Hennessy Brings Modern Approach To Its Historic Brand

Hennessy is taking a substantial swig back into the Unites States market with a dynamic interactive experience in “Harmony. Mastered from Chaos.”

The spirit maker is banking on a stateside integrated marketing strategy—specifically for Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège—that’s designed to cater to cognac connoisseurs by communicating the company’s rich history in craftsmanship.

The creative multidimensional campaign, V.S.O.P Privilège’s first in the US over the last 10 years, brings to life the spirit’s complex variables and brand’s distinctive blend. The cinematic journey uses 3D lidar scanning, depth capture and binaural recording and merges with live-action footage to capture the cognac-making process. The interactive digital experience— narrated by 2016 Tony-Award winner Leslie Odom Jr.—adds another chapter to the legacy luxury brand’s “Never stop. Never settle.” platform. It continues the strong push Hennessy has been having in 2016 for its overall brand, which also includes “Each Drop of Hennessy X.O is an Odyssey.”

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The French multinational brand hasn’t had a shortage of brand awareness and reaching its sophisticated consumers across the states over the last decade. The likes of Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Tech N9ne, Nas and Swizz Beatz—among a slew of other rappers—have helped Henny to never leave the lexicon of pop culture, as well as brown bottle enthusiasts.

Hennessy was one of four sprits that accounted for more than half of alcohol brand mentions in the songs that mentioned alcohol use in Billboard’s most popular song lists in 2009, 2010 and 2011, according to a 2013 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Nas and Swizz Beatz even turned rapping about the company’s cognac to lucrative endorsement deals for themselves.

Giles Woodyer, Hennessy’s senior vice president, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how the cognac maker is keeping it classy and complex all at the same time with “Harmony. Mastered from Chaos.” 

What is the brand promise you’re trying to communicate with the “Harmony. Mastered from Chaos.” campaign?

A history of unwavering quality. Hennessy is an incredibly vibrant brand that has a very loyal following, however, few people know the full story of our history, craftsmanship and family legacy. We have chosen to share this rich heritage through the lens of V.S.O.P Privilège.


After 10 years, why was it important to re-introduce the V.S.O.P Privilège brand to the US audience? How does your US audience differ from the one in Europe? 

Hennessy enjoys incredible momentum with our very special cognac in the US market. Hennessy V.S is one of many cognac expressions that we offer and want to introduce people to the full richness of our portfolio. For many, V.S.O.P Privilège is the next step on the journey. V.S.O.P Privilège is an exceptionally well balanced blend that naturally lends itself to a broader base of brown spirits drinkers during a time when we are seeing unprecedented levels of brown spirits consumption. Hennessy is perfectly positioned to be one of the brands that benefits from this renewed interest in the category. In addition, we have seen a resurgence in the interest in classic cocktails and a rise in mixology around the country. At the turn of the last century, cognac was the base spirits of many of the iconic, classic cocktails. V.S.O.P Privilège works extremely well in those classics, such as the sidecar and vieux carré, and is delicious neat or on the rocks. 

What’s the relationship between the rich visual language of the film and an interactive site with the heritage of Hennessy? What’s the message you’re trying to get across? 

Creating Hennessy cognac is a beautiful experience that starts in the vineyards of Cognac, France and travels to the distillery and to our extensive cellars. We wanted to bring some of this beauty to life for people to experience so we are revealing the story behind the crafting of Hennessy cognac—a story that dates back 250 years. Making cognac requires patience and exceptional skill honed over generations.  Our Comité de Dégustation is comprised of a highly skilled group of individuals who have dedicated their lives to making cognac. We want to provide a glimpse into the magic of this world. We cannot do justice to the many elements and stages involved in the cognac making process in a short format film, thus our desire was to create truly immersive chapters so that people could explore each of these stages that is so unique and essential to the art of making an exceptional Cognac.

What does having company pillars like Hennessy’s mysterious Comité de Dégustation (Tasting Committee) allow you to do?

When people think of Hennessy, they often associate the brand with our role in popular culture—the Tasting Committee are a living, breathing embodiment of our savoir faire. We are exceptionally lucky to have a depth and richness to our history and our cognac making process that is the envy of the industry. Sharing the intriguing story of the Hennessy Tasting Committee, its exacting practices and long standing rituals, illustrates the crucial role that over 250 years of tradition and excellence play in mastering this well-structured spirit. Telling this story helps to bring the extraordinary legacy of our brand to life.  

How does Hennessy further plan on using social media, content and other storytelling tools to engage in new ways with consumers? What kind of social rollouts can followers expect?

Hennessy uses social media engagement and original content as part of the integrated programming with all of our cognacs. We plan to bring our V.S.O.P Privilège campaign to life on social media via month long stories that convey the essence of “Harmony. Mastered from Chaos.” These compelling stories feature experts, in varying disciplines, who display a high level of mastery in their chosen field. These stories will begin rolling out across all of our social platforms starting in August.


