How The Minnesota Vikings And 3M Scored A Partnership And Built U.S. Bank Stadium

The Minnesota Vikings will become the latest football franchise to play in new digs when they officially open U.S. Bank Stadium’s pearly purple gates against the arch-rival Green Bay Packers on September 18.

The 66,200-seat stadium is already towering over the Minneapolis skyline and is five weeks away from hosting its opening event in a Premier League match between Chelsea and A.C. Milan. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony is July 22.

Construction of the stadium—which first began in April 2014—is basically a few screws away from completion. The building could not have been erected without the help of 3M, another Minnesota institution and official science partner of the Vikings who contributed with more than 50 of their products, including graphic films and architectural finishes, throughout the stadium.

Attendees will be able to see 3M technology from all parts of the cavernous abode that’s twice the size of the since-imploded Metrodome. Football fans may best remember the Vikings’ outdated stadium as the surreal scene to a mountain of snow forcing its roof to catastrophically collapse hours prior to a game in 2010.

Since winter has no intentions of ever leaving Minnesota, U.S. Bank Stadium will have a clear, lightweight and self-cleaning roof. 3M introduced their industry-leading science-based technology through Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene polymer (ETFE), a clear, lightweight film used on the roof panels.

Most NFL prognosticators are predicting that the Adrian Peterson-led Vikings and its prodigious defense will advance deep in the postseason during their inaugural year playing in a $1.1 billion state-of-the-art, multi-use facility.

[a]listdaily caught up with Nick Harris, 3M’s senior sponsorship and events manager and Jeff Anderson, the Vikings’ executive director of communications, to discuss some of the science and marketing behind Minnesota’s newly minted marvel.

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What are some ways 3M applied science in the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium?

Harris: Vikings fans will be surrounded by 3M technology—from the graphic films covering walls and DI-NOC architectural finishes in concessions, to the unique film that was used to create the clear, lightweight and self-cleaning roof—the first sports facility in the US with this kind of roof. 3M fire barrier products will also protect the stadium for years to come. Even during construction, 3M technology helped builders stay safe through personal safety products like respirators, eye wear, helmets and hearing protection.

How does the science behind ETFE and the clear, self-cleaning roof work?

Harris: The stadium will be covered by high-performance film, extruded from 3M Dyneon ETFE. The product lets light in, is lighter than glass, and is more cost-effective than retractable alternatives. The stadium’s 248,000-square-foot roof and facade is covered by 75 three-layer ETFE film cushions, making U.S. Bank Stadium the largest ETFE film project in the US. Some of the individually air-filled cushions are more than 1,200 square feet long and about 32-feet wide. The top film is printed with a geometric pattern, which scatters the sunlight and prevents a greenhouse effect in summer. In winter, the film roof protects the interior from the cold outside temperatures. The film cushions allow 95 percent of daylight to pass through, but their weight is only about five percent of the weight of glass. As a result, the supporting steel structure is light and slender, offering spectators a premium view of the playing field.

Open-air football stadiums are not often a viable option in northern climates. The Dallas-based firm HKS Architects chose the ETFE film cushion technology, which is already widespread in Europe and Asia, to enable year-round use for a variety of events. The design lowered construction costs by around $100 million compared to a retractable roof. Since the Metrodome’s roof collapsed in 2010 under the weight of a 17-inch snowstorm, architects and roof planners paid particular attention to the load-bearing capability under heavy snow falls. Compared to other roofing membranes, ETFE films feature superior values for tear strength, resistance to tear propagation and puncture resistance—which let the air-filled cushions easily cope with highly concentrated impact loads like hail. Their use in northern Europe and the Alps prove their winter compatibility in areas with heavy snowfall. U.S. Bank’s asymmetric roof inclines more toward the north to fend off the snow. The films are so smooth, snow can hardly get a grip, sliding off in an almost controlled manner. A heavy rain shower is enough to clean it.


Why did the Vikings choose to form a 20-year partnership with U.S. Bank for the naming rights?

Anderson: U.S. Bank is a prominent and respected Minnesota institution that carries a deep commitment to the economic and social well-being of the state. We are proud to partner with them on both U.S. Bank Stadium and the Places to Play program, which will benefit communities throughout Minnesota by further creating safe, quality and accessible places for kids to be kids.

More than fifty 3M products were used during the design and building of the stadium. Will you be highlighting any of this prior to the start of the season as part of your marketing plan?

Harris: We’re so proud of our involvement with the Vikings and our partnership to help create the most advanced US sports facility. Our customers are already familiar with many of the products in the stadium, but having them in one location gives us a great platform to share and spark further conversation.

