other headsets in the marketplace. We bought some, used some headsets that were sent to us as gifts, etc. Then, at MLG New Orleans, a Turtle Beach rep approached me and said, “We have something new that hasn’t hit the shelves that we’d like to show you.” I said “Please do,” and a few weeks later a team from Turtle Beach visited the Scuf House (our team house) and showed us the Elite Pro. We had a full day to try out the Elite Pro and review the headset. And the consensus was a huge “Yes” from everyone at the house, including me. I told our agency (rEvXP) that we like the Elite Pro and that we wanted to partner with Turtle Beach.

How have you and your team been involved in the development process of Elite Pro Headset, T.A.C. and other accessories?

As of right now, we’ve pretty much just been giving feedback on the likes and things we think can be implemented to enhance the style of the headset. The unit itself is awesome, and the technology used is amazing from an audio and comfort standpoint. We’re really happy with the Elite Pro.

What separates these products from anything else you’ve used, from a technology standpoint?

We use, and have always used, the best headset in the marketplace. The Elite Pro, from a noise-cancelling perspective, is incredible. The comms are clear, and it does a good job of only picking up the voices coming out of your teammates and drowns out the noise of the crowd. Pair that with the cooling gelish feel of the Elite Pro’s ear cups and you aren’t sweating, while still benefiting from the enclosed noise-cancelling feel it gives us.

Can you explain the role sound plays at a professional level for games such as Call of Duty, Halo, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive when making split-second decisions?

Audio is the difference between winning and losing an in-game battle. Being able to hear everything in the game—from a bomb being planted to a weapon manifesting in the middle of the map, to the running footsteps of an enemy rushing around the corner—really gives you the advantage. Add that with the fact that you can distinctively identify your teammates’ call-outs because the noise of the crowd is drowned out, great audio gives you the competitive advantage that you want to have on your side when the game is on the line, and I’m speaking from a pro perspective. But casual players often take games very seriously, and these certainly help.

How much time do your teams spend practicing on a daily basis and how does this impact the accessories they use and wear day in and day out?

My team is a good example of why the Elite Pro is awesome. The COD and Halo guys spend hours in front of their desks with their headsets on while they practice. To top off the hours of scrims they do on a daily basis, you tack on 3 to 4 more hours of content creation and you have a good 12-hour day where you are wearing the headset. For us, the comfort is as important as the quality of the sound. Nothing sucks more than a heavy, sweaty headset in the final hours of your work day.

What similarities are there between the bats and gloves pro baseball players and the headphones, keyboards, and mice/controllers pro gamers use in competition?

The similarity lies in the importance of the quality of the tools you use to get your work done (whether in sports or eSports) that give you a level of comfort in a high-quality product. Nothing is more satisfying than knowing you can trust and rely on the weapon that will help you win the game. The last thing you need is an unreliable tool in a high-stress-level situation. Your focus should be on winning the game, not if you’re going to be at a disadvantage due to faulty tools.

How will OpTic Gaming work with Turtle Beach through this partnership, and how long is the deal for?

We don’t publicly discuss the terms of our contracts. That said, Turtle Beach has been great so far in making sure this is a partnership and not simply a sponsorship. They are looking for us to provide further insight on the Elite Pro, future products, etc.

How do you plan to integrate these products into your videos, social media, and other original content?

The content we create is very lifestyle oriented. Gaming is our life, competing is our pastime, and creating content is our creative outlet. All these things involve audio. If we’re listening to music on the way to the airport, on the plane, making gameplay videos or editing them, the headset is at the top of the things needed in order to perform the tasks. The headsets are attached to us for the majority of the day, so we won’t have to force ourselves to wear them in order to promote them in videos, they’ll just organically appear in the content.

What opportunities do you see the new HarperCollins book (and the national book tour) playing for OpTic to cross-promote these headsets, as well as other recent partnerships with PepsiCo and Turtle Wax?

