The Void Pioneers New Worlds With ‘Ghostbusters: Dimensions’ Experience

Whether it’s with a mixed reality theme park located in Lindon, Utah, or a “hyper-reality” experience based on the Ghostbusters franchise shown at Madame Tussauds New York, The Void has established a reputation for creating premier location-based virtual reality experiences for attendees to enjoy. Developed in partnership with Sony Pictures, Ghostbusters: Dimension debuted at Madame Tussauds New York last week and gives attendees a chance to see what it’s like to put on a proton pack and trap some ghosts. It’s the Void’s first public installation and it marks the start of more things to come.

James Jensen, chief visionary officer of The Void, talked to [a]listdaily from the Ghostbusters: Dimension premiere about working with Sony Pictures to develop the hyper-reality experience and what location-based VR could mean for the future of entertainment.

James JensenHow did the partnership between The Void and Sony Pictures for a Ghostbusters hyper-reality experience get started?

At The Void, we opened a public beta where people could pay to come in and see our demos, and a Sony executive producer flew in with his son. He paid for a ticket, went through the experience, and started talking to us. Ghostbusters came up, then Tracy Hickman [The Void’s head of story development] and Curtis Hickman [The Void’s chief creative officer] created a storyline and pitched it to the Sony folks. Ivan [Reitman] and everyone said it was amazing, and we’ve got to do this.

What are some of the challenges with working a classic franchise such as Ghostbusters?

The challenges were so welcomed! We couldn’t ask for a more perfect match of our hardware, the Ghostbusters hardware, and Madame Tussauds New York. The challenges were minimal working with Sony; they were great. We worked very closely with Ivan on the experience to make sure it had comedy but was scary—all the things Ghostbusters is.

How did you work with Sony to ensure an authentic Ghostbusters experience?

We worked with Ivan and Jake Zim [SVP of virtual reality for Sony Pictures] on the Sony side to make sure the facts and things we were doing matched the movie. They also gave us a lot of freedom to create our own ghosts, so inside Ghostbusters: Dimension, you’ll see custom Void ghosts that were created in collaboration with Sony.

Do you see virtual reality as having a better chance of success with location-based experiences than with home entertainment?

From The Void’s perspective, hyper-reality and location-based experiences will spread faster right now because there’s no barrier to entry. You pay for a ticket, and you get to go have the best experience of your life. That barrier to entry is really tough in the home market.

We hope to be people’s first experience in virtual reality/hyper-reality so that they’ll want it at home. We don’t feel like we compete with the home market at all—we feel like we help the home market. When people see this, they’re going to want it at home, and we hope that we have the right partnerships in place so that they can take it home with them.

So Ghostbusters: Dimension, or an experience like it, will be adapted for home VR someday?

Yes, that’s actually a part of our roadmap at The Void. We want people to have an experience at The Void, but then go home and continue to play, where they’ll earn items and upgrades. So, when they come back next time, they’ll have a new proton pack, character or something else that they’ll want to use to change the experience up.

How do you think VR will impact the entertainment industry?

I think it’s just going to explode—all of the technologies and software development. We’re working really close with Unity and Unreal. Then on the hardware side, with Nvidia and Intel. They’re all amplifying this to meet the requirements of virtual reality. I think you’re going to see new [graphics] cards, new software and new technology being created very fast to keep up with the demand of what people want. I feel like The Void pioneering hyper-reality is going to push people to get that out there.

We’re always going to be pushing the envelope on our experiences. You’ll always have the highest quality experience that is possible at The Void with the technology and software that we have.

Does The Void use proprietary technology for the Ghostbusters: Dimension experience?

Yes, the Rapture Gear. We’re on several different tracks with all of our hardware. The [haptic feedback] vest and back-top computer are almost complete. The HMD [Head Mounted Display] is in several different states. The one being used now is a hybrid of a couple different things, but it’s in our form factor.

What was your feeling when you went through the completed version of Ghostbusters: Dimension for the first time?

That was just a few hours ago! [laughs] No, it’s been a process, and it’s a little tough to say “completed,” because you have to run hundreds of people through it to see how they react. We’ve been doing that over the last few months and making little iterations and changes to make sure the flow works, that the people have a good experience, and that they’re enjoying it. We are going to keep iterating on that, and since we aren’t constrained like the normal market, we can release new software and hardware updates. So you’ll see those updates at Madame Tussauds over the next few months.

What are the challenges in promoting a location-based VR experience, either at Madame Tussauds New York or The Void attraction in Utah?

I think one of the biggest challenges is getting people to understand what it is. You can’t understand what it is until you go out and see it. In the past, we were reliant on people going through and then spreading the word. It’s really easy once somebody goes through it. [They say] “It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. You’ve got to go see this thing!” That spreads the word, and we’ve seen that with everything else that we’ve done.

I think inherently, as human beings, we want to go have an experience and come back from it. So the sales pitch is pretty easy. It’s something we all want to do—we want to go into these worlds and explore them.

EA Sports Turns To Fans For ‘FIFA 17’ Cover Vote

When Electronic Arts announces a cover star for one of its sports games, it usually makes a pretty big deal out of it. For instance, back in May, it introduced Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski as cover star for Madden NFL 17 during a broadcast of ESPN’s SportsCenter.

