How Asian Gaming Brands Steadily Grow Westward

Just a few months ago, China surpassed the US as the world’s biggest market for video game revenues, particularly with mobile, thanks to its millions of users. And it has kept that lead ever since, but it’s part of a much bigger picture of the Asia Pacific market, including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Australia. For the past few years, Asian companies that have found success in their home countries are looking to grow internationally through investments, acquisitions, and bringing their games to a new audience.

Breaking Down Revenues

According to Newzoo’s Global Games Market Report, Asia-Pacific’s console, PC and mobile game revenues for 2016 total an estimated $46.6 billion for the year, with more than half coming from China with $24.4 billion. Close behind is Japan with $12.48 billion, and the rest split up amongst the other countries.


Out of a population of nearly four billion people, over one billion (a quarter of the population) are gamers. However, there’s still plenty of room to grow, and China is in far lead.

To help track Asia’s gaming growth Nielsen, working alongside TalkingData and its base of 650 million monthly active users, introduced a new Games IP Evaluator, with three purposes in mind: identifying audience profiles, quantifying game potential and optimizing game development and launch.

“Although 40 to 50 percent of all new mobile games involve an IP acquisition and the percentage continues to grow, most mobile game developers enter into IP partnerships based on their past experience with no support of forward-looking quantitative analysis,” said Steven Li, vice president of Nielsen’s Entertainment Vertical in China. “The Nielsen Games IP Evaluator offers developers insightful consumer research to fully understand IP potential and the right form for mobile games.”

Tencent Is Everywhere

If there is one thing that has become increasingly clear with China gaming market right now, you just can’t ignore Tencent.

Founded in 1998, Tencent has come a long way in a short time, mainly due to the popularity of online games like CrossFire and Dungeon Fighter Online, which has attracted millions of gamers. But it made a name for itself in 2011, when it purchased a majority stake in Riot Games, giving it one of the biggest properties in eSports today: League of Legends. The game continues to be a colossal hit, and Tencent completed its acquisition of Riot late last year, moving closer to eSports dominance.

Tencent also invested in a number of other companies, in an effort to expand its reach more towards Western shores. It purchased a 12 percent stake in Activision Blizzard and a small stake in Epic Games in 2012; it purchased portions popular developers such as Robot Entertainment (Orcs Must Die) and Glu Mobile (creators of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood); and it also purchased a major stake in Pocket Gems, the creators of the popular mobile game War Dragons.

But perhaps its biggest move since acquiring Riot Games took place last week, when it acquired Clash of Clans developer Supercell for $8.6 billion, giving it ownership of one of the biggest mobile companies in the US. With this purchase, Tencent now has control of 13 percent of the global $99 billion mobile market.

“China is home to more gamers than any other country,” CEO Ilkka Paananen said about the deal. “Tencent’s platforms reach around a billion users (yes, a billion!). And, they have around 300 million unique users playing games on their platforms. What this means for us is that together with Tencent, we can bring our games to so many more players. Also, their social platforms offer many new possibilities for our games, particularly for social play. All of this is very exciting!”

In short, that means more revenue and business for Tencent, adding to its already impressive mobile game sales numbers.

With the bases for social networking, eSports, mobile and web portals covered, Tencent is a big reason why the Asia’s gaming market is so immense.

South Korea Expands

While Tencent is famous for investing in developers, other companies have not only done the same, but brought their own IPs to a worldwide audience while also developing new ones.

Nexon, for example, got its start in South Korea back in 1994. It is generally credited as the company that started the free-to-play market and it rose to success with titles such as MapleStory and Dungeon & Fighter, which is one of the biggest free-to-play PC games in China.

The company has been working for years to reach a global audience. In 2015, it pushed for the Western markets with Ghost In the Shell Online, and partnered with a US developer Big Huge Games to produce the highly popular mobile game DomiNations. Shortly thereafter, it acquired the developer in a deal for an undisclosed amount, but with many dividends, thanks to DomiNations‘ 19 million downloads.

It’s also working with Respawn Entertainment on a trio of mobile games based on its hit property Titanfall, with the first expected to arrive later this year in time for the sequel’s release on consoles. Nexon will also publish Lawbreakers, the first game developed by legendary game designer Cliff Bleszinski’s new studio, Boss Key Productions.

