Video Game Concerts Harmoniously Unite Fans Through Music

When you think of video games, you probably don’t imagine dressing up for a night on the town. Well, grab your coat, because game publishers have adopted an innovative way to market and reinforce their brands through video game concerts. These live performances are melodically making their way across the world, a touring marketing effort that has grown in popularity over the last few years.

Most recently, Hello Games announced a tour to promote No Man’s Sky, a science fiction video game scheduled to launch August 9. The No Man’s Sky soundtrack, written by British band, 65daysofstatic, features two albums of music to be performed live across Europe this fall. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Tomb Raider, Square Enix will host a live performance in London this year to debut its new musical collection, The Tomb Raider Suite.

Telling stories through song is an age-old tradition, and video game soundtracks have become a indispensable storytelling tool. From the iconic Super Mario Brothers theme to the Grammy award-winning music of Civilization IV, game developers and publishers are adding more emphasis (and budget) to the musical side of their brands. Renowned composers are expanding their portfolios from film and TV to game music, including Hans Zimmer (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2), Sir Paul McCartney (Destiny) and Bear McCreary (God of War).

Sony’s E3 press conference started in a new way this year, with a live orchestra conducted by Bear McCreary. The composer, known for his work on The Walking Dead and Black Sails recalls the moment on his blog: “I gave the cue and my God of War theme was heard by an audience for the first time,” he writes. “The moment the melody reached its climactic notes, the audience erupted into cheers, as if what they heard was the chorus to their favorite song. But, they had never heard it before! I had always hoped the theme would resonate with fans, and at that exact moment, I knew it had.”

Video Game concerts
Video Games Live at Red Rocks Amphitheater, 2015 (Source: H.B. Duran)

In 2005, video game composers, Tommy Tallarico (Prince of Persia) and Jack Wall (Mass Effect) debuted Video Games Live, an annual concert series that celebrates the art of game music in partnership with local symphony orchestras. “It’s the power and emotion of a symphony orchestra mixed with the excitement and energy of a rock concert,” says the official website. “[It’s the] technology and interactivity of a video game all completely synchronized to amazing cutting edge video screen visuals, state-of-the-art lighting and special on-stage interactive segments with the audience.”

Other game music tours that are underway include Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses and Final Fantasy: A New World.

Capcom Live debuted this spring with a “Video Game Orchestra” following the rock and soundtrack mash-up that Video Games Live made popular.

Video game concerts reinforce a brand by drawing fans together as a community, celebrating the legacy of a franchise and introducing new generations to both games and the art of music. By reminding fans of their favorite video game moments, brands connect with their audiences on an emotional, symphonious and lasting level.

Sony Is Looking At Games, VR And Robots For Its Future

In an effort to make its company profitable again, Sony has started making more moves into the tech field, while at the same time retaining a huge focus on its gaming division.

During a recent press conference, chief executive Kaz Hirai explained that Sony was raising its sales target for the forthcoming year in the games division, pinning a great amount of potential success on its forthcoming PlayStation VR headset.

Hirai explained that the company’s biggest growth will lean on games, thanks in part to continuously strong sales of the PS4, as well as an increase in subscribers to its PlayStation Plus program and significant game sales, including its recently released Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

But a lot of anticipation is going into the PlayStation VR, which will launch this October for $399—a much lower price than other competitors. “It’s an area where Sony can leverage its expertise in cameras, filming, content production as well as entertainment assets,” noted Hirai, per Reuters. As a result, the company lifted its sales targets from 1.8 trillion yen ($17.6 billion) to 1.9 trillion yen ($18.6 billion).

In addition, Sony is also returning to another technological field—robots. The company thrived in robotic engineering in the late 90’s and the beginning of the millennium, with products like the robotic dog AIBO and humanoid QRIO. Those both ceased production in 2006 due to lack of interest in the market, but Sony has since regenerated that.

Hirai noted that the company has plans to create a robot “capable of forming an emotional bond,” but wouldn’t divulge too many other details. It’s unknown when Sony’s robotic project will come out.

