Transformers continues to be a huge franchise for Hasbro, and with plenty of toys on the market and a new live-action movie headed to theaters next summer, it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Now, it is “rolling out” onto another market: mobile.
Backflip Studios, a mobile publishing partner that Hasbro invested $112 million in a couple of years ago, has released Transformers: Earth Wars, a game that features many iconic characters from the franchise doing battle in a strategy setting, similar to Supercell’s best-selling Clash of Clans.
Developed by Space Ape, the game is now available for download on iOS and Android and features a storyline that follows the classic Generations Prime Wars trilogy, something die-hard fans of the series are likely to enjoy.
Hasbro and Backflip spared no expense in making Earth Wars a truly authentic Transformers product, even going as far as to bring back Peter Cullen and Frank Welker as the voices of Optimus Prime and Megatron, respectively. The duo voiced the characters in the original 1980s Transformers TV series and also lent their talents to the new films.
The game lets players choose between the Autobots or the Decepticons as they take part in a conflict that could “decide the fate of planet Earth,” through base-building and attacking strongholds for new resources. It unfolds in real-time, and features a fairly built microtransaction system, should players need to add more assets to their army.
Mark Blecher, senior vice president of digital gaming and corporate development for Hasbro, noted, “Transformers: Earth Wars offers players an engaging storyline and incredible gameplay experience. The game harnesses the unique strengths and abilities of hundreds of characters from Transformers lore, which really helps it to stand above existing real-time combat strategy games and delivers on the Transformers promise of “more than meets the eye.”
The companies previously worked together on another ’80s franchise, the action-packed G.I. Joe: Strike, for mobile, which has become a big hit with fans.
Kobe Bryant recently called it a career with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the future first-ballot Hall of Famer is still keeping busy by working with a roster full of brands—as evidenced by his newGhostbusters promo, pitching Copa America for Fox Sports, and his involvement with 2K Sports. Bryant is featured as the cover star for the upcoming NBA 2K17: Legacy Edition, and it looks like the video game has given him a taste for more—specifically with eSports.
“I think people are really interested in watching people problem solve. It doesn’t matter what industry. People are very fascinated by that—seeing the struggles people go through and how they overcome it,” he said. “I think this was just a matter of time before it caught fire. To be able to sit and watch a performance on TV and watch how the gamers are figuring out those challenges amongst themselves, you can’t help but be interested.”
Bryant was then asked if he would possibly invest in eSports, as peers like former teammates Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal have done.
“It depends, depends if the right opportunity comes along, and I feel like it’s something that we should invest in, and if it’s something we feel like we could add value to, then yeah, that’d be something that we’d consider,” Bryant said.
Bryant is an integral part of 2K Sports’ promotion with NBA 2K17, which also recently announced that it would be hosting a new service called 2K Streamcast, where players compete in a Pro-Am for a $250,000 cash prize.
Kobe is a first-rate pitchman and veteran of the video game industry, as evidenced by his previous cameos for Guitar Hero and Call of Duty, as well as having his own Nintendo 64 series Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside. A potential eSports collaboration with 2K Sports would make total sense for the Black Mamba if he ever felt so inclined.
For now, Kobe is enjoying life away from the hardwood, but don’t be surprised if he runs a fast break right back into it via video games.
Paradox Interactive, famous for popular strategy games such as the city builder Cities: Skylines, the history-themed (and very complicated) Europa Universalis series, and the hilarious fantasy action role-playing Magicka franchise. The in-house developer, Paradox Development Studio, recently ventured to where it had never gone before with the deep space strategy game, Stellaris, which went on to outshine all other Paradox titles.
In Stellaris, players are challenged to explore and colonize the reaches of space, working alongside or against alien species, in an effort to become the dominant power in the galaxy. The game launched to high praise, with 68,000 concurrent players on its first day, dethroning the previous record holder, Cities: Skylines. But that wasn’t the only record that it broke. Stellaris sold over 200,000 units within 24 hours of its release, making it Paradox’s fastest selling game ever.