Having opportunities like the national book tour allows us to speak in front of a broad range of media outlets, and lets us speak about who we are as OpTic—what our lives look like from the inside, etc. This involves our sponsors. The question will be raised about eSports and its movement, its growth, and the direct correlation that endemic and non-endemic brands/sponsors have in eSports’ growth and future.

Have you already noticed any differences in the way your teams are performing with the Elite Pro compared to other gear in the past?

We just came back from Paris, France where we competed in the ESWC [eSports World Convention]. We placed first, and in doing so, became back-to-back champions. This was the first event where we performed using the Elite Pro, and the players were happy with the quality of the audio and how comfortable they were. I’ll have more to report as we continue to navigate through this year’s future tournaments, but so far so good.

How have you seen products OpTic Gaming endorses or uses impact sales of these products to gamers in the past?

It’s a bit too early to call for the Elite Pro headset, T.A.C. and other accessories aren’t available at retail yet, but nevertheless, the products we endorse definitely have an impact on fans and consumers. For headsets, we were with our prior sponsor for a long time, and now that we’ve partnered with Turtle Beach for the Elite Pro, there are certainly those out there who are quick to criticize our move to the Elite Pro without having seen, touched, or used it themselves. But I’ll tell you right now, if the Elite Pro wasn’t the right headset for us, we wouldn’t have jumped on board. And I think that over time, as we continue to use the headset and show fans how great of a product it really is, our endorsement of the Elite Pro will certainly have some level of influence over the audience of gamers who become interested in getting one for themselves.


ESL Founder Explains How WESA Could Accelerate ESports Mainstream Appeal

The World ESports Association (WESA) is a new joint-venture between ESL and eight of the top Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) pro gaming teams (Fnatic, Natus Vincere, EnVyUs, Virtus.Pro, Gamers2, Faze, mousesports and Ninjas in Pyjamas). Additional teams will be added to this new association, which will receive equal input from teams. Pro gamers will also split revenues from ESL leagues that operate under WESA regulations.

The ESL Pro League for Valve’s CS:GO will be the first league to implement the new standardized regulations and rulesets of WESA. This association has been in development for the past 18 months, as ESL and teams have worked together to build out a more stable ecosystem, which ultimately could help eSports grow in size, as well as in sponsorship dollars.

Peter Warman, CEO of Newzoo, believes that if WESA proves itself to be the global official body for eSports and it succeeds in creating legislation and structure, the mainstream brands will consider sponsoring international or local events just as they consider sponsoring the Olympics, local cup challenges, the Super Bowl, or the Champions League—including comparable budgets.

“The eSports audience size is already comparable and WESA is one of the initiatives that will ensure that money will follow,” Warman said.

CS:GO is the focus of WESA out of the gate, in part, due to the popularity of the game. In terms of viewership on Twitch, Newzoo reports the game is number two behind Riot Games’ League of Legends with 213 million hours viewed in the past 10 months (and another 246 million hours spent watching direct game streams: other consumers playing CS:GO). League of Legends had 246 million eSports hours in that period on Twitch (and another 544 million “consumer hours”).

Warman said ESL was already the biggest organizer when it comes to supplying CS:GO esports content on Twitch with almost 85 million hours in the past 10 months. ESL’s sister company Dreamhack is number two. Combined, they broadcast over half of all CS:GO eSports viewing hours on Twitch.

Ralf Reichert, general manager of ESL, explains how WESA can help the entire eSports industry evolve into a true mainstream sport in this exclusive interview.

How do you see WESA in comparison to traditional sports associations?

We looked at all the other sports entities, including the NBA, NFL and MLS, and tried to take the best out of each and adapt that to eSports. We don’t want to build the NFL. ESports will always be a little different.

What impact do you see giving players equal power in WESA having on a potential union down the line?

The Players Council is like a mini players union. We welcome the players to unite and to have one strong voice. It represents them fairly at the table, and it actually makes it easier for us to have a joint voice there, and clear common goals we can set up. If they’re unorganized, you have to consider 10 different opinions.

What impact do you feel WESA will have on sponsors?

