deadmau5 And Absolut Vodka Concoct VR Video Game

To the surprise of no one, the mix of music and alcohol is a premium tonic for fun and games—even more so once the strobe lights hit the eyes. Very well realizing this, vodka brand Absolut is giving next-level amusement a serious shot in the arm by partnering with deadmau5 to release a virtual reality video game.

Titled Absolut deadmau5, the game lets players virtually guide the famous Canadian electronic musician and producer toward a nighttime gig from his actual studio. Throughout the entire experience, users can interact with deadmau5’s Instagram-famous cat Meowingtons and maneuver past obstacles ranging from skeptical bouncers to selfie-seeking fans before culminating in a live performance of his new song “Saved” in front of a live audience shot in Toronto.


“It’s no secret I’m a huge gamer. Video games have always played a major role in my life,” said deadmau5, who was born Joel Zimmerman. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to create my own VR gaming experience, especially when it meant I could bring a broad set of fans on an interactive journey alongside me and share my music with them in a whole new way.”

The venture is just the latest in a long line of experimental and creative experiences produced by Absolut Labs for their “Absolut Nights” campaign. Along with the game, fans can also pre-order the Absolut deadmau5 VR cardboard headset, which was designed in collaboration with the artist. An Absolut deadmau5 app, which will be available for download in all major app stores, complements the promotion.

This is not the brand’s first time blending music with VR. As part of their ongoing mission to redefine and reimagine nightlife, they put on a VR concert billed as Absolut Reality last July with another Canadian electro act in Bob Moses.

Afdhel Aziz, the director for Absolut Labs and co-author of the book, “Good is the New Cool: How to Market Like You Give A Damn,” joined [a]listdaily to discuss this unique collaboration.


Why was the concoction of video games, virtual reality and deadmau5 perfect for this campaign to capture your target audience?

Absolut Labs was created so we could experiment with new forms of content and technology: VR, AR, IoT, wearable tech. I think these are all channels that brands are going to have to learn to be fluent in faster than everyone thinks. In addition to our existing campaigns on TV and digital, VR allowed us to go on a deeper, more immersive journey around ‘having an unforgettable night out.’

How does this deadmau5 experience fit into the existing “Absolut Nights” campaign? 

The Absolut Nights campaign is on a mission to instigate a more open world within nightlife—a world rooted in connecting people across borders, barriers and labels, fostering nights where fear of the unknown is replaced by a desire to be spontaneous and discover the unexpected. The launch of Absolut deadmau5 continues the philosophy behind the Absolut Nights program.


Along with the game, fans are also able to purchase a limited-edition deadmau5 Google Cardboard. Why is it important to turn marketing from a cost center into a profit center?

We really wanted to raise the bar at Absolut Labs to make something that wasn’t just so good you’d play it several times, but so good you would also get all your friends to play it, too. And based on that ambition, we decided to test the waters on monetization by seeing if his fans would want to have the ‘full experience’ by also purchasing a limited-edition headset. We thought about monetizing the content but there isn’t a market for revenue-generating VR content yet. And we wanted to be as inclusive as possible so that anyone could access the experience for free.

Why is it critical for Absolut to go outside of the normal commercial cycle of regular advertising and media promotions? What are you trying to accomplish with your new approach? 

Capturing a consumer’s attention is becoming increasingly challenging as marketers today, so at Absolut Labs, we’re constantly exploring new ways to explore and innovate with engaging consumers as it relates to all things in the world of nightlife.


The #AbsolutNights campaign is currently going strong. What is your social strategy once the executions are live? Are you looking at testing out new platforms? 

For example, Hoppr by Absolut, which soft-launched in December 2015, is a mobile platform designed to bring nightlife lovers together online to forge unexpected connections offline. As a brand with a rich heritage in the world of nightlife, the Hoppr by Absolut platform is designed to allow consumers to experience nightlife like never before—using digital mechanics they’re already familiar with—by granting access to some of the most exclusive, sought-after parties in New York, all with a simple ‘swipe right.’

Absolut also made its way to Coachella for a third consecutive year in April through an interactive bar. How does using music and immersive experiences best position Absolut’s marketing efforts moving forward?

Breakthrough music collaborations are in Absolut’s DNA. We’ve always pushed the boundaries of creative collaborations, from Andy Warhol to Lady Gaga, to foster unique connections between artists and fans. With Absolut deadmau5, we’re continuing our ongoing exploration of nightlife, using VR as a canvas to create an epic, cinematic journey that celebrates spontaneous, adventurous nights out—that you can experience anytime, anywhere, anyplace.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Brands Serve Up Fresh Content With Live Video

The use of live video by brands is on the rise, connecting with worldwide audiences in unique, interactive ways. In celebration of National Fried Chicken Day, Popeyes took to Facebook Live on Wednesday with a virtual drive-thru window and jazz musician. Fans were encouraged to interact with the stream through trivia, music and games. Participants in the US who commented also had the chance to win a delivery of Popeyes’ limited-time offer of their $5 Boneless Wing Bash.