However, for its most popular sports game in the world, FIFA 17, the publisher has opted to take a different approach, putting the vote into the hands of fans to decide. It recently introduced the FIFA 17 Global Cover Vote, where fans can vote either through the official website or via social posts on Twitter for one of the four finalists: Real Madrid C.F.’s James Rodriguez, Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, Chelsea FC’s Eden Hazard or Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus.

Fans can only vote once through the website but can tweet their favorites to their heart’s content using the auto-share feature with the hashtag #FIFA17CoverReward, also noting their favorites with separate hashtags, including #FIFA17Hazard, #FIFA17James, #FIFA17Martial or #FIFA17Reus. The winner will be revealed later this month after voting concludes on July 19th.

No matter who lands on the cover, all four athletes will serve as global ambassadors for the game, which is sure to draw in millions of soccer fans, just as previous games in the series have done.

“James, Martial, Hazard, and Reus represent exciting, attacking football and epitomize the innovative play that fans can expect in FIFA 17,” said Nick Channon, Senior Producer for EA Sports’ FIFA series. “We’re excited to see fans rally around their favorite players and see who they select as the cover star for the franchise, and the footballer who will represent FIFA 17 globally.”

EA Sports also has a number of promotions in play for FIFA 17, including a pre-order offer that includes up to 40 Gold Packs for its Ultimate Team service, as well as the ability to play the game early through its EA Access and Origin Access subscription programs. Others will likely be introduced closer to the game’s release date.

FIFA 17 arrives on September 27th for consoles and PC.

5 Ways Mobile Games Marketing Is Changing In 2016

2e277ebStory written by Chris Luhur, director of marketing at Pocket Gems

There are very few constants in life. Benjamin Franklin once said that the only certain things in this world are death and taxes. Had he made mobile games, Franklin may have added rising CPI costs to the list of certainties. Outside of CPI costs, however, mobile games marketing is very dynamic and is constantly adapting to meet the changing market. What worked last year may not work in 2016. Now that we’re halfway through the year, I wanted to reflect on how mobile developers can take advantage of the changing marketing landscape.

Pursue Longer Lead Timelines

Historically, mobile game developers don’t “pull the lever” on marketing until the day the game launches. They time their advertising, PR, app store featuring (hopefully), and social media to hit on the same day so they’re more likely to convert these to downloads. This usually results in a nice bump in players and gives the game a promising start in the highly competitive mobile ecosystem.

Today, mobile games are slowly becoming more like AAA-game experiences that can hold a player’s attention for years, deeply immersing them in the game’s universe. As such, the way in which you first introduce players to your game, or new features, should be adjusted. Mobile developers need to take a nod from Hollywood and console game developers by building excitement well before the game or feature goes live.

There are a few ways this can be done. Consider establishing a social media presence for your game three to six months before it goes live. Use this to slowly build buzz among potential players by giving them concept art, teaser trailers and Q&As with the game developers.

With our game, War Dragons, we’ve found that our players get really excited when we begin talking about new game features before they’re put in the game. For example, a week before we implemented a new defensive tower—the ice turret—we shared a mysterious silhouette of the structure on our social media and asked players to guess what it was. They had a lot of fun throwing out ideas and it built a lot of buzz for what would have otherwise been a relatively standard product update. It also gave us some more ideas for future structures.

Get More Creative With Your Creatives

In mobile games marketing, the quality of the creative has historically been less relevant. Developers used to be able to get away with a few screen grabs and maybe some gameplay videos that one of their ad partners made. This is also changing.

Creatives can be funny, dramatic and scary. They can stir emotions in your players and help them view your game as more than a disposable experience. With Episode, we’ve seen that the best-performing creatives are ones that can elicit a reaction from the viewer, even if it’s a little ridiculous. No matter what kind of creative you use for your game, development and testing has also become more important.

Developers should consider working with both in-house artists and external creative firms to make a steady pipeline of static and video creatives for all of their marketing channels. Once you have a diverse array of creatives, you need to test them rigorously to see which ones best meet your key KPIs and increase install rates.

Do Some Channel Surfing

While ad networks and traditional digital marketing channels continue to drive installs, new channels are constantly being developed, resulting in fresh opportunities developers should be exploring.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 10.57.15 AM

TV: The 2015 Super Bowl had three mobile games advertised and that irreversibly changed the way the world views mobile game creatives. Today, the industry is embracing brand advertising more versus solely depending on performance advertising. At a certain scale, developers should be considering a TV strategy. We launched our first TV campaign this year for War Dragons and will continue exploring TV for all marketing going forward. What’s most important to keep in mind here is that the barrier of entry is much higher for TV than digital marketing so it’s even more important that your creative is polished and impactful. Unlike digital channels, optimization and attribution is more difficult and costs are higher. All of this means that there’s less room for error when it comes to testing.

Streamers: If your game has strong multiplayer components, or is humorous, you should definitely be looking at streamers as a channel to promote your game. With War Dragons, we’ve found that the best way to do this is to identify streamers who may have an affinity for your game, based on what they play. Once you’ve found sympathetic streamers, approach them with some kind of unique perk, like in-game goods they can pass to their viewers. They get tons of requests to stream other games every day, so if you offer cool stuff for their viewers, they’re more likely to play your game.