How will the 3M-branded first aid stations work? Will it help fans cope with devastating, last-second losses?

Harris: We predict an undefeated season at home for the Vikings in their new stadium! The ACE brand by 3M will be the preferred supplier of first aid stations in the stadium, and we plan to provide bandages, wraps, ice packs and an array of other first aid products that can help fans who need assistance.


A new $1.1 billion stadium offers a tremendous opportunity to further build a team’s brand. What is the Vikings’ integrated marketing plan around U.S. Bank Stadium heading into the season?

Anderson: From day one with this project the focus for the team has been about the fan experience. U.S. Bank Stadium will offer an unmatched fan experience and will open unique ways in which we can further develop our relationship with Vikings fans. We are incredibly excited about our new opportunity to speak to fans on all levels, from advertising and commercials, to in-stadium production and experience, to regional marketing events and activities. We now have the ability to reach fans in so many different ways all over the North.

3M and the Vikings are both Minnesota staples in the community, and that marriage makes plenty of sense. What are the main factors for 3M identifying other potential sponsorship partners?

Harris: The partnership with the Vikings is a great opportunity to share stories that highlight 3M science applied to life with a broader audience of sports fans around the country and around the world. Aside from the opportunities it brings us, we are just plain proud of our Minnesota heritage and are excited about the home-team partnership. As for other sponsorships, we look very carefully at the business value and alignment with our business goals before moving forward with any sponsorship decision.

How do the Vikings plan on leveraging its own brand, and the 3M brand, over the lifetime of the partnership?

Anderson: As a strong Minnesota brand, 3M is synonymous with science and innovation. Certainly those characteristics go hand in hand with enhancing the fan experience and growing the passion for football and the Vikings, so we look forward to working with 3M on those possibilities. Additionally, we always want to help our partners leverage the Vikings brand. We work with each partner individually to find what works best for them and fits their goals.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

‘WWE 2K17’ Cover Unleashes Power Of Brock Lesnar

2K Games knows how to engage with its audience, and Grand Theft Auto V continues to be a best-seller years after its initial release (due largely to its online features) while NBA 2K getting a great deal of attention from the eSports community. But let’s not count out the grapplers.

Earlier this year, the publisher signed a multiyear licensing deal with World Wrestling Entertainment so that 2K Sports remains the exclusive publisher of WWE games, particularly the best-selling WWE 2K franchise. It’s done quite well for the company, as the games have sold well over 60 million units since 2000. Now, it’s pushing for its biggest entry to date, with a true juggernaut on the cover.

2K Sports formally announced that WWE 2K17 will release on October 11 with Brock Lesnar featured on its cover. Lesnar, who recently signed a multi-year deal to stay with the WWE, will be a playable character alongside other superstars, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena. He will also serve as the official ambassador for the game.

“My career has been defined by dominating every opportunity presented to me,” said Lesnar in a press release. “I am excited for my newest opportunity representing WWE 2K17 as the franchise’s ambassador and honored to serve as the WWE 2K17 cover Superstar.”


Lesnar has been making big waves since his re-signing with the WWE, appearing in traditional events like Wrestlemania, and is expected to return in time for SummerSlam. Additionally, he recently signed on in a unique cross-promotion where he’s set to fight at UFC 200 in July.

Having Lesnar on the cover is sure to be a popular choice with wrestling fans. But it’s not the only promotion that 2K Sports is putting behind the game. Last month, it revealed that Bill Goldberg, a popular face from the old World Championship Wrestling days, would be making his debut in the game, as a pre-order bonus.

Both 2K Sports and the WWE are expected to promote WWE 2K17 leading up to its release, including activities that tie in with SummerSlam in August. It’s expected to get some air time on WWE Monday Night Raw tonight as well, with the company setting aside time to showcase the cover.

GameStop Exec Discusses Fox Animated TV Show Digital Card Game

GameStop-owned Kongregate is expanding its collection of collectible card games. The publisher has joined forces with Fox Digital Entertainment, independent developers Synapse Games, and Chinzilla Games to launch Animation Throwdown: The Quest for Cards for iOS and Android devices this year. The game will later be released on other platforms, including the web game portal

This marks the first time that characters and worlds from Twentieth Century Fox Television’s popular shows American Dad!Bob’s BurgersFamily Guy, Futurama and King of the Hill are together in one game.