Various promotional campaigns have contributed to Stellaris’ success, including a Cookie Clicker-like mini-game called Project Augustus, where players are challenged to click repeatedly to help power a small spaceship to its destination and unlock bonus items for Stellaris. As an added incentive to pick up the game, Paradox offered to copy all the names of pre-order customers to a USB drive, which would then be sent into low orbit via a weather balloon “to let drive-by extraterrestrials know who among us are the most enthusiastic to explore space and meet new friends.”
[a]listdaily speaks to Henrik Fåhraeus, game director of Stellaris, and creative director of marketing, Steven Wells, about Paradox’s trek into space, sending a list of names into the upper stratosphere, and how it got so many fans excited about experiencing grand strategy on a galactic scale.
Paradox Interactive doesn’t develop or publish many sci-fi games. What convinced it to release Stellaris?
Henrik: We have always wanted to do both a space game and a fantasy game. Although we love history, there is something liberating about working with a “tabula rasa.” By taking a stab at the 4X genre we also hoped to make a truly accessible game (at last!), which would help us reach new groups of players and draw them into our type of complex gameplay.
How did you grow awareness of Stellaris before it launched?
Steven: We had a rather large marketing campaign by Paradox Interactive standards, but the short of it is we created a three-phase marketing campaign focused on key assets, such as trailers, streams, events and community support, all of which attempted to convey Henrik’s vision statement, “Explore a vast galaxy full of life and wonder.”
What inspired the Project Augustus mini-game promotion?
Steven: The game was inspired by games like Cookie Clicker or the Steam Summer Card Clicker Game. We didn’t want to simply make a worse version of any specific gameplay element of Stellaris, so we decided to move away from it completely.
What are some of the challenges in promoting a sci-fi themed strategy game?
Steven: The sci-fi strategy space is very crowded (pun intended), so the key challenge was standing out and conveying uniqueness. The Paradox Development Studio brand did much of the work for us with Stellaris, but we simply focused our messaging on the parts of the game that were relatively unique, such as the early focus on exploration/surveying, the random event chains, and the variety of species.
How did Paradox come up with the promotion to send the names of pre-order customers to space?
Steven: For a while, we toyed with the idea of sending a rocket into space to celebrate the launch of Stellaris. We also wanted to think of something new to offer players that wouldn’t require developer time. As a joke, someone suggested offering our biggest fans future space burials at a pre-set price. This joke, combined with the high cost of sending actual rockets into space, pretty quickly morphed into the final idea of sending a balloon with our pre-order customers out into space.
What would you say helped Stellaris gain success so quickly?
Steven: The most obvious reason is Stellaris being the first of many Paradox Development Studio grand strategy titles, with their dedicated fan base. I think there were more people that felt passionately about Stellaris—on both the developer side and the publisher side—than any campaign in recent memory. When you have a great game like Stellaris, with its veteran design and development team, combined with so many people keen on spreading the message from the publishing side, it becomes easier to get it out there.
Mary Meeker has released her newest new report on internet trends. This in-depth breakdown explores the evolution of marketing from the corner store to Snapchat and everything in between. As consumer values change from generation to generation, brands that adapt, innovate and personalize continue to thrive.
A Picture Tells A Thousand Words
Millennials curate and share content more than any generation before, largely due to the accessibility of camera phones and social media. Known for their tendency to “live in the moment,” millennials are responding well to short ads that get right to the point. For this reason, video ads—particularly in micro form—are rising in popularity and effectiveness. At 27 percent of the population, millennials are the largest generation in the United States. Driven by instant gratification and community, the spending power of this sought-after demographic is expected to rise significantly in the next 10 to 20 years.
Telling a story through pictures dates back to the earliest days of civilization. The practice has returned through emoji, Snapchat and picture-sharing internet sites like Pinterest. In a 2016 study by Cowen and Company, 55 percent of those surveyed said that they use Pinterest to find products with the intention of shopping. Houzz, a personalized planning app, allows users to visualize what a product would look like in a room using their on-phone camera. According to the brand, which launched the View In My Room option in February, 50 percent of users who made a purchase through their app utilized the tool.
