Andy Miller Details ESports BioSteel ‘Bench’ Deal

NRG continues to do things differently in the world of eSports. More specifically, the team is at the forefront of integrating traditional sports thinking into the nascent professional video gaming landscape.

Andy Miller, co-owner of the Sacramento Kings and founder and chairman of NRG, has entered into an NBA-style “bench” sponsorship deal with non-endemic company BioSteel Sports Nutrition. Similar to how NBA teams sell sponsorship of the team bench, player towels, and water bottles for a brand (usually a sports drink), NRG will promote BioSteel across its League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams.

“BioSteel is a major sports nutrition company for performance athletes,” Miller said. “They work across a lot of sports and individual athletes from baseball, golf, and basketball. Because we’re basketball owners and we have athletes like Shaq, A-Rod, and Jimmy Rollins as investors—we brought in a company that knows player health.”

Although there’s no official “bench” in eSports, and teams play in different venues across multiple leagues, BioSteel will be prominently featured and cross-promoted by NRG teams and players.

“Our guys will walk in with their towels and drinks, where it’s appropriate,” Miller said, noting that Valve’s rules for CS:GO are much more lenient than Riot Games’ for League of Legends. “When players leave the arena, they’ll have the product with them for post-game interviews. Some of the guys are fanatics about the product, others don’t use it. We’re not going to force it on anyone. When they do streaming, the folks who use it will talk about it. And it will be part of our gamer hub.”

The deal actually came about because NRG’s League of Legends player Lucas (Santorin) Larsen used BioSteel products religiously.

“Santorin is a healthy and handsome Nordic man who works out all the time,” Miller said. “When we signed him a few months ago, he made a video and sent it to me suggesting we get them as sponsors. He uses their products because they’re all-natural with no caffeine, so he can focus on a match and then go to bed that night and recover. I contacted the CEO and he was so taken by the video that we began talking and put this deal together.”

Miller said this deal is important not only as a new sponsor entering the eSports space from traditional sports, but because the product recognizes eSports players as the athletes they are.

“The global explosion of eSports is remarkable,” said John Celenza, CEO of BioSteel Sports Nutrition Inc. “By mirroring a partnership familiar to mainstream professional sports, it is an authentic participation for BioSteel in a new sports industry. We acknowledge the immense skill and level of influence that an eSports athlete possesses in their demanding practice and performance and are unified with NRG in promoting athlete health in eSports.”

To further acknowledge athleticism in eSports, BioSteel will inaugurate Santorin into Team BioSteel, a group of athletes from a spectrum of traditional sports that serve as role models for player health and are supported by BioSteel. He’ll have a link on the company website with his stats and workout routines and other information.

“We’ve been doing nutrition with sports psychologists and BioSteel is coming down and doing a day of training to educate players on how to take care of their body and mind at the same time. That’s a big theme for us.”

Miller said social will be part of the BioSteel deal. Select players will stream and talk about the health benefits of the product. They will also create videos like a “Day in the Life of Santorin” that will get into his physical workouts and fitness routines.

Melissa Brooks, co-owner of NRG, said the BioSteel deal will extend beyond the fitness and health of the teams, and out to the community of fans.

“We’re thinking of ways over the next few months to educate the community and give them access to the product,” Brooks said.

NRG’s CS:GO team is now a Top 20 team in the world, so they’re receiving invitations to events around the globe.

“We moved into a giant, beautiful house in the Hollywood Hills and they have what they need from a coaching, nutrition and health standpoint,” Brooks said. “We had a happy training camp, and I think we’ll show good results.”

The BioSteel deal is one that Miller believes will continue to expand over time.

“We’re adding more teams and athletes, so we’ll begin our relationship with these two games and teams and extend the deal as we grow,” Miller said.

Comcast Exec Explains Why Xfinity Brand Is Perfect For ESports

With over a billion people aware of professional video gaming globally, Comcast is the latest mainstream company to jump into the eSports space. Comcast’s Xfinity brand is sponsoring the ESL, as well as North American eSports team Evil Geniuses. As part of these new partnerships, Xfinity will have branding opportunities at industry broadcasts, tournaments, and events, and will outfit each of Evil Geniuses’ training facilities with Gigabit Pro Internet service and the company’s flagship video product, Xfinity X1.

As an official ESL partner, Xfinity naming and branding will be integrated immediately in Thursday’s Halo Championship Series: Pro League Season 1 and this weekend’s Heroes of the Storm Live Finals in Los Angeles. In addition, Xfinity will be present at the organization’s high-profile tournaments including the ESL CS: GO Pro League, ESL Arena at PAX Prime, the North American Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) event, and will have involvement in other premium ESL events and products.

As part of these sponsorships, Xfinity will also become the official entertainment partner and the official internet provider of Evil Geniuses. Founded in 1999 by Alexander Garfield, EG fields some of the world’s best squads and players in Dota 2, StarCraft II, Halo 5: Guardians and fighting games.

Evil Geniuses training facilities in Alameda, CA and Urbana, IL will be installed with Xfinity’s Gigabit Pro Internet service, Xfinity X1 and additional technology and equipment to support the team. Xfinity branding will also appear on team jerseys, social channels, during live streams and across all player appearances.