Kongregate will market the game to its global audience of millions of gamers who visit the website each month. The company will also promote the game across its portfolio of mobile applications, through GameStop’s 4,200 U.S. store locations, 40 million PowerUp Rewards members, and across the GameStop web and mobile properties. Fox Digital Entertainment will use its various marketing platforms to promote the game.

Emily Greer, president and co-founder of Kongregate, talks about the company’s first Hollywood-licensed game, and its eSports potential, in this exclusive interview.

What were your goals heading into this project?

When we talked to Fox, one of the things that was important was to create a card game that was broadly acceptable and deep. We had two broad and deep card games in our portfolio from Synapse Games and Chinzilla. So we got the two developers together and pitched a combo project that takes some elements from each game and weaves in a narrative and characters from Fox animated shows.

What impact has the success of Hearthstone opened up for mainstream awareness of collectible card games?

Hearthstone is wonderful and everyone looks at it as a high bar of polish, but we were focused on creating a game that was more broadly accessible. You have a lot of Hearthstone clones coming out. Our game is going to look and feel very different. And it should be broadly accessible to a lot of people.

The collectible card game genre has gotten a reputation for being a very core, inaccessible genre partly because of the success of Magic: The Gathering. But card games are among the most played and accessible across every region of the world. We believe collectible card games can be broadly appealing across all demographics, and that the meaningfulness of Fox animated characters makes it more accessible.

What eSports potential do you see with Animation Throwdown: The Quest for Cards?

It’s been great to see interest in collectible card games expand and grow with the release of Hearthstone. We’ve been very into card games at Kongregate for a long time. When we founded, one of the things we wanted to do was create Kongai, which allows gamers to collect cards by completing challenges in different games. We built up an audience that liked card games eight or nine years ago.

Collectible card games have always done really well on Kongregate like Tyrant, Tyrant Unleashed and Rise of Mythos. When we started mobile publishing in 2013—Tyrant Unleashed was our first game and became a Top 100 grossing title on both Android and iOS and still doing well today. In our publishing portfolio, we have five or six different card games like Little Alchemist, which is a cute and charming broadly accessible card game.

Do you see eSports potential for this game?

That’s something in our mind for the long-term potential for this game. Something we’re interested in developing and exploring. We think the game has the depth to support it long-term. It is designed to be mobile-first. It’s a little more challenging in terms of eSports and streaming, but we’ll be taking it to browser and PC.

What are your thoughts on the rise of mobile eSports with Vainglory and Hearthstone?

It’s something that is our hope for the game, but we haven’t designed it around it. Our first focus is to make it a great, entertaining and accessible game. The characters and shows will bring in a broad audience, and it’s been designed so there’s depth of strategy and interest that could support eSports. I hope to be seeing a lot of Twitch streams of the game post-launch.

How does GameStop and the Fox TV shows help find an audience in the crowded mobile games business?

We have a huge advantage with Fox and GameStop. With the love people have for these shows and these characters, they’re looking for more of them. This is the first time these characters are coming together in a world. That alone is quite novel.

Where we see our role is helping indie developers like Synapse Games and Chinzilla compete in the market and to cross that bridge where we can bring in Fox and great properties.

Fox has a social media following to support the game. With the GameStop connection, we’ll have a big booth at GameStop Expo in Anaheim and we’re getting the store employees and PowerUp Rewards customers excited about the game. Most gamers are omnivores. GameStop customers are playing on lots of devices, wherever it’s convenient. They’re going back-and-forth playing on console and mobile. They’re the best gamers around. To be able to reach out directly through stores and email is unique for a property like this. It gives us a leg up in a crowded environment.

Will Fox promote this game on TV?

It’s in discussion. They’ll be using all the channels that they can. Technically Fox Digital is not Fox TV, but there’s some negotiating to be done. The broadcast side is excited to support this game because it supports the whole lineup of Fox animated shows. There should be many channels that they’ll use to promote the game.

Will the game feature voice actors from the cast?

We’ll be using some clips and conversation from the show. And Fox will be showing off the game at [the San Diego] Comic-Con. It will be more like dialogue from the show rather than new dialogue. You can expect catch phrases and taunts. As you play the game and make a good play or your opponent drops a strong card, your leader character will express dismay or joy in a unique way with a voice clip.

How many cards will there be at launch and how will that grow?

You’ll start with character, item and environment cards. The key gameplay mechanic is that you can play two cards and they combine into a different card. Your initial deck is 50-75 cards with 35 in play, and half of those are characters. You choose your leader from each show and your starter deck reflects that show, but you play against characters from other shows.