Right now it gives a framework of clear rules and regulations. Things like transfer rules are in their infancy, arbitration is in its infancy and the contracts between teams, players and leagues can be improved. The key message is it’s going to give stability to the entire ecosystem and scene and create a larger trust on the sponsorship side.

How did you work with Valve on WESA, since you’re focusing on it’s game, CS:GO?

We want to do this together with the publisher, or in games where the publisher isn’t so involved. In games where the publisher is very active and advanced in eSports, the WESA model isn’t the right model. If the game publisher doesn’t want to take on this role, then WESA is the right thing to jump into.

What separates WESA from anything else out there or that’s been done in the past?

Our key goals are to speed up the professionalization and the growth of eSports with this, but also to make it more sustainable and to make sure it doesn’t fall back. Other initiatives have been tried before and have failed because there wasn’t a clear contract between players, teams and leagues. We think we can skip a couple years in the normal development of eSports with WESA and propel eSports forward.

How does having Pietro Fringuelli as the interim league commissioner help connect eSports with traditional sports?

Pietro comes from the soccer world. He knows lots of best practices across how you work with media revenues, scheduling, content and creating the whole league framework to make eSports more reliable. His knowledge and experience has been crucial to forming WESA.

How does the new ESL Network tie into WESA and the acceleration of eSports’ growth?

On the content side we’re trying to get eSports on as many screens as possible to make it more accessable. WESA is more on the structuring side and bringing security to the sport itself. One is more commercial, while the other is more an infrastructure.

It’s not mandatory to run on ESL Network. ESports can run on larger networks as well.

What does the WESA structure open up for television coverage and sponsors?

It opens it up to television coverage. One key cornerstone in linear sports is its planning ability. With eSports there’s a lot of movement of matches and a lack of very basic organizational things. It’s great that you can set up a match in six hours, but too often the predictability is small. If you compare that to other big sports, they plan a year ahead and that gives media companies time to plan programming around it. That’s something we want to encourage with a set league structure that sponsors can count on.

When you look at any other sports, why they grow is predictability with regular play days and clear story lines. ESports is still fluid with lots of new things happening, but there’s limited predictability in what day next week is a match day. People like to tune into Monday night football games. We can cater to these habits.

How does the recent content deal with Hollywood company Pilgrim Media Group help ESL?

The Pilgrim deal brings more original programming about the players. Specifically, that creates stories and highlights personalities that the mainstream audience values.

What impact could WESA have on making eSports more legitimate to the masses?

The speed of the industry is insane. The most important piece for us is that it grows, and it’s on its way. We used to predict it would take 10 years to become mainstream. Now I think it might go faster.

‘Floor Plan’ Makes Elevators Fun Again With Forthcoming Adventure Game

Next time you’re in an elevator, instead of looking off in the corner of the ceiling contemplating life’s crucial concerns—like why you just had a 2,300-calorie taco salad for lunch—think about going anywhere, and being able to throw things at people from said elevator, in virtual reality.

If you ever wonder happens when you pour coffee into a plant as you alternate through lava and graveyards, Floor Plan, the unpredictable puzzle experience where users go through an elevator, moving from floor-to-floor of a building and solving puzzles on each, should be a game to keep your eye on.

Initially debuting at the Global Game Jam last year, Floor Plan is game developer Turbo Button’s first original title, and it will soon be coming to Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Rift. The VR experience was made through using Unity Technologies.

“It’s not your normal elevator,” said Holden Link, founder of Turbo Button. “We really like the concept of being able to go to a bunch of different places on the Samsung Gear VR without having to actually move anywhere.”


Link, who previously was a producer and designer at Magic Pixel Games, shifted his focus and dedication to building games in VR early last year when he founded his Los Angeles-based indie studio. In short order, they developed SMS Racing and Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Games. The latter is based on the popular Cartoon Network series.

Link joined [a]listdaily to talk about his up-and-coming game.

How did the idea for Floor Plan come about?