Stories Around The Digital Campfire
In a digital landscape of advertisement noise, savvy brands are turning to frontline marketing to engage their customers on a personal level. According to author Jonah Sachs, society has entered the “digitoral era,” in which the best stories survive—much like in ancient times.
“We need to realize that storytelling is communal,” explained Joey Jones, creative director for Ayzenberg during the 2016 [a]list summit. “The fact that my wife gets mad at me when I watch Breaking Bad episodes without her is a testament that even though we’re standing or sitting right next to each other watching the same flat screen and not saying anything, there is a sort of special bond we have when we’re listening to stories.”
Millennials tend to value self-expression and diversity, making it vital to reach this target audience on an emotional level. With global ad blocking users on the rise, brands now face the challenge of connecting with their target audiences on the internet by other means. From type-based emoji to Snapchat lenses, brands are making it easier to convey emotion and personality with a single image. Companies have turned to messaging services like Facebook to offer customer service, while consumers in Thailand can make a purchase via Instagram through the power of conversation.
Regardless of age, today’s tech-savvy consumer loves to share everything from pictures of their grandchildren to a cat playing the piano. Facebook is the current leader in social media for consumers between the ages of 18-to-34, followed by Snapchat and Instagram. With increasing accessibility to smart phones, content creation is on the rise—particularly with millennials hoping to be discovered. Camera-based stories tend to be more personal, regardless of the simultaneous viewership. In fact, Snapchat reported 10-to-20 million live stories viewed each day.
The possibility of being discovered with only a phone and a social media connection is very real, as the world discovered last month. Now known as the “Chewbacca Mom,” a Facebook Live user named Candace Payne donned a Chewbacca mask from Kohl’s and shared her infectious delight with the product. Played over 153 million times, Payne’s video is the most-viewed live video on the new platform. Kohl’s was mentioned in the video twice. As a result, Kohl’s became the leading app in the USA iOS App Store, and demand for the Chewbacca mask rose dramatically. Payne herself has been invited on a number of talk shows, met Star Wars director, J. J. Abrams and was even offered a full scholarship to Florida’s Southeastern University.
It just goes to show that an effective story could be anything, but it must be authentic. Just as Candace Payne laughed her way into internet stardom, brands must remain creative and genuine in order to reach audiences on an emotional level.
Nokia Technologies continues to expand its Hollywood client list with its $60,000 Ozo professional virtual reality camera. The company has worked with studios such as 20th Century Fox, which helped design the camera, and Walt Disney Pictures, which recently signed a multi-year deal with Nokia to provide the equipment and VR technologies to support the creation of special VR content.
Livestreaming is the latest addition to the camera’s capabilities. Nokia demonstrated this technology at the May 23rd red carpet premiere of Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles. Pink sang a livestreamed performance to kick off the premiere, which fans could watch on YouTube 360.
Paul Melin, head of presence capture at Nokia Technologies, talks about the evolving virtual reality livestreaming business in this exclusive interview.
How has your Disney deal been progressing?
We have a three-year deal to collaborate on VR experiences with their properties. The latest event was the premiere of Alice Through the Looking Glass. We had both a 360 degree red carpet experience, but also a concert that Pink performed that was captured with three Ozos and livestreamed in 360 degrees to YouTube 360. It was a proof-of-concept of the capabilities for direct-to-consumer livestreamed content on existing social media channels, which is something our customers want.
How quickly were you able to deliver the taped 360-degree content?
We did a rapid turnaround of the concert and we had the full 3D concert in VR with special audio at the after party later that evening.
We have a real-time stitching solution that allows us to livestream VR, which we demonstrated at NAB (National Association of Broadcasters). We had our own booth on the show floor and a stage in front of the NAB hall. We had on-going performances captured with three Ozo cameras that were sent to our booth at the conference and shared with our partners.