Matt Lederer, executive director of sports marketing at Comcast, explains how these partnerships will help Comcast connect with a hard-to-reach younger demographic in this exclusive interview.

Why are you entering the eSports space now?

We’ve been keeping our eye on eSports for the last 18 to 24 months. We’ve dabbled with some on-site work at a PAX conference and worked on some things with a publisher. But we’re jumping into it in a big way. We’re seeing the trend and the direction the sport is taking, especially here in the U.S.

There are many opportunities provided through ESL and Evil Geniuses. Unlike almost any other partnership, the fact that our internet product is so endemic and natural to how the players and participants play and participate made getting into the space an easy decision.

How do you view eSports compared to a traditional sport?

We’re looking at it as a group of participants and spectators that are an important segment for the future of our company. These are young, diverse people who either play games professionally or watch the competition. To have a sport that leverages the fastest speed Xfinity provides a great opportunity for our company.

Did seeing more mainstream companies enter this space impact your decision?

Yahoo, TBS and ESPN are all in it. We’re in it because of the segment of fans who express enthusiasm about this sport.

This is also a fan base that can be finicky when it comes to direct marketing and not taking the right approach.

Finicky is a solid word to use. We’ll lean heavily on our partners. We want to continue to see eSports grow and evolve. “Authentic” is the buzzword in eSports. Evil Geniuses and ESL will help us be authentic. We are not going into this space assuming we know everything about it. We selected these two well-established partners to start with.

How will you connect with this fan base?

The Xfinity product is so natural and core, you’ll see first a very natural introduction to the sport which follows a lot of other partnerships we’ve done like Taylor Swift or NASCAR. We probably won’t use traditional ads or offer-driven creative. We want to celebrate the gaming community and speak to them in a respectful tone.

Will video content be part of this marketing plan?

Both partners will evolve with video. We’re starting with the internet being the core messaging with the great speed of Xfinity being great for gaming. Over time, we’re expecting to work with partners to create a content offering and lean into that video experience.

How will you tap into the social media reach of the Evil Geniuses pro gamers?

The structure of these partnerships offers us two unique opportunities through reach and passion. We love the fact that we have a game-agnostic ESL relationship. They cover a wide spectrum of games and leagues and they offer a great reach opportunity. Evil Geniuses taps into fans of the team and of specific players. We’ll work with Evil Geniuses players to create social conversations.

When will these partnerships kick off?

June 3 through 5 at the Halo ESL Championship. On ESL you’ll see branding within the analyst desk with both static and digital read-outs from casters. Evil Geniuses will have branding on the uniform jackets and shirts. Over time, you’ll see our branding from the streams they do from their gaming houses in Chicago and Alameda.

Is there any comparison to these early days of eSports to any other sports?

I can’t think of a sport or industry starting off like this. It feels like this has had a lot of traction in Europe and Asia and is now migrating to the U.S. I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of something at its conception. The movement upward is tremendous in where this is headed.

How did working with NASCAR fans help prepare you for eSports fans?

There’s a parallel with NASCAR fans also being finicky. In both spaces, a brand can have success if they come in and speak in an authentic and credible manner. In year one of our NASCAR partnership, our ads were a lot different than we do in the general market. We were touting the drivers and touting the racing experience. We’re entering the eSports space in a similar way. Our product is core to them and it Xfinity offers them an advantage when practicing and playing. It allows us to enter the space in a natural and credible way.

There are participants—spectators, teams, players—that create higher levels of passion. We’ll tap into that passion and drive some strong brand correlation.

Is it getting easier to make the case for eSports with the higher-ups?

The explanations internally about what eSports is are getting less and less. There’s an understanding of what this is, and the importance of the segment and our product’s connection to it, and the growth of it.

What impact do you see the recent success Turner has had with eSports on television having on the entire industry?

Any sort of exposure for eSports is a good thing for brands involved in the space, and it helps the internal explanations as well. We were ready to jump into the space before the TBS and some of the ESPN broadcasts. But the increased exposure is great because Evil Geniuses is trusting Xfinity Internet to be in their gaming houses to help compete and win. Our value and success comes through. The more exposure through increased digital or TV coverage will be a win for all brands who are involved in an authentic way.


AWE Founder On Why Augmented Reality Is Already Huge In Business

The Augmented World Expo (AWE) is celebrating its seventh year this week in Santa Clara June 1-2. The conference, which features 200 speakers from companies such as Intel, Google, NVIDIA, Boeing, The Void, UploadVR, Huawei, Nokia Technologies, and WEVR, has attracted over 200 exhibitors and 4,000 attendees from around the globe.

The show has already seen news in the virtual reality and augmented reality space, including Re’Flekt’s unveiling of its 360-degree video platform REFLEKT360; ScopeAR’s launch of WorkLink, the first smart instruction creation tool that enables non-technical staff to produce highly interactive augmented reality instruction and training materials; and a $20 million Series A funding round led by Fosun Kinzon Capital for VR and AR tracking technology company uSens.