How will you measure success for the “Harmony? Mastered from Chaos.” campaign?

We have created this campaign to engage and educate consumers by offering a glimpse into some of the 250-year-old inner-workings of Hennessy, through a modern and powerful cinematic experience.  This campaign will be a success if consumers respond to it and enjoy learning more about cognac, Hennessy and V.S.O.P Privilège.

How does using immersive experiences best position Hennessy’s marketing efforts moving forward? How will Hennessy continue to leverage interactive promotions?

Hennessy will continue to offer immersive experiences, whether virtually or in reality, to surprise and delight our brand fans. We find that consumers of Hennessy embrace the brand as part of their lifestyles and want to engage with our cognacs across many facets of their lives, from enjoying cocktails with friends and attending our events, to sharing across social media. These immersive experiences help to build and strengthen meaningful brand connections which are important to our Hennessy drinkers.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

4 Ways Facebook Has Changed Marketing

Facebook has come a long way since its introduction in 2004, with a high amount of earnings in its most recent quarter ($6.44 billion over the past three months) and a monthly user base of 1.71 billion, per their recent earning’s call. However, it’s also innovated in a number of ways when it comes to how products are marketed on its site.

Thanks to the introduction of new services (such as Facebook Messenger and Facebook Video), the site has found ways for companies to reach out to consumers—and not with obtrusive, stock ads that stick out like a sore thumb. Let’s look at the many ways that Facebook has mastered the art of marketing products:

Video, Video Everywhere

While Facebook was originally launched as a way to connect with your real-life network, as content from publishers gained prominence, video became a key aspect of the site. Facebook Video has grown quite a bit over the past few years, making it a viable competitor to Google’s YouTube.

There have been more notable deals as of late, including the signing of many media partners and celebrities, along with a recent partnership between Facebook and Blizzard to help connect friends better with the competitive shooting game Overwatch. And the medium is just getting started, as more and more marketers are finding the best ways to utilize video, including new formats like 360-degree video—a very friendly format for virtual reality.

Changing How We Feel About Data Collecting

In order to gain access to sites and services, we inevitably surrender our data. As a society, our attitudes about what information we provide and our consent to use it has become increasingly laissez-faire over the past few years. Beyond the information you enter upon signing up, Facebook is constantly collecting information on its users who are willing to provide it, by liking pages and posts, watching videos and who they follow, over time the social media giant has a pretty good sense of who you are, what you like and don’t like.

The company breaks down its data policy here, explaining how data collection is utilized for communication and ad measuring services. While there are those who still feel uneasy about having personal information available such as this, Facebook’s system has enabled a “breathe easy” format that uses it for the better.

Content Consumption

In the past, users usually visited a website just to get the information they needed—checking on a news story, watching a movie trailer—and then happily moving along their way. Facebook’s News Feed put all of the content users like in one place, which keeps them coming back for more and replacing what traditional web portals have provided for the Internet—only completely customizable and personalized.

Targeting Audiences

In the past, creating a target audience for a product was tricky business and not an exact science. For all of its incessant data collecting, Facebook has made it a whole lot easier for brands to get in front of consumers who are relevant to them and vice versa. From age groups and income brackets to specific geographic locations and whether you like sports, marketers are able to drill down and reach niche audiences more easily than ever before.


QuakeCon Sponsors Help Rock The Summer

Bethesda’s yearly QuakeCon event isn’t just a huge draw for fans wanting to learn more about games such as Quake ChampionsDoom, Dishonored 2 and Prey—it’s also an ideal spot for both premier partners and charities to get together and spread awareness to the thousands of attendees.

The publisher released a full list of exhibitors that will be at the show from Thursday, August 4 through Saturday, August 6. As expected, a number of them are PC hardware manufacturers that thrive on showcasing Bethesda’s action games. These include Alienware, AMD, Corsair, CybertronPC, Intel, NVIDIA and Razer.

Although specific products haven’t been revealed yet, all of these PC companies are expected to showcase their latest laptop/PC models for demonstration, as well as offer special deals for attendees looking to get upgrades to assure that games like Dishonored 2 and Quake run at maximum performance. NVIDIA will no doubt have its highly acclaimed GTX 1080 video cards; Razer should provide hands-on with its new Razer Blade Stealth laptop and possibly its Forge TV device; and Alienware is likely to have its VR-ready Alienware Aurora model for demonstration.

Virtual reality is expected to have a place at QuakeCon as well. Bethesda will more than likely present Doom and Fallout 4 VR during the event, as it did at the Electronic Entertainment Expo a month ago— and HTC Vive will also have a space on the exhibit floor, demonstrating a number of its released and upcoming games to the awaiting public.

Other companies in attendance include DX Racer, a company that specializes in custom-made gaming chairs; BAWLS energy drink, which will be there to keep players going in the BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) room; and other development studios showing off their latest games, including Devolver Digital, New Blood Interactive and SolarFlare Games. Again, no specific titles have been announced, but Devolver is likely to bring a number of its forthcoming titles, like Shadow Warrior 2.