We’ll be releasing new cards on a weekly or bi-weekly tandem, so it will be much more regular than Hearthstone. We’ll have special events that will bring in elements from the shows’ episodes. And long-term we’ll be tying into new episodes of the shows as they’re released.

How are you working with the Fox TV producers?

We’re working closely with all the shows on every aspect, especially with the writers and producers. We’re focusing on existing content at launch, but with expansion packs and new events, we’ll look at upcoming content as well.

The showrunners are very engaged with the development of this game and are playing it, commenting on it, and holding it to the standard of the shows. They’re helping us understand the characters and environments and making sure we do them justice.

The advantage of this game is that we have five separate universes to draw on. That creates a lot of variety and depth of storyline and characters to explore.

How does this game tie into your independent games initiative?

We were founded with a mission to help indie game developers succeed and grow. We’re working with Synapse and Chinzilla. This is our fourth game with Synapse and second with Chinzilla. With both studios, we helped them go from hand-to-mouth development studios to larger successes. And now we’re helping get them access to major IP, which is generally something only established studios with deep pockets can do. The Simpsons game was made by Electronic Arts. We’re giving two small studios a chance to compete with the largest game companies in the world by connecting them with the IP and helping them with distribution and marketing. It’s great for consumers, as well. There’s such a broad range of creativity and invention going on in the indie space, and we’re helping them.

Nielsen: Radio And TV Are Still A Huge Draw For Adults

With streaming content taking over traditional television, and more cloud-based services becoming available, the way consumers absorb media has dramatically changed. However, according to a new report from Nielsen, one good old-fashioned source of media is still the most popularly used per month.

The company published its Total Audience Report today focusing on the types of media used on a monthly basis. According to the findings, the number one pick actually has nothing to do with internet connectivity or streaming—it’s AM/FM radio.

The report, compiled by Glenn Enoch, senior vice president of Audience Insights for Nielsen, indicates that 240 million adults use an AM/FM radio on a monthly basis. Coming up in a close second is the usage of Live/DVR/time-shifted television, with 226 million. That’s followed by app/web on a smartphone (191 million), internet on a PC (162 million) and Time-Shifted TV’s regular DVR services (158 million). Meanwhile, game consoles and multimedia devices are on the lower part of the list, but still manage to attain at least 60 million adult users monthly.

It’s probably no surprise that AM/FM radio is in the top spot, since it’s still fairly easy to use with being able to turn it on and find a station within a matter of seconds.


This secondary breakdown looks at how this time is divided depending on age groups. Those in the 18-plus and 50-plus age ranges show the most interest in live TV, ranging from 42 percent to 53 percent, while digital means (including PC, smartphone and tablet usage) are close behind in the 30 percentile range across all age groups. TV-connected devices seem to get the short end of the stick—between eight and 15 percent—but still make up a decent amount of time spent.

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Another part of the report looks at the comparison between DVR and subscription-based video services, and while DVR had a steady lead back in the fourth quarter of 2014 (49 percent compared to SVOD’s 41 percent), it looks like the two are breaking even, with both sitting at 50 percent for the start of 2016. This could be a key opportunity for SVOD services to take over, with DVR services trying to keep up with new features.

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The report is lengthy, and even goes into details regarding percentiles and time spent on each individual service, but it appears that both older technology (AM/FM radio) and newer technology (SVOD) are both quite popular with the demographic.

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Cannes Lions Takeaways: Ads With Purpose And Taking Risks Pay Off

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has drawn to a close, and hundreds of proud brands are headed home with their shiny, new awards. While a plethora of advertising was seen at the festival, those most recognized fought for a cause, touched audiences on an emotional level or took enormous risks.

Ads With A Cause

Brands determined to leave a legacy were a popular trend this year, from Grand Prix winner The Organic Effect persuading Swedish families to eat better to Testimonies urging those testing negative for HIV to support those who weren’t as lucky.

Although you might think cause-driven campaigns are “award gold,” Cannes jurors are warning those creating disingenuous ads just for recognition. “When you just staple something on . . . I think I can speak for all 20 jurors that we had cause fatigue,” jury president, John Clinton told PR Week. “We’re sitting there looking at some of the things people stick on to their brands and you’re like, ‘how the hell did that come about?’”

Bringing Art To Life


In a campaign to promote the Art Institute of Chicago’s upcoming Van Gogh exhibit, artists recreated his painting The Bedroom in real-life and invited the public through Airbnb to spend the night. All nights in the room sold out within minutes. Online pre-sale tickets to the exhibition were up 250 percent and more than 200,000 people attended in just six weeks. The room cost $31,000 to build and generated more than $6 million in earned media.