Ori Inbar, executive director of AWE, was co-founder and CEO of AR company Ogmento, which later became Flyby and was acquired by Apple. That technology is part of Apple’s internal push to develop a consumer AR product.

Inbar is also founder and general manager of Super Ventures, which is investing $10 million in AR startups such as Waygo and Fringefly. He talks about the evolving AR and VR industries in this exclusive interview.

Can you talk about Ogmento and what you learned about the AR business from that company?

On the one hand, you can’t underestimate timing. We started in 2009, way before the hardware was good enough and had to do massive education of the market about this new technology. But on the other hand, AR is hard and it takes time to master, so if you are looking for the promising startups check out those who started really early and didn’t give up—as they will be the industry leaders of tomorrow.

How have you seen AWE evolve over the last seven years?

It started seven years ago as an insider conference with 300 attendees discussing ideas and a vision for the industry. It grew into a massive industry event with 4,000 attendee and 200 exhibitors, where major deals are made with Fortune 1,000 companies.

What role does AWE play in the ecosystem today?

We like to think we help accelerate the industry. Many of the leading AR startups in the market today such as Blippar, Daqri, and Vuforia were born and raised with AWE.

How big is the augmented reality business today and how do you see it growing over the next five years?

The AR industry today is nearing a billion dollar business, and according to Digi Capital, it’s predicted to grow to over $100 billion in the next five years. The level of investments in AR and VR has ballooned this last quarter to $1.5 billion.

A lot of press coverage these days focuses on virtual reality, thanks to Facebook. How do you see companies like Microsoft and Magic Leap impacting awareness of augmented reality moving forward?

There are more than two dozen AR glasses companies shipping products today, including Microsoft, Intel, Epson, Lenovo, and Sony. And soon all giant electronics players will have no choice but to join the game. Apple is working on its own version, which will probably ship when the market is ready for mass adoption in one to three years.

How big of a role does AR play in business and enterprise today?

2015 saw many AR pilot projects with dozens of AR glasses successfully deployed in Fortune 1,000 companies across manufacturing, aerospace, oil and gas, pharma, education and training, and healthcare—demonstrating significant business value in improving productivity, safety and accuracy, and reducing cost and risk. In 2016 we are seeing these pilots transitioning to departmental deployments with hundreds of employees using AR glasses to work better. This has attracted hundreds of AR startups to shift their focus towards the enterprise where they see immediate revenue and investment opportunities.

What are some examples of business AR that will be on display at AWE?

The most prevailing use cases are remote technician assistant and warehouse picking. Check out the agenda for a full list of Enterprise Use Cases.

Also, there’s a great list of Enterprise Use Cases that will be demonstrated at AWE.

What opportunities does AR open up for businesses?

AR opens up three very broad areas for businesses to work in new ways:

  1. Hands-free real-time contextual information: this covers everything from factory workers getting information on where things are, through to surgeons documenting a procedure.
  2. Interactive 3D: many industries rely on working with digital 3D objects such as Industrial designers, architects, engineers etc. AR will provide a way to work directly with and visualize those objects without the need for $100,000 rooms.
  3. Remote collaboration and support: the ability for AR to allow remote experts to assist and visually guide a remote field worker gives the ability for large field service organizations to reduce their truck roles and employ lower skilled workers, thus lowering their costs. The same technology will also allow us to help our grandparents get their printers working by digitally showing them what to do rather than explaining over the phone.

What opportunities do you see with AR in gaming?

 HoloLens has demonstrated games that can be played while interaction with your room. However, it’s not the primary focus for AR glasses.

When do you see AR impacting consumers with affordable devices they can use?

AR is already impacting users today on smartphones—apps that can translate street signs or menus from Chinese to English in real-time (Waygo), or mobile apps that can visualize furniture in your home before you buy it (Cimagine), or gives you information about a building in front of you by just pointing to it (Fringefy). AR smart glasses are starting to show traction among consumers in niches such as sports (skiing, biking, motorcycle helmets). We believe it will hit the mainstream consumer market in three to five years.

How do you see VR and AR living together as technologies in the future?

AR and VR are Siamese twins; they are attached at the hip, but currently have lives of their own (they apply to different use cases today). However, they share the fundamental technology, hardware, and skills, which is the reason we bring them together at AWE. We believe together, we can accelerate both industries.

Do you see these technologies just blending down the road into a mixed-reality?

Yes, eventually these technologies will converge into a single platform. As a friend of mine (Avi Barzeev) explains, VR is for your dreams (eyes closed) as AR is for your reality (eyes open). Although they are currently being used very differently, AR and VR already have significant overlap in displays, input devices, 3D tech, tools, skills, etc. It is essential for these communities to work together which is what we are doing with AWE.

McDonald’s Cooks Up Creative Marketing Campaigns

McDonald’s has been hard at work with some rather creative marketing campaigns this year, from farm tours to augmented reality. Whether you’re rolling your eyes or “lovin’ it,” one thing is certain—the world-famous purveyor of hamburgers has the world talking.

