Volkswagen Races Forward With New Video Game Activation

Volkswagen of America is blurring the line between video games and reality with a new marketing activation aimed at gamers. The auto maker has released a free mobile and desktop game, Rival Road: GTI vs. GLI in hopes of connecting with millennial gamers.

The marketing program promotes its Golf GTI and Jetta GLI vehicles, and the object of the game is to achieve distance while dodging obstacles on a course. Fans can support #TeamGTI or #TeamGLI by choosing to race in either model, competing against players from the opposing team, and earning points for distance travelled. Points count toward individual scores, as well as cumulative scores for #Team GTI or #Team GLI, depending on the team the player has chosen to join.

The virtual rivalry culminates in live remote-control (RC) car races, pitting the two teams on a massive, custom-built, obstacle-filled track. Races will be hosted by professional Volkswagen race car drivers Tanner Foust and Scott Speed on July 26 and 27 in Washington, D.C., and livestreamed on Twitch from 5:30–11pm ET each day on the official Rival Road channel.

Players can also enter the Rival Road Contest for an opportunity to win a trip for two to the Fastivus 2016 track event in Los Angeles in August, and the opportunity to sit shotgun in a hot lap with Tanner Foust or Scott Speed.

Mike M. Awdish, general manager of digital marketing at Volkswagen of America, explains to [a]listdaily why the German auto maker is targeting gamers and Twitch viewers.

What are the challenges of marketing to millennials today?

The media landscape has changed in large part thanks to millennials. Media consumption used to be a very passive act. You watched, read or listened. Growing up around video games, millennials have come to expect and appreciate engaging experiences. They want to participate, they want to be challenged, and they want to be entertained.

Why did you decide to explore video games with this activation?

We wanted to tap into three growing trends: casual mobile games with addictive replaybility, the emergence of livestreaming platforms such as Twitch and Facebook Live and the rising popularity of eSports and team-based competitive play.

What type of crossover is there with mobile gamers and your target demographic and who is your target demo for Golf and Jetta vehicles?

The target demographic for the Golf GTI and Jetta GLI are young men in their late 20s to early 30s. While mobile gaming has proven popular across all age groups and demographics, we know that racing-inspired games are a sweet spot for this group.

What game developer did you work with on this mobile/PC game?

We worked with ISL, our social media agency. They excel at developing experiences that combine the digital and physical to create something truly unique and buzzworthy.

How deep of a video game experience have you created?

The gameplay is relatively simple—how far can you go before touching another object? Although the mechanics are simple, the challenge of beating the best score is what makes it so engaging. You’ll never encounter the same order of obstacles, so the experience is different every time.

How are you bridging the virtual with the real world through the R/C competition through voting on obstacles?

The R/C race is a way to bring the video game to life. To add an extra layer of excitement, viewers on Twitch will have the ability to select the obstacles through chat. The votes of the community will have a direct impact on the outcome of the races.

What has Twitch opened up for your company as a way to connect with the gaming audience?

Twitch is a platform that is not afraid to try new things. From thousands of gamers collaborating via chat to beat a video game to watching a Bob Ross marathon, the Twitch audience is open to social experiments. It really inspired us to create something unique that wasn’t just a pure gaming experience.

What is Fastivus? What will the winners get to do there?

Fastivus is a Volkswagen enthusiast event held on August 13 and 14 in Fontana, California. What makes it unique from many enthusiast events is that it’s held at the Auto Club Speedway, so Volkswagen fans can drive their cars on the track. For the winner of the Rival Road challenge, they will have the opportunity to ride alongside Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross drivers Tanner Foust and Scott Speed for a hot lap on the track.

What’s your planned ROI on this activation?

First and foremost, we want to raise awareness of the Golf GTI and Jetta GLI nameplates. Second, we want to create an experience that people find truly engaging. It’s our first program of this type, so the biggest value will come from the lessons we learn. What we learn from Rival Road will influence our future digital experiences.

What type of impact have you seen from featuring Volkswagen vehicles in games such as Forza and Gran Turismo over the years?

It’s no question that for many gamers, their first time behind the wheel of a Volkswagen is through games like Forza and Gran Turismo. If these experiences create a passion for the brand, then we want to embrace and be part of it.

Video Games Remain A Large Draw For San Diego Comic-Con

Despite the name, the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) isn’t just for comic book fans. The massive gathering has also become a hub for video game marketing, announcements and interactive fan experiences. This year is no exception, with plenty of attractions for the convention-going gamer.