How did you work with Disney on The Jungle Book?
There were a few Jungle Book VR projects. Some were computer-generated, but Disney’s The Jungle Book Experience used our Ozo cameras to deliver interviews with actors and directors, and then we had one camera set up on the red carpet of the film. Disney promoted these videos across its social media and on Facebook 360.
Is there any limitation to the amount of cameras you use on a red carpet or at an event?
The Alice experience was more extensive with the three cameras. We only used one camera on The Jungle Book. We were at another event with seven Ozo cameras recently. The number of cameras is not the limitation.
How do you see your cameras being used by Disney and other studios moving forward?
There’s tremendous demand for red carpet coverage, so we can enable all of our customers to do the same type of livestreamed capture. The experience is great for customers. After these first experiments, we’re moving ahead with the software development to make 360-degree livestreaming broadly available in Q3 of this year. But we’ll continue working with selected customers at multiple events to make these live experiences possible right now.
How else do you see this livestreaming being used outside of red carpets?
There’s a lot of demand for live experiences in sports, music, and news. We will be running livestreaming tests in all of those segments in the near future.
How are you seeing early customers use the Ozo cameras?
There’s a great amount of experimentation going on. One of our customers has been shooting lots of nature and documentary content. One of the key benefits of the VR experience is taking cameras to places that are difficult to experience otherwise.
There’s a lot of experimentation with narrative in entertainment experiences. In many cases, it merges gaming and CGI and 360-degree video. It’s evolving quickly and we’re seeing non-linear and hybrid experiences where the VR content can be experienced as part of the broader entertainment experience.
How has distribution of the cameras been expanding?
We have reseller channels in multiple countries opening up. The Pioneer Program has allowed customers who are willing to share some of their content with us to get access to Ozos at a favorable price ($15,000 off retail). We’ve had dozens of applications for this program.
How does this program work?
The terms of the Pioneer Program on our website. The key is that if the company agrees to give us structured feedback in using the Ozo and they share with us one minute of content that we can use to engage with the community, they’ll get a discounted price.
What type of demand are you seeing from brands and advertising in VR?
We’ve seen great demand from the advertising and brand experience sector. A lot of early experiences by Hollywood studios are being funded from the marketing department because the audience is interested in this emerging technology. VR experiences can drive engagement and excitement around a film or a product or a store. The retail and brand ad experiences are among the most active sub-segments we’ve seen to date.
What impact do you see the launches of Sony PlayStation VR and Google Daydream later this year having on the ecosystem?
Google has been an early believer in VR, and the more investment we see from major companies like Sony, Google, and Facebook, the quicker we can evolve the industry.
What role do you see mobile VR playing in this landscape moving forward?
Mobile is definitey a big target for most of our customers. On mobile, because of the limitations of positional tracking as a gaming platform, some of our customers see video being even more important than for the home console.
How do you see the length of VR content evolving?
There are umpteen-million millennials living in the world today, and Discovery Communications believes it has finally found the content matrix that caters to the finicky demographic’s desires.
The solution comes via video, and by re-introducing their millennial-centric web-native network Seeker brand to deliver more than 250 videos a month on science, world, and exploration.
The videos, which debuted last month with shows like “I left my law career to be a LEGO Artist” and “Why your favorite internet memes should never be forgotten,” feature influencers like Trace Dominguez and Jason Silva dishing out a slate of original short-form documentaries, live online events, and social content.
Suzanne Kolb, Discovery Digital Networks’ executive vice president and general manager, oversees the company’s portfolio of web-native brands and series, original digital development, Discovery VR, and social partnerships. She joined [a]listdaily to discuss how Seeker will continue to build on its DNews and Seeker Daily programs in addition to debuting new documentaries and series.
What went into selecting the specific slate of programming for Seeker? What’s the strategy you used to come up with the plan?