Celebrities and influencers: In today’s world of entertainment with Vine, Snapchat, and Instagram, “celebrity” is a much broader term. Much like with streamers, there could already be someone out there with a significant following who is a fan of your game, or a similar game. Getting your game on their radar can have huge benefits and it could be as simple as outreach via email. Additionally, more networks are being developed that offer opportunities to work with influencers—in some cases on a CPI basis.

Other new platforms: Beyond the channels mentioned, there are always new channels being developed—whether it’s Snapchat, influencer networks, connected TV, playable ads or something that no one has ever heard of. There is constant innovation happening in the ad space. Being an early adopter or beta tester can reap great benefits as you’ll be able to learn and gain exposure with limited competition as these channels mature.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 10.52.49 AM

Put More Focus On Community And Content

With the rise of brand advertising also comes a greater focus on content marketing and community building. Mobile game marketing has moved from being just a hits-driven business where some games make it and others don’t, to one where community and engagement matters, increasing monetization and longevity of the user base. Because of this shift, more attention has been paid to creating organic content on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, on streaming platforms like Twitch, and on owned media like your game’s website or forum.

My favorite example of this is when we had our Twitch channel design a dragon that was eventually put into the War Dragons. We gave Twitch viewers different prompts to vote on then an artist created a dragon using these in real-time while everyone watched. The dragon will soon be a playable character in the game. We also let players vote on what the dragon would be named, which eventually was Necroth.

Think Outside The User Acquisition Box

User acquisition has typically been the main driver when it comes to mobile marketing. This is also changing as the average lifespan of a game increases. Today, many mobile game marketers are diversifying and taking a more holistic approach to which stats really matter. For example, there’s currently movement toward incorporating retention and retargeting efforts, which in turn, can impact LTVs. Reengagement is also becoming more important as games develop more new content and features that may attract churned players back into the game.

Chris Luhur is a director of marketing at Pocket Gems overseeing both performance and product marketing for their core games. Prior to joining Pocket Gems, she led marketing at Twice, an e-commerce marketplace that was acquired by eBay in 2015. Previously, she also ran her own fashion e-commerce startup and worked at Goldman Sachs and Time Inc. A graduate of Stanford University, she also has an MBA from Wharton.

Op-Ed: The Limits Of Free-To-Play Game Marketing

The news out of South Korea is shocking: League of Legends is no longer the most popular game at internet cafes—a position it’s held for 46 months in a row. This news comes from Gametrics, a website that tracks what people are playing at more than 4,000 Internet cafes in Korea, as reported by Polygon. Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch was the game of choice for more than 30 percent of the players, as compared to League of Legends at 27 percent.

That’s not entirely unexpected, since the rapid success of Overwatch created an audience of more than 10 million players in less than a month. Still, it’s an impressive feat for a game that’s retailing for $60 competing against a game that is free-to-play and has been enormously popular for years. What lies ahead for these games? That’s not clear, but we can note how these games define the limits of marketing for today’s games.

League of Legends has had an extraordinary run, growing into a behemoth that now provides somewhere in the vicinity of $2 billion per year in revenue and is considered one of the top eSports games in the world. Back in January of 2014, 67 million people played the game every month, and the number has certainly grown since then. What’s more, Riot Games has accomplished all of this without spending any significant amount on traditional marketing and benefited from tremendous word-of-mouth popularity.

Let’s assume for the moment that the news about Overwatch becoming more popular than League of Legends is more than just a momentary blip. It may represent that the game has reached, or is near, its peak audience. Certainly, at some point, League of Legends will truly hit its peak audience, where the influx of new players is more-or-less balanced by the loss of existing players who leave the game. What should Riot Games do in such a circumstance?

When sales have slowed, marketing is usually the first resort. Get out there, spend some money, place some ads, do something creative, and sell more widgets. However, here is where the free-to-play model shows the limits of marketing. When you have a widget that’s priced up front, like a $60 game, marketing’s usual responsibility is to get the largest possible number of people to buy that widget for the least investment in marketing, looking for the sweet spot of maximum profitability. With a free-to-play game, the publisher makes nothing when the game is downloaded and played. In fact, there are server costs involved to the publisher. Only after the game has been played for some time, and the player has become engaged in the game, will there be a possibility of revenue when the player opts to purchase some in-game assets. This point usually isn’t reached for weeks, sometimes months, and the lifetime value of an engaged customer could be spread over years. In the case of League of Legends, truly engaged players have spent hundreds of dollars on the game over time.

That revenue has nothing to do with marketing, and marketing can’t affect how players feel about a game over the long term. That’s entirely up to the game itself. Sure, marketing might help sales of particular items a bit, or raise the average revenue per paying customer, but long-term engagement with a game is going to rest solely with the development team. If the free-to-play game’s not sufficiently fun, players won’t stick around long enough to spend money.

Free-to-play games can certainly benefit from marketing efforts in the early and middle stages, where you want to create awareness of the game among the maximum addressable audience. When you’ve reached the heights that League of Legends has, marketing loses its motive power, like an aircraft reaching its maximum altitude. Open the throttle as much as you want; you still can’t climb higher.