Microsoft is keeping busy with various events around SDCC, including a special Xbox lounge at Nerd HQ, where players can engage with upcoming titles like Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3, and register to win big prizes, such as an exclusive Gears of War 4 system bundle. Meanwhile, Nintendo is hosting an open lounge at the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina hotel, close to the Convention Center, where fans can play games like Yo-Kai Watch 2 and Metroid Prime: Federation Force, and interact with other exhibits.

Sega is keeping busy with its mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, as it’s hosting a number of events over the course of Comic-Con, including a special 25th anniversary party and game demos for Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice. Limited edition merchandise is also available at a number of locations around the hall. The iconic blue hedgehog even graces the inside of this year’s SDCC program.

batman vr san diego comic-con

There’s no better place to demo a comic book-themed video game than at SDCC, so it’s no surprise that DC fans can sample Batman Arkham VR at the show. On Friday, DC also unveiled an Injustice 2 tie-in comic book that will tie-in to the upcoming video game, both slated for 2017.

Capcom unveiled DLC content for Street Fighter V during the Con, while offering demos of their upcoming titles and exclusive collectibles such as a wearable Mega Man helmet.

For those without a pass, Cartoon Network is hosting Adult Swim on the Green outside the convention center. This interactive area includes a carnival midway, show screenings and exhibits, where fans can enjoy a South Park cut-out area and check out items from South Park: The Fractured But Whole, a video game that releases this holiday. The Rick and Morty VR game demo will also be on-hand, in addition to other network-related attractions.

While E3 demos are primarily media-only, San Diego Comic-Con is a unique opportunity to steer massive convention traffic toward hands-on video game experiences. With the rise of peer-to-peer advertising in today’s marketing landscape, the ability for YouTube influencers and other attendees to sample a game can do wonders for brand awareness.

Storm8 Reveals Global Mobile Gaming Trends

Storm8, developers of the Dream City: Metropolis—which has a unique cross-promotion deal with Regal Cinemas—has taken a deep look at the global mobile gaming habits over the past year. The study, which covers the developers network of 75 million players globally, uncovered some surprising trends.

When asked what prompted the study, Terence Fung, Storm8’s chief strategy officer, explained to [a]listdaily that “We run games as long-term services for our players. As such, understanding global player habits enable us to consistently serve the best content to keep players entertained. This study is a subset of what we typically observe on an ongoing basis.”

The countries that rose to Storm8’s top ten list are Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, US and the UK. The most dedicated players were found in Japan, Germany and Russia, with players engaging with mobile games 2-3x more than other countries.


Several other trends presented themselves, including how play time across all genres dipped in September, when parents (the majority of Storm8’s players are between 25 to 45-years-old) are dealing with the start of the school year. Perhaps more surprisingly, gameplay time also fell during certain holidays, particularly New Year’s. The top three countries, in particular, saw significant drops in activity during this time. Japan a 50 percent dip, Germany got a 30 percent decrease, and Russia’s play time dropped by 20 percent. By comparison, the US, Italy, Australia, Great Britain and Canada saw only a slight 3-7 percent decrease while France’s saw a 13 percent drop. The only country to see increased activity was China (which rose by 15 percent) likely because it doesn’t typically celebrate the calendar New Year. However, gameplay time did decrease by 27 percent when Chinese New Year rolled around.


We asked Fung if he was surprised at the decrease in activity during the holidays, when players presumably have more free time to play. “Somewhat surprised, especially with the relatively larger dip in the social casino category around New Year’s Eve. Players seem to have traded their gamer hats with party hats,” Fung answered. He also noted that “in a typical week, mobile players enjoy fitting in bite-sized gameplay throughout their busy day—whether it’s gaming while waiting in line at the coffee shop in the morning or at the grocery store after work. On the other hand, during holidays many people actually have less downtime as they experience the ‘holiday rush.'”

As for how the developer plans to deal with the September dip in activity, Fung stated, “We will have our regular cadence of updates across our network of games, with some hitting around the mid-August timeframe.”

Storm8 also discovered that gamers around the world show the most engagement on Mondays, when the workweek starts, and take a break from games on Sundays, which is in line with how many mobile gamers tend to play during a commute. The only exception being Japanese players, who are consistent with their play times throughout the week. It also looks as though “casual gamers” are mislabeled, since they play games 30 percent longer per week than Social Casino gamers and 120 percent longer than Simulation game players. Even during the September dip, casual players only saw a 7 percent and 10 percent drop in engagement compared to Social Casino and Simulation games, respectively.