Another major company from South Korea is NCsoft, the publisher responsible for a number of hit games over the past few years, including Lineage and WildStar. These titles have not only established an audience of Asian players into the millions, but also a great deal of interest in the US as well.

The company pushed its expansion into the West further last year with the opening of Iron Tiger Studios, a new mobile studio out of San Mateo. With it, NCsoft promised to work on a number of original IP’s for various platforms, as well as translating other established properties on the mobile front. “NCsoft West is accelerating and the launch of Iron Tiger is a key step in enabling us to develop extraordinary and innovative games more rapidly and across more platforms,” said the company’s senior VP of mobile Jesse Taylor about the opening, speaking with GamesIndustry International.

It also has a growing presence in eSports, with its owned company ArenaNet recently investing $200,000 into a Guild Wars 2 World Tournament.

While on the topic of eSports, Korean game publisher, Bluehole, has also been making waves, moving beyond its usual MMORPG territory to create a new experience called Battlegrounds in conjunction with Irish developer PLAYERUNKNOWN. It will bring another Asia Pacific-based company more into the Western market, in the hopes of following the success of its previous release, Tera, which first started in Korea and has found success in North America.

When it comes to catering more to this market, production director Dr. Chang Han Kim explained, “First and foremost, we’re focused on creating a good game, but we plan to conduct a very open development process as well. We hope to get very closely engaged with the community, share a lot of the stuff that takes place in our office, seek feedback as much as possible, and just really focus on creating a good game.”

And then there’s the South Korean eSports scene. Countless players invest hours at a time in games like League of Legends and the years-old Starcraft II. Activision Blizzard regularly holds tournaments there, with millions of fans watching both live and online broadcasts to see the best players in the world compete. According to The New York Times, it’s even considered a “national pastime.” Considering how Korea is the country where eSports first took off, it’s little wonder why companies are looking to take advantage of how eSports interest and popularity is growing around the world.

Amazon’s Echo Could Help Brands Reach Targeted Audience

Amazon’s Echo may not just be built for convenience—it could also open a door for marketers as well.

The online retailer confirmed Friday that, along with its “on-demand button” system, it has enabled its voice-activated speaker, which uses a digital assistant named Alexa, to order new items using voice requests. This includes thousands of items that range from food to accessories to media-based items. All a customer has to say is something such as, “Alexa, order (product)” and Alexa will make a suggestion. Afterward, all they need to do is say yes to finalize the order.

Not all items are available, as Alexa is mainly compatible with items that are available through Amazon Prime. That said, new items are being added regularly, so it’ll become a more useful utility over time.

This is the latest evolution for Alexa, which previously was able to play NPR radio, check a bank balance and even order an Uber car if needed. “We launch things when they are ready,” said an Amazon spokeswoman about the evolution of Alexa’s services. “Our speech science engineers have made something very complicated and difficult to do so exceedingly easy for customers.”

So how will this technology benefit brands and marketers? It provides a new way to reach out to consumers without ads. By partnering with Amazon and offer sponsored products or services, it can find a way to naturally cater to a targeted audience.

Companies have been quick to adopt certain technologies over the past few years. For example, Marriott created a virtual reality program to take visitors to distant tropical islands and other exotic places around the world, even if they were already on a vacation. McDonald’s also recently embraced VR technology, with campaigns based around its Happy Meal and The Angry Birds Movie.

It’s sure to take some time, as the ordering system just went live today. However, as Alexa’s use becomes more frequent, partnering with one of the world’s biggest sellers could be a key way to reach consumers.

How ‘Now You See Me 2’ Chatbots Work Their Magic To Promote Movie

Lionsgate is making waves with its recent $4.4 billion acquisition of premium channel Starz, and it’s continuing to work its magic by further promoting the movie Now You See Me 2 in unique and engaging ways.

With assistance from the messaging app company, Sequel, Lionsgate has produced an interactive chatbot gaming experience for both Facebook and the chatbot platform Kik that enables fans to become even more immersed in the story. This marks the first time that a bot gaming experience has been built around a major franchise with a large focus on storytelling.