“This is something unique, innovative, something that we don’t think has ever been done before,” Hector A. Muñoz, chief marketing officer for Popeyes, said in a statement. “Not only will we engage with current consumers but we also have an opportunity to reach new consumers that maybe never tried us.” The campaign was expected to exceed 3.7 million people thanks to live tweets, text message outreach and paid advertising.

McDonald’s held a similarly effective event on on Facebook Live for National Hamburger Day, during which a Boss Ross-esque actor unveiled a number of hamburger-themed paintings to be auctioned for charity.

Meanwhile, Twitter hosted its first live cast of a sporting event Wednesday, offering commentary and replays for Wimbledon. Twitter recently purchased the rights to broadcast for the NFL, so today’s example gives viewers an idea of what’s to come.


Callaway Golf has been utilizing live video for some time, debuting a live show in 2015 hosted by Harry Arnett, their senior vice president of marketing and brand management. This marketing strategy made transitioning to Facebook Live a natural one. The brand recently hosted an exclusive tour of Arnold Palmer’s office, which is the kind of experience that Callaway wanted to bring to fans since the beginning.

“We felt like if we could figure out a way to be unique in it, provide utility to it, and be a contributing citizen in the community of golfers, we could become sort of the people’s brand, which was very closely connected to the DNA of the company when it got started 20 years ago,” Arnett told Golf Digest last year.

Although sports naturally lends itself to live viewership, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has used Facebook Live effectively, as well. From a tour of the museum from Fifth Avenue to live openings and previews of future exhibitions, The Met utilizes live video to engage and excite art enthusiasts, while attracting new fans. One such video broadcast previewed “Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World” four days before the exhibition opening.

On Thursday, the marketing team for Mr. Robot promoted the USA network show’s second season premiere with a mysterious broadcast on Facebook Live. Using familiar “fsociety” imagery and hacker themes, over 98 thousand viewers tuned in for a special message and what appeared to be a preview of season two. Over seven thousand comments praised the marketing efforts and fans shared their excitement for the program’s return. Each comment was given a cryptic reply from fsociety about the “revolution” and what’s to come, staying true to the fictional world of Mr. Robot.

Mr Robot Facebook Live

From sports to art and making you hungry for lunch, live video is proving an effective tool for brand outreach and audience interaction. These live stream examples prove that any brand can take to live media, offering entertainment value to its existing fan base while attracting new fans to help spread the word.

Newzoo Introduces Global Mobile Intelligence Tool

With the worldwide global mobile market continuing to grow, Newzoo has introduced a new initiative that will help keep track of many variables, making it easy for companies to see how successful their mobile releases are.

Today, the company announced the launch of its Global Mobile Intelligence Suite, which is designed to keep track of mobile devices, app stores, apps, monetization, engagement and mobile audience across a global scale, according to the press release. This enables expansion into areas that couldn’t be measured before, including China’s Android market.

“This is a huge strategic step forward for us,” said Peter Warman, CEO of the company. “Newzoo Mobile aims to serve practically all industries with an interest in mobile on a global scale, and to provide a range of mobile intelligence services currently unavailable in the market. App store data is an important part of the portfolio, but the true magic happens when different sources of data are combined in unique and smart ways. What’s more, Newzoo will continue to offer the support and service it is known for, proving that there is a difference between offering great data and a great global market intelligence product.”

In development for almost a year, the suite will help companies analyze the market in various areas, including audience, devices, revenues and key metrics—in addition to having support for international rollout plans and marketing campaigns.

Speaking with [a]listdaily about the announcement, Warman explained, “We started to set this up in early 2015 and realized that to secure the growth of our company for many years to come, we needed to diversify in terms of clients, markets and/or products. Our Newzoo eSports effort has succeeded in giving us new business in terms of markets as we now work for the biggest brands, entertainment and sports companies as well as (traditional) media companies to help them understand, size and seize opportunities in this space. However, we wanted to make an even bigger impact across all industries.”

Newzoo Mobile Intelligence

When asked how the Global Mobile Intelligence Suite will work alongside Newzoo’s new mobile division, Warman broke the explanation down into three reasons. “With games leading monetization on mobile and mobile taking a third of the world’s gaming market, mobile has always been key to our games-related offering of market intelligence to clients. It was easy to see that serving only the games business was limiting the potential of our effort on mobile, so serving all industries with mobile intelligence became our big blue ocean for the long term. We set up separate teams to ensure we kept our focus and leading position in games and eSports. So, this is the first reason: long-term growth of our business.”

“The second one is that our clients that are not pure game companies (e.g. hardware, media companies) kept asking us if we could provide the same service for other verticals,” Warman continued. “We talked with them about their current level of knowledge and vendors and a common pattern appeared. The missing part was not as much in data granularity but in the combination of data, insight and service that they felt they were missing. App store data can help you in one way, engagement and monetization metrics in another way just as consumer insights solve certain problems. High-level forecasting of app ecosystem revenues towards 2010 is another example.