When asked why he believed casual players put in so much time, Fung stated, “Our most enthusiastic casual game players can be particularly engaged over large amounts of times when the game has the right balance of fun and challenge with a steady supply of highly rewarding game levels. Given the nature of puzzlers, players can also engage in multiple sessions throughout the day for minutes at a time, which really suits today’s typical on-the-go mobile consumer.”


Fung also explains the Sunday drop in activity and the Monday jump. “It seems to highlight the fact that many people enter the workweek with more predictable routines (i.e. commute time, lunch breaks, etc.) and mobile games help provide the necessary mental break to assist people in returning to a project or starting a new one with renewed focus. Weekend plans tend to be a little more fluid and potentially more social, leaving less time for games.”

So, given the data, when is the best time to launch a new mobile game or promote new feature? Fung states, “There are many factors—in addition to the given data—that help determine the optimal timing of launching new games and features. Generally, games that are launched early in the new year will benefit from consumers activating their new phones (holiday presents) as well as relatively cheaper seasonal performance marketing.”


Why Ford And Jose Cuervo Are Teaming Up To Create Plastics From Plants

This Sunday is National Tequila Day (really), and Ford is making its toast by taking a shot toward sustainability with Mexico’s proud spirit by teaming up with Jose Cuervo to make car parts from agave.

The environmentally conscious collaboration, part of the automaker’s #FarmtoCar campaign, entails researchers exploring and testing the use of the seven-foot tall, desert-climate plant to develop a sustainable bioplastic material to incorporate in Ford cars and trucks.

By successfully developing the sustainable composite, it gives the agave fiber byproduct a second chance at usefulness, all the while reducing the overall weight of the car—an average car has about 400 pounds of plastic—to help improve fuel economy and decreasing the overall impact cars cause in the environment.

The spirits maker’s and motoring manufacturer’s partnership positions the two iconic brands to be innovators in waste-based materials research.

Debbie Mielewski, Ford’s senior technical leader of sustainability research department, joined [a]listdaily to talk about why Ford is using new methods to go green.


How did Ford identify that making car parts out of agave byproducts would be their next frontier?

Ford has been exploring the use of sustainable materials for years, with the goal of reducing the use of petroleum-based plastics in its vehicles. We currently use eight sustainable biomaterials in our vehicles, including soybeans, cellulose, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fiber, wood, coconut fiber and rice hulls, and have researched the use of other innovative materials such as tomato skins and captured carbon dioxide. When we first started discussing the opportunity of using agave as feedstock, Jose Cuervo was the first name that came to mind and we approached them with the idea to source small amounts of agave for our initial research. Given the company’s commitment to agave sustainability, the team was eager to work together to explore opportunities to give agave a second life after the tequila manufacturing process.

Ford is currently in the research phase investigating mechanical properties. Can you please explain how the agave process will exactly work? And for what particular parts of the car?

We put the agave fiber through a chopper to get the right particle size (less than three millimeters) for the extrusion process, which involves mixing the particle fibers with the plastic. We use about 20 percent fiber to reinforce our plastics. The mixture is then put through injection molding to shape into the part that we want. We are currently in our initial research phase, where we are molding simple parts and testing different geometric shapes. So far, the agave material has gone through all of the necessary screening tests (chemical, physical and odor) to help us determine the appropriate applications for the material.


When are you expecting to yield results to see if this process is actually possible? What’s the timeline looking like?

We are still in the research phase of this project to see if we can use agave fibers for application and initial assessments show that the material has potential, given its properties.

At first thought, alcohol and cars sound like an odd couple. How has the partnership with a booze brand been received so far?

Agave is just one of the many sustainable materials we are researching for application in Ford vehicles, and for many people, it is a pleasant surprise to hear that we are looking to repurpose many biomaterials in our vehicles, like soy foam or wheat straw. In this case, we are trying to find a new purpose for a material that could otherwise be landfilled or burned, and we have a good collaborator in Jose Cuervo to help us figure it out.

There are dozens of well-known tequila brands. Why was Jose Cuervo the perfect fit for this new initiative?

Like Ford, Jose Cuervo is a family-owned company with a rich history of being a visionary in its field, making tequila with the same craftsmanship and recipes for more than 220 years. More importantly, Jose Cuervo shares our vision and is deeply committed to promoting agave sustainability, which is why they were excited to work with us in finding a second use for their remnant agave fibers.


What other range of industries and brands have you worked with that offer a good source of natural waste products?