Throughout the game, players will have the opportunity to solve puzzles, interact with characters from the Now You See Me universe and get a closer look at the magic that’s happening in its world–all of it done in the hopes of impressing The Eye, the mysterious magical group that is referred to in the films. The goal of the game is to prove yourself worthy of the organization by getting through the increasingly difficult challenges that test the skills of players.

Omar Siddiqui, CEO of Sequel, talked to [a]listdaily about the potential of the game and working closely with Lionsgate to make sure that the chatbot content lived up to what the films delivered. “We worked hand-in-hand with creative and production leaders at Lionsgate from idea inception, throughout the development process, and during final polish,” said Siddiqui. “We were provided scripts and early previews of the NYSM2 movie to ensure that our game development was informed by the movie.

“We also got feedback throughout our process, ensuring that the vision of how we wanted to integrate with the broader Now You See Me franchise world was being executed in a way that tied everything together elegantly.”

When it came to the challenges that popped up with putting together an ideal chatbot experience with Now You See Me 2, Siddiqui broke it down into three parts:

  • Providing an entertaining game experience (via the messaging medium) that relies on storytelling and character development vs. the visual eye candy possible in traditional video games.
  • Staying faithful to the movie (storyline, characters, tone, emotion, pacing) and providing facets of magic, puzzles, plot reveals, and humor that not only draw from the movie world but also add to it.
  • Utilizing and leveraging the emotional connection between virtual characters and consumers through the communication and real-time updates possible on messaging platforms, which is still a novel medium.

He also went into detail about the chatbot creation process. “It was not dissimilar from creating a traditional video game,” he explained. “The process included: research to gather background data, filmmakers meetings, team creative meetings, game proposals, revisions and approvals. Then we developed the game script and visual media, which we had to playtest, get feedback, test and tune before releasing the Alpha, Beta and Final. Since the interactions were conversational, getting the voice right for the game to connect users emotionally and creatively to the movie was particularly important.”

When asked about whether chatbots might be used in future movie promotions, Siddiqui said, “Absolutely. Given the audience size and the possibilities available to connect with games in a more emotional and intimate character-centric way, we expect much more experimentation and development of ‘bot games’ in the future.”

And considering the increased usage in chatbots lately (with 11,000 and rising on Facebook alone), ones based on entertainment could be a powerful tool for engagement.

Twitter Exec Explains Power Of Social Media In ESports

Canadian media company theScore embraced eSports early by expanding its sports coverage with a separate theScore eSports site and mobile app back in February 2015 to include games such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2. Now the company has added Kirstine Stewart, the vice president of media for Twitter in North America, to its board.

The first female board member at the company, Stewart will directly apply her experiences directing Twitter’s media activities across the United States and Canada and its partnerships in television, sports, gaming, talent, music, fashion, news and government to help theScore expand its position in competitive gaming.

The former executive vice president with the CBC, Stewart was also a member of the 2016 NBA All-Star Game Steering Committee and an ambassador for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. In this exclusive interview, she talks about the opportunities in eSports today, and explains the role social media plays for the first sport born from digital.

Why did you decide to join the board of theScore?

One of my personal professional goals has been to serve on a board, and theScore has long been a company I’ve admired for its forward-thinking approach to sports media. With my background in tech, media and passion for sports, this felt like the perfect fit.

What do you feel differentiates this site from what ESPN, Yahoo and so many startups are doing in the eSports space?

TheScore has always been at the forefront of mobile sports. It was the first sports app on the iPhone, and the first media company to take eSports seriously by launching a stand-alone app. Their flagship app is the second most popular sports app in North America, and their eSports team is very much taking a leadership position in the space. All this makes for a very exciting opportunity.

What are some examples of recommendations you’ve given to the site from a social media standpoint?

It’s too early for that—I only officially joined the board less than two weeks ago, but I look forward to working with CEO John Levy and his team on continuing to push the company in the right direction.

What role have you seen Twitter play in the eSports space from a fan perspective, especially given its global real-time audience?

Twitter plays a huge role in eSports, just as it does with “traditional” sports. ESports, as an industry, is a digital native. Fans have grown up watching their favorite games and tournaments online, mostly. It’s possibly the first sport that’s risen to prominence without the need for mainstream television coverage. This makes digital media its natural home. And we know fans love engaging with each other, as well as with their favorite players and teams.

How have you seen pro players and teams take advantage of social media?