In an experiential campaign for the Kamoi Kakoshi brand of Washi tape—long, thin and decorated sticky tape that can also be used to customize your belongings—an exhibition was created where visitors could be creative and play with over 80,000 tapes that were hanging from the ceiling. The result was a visually overwhelming environment of color and texture that garnered its public relations agency a Golden Lion Award.

Reinvention And Risks

Beyoncé was awarded one of two Excellence In Music awards for her video Formation, defying the typical Grand Prix-winning campaign in that no corporate brand was attached. “[You have] the biggest artist on the planet taking serious risks,” Josh Rabinowitz, jury president of Lions Entertainment, said in a press conference. “This is a mainstream pop artist pushing the limits on the way we perceive things of race in culture, and the perception of women in culture.”

Queen B wasn’t the only Hollywood A-lister taking risks, as Channing Tatum discussed his own brand of vodka, Born & Bred. The creator and star of the Magic Mike films stated that he wanted to “slow down on acting,” much to the disappointment of the primarily female audience in attendance. Tatum told the crowd that he decided to create his own vodka because none of the brands out there appealed to him or his friends. He was more interested in creating a world that he and his friends would live in. “It’s storytelling more than building an actual brand,” explained Tatum.

REI was a hot topic this past fall (and thus awarded) when the retailer gave its employees a paid day off on Black Friday and closed online sales. Using the tag #OptOutside, REI encouraged would-be shoppers to enjoy the outdoors instead. The idea of a retailer opting out of the busiest shopping day of the year seems insane, but this successful campaign got the world talking. The result was 170 organizations closing down for the day and parks opening to the public, reinforcing REI’s outdoor-centric brand.

Burger King’s tongue-in-cheek ad campaign for World Peace Day was another risk-gone-right. In a full-page ad in the New York Times, Burger King pitched an idea to their biggest rival McDonald’s to create a hybrid burger called the #McWhopper. McDonald’s didn’t bite, but the Cannes judges did, sending them home with the top award for Print and Publishing.

Breakvertising, meanwhile, was honored for a new way to look at in-video advertising by showing ads only when a user pressed pause.

From the outside, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is full of bright stars and coveted awards, but the heart and soul of marketing is reaching the audience on an emotional level. Each award-winning campaign told a story that resonated with its audience and encouraged conversation. When the audience remembers your ad, they remember your brand.

Sega’s Ivo Gerscovich Discusses How Sonic Keeps It Fresh On Social

Sonic the Hedgehog fans have no doubt noticed an influx of activity across the brand, from video games to TV shows and even an upcoming film. For Ivo Gerscovich, Sega’s chief brand officer for Sonic & SVP, keeping the brand fresh is a balance between honoring legacy and trying brave, new things.

“Part of overseeing the brand is keeping one foot in the past,” Gerscovich told [a]listdaily at this year’s E3. “Being true to the traditions and the history and the legacy of Sonic, but also looking at the future and what kind of new and interesting things [we can] do.” Most importantly, he added, is to create campaigns that you would enjoy, yourself.

“The truth is, we’re having a lot of fun,” Gersovich smiled. “If we, as employees of Sega and people overseeing the brand aren’t having fun, how can we expect the consumers to have fun? We’re really trying to have fun with the brand and do things that make us feel good and things that excite us.”

Sonic the Hedgehog turned 25 on June 23 and to celebrate, Sega staged a Twitter takeover by characters Sonic and Doctor Eggman. Users were encouraged to send questions to the channel using the hashtag, #AskSonic. In return, a selection of responses were custom-recorded by voice actors, Roger Craig Smith (Sonic) and Doctor Eggman (Mike Pollock).

In addition to answering fan questions, Sonic and Eggman have taken the opportunity to have a little fun with fellow video game franchises. When the official Assassin’s Creed account tweeted about Ezio’s birthday, Roger Craig Smith (who also happens to play the voice of Ezio), pretended to be kidnapped by Doctor Eggman. Ubisoft promptly paid the ransom of cat pictures in the form of a kitten dressed in an Assassin’s hood.

Other game franchises got in on the fun, including the official Deus Ex account asking Sonic’s advice for making their protagonist, Adam Jensen, go faster. Breaking the fourth wall, Sonic referred to Sega as “dad.” Doctor Eggman even poked fun at Sonic for his game, Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic ’06) which was notoriously full of glitches and extremely long load times.