Marketing can (and should) help determine if you’ve reached the maximum addressable audience, or how many more players it’s possible to acquire. Eventually, if you are extraordinarily successful, your game will reach its audience limits. At that point game development has to take over. Are there changes that can be made to the game to expand the audience without losing the current audience? Perhaps “changes” can be presented in spin-off games that use the same background or some of the same characters. Such new games could be designed to overcome the barriers you feel the game has to reach a broader audience (such as complexity). Blizzard has had great success with using old characters and settings to launch new games such as Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm.

We already know that Riot Games is working on at least one new game, though whether it will have any connection with League of Legends is unknown. A good model might be what Supercell has done: produced very few games, but all of them very successful (and one, Clash Royale, based on the IP of its most successful game, Clash of Clans). Marketing can help by providing information about the potential audience for game concepts so that Riot management can choose which ideas to pursue.

While marketing should certainly try to push League of Legends to an even larger audience size, it’s important to understand the limits of marketing.

‘Deus Ex’ Marketing Builds On Human Augmentation Themes

With an emphasis on bridging the fictional future presented in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided with reality, Square Enix has taken a novel approach with the game’s promotion. One of the biggest themes of the game is human cybernetic augmentation—the use of robotic limbs—and the social, economic and political impacts that come with them.

Last month, the publisher released a new video called The Mechanical Apartheid, which dramatically set the stage for events that will take place in Mankind Divided, where a violent global incident sets the augmented and normals at odds with each other.

Building upon that idea, Square Enix announced that it is teaming up with CNN’s Courageous brand studio to create a one-of-a-kind human augmentation conference called Human by Design, set to be held in New York City next month before the game’s release. With it, the companies hope to “explore the intersection of technology and humanity with the objective of bringing together top minds to debate, question and challenge what it means to be human,” according to the company’s announcement.

“The many parallels of the near-futuristic Deus Ex Universe will be explored at the conference, particularly around how technology is rapidly shaping the human condition and the ethics of self-regulation,” Square Enix noted.

“Since the launch of Courageous, we have been committed to pioneering the evolution of branded content to help brands tell more powerful stories,” said Otto Bell, vice president and group creative director of Courageous. “Human by Design greatly embodies this approach, as we’ve assembled a group of thought-leaders across the fields of science, technology, ethics and cyborg activism who, for the first time, will come together to discuss the cutting-edge technologies and innovations that are shaping human augmentation.”

“Human by Design goes beyond bringing to life the key themes of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. This conference is a special opportunity for a video game to take pause from the limitless world we play in, and to drive the conversation around what is really happening in the space of human augmentation,” said Jon Grant, senior product marketing manager at Square Enix. “Our hope is that the gaming world tunes into the conference and is inspired to get involved as well.”

There will be several panel sessions featuring a number of experts in the field, including E. Christian Brugger, author of various articles that discuss bioethics and natural law theory; and Dr. Natasha Vita-More, a designer and researcher who specializes in the study of biological limited lifespans and selective enhancement.

Those unable to attend the conference in person can watch it all live through Deus Ex’s devoted Twitch channel, along with CNN’s Snapchat Discover channel and Turner’s Launchpad social platform.

To promote the conference, Square Enix has also released a new Human By Design Launch Video, which showcases the “pledge of self-regulation and ethics.”

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided releases on August 23rd for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

Fig Fixes Crowdfunding By Turning Fans Into Investors

With crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter reporting steep declines in money pledged toward the development of video games, it’s clear that campaigning for funds isn’t what it used to be. However, Fig might have the solution. Founded by some of the biggest winners from the Kickstarter video game crowdfunding movement, the crowdfunding publisher’s advisory board includes Tim Schafer (CEO of Double Fine Productions), Brian Fargo (CEO of inXile Entertainment) and Feargus Urquhart (CEO of Obsidian Entertainment)—who are all looking to change the system so that fans see more from their investments. To that end, Fig is making extensive use of Title IV of the JOBS Act, which allows everyday citizens to participate in equity crowdfunding and investment of startups and small businesses, and to include Game Shares to go along with crowdfunding campaigns.

To date, some of Fig’s successes include Outer Wilds, a game from Kevin Smith called Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch (which features the comedy duo), and Tim Schafer’s Psychonauts 2. Only two of the six games the company has helped run crowdfunding campaigns for have failed to reach their funding goals.

Justin Bailey, CEO and founder of Fig, talks to [a]listdaily about how the company is out to shake things up by being one of the few crowdfunding programs dedicated exclusively to co-publishing video games and how focusing fan investors will shape the future of the evolving market.

Justin Bailey 1 - small
Justin Bailey, CEO and founder of Fig

How is co-publishing a better alternative than traditional crowdfunding?

[The way] I see the normal process with Kickstarter and Indiegogo—those are tools which go across industries. So you can organize your community around them, and the people who bring in 97 percent of the traffic participate in the campaign. It’s nice in one way because, hey it’s free money. Everybody likes free money. But after that, they’re on their own, and it’s up to the creator—as far as accountability and visibility—to show how the money is being spent and how development is going.

What are Game Shares, and how do they work?

With Game Shares, we enter into a licensing agreement with the developer, and that gives us a right to a revenue share from the title. What we do is tie the stock to that rev share, and through Title IV of the JOBS Act, sell that stock during our campaign. It’s important to note that the money from that goes to our general funds, which is where we provide development proceeds to the developer.

There are a number of different crowdfunding publishers right now, including Square Enix’s The Collective and Gambitious. How does Fig differ from these publishers?