Conversations are taking place between fans, teams and players all the time. I love what my fellow Canadian and former NBA star, Rick Fox, is doing now that he’s the owner of Echo Fox. Rick has almost 250,000 followers on Twitter and is doing a great job of engaging with his fans and using his celebrity to bridge the divide between traditional sports and eSports, raise awareness for his team and increase the credibility of competitive gaming with the mainstream.

What differentiates the eSports fan from the traditional sports fan in social media?

I’m not sure there are huge differences. Both sets of fans use social media to react and comment on action from their respective tournaments and competitions in real-time.

How has Twitter connected with the livestreaming viewership of eSports fans?

Twitter has always been a great companion to live events, and we continue to see conversations happening there around eSports events as they take place. With “traditional” sports, we’ll soon be bringing the live event and sports conversation on Twitter together on a single surface.

What role do you see the TBS and ESPN broadcasts of eSports playing in growing the market?

The increase in television exposure tells us that eSports continues to break into the mainstream, but the vast majority of eSports fans continue to watch via online platforms. So while we wouldn’t expect this to have a major impact on viewing figures, it may help to convert any remaining eSports skeptics about its popularity.

What opportunities are there for brands and sponsors in eSports from a social marketing perspective?

Lots. ESports has a dedicated, loyal and engaged global fan base. Many large brands are already involved in eSports, and more will follow as it continues to grow in popularity and exposure.

Over one billion people are aware of eSports today globally according to Newzoo. Where do you see eSports five years from now?

Impossible to predict, beyond the fact that eSports is here to stay.

Sony Pictures Kicks Off VR Entertainment Business With ‘Ghostbusters’

There’s something strange in the neighborhood of Times Square, and it’s not hard to guess what. Parked outside Madame Tussauds New York is a Ghostbusters-themed Cadillac hearse, the same model used in the new Ghostbusters movie, in a promotion with Lyft. On July 1 and 2, between 10 am and 8 pm, the Lyft app will feature a special “Ghost Mode” button that will give a few lucky riders in the New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington, D.C. areas a free ride from the customized car—complete with lime-flavored Hostess Twinkies and Hi-C Ecto Cooler (both products inspired by the original movie) inside, and a driver dressed in a full Ghostbusters costume.

Meanwhile, inside the famous wax museum, Ray Parker Jr.’s famous 1984 movie theme song is playing, and a crowd of people anxiously await a chance to be haunted. Ghostbusters fever has gripped New York, and Madame Tussauds is at the heart of it with a new Ghostbusters Experience museum exhibit, inspired by the new movie. The exhibit is topped off with a separate “hyper-reality” experience developed by The Void called Ghostbusters: Dimension, where attendees have a chance to strap on proton packs and live out the dream of being a Ghostbuster in virtual reality. It’s a movie promotion that’s unlike any other, and one that leaves attendees wanting to come back for more.

Jake Zim, SVP of virtual reality for Sony Pictures, talks to [a]listdaily from the opening of the Ghostbusters Experience at Madame Tussauds New York about growing the business of virtual reality entertainment, starting with Ghostbusters: Dimension. The movie starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones premieres in theaters on July 15.

Jake Zim, SVP of virtual reality for Sony Pictures Entertainment

What does the Ghostbusters: Dimension experience mean for the future of Sony Entertainment?

Being here, you can feel the energy at Madame Tussauds with The Void. The Ghostbusters virtual reality experience is really one of the first steps that we are taking to turn VR and our IP into a new kind of business where we can tell narrative stories in new ways.

We’ve done a couple of promotions in the past for The Walk, where we had people walk the actual wire between the Twin Towers, and then for a movie called Goosebumps, where we had people in a chair riding with Jack Black through the town from the movie. Those were both exciting and fun marketing promotions that we did in VR. Coming out of that, we said, “Wait a minute. Maybe there’s an actual business here.” Our colleagues at PlayStation were developing the PlayStation VR platform, so we spent a lot of time with them to try to understand what they’ve been working on and how to create stories for VR. And we’ve worked with a variety of platform partners to understand and educate ourselves on what VR could offer.