For the time being, Sony’s focus will continue to be on games, with anticipated titles like No Man’s Sky and The Last Guardian set for big fall releases. The PlayStation VR will get a huge push as well, with a library of original titles like Rez Infinite and VR Worlds to draw players in.

How it will fare against the competition, like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, is still to be determined, but its compatibility with the PlayStation 4 (even with the need for accessories like a camera and the PlayStation Move controller) should make it an easily accepted device—and perhaps another big seller for the company.

Pinterest Is Now Becoming A Shopping Hub With Buyable Pins

Pinterest is taking steps to diversify itself from other social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and one of those steps involves a shopping basket. The company announced that it’s adding some new shopping-focused features that will enable users to purchase items from the site, according to the company’s latest blog post.

This is one part of Pinterest’s move to provide a new direction for itself, one in which it wants to be known for shopping, alongside other inspirational areas such as cooking and travel. In addition, it’s also offering an easy check-out option, where users can buy things with “just a few taps,” according to product manager Tim Weingarten, author of the blog post.

Speaking at an event earlier this week from the company’s headquarters, Pinterest executive Ben Silbermann explained, “Shopping with Pinterest is meant to be that bridge between getting inspiration and actually making it a part of your life.”

Pinterest is doing this through pins that enable users to put items into a shopping bag, one that stays on the user’s profile no matter what kind of device they’re using—desktop or mobile.

Pinterest 2

But the site’s biggest feature may be one that utilizes object detection, in which an item is highlighted depending on what’s scanned, thus giving the user an option to do a “visual search.” Other sites have tried this in the past, but Pinterest has confidence that it will work wonders for its shopping options, tying in items that users will find of interest.

Even with its current value of $11 billion, Pinterest is making these changes to stay relevant in the social scene, offering options for its users that still offer creative freedom, while at the same time, opening up options for potential marketing partners. These purchasing tools could potentially provide additional opportunities for more activations in the future.

It’ll be a while until the results from this experiment come to light, but if the search tool works its magic and the experience turns out to be convenient for those who try it, it’s definitely something that can stick around Pinterest in the long term.

The Changing Face of Facebook

With over 8 billion daily views, Facebook is a superpower when it comes to video content. That status is bound to remain steady, with deals such as the one recently signed with T-Mobile, which gives the mobile carrier’s subscribers unlimited Facebook video streaming. Facebook has also put its ownership of Oculus VR to good use by introducing 360-degree panoramic photos and videos.

Although rivals, particularly Snapchat, are fast catching up with Facebook’s success, the social media platform is taking measures to create original content to help grow its audience and promote Facebook Live features. This includes signing celebrities to help create compelling content and hiring a pro video game player to encourage and manage eSports-related livestreams.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Facebook is on track to transition beyond media sharing to become a full-on content creation platform, similar to YouTube or Snapchat. This is further evidenced by how shows like Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and its sponsor, AT&T, announced that there will be a behind-the-scenes livestream component on Facebook.

Taking On Snapchat

It’s no secret that Snapchat has been a been a fast-rising star among marketers over the past few months, despite how its promotional features are relatively expensive and content only stays up for a limited time. However, the social platform gets about 10 billion daily video views and may get more daily use than Twitter, so marketers are working to develop creative, high-impact campaigns to engage with the growing audience.

However, Snapchat’s growing popularity means that other social media services have to step up their game, which is why Facebook announced at VidCon that MSQRD (Masquerade) video filters will soon be added to its Live video platform. Facebook acquired Masquerade in March and quickly set to work integrating its face-swapping technology so that live video users can apply different masks and filters to their faces, similar to Snapchat’s very popular Lenses feature—which many promoters love using. Perhaps it won’t be too long before Facebook uses Masquerade to implement its own face-swapping promotions, where users can use the app to exchange faces with celebrities on promotional billboards and signs.