There are a couple of things we do differently. We’re ambitiously moving forward to embrace the fan investor—non-accredited investors. That’s our passion, my passion, and the passion of our advisory board. We want to get the fans involved and we want them to get returns for the games they’re supporting. We’re aggressively using Title IV to do that, and nobody else is.

Also, we’re very public about what we do. We don’t take games in and do something behind-the-scenes. We’re all about getting everybody involved and being fully transparent. That’s a huge difference from how other people are approaching it.

What does Fig look for in the projects it supports?

For us, we’re not only concerned with it being an awesome campaign. I’ve turned down many projects that I knew were going to be awesome campaigns, but sometimes there are concerns over whether a developer can actually deliver on what they’re putting out there.

The other concern is that the game will have to sell well, because they are investments. We’ve done some surveys with people participating on the investment side of things, and their main reason for doing it is for the game to exist, and that’s the same with traditional reward-based crowdfunding. But they would like to get some of their money back in a modest return. They’re not really looking at this as an avenue to get rich, but there still has to be some commercial viability to the ideas we take on.

What are some of the biggest challenges with crowdfunding a game right now?

The atmosphere, in general, is kind of like an unkempt garden. There’s a lot of potential, and I think it started off as a very interesting concept. But when there are multiple millions of dollars going through to developers, then it becomes a business. I think there needs to be some oversight when that happens. It’s kind of like the Wild West right now. A crowdfunder might get your money, then who knows what happens? Some projects are delivered with not-so-great standards, like what just happened with Mighty No. 9. I think sometimes developers want to deliver a certain experience, but they’re unable to because they haven’t done it before and don’t know the budget they need.

For us, we try to get involved, but barely. The premise for us is that a lot of the games that fail crowdfunding campaigns—and the ones are successful but fail to deliver the game—a majority of them can be caught upfront. Sometimes it’s in a thirty-minute conversation. People who have delivered, and have industry experience, can spot how they’re underestimating by 2-3 times what the budget is actually going to be.

What do you see as the ideal future for crowdfunding?

I think Kickstarter is really cool, but there has been a lot of goodwill and outpouring that has been built up for a lot of these fan bases, and they had no way to participate directly with the developers. It was really cool to open that up with Double Fine’s adventure game [Broken Age] and then later with Brian Fargo [Torment: Tides of Numenera and Wasteland 2]. There was a huge outpouring of support, but what I think happened was that Kickstarter is exactly that—you get your one-time boost. As these campaigns get bigger, and the creators want to do more ambitious games, they will want to push toward the AAA budgets. I’d love to see that happen.

One of the other things I’d like to see is that if people are participating years early, I think it’s right for them to expect to have the option to invest the money and have a financial return if it’s a commercially successful project. All the creators that we work with feel that that’s appropriate. Right now, the share price is $250. I’d love to get that down to $50 and say that would be the lowest tier, and everybody who participates [at that level] would get a rev share and a free game. I think that’s where things are heading with the evolution of crowdfunding games.

Are there specific challenges to marketing a crowdfunded game?

If you take the top 50 crowdfunded games from the last three years, they’ve done very well from a commercial standpoint. Some of them are turning 2-3 times of what their dev budget was. The interesting things is, the vast majority of them didn’t have marketing funds. In fact, they defined marketing as doing PR, using social channels, and things like that.

One of the premises of starting Fig is, if we can get involved and help on the marketing side of things, can we make these titles even more successful? So far, we’ve done a few experiments. We marketed the Psychonauts 2 campaign and saw a 600 percent ROI with those efforts. Then we did marketing for Hyper Light Drifter, where we had tracking all the way down to Steam so we could track conversion—that turns out is over 300 percent ROI.

One of our advisors who just came on, Aaron Isaksen, is the co-founder of Indie Fund. So we’ve been talking to a number of projects they’ve supported, and they’ve recently done the marketing launch for Duskers. We’re proving out that we can do marketing capabilities outside of the campaigns with live products. We’ve already had very good results with that, and that comes from our approach. We’re creating a custom indie marketing segment.

Fig has had some major crowdfunding successes, like Psychonauts 2, and campaigns that don’t get funded, like Rock Band 4 for PC. What lessons do you draw from the successes and failures?

I think, with the successes, we’re finding two kinds of trends right now. One is that there is a downward trend in video games for reward-based crowdfunding. There are a large number of reasons for that. [At the same time] We’re seeing a lot of interest in investment-based crowdfunding, but it’s new, so it’s smaller right now. The insights received from Psychonauts 2 are the tip of the iceberg on the investment side. I think a lot of people want to see the whole cycle play out from investment to return, and you’ll potentially see nine times the activity you see already on the investment side. But what I think will continue to happen is, as investment picks up and catches on, people will be less inclined to participate on the rewards side.

For Rock Band 4, I actually think that would have been a successful commercial product. I still think it will be if they [Harmonix] decide to go forward with it. We’re trying new things out, so I don’t even look at it as a failure. Kickstarter has about a 17 percent success rate on video games. We have a 67 percent success rate. I think somewhere between 60 and 90 percent is healthy. I don’t think you want to get rid of having some failures because then you’re not pushing the envelope.