“The third is that we have been looking in-depth at the reporting on all levels of the global mobile ecosystem. We were surprised how outdated it seemed in terms of terminology, methodology and outlook on trends that really matter. For instance, we found it hard to believe how many companies with different interests rely on ‘units shipped’ and ‘installed base’ data to size the amount of devices in use. We want to change this and bring the innovativeness in market intelligence to the mobile world. On a global scale. For all industries.”

Chinese gamers play a big part in the creation of the suite as well. “Having the identical depth of data on China as well as on the majority of countries outside of China is an enormous benefit to us. With approximately one-third of mobile devices being sold in China each year and China representing almost a third of the worlds’ mobile game revenues, you cannot say you have a truly global service if you do not have a similar quality of intelligence on China and the US for instance.”

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‘Dream City: Metropolis’ Launches Promotional Partnership With Regal Cinemas

In the free-to-play mobile game, Dream City: Metropolis, players are free to construct and maintain the city that they’ve always wanted. Today, the game’s developer, Storm8 Studios, announced that Dream City will have deeper ties to the real world with a partnership with Regal Cinemas. For the first time, players are able to construct authentic Regal movie theaters in their virtual cities. Additionally, they are given the option to receive in-game rewards for watching branded content.

Terence Fung, chief strategy officer at Storm8, talks to [a]listdaily about the partnership with Regal Cinemas and how video games and the real world blend together.

Terence Fung, Storm8 chief strategy officer

What is Dream City: Metropolis about?

Dream City: Metropolis is a fresh take on the popular city-building game genre, where players have the freedom to imagine, build and grow the city of their dreams. We set out to create an endearing game that both city-building fans and casual players will love. Dream City brings:

  • Customization: players have the freedom to build their city how they want.
  • Approachability: friendly art style, state-of-the-art animations and engaging quests.
  • Discovery: diverse characters, storyline and landmarks to uncover.

How did the partnership with Regal Cinemas come into being?

We wanted to give players a sense of real world attachment in Dream City and knew that incorporating branded establishments was a great way to make the game come alive. And it would be hard for anyone to imagine their downtown without a movie theater. From there, the choice was easy: Regal Cinemas is one of the largest theater circuits in the US, attracting more than 219 million moviegoers every year. We reached out to Regal, and both parties were excited to quickly forge this unique partnership.

What made Regal Cinemas the ideal partner for this type of promotion?

Mobile devices are where most people are spending their time nowadays, whether accessing content or keeping in touch with their family and friends. After we reached out to Regal, it was clear that they are truly focused on creatively and effectively reaching the mobile audience. Regal quickly understood the value of partnering with Storm8; we have achieved over 1 billion mobile downloads since our founding in 2009.

At Storm8, our goal is to always create fun, approachable games and Regal Cinemas was a natural fit: the Regal theaters are easily recognizable and bring a truly authentic yet personal feel for our Dream City players.


What kind of Regal video content can players expect, and what are some of the rewards for watching?

Players will have the option to engage with the theater to watch brief videos to then receive in-game rewards. These rewards can then be used to expand the city’s population and grow out new businesses. The content will be anything from movie trailers to branded video ads that all reward the players.

Do players have to build an in-game Regal theater to watch the branded content? Does the structure require a lot of time and resources?

The partnership with Storm8 gives consumers a new way to discover and touch the Regal Cinemas brand on mobile while giving players the option to engage in a fun, rewarding fashion that in most other games would be a more disruptive experience for players. We wanted to make it as easy as possible to experience Regal Cinemas in the game. There’s no building, resource or timer requirements. All players can simply add the Regal-branded theater into their game board for free and enjoy the benefits.

Will Regal Cinemas be helping to promote Dream City: Metropolis?

Regal Cinemas has one of the most geographically diverse theater circuits in the US, operating more than 7,300 screens in 42 states, and extending to as far as Guam, Saipan and American Samoa. With this incredible audience, we’re excited to partner with them on digital marketing promotions reaching movie fans across web, email and social media. The fun part is we’re entering the summer blockbuster months so we’ll be working on some creative promotions as well.

How does a tie-in with a real world company like Regal help enhance the Dream City experience?

We’ve always focused on creating engaging experiences in our games. Nothing brings a game more to life for a player than seeing world-class brands that they would typically see as they walk around in their hometowns or while traveling. Adding an iconic movie theater at the center of people’s game boards brings a touch of the real world into Dream City. Additionally, the watch-to-earn feature on the Regal-branded screen mirrors fans’ movie-going experience and offers yet another optional incentive for players in a way that doesn’t distract from their core gameplay.


Virtuix Founder Discusses Chinese Partnership, Global VR ESports Plan

Multi-billion dollar Chinese game company Hero Entertainment, the developer behind China’s most popular mobile game, Crisis Action, has entered a partnership with Virtuix, creator of the Omni motion platform. As part of the deal, Hero has made a $500,000 strategic investment in Virtuix’s Series A round.