Furthermore, Facebook added a slideshow feature to its app, which automatically creates a slideshow (complete with music) if you take more than five pictures or videos in 24 hours. Alternatively, users can click on someone else’s slideshow within their news feeds and click the “try it” option. Although the feature isn’t technically new—it was already available on Facebook’s “Moments” app, but has been moved to the main one—but it puts the social platform in closer alignment with services such as Google Photos. Looking at it more broadly, Facebook made it easier for its users to post content that’s similar to Snapchat’s Stories, a creative tool that keeps its millions of users engaged.

Beyond Social

Ultimately, the social media giant may become an amalgamation of all the major social platforms, and the ultimate tool for marketers. Furthermore, users may not have to deal with time limits or the same high costs for using these tools. After all, internet users went crazy over a Lush Shower Jellies promotional video, despite how the gelatinous soap is not new. In fact, the vegan-friendly and versatile product was first introduced ten years ago, but the power of Facebook video turned it into today’s top-trending sensation.

What Marketers Need to Know About Google AdWords Changes

The seismic shift you felt recently was caused by Google AdWords undergoing some fundamental changes. Some are positive, with new features coming to AdWords that promise to save you time and improve results. Others are more worrisome, with big changes in Google’s algorithms impacting search results in new ways, forcing marketers to adapt. In both cases, marketers are well advised to pay close attention, since whatever Google does has huge impact across the entertainment and software industries.

Google has been the king of desktop searches, but increasingly the company is shifting to mobile. As Google noted in its Inside AdWords blog, “Every year, there are trillions of searches on Google and over half of those searches happen on mobile. And across the millions of websites using Google Analytics today, we’re seeing more than half of all web traffic now coming from smartphones and tablets.” Therefore, Google has rolled out a number of changes in recognition of this increasingly mobile-first world. Google’s the strong leader in online advertising, and it intends to remain that way despite the challenges from Facebook and others.Mobile Ad Revenue

Google now makes its Universal App Campaigns (UACs), first introduced for Android apps, available on iOS. UACs allow app developers to quickly and easily create and launch mobile app install campaigns, with the the interface merely picking up some details about the app then generating creative assets that are sent off to run. Those campaigns delivered more than two billion downloads for advertisers across Google Search, Google Play, YouTube and the Google Display Network. Google has also reformatted its text ads to work equally well on mobile or desktop, and later this year will provide expanded text ads that will allow more prominent headlines, longer description lines and let you customize your URL path.

Another change Google is rolling out is what the company dubs responsive ads for display, which adapt to the format and aesthetics of sites on the Google Display Network. These campaigns are created dynamically once you give them a few pieces of information, grabbing assets from Google Play with images and text you provide. The ads created this way match the look and feel of content users are browsing. This comes along with Google allowing access to cross-exchange inventory, which will include more websites and apps worldwide. Also, Google is allowing you to optimize campaigns around in-app events, not just around installs. (Many mobile ad networks already do this, of course, but it’s useful to have in Google, especially with UACs.)

Google’s also increasing ad exposure in YouTube and is experimenting with a new ad unit in Gmail. Now, this shouldn’t be taken as a sign that Google’s ad revenues need boosting—the opposite is true, with Google’s ad revenues climbing at a rather impressive rate. The company booked $19.08 billion in ad revenue during Q4 2015, up 18 percent over last year, while cost-per-click (CPCs) have been flat or declining since Q3 2014. YouTube, in particular, is showing impressive growth, with overall revenues for 2016 projected to hit $12.8 billion, up from $8.5 billion last year. Certainly some of that is due to the subscription revenues from YouTube Red, but there’s plenty of extra ad revenue in there, too.

There’s also a new unified bid structure allowing you to set individual bid adjustments for each device type, between mobile, desktop and tablet. Google will give you wider range to adjust bids up to 900 percent of the base value. Eventually you’ll be able to manage bids for all devices in a single place and anchor a base keyword bid to the device most valuable to you, and then adjust that bid up or down for other devices. It’s a recognition of the multiple-device world we live in, and the fact that not all products are searched for and purchased at the same rate through different device types.