With Rock Band 4, we were trying to get the community to support it because it has been asking for years about having Rock Band on PC and bringing back the Rock Band Network. One thing we learned from that campaign was that the community wouldn’t get behind it if didn’t have the ability to transfer their music libraries to the PC version. There are a lot of reasons why that’s complicated from a licensing standpoint, but a lot of those people have thousands of dollars put into those libraries. So the most passionate fan base would not have had the feature they wanted, so they didn’t fund it. I think the people who did fund it were new to the community and hadn’t built that back library.

Some critics have said that only a small pool of people are willing to help crowdfund projects. Is there a danger of overextending this audience, or can it be significantly grown?

The main risk right now is on the rewards side, continually going back to the well and not cutting people in for anything more than T-shirts, posters and copies of the game. Those are all fine, but I think that your earliest and most passionate fans think they should have more, and that’s what we’re trying to give them.

I think you’re seeing a lot of early adopters on the investment side right now. As it proves itself out, I think you’re going to see a lot more potential. I think you’ll see on sites that are focusing on rewards—just talking about the video game sector—an increasing number of failures. We’re already seeing campaign totals starting to go down and people trying to raise less money, which will make the problem worse because a lot of the reward-based campaign raises have almost zero correlation with the game’s budget.

‘Minority Report’ Designer Alex McDowell Explains Storytelling In Virtual Reality

World building operates at the intersection of design, technology and storytelling. Zoom the cameras in for a tighter shot, and Alex McDowell can be seen standing smack dab in the middle of its twisting and crossing streets.

The production designerresponsible for “world making” and developing complex future reality stories in such Hollywood classics as Minority Report and Fight Club—uses augmented, virtual and mixed reality frames to disrupt single-viewpoint narratives in order to make sense of the world around us.

The Borneo-born Brit has made a career for over 35 years by constantly evolving in the space, and contributing to its collaborative filmmaking narrative ever since he took his first shot at immersive experiences and virtual reality with The Lawnmower Man in 1992. The science-fiction action horror film is best known for being the first grand unveiling of VR.

In the present, the award-winning McDowell is instilling and preaching the practices he’s plied during his career to an interdisciplinary group of students at USC, where he serves as a director at the World Building Media Lab developing a common language for them to learn from.

In addition to stimulating new kinds of technologies and complex systems, McDowell is also the creative director of 5D Global Studio, a multi-platform, cross-discipline design studio.

[a]listdaily sat down with McDowell at his USC lab to discuss how he’s engaging and interacting with narratives and parallel universe experiences, as well as to discuss the Leviathan Project, which explores new possibilities in entertainment with physical and virtual worlds.

How Netflix, Amazon And Hulu Are Growing With Partnerships

For the longest time, we’ve discussed how streaming media services like Netflix and Hulu are providing a new direction for where viewers check out their content, moving away from traditional television as a result. But the way these companies are finding partners and trying new ideas to keep these viewers coming are unique—and will help change the face of what we’ve come to expect from streaming media.


The defining leader in the streaming media market is Netflix, a company that continues to make killer deals not only with programming partners, but also working with those to provide better accessibility—and it just landed a huge partner through Comcast, they announced Tuesday.

The streaming channel declared a truce with the cable giant, and as a result, will be included as part of the Xfinity X1 module, where consumers can choose from programming straight through their Comcast-enabled device.

“Comcast and Netflix have reached an agreement to incorporate Netflix into X1, providing seamless access to the great content offered by both companies. We have much work to do before the service will be available to consumers later this year. We’ll provide more details at that time,” the companies noted in a statement.

As a result, Netflix could see a huge spike in viewership, and Comcast would also benefit by keeping consumers from simply “cutting the cable” to view whatever’s on Netflix, since it would now be an integral part of the service.

The company also recently made some moves on the programming front to keep consumers happy. Earlier this year, they signed a deal with Disney to become the “exclusive pay TV home” for a majority of its programming, including Marvel-licensed films like Captain America: Civil War and future films from Pixar and Lucasfilm, among other studios. In addition, it also announced a partnership with The CW earlier today. The move will allow hit shows, as well as premieres, to run on the streaming network a mere eight days after their season finales end on TV. It’s a deal that’s expected to be worth $1 billion, about the same range as Disney’s.

“Netflix members in the US love the great lineup of series from The CW, and we are thrilled to extend the relationship and bring those shows to our members exclusively now, just eight days after their season finales,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content 0fficer at Netflix about the deal. “This is a great step forward with a valued network partner to give fans exactly what they want, when and how they want it.”

For fans of shows like Supergirl, Arrow and The Flash (along with potential hits like Riverdale and Frequency), this is a massive deal—and, again, it’ll simply add potential subscribers down the road.

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime continues to grow, mainly due to its diverse library of programming. What’s more, it has HBO as a top-ranked partner with its service, despite the fact that the pay channel launched its own on-demand service, HBO Now, last year.

Shows like The Wire, Deadwood and Six Feet Under continue to be huge favorites with the streaming community, intertwined with Amazon’s own programming, including shows like Transparent and Mozart In the Jungle, along with various films and other TV shows.


Hulu, meanwhile, continues to thrive with its own original programming, including The Mindy Project and 11.22.63, both of which have been huge hits with their subscribers.

However, the company’s most interesting direction of late seems to be with virtual reality, as it recently announced that it’s working on Hulu VR. With it, the company promises that consumers can “experience your favorite shows and movies on Hulu like never before.