Futuristic Fast Food

McDonald’s is entering a new era of brand outreach, embracing new technologies and utilizing social media. Earlier this year, Swedish consumers were treated to virtual reality headsets made out of Happy Meal boxes. During South By Southwest 2016, the company created a virtual experience, where users could recreate the ability to actually be part of a Happy Meal, stepping inside a box and being able to design it however they please.

To promote their partnership with the Angry Birds movie, character-themed Happy Meal boxes included a code for an augmented reality game developed by Blippar.

“For The Angry Birds Movie, it makes sense that this AR mini-game would resonate well with the expected, younger target audience because of the engaging content, but moreover, because the content is delivered on a smart vehicle that has become second nature to younger generations,” said Omaid Hiwaizi, president of global marketing for Blippar. “The challenge for brands in engaging kids, however, is in providing quality content that can compete for the attention on established and powerful game and movie franchises. Nevertheless, just like The Angry Birds Movie brings the popular mobile game to life, this AR experience offers a new way for fans to play.”

Thinking Outside The Happy Meal Box

To celebrate National Hamburger Day on May 25, McDonald’s hosted its first Facebook Live video—an hour-long art show reminiscent of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting. Titled The Starving Artist, the mock program featured an improv actor wearing a sweater and fanny pack creating hamburger-inspired artwork. He told viewers that he was going to take the burgers from “mouth-worthy to museum-worthy.” Over the course of the show, three oil paintings were revealed: “The Beefy Gastronaut,” “Burger Brawn” and “Beefy Peaks.” The paintings by artist Adam Holzrichter are to be auctioned on eBay to benefit the Ronald McDonald House charities.

“We’re looking at ways that we can make a big, bold move,” Paul Matson, McDonald’s director of U.S. social engagement told Adweek. “Doing something live is a little bit of a calculated risk. It’s inherently interesting because you don’t know what’s going to happen so we’re trying to take advantage of that and see how that might work for a business that’s 60 years old, such as ourselves. So it’s reinventing ourselves in the way we show our customers our story and Facebook Live happens to be a great way in for us to do that.”

McDonald's celebrated National Hamburger Day with their first Facebook Live stream. The paintings above will be auctioned for their Ronald McDonald House charities. (Source: McDonald's)
The paintings above will be auctioned for their Ronald McDonald House charities. (Source: McDonald’s)

According to McDonald’s the Facebook Live stream reached 884,300 people in 40 minutes, and garnered around 43,200 engagements (likes, comments and shares).

‘Angry’ Burgers

In a publicity stunt that delighted many and horrified others, McDonald’s restaurants in China have been serving red and green hamburger buns as a tie-in to the Angry Birds movie. The brand “rolled” out the brightly-colored sandwiches to mixed reviews. The Naughty Green Pork Burger represents green pigs from the game/film, while the Super Red Burger is a chicken sandwich that matches the angry, feathered protagonist.

The Naughty Green Pork Burger and Super Red Burger, which is actually chicken.
The Naughty Green Pork Burger and Super Red Burger, which is actually chicken.

McDonald’s Of The Future

The 75-year-old restaurant chain has survived and thrives due to its ability to adapt. The first McDonald’s was actually a barbecue restaurant, but its founders changed their focus when they realized that 80 percent of sales came from hamburgers. Today, the brand continues to evolve with the times and demand of its audiences, from offering healthy menu items and breakfast all day to educating the public about their farming techniques. As we enter a new age of social media and content creation, McDonald’s is definitely not afraid to try new marketing ideas.

Sony Bringing PlayStation E3 Presentation Back To Theaters

Last year, Sony provided an innovative way for fans to catch its pre-E3 PlayStation press conference by partnering with a number of theaters to bring the show to the big screen. The campaign was a huge success, bringing thousands of fans to 75 theaters to watch the show live, and awarding them with exclusive goodies. With that, it’s doing it again for this year’s show.

Sony has announced the 2016 PlayStation E3 Experience, which will be taking place on 85 screens (a ten-screen increase) on Monday, June 13th. Like last year, fans will be able to see what happens as the show unfolds, with breaking announcements and returning favorites, including The Last Guardian and its PlayStation VR headset.

In addition, a number of goodies will once again be given to attendees, including a commemorative E3 Experience cup; a PlayStation collectible card (similar to the trading cards given out during previous PlayStation Experience events in Las Vegas and San Francisco); and a “digital gift basket,” with a number of codes available for redemption.

This is the third year for Sony’s theater campaign for its pre-E3 show, and it continues to grow each time. The company even released a video showcasing just how many people wait in line to see what Sony will be revealing.

The PlayStation Blog has a full listing of theaters taking part, and those interested in getting tickets can do so by visiting this link. Sony has noted that some theaters may already be out of tickets, but fans can add themselves to a waitlist as a “select number” of seats will open up on a first come, first serve basis.

For those that don’t get in, Sony will still stream its pre-E3 press conference live through its PlayStation Blog, as well as other media sites.

‘Skylanders Imaginators’ Takes An Innovative Step Forward

Some retailers have shown concern for the toys-to-life game market, with Disney Interactive recently discontinuing Disney Infinity and Warner Bros. concluding its release run on Lego Dimensions. However, Activision is moving forward with an innovative entry in its best-selling Skylanders franchise, which should put those retailers’ minds at ease.