Perhaps more important than these AdWords changes are the changes that Google has announced to how they’re searching and ranking websites. For the first time, Google has revealed the top-three ranking signals that their algorithm uses. In the past, Google has noted that there are more than 200 parameters the algorithm uses, but never before has Google revealed the top parameters. Last year Google announced their article intelligence system, RankBrain, was their number three ranking signal. This year at a Google Q&A in late March, Google Ireland’s search quality senior strategist Andrey Lipattsev revealed the other two factors: links and content. Queried further about their relative importance, Lipattsev said there was “no order” to their importance, meaning all three are at the top.

The message from Google has been clear: Don’t get caught with old content on your site, or risk heading to the bottom of the rankings. Google’s been pushing this for a while, trying to weed out content farms, companies with static websites and even a few giants like eBay have been seeing their rankings drop.

Now, though, some of the biggest publishing brands in the industry have watched their rankings drop with the changes to Google’s algorithm. There have been some massive hits at some major players— lost 80 percent of its SEO visibility, and lost 65 percent of its mobile visibility. Even Apple dropped 63 percent, though, it’s not a publishing company. These are not trivial differences.

There are signs that branded search results are getting redone, with even Google’s own Gmail seeing its mobile visibility lowered. There was some speculation that it was only mobile, but the data showed that desktop sites had taken similar drops. “Google was serious about ensuring companies migrated to the focus on new and differentiated content rather than relying on existing content to maintain its search engine rank,” said Shai Aharony, founder of Reboot Online.

The message from Google is that content marketing needs to be fresh, not just repurposed content with a few minor changes. Google’s algorithm won’t be fooled by some cosmetic changes. Marketers need to think about more in-depth strategies for content marketing, and include social media content, links and apps in the mix as well. That may mean conducting research, finding customer stories to tell, or finding ways to have customers help in generating more content. Marketers, start your content engines! You can’t take your search position for granted any more if your content is not being refreshed regularly.

Bang & Olufsen Exec Discusses How They’re Making Sound Decisions In New Tech

Legacy companies that have century-long strongholds in their respective markets sustain prime peaks by serially executing sound decisions. Luxury Danish brand Bang & Olufsen is no exception.

Their first significant product was a radio—remember those, kids?—and they’ve gone on to corner the high-end audio-visual market with distinctive designs ever since both inside and outside of the home. The premium sound they bring is a mainstay for car manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Aston Martin.

Simon Silva, Bang & Olufsen’s global customer experience manager, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how the company is implementing and marketing new technologies.


Bang & Olufsen has been around for 91 years. How are you trying to constantly reinvent yourself within your respective position?

Bang & Olufsen is really proud of the heritage that has been built over the last 91 years, and that has been built by sticking to our core values. It’s about using our pride, passion and persistence to deliver those enduring magical experiences through our products and integrated experiences.

How are you reaching out to global markets? And how do people respond?

We use traditional channels for communication but we’re putting a greater emphasis on our digital communications. The response has been really positive as people love to know more about the brand. We are over 90 years old now. We have so many interesting stories to share from the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into our products, to the freelance designers we use.

What is the foremost trait you’ve learned about your customer base?

‘Time’ for our customers is the ultimate resource, so it’s important that we offer luxurious simplicity and beautiful utility. The BeoSound Moment is a great example of this. The luxurious simplicity is delivered through the premium materials of the oak and aluminum finishes and only requires a single touch to instantly access your music. The beautiful utility is shown through the gorgeous user interface where you can use the MoodWheel to set the mood, or go through and play your curated playlists.

How do you measure customer touch points and develop strategies specific to them?

We use our CSI reports, our social media channels, talk directly with customers and also spend time on the shop floor. In order to develop the strategies, it’s about having a variety of inputs from our customer insights research, looking at retail trends and talking to our teams on the shop floor who are with the customer day-to-day.