For nearly two decades, we have worked to develop sustainable materials and have collaborated with a number of industry leaders and brands to find innovative uses for different waste streams. For example, we teamed up with Heinz in 2014 to explore the use of tomato fiber to create a more sustainable bio-plastic material for wiring brackets and storage bins in vehicles. In 2012, we also partnered with Heinz, Coca-Cola, Nike and Procter & Gamble to form the Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC), a strategic working group focused on accelerating the development and use of 100 percent plant-based PET materials and fiber in our respective products. Other partners include Unifi, where we use Repreve fiber made from recycled plastic bottles in our vehicle seats, allowing us to divert millions of plastic bottles from landfills.

How is Ford planning on further marketing and branding its push toward sustainability?

Sustainable materials research and development is a key element of the company’s broader sustainability strategy, and as a global company, Ford is always exploring new opportunities for sustainability not only in North America, but in other countries as well. For example, in Canada it’s too cold to compost wheat straw, so we started transforming it into bioplastics and is now featured into all Ford Flex sold in Canada.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

It’s Lights, Camera, VR For These TV Shows At San Diego Comic-Con

San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) has traditionally been the place to reveal the latest film trailers, casting announcements and panels to discuss the future of a movie franchise or TV shows. Although the VR experience is far from a new activation for this thriving, yearly collection of nerd-love, this year marks a particularly strong showing by studios and networks alike.

‘Suicide Squad’

It may not be a TV show like the rest on our list, but this SDCC activation for DC is definitely worth a nod. Located at the Hard Rock Hotel, Warner Brothers’ Suicide Squad VR experience transports viewers directly into a scene from the movie that was created during filming. What began as an idea to film behind-the-scenes footage in 360-degree video turned into this interactive marketing activation at the Con. Using a Samsung GearVR headset, users step right into the movie alongside fellow characters like Harley Quinn, Killer Crock, Deadshot and Katana.

suicide squad vr experience

‘Mr. Robot’

On Thursday, USA Network treated US fans of Mr. Robot to a 12-minute VR experience based on the hit show. Like any good hacker, USA’s message promptly disappeared following the event. The interactive experience, written and directed by series creator Sam Esmail took viewers “into an important flashback from [the] main character, Elliot’s past.” This one-time simulcast was available to audiences whether they were physically at the convention or not, and was touted as the largest of its kind. If you missed it, the VR flashback will be permanently uploaded next week, according to The Verge.

‘Teen Wolf’

MTV introduced the first “gaze-activated” VR experience with live action—a type of interactive “choose your own adventure” within the Teen Wolf universe. Sponsored by AT&T, The Teen Wolf VR experience plants users right in the middle of one of two scenes involving the deadly new ghost rider character. Using an Oculus headset, the viewer can explore the scene as it plays out in 360-degree views. Depending on where that person looks, the scene will play out in one of several ways.

“This is a true extension of the show with completely new technology,” said Matt McDonough, senior director of digital strategy and fan engagement at MTV. “We always try to get fans more involved.”

Those who are unable to attend SDCC but want to try the Teen Wolf VR experience can do so at an Oculus store. Non-interactive versions of the 360-degree videos will be available on Facebook and YouTube in the near future.

HiddenTemple_PresentationBook_160120 (dragged) 1.pdf

‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’

Nickelodeon is going back to the ‘90s at this year and for the fourth time, the kids’ network is using VR to market a show. “We learn something new with each execution,” Jaime Dictenberg, senior vice president of Nickelodeon Consumer Marketing, told [a]listdaily. “Keeping the viewer engaged with both the story and the environment is key. We use Easter eggs, interactivity and sight and sound cues to direct the user’s attentiVRon and keep them engaged. Experiments in 360-degree storytelling are shared across Viacom so each network is free to experiment for their own audience, while leveraging best practices in technology, technique and vendors.”

This year, it’s Legends of the Hidden Temple that’s getting a new live action TV movie, along with a 360-degree experience brought to life through Samsung GearVR for those who visit the 1,800 square-foot Nickelodeon booth on the convention floor.


Syfy has created “Welcome to the Quiet Room,” an immersive VR experience around its upcoming TV show Incorporated. Set in the not-too-distant future where oppressive corporations are in control, Syfy’s new fall program is executive produced by both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The VR experience takes place inside the “Incorporated Café,” a takeover of Maryjane’s Diner in the Hard Rock Hotel, and offers 360-degree immersion and spatial audio.