Hero is bringing Crisis Action to virtual reality using the Omni. The plan is to turn the VR version of the game into a VR eSport in China featuring the Omni later this year. Hero also owns the largest mobile eSports league in China, the Hero Pro League. Additionally, the partnership will distribute the $700 Omni throughout China’s growing network of VR cafes and entertainment centers beginning this year.

Jan Goetgeluk, Virtuix’s founder and CEO, talks to [a]listdaily about the future of virtual reality eSports in China and around the globe.

Jan Goetgeluk,
Jan Goetgeluk, Virtuix founder and CEO

How did this partnership come about?

We’ve had a Virtuix China office with 12 people working full-time under David Allen, the president of our company. We’ve been courted for a long time by various Chinese companies that want to team up with us, or distribute Omni at arcades or in eSports settings. We’ve held off until now because it’s such a big market and we really need to be ready.

Hero is, culturally, an excellent fit. They’re a young, dynamic company that we believe is the next big game company in China. They’re already publicly traded. We had talked about creating a joint venture, and things continued to evolve in good spirit, and now we’re announcing the deal.

What role will eSports play in this joint venture?

We think the Omni is a great fit for VR eSports globally. There’s a lot of appetite for that, and eSports is growing in the US and is already huge in Asia. Hero owns the Hero Pro League, which is the largest mobile eSports league in China. Thousands of people come together to watch eSports competitions. And we believe there’s an opportunity for Virtuix Omni for VR eSports.

What is Crisis Action, and how is it being turned into a VR game?

Crisis Action is Hero’s main game. It’s the most successful mobile first-person shooter game. They’ll convert it to VR to be played with Omni, and the VR game will also be used as an eSports game.

What is the launch timing for the VR version of the game?

Later this year. They’re already working on it. The eSports side will start in China with the Hero Pro League. Then we’ll see if we can expand that and replicate that in other markets.

Crisis Action will be launched in the US so it will be localized. We won’t stop anyone from playing the game without the Omni, but the reality is it’s hard to play a first-person shooter in VR without a motion platform because of motion sickness. That’s why Omni is a great fit for Crisis Action.

What VR platforms are you targeting?

We’ll focus on the HTC Vive. That’s a matter of converting it using the SDK provided by HTC, and optimizing the game frame rate-wise for VR. Hero is the expert at making first-person shooters work in mobile with low processing power. Converting it to VR won’t be that hard for them.

How do you see this deal impacting sales of Omni in China?

We’ll launch later this year. ESports is a marketing vehicle for sales. People can see the VR eSports competitions and may be compelled to buy it for home.

Virtuix Omni
Virtuix Omni

Outside of the consumer market, what opportunities exist in Chinese arcades?

Part of the business model is the arcade rollout. There are over 400,000 internet cafes in China that are being retrofitted into VR Cafes. The Omni is a great fit for those locations. We have UNIS, which is one of China’s largest suppliers for entertainment centers, committed to deliver 5,000 to 10,000 Omnis to VR Cafes and Entertainment Centers. That out-of-home market is very big in China. We believe VR in China will become bigger and grow faster than anywhere else in the world.

How many games will Omni support?

Crisis Action and other games will be playable on it. The Omni acts like a game controller or keyboard, so any game recognizes that right out of the box. That’s the great advantage we have. Developers can use our SDK to optimize the movement in their games for the analog speed and other motion data. Crisis Action will be fully optimized.

We have a few internal demo games, including Omni Arena, an arena-style multiplayer shooter game similar to the game Hero already has developed. That’s available to all Omni customers, including commercial customers for VR arcades.

How many players will compete in Crisis Action eSports?

Crisis Action is a massive online first-person shooter with over 400 million players. Over 10 million people play every day in the multiplayer game. It’s the first mobile game I know of that’s FPS and massively multiplayer online. Hero has mastered this without latency issues. That’s the power of this joint venture, bringing low latency massively multiplayer online to mobile.

The number of players is only limited by the online server. They can do 5 versus 5 onstage, but they also have different game modes like Death Match, Team Based, and Capture the Flag.

Will there be a spectator mode in VR?

That’s a very exciting area that we’re exploring. At CES and GDC, we had two Omnis on stage and a third TV above the stage in spectator mode, where a live commentator moved through the arena as a spectator and covered the action live. It’s not ready yet, but we’re exploring that now.

I’m not sure when it’ll be ready, but it’s something that will be part of VR eSports in the future.

Will there be opportunities in the US for Omni at VR entertainment centers?

We’ll see if we can have similar applications in the US. This is our company’s first joint venture and it includes strategic investments. First and foremost, this deal will help our Series A funding. We’ve raised over $6 million to date, and investment interest will be high after this announcement.

How have you opened up your fundraising to the crowd?

Part of the $6 million we’ve raised to date through our Series A is through Regulation A, where the crowd, community and backers can invest in Virtuix. People can invest alongside Hero with the exact same terms. The everyday investor can invest as little as $1,000.

We want to raise seven to ten million with our Series A, which ends July 31st.