We started with a distinct advantage: Seeker is built upon a foundation of learning from several highly successful YouTube channels and a wealth of research about our audience. We’re bringing that learning and the Discovery DNA to digital natives with themes of science, world and exploration. We’re focused on reaching a uniquely curious audience of millennial minds that want to apply their curiosity to the world around them through insightful content and first-person experiences. Our editorial approach is to fully embrace that pursuit through personal accounts, explanatory content and web documentaries. At the heart of what we have created is great storytelling, engaging talent and a mindfulness of our audience’s desire to learn and share.
What’s the integrated marketing plan in-store for Seeker? How will you be getting it in front of your target audience?
While we’re delivering great content and have built a wonderful destination in Seeker.com, we’re looking holistically at how we can reach our target audience. The opportunities and levers are many—from collaborations and partnerships with other content creators and like-minded organizations to elevating and showcasing the everyday seeker, to strategic social marketing spends and support from our linear sister networks in the form of an on-air effort. The Seeker brand is more than just content or a single platform, and we’re going to continue to drive awareness and engagement online and off.
How does Seeker’s video strategy complement the larger Discovery brand?
Discovery Communications has led the industry in countless ways for more than 30 years, and digital is a top priority for the company. Today, as an original digital content arm, we’re expanding on our heritage of storytelling and building brands. The platforms, length of content and storytelling approaches may differ, but our Seeker brand is an exciting complement to our linear business. And while our brands are unique, we’ve found great opportunities to work together—from our short-form franchise Science Presents DNews segments (which even drew guest host President Barack Obama) to SourceFed Studios’ take on Discovery’s Naked & Afraid.
How do you plan on leveraging original programming and content on social media? Any specific plans for Snapchat?
We’re rolling out platform-specific strategies and, where it makes sense, original content. In terms of video alone, we’re currently averaging more than 100 million views across our Seeker and SourceFed Studios portfolio on Facebook, a three-times increase over May 2015. Much of that success is due to the original content we’re producing for the platform, and we’re seeing engagement growing as well, with close to two million engagements in April alone for Seeker. Live is also a key component of our strategy—whether Facebook, Snapchat or beyond. We’ll be expanding on our success across Snapchat and other platforms … stay tuned.
How is Discovery reinventing its approach to influencer marketing to further reach millennials?
With Seeker and SourceFed Studios, we’re fortunate to have strong influencers among our talent family, and we’ll be working with some exciting names as a part of our programming, as with our Seeker Sabbaticals series launching later this year. Beyond that, our audience development team has done a fantastic job cultivating relationships with fellow creators to extend the reach of our content and brands, and we’ll continue to reach out to individuals—‘influencer’ or not—who we think will connect with Seeker.
Brands are always trying to reach the finicky millennial demographic. How will you measure success that you’re actually accomplishing this through Seeker?
While Seeker is a brand meant for a millennial audience, we have strategically chosen to focus not just on the demographic but on a psychographic within it, as well. Brands at their best don’t try to be everything to everyone and our success, ultimately, will be measured by the size of our target audience, the engagement we see and our ability to create meaningful opportunities for brands and drive revenue.
What was the most telling tidbit you learned during this process regarding the millennial audience?
That you can remove a part of your logo and the curious minds you target will see it anyway! This generation is full of driven individuals, and their appetite for enriching content and a quest for knowledge is far from satiated. Seeker fills that void, answers those questions and inspires bright young minds.
It’s easy to see why so many players love Rocket League, a video game that combines the thrill of racing with the strategy of sports, as the general idea is to knock a ball into a goal using all sorts of crazy driving tactics. But what’s really amazing is how successful the game has become even though the developer is giving away most of its content free of charge.
Forbes reports that revenue for the game has picked up tremendously over the past few months. Last December, it had grossed $70 million with four million copies sold, and now that number has ballooned to $110 million, and five million units sold. Its launch on the Xbox One platform almost certainly helped, but it’s still quite a win for a game that owes much of its success to being offered for free to PlayStation Plus subscribers when it first released.
“Our numbers are actually going up, not down,” said Psyonix vice president Jeremy Dunham. “Which is not very common for a game that’s ten months old.”