Furthermore, several charities will also be on hand at QuakeCon to host events and give away prizes.

For instance, the American Red Cross will be there once again to collect blood donations. The tradition began in 2014 with the “Good Within Blood Drive,” which was a way to both promote The Evil Within game while doing good. This year, those who take part will earn a special limited edition Bethesda Softworks t-shirt while supplies last.


Bethesda is also getting directly involved with giving by partnering with Amazon.com for a non-profit charity called GameChanger. With it, the company will build up donations by offering discounts on popular titles in its library from August 2nd through the 8th.

QuakeCon will feature a full schedule of panels running from Thursday through Saturday, looking at upcoming games and delving deeper into the development of hits like Doom. A number of these panels, along with the Quake tournament finals, will be livestreamed on Twitch.

Bethesda is expected to have a full showcase of forthcoming titles for the event, including the upcoming sequel, Dishonored 2; the newly revealed sci-fi adventure, Prey; and (the star of the show) Quake Champions.

Champions originally made its debut at E3 last month with a teaser trailer, and the event will be a key opportunity for Bethesda to showcase not only its nostalgic gameplay, but also its eSports appeal, through a number of multiplayer demonstrations and a tournament that will conclude the event on Saturday evening. The high-end and fast-paced nature of the game is sure to make for an impressive showcase for the hardware that will be there, particularly NVIDIA’s video cards.

“A competitive arena-style first-person shooter for the PC designed for players of all skill levels,” said studio director of id Software, Tim Willits, about the title during the company’s E3 presentation. “Whether you are new to Quake or have been fragging for the last 20 years, Quake Champions will give you the challenge and rush you’d expect from iD Software multiplayer games.”

“The game features a diverse cast of warriors each with different attributes and unique abilities, allowing you to fight the way you want,” said Willits. “id has a long tradition of supporting competitive tournaments. The game is designed for world-class eSports play at every level.”

In a nutshell, QuakeCon provides ample opportunities for companies and charities alike to reach out to the hardcore Bethesda community, while at the same time providing an array of activities, giveaways and events for fans to enjoy. Next week will certainly be a good time for all in Dallas.

Crytek: ‘Warface’ Never Been More Ready To Join ESports

Crytek, known for its powerful game engine (CryEngine) and award-winning Crysis franchise, has officially entered the world of eSports in a recent partnership with ESL. Crytek’s free-to-play first-person shooter, Warface will be the focus of the Go4Warface tournament beginning August 7—featuring weekly competitions and a cash prize. The top eight teams will then be invited to a monthly final, with even more money and prestige on the line (it’s currently at £500). Over the last 12 years, over 225,000 unique players and 54,000 unique teams have competed in Go4 cups, according to ESL, earning more than $1 million US in prize money. Many of these players moved on to compete in the WCS, LCS, Intel Extreme Masters and ESL One.

Entering the nearly $1 billion eSports industry is an important move for the company, and Warface was an ideal starting point to test the waters. Ilya Mamontov, Crytek’s director of game operations explains:

What makes Warface ideal for eSports?

There are three main aspects that make Warface ideal for eSports. Firstly, its competitive gameplay. You need to be better than your opponents, both as a team and as an individual, which means you really need to sharpen your skills in multiple game modes. Secondly, Warface is a highly cooperative game. You could be better than any of the gamers on the opposing team, but if you don’t work with your teammates, you’re likely to lose. This aspect of the gameplay is deeply ingrained in Warface—we have four classes of fighters, and some class-specific equipment is used only to help teammates, like the medic’s defibrillator. And thirdly, our gameplay is tactical and fast-paced. You always need to consider your next move, and you need to do it quickly. So it’s always interesting to watch battles play out in Warface, and that’s an important part of eSports too. So these three things—fast-paced tactical gameplay, and the strong cooperative and competitive aspects—make Warface a perfect fit for eSports.

Why did Crytek choose the European fan base in particular for the competition?

We felt it made sense to start close to home from a logistical point-of-view, and with the ESL being based in Cologne and our HQ in Frankfurt, it seemed like a good fit to focus on Europe first.

Are there plans to expand the Go4Warface Series to the US or other territories?

Yes! This is the first time Crytek has been involved in eSports and we’re very excited to see how these upcoming tournaments play out. Ultimately, how things evolve will depend on the Warface community, and we’ll only expand to other territories if we see a growing number of teams taking part.


How will Crytek leverage popular online streamers or other existing communities to promote the Go4Warface Series?

Community is at the heart of Warface, so these outlets are an essential part of getting the word out there. We’re definitely happy to work with streamers who are passionate about first-person shooters and interested in Warface, but forming lasting relationships with popular online personalities is only one aspect of what’s possible in this area.

One thing that we’re really excited about is a YouTube program our Live Operations and Community team put together called the “Warface Operative Network.” The program looks to create YouTubers, and even streamers, directly from the community. So if someone is creating Warface videos that really stand out, we will give them media training and mentorship and visibility within the game’s community to promote them within our ecosystem and grow their channels. We believe in the passion of our own community and want to foster a fun, encouraging environment for them to be creative in.