For us, we were looking at point-and-click adventure-style games, and we were inspired by a lot of the mechanics in those. They give you a bunch of items and let you figure out what to do with them. It becomes a game about learning relationships between items and characters and locations. With Floor Plan, we’re trying to translate that kind of gameplay into virtual reality. You’re able to see these characters and go to these places, somewhat at will, by going up and down the elevator. I think that in terms of the puzzle solving, and teaching that to people, we’re able to introduce things one at a time with our mechanics. It’s a contemplative game, in that regard.

How would you describe the payoff of playing the game?

The game is about understanding the relationships, so we make the process very rewarding. Along the way, you’re going to do a lot of experimentation and try different things to understand what the characters want. They’re going to give you that feedback through animations and expressions and even potentially throwing items around you, and that kind of thing. So we make it a very physical and slapstick kind of interaction with the characters. There’s a constant desire to see how certain characters will behave in different situations.


You founded Turbo Button in 2015. How do you envision VR developing in the next handful of years?

I think that it could go in any number of directions. What I do know is that all of those directions are going to be good. We’re really excited that the Gear VR is such an accessible platform. Floor Plan will also be supporting the Oculus Rift where it will have a few more features on it. We’re also trying to take advantage of all of these new features coming out on headsets. We’re also well aware that in this first year, that the number of people that have these headsets are not going to be as big for other platforms, but we’re definitely trying to take the opportunity to learn about it right now to be better prepared moving forward and start helping people get more excited about it. We have to give them cool experiences.

How can the industry overcome that?

In that sense, it’s certainly a smaller install base for some of the headsets, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a different problem from any other platform. We came from working on console and mobile games. That was a very competitive area itself. The number of people making VR games right now is not nearly as big as the ones making mobile games, or apps. Targeting virtual reality for a small company like ours makes a lot of sense because it allows us to stand out and get in there a little early and make something for a passionate group of fans.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 12.20.16 PM

What’s the target audience you’re trying to reach?

We’re going for a fairly broad audience on the Gear VR. The platform itself, at least for this game, we’re looking for ages 13 and over. The game is still currently in development, but we’re looking to have a version out later this year.

What’s the execution plan for getting Floor Plan looking like?

We certainly have a plan. For now, we want to finish the game. When we release it, we’re hoping the game will be a cohesive experience on its own. We’re taking our time to make sure that what we put out is going to be something that people really enjoy, and has a lot of value.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Nintendo Set To Return To Movies

In an effort to turn its finances around, and further popularize its collection of iconic characters, Nintendo is ready to bring its hit franchises to the big screen.

Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima recently spoke with The Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Japan this week about making Nintendo-produced films, with the first ready to go in about two to three years. Although the company has licensed some of its characters to appear in movies such as Wreck-It Ralph and Pixelsthis marks the first time since the 1993’s Super Mario Bros.: The Movie that a movie will be entirely based on one of its franchises.

However, Nintendo wants to make it clear that it would retain control of its properties this time around, instead of just licensing them out. While a number of movie production companies are in negotiation with the company with projects, Kimishima noted, “we want to do as much as we can by ourselves.”

There are a number of franchises that have the potential to be big hits, particularly Super Mario, which has had several top-selling games and features Nintendo’s most recognizable character. There’s also Star Fox and Metroid for science fiction fans, and along with the ever-popular The Legend of Zelda.

The movie production would stand as a separate business from video game publishing, although the company is sure to do cross-promotion. For instance, it could launch a new video game to coincide with a Metroid movie.

There’s no word yet on what the company’s first project will be, but we’ll likely have more details later this year when an official deal is reached.

Video games have a stronger presence than ever on the silver screen, so Nintendo has excellent timing. The Angry Birds Movie is set to debut later this week; Ubisoft just premiered a new trailer for its holiday release Assassin’s Creed; and a new Tomb Raider film is in the works, with Academy Award-winning actress Alicia Vikander stepping into the role of Lara Croft.

Mario and company will have no trouble fitting right in, despite how poorly received the original Super Mario Bros.: The Movie was.

ESPN Explains Why ESports Is A Smart Investment

Two years ago, ESPN didn’t show much interest in eSports, with the company’s president John Skipper even noting that it wasn’t even a sport. However, as of late, the popular sports channel has changed its tune, and is embracing it as a whole.