Immerse yourself in our alternate, 3D viewing environments for a whole new perspective on TV.” The service is currently up and running for various devices, including Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, among others.

Where network and cable programming execs continue to find ways to keep audiences coming back for more, streaming media continues to make strides in many different directions, through programming, innovation and deals that can help attract more subscribers. And there are still many more moves that are likely to come as 2016 rolls on.

Brad Neely Discusses Debut Of Adult Swim TV Show On Vine

Brad Neely is debuting his fourth animated TV show, Brad Neely’s Harg Nallin Sclopio Peepio on July 10 on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. But anyone can watch the first episode now exclusively through social media platform Vine. It’s an industry first from Adult Swim, which has been at the forefront of social media, virtual reality and video games as the network caters to a younger, tech-savvy demographic.

The animated variety show’s title has no meaning, according to Neely. It’s just a collection of “favorite syllables.” In fact, the show, which itself is a collection of frenetic one-off bits, shorts and songs, was originally called “TV Sucks.” The creator of the Adult Swim show China, IL talks to [a]listdaily about the rise of social media and the role it plays in making people laugh today in this exclusive interview.

Brad NeelyHow did this Vine deal come about?

We didn’t make this for Vine. I made the show for Adult Swim to air in traditionally linear. The decision to put this online came after we had made all 10 episodes and Vine decided they were going to put content on at that level of 11 minutes in length. That was a smart move from Adult Swim to allow us to premiere our show on their platform. But we definitely had no idea it was going to happen.

What’s your relationship with social media like?

I started making things online and always enjoyed that immediate connection, where you could make something, have it seen immediately, and talk with people about it. It’s fascinating and a great way to get instant feedback, instead of working in silence in a bunker for a few years like traditional animated television, and I hope it connects with an audience. Being able to see what works and what doesn’t work online is great.

Are you a Vine user?

I will go down a Vine hole every once in a while. My wife is more into it than I am. I have to cut it off for myself because there’s work to do. I saw kids flipping chairs and making them land right side up and doing victory dances. I couldn’t stop laughing at that shit. It reminds me of junior high or high school, and making your friends laugh and that being your whole world. It’s a great reminder of how simple it is to make people laugh.

How have you seen the internet open up new creative opportunities for talent?

Any variety of formats is good for creativity. I am a very big fan of traditional formats and structures like the novel, the feature movie and the 22-minute comedy TV show. But those things are not restrictive in a creative sense; they’re restrictive in that no one can access that out in the world. There are kids in Texas brimming with creative spark and there’s no way they can get a show on ABC or something. The internet is a great outlet for young people today.

When I was young—before the internet—my friends and I would draw pictures with sticks in the dirt.

Do you still make content for the internet?

I occasionally get the itch to do something for online. I did a video, “Queeblo 001,” and made a song and put together pictures about a skateboarder with a Whopper and a 40 a few years ago. I really love Pizza Rolls and made a song about it for a friend to make them laugh, and then a few years later reached out to Totino’s and made a cartoon for it (Totino’s Messin with the Pizza Rolls). I like the immediacy that can happen online.

Of course, there’s a bad side. I get messages from people who just want to tell me negative things about the stuff I made. But sometimes it’s a good note.

What’s your take on this age of social media influencers?

Now there’s so much content, the trouble is you can’t watch everything, but the cream rises to the top. And when you’re a 40-year-old married guy who has a very routine life, you’ll get these kids who keep popping up in my feed. That’s a great world, and I want to see more of that.

What was the inspiration for this new show?

I generate a lot of ideas for content and keep good notes about a melody I want to use for something, or a funny little word or a concept. For narrative TV like China I’d take nuggets and foster them into full narrative strands, or shoehorn them into jokes. But I’d amassed so much of this, I’m lucky to have a relationship with Adult Swim and say, “How about a show that behaves like this?” and they said, “Go ahead and make six.” We’d gotten to know each other making China, so we just got after it. I just wanted to be silly and not think about making so much sense.

Is this going to be an ongoing series?

We made about 600 bits, and about 300 made it into Season 1 just because of time. We’re sitting on it and if the show does well, the first three episodes are already done. It’s not a content issue—I make a lot of stuff—but there’s a lot of work to be done and we use a writer’s room to make sure there are standards, even if it doesn’t seem like there are any.

Fox Sports Exec Sees Monster Opportunity For Extreme Sports In VR

Fox Sports has already brought everything from the U.S. Open, Daytona 500, PBC Boxing and NCAA hoops to virtual reality through its partnership with NextVR. Now the sports broadcaster is bringing Monster Jam to the Fox Sports page of the NextVR app, which is available on Samsung Gear VR.

The first Monster Jam VR video on demand (VOD) package will be five minutes long and promoted on-air and launched during Sunday’s Inside Monster Jam airing on FS1 (July 3 at 4:30 p.m. ET). The overall event highlight package from the Monster Jam Gillette Stadium season-closing event will be introduced by Dennis Anderson, creator and driver of Grave Digger. The remainder of the VOD VR package will premiere during next Sunday’s second half of the Gillette Stadium show airing Sunday (July 10 at 7 p.m. ET) on FS1. The packages, which will include crowd segments and features on specific teams and drivers, mark the first time Fox Sports and NextVR are exploring VOD in VR.