SGN Talks About Acquiring TinyCo, Future Of Mobile Games Industry

In the latest move to hit the mobile games industry, SGN has acquired TinyCo, the Andreessen Horowitz-backed San Francisco studio behind the Marvel Avengers Academy and Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff games. The acquisition price was not disclosed, but this is the third company SGN has picked up since receiving a $130 million investment from South Korea’s Netmarble games last summer. It’s a big step forward for SGN, adding another 125 employees to the company (which brings it to 400 in total), as SGN looks to increase its role as one of the major players in mobile gaming. Suli Ali, TinyCo’s CEO and co-founder, will continue running the studio, which expects to generate more than $100 million in revenue this year.

“Suli and TinyCo realized early on the enormous potential of mobile in this industry, and they foresaw the massive opportunities for gaming in entertainment,” said SGN’s CEO and co-founder Chris DeWolfe. “Buying TinyCo helps us diversify the types of games we offer and advance our ambition to create a mobile gaming giant.”

DeWolfe founded SGN in 2010 with president and COO Josh Yguado and CTO Aber Whitcomb. Over the past four years, the company’s monthly active users have risen 800 percent to nearly 50 million people, and revenues have grown by more than 1,000 percent since 2013, making SGN one of the top mobile game developers in the world.

“We are thrilled to join the SGN family, as TinyCo’s games complement SGN’s portfolio of games perfectly,” said Suli Ali. “Being a part of SGN will enable us to continue building hugely successful games with Hollywood franchises but with SGN’s resources and firepower behind us.”

SGN’s co-founder, president and chief operating officer Josh Yguado spoke with [a]listdaily about the acquisition, what it means for SGN, and what it says about the future of mobile gaming.

SGN has had a busy year, hasn’t it?

We did the fund raise in August, and then in December we acquired two smaller studios, and this is our biggest move since the raise with the acquisition of TinyCo.

Josh Yguado
Josh Yguado, SGN co-founder, president and COO

What was it about TinyCo that attracted you to it?

We’ve been intrigued by the intersection of gaming and entertainment for a long time. TinyCo is clearly the leader in creating entertainment mobile games—Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff has been a huge hit. Marvel Avengers Academy is doing very well, and there are many more IPs they actually have already tied up in the pipeline. We think becoming a leader in the entertainment builder space and the storytelling space is very interesting and complements our portfolio well. It helps us build scale quickly as we continue to grow.

Is increasing the size of a mobile game company one of the best ways to solve the discovery problem mobile games have?

It’s certainly an advantage, having scale. It’s not a coincidence that TinyCo also creates casual games that cross-promote well. Clearly, the industry is consolidating pretty quickly, the number of publishers that control the top-grossing games are actually decreasing over time while the overall mobile gaming pie is increasing. We think consolidation is only going to accelerate, and it’s important for us to play a leadership role as the industry changes quickly. Absolutely—having scale, being able to cross-promote, and being able to market at scale are all really important factors and we’re trying to take advantage of that trend.

Do you see marketing synergies between TinyCo and SGN?

Very much so. We’ve done IP-driven games before, and we actually have two big IP-driven games in the pipeline that we believe will cross-promote very well with TinyCo’s existing titles.

The implication is that TinyCo will run as an independent unit, is that correct?

Exactly. It’s really how we run most of our studios at SGN. They’ll be responsible for the games they develop. They will continue to work on the TinyCo specific titles, and they’ll have relative independence from a creative standpoint.

I’ve been on both the acquiring and the acquired side many times through my career, and I think when you force integration and force synergies is when you do the most damage. We’re going to really focus on giving them the leeway to continue doing what they do best.

It seems like the mobile game industry is going through a consolidation phase, with Tencent buying Supercell and other acquisitions. Will we still see as much creativity and innovation with consolidation?

It’s a good question. I personally don’t think the consolidation we’re seeing right now will negatively affect the level of creativity and the types of games we see in the market. If you don’t have scale, you’re forced to make games that have very low acquisition costs and very high virality, which are not always the most fun games, but they’re the games that—if you don’t have a network—will help you get up in the charts and achieve scale quickly. When you have more resources, better art talent, better game designers, and the luxury of a big user base, it gives you the opportunity to do some interesting things.

Do you think there is potential to grow a mobile game audience and make more money from an existing one?

I don’t know for sure, but if you look at the trends over the last two or three years, you’ve seen that as the products get better and better—and the level of immersion continues to improve—people are willing to spend more on a given game. I think ultimately, people are paying for entertainment, and if you can raise the bar in terms of entertainment quality delivered, there’s definitely an opportunity to continue to increase monetization within the games.

Are there more acquisitions ahead for SGN? If so, what qualities do you look for in a company?

Yes, we’re still open to doing more acquisitions. We raised more capital a year ago, and we intend to continue to opportunistically pick up some additional leaders in the space. In terms of characteristics we look for, it’s really all about product. We’re looking for companies that complement our own, and a portfolio that’s different than what we’re doing right now, so it brings new capabilities into the fold. To any company, we can add the firepower of scale and marketing expertise as well as having a big installed base of users. Finding really great products that fit into our portfolio is what drives our acquisition strategy.