Ultimately, our expertise is in storytelling and narrative. The idea of adding a layer of interactivity—or multiple layers, as VR does—into the opportunity for storytellers to tell great stories and artists to create visions in a new medium was super exciting for us. So, we’ve come together as a company, and we’ve started to put together this strategic vision of how we’re going to build that business. This Ghostbusters experience is the first commercial version that we’ve deployed.

Do you think that future movies from Sony Pictures will be filmed with similar experiences in mind?

I think there are a lot of ways that this is going to happen, and that’s one of the many models that we’re going to try. Ultimately, we’re not trying to create the same movie that you’ll see in the theater on a 2D or 3D screen in VR shot-for-shot. What we’re looking to accomplish is, in the example of where there is an existing or upcoming movie, that movie has a world… and that world allows us to create a distinctly unique narrative that’s customized for the VR experience.

So, when we start to develop a movie concept or greenlight a project—yes, we are thinking about what the VR thing is from the inception of any production moment or even the concept. A filmmaker comes to us and pitches an idea, and we’re thinking at the beginning of the process about the VR component of it. But generally speaking, we’re trying to build on and extend the world, instead of overlap or layer into the world too much.

Again, we don’t know exactly how all of this content is going to play out. In some cases, you may want to live a special iconic scene from a movie. You may want to live that in VR, so perhaps we’re going to have to figure out a way to give people a chance to do that. Ultimately, the audience is going to tell us what they want, and that’s what’s so great about entertainment. We can make movies, make TV, and we can make VR stuff all day long. But we have to put it out into the world and let people see how it works and how it feels. In this early stage, we’re going to try a lot of things, learn from it, and keep going back to make great stuff.

What makes Ghostbusters the ideal movie to kick off Sony’s first commercial VR experience?

There are a couple of low hanging fruit answers, which include: Ghostbusters have proton packs, and this VR experience here with The Void has a backpack and proton blaster. So there are a lot of organic hardware reasons why. But ultimately, the real reason why is, I would bet that you can go up to anybody, anywhere—certainly in New York, if not the world—and say, “Would you like to be a Ghostbuster? Would you like to go into the Ghostbusters world with your buddies for ten minutes and bust ghosts?” People are going to say yes because it’s an iconic franchise, the nostalgia is there, and the new movie is on people’s minds.

Whether it’s the classic Ghostbusters or the women from our upcoming movie, they’re fun, funny and “having a good time” kind of people. I think everybody aspires to be like that. So Ghostbusters is perfect for VR because you get to be in the world, and who wouldn’t want to be a Ghostbuster?

Ghostbusters Dimension

Do you think there will be a lot of movie cross promotions with PlayStation VR when it launches in October?

I think it’s clear that we’re going to work very closely with the PlayStation team on a variety of different initiatives related to VR. We believe very strongly that they’ve got a great product and have a great position in the market, and we want to help develop their product as well as develop our own content. Yes, there are going to be some great ways Sony Pictures and PlayStation VR are going to be collaborating in the future. But our goal at Sony Pictures is to make great content, and that’s it. Whether it lives on PlayStation or other places in the world, like here at Madame Tussauds New York, a location-based environment. The core idea is that we’ve got to make great experiences that feature all of the assets of what great VR can offer.

Ghostbusters: Dimension is a great location-based attraction, but have you considered developing content for mobile VR viewers, or premium headsets like the Oculus Rift?

Absolutely. If you think about all of the distribution channels through which virtual reality can be delivered, location-based is just one of them. The in-home market is going to grow over time, and certainly, when PlayStation VR launches in October, we expect it to push the process forward.

The mobile market is already, to a certain level, an addressable audience, and that will also grow. China and Asia are very important for us to look at in terms of what those markets are doing. Each of those different channels have different features that we need to create and develop for. Whether it’s walking around in a 900 square foot environment like the one we have here, in the comfort of your own home, or imagining people doing VR on the subway using mobile devices with a mobile HMD. We’ve got to be thinking about all those platforms and developing properly so that the narrative and the interactive benefit and enhance the value of those platforms.

What were your first thoughts when you tried out the Ghostbusters: Dimension experience?