Will Crytek implement cross-promotion for the tournaments across its other brands, such as Arena of Fate?

At the moment we don’t have such solid plans; we want to focus on Go4Warface as a standalone project and attempt to make it huge! But in the future, we’ll consider possible cross-marketing ideas.

Should these tournaments become popular, do you think Warface will once again become available for console play?

Different platforms, and specifically different controllers, turn any shooter into an entirely different game. The mechanics might seem similar, but a controller changes the game’s dynamic. At this point, we’re focused on PC and the growing Warface community we have on the platform. We will consider an expansion when we feel other platforms can support our vision.

Where do you see the future of Warface in the world of eSports?

I think the first step is to make sure the game fits the criteria needed for success in eSports. Firstly, you should get rid of cheaters and hackers—and we’ve done that, thanks to our partners and their systems, EasyAntiCheat and FairFight. So Warface is free of unfair players now. Secondly, you should be in good shape from a technological point of view. Our Kiev development studio has invested a huge amount of effort over the last and this year to resolve tech issues impacting the gameplay, and they’re one step away from finalizing their work. And thirdly, you should have an audience that’s interested in eSports, and we definitely have that, as some time ago our community even started to run ESL-rule-based tournaments themselves.

So basically, Warface has never been more ready to become a part of the eSports landscape than it is now. Our community has made their demand for eSports clear, and that’s why we believe we can compete even with biggest eSports shooters out there. Our players will make it huge, and our job is to support them as much as possible.

VR Game ‘Island 359’ Challenges You To Survive A Dinosaur-Infested Jungle

Steve Bowler and Jeremy Chapman are the minds behind The Brookhaven Experiment, which has left a considerable impression on the VR community since launching earlier this month. The two have since moved on from Phosphor Games to found their own game company called CloudGate Studio, in conjunction with Mike Fischer (former CEO of Square Enix).

Steve Bowler [left], Jeremy Chapman [right]; Founders of CloudGate Studio
Steve Bowler [left], Jeremy Chapman [right]; Founders of CloudGate Studio
Bowler and Chapman spoke with [a]listdaily about their newest project, Island 359—a virtual reality game where players are challenged to survive on a jungle island that happens to be populated by vicious dinosaurs.

As Chapman describes it, “Island 359 puts you into the shoes of a mercenary who has been sent to a remote island where dinosaurs have suddenly appeared and started attacking the residents. Governments of the world are aware, but don’t want anyone else to know about the situation, so they are contracting Black Ops teams to remedy the situation and eliminate the dinosaur threat.”

When asked what inspired the creation of a virtual reality dinosaur survival game, Chapman responded, “I’ve always been obsessed with dinosaurs, and have wanted to make a dinosaur game that brings them to life in a believable way for a long time now. VR opened up the door to do just that on a scale we didn’t originally think was possible.” Chapman also stated that the story would be periodically updated during its Steam Early Access period, which is expected to launch later this summer.

In discussing how they planned to promote the game while it was in Early Access, Bowler stated that “we’re planning to do developer livestreams showing our process of working on the features, along with playing those features on the livestream before they’re released. We also have a lot of other (hopefully) fun surprises in store, like sharing GIFs or short videos via our social channels of new dinosaurs, weapons, modes, funny moments and other features as they’re completed or being worked on. We also hope the Island 359 community and the VR community gets excited and shares their experiences!”


“We feel that Early Access allows us to share what we’re making with the VR community while it’s hungry for new content,” Bowler continued. “This is the launch year for consumer VR, and we formed CloudGate because we felt like we had something to add to the community and to be a part of this exciting, historic launch. So to help facilitate that, we’ll be offering a big discount at Island 359’s Early Access launch, in order to thank our fans and community for joining us during this first phase. As we release more features, areas, modes, dinos, weapons and updates, we’ll be gradually reducing that discount as the product gets closer to a final retail product. Fans who join us early will only have to pay the heavily discounted price, and they’ll keep getting the updates for free!”

Chapman also commented on why CloudGate chose to develop Island 359 using the HTC Vive as its launch platform. “The Vive is currently the only way to experience full body, room scale, immersive VR,” he said. “Using your hands to interact with your environment and allowing the player the freedom to move around, duck and dodge are all elements we felt were necessary to the experience of Island 359. We want you to sweat a little bit and get you out of your comfort zone. You can’t fear for your life if you know you’re sitting in a chair in your living room holding a game controller. The Vive lets us play with your natural human ‘fight or flight’ instincts in ways other game platforms can’t.”