ESPN Discusses ESports Broadcast Potential For ‘Madden’ And ‘Street Fighter V’

Disney-owned ESPN continues to up its eSports coverage. ESPN2 will televise the Street Fighter V World Championship from the Evolution Championship Series (Evo) final on Sunday, July 17. Live coverage of the event will begin at 10 pm ET from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. In connecting with the digital eSports audience, the program will also be available via WatchESPN.

Evo 2016 is scheduled for July 15-17 at the Las Vegas Convention Center with finals taking place on July 17 for Street Fighter V, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mortal Kombat X, Guilty Gear Xrd-Revelator and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. ESPN will focus solely on Street Fighter V at Evo fighting game tournaments this year.

John Lasker, vice president of programming and acquisitions at ESPN Digital Media, talks to [a]listdaily about this new Evo deal, as well as the recent EA Sports Madden tournament at E3, in this exclusive interview.

How have you approached eSports coverage at ESPN?

Since about mid-2014, we have distributed about 300 hours of live eSports content, covering Halo, Madden, and Heroes of the Storm; some of which was digital only on ESPN 3. And now we’re adding Street Fighter V. We’ve been exploring incremental TV distribution. We appreciate and understand the existing digital distribution of eSports and where the fan base is and where they’re used to consuming this content. TV provides incremental distribution.

How did the Madden Championship perform at E3?

The Madden Championship aired live on TV and it came across as a big event. It wasn’t to a level of League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm or Dota 2, but the competition was exciting. From an audience perspective, we announced the broadcast the day before we did it, so there wasn’t a lot of lead-up time and it co-existed with a lot of other platforms. But we saw at 6 pm on the East Coast that it held the ESPN2 lead-in rating. That’s promising, considering it was eSports and not a traditional TV sport. Madden does play a little closer to what our audience interests are and it held true in this instance.

How does Electronic Arts’ commitment to competitive gaming help what you’re trying to accomplish?

It’s helpful because it makes setting up conversations, planning, and all those types of things a lot easier when you have dedicated group on the publisher side interested in the event side of the business. It’s not commonplace now, but we’ll see more and more of that dedicated team structure across other publishers in the future.

Does ESPN still have an on-going partnership with Electronic Arts?

The relationship with EA stands, but eSports is separate and apart from that. The Madden event was a separate arrangement.

How does the fighting game genre compare to Madden?

Street Fighter V falls closer to Madden because visually, it’s easier to accept and understand. You don’t need to be educated on it like League of Legends or Dota 2. There’s a low barrier of entry into the sport. Seeing all the news around how Evo has exploded this year, where the entries are off the chart, I’m excited to see how this does. I’m hoping we find a great cross-platform audience, and through the TV side, help to expand the reach.

What are you learning as you explore eSports on TV?

We’re in an exploratory stage for the foreseeable future. All the titles we’ve been involved with have been done in different ways, and all of that has been part of trying to figure out what the best way to do it is. We want to make sure the audience gets the content digitally, but we’re also trying to expand this audience through television.

How important is having these competitions live on TV?

We did the Madden Championship live and we covered the earlier rounds on ESPN3. The semi-finals and championship aired on ESPN2, and we did re-air it as well. We’ve bought into this competitive side that the content needs to be live, and that’s the most important peak point of our findings.

What did you learn from The International with Dota 2 last summer?

For The International, we did a highlight show after the event. We saw there’s a 24/7 appetite for this type of content, but for these big events and competitions—similar to traditional sports—live is the way to go. We love Dota 2 and we recognize Valve’s importance in the ecosystem and the amount of attention The International gets.

How has the launch of eSports coverage on impacted the television and digital video coverage?

We did our first Blizzard event two Aprils ago before Heroes of the Storm was even released. The ESPN eSports vertical launched in January of this year. It hasn’t changed what we do on the TV side, but it’s an organic extension to what we’ve recognized at ESPN on the importance of this category. We want to treat it like any other sports category. Doing two years of Heroes of the Dorm or the recent Madden event, gamers quickly recognize we have an appreciation for this audience.

How does this eSports audience compare to your traditional sports demographic?

The eSports audience is younger. When you see all of the activity in the marketplace from more traditional companies, the allure of eSports is that they’re reaching some folks that are hard to reach. We have a great young audience coming to our networks, and eSports allows us to expand upon that with a younger audience.

What role do you see televised eSports playing in attracting non-endemic advertisers?

We’re trying to put forth the best content activations around these events. We think TV is an important part of that offering in both the short-term and long-term. The advertising community always follows where the audience is. If it’s digital only, they’ll find a way to market to that audience. If it’s multi-platform they’ll do the same. We believe eSports coverage will fall under more the latter than the former, especially where there might be a lower barrier to entry such as Street Fighter and Madden.