The company has introduced Skylanders Imaginators, a new entry from the originating developers of the series, Toys For Bob. While the series will still rely on bringing toys to life in game, it’ll rely on a new factor: the opportunity for players to customize their own characters.

“Since we launched the very first Skylanders game, we have received countless letters and drawings from kids all over the world sharing their vision for their own Skylanders. No matter how in touch with our ‘inner kids’ we might think we are as adults, nothing comes close to the endless creativity that springs from the mind of an inspired kid,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, Inc. “We’ve turned this year’s game into the ultimate blank canvas for kids’ imaginations so they can create and play their own Skylanders.”

Skylanders 2

Toys ‘R Us has already expressed its excitement for the new project. “Skylanders consistently delivers on innovative gameplay experiences. With customization a dominant trend in the consumer market, the fact that Skylanders Imaginators will allow kids to bring their own creations to life is a game changer and one our customers will enjoy,” said Richard Barry, global chief merchandising officer, Toys ‘R Us, Inc. “We are proud to continue to serve as a marquee Skylanders destination, and look forward to fans’ excitement when the new Skylanders Imaginators game arrives this holiday season.”

In conjunction with the game’s announcement, Activision has also kicked off a new promotion, the Skylanders Art-To-Life Contest, where fans can submit designs for a chance at seeing their characters represented in the game when it launches this fall. Fans are being asked to submit their entries via Instagram or Twitter, with the hashtag “#SkylandersArtContest”.

As far as continuing to lean on the Skylanders franchise in the face of a shake-up in the toys-to-life market, Hirshberg, speaking with Time, detailed its many strengths. “There’s something about this franchise that feels infinite to kids, that feels like there are infinite possibilities. And I think it’s unique when you look at other franchises. I’ve never heard a kid say, ‘There should be an Avenger that does blank.’ I’ve never heard a kid say, ‘There should be a Jedi that does blank.’ Those characters seem somehow set in stone, and set by other narratives, whereas Skylanders has this sense of infinite possibilities. And kids tapped into that very early.”

Skylanders 3

Hirshberg was quick to note how Skylanders has become the 11th-most successful game franchise after just five years in existence. “I feel like there’s a core mashup of mechanics that could very well stand the test of time—that kids have been playing with toys forever, and kids have been interested in video games forever, and that we had found this very powerful way to bring them both together. Now in any given year, there are going to be forces beyond any single competitor’s control. How much competition there is, what the platform dynamics are, how quickly kids are adopting new consoles, how steep is the drop-off of them buying software for legacy consoles, et cetera. And any snapshot at any moment in time can paint a particular picture. We remain confident that there is something fundamentally appealing here in this genre, and that our best strategy is to try to make the best, most innovative games in that genre.”

Innovation continues to be an important factor to the series, as previous games have introduced things like larger, light-up characters; talking Portals; and, most recently, vehicles and licensed Nintendo heroes like Donkey Kong and Bowser. “One of the things that’s always made us stand out is that, year over year, we always introduce something new,” noted Lou Studdert, production coordinator at Activision, speaking with VentureBeat. “We’re now five years in. Kids now take the idea that they can bring their characters to life in a video game for granted. We’re not going to release the same game every year—we’re constantly innovating, constantly looking at new ways to play and make the game feel magical . . . and now we’ve got something nobody else can do [with Imaginator custom characters] because we control our own IP.”

The game is expected to release this fall with multiple packages including one that has two Sensei toys, a Creation Crystal, a Portal of Power and the game for $74.99, as well as a special Dark Edition with yet-undisclosed items for $99.99.

Gamers Have No Problem Watching Videos Or Completing Surveys For Rewards

One of the reasons why free-to-play games are so popular is because many players love getting great gaming experiences without dropping much cash, but they may be willing to invest in other ways, like time. That may also explain why a lot of them prefer earning in-game currency through taking surveys and watching videos.

A new report by TapResearch (via VentureBeat) indicates that approximately 60 percent of gamers watch video ads, complete surveys and install secondary apps onto their phone, all for the sake of earning additional rewards for the games they’re investing in. Watching ads may be the most popular option — something a few developers may want to make note of.

“Free-to-play games make money from in-app purchases or advertising. Reward-based models marry both of those and make a nice third option for the mix,” noted TapResearch vice president Michael Sprague. “We saw a bit of a rocky road at the beginning as ‘incentived advertising’ painted a negative image on this model, but we are now in a place that if you’re not using rewarded video, then you’re doing it wrong.”

Earlier reports suggested that mobile monetization can be a tricky business, with very few people willing to give out money for games or other applications. However, the report noted that providing rewards for smaller actions is a very appreciated practice, as noted by the reasons below.


Approximately one-quarter of those surveyed said that they would take part in watching videos or surveys to level up faster, while others feel that it’s a portion of the game’s fun content; and some do it just to get out of a rut, getting stuck on a particular stage or needing to get past a certain section.