Bowler discussed the challenges of promoting a game that uses technology that’s still very new. “The issue isn’t that the technology is new—consumer VR is incredibly robust and a very finished and polished kit,” he said. “The biggest issue is that ‘seeing is believing,’ except when it comes to VR, even seeing isn’t enough. You have to be in VR before you believe it. Both of us had our doubts as to how good consumer VR was before we tried the Vive dev kits. All it took was one demo, and we were hooked. We had to go back. We had Matrix withdrawal. So the challenge to the entire VR industry is getting faces in HMDs. Once there, people want it. It’s very real.”

Bowler continued by discussing some of the challenges VR technology continues to face. “The only way to understand VR is to actually be in VR. Seeing a trailer, or even watching a ‘Let’s Play’ video of someone playing a VR game on YouTube, isn’t the same as actually being in it. Currently, we’re working with our strong industry partners to try and get Island 359 at more shows and in more places for folks to demo it and try it out—as we feel that it can be a powerful ambassador to VR adoption. We’ve really nailed that feeling of ‘I’m in a hot jungle’ to the point where we see people playing it have instinctive lizard brain reactions. They try and hide in the bushes or behind rocks or trees. So we’d love to get as many people on the Island as possible so they can experience the exhilaration for themselves!”

Given the challenges CloudGate and other developers face with promoting virtual reality games, we asked if any consideration was given to creating a non-VR version of the game. “Not at this time,” said Chapman. “The magic of Island 359 comes largely from the presence of being in VR that you can only get with the HMD on your face and seeing your hands interacting with the objects and dinosaurs in the world—believing that you exist in that jungle with those dinosaurs. We formed CloudGate to make premium VR experiences like Island 359, and we’re committed to that vision.”

Pro ‘League Of Legends’ Team Finds Support With Underwear Sponsorship

American League of Legends team the Immortals has signed its first non-endemic sponsorship deal with MeUndies, a California startup that makes underwear, socks and t-shirts. It’s the latest in a series of marketing partnerships between non-gaming brands and the burgeoning eSports industry.

“We’re big fans of eSports, and have been following its growth in viewership for the past couple years,” Greg Fass, head of partnerships and influencer marketing at MeUndies, said. “We knew that being comfortable was of utmost importance while gaming, and saw a natural alignment with our extremely comfortable underwear and loungewear. Once we found out how much the top players loved the product, it was a no-brainer to get involved on a deeper level. Not to mention, most brands in eSports are currently technology and gaming related—no mainstream clothing brands are in this space yet.

Noah Whinston, CEO of the Immortals, said MeUndies was already a brand his players knew and liked, so deciding to extend into a deeper partnership was an easy choice.

“We prioritize partnerships where we’re aligned with the brand values of our sponsors,” Whinston said. “ESports fans can spot inauthentic advertising a mile away, and the best way to sound excited about a partnership is to be authentically excited about it.”

Taking into account both fans of the individual players and overall brand, the Immortals has more than 2 million social followers, more than 10 million monthly impressions and millions of monthly unique viewers on livestreams. Whinston said a huge piece of the value his team provides partners is utilizing their social channels to reach their fan base, as well as assisting in message optimization.

Fass looks at this sponsorship as more of a partnership. He said MeUndies and the Immortals will work together to come up with content that supports everybody, including videos, purchase links, supporting logos and other collaborative ideas.

“We will be looking to also promote the team’s journey up to and through the League of Legends World Championship in LA this October,’ Fass said. “Above all, we will make sure they are always comfortable and unrestricted with plenty of MeUndies product.”

This partnership kicked off with a humorous ‘80s-style video in which the players talk about their love of the product.

“It’s important to strike a balance between being fun and taking ourselves seriously,” Whinston said. “We do want to be able to display the humor of an underwear sponsorship, but we also want to display the professionalism and talent throughout our roster.”

Fass said there are many collaborative and creative ways to get the product in front of eSports audiences despite the discreet branding and product category.

“Creating original content like the video we released and social media initiatives are just two of the ways to show your brand’s product and personality without being gaming specific,” Fass said. “No longer are sponsorships limited to technology products like headphones or monitors.”

Whinston believes there’s tremendous opportunity for non-endemic brands in eSports, but it’s essential that companies enter the scene with an underlying respect for the fan base and a partner well-equipped to help guide them through the ecosystem.

“To be honest, we weren’t looking for an official team sponsorship at first,” Fass said. “One of the players on the Immortals, Huni, tweeted out that he didn’t like to wear underwear. Being big fans and followers of Huni, we saw an opportunity to change his mind with MeUndies. One thing led to the next, and the entire Immortals crew ended up loving the brand and our product. Recognizing the mutual admiration, a team sponsorship was the obvious next step.”

MeUndies previously explored Snapchat as a way to target millennials through a “Lounge Off” ad, which had a 16 percent conversion rate. Fass said entertaining content is paramount.

“With social media we’ve found it’s been most effective when we find ways to sell without selling,” Fass said. “Our goal is to create compelling content that’s not necessarily tied to a product but that’s fun and reflects the brand voice. People appreciate authentic and relatable companies.”

With over 1 billion gamers around the world aware of eSports, according to Newzoo, MeUndies is the first, but certainly won’t be the last, clothing company to tap into this growing market.