My first thought was, “This is incredible! I’m actually getting to be a Ghostbuster.” The first version of this experience that I did was a very early alpha, where it was a gray box environment, and I had a proton blaster, and I could just blast a ghost. It was a floating, volumetric, spherical ghost—but my proton stream looked like a Ghostbusters proton stream and the physics of it worked. So, when I latched on that ghost, I could yank it around. Despite the fact that there was no lighting, no shadows, and everything was in a low-poly environment, I got a sense right there that I was present, and I had control and busting ghosts. To me, that sort of blew out some sort of vortex hole in my head and I said, “I’ve got to do more of this.”

Every iteration of this—and I’ve done this ten or fifteen times as The Void guys have developed it—has just gotten more rich and colorful. I’ve found more things about it that are crazy; little Easter eggs here and there. It’s exhilarating for me to be able to watch that process, and I’m very honored to be part of it and help drive it. But at the very base of it, it’s just fun. And that’s what it’s all about.

TipTalk Connects Fans With Pro Gamers And Influencers

TipTalk is a messaging platform that gives fans one-on-one access to their favorite eSports personalities, social media influencers and celebrities via paid text, photo and video interactions. The free app is available on iOS devices now.

Echo Fox team owner Rick Fox was one of the early eSports executives on board with the service, which his team uses to communicate directly with fans.

Zach Melamed, CTO and co-founder of TipTalk, explains what the new messaging platform opens up for brands and fans in this exclusive interview.

Why did you decide to launch TipTalk?

One of our co-founders, Owen De Vries, was trying to get a hold of an influencer and made a comment at dinner, “I wish I could just pay this person to respond.” That was the “ah-ha” moment that led to further discussions with a network of influencers, who confirmed that they would love to respond to far more fan messages, and would do so if there was an incentive.

How does this app differ from other social media offerings or live chats via streams?

Our platform offers a safe and direct channel for verified influencers, experts and stars to engage with their fan base. Current social platforms and livestreams connect influencers with their fan base in a one-to-many fashion that lacks personalization and effectiveness. Users can post comment after comment, but are not guaranteed a response, as there is no incentive provided. TipTalk provides influencers with the incentive to directly connect with their fan base on their own terms.

What are the costs involved for fans and how do the pros generate revenue from these chats?

Influencers set their own “price” for engagement that varies depending on whether the fan wants a text, photo or video response. Fans then purchase $1 credits to engage with their favorite influencers who, on average, charge ten credits per message.

What type of support have you received thus far from pro players?

We’ve seen the pro players on our platform embrace TipTalk as a compliment to their current streaming platforms, such as Twitch. Since gamers are often busy streaming on platforms like Twitch, they are able to use TipTalk during any free time to engage one-on-one with their fans.

How has having Rick Fox cross-promote this app helped market it?

Rick Fox is becoming a pillar in the eSports community and his franchise Echo Fox carries a lot of weight. Having Rick and his players believe in TipTalk and effectively use the platform has really helped us reach the eSports market.

What’s the average amount of time fans are spending using this app?

New fans on average send and receive 3.2 messages the first time they use the app.

Are fans using this app as a second-screen experience during practice sessions or tournaments?

We have definitely seen a peak in usage in the time surrounding eSports tournaments and livestreaming sessions. The ability to communicate directly with the players as they are engaged in live play puts our users directly in the action. Before TipTalk the only option was to participate in group chat experiences where a fans comments and questions were lost in the noise and likely never viewed by the players. Now fans can actually ask questions in real time and get responses while the context is fresh in the minds of players.

What opportunities does this app open up for sponsors or brands?

Through direct engagement with their fans, eSports athletes will be able to create awareness for any brands they represent. As we expand the platform, we’ll be releasing tools for brands to develop partnerships with the players and teams directly through the platform.

Is there the potential for ad-based revenue for free exchanges with players?

We’ll certainly be exploring every opportunity to help players build businesses around their talents. We have some creative ideas in the pipeline related to driving ad revenue for the players.

As eSports becomes more mainstream, what opportunities does this open up for TipTalk?

As the eSports market continues to move mainstream, we will certainly benefit from the demand for one-on-one access to these newly minted stars. At the same time, we hope to build more features and tools to not only benefit ourselves, but to help activate new fans and create more awareness of eSports. This would allow us to give back to the market and become a key player in supporting its growth. We want anyone to be able to grow their audience and monetize their expertise on TipTalk. We believe we can become the new discovery platform to assist in driving eSports forward.