Bang & Olufsen makes TVs, audio systems and home automation products. How do you market the products to differentiate from the pack?  

We do what we do best—which is deliver beautiful sound, iconic design and seamless integrated experiences.

How is Bang & Olufsen leveraging augmented reality, virtual reality, and other immersive experiences?

Our first project to leverage these great technologies is through the BeoHome Design App. The BeoHome Design App lets you digitally visualize the different Bang & Olufsen products in any given space. You can choose between all the different speakers, sound systems and televisions and place them wherever the camera on your iPad is pointing.

How can forward-thinking brands best utilize AR and VR technology?

Brands need to look at the customer journey and see at which points the experience can be enhanced through these technologies. It has to be really purposeful, with the end result being to put a smile on the customers face and to solve a need. Simplicity is key.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Digital Advertising Revenues Expected To Reach $285 Billion In Four Years

While digital advertising continues to surge ahead, there’s no question that ad-blocking continues to be quite a hindrance.

A new report posted by Juniper Research, Worldwide Digital Advertising: 2016-2020, notes that digital advertising revenues are expected to go double the amount over the next few years, reaching a spectacular $285 billion by 2020.

However, it’s not as high as it could have been, as the report also notes that ad-blocking will also continue to be on the rise. As a result, they are expected to cost publishers $27 billion in lost revenues in roughly the same time frame.

Juniper has also published a white paper, Digital Advertisers vs. The Ad Blockers, that goes into more detail. That $285 billion number is expected to come from a number of devices, including mobile, wearable and online-compatible electronics. It also noted that it’s a tremendous jump from the $160 billion it’s expected to see this year. The paper also noted that mobile advertising will also see an increase in CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) by 64.2 percent over the previous forecast period, with more people turning to smartphones and tablets as their go-to Internet devices.

But ad-blocking still casts a shadow on the report, with more people using these services and creating a loss in revenue by 70.2 percent in the next few years. “Adoption (of ad-blockers) is being driven by consumer concerns over mobile data usage and privacy,” noted Sam Barker, author of the research report. “They are also incentivized to adopt the technology in order to reduce page load times.” The report made note that the average user of ad-blocking is between the age of 18-29, with female millennials more likely to use the service.

However, digital advertising will continue to be on the rise as “better audience targeting will drive higher click through rates and increase publisher revenues,” noted Barker. “Publishers, such as Facebook, are utilizing their unprecedented audience knowledge to offer advertisers highly accurate targeting, thereby increasing the click-through rates that advertisers are witnessing now.”

The report best suggests to companies that it should try developing a strategy that will help engage consumers more, instead of making them desire ad-blocking services. Otherwise, companies, especially smaller ones, could suffer from it, “as they often solely rely on revenues from advertising to continue operating.”

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TBS’s ‘Full Frontal With Samantha Bee’ Expands Onto Facebook

For the past few months, comedian Samantha Bee (formerly from The Daily Show) has been making waves with her show, Full Frontal on TBS, tackling controversial issues with knowledge and wit. But for those that haven’t gotten a chance to check the show out—or simply want more of Bee’s humor—AT&T will soon be giving Facebook users a sneak peek, according to Variety.

The company, which is sponsoring Full Frontal, will help host a ten-minute behind-the-scenes look at the show on Facebook in preparation for the forthcoming taping in front of a live studio audience. Allana Harkin, a member of the show’s staff, will warm up the crowd before Bee takes the stage, answering questions from both the studio audience and those on Facebook. AT&T will get a mention on the air as part of the agreement as well.

“We have so much show to get into thirty minutes,” said Alison Camillo, a producer for the show. “Any way you can find so you have room for more content, the better.”

Valerie Vargas, vice president of advertising, social and emerging media for AT&T Entertainment Group, noted, “There’s clearly an appetite for this type of video consumption. We are finding ways to try to play with it, explore it, and see what kind of interaction we have with the fans doing so.”