The publicity stunt not only brought Sega’s iconic franchise to life, but had much of the Twitterverse scrambling to be noticed. The Sonic and Eggman account also took a proactive approach to marketing, recording custom voice messages for notable influencers such as Twitch, GameGrumps and Xavier Woods.

Doctor Eggman took over the official Twitter account last November, garnering a positive response from the fans. “On social, we’re pioneering a new strategy that throws the old, boring, marketing text out the window, and replaces it with something fun, new and engaging,” Aaron Webber, PR and social media manager for Sonic told [a]listdaily following the #AskEggman takeover. “It fits perfectly with Sonic’s signature attitude and the tone and style that once made him so popular.”

Sega’s determination to revitalize the legacy and “win back the customer’s trust” comes at a pivotal time for the franchise, when new video game technology is all the rage and gamers who grew up with Sonic in the ’90s are having children of their own. The #AskSonic Twitter takeover is a step in the right direction, both in celebrating the character’s 25th anniversary and gaining momentum for the 2018 film adaptation.


RZA To Game On With Atari-Inspired Album

Atari has been an iconic name in video games for decades, getting its start in the late ’70s with the Atari 2600 and producing several classics over the past few years. Now, on the heels of its PC release Atari Vault (which celebrates its classic arcade legacy), the company is taking a unique step into the world of music.

The publisher has announced today in a press release that it has entered an agreement with producer and rapper RZA, who is also a member of the famed Wu-Tang Clan. Together, they’ll work to compose and record an album that celebrates the historic legacy of the company, featuring sounds and music from several Atari games.

Considering how much RZA is a fan of video games, this partnership seems like a logical step, and it allows him to show his appreciation for the brand. “I’m so excited to work on these iconic games to deliver what I believe will be one of my best albums,” he said in a press statement. “I am going to invite some of my friends to join me and it will be Game On with the first beat!”

In addition, Atari and RZA will look into various multimedia projects based on the company’s intellectual properties, with the album taking precedence.

“We are thrilled to partner with RZA, one of the greatest hip-hop producers of all time,” said Atari’s CEO, Fred Chesnais. “RZA is a multi-talented artist and soundtrack virtuoso and we cannot wait to hear the new tracks he creates based on Atari’s iconic video game sounds and music.”

Atari’s Fred Chesnais and Stephen Belafonte are serving as executive producers.

Atari’s deal with RZA comes at just the right time, as more media companies are showing appreciation for the “retro” gaming scene. Last year, Sony Pictures released Pixels, an Adam Sandler comedy featuring nods to old-school favorites such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Recently, a Tetris film was announced in China with a release set for sometime next year, and Pac-Man made a return to mobile gaming with Pac-Man 256, an endless runner game created by Crossy Road developer Hipster Whale.

RZA’s Atari album is expected to go into production over the next few months, and might give Kanye West’s rumored Turbo-Grafx 16 album a run for its money.

YouTube Steps Up With Mobile Livestreaming And Original Programming

YouTube, in an effort to attract more creators, detailed on its blog that mobile livestreaming features have been added to its app, enabling users to broadcast from wherever they are by simply hitting a capture button.

“Because it’s built right into the YouTube app, mobile live streaming will have all the features your regular videos have—you’ll be able to search for them, find them through recommendations and playlists and protect them from unauthorized uses. And since it uses YouTube’s peerless infrastructure, it’ll be faster and more reliable than anything else out there,” wrote Kurt Wilms, product lead for immersive experiences at YouTube, in the blog post.

The feature was announced this morning at VidCon, where CEO Susan Wojcicki presented her keynote and spoke about the ways that mobile livestreaming would shake up the YouTube community. Furthermore, it puts the video service on equal footing with competitors like Facebook Live and Periscope.

“Livestreaming is not something that’s new for us, we’re always thinking about new ways to capitalize on immersive digital video in general,” said Neal Mohan, chief product officer at YouTube, speaking with Mashable before the company’s presentation. “Our belief is that YouTube—being a central place of video on internet—needs to be on the cutting edge. And we want to make it easier for our users to take advantage of these new technologies.”

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how everybody here uses these creative tools,” said Wojcicki during the keynote.

In addition, YouTube continues to work on expanding its line-up of shows for its subscription service, YouTube Red. The humor channel Smosh announced (via Variety) that it is working on a Saturday Night Live-style show that’s set to release sometime later this summer. Smosh Live! will feature the talents of Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, along with Joshua “Jovenshire” Ovenshire.

But perhaps the biggest programming announcement is with Step Up, a big-budget TV series that’s based on the popular dance films. YouTube will work alongside franchise holder Lionsgate on a ten-episode series, with each spanning 45 minutes.