EA also had eSports competitions during E3 with UFC 2, Need for Speed and FIFA. What potential do you see for those games on television?

They’re all up for consideration, depending on what EA’s plans are for those titles moving forward, and if it’s similar to the Madden competitive structure over the next couple of years.

Will Madden expand on ESPN moving forward?

We did the EA Play event at E3 and we have no plans to announce, at this stage, further distribution.

Arash Markazi/ESPN
Frank Sardoni Jr. wins Madden Championship at E3.

I put NBA 2K in the Madden category. I was impressed, watching the Madden competition in full screen with fantasy lineups and Rob Gronkowski playing on an old 49ers team. There’s something intriguing about seeing the appreciation people have for competitive gaming.


AMP Energy Explains The Power Of ESports And Music

AMP Energy is the latest beverage company to enter the eSports scene, following in the pioneering marketing footsteps of companies such as Red Bull, Coca-Cola and Monster. AMP Energy partnered with HipHopDX and Twitch on June 23 to livestream the #NextLevel presented by AMP Energy gaming tournament featuring Capcom’s Street Fighter V.

During the event, professional gamers like Christopher Gonzales, Chris Tatarian, K-Brad, Alex Valle and Gootecks teamed up with rappers such as Trinidad James, Safaree, Roshon, Futuristic, and Problem to compete for bragging rights and a trophy made of AMP Energy cans. Chris Tatarian and Futuristic ultimately took home the prize.

Alexis Stoll, marketing manager at AMP Energy, explains to [a]listdaily why the company jumped into the eSports fray in this exclusive interview.

Why did you decide to enter the eSports arena?

This year marks the first time that AMP Energy has entered into the gaming world, and we did it in a big way through an exclusive partnership with Twitch. We were looking to resonate with the “energy need occasions” that arise within a gamer’s day, meeting a functional demand, while providing great flavor. Twitch was the ideal partner for AMP because it represents the gamer, allowing us to reach gamers no matter their interest in specific titles.

What games have you been targeting for your brand thus far and how do you go about choosing them?

At this point, we are focusing on our partnership with Twitch, an entire gaming community made up of gamers who are seeking out better tasting beverages that deliver on their energy needs.

How have you seen the opportunities in eSports grow? 

ESports is one of the fastest growing sports with viewership growing 100 percent over the past two years. However, it’s still somewhat uncharted territory, and brands are experimenting to see what resonates. Twitch is absolutely contributing to the growth of the sport. Just look at its monthly user base of more than 100 million community members that gather to watch and talk about video games, along with more than 1.7 million broadcasters.

attends Next Level Presented By AMP Energy, A Hip Hop Gaming Tournament at Rostrum Records on June 23, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Next Level Presented By AMP Energy, A Hip Hop Gaming Tournament at Rostrum Records in Los Angeles, California.

What has livestreaming opened up for connecting eSports fans with your brand?

It’s a unique opportunity because it allows us to speak to consumers in real-time as well as get live, authentic, raw conversations about the brand in a forum that our gaming audience is comfortable in.

How do you differentiate your brand in eSports from Red Bull, Coke, and other drinks?

AMP focuses on flavor in the energy category, something other players haven’t always addressed. Knowing that the gaming community is made up of energy drinkers, we saw an opportunity to be a part of what they are already doing, [and] to give them what they want more of. Our partnership with Twitch is exactly that—we’re giving gamers prizes and rewards that have currency in their daily gaming lifestyle.

What does the mainstream appeal of fighting games like Street Fighter V open up for AMP Energy?

The partnership with HipHopDX for the Street Fighter V tournament opened the brand up to awareness with a larger group of consumers. The HHDX event introduced AMP Energy to a large group of influential rappers and music artists, many of whom loved the product.

What does blending the rap world and eSports world open up for crossover appeal?

AMP aims to appeal to a younger millennial consumer. We know that the 18-24-year-old male fans aren’t just interested in one thing. They are interested in many things, so to blend music and gaming together was a great opportunity. AMP primarily talks to its fans via social media, so being able to organically gain social media presence via these artists opened us up to awareness by consumers we might not get on our own.

What type of social media buzz and livestreaming numbers did the event generate?

Nearly 25,000 people tuned into the #NextLevel broadcast. The event also generated more than 15 million social impressions and counting.

Do you think this type of event will become more regular?

We hope so. The event was a great success, and we’ll continue to see different groups coming together around this popular platform as eSports continue to grow.

What role does eSports play overall in connecting with consumers today?

ESports is changing the face of gaming and sports. While it still takes immense skill, gone are the days where you have to be a 6’9” athlete to have a chance to be a professional at a sport you love. As a brand, we love the growth of eSports because it allows brands to connect with a larger base of consumers—not just gamers, but fans of gaming. For us, it’s about staying authentic, because we know gamers will be the first to call us out if we stray too far from what’s important to them.

What impact is the televised eSports competition on ESPN and TBS opening up for brands?