Dan Riess, executive vice president of content partnerships for Time Warner’s Turner (owner of TBS), also noted that it’s “a great way for people like Sam and others to connect with their audiences in a new way. It’s very intimate, and very immediate and it’s a good way for us to add additional heft and scale,” but without letting advertising overtake the content itself that the audience enjoys.

It wouldn’t be surprising for other shows to adopt similar livestreaming promotions, and the behind-the-scenes content will complement the existing show clips and posts on Facebook. Episodes of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee air Monday nights on TBS.

Sacramento Kings Exec Explains Why Team Is Exploring VR, Video Games And ESports

The sports world is still abuzz about the 2016 NBA Draft—which has taken place on the heels of the most-watched NBA Finals Game 7 in history with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers upsetting the Golden State Warriors for the world championship.

As the 2016-17 NBA Season gets ready for tip-off in October, one of the big stories will be the grand opening of the Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center. The Kings have been one of the leading teams in exploring new technology, including both augmented and virtual reality, over the past two years. The team also recently partnered with 2K Sports to integrate its new uniforms into NBA 2K16 and used virtual reality to showcase the uniforms for fans.

Ryan Montoya, chief technology officer of the Sacramento Kings, talks to [a]listdaily about virtual reality, video games and eSports in this exclusive interview.

What did your 360-degree game livestream reveal about the type of publicity and activity VR opens up?

We’re committed to using technology to enhance the fan experience, not only in-arena, but in the community and across the globe.

VR allows us to give basketball fans who are not able to experience a game live the opportunity to do so. In October, at our home opener, we used VR to provide kids at a school in India and patients at a local Sacramento children’s hospital the opportunity to virtually “attend” the game and “sit” courtside.

Around the world, there are fans who may never have the chance to be a part of the spectacle of NBA basketball and VR has allowed us to connect with emerging fans, find new ones and provide a truly unique experience.

Why did you decide to explore virtual reality with the launch of the new uniforms?

With a focus on using technology to enhance the fan experience, it was natural to debut our new uniforms in an interactive and innovative way. The VR experience allows us to provide fans a unique all-access 360-degree perspective of the uniforms.

What are the advantages of VR at this early stage of the technology?

At the Kings, we are huge believers in VR. In fact, last year we announced a strategic investment in VOKE, a leading VR innovator. We believe this technology has enormous potential and the possibilities for its application are endless.

We were the first team in the NBA to experiment with VR two years ago to help us provide fans, potential sponsors and ticket holders an opportunity to experience the innovative design features of our new arena, Golden 1 Center (opening in October), in an innovative and creative way. It powered our ability to completely sell out of all suites, courtside seats, and club spaces largely before construction even commenced.

When Golden 1 Center opens, we look forward to sharing the excitement of the NBA in new and exciting ways. Using VR technology that is device-agnostic and allows fans to select their views and direct their own experience will allow us to do just that.

What role is mobile devices, including Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, playing in introducing consumers to VR?

We’ve had great success introducing VR to our fans, using the Oculus Rift demos at the XC to preview select spaces in the arena. We’re also using Cardboard viewers to share views of Golden 1 Center with prospective ticket buyers while in their seat at the Sleep Train Arena. Our fans are able to experience the new uniforms through VR in our Arden Fair and Galleria at Roseville team stores, introducing them not just to the uniforms but to VR as a whole. Team store staff are on hand to walk fans through using Gear VR headsets with the 360 video loaded in.

How are the NBA players enjoying VR?

NBA players, like their millennial fan base, are incredibly tech savvy and interested in the latest trends and devices. They are quick to pick up new social networks, recognizing the value of their personal brand and engaging with their fans. As a result, there’s naturally a lot of excitement in our locker room about the next-generation tech we will be debuting at Golden 1 Center. When it comes to VR, many of our players have shown an interest after experiencing our immersive preview experience of the new arena. It happens every time we bring in new technology, like Google Glass broadcasts during warm-ups or a VR photo shoot, the team is curious and wants to learn more.