The game has garnered quite an audience between both eSports pro players and casual fans, with 15 million playing the game since its release last July.
Again, the complete surprise is with its business model. Although there are a number of premium cosmetic items, such as licensed vehicles from Back To the Future, Gears of War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, most of the updates are provided free of charge. But free content isn’t stopping the developer from gaining a hefty profit.
“We just want people to have options,” Dunham explained. “Where they can buy things that they think look cool that don’t negatively or positively affect their gameplay experience. We want people to express themselves, and so all the other items that we’ve done that do affect gameplay, like new maps or new modes, we give away for free. We don’t want people to feel like they’re not included in something if they don’t give us money. We want it to be the opposite.”
It’s certainly paying off, as approximately five million players continue to be active with the game, even months after its release. “One of the things you see in a lot of multiplayer games,” Dunham explained, “is that over time usually the player base gets smaller and smaller as more and more DLC is added to the environment, because fewer and fewer people are buying those items. Since we only sell cosmetic items and cars we aren’t cutting anyone out of the equation, and that’s why our numbers are actually going up month after month after month. Our active player base has been increasing for five months in a row.”
For example, the company released a new Hoops mode, where players try to slam a ball into a virtual net. Although the update was free, the game also released licensed NBA flags that players could attach to their cars for a small fee… which sold like crazy.
The company also continues to make strides with its community, having recently introduced a cross-play compatibility feature for Xbox One and PC, so players can take on one another no matter their platform. PlayStation 4/Xbox One cross-platform compatibility is still being discussed, but Dunham notes that “it’s one that we hope to deliver one day.”
And Psyonix isn’t done yet, as it has plans for future content down the road. “I think that’s one of the key elements in keeping a community healthy and going is not trying to create exclusive clubs where only certain people can play,” Dunham says. “We’re a community-based game so we want as many people to experience it as possible.”
As long as fans keep coming back with fun content and a strong community, Rocket League will continue to score big.
A new report from Bloomberg indicates that Snapchat now has 150 million people that use it each day, which actually eclipses the daily active users that utilize Twitter. This is a huge increase from the 110 million daily users that were tallied back in December — a 40 million increase in a matter of six months.
Twitter currently has 140 million users that interact with its services on a daily basis, based on estimates gathered by Bloomberg. Of course, Facebook still remains a top draw with services like Instagram and Messenger, but the fact that a four-year-old social media app can make that kind of progress in a short amount of time is incredibly impressive.
Even though Snapchat has a high number behind it, Twitter still notes that it has 310 million monthly active users, although it failed to disclose just how many check in on a regular basis.
Snapchat’s audience growth is no accident. Between brand promotions and the introduction of new services like customizable video tools, including Lenses that add everything from puppy dog faces to “rainbow puke,” it’s given users more reason to tinker with the app, even though most of the general content vanishes after a 24-hour time period.
During Re/Code‘s technology conference on Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged that Snapchat messaging had become “very modern,” and is working to make Twitter more convenient for its audience to use. That’s not to say it’s losing business, but it needs to make changes when it comes to keeping up with competitors like Facebook and Snapchat.
For the time being, Snapchat is certainly going places, and it could very well crack 200 million viewers by year’s end, based on its rate of growth. Talk about a Live Story worth sharing.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) remains as one of the most recognizable video game events in the world, with thousands of journalists from around the world flocking to the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 14-16. This year, the convention will also host a public event called E3 Live, at the LA Live entertainment district, where publishers will present games from the show floor to thousands of attending fans. According to statistics released by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which hosts E3, this year’s event will have an even greater emphasis on mobile games and AR/VR games.
However, the most talked about events are the various pre-E3 press conferences, which happen before the show floor opens. The biggest announcements, demonstrations and surprises all happen there. However, publishers appear to be very secretive this year, perhaps more so than in the past, in revealing what they plan to present—instead relying on rumor to stir up hype. So, without delving too much into speculation, these are the ways E3’s top presenters plan on making a huge impression at E3 2016.