It’s really taking something that was more under the radar (gaming) and is driving it to the surface and making it more mainstream. Gaming is now a subject of study at the university level, and we are now seeing it live and televised on TV. For brands, on the one hand, it’s great because it garners a lot of exposure and awareness at a mainstream level. However, on the flip side, brands have to tread carefully so they remain authentic to the gaming audience.

How Marketers Can Utilize Facebook Messenger

Considering the rousing success of Facebook’s Messenger service, companies are looking for new ways to utilize it for maximum potential—and eMarketer has provided a plethora of helpful pointers in going in the right direction.

Through a new report titled “Facebook Messenger: Strategies For Customer Service, eCommerce, Content Delivery and Advertising,” the study breaks down into four key components that can serve companies well when it comes to using Facebook Messenger to their best benefit.

The report quickly noted that the service currently has over 105 million active users in the US alone for this year (expected to expand to 139.2 million by 2020), with 4 out of 10 different mobile phone users making use of it. That makes it the leading over-the-top (OTT) messaging app available in the market.

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It’s also managed to do quite well in the worldwide messaging app game, with 37 percent of overall usage for Q3 2015, with the WhatsApp application closely behind in second place with 33 percent.


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As far as the four strategies that are key to success on the Messenger front, they break down like this.

Content Delivery: Even though this particular step is still in the early going process, there are many companies looking at better content delivery through Messenger, including the NBA and CNN, as well as Activision and HealthTap. This could expand even further with push notifications to interested consumers, bots that utilize visual recognition and content personalized based on Facebook behaviors (though there is a question in regards to how much data would be used).

e-Commerce: Even though the app itself doesn’t quite have a way to make purchases, there are a number of businesses that are working on ways to integrate potential consumers with it, including Spring and 1-800-Flowers. It could improve in a number of areas, including personalized shopping options and conversational commerce.

Customer Service: A number of brands such as eBay, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Staples, Hyatt, and most recently American Express with their chat, utilize Messenger as a tool that can supplement—although not entirely replace—existing channels. As a result, there’s a better flow of support that can be delivered to customers, and could improve with smarter bots for better understanding and integration with CRM tools, based on company needs.

Advertising: Again, with the Messenger app still fresh, ads have not yet been utilized, but a number of companies are looking to roll out ideas with advertising, possibly starting as soon as this fall, including possible interactions with a business through ads and direct offers.

One thing to consider with each of these is how to market on Facebook Messenger the right way. A number of respondents were asked if they would interact with brands through the app, and only about 18.4 percent noted they were likely or very likely to, while 25.9 percent remained neutral. That’s not stopping companies from finding out what they can do with the app, but there’s a reason they’re proceeding carefully, so not to bombard potential consumers with unwanted messages.

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As for the type of messages consumers would want from companies, 54.7 percent noted that they’re all for discounts and promotional offers for products that they’re interested in, followed by event updates (26.1 percent) and feedback requests (25.9 percent). However, 27.7 percent noted that they aren’t looking for any kind of interaction with brands—at least, not yet.

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Nintendo Has Big Plans For Mobile

Nintendo has made quite a name for itself in the mobile market in a short amount of time, starting with the company’s socially-based Miitomo garnering ten million downloads, with new items being added to its store every week. But the company has a much bigger picture in mind.

The company recently hosted its 76th annual general meeting of shareholders, in which general manager of entertainment planning and development Shinya Takahashi, president Tatsumi Kimishima and game producer/designer Shigeru Miyamoto discussed, among other topics, Nintendo’s focus on mobile development—with plans for both hardware and software projects.

Takahashi pointed out that, while games will still be a big focus, Nintendo is looking at other types of applications. He noted that, alongside mobile partner DeNA, there are “various projects” in the future.

“Advancing projects like these will require the involvement and support of our partners and not just our own human resources,” said Kimishima, noting that DeNA’s knowledge of the market will play a big part in future developments.

As for hardware, Takahashi made note of peripherals that cater to the mobile market. “Physical controllers for smart device applications are available in the market and it is possible that we may also develop something new by ourselves,” he said. “I believe Nintendo’s way of thinking is to look at whether action games are really not impossible (without a physical controller for smart device applications) to create and how we can make it happen to create such a game.”

Although the company hasn’t fully laid out its mobile plans, games based on the Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing franchises are in the works, and will likely release sometime this year.

Kimishima noted that Miitomo still has a ways to go in mobile distribution. “Miitomo has been downloaded more than 10 million times (by unique users) since it was made available for download this March, and the number of downloads continues to grow. We plan to expand the number of countries where it is available, which should further increase the number of downloads. We are focused on the retention rate, which is how many users continue to play Miitomo. Miitomo represents our first attempt in the field of smart device applications. The communication style of the app is also a new challenge for Nintendo, as this is not just direct one-way communication, but rather communication through Mii characters.”

There’s no question that mobile will continue to play a big part in Nintendo’s future, with a possible tie-in with its upcoming NX console. For the time being, it will rely on the strength of its development and franchises–and considering that Pokémon GO is rolling out worldwide this month, the momentum is just starting.