Although the format hasn’t been finalized yet, Susanne Daniels, global head of original content for YouTube, is confident that it will be part of a “bigger, bolder” movement to “drive subscription.”

Zynga’s ‘Ice Age: Arctic Blast’ Mobile Game Matches Perfectly With Movie

Ice Age: Collision Course, the newest addition to the 14-year-old franchise, hits theaters next month on July 22, but fans don’t have to wait that long to revisit their favorite characters and settings. Zynga, famous for hits such as Farmville, released a new free-to-play match-3 mobile game yesterday, Ice Age: Arctic Blast.

The game was developed in partnership with 20th Century Fox and promotes the upcoming movie with two exclusive movie clips for fans to enjoy. Furthermore, in a deal with Regal Entertainment, players can use the game to purchase movie tickets. Meanwhile, the game’s trailer will run at 570 Regal Cinema theater lobbies for two weeks following the film’s release. The movie stars the voices of John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Peck, Queen Latifah and many more.

Jim Stern, executive producer of Ice Age: Arctic Blast, talks to [a]listdaily about how the game enhances the movie-going experience and the growing relationship between films and mobile gaming.

How did the partnership between Zynga and 20th Century Fox come into being?

Both companies have wanted to work together for quite some time with the right opportunity. With Ice Age: Collision Course, Fox was looking to celebrate the new movie with a fresh take on a mobile game that would leverage the entire film franchise. The timing was perfect for us, as we wanted a popular entertainment brand to pair with our innovative match-3 gameplay. As the biggest mass market genre on mobile, we see high levels of audience affinity between fans of match-3 gameplay and the Ice Age brand, which is one of the top animated international movie franchises of all time.

Do players have to do anything special to unlock the exclusive movie scenes?

They just need to play past the general FTUE [First Time User Experience] to have access. Once they do, they can earn valuable rewards, including acorns—the game’s currency—by watching the never-before-seen movie moments.

How does a popular franchise like Ice Age help enhance the match-3 experience?

People familiar with the franchise will have an immediate affinity for their favorite scenes from the original four films and will be delighted with the content from the upcoming Ice Age: Collision Course movie. It was very important to us that all 16 characters were deeply integrated into the actual gameplay. Whether it’s Ellie siphoning all of the jewels from the board or Scrat expanding the board after you’ve collected enough acorns, we recreated everyone’s favorite characters in a way that is meaningful and stays true to their on-camera personalities.

How does the Facebook integration work?

Players 13-years and older can connect with their real-world friends to see how they are progressing in the game and send them in-game advantages, including lives and currency. They can also compare how far they have progressed in the game with respect to their friends, and compete for the highest score on a given level. Coming soon, players will also be able to help their friends by completing levels for each other.

How did Zynga, Fox Interactive and Regal Entertainment come up with the idea for purchasing Collision Course movie tickets through the game, while promoting Arctic Blast in Regal Cinema lobbies?

We wanted to create an experience for Ice Age fans where they could enjoy the movie and the game as a connected adventure. We are bringing that to life in the game by showing exclusive content and giving players the opportunity to buy movie tickets in real-time. Once fans experience the movie magic of Ice Age: Collision Course in the theaters, they can take their favorite characters home with them and continue the experience in Ice Age: Arctic Blast.

We’re seeing an increasing number of tie-ins between mobile games and movies recently. How do you think the two experiences complement each other?

Movies and mobile games are not only great sources of entertainment, they are wonderful opportunities for families and friends to spend time together. Connecting the two media experiences allows people to interact with the brands they love at a time and place that is convenient for them.

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick Discusses ESports, Sequels And More

Take-Two Interactive had one of the most impressive E3 booths this year with its recreation of a two-story New Orleans French Quarter building, which celebrated the upcoming launch of 2K’s Mafia III. The game publisher also promoted its bestselling franchises WWE 2K17, NBA 2K17, Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, and XCOM 2 at the annual trade show.

The company is on a roll, having completed its 2016 fiscal year with GAAP net revenue of $1.414 billion, up from to $1.083 billion last fiscal year. Thanks in large part to the success of Grand Theft Auto Online, GAAP net revenue from digitally delivered content grew 53 percent year-over-year to a record $697.7 million.

Strauss Zelnick, who has served as CEO of Take-Two since January 1, 2011 and chairman of the company since March 2007, talks to [a]listdaily about the potential eSports opens up for the company and the challenges of launching original games in today’s market.

What impact does eSports play as new games like a Battleborn or Evolve are being developed?