NVIDIA Exec Explains First-Mover Advantages Of Virtual Reality

NVIDIA has grandiose plans to bring virtual reality to 130 million computers by the year 2020, and they’ll mostly do that by marketing their latest graphics hardware through engineering.

But they’re also keen on bringing VR to another burgeoning market—specifically the professional one—with their NVIDIA VR Ready program.

In short order, the graphics firm has started working with original equipment manufacturers like Dell, HP and Lenovo to offer NVIDIA VR Ready professional workstations and are enabling the industry’s first professional-class mobile workstation.

David Weinstein, NVIDIA’s director of professional virtual reality is responsible for the company’s professional VR products, projects and software developer’s kit, joined [a]listdaily to discuss some of the pressing questions about VR that industry insiders are pondering.

Professional VR extends to such fields as medical, architecture and manufacturing, among others. Which sector do you think has the most potential? 

I think that education will be huge. The opportunity for personalized education where curriculum is presented in VR—where it’s much more of a choose your own adventure type of education—will be a really compelling domain for kindergarten through twelfth grade, as well as college. And that sort of leads in to the next one in training. When you want to train someone to do a job, or say, doing it in a VR environment—whether it’s the battlefield or the assembly line—when you experience it in an immersive environment, you learn it and remember it in a much deeper way than you do just watching it on a screen.

Are consumers ready for VR today?

Yes. In some ways, we’ve been really well prepared for it thanks to Hollywood. We’ve all seen Minority Report, The Matrix. We’ve all seen Star Trek with the holodeck. A bunch of us have read The New York Times bestseller Ready Player One. We’ve been well prepared, perhaps even better than we were when cell phones came around. Steve Jobs had to get on stage and pound smart phones into us. With VR, everyone is going to go, ‘OK, it’s finally here. I’ve been waiting for it.’ I don’t think adoption will be slow, or complicated. I think everyone is ready for it.

Who will help drive the growth of VR?

The leading edge, as always, is going to be gaming because gamers want great gaming experiences. That drives a lot of sales, and the professional markets benefit from those sales. It’s really the consumer side that is leading things, which is starting to become a theme. On the graphics processing unit side, the performance we’re pushing out every year with our new cards is largely driven by gaming, which is fantastic, and professional application leverage that.

How do you share a VR story in a non-VR format? How do you overcome that challenge of someone having to actually experience it?

Doing it directly will be difficult. How do you experience a movie in a book format? We’ve gotten good at translating formats. Whether something will translate in an automated way, that’s going to be harder. It’s hard to take our existing modes of storytelling and translate that to VR. People have additional degrees of freedom.

Why should brands be lining up for VR activations? 

We’re kind of still in the requirements-gathering stage of VR. For storytelling in VR, nobody really knows the answers. So, if you want to influence what products look like, you have to get in early. That’s one reason for early adopters to participate in the VR space. There will also be first-mover advantages. If you’re the ‘first’ and people like it, you may stay on top of that field for a long time. If you get there first, you have the opportunity to influence the conversation.

One of the main problems currently for VR is people don’t have access to headsets. What is the workaround for people who don’t own the gear?

That one is hard. The solution to that one is time. HTC and Oculus are expected to ship around a million units by the end of the year, and there’s a fast rate of sales currently happening. Those are the high end devices. You already have a bunch of people with Google Cardboards and Samsung GearVR headsets. During a physical convention or show, it’s hard when one person at a time has to get a VR experience, and each takes 15 minutes. How many people are we going to get through? It’s hard, because it’s a one-to-one transaction.

How can VR turn from one-to-one to a social experience? 

Mark Zuckerberg has been trumpeting that, as have others. VR is going to have a huge impact on the personal side of things. I think there is compelling reasons why it will become social, very, very, fast. Gaming could be social, and in most cases, it already is. VR can make it more social. I think gaming will be at the leading edge again.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Wirewax Discusses 360 Immersive Experience For EPIX’s ‘Berlin Station’

EPIX has released their first interactive 360-degree experience for the network’s espionage drama Berlin Station, which is set to launch this fall.

In a Facebook Live session on [a]listdaily, both EPIX and Wirewax discussed the activation, made together with Ayzenberg and Scopic, at length about what makes the experience so unique.

“EPIX has a massive promotional plan surrounding [Berlin Station]. It is a major priority for the company,” said Shane Lindley, senior director of digital programming and product at EPIX. “It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this—across multiple touch points, really, like any other new major original series that’s being launched—from on-air promotion, in-theater promotion, magazines, television and definitely online and across all of our digital platforms.”

The experience, accessible at BerlinStation.com, drops you into a virtual reality-like experience that doesn’t require headgear to use and navigate, and thus, making it accessible for anyone.

“The reason we went for the 360 mobile-response experience would be that we wanted to hit the biggest market possible that we can,” said Lindley.