Following the success of its Heroes of the Dorm competition and many other events that followed, the company has published a news story explaining why the investment in eSports was a smart one.

According to the article, the move was made as a way to “engage new audiences against the backdrop of an ever-fragmenting sports landscape that has created business challenges for the network.” This also includes bumped-up coverage of popular activities like drone racing and World Wrestling Entertainment, which is outside of the usual non-scripted sports activities.

The author, Jim Brady, also made note of several reseach studies that show the growing popularity of eSports, including how Newzoo found that eSports revenues will hit $463 million this year (set to surpass a billion dollars by 2019) and a SuperData report explaining that 134 million participants take part in eSports every year.

“Although the demographics and business opportunities for eSports are crucial, ESPN’s ability to televise eSports might be the most important element, as it looks to lock up as many live events as it can to maintain its position in an ever time-shifted world,” Brady writes.

So far, eSports coverage has paid off for the network, with April proving to be a big month for ESPN’s vertical web coverage, showing a 58 percent increase in traffic over the previous month. Almost 70 percent of that coverage, notes Brady, came in from social media outlets.

The author also used a quote from a recent VentureBeat article, which explains why ESPN didn’t mind taking the gamble, despite Skipper’s previous thoughts:

“Traditional sports are losing interest, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to turn around. Fewer high school-aged kids are participating in sports. Starting in 2008 and continuing through 2012, football saw a 5.4 percent drop in players from 3.26 million to 3.08 million. And they aren’t going to soccer, baseball, or basketball — those sports saw declines of 7.1 percent, 7.2 percent, and 8.3 percent, respectively. Only lacrosse is growing, but it isn’t making up the difference for what the other sports are losing.”

Brady writes, “Big media companies generally have lousy track records when it comes to looking around the bend, but the network is trying to do just that by investing here. ESports is already a huge business, and it’s getting larger by the day. With the decline in participation in traditional stick-and-ball sports, ESPN needs to place some chips elsewhere.” He concluded the piece by saying, “In a world in which ESPN’s business model is being significantly affected by the fragmentation of media, the network isn’t wasting time trying to change consumer behavior. Instead, it’s going where a new generation of consumers awaits.”

‘Angry Birds’ Movie Already A Smash Success

This Friday will be a busy one at theaters, with a number of potential blockbusters opening, including Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and The Nice Guys. However, the weekend will likely belong to Sony’s The Angry Birds Movie, which has been riding a steady stream of hype since its announcement in 2013.

Rovio has put over $113 million into the film production, and it definitely looks like it’s paying off, as noted in a new blog post that the film has already a big success prior to its United States release this week.

The film has made $43 million thus far, shooting to the number one position in 37 different markets, creating a record May opening for an original animated film. It’s also getting some strong word-of-mouth and critical praise.

The biggest market for The Angry Birds Movie so far is Russia, where it cleaned up with a record $5.7 million. Close behind were the U.K. ($3 million), Germany ($2.9 million) and Mexico ($2.9 million).

Making a successful video game film can be risky these days, especially with the failures of many projects, like Ratchet & Clank, which is on its way out of theaters with less than $10 million accumulated. However, in a recent [a]listdaily interview, Wilhelm Taht, executive vice president of games for Rovio, noted, “In general, video games have been a challenging thing to take to the big screen for a wide variety of reasons. One of the biggest challenges is the narrative has not always been fantastic in video games, and it’s challenging to translate that into an interesting story that runs for 90 minutes. Also, it’s often times a very hardcore story. Big video game brands are often weapon-aggressive and have a hardcore background that can be challenging to bring to big screen.”

It appears that Angry Birds has no trouble appealing to an audience, especially with a voice cast that features actors like Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad and Game of Thrones‘ Peter Dinklage.

It’s too soon to tell how box office estimates look for The Angry Birds Movie‘s debut in the U.S., but it should find a number one spot fairly easily, with Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War being its biggest opposition. But that film will be in its third week at theaters, so it should give the Birds just enough room to do some damage.

The Angry Birds Movie opens this Friday.