While video ads are the most appreciated format, surveys are also quite popular, according to Sprague. He noted that 74 percent of those polled have at least taken one over the course of their gaming sessions. Installing apps and completing offers are on the lower end of the spectrum, as they involve much more than just watching a video.

Chart 2

“Another interesting piece to rewarded monetization is the psychology behind it. Video is great for a quick 30-second save when users are in ‘gaming mode,’” said Sprague. “Surveys take a bit more commitment and work better when users are in ‘shopping mode.’ It all comes down to expectation setting and user choice.”

And the offers that are provided through free-to-play apps are getting completed quite often. 57 percent of those polled said that they do it ten or more times per month, earning a frequent amount of rewards as a result. Less than one percent have said they’ve never taken part in the practice.

Chart 3

Does this mean more developers could pick up on the practice of introducing videos and optional surveys to their games? Possibly. But keep in mind the report was put together from results across 400 different users, instead of a higher number.

Still, it’s food for thought, especially for those seeking to make a dent in the free-to-play market.

Gamma Labs Founder On How Intel ESports Will Help G Fuel Brand

Gamma Labs has partnered with ESL to make G Fuel the official energy drink of the 11th season of the global Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tour. The new season, which will have a prize pool of over $1 million, kicks off in Shanghai on July 31 and includes stops in Oakland, Gyeonggi, and Katowice. Each event features Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), StarCraft II, and League of Legends tournaments.

In addition to becoming the league’s official energy drink, G Fuel will also present MVP awards at each event, provide custom trophies to each recipient and have sponsored booths and product samplings at each stop over the course of the season. The MVP trophy presentations will be presented prior to the finals, at peak viewership. The season 10 finale had two million peak concurrent viewers, and 35 million unique viewers. This represents a 25 percent and 32 percent rise, respectively, compared to last year’s corresponding events. This highlights the exponential growth both the industry and IEM are experiencing as Season 1 topped out around 500,000 video sessions, and Season 10 hit a staggering 132.3 million video sessions.

Clifford Morgan, CEO and founder of Gamma Labs, explains what eSports opens up for his energy drink brand in this exclusive interview.

How has Gamma Labs explored eSports over the years with Optic Gaming and other teams?

When we first started testing the gaming market about three years ago, we worked with Optic Gaming and several other teams that have experienced tremendous growth since. We ended up having the best relationship with Faze Clan, so we focused our efforts on building a solid partnership with their organization. Since that time, we have moved the key members of Faze into a house near the office, sponsored two of the team members for Visas, and even came out with a flavor of G Fuel for them, Fazeberry. This relationship has helped us build strong roots in the gaming community, and has served as a good foundation for our brand to grow. Faze is now the #1 most watched gaming organization in the world, and the fastest growing. Cumulatively, their organization gets over 200 million YouTube views a month.

How have you seen eSports evolve over that time?

ESports has evolved tremendously since we entered the space. This is still the early stages of evolution though, and the landscape will continue to evolve over the next few years. With eSports entering the Olympics, competitive college gaming (like the PAC-12 announcement), and public television broadcasts (the debut of ELeague on Turner), the idea of professional gamers being regarded as professional athletes is just starting to penetrate the mainstream market. When I see savvy people from outside the space investing in the industry—like Mark Cuban’s recent minority purchase of a competitive team—it validates that eSports is the future of competitive sports.

Why did you decide to work with ESL on the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), one of 18 leagues and tournaments they work with?

We felt the IEM partnership was a great fit for us for two reasons. We ship G Fuel to over 80 countries a month, and IEM’s season 11 directly overlaps some of our largest developing markets. More importantly, we believe G Fuel is the future of energy drinks. As consumers continue to become more health conscious, they are looking for products that will deliver more energy, without the chemicals typically found in canned energy drinks. G Fuel is the new technology of energy drinks—portable because of its powder form, just mix it with your own healthy water source, effective because of our use of quality ingredients, and sugar-free. Intel is one of the largest and most respected technology companies in the world, and we believe the future of energy drinks doesn’t come in a ready-to-drink can.

What do you feel separates IEM from other eSports competitions?

After my recent trip to Katowice, Poland for the Season 10 finale, I would have to say the quality of their production, which is also a direct result of the high caliber of people they have on their team. I’ve been backstage for UFC pay-per-view events, but IEM’s production was even more impressive. Since multiple games are being played, they have several events happening simultaneously. As a result, they have many teams of people that work cohesively together and it’s pretty impressive to see it in real-time. That, and the 34 million unique viewers that watched the event.

How is G Fuel being integrated into this event?

We’ll have tradeshow-style booths at each event so spectators will have an opportunity to taste all the flavors of G Fuel and bring home samples. This interaction is great for our brand, as people that try our products tend to become customers. Sampling only provides access to the people on-site, so the larger penetration is through digital content. We will be included in all the digital advertising prior, during, and post event. This gives us an opportunity for spectators to watch some of our unique content, and familiarize themselves with the brand.

What does the global nature of this touring tournament open up to G Fuel and how big of a global reach does Gamma Labs have?