EA took a decidedly unique approach this year by breaking away from E3 to host EA Play, a public event that puts “players first.” Attendees will be among the first to see new game announcements and try out demos. Those that cannot attend the live events at The Novo at LA Live (June 12-14) or the Hammersmith Apollo in London can still help themselves to announcements, reveals and behind-the-scenes content as it is livestreamed.
Of course, there will be plenty to see, as EA will showcase one of its most anticipated games, Battlefield 1, with a live 64-player battle that will be livestreamed after the pre-E3 presentation on June 12. Some of the other high-profile games that are expected to be revealed at EA Play include Titanfall 2, Mass Effect Andromeda and three EA Sports games, including Madden NFL 17 and FIFA 17. Although a sequel to last year’s hit Star Wars Battlefront isn’t expected to release until 2017, and the untitled Star Wars project in development by Visceral Games (Dead Space series; Battlefield Hardline) won’t come out until 2018, it’s still likely that something Star Wars-related will be revealed at the EA pre-E3 presentation.
The PlayStation 4 has a ton to show-off this year, especially given how the PlayStation VR is launching in October and pre-orders have already sold out. That means that we should be looking forward to an in-depth reveal of Robinson: The Journey. Furthermore, Activision will not be attending E3 this year, and is instead promoting top games like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare through Sony’s booth, and addition details about the newly announcedSkylanders Imaginators should also be present. That’s just the start, as Sony has plenty of highly anticipated games in the works, including The Last Guardian, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and No Man’s Sky, all of which made huge impressions at last year’s E3.
Fans can watch it all unfold on the big screen, as Sony will once again bring its pre-E3 presentation to select movie theaters across the US and Canada on June 13. These events give for PlayStation fans a chance to come together and celebrate their favorite console. But those that can’t make it to theaters won’t be left out. The entire press conference will be livestreamed to PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles alongside other sites and apps.
Being the first E3 without the late Satoru Iwata, Nintendo is looking to play things relatively safe by focusing only on the new The Legend of Zelda game during its livestreamed presentation. This is despite the fact that there’s a ton of buzz around the much-rumored NX console, the new Pokémon Sun and Moon games releasing in the fall, and how Pokémon GO is expected to hit mobile devices this summer. Then again, the E3 floor plan shows that Nintendo has booked a tremendous amount of show floor space, 30,000 square feet, exceeding the size of Microsoft’s booth and is second only to Sony. That seems like an extraordinarily large space for the sake of a single game, suggesting that some surprises might be in store, but it’s more likely that much of it will be taken up by the Treehouse Stage for livestreaming and events while attendees get an in-depth Zelda Experience.
Given the tremendous success Bethesda saw with its pre-E3 presentation last year, it’s no surprise that the company will be doing it again this year. Last year’s show included some spectacular reveals, such as announcing Fallout 4 one week before the show, and the surprise launch of the mobile game, Fallout Shelter. It’s likely that Dishonored 2, which was announced last year, will be the big focus of the presentation, followed by plans for additional Fallout 4 content that’s expected to come out later this year. A first-look at Doom‘s add-on content, as detailed in the game’s Season Pass, is also very likely. As for all-new games, Bethesda is playing it close to the chest. If last year was any indication, we’re not likely to learn about new game announcements until the last minute.
Ubisoft’s official E3 website doesn’t reveal too much about what to expect from the company that’s still riding high off the record-breaking success of Tom Clancy’s The Division (which will be turned into a movie), but there are currently a handful of games that are confirmed to be shown. They include the competitive melee battle game, For Honor, Ghost Recon Wildlands, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, and the Eagle Flight VR experience. The social VR game, Werewolves Within, releases this fall, so it should also be among Ubisoft’s showcase.