Does the excitement cross over to NBA fans?

The NBA’s popularity is not confined to the United States. Across the world, massive NBA fan bases are present in Europe, China and India in particular. For fans who may never have the chance to step inside an NBA arena, new technology such as virtual reality is a hit because it brings them closer to the game. We’ve had great success with using VR to preview Golden 1 Center for fans and also to reach new fans who may otherwise never have an opportunity to attend an NBA game.

How are you working with 2K Sports to use NBA 2K16 as a platform to connect with gamers? 

The NBA has the youngest fan base of all major sports, and they’re connected to social media platforms and video games. There is huge crossover between the gamer community on 2K and our fans that engage heavily with us across our digital channels. By partnering with 2K, we’ve been able to share our jerseys with the global gaming and NBA community, allowing them to be the first to see them in action.

The new uniform system is available to download in-game and for customization of My Player profiles. For the launch, Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein visited 2K’s studio, where he had the chance to debut the new uniforms over NBA 2K’s daily livestream and speak directly to the gamer audience.

What does this gaming platform open up for the Kings?

Collaborating with NBA 2K to release our uniforms allows us to engage with fans where they are spending their time online. Fans have already been downloading the new uniform system in-game and customizing their My Player profiles.

Andy Miller said that the new Kings stadium has been “designed for eSports.” What opportunity do you see eSports opening up for the stadium?

When Golden 1 Center opens in the fall, it will be the world’s fastest, most-connected arena. Our unparalleled internet connectivity (over 17,000 times faster than the average home Internet connection) combined with the largest 4K Ultra HD indoor video board is ideal for eSports, as well as drone racing and robot competitions. ESports—just like concerts, trade shows and graduations—provide another opportunity for the community to engage with the arena and its benefits, and for Golden 1 Center to help bring more visitors and positive economic impact to downtown Sacramento.

We’ve also seen the NBA and 2K enter eSports with NBA 2K: Road to the Finals this year. How do you see turning the NBA 2K video game into a “sport” helping the Kings engage the younger NBA audience?

A huge part of basketball’s appeal and popularity is how easy it is to play the game, regardless of whether you’re part of a team or by yourself, inside or outside. The NBA has one of the youngest fan bases of a major sport, and as these audiences become more technologically savvy, they will start to look for new ways to engage with the game.

We see eSports and multiplayer game modes as the next step for fan engagement with the game of basketball, just as video games were before them. Being able to play five-on-five basketball against five other gamers helps to create that same team feel from the court, only this team is made up of players from around the world at any given moment.

How The Games Industry Is Redefining Console Upgrades

Microsoft pulled off a tremendous trick when it made the unprecedented move of announcing two new Xbox One consoles. The first being the Xbox One S, a slimmer version of the existing console releasing in August with features that include HDR gaming 4K video support. The second, and more surprising, announcement was the early reveal of Project Scorpio. Expected to launch during the 2017 holiday season, Scorpio promises to the “the most powerful console ever,” with emphasis on high-end features such as virtual reality and 4K gaming.

Taken together with the Xbox Play Anywhere program, and the fact that Sony is working on its own incremental PlayStation 4 upgrade—PlayStation Neo—and we can see the beginning of a major shift in the video game console industry. The eventual launch of Scorpio and Neo will signal the end of 5 or 6-year console cycles. Instead, we may see considerably shorter upgrade cycles, similar to that of mobile devices, which is a monumental shift for a console gaming market that has been long accustomed to having to completely give up old hardware for the new generation of consoles.

Microsoft’s statement in 2013 about the Xbox One cycle would last (conservatively) 10 years may seem like a distant memory, and a statement that didn’t account for the accelerated pace of technological development, but the truth is that Scorpio represents a major move toward reaching that goal. The important point to keep in mind is, as Phil Spencer (head of Xbox) indicated at the end of the Microsoft pre-E3 press conference, gamers will not be left behind as technology moves ahead. Although there are benefits to upgrading, all games and accessories will work on the original Xbox, Xbox One S and Project Scorpio. That way, there isn’t necessarily any pressure to upgrade, nor will players have to choose between buying a new console or staying with the communities established with the previous one.