Everyone who is in the development community is mindful of eSports, but I don’t think we’re yet at the point where we would want to design a game around the hope that it will become an important eSport. Everything that’s going on in the marketplace informs our thinking, but it’s too early to say that we would actually be designing games around the possibility of them appealing to an eSports audience.

What happened with Leagues of Legends was very organic. The folks at Riot very cleverly made the title available and, over time, began to modify it. In fact, that title really speaks to almost all of the revenue that is eSports-related in the business now. But it feels like the audience voted, more than the company decided. And we think that that’s probably about right.

We suspect that’s how eSports will develop going forward, but naturally we have to be mindful about the opportunity and try to pursue it. So our own view is that fewer than 10 games in the coming years will be meaningful for eSports. We certainly hope to have one or more of them, but it probably would be pushing it too far to say that we’re actually developing titles in that direction.

What are the challenges of launching a new IP such as Battleborn into today’s sequel-driven ecosystem?

Markets always have sequels, and the best companies always put out new intellectual property. Because we’ve been launching new intellectual property ever since we took over the company in 2007, we now have 11 franchises with at least one 5 million-unit-selling release and 50 individual multimillion-unit-selling titles. We’ve launched nine new brands since 2007, including Battleborn, Bioshock, Borderlands, Carnival Games, Evolved, The Darkness, WWE, and XCOM, so we are believers that you keep the business fresh. It is challenging. It is risky. It doesn’t always work out the way that you would hope, but we’ve been very pleased with the results.

That said, they have to succeed from a quality point-of-view. Our aim is to maintain our reputation as a company with the highest Metacritic scores for a third-party publisher. We’ve had that mantel for many years, and hope to continue to do so. So with the caveat that you have to deliver the highest quality, both with new IP and sequels.

One differentiator between games and Hollywood is that game sequels often explore brand new stories and locales. What’s the challenge of delivering sequels such as XCOM 2, Mafia III, and Civilization VI to gamers?

It does happen sometimes in the movie business as well, but I agree it’s more typical in the interactive entertainment business where you hang on to the brand, you hang on to some of the themes, and you feel empowered to change any number of other things including the lead characters—which typically wouldn’t happen in linear entertainment experience. But that’s one of the many ways that interactive entertainment is different than motion pictures or television. The gameplay and the brand are the stars, and the characters can come and go. That’s exciting creatively. It allows us to do really extraordinary things.

Can you explain how Grand Theft Auto Online’s content extends the life of the game with a recurring revenue stream? Does this represent a major shift in the gaming industry?

You make a very good point. In fiscal 2016 our recurrent consumer spending was at its highest level ever and that counted for over a quarter of our total revenue, which is extraordinary. That’s an 11-fold increase since 2011 when the business was nascent. So at present, consumer spending is essentially digitally distributed revenue that isn’t full game downloads, so it would be downloadable content, virtual currency game payments, and the like.

The business used to be big physical releases, and people would show up and buy them or not, and eventually the titles would be reduced in price, and they were cataloged, and then we’d be out of the market for a while. What’s exciting about staying engaged with the consumer with digitally distributed content of all types is that we can keep the brands alive, build franchises, and continue to delight consumers in between these big physical releases and we can create revenue and profits as we do it.

Specifically with regard to GTA Online, this has been a really extraordinary story. The title is nearly three years old and the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year were respectively the best quarter and the best fiscal year ever for Grand Theft Auto Online in virtual currency sales. And those sales are obviously attracting engagement, and engagement is tracking delight, and that’s what we’re here to do. Grand Theft Auto V has sold over 65 million units. It remains the highest-rated title on Xbox One and PS4 and it has become clear that—for an age-appropriate audience—when you get new hardware, you need to have Grand Theft Auto. And when you have Grand Theft Auto, generally speaking, you connect to the internet. And when you connect to the internet, generally speaking, you try Grand Theft Auto Online. We’ve remained excited and gratified by it.

How do traditional paid games complete in today’s market when there is so much competition from the free-to-play world?

I’m not sure the competition is free-to-play with console games, because they’re still very different experiences. The bulk of the free-to-play market are games that you consume on smartphones for short amounts of time. The demographics are more female than male. Whereas for console and PC titles, it’s a few more male than female, and they tend to reflect deep engagement. Both can be really interesting. There’s no doubt that the free-to-play ecosystem is popular. It’s highly competitive because budgets are lower. The engagement levels are lower. The audience is unforgiving and fickle, and it’s not clear you can transition your users from one title to another, although some have tried.