Wirewax, a company which specializes in motion-tracking technology and “touch points,” discussed how the cutting-edge tech was integrated into the site.

“You can interact with the map. You go through a transition of shortcuts to absorb yourself in this new setting. Then suddenly you’re in a plaza and this plaza is a place you recognize and you start looking around and you start thinking ‘okay, I’m in this environment now,’” said Wirewax co-founder Dan Garraway.

“This is an entirely new concept—it’s never been done before,” said Steve Callahan, CEO and co-founder of Wirewax.

According to Garraway, the EPIX activation has quickly become “a core use case in storytelling,” already inspiring potential future collaborations in utilizing the innovative technology.

“I think its loyal—helping viewers engage with messages. That’s what it’s all about.”

Study: Reward-Based Ads Highly-Effective With Mobile Gamers

Mobile gamers are happy to engage in reward-based ads, a new study shows. Rather than interrupt gameplay, these opt-in advertisements allow a player to voluntarily watch a video, for example, in exchange for in-game currency and additional moves. This marketing approach not only puts the player in control, but results in higher brand recall, according to research firm comScore.

The two-year study examined 14 campaigns from major global brands including Olive Garden, Dodge, LEGO, Sephora, Norwegian Cruse Line and more, as delivered by in-app advertising platform Tapjoy.

The study found that exposure to Tapjoy’s opt-in, rewarded ad experiences in mobile games positively impacted both upper- and lower-funnel advertising objectives, including driving a 17 point lift in aided awareness and 23 point lift in mobile ad recall over the control groups.

reward mobile game ads

This is good news for marketers who want to reach the $10 billion mobile game market, especially since phones are set to reach 60 percent of eCommerce visits by the end of 2017. Interactive ads, as opposed to pop-up or banner campaigns could very well be the key to unlocking consumer interest across the mobile gaming spectrum.

previous study by Forrester Consulting to increase brand sentiment noted that the percentage of consumers who feel positive toward a brand almost doubles when the brand provides content for the app, sponsors the app or unlocks experiences within it. Sixty-nine percent of consumers in the Forrester Consulting study said it is critical that ads don’t disrupt their use of the app, and 67 percent indicated they wanted to be offered a reward, such as premium content or virtual currency in exchange for engaging with an ad.

“The mobile ad market is growing quickly, but many advertisers are still trying to find the right formula to meet their branding and overall advertising goals,” said Steven Millman, senior vice president of research at comScore. “This study with Tapjoy shows that mobile ads, when integrated into mobile games at contextually relevant moments with the right rewards, can deliver strong branding results that help advertisers meet or exceed their objectives. As more brands prove out the efficacy of their mobile ads campaigns, we should see this segment of the digital ad market realize its full potential.”

How ‘Atlas Reactor’ Is Like Nothing You’ve Played Before

One often hears the phrase, “you’ve never played anything like this,” but rarely is it true. However, Atlas Reactor turns out to be one of those rare gems by mixing turn-based action with a competitive online element. Published by Trion Worlds (famous for massively multiplayer online games [MMO] such as Rift and Defiance), the game recently entered into Early Access on Steam, and is in its final days of an extended free-to-play period. There is currently a healthy roster of about 19 characters, with a new one added each month.

Peter Ju, executive producer for Atlas Reactor, spoke with [a]listdaily and described the game as “a team-based PvP game that is also a strategy tactics game. What is interesting about our core setup is that we use simultaneous turns. It’s 4v4, and everyone on your team and the enemy team are all making decisions at the same time during the decision phase. Then, during the resolution phase, you see how those moves play out.”

William Cook, lead designer for the game, sums it by jokingly saying, “It’s 20 seconds of making a plan and 20 seconds of watching it all fall apart.” He continues by saying, “We started this project with the question: ‘how do you make a multiplayer turn-based game fast and fun?’ We came away with the answer: it’s always got to be your turn!”

“Simultaneous turns reward fast thinking,” Ju adds. “but it doesn’t require twitch reflexes to become an expert at the game.”


Joining The Competition

Unlike many other competitive titles, Atlas Reactor is a premium game that goes for $20, but it will offer a way to play for free.

“Soon, we’re going to introduce a free mode, which can be played using a free rotation of the characters,” said Ju. “If you like the game, you can pay $20 to get access to all the characters. We didn’t want to give piecemeal access to stuff because when we started developing ranked mode, we felt it was really important that everyone have access to all the characters. The one way to guarantee that was to have one flat fee. We didn’t want to figure out how to monetize people correctly in a competitive game and be overly concerned with monetization.”

Cook also explained that Atlas Reactor started out as a free-to-play game until the company decided that purchasing, similar to Overwatch, would be a better model. Ultimately, the games progression system will follow Overwatch‘s style by offering cosmetic items for players to earn through gameplay.

So how do you get the word out about a game that’s as unique as Atlas Reactor? “We’ve been in closed beta, and we’ve had an open (free-to-play) weekend so people can just try out the game,” said Ju. “It’s a different game that’s hard to describe, so we let people try it out to see if they like it. The people who have been playing it have been great in trying to get the word out.”