Currently about one-third of our business is international. Our gaming roots are in console games (Xbox and PlayStation), but the bigger market is clearly in PC gaming. As we penetrate the PC market, we will continue to gain exposure and grow the business globally. We are preparing G Fuel labels in Korean, Chinese, and German, and we’re preparing to open our first overseas distribution center in London.

What separates G Fuel from the other energy drinks involved in eSports?

Unquestionably, the brand integration. Our customers are also fans of our brand. They interact with our influencers, collect tubs and shaker cups, and help spread our message. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen with any other brand. Last year, a high school senior had his yearbook picture taken holding up a tub of G Fuel! Every single day I get messages from aspiring gamers or kids that idolize our influencers, and this type of engagement is something that can’t be established with other brands that may have more money. The vibe or aura that surrounds Gamma Labs right now is truly incredible, and I believe that advantage will help us continue to gain market share.

What role do you see energy drinks playing in eSports with the pros as well as the fans?

ESports is going to continue to get more competitive, and the games are going to become more physically demanding. Wearable technology will eventually lead to competitive games that require both dexterity and athleticism. The PAC-12 announcement seems to open the door for NCAA competition. When the top colleges start offering scholarships to the best gamers, parents will need to reconsider how much time their kids spend practicing. To compete at the highest levels, people will need energy and focus. At the same time, they will be disciplined, just like any other athlete, so health and nutrition become a big part of training. G Fuel is the healthiest, most effective energy formula on the market. Racecar drivers put the best fuel in their cars so they can compete at the highest level. ESports competitors and fans rely on G Fuel to give them the competitive edge.

What does livestreaming open up for your brand as the season progresses?

G Fuel has been involved with livestreaming for quite some time, so this is not a new experience for us. In addition to some of our top YouTube influencers, we have many of the top streamers as brand ambassadors. Twitch revolutionized the streaming business over the last few years, and I see them as the industry leader for the foreseeable future. I see our involvement and exposure continuing to grow in the livestreaming space, and I can see that extending to handheld games from smartphones, not just PC.

How else is Gamma Labs connecting with eSports fans outside of this ESL/IEM activation?

We have an ongoing sponsorship with UMG, we are The Official Energy Drink of the New York ComicCon and Chicago ComicCon, and we have a few other things planned that we haven’t announced yet. We also sponsor many other teams and players outside of ESL/IEM, as well as YouTube and Twitch influencers. I think it’s important to mention that while gaming is a huge part of our customers’ lives, our demographic also requires energy and focus for their non-gaming activities. Whether it’s studying for an exam, writing code until the sun comes up, or going mountain biking, people need energy and focus. G Fuel provides a healthy source of energy to our consumers, without the sugar, crash, or chemicals typically found in energy drinks.

E3 2016 Numbers Reveal Changing Video Game Landscape

The Electronic Entertainment Expo is just over two weeks away, and dozens of companies are preparing to showcase new games and peripherals at the event. In addition, the Entertainment Software Association is also ramping up a separate public event, E3 Live, which will feature a number of these reveals for fans to see first-hand.

This year’s show will be quite a big one, and to help explain just how big it is, the ESA has revealed a number of statistics, including the growth of virtual reality and augmented reality, along with projected attendance numbers:

  • 66 companies will make their debut at E3 this year, including Shacknews, Starbreeze Studios, T-Mobile and Monster.
  • Along with E3 Live, this year’s show will be all about the “prosumer,” with thousands of video game fans getting direct access to the show.
  • Over 90 E3 exhibitors will have presence in the mobile space, up from 70 the previous year. They will be featured in the show’s Online and Mobile Game Pavilion, and more mobile companies are expected to join in the years ahead.
  • 53 exhibitors will feature virtual or augmented reality technology this year, nearly double the amount of the 27 featured last year.
  • One-third of E3’s exhibitors will be international companies, which marks the global growth of the computer and video game industry.
  • More than 2,000 products will be featured at the show, an increase over last year’s 1,600 products. 130 products will make their debut during the week of the event, with a number of surprise reveals.

The company also revealed the following numbers regarding industry trends and innovations:

  • With numbers provided by the NPD, the video game industry has managed to generate more than $23.5 billion in revenue last year, with the latest growth attributed to software sales ($16.5 billion for the year).
  • Digi-Capital notes that the AR/VR market will exceed $150 billion by 2020, with video games being a huge driving factor.
  • Eight of the top 10 paid apps through the Apple App Store are games, and its category makes up 74 percent of the store front’s overall revenue. That’s a smaller number compared to Google Play, with 90 percent of its games making up its overall revenue.
  • Cloud gameplay will reach 66 million U.S. households by next year.
  • The gaming audience has changed quite a bit over the past few years, with the ESA and AARP reporting that 41 million Americans age 50 and older are gamers, while three-quarters of gamers age 50 and above play on a weekly basis. Meanwhile, 43 percent of gamers age 60 and older also play daily.
  • 62 percent of parents whose children play games also do so, taking part in sessions with kids at least once per week.
  • Gamers like to share play experiences with others, as 54 percent of gamers play with others, either online or in-person; while 51 percent take part in multiplayer match-ups on a weekly basis.

E3 will place from June 14-16.