Michael Davies, senior vice president of field and technical operations for Fox Sports, talks about the opportunities VR video on demand opens up for complementary VR sports engagement in this exclusive interview.

How did this monster truck VR experience come about?

Last year Fox Sports signed a deal with NextVR and they just finished up livestreaming the U.S. Open, which was the biggest multi-camera live shoot we’ve done together to date. We turned from golf to monster trucks. Monster trucks is something we always wanted to do. Feld Entertainment, which runs Monster Jam and Monster Energy Supercross, is a lean-forward company.

What does VOD open up in VR?

What we did with Monster Jam is different from the past. Since it’s not live event coverage NextVR filmed at Gillette Stadium, we edited that content into shorter packages. The interesting part is that this is an opportunity to capture an event and then boil it down to highlights, and then put that in VR. Monster trucks are an interesting proposition. We’re doing our best in VR to tell the story of what happened in the last meet in Foxborough.

What types of angles are you exploring?

Since NextVR shoots in stereoscopic 3D, it only helps monster trucks. The scale of these things is amazing. We tried to cover the event from the inside out, but using the features of the course that they have. We put cameras in various places where it looks good and is compelling. As long as the camera is safe, we don’t need a cameraman running it—which is different from a traditional camera. That gives us an advantage. We shot with two cameras, but because we’re editing the pieces, it looks like a lot more.

Monster Jam events have dead space between heats.

We treat each sport differently, but VOD packages work in VR as well as TV. When you’re watching Inside Monster Jam on TV and have a Gear VR headset, you can dive in and out of the VR experience and see a different perspective of the event. When we go and do drag racing in the future, we can piece that together with VOD packages as well.

How do you see this expanding in the future?

I always thought monster trucks would be interesting for VR. The demographic is perfect. I think we’ll be able to get high-quality VR cameras in the trucks in the future.

What did you learn from prior VR filming that you applied to Monster Jam?

When we did the U.S. Open, one thing that really resonated was when we went around and did a fair amount of behind the scenes pieces with people talking about the event. Ken Brown showing you around the 17th hole was some of the most compelling content we’d shot in VR. It was interesting to have someone talk to you and say ‘look over here.’ . . . With Monster Jam we were at the Pit Party to shoot some of the flavor of the event. We have some peripheral content from the event beyond the trucks. But one of the most interesting things is the ‘tire up’—which is the monster truck coming out of its trailer in tiny tires and the process to put big tires on it. We shot all of that in VR.

What’s it been like working with Feld Entertainment, which has been active over the years making Monster Jam and Supercross video games?

It’s interesting you mention video games because the more we do this type of VR, we feel like we’re trying to emulate what you might be able to see in a video game. We’re working on adding shot tracers in the VR experience. The lean-forward promise of VR is going to make it interesting in live sports. Little by little, you’ll see more interactivity coming with VR offerings in live sports.

What role do you see VOD playing in VR?

Live is the hallmark of VR, but VOD will orbit around the live event. We’ll learn more about how to do sports in VOD. And hopefully we can continue innovating. One of the strengths of VR is that Monster Jam is a cool sport to experience, and a lot of people haven’t. It’s also great evergreen content.

What potential do you see for Feld’s Supercross in VR?

Supercross is something we’re spending a lot of time to plan it out. We’re waiting until next season to not rush it. We’re thinking about the production to make sure we get it right out of the gate. We think it will be amazing in VR. Supercross will probably happen live with multiple cameras. We’re talking to Feld and NextVR about bringing it this coming season to VR.

How quickly are you learning about what works and what doesn’t in VR?

We’ve done nine events in VR now. Each experience has helped us with things like where to put the cameras and how to tell the story. The production aspect is vital to what the experience ends up being, and the amount of time people spend in VR. Even with Monster Jam we learned new things about editing and posting a nice, polished experience.

How do you see livestreaming VR improving?

With live sports, we’re working with replays. For example, if you see a crash in NASCAR on TV, you can then experience it in VR.

Samsung is bringing one-day-delayed Olympics coverage to Samsung Gear VR this August. What impact could that big push have on sports VR?

The Olympics helps the cause, for sure. A rising tide floats all boats. One of the bottlenecks we have is on the consumer end. There’s a finite amount of devices you can use right now with the Gear or Cardboard. When people say ‘the Olympics is a big deal,’ the question is always, ‘how do I watch it?’ Consumer VR devices have a big way to go.

Does it matter that the Olympics won’t be livestreamed?

If there’s something incredible that happens on one day, there will be a drive to watch that moment in VR the next day. Assuming the experience will be a good one—and some of the same guys we use will be doing some of the Olympics VR coverage—it could increase the demand of what we’re doing.

How do you see Google Daydream impacting the VR market this fall?

Google Daydream is going to help us out as an industry. We’re going to see a dissemination of the devices over the next 8-to-12 months. We’re happy with Google’s approach. And Sony’s PlayStation VR is also going to be good for the industry.

What is VR opening up for brands and sponsors?

Even now when there aren’t a lot of devices out there, we’re getting a lot of interest from marketers saying they want a virtual reality experience attached to whatever we’re doing. They want to be associated with cutting-edge innovation like Lexus with the U.S. Open experience.