“It’s been amazing,” said Cook. “The community has been so positive in trying to push it, and they give us a lot of pressure to push it harder too. We’ll be at Gamescom and PAX this year as well.”


Making Games People Can Play Together

When asked why Trion Worlds, a publisher that specializes in MMO games, decided to develop Atlas Reactor, Ju explained that, “what Trion wants to do is make games that people can play together. We’ve focused on online multiplayer games and this kind of falls into that.”

“Trion is pretty good about fostering new ideas. Trove was not a traditional MMO; it was more about bringing people together in different sandboxes. That came out of the Trion Labs projects, and this is another one of those,” said Cook.

Cook described how getting early feedback from players guided development decisions. “Funny story, we put custom games in much earlier than we thought we would due to player feedback. Once players started jumping into the game, the first thing they wanted to do was run their own tournaments, and they needed custom games to do that. The next thing they wanted was the ability to spectate, so we built that a lot sooner than we anticipated. Finally, we added replays because they wanted to analyze games in post-game style.”

Given that positive reaction, it seems like Atlas Reactor might have a future as an eSport. “We can always hope,” said Cook. “We’re trying to make a competitive game that’s eSports compatible. We put in a lot of tools that make it easier to watch and set up tournaments so users can push that agenda on their own.” Ju added that “our primary goal is to make a fun game. Any fun, competitive, game that people like will have an audience for people to watch.”

Part of the challenge is in getting people to play competitively. “There is a certain type of personality that enjoys competitive play,” said Ju. “We do have matches vs. AI, so there’s a smooth transition over. One thing that’s really nice about this game is that if you play with friends, that friend can quickly teach you how to play well compared to other games. Sessions are relatively short—around 20 minutes or less—and when something goes wrong, you know exactly why and what you should have done, and that’s a helpful learning tool. Losing isn’t that bad because you can learn from every loss.”

Atlas Reactor-1

We also asked if the Early Access process, where players purchase and play the game early and provide feedback, helped to promote the game. “Definitely,” said Ju, who explained the pros and cons. “We get early feedback, and that helps a lot. People get to hear about the game and try it out organically. But I think that one of the challenges of Early Access is that people feel like it’s a full game already and get upset at changes. Another challenge is maintaining momentum. It’s something you need to be aware of with Early Access. When something first comes out, people think it’s interesting. Spread that out over months, and you have to maintain that enthusiasm by adding new stuff.”

Cook also added that offering new characters, maps, mods balance updates and features will help keep the game fresh by offering new ways to play. There are also unique rewards to playing in ranked games.

The Challenge Of Being Unique

So, how does Trion promote a game that’s not quite like any other game that’s out now? “I think one of the challenges is that the game is familiar, but at the same time, it’s not,” explained Ju. “I feel like people have a grasp of what it is, but once they start playing, they see it’s different from other games out there.”

“Personally, I found that the hardest thing is also the thing that allows us to survive,” Cook added. “There are a ton of character-based third-person shooters. But for us, we play completely differently, and there’s never been a competitive game quite like this in the turn-based team space. You can say that to people, but they either don’t believe you or they think turn-based means one thing, so it’s very hard to pitch: ‘Try this, it’s new. You’ve never tried anything like it.’ So being unique is both a challenge and a merit.

“You’re getting the teamwork [aspect], but this is 20 seconds of that plan and then 20 seconds of watching it happen. There’s this anticipation that’s almost similar to watching American football. There’s the 20-second huddle, then 20 seconds of the announcer building hype while people make predictions about what the teams should do, and then everyone watches as anything can happen in the resolution phase.”

“And you see who made the right choices,” continued Ju. “You watch poker, and you hear people asking, ‘Did they make the right choice?’ every single time. Same thing for football; did they make the right choice?”

Having unique gameplay and being a new IP presents two challenges that Trion must work to overcome. We asked how they were working to overcome them.

Atlas Reactor steam_img

“Being on Steam offers a lot of visibility,” said Cook.

“Once we implement free mode, people can try it out whenever they want,” Ju said. “That’s a nice barrier that’s removed. I think a lot of news outlet exposure will explain what type of game it is, and there’s word-of-mouth from our players. This is definitely a game that will grow over time.”

“Much like the start of a lot of these competitive games,” said Cook. “Just think of how long it took to get from DOTA to Overwatch in terms of character-based competitive games being a thing. It took seven years before League of Legends took over the world. It wasn’t huge overnight because it was an incredibly dense subject matter, and a lot of people didn’t even understand why it was fun. This year is a rash of games featuring character-based competitive genre. And as far as the new IP is concerned, we have a glorious new trailer that we’re releasing next month at Gamescom that will bring people into the action.

“There are challenges, but they’re also the stuff you dream about doing as a game developer—a new game with a new IP. And how often do you hear, ‘you’ve never played anything like this’? This is actually true.”