This is great news for major game publishers, including Electronic Arts (EA), Ubisoft and Take-Two support this approach, and see the both Scorpio and Neo as a “positive evolution.” EA’s global publishing chief, Laura Miele, told in an interview that, “I actually see it more as an incredibly positive evolution of the business strategy for players and for our industry and definitely for EA. The idea that we would potentially not have an end of cycle and a beginning of cycle I think is a positive place for our industry to be and for all of the commercial partners as well as players.”

Meanwhile, Alain Corre, head of Ubisoft EMEA, stated:

“The beautiful thing is it will not split the communities. And I think it’s important that when you’ve been playing a game for a lot of years and invested a lot of time that you can carry on without having to start over completely again. I think with the evolution of technology it’s better than what we had to do before, doing a game for next-gen and a different game from scratch for the former hardware.”

With incremental hardware updates and universal compatibility, a console’s lifespan can almost go on indefinitely. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 won’t be left behind technologically, and technology won’t leave gamers behind. Take-Two’s CEO, Strauss Zelnick, believes that an ongoing platform would be good for the industry. “The same way that when you make a television show you don’t ask yourself ‘what monitor is this going to play on?’ It could play on a 1964 color television or it could play on a brand-new 4K television, but you’re still going to make a good television show.” Zelnick also added: “We will get to the point where the hardware becomes a backdrop.”

As Xbox’s head of operations, Dave McCarthy, told GameSpot, Microsoft’s goal is “reach ‘the whole canvas of gamers.'” In a separate interview, McCarthy stated that Microsoft is achieving hardware innovation while ensuring compatibility. “That term of an upgrade is gone. We are wiping out those generational boundaries. As a gamer, it’s pretty cool. Because then I know the games I buy and play today and the controllers I use today are going to work on that machine of tomorrow. And that’s the real major step-change.”

Some analysts believe that the early announcement of Scorpio may interfere with Xbox One S sales, but Phil Spencer sets the record straight in a different interview with, stating, “..our model’s not really built around selling you a new console every one or two years. The model is almost the exact opposite. If I can keep you with the console you have, keep you engaged in buying and playing games, that’s a good business.”

Although Microsoft does need to sell units, the consoles themselves are almost becoming incidental. The emphasis is on growing a strong community of players that will purchase and engage with games, whether it’s on a Xbox One console or PC, for the long term. As to whether original Xbox One owners may feel that they’re getting a “watered-down” experience, Spencer explains, “There’s no developer out there today, except for in maybe a first party, that’s only focused on one platform. Some are still going PS3, 360, PS4, Xbox One, and PC. When you say PC, there’s probably a minimum [spec], a recommended [spec], and then an uber-config that they’re focused on.” Spencer went on to say: “We’re continuing to grow the capability of the Universal Windows Platform to literally allow you to build one game that would run on console and on PC. So that’s an enabler. You still have a scenario of whether the different configs [and resolutions is something you’ll support] and I think that will all be part of install base size.”

McCarthy echoes the sentiment by stating: “[Developers] will always want to write to specific capabilities and devices,” he explained. “Giving our developers some choice in what they choose to leverage as they do that is key to our whole philosophy moving forward. They’ve responded well to it as we’ve shared the plans with them.”

The ultimate goal is maintaining long-term player engagement while continuing to innovate technologically. Although Sony has not yet revealed its plans for Neo, the shift toward giving console systems incremental upgrades with broad compatibility is already underway. Microsoft has already stated its intention to unify the Windows 10 PC and Xbox One with Xbox One Play Anywhere, which allows players to purchase games for both platforms with one price. Some of these games, including Gears of War 4, will feature cross-platform multiplayer. In the long run, publishers and marketers may soon be able to appeal to one large gaming audience instead putting so much emphasis on a console platform.