As for new announcements, rumors of Watch Dogs 2—a sequel to the 2014 game that featured a hacker taking control of Chicago’s electronic infrastructure—have been simmering for quite some time after its development was mentioned in a February earnings call. It seems that the company originally meant to keep its announcement under wraps, but sent out gift boxes to various YouTube personalities without instructions to keep their contents a secret. The packages included a pair of Watch Dogs 2 branded Ray-Ban sunglasses and case, an assortment of pins, and a t-shirt proclaiming the return of the fictional hacker group, Dedsec. Afterwards, there was really no point in pretending any longer, and Ubisoft confirmed today that Watch Dogs 2 will be shown at E3.
Although 2K has only confirmed a handful of games that will be shown at E3—Mafia III, Battleborn, Civilization Revolution 2, and the recently announced Civilization VI— Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive (2K’s parent company), promised in a May interview that “We will be there in a big way.”
There are certainly plenty of rumors to support a big presence at E3, including the possibility of a Red Dead Redemption 2 announcement from Grand Theft Auto developers, Rockstar Games. Some speculate that there could be a remaster or remake of the original Red Dead Redemption to go with it. However, we can’t know anything for certain until 2K shows us what going big is all about.
Of all the companies presenting at E3, Microsoft is among the most tight-lipped. We know that an unnamed Forza game will be there, which is almost certain to be Forza Horizon 3. Gears of War 4 will also surely be shown, as will Crackdown 3, Scalebound, ReCore, and Sea of Thieves, which were all announced at previous E3 press conferences. Additionally, audiences are bound to see more HoloLens gaming, particularly from the special version of Minecraft revealed last year. Many believe that a new Xbox One model or two will debut—which is a theory that’s backed by a recent $50 price drop for the existing console—along with two new streaming devices, but nothing is known for certain. But, at the risk of delving too much further into speculation, Microsoft is likely to discuss additions to its Xbox backward compatibility feature.
More game publishers are looking to create movies from their video game licenses these days. Last year, Activision Blizzard introduced a new studio devoted to movies and TV shows based on franchises like Call of Duty and Skylanders, and more recently, Nintendo announced that it will bring its popular franchises back to the big screen sometime over the next few years. However, Ubisoft seems to be showing the biggest initiative, with an Assassin’s Creed movie headed for a holiday release. Now another is in the works, based on new and best-selling franchises.
Variety reported that the game developer is hard at work on a second movie project, this one based on Tom Clancy’s The Division. The game made its debut on the market in March and has managed to become the studio’s fastest selling game to date, shattering release records, and it continues to draw in thousands of players with regular updates. Ubisoft has previously partnered with Amazon for a live-action series based on Division, subtitled AgentOrigins, which is available to Prime subscribers.
The movie is still in the very early stages of development, but actor Jake Gyllenhaal (End of Watch) is already attached to not only star in the film, but also serve as a producer. This would be Gyllenhaal’s second foray into video game film work, following his role in Disney’s 2010 release Prince of Persia, which also happens to be based on a Ubisoft franchise.
This news complements Ubisoft’s efforts to establish the Assassin’s Creed franchise as a Hollywood film. The Assassin’s Creed movie, starring Michael Fassbender (X-Men: Apocalypse), is currently in post-production and is set to hit theaters on December 21. Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons are also featured in the film.
Ubisoft, partnering with 20th Century Fox, has already begun promotion for the film with posters and standees in theaters, as well as the recent debut of the first trailer, which was shown on Jimmy Kimmel Live! before making the rounds on social media. In addition, Ubisoft is developing a special VR experience to promote Assassin’s Creed, with footage filmed alongside the movie to further immerse viewers into its world. While little else is known about the Assassin’s Creed VR experience, it’s expected to be available around the same time as the movie’s launch.
Assassin’s Creed and The Division are just the latest examples of a resurgence in video game licensed movies. Rovio recently invested $73 million to produce The Angry Birds Movie, and it’s currently sitting pretty with $229 million in domestic box office revenues. Next week will see the release of the long-awaited cinematic adaptation of Warcraft, a big-budget affair produced by Legendary Pictures and Blizzard Entertainment.
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