‘Angry Birds Movie’ Director On How To Translate Games To The Big Screen

First-time director Fergal Reilly, who teamed up with co-director Clay Kaytis on The Angry Birds Movie, is a self-proclaimed gamer. He believes that experience helped in transitioning the popular video game characters into a Hollywood animated feature film.

The Angry Birds Movie is already a hit for Rovio Entertainment and Sony Pictures Entertainment, which distributed the $73 million CGI movie. After opening with $38 million domestically, beating out Captain America: Civil War, the movie earned $18 million over the Memorial Day Weekend and has made over $223 million worldwide. Rovio also has a new hit Angry Birds Action! mobile game, new movie merchandise, and a slew of tie-ins helping to cross-promote the big screen and interactive adventures.

Reilly talks about the synergies Rovio brought to the table, including a 360-degree video from McDonald’s, and explains how his own background as a gamer impacted the Hollywood adaptation in this exclusive interview.

What are the challenges of turning a video game into a movie? It’s something Hollywood has been doing for a long time, but hasn’t had the success that we just saw with The Angry Birds Movie at the box office.

It’s about audiences’ expectations. The original source material, if it’s a video game, has a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable fan base, whatever property that might be. It’s a big challenge for any studio to adapt something that’s a translation of a property from one form into another. It’s more of a transformation than it is a translation, and every filmmaker who has to do that, be it Duncan Jones on Warcraft or myself and Clay on Angry Birds, has to set themselves free of the source material a little bit and allow it to be a transformation rather than just a translation. We were lucky on the Angry Birds Movie because there is so little narrative with the actual app that Rovio gave us a huge amount of freedom to create the type of comedy that we were trying to create and blue sky all the characters in that world from the game and create comedic personalities for those characters. The characters in the game don’t have any personality. They’re just icons, whereas our job—and I think any animation director’s job—is to create really funny, appealing characters that the audience is going to root for.

Rovio has done a lot of short Angry Birds Toons over the years. Did that help with the film in any way?

There were a lot of toons that they’d done, like the Piggy Tails, but they’re very simple and short. For the movie, we needed to create personalities with a lot more definition and a much more sophisticated type of comedic personality. It was a huge relief when I saw that John Vitti was writing the script because I knew that he was going to certainly elevate the type of comedic personality that you might have expected from something as simple as a video game app.

Hollywood has done a lot of live action adaptations of games. Does going the CGI route like with The Angry Birds Movie seem a better avenue for success?

It’s a graphics familiarity to the characters that the audience really likes. It’s not a big jump for the audience to recognize the characters that they love and with Angry Birds that’s because they were cartoon characters. They’re really particularly suited to animation because when you actually play the game, it’s almost like a little cartoon game that you’re playing. Other video game properties have a more difficult time with that because there’s such amazing graphic reality to games like Assassin’s Creed and The Last of Us. The audience is very familiar—and they have a relationship with—those characters in the games. But the trick is, like with any adaptation, to allow it to become something else. With Angry Birds it was easier in that sense because, in the original game, the characters live in an animated environment, so it’s not as big a jump to take it into an animated forum.

The Angry Birds Movie also has the tie-in Angry Birds Action! game. What do you think of that kind of synergy?

The great thing about our movie was that it was made entirely by Rovio, which is very unsual. So from very early on there was this internal synergy between what we were doing on the movie and the game creators. Rovio knew from very early on that it was a great advantage to be able to bring the movie to the world, and also create a game property that is almost a partner to the movie.

McDonald’s has released an Angry Birds Movie 360-degree video and we’re seeing a lot of VR out there. What do you see that medium opening up creatively for directors like yourself?

We’ve only scratched the surface. Being a big game player myself and loving games, it’s interesting because when you play games you’re automatically—as a player—part of the narrative of the concept of the game. With virtual reality, it’s going to be a really interesting challenge to filmmakers, but also to the audience, as to how to insert yourself as a viewer into the VR narrative. The trick to figuring this stuff out is that, with VR filmmaking, the audience isn’t a passive component. Just like in games, you’re an active participant in the narrative. The challenge is how to crack the code on what the audiences’ participation in that new VR environment will be because it can’t be passive. It has to be active.

What impact do you feel your own gaming background has had in being able to bring a film like The Angry Birds Movie to life?

Lots of different things, like the way you think about creating the experience for the audience, the way you think about making it immersive so that the characters feel like they really belong in that world, and how you block scenes in that world. That’s all been influenced by how we block the action in Act III. That was all influenced by my video game experience. We were very conscious of making it a really immersive experience for the viewer. We wanted to create the best possible idea of what the game could translate to in terms of the action of the game translating into the action of the movie. We wanted it to be a really immersive experience for the audience. We even brought our 3D supervisor Todd Napier on very early in the process to discuss and explore how to make that happen.

Even as a game player, audiences who play games have a much more sophisticated awareness of how scenes can be blocked and they’re not as limited in the way a narrative can unfold visually. If I’m playing Assassin’s Creed I love playing around with the camera to try and add different perspectives, even though it’s one focal lens, basically. I love the fact that you can really play with your perception of what’s happening in the narrative.