The experience recreates the “quiet room,” the “locale within the world of Incorporated where those that have been disloyal to the Spiga Corporation are taken to be interrogated or ‘retired.’” Viewers are interrogated by Julian (Dennis Haysbert) and will be privy to many secrets about the upcoming Incorporated world.

‘American Horror Story’

After using VR to transport fans into the world of Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain last year, FX is focusing on American Horror Story this time around. The AHS Fearless VR Experience will allow fans of Ryan Murphy’s long-running TV series to become a part of their favorite show and test the boundaries of their own fear. “VR experiences at Comic-Con allow us to attract hardcore fans of not only our shows but fans of various entertainment genres and technology as well,” Kenya Hardaway-Green, vice president of integrated promotions at FX Networks told [a]listdaily. “There is still a great deal of curiosity surrounding VR and we cater to that interest to tell our stories to a broader audience.”

Mobile Game Execs Discuss ‘Pokémon GO’

The power of Pokémon GO continues to amaze, and now we have some numbers coming in to show just what the most popular mobile game in US history is doing. According to a recent report from SurveyMonkey, about 26 million people in the US have played the game on Android and iOS, making it a top 10 app for daily users, beating out Twitter. The phenomenon may have peaked in the US, as a separate SurveyMonkey’s report suggest, with the game’s largest day being July 14 (one week after release), but there hasn’t been much drop-off. “More people use the maps in Pokémon GO (which is powered by Google Maps) than use Google Maps itself,” according to SurveyMonkey.

There are a number of surprises with the Pokémon GO phenomenon. “What’s remarkable about the explosion of activity around Pokémon GO is how quickly it’s happened. Previous blockbuster titles Candy Crush and Draw Something took months to gain momentum, gather tens of millions of users, and hit peak usage. Pokémon GO achieved the same thing in a single week,” SurveyMonkey noted. The firm estimated Pokémon GO to have an average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) of around $0.25, which is twice the average for casual games and higher than Candy Crush Saga.

PG Users

Pokémon GO is now up in over 30 countries, and today’s launch in Japan should help it continue to grow. The game has a promotional deal with McDonald’s of Japan to make all 3,000+ stores in Japan into gyms where players can battle. That’s in addition to Pokémon GO-themed toys being included with Happy Meals. That deal could be quite lucrative, and there’s no doubt that players in other countries will be clamoring for similar deals.

Here’s what industry leaders had to say about Pokémon GO at Casual Connect this week in San Francisco. The question [a]listdaily asked them was, “What lessons should we draw from Pokémon GO?”

Pokémon GO is sort of the pop culture breakthrough,” said Chris DeWolfe, CEO of SGN Games. “You don’t see something hitting pop culture like that very often, on the internet, on social, in gaming… in anything. That one has. [Geoff Keighley] was saying earlier that he was in Battery Park in New York last week and a swarm of kids nearly overran him. I think what we can take away is that Ingress was fairly similar, and the Pokémon IP is one that stretches over multiple generations globally, and everyone knows what the Pokémon IP is.

“I think they created this social element to the game that made it more fun, but they made it more accessible to the average person. The average person wouldn’t play Ingress, even though it was a fun game, but the average person would play Pokémon because it’s Pokémon. They got the mapping part really right. One of the most interesting things was how they began to think about AR [augmented reality] versus everyone else. Everyone else was thinking about ‘how do I make this super-expensive complicated game on a HoloLens platform or a Magic Leap platform.’ And they said, ‘We don’t need to do that, we can do it much more simply.’ They utilized all the amazing psychology of AR on a device that everyone has. I think that was something they did that was really smart.”

What about a celebrity version of Pokémon GO? “You’re not the first person in the last week or two to make the suggestion—capture a Kardashian, ” laughed Glu Mobile CEO Niccolo de Masi, the company famous for Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and numerous other celebrity mobile games. “We’re going to think long and hard on it. Certainly the themes of AR and VR are in development; Glu put our Deer Hunter gamer on Oculus earlier this year, and it’s making some revenue but it hasn’t seen the inflection point of mass-market penetration of the hardware. I do think that AR will be in our thinking. By the way, prior to Pokémon, Ingress wasn’t a commercial success. I think there are themes that we’ll take into our games.”

The chief marketing officer of Unity, Clive Downie, sees the game as an affirmation of the category. “AR and VR are real, and when you do it right, you can see enormous adoption,” Downie said. “Pokémon Go is a true sign that AR and VR can power successful games, and mobile is going to be the platform that drives adoption of AR and VR.”

Tim Merel, CEO of Digi-Capital and VR game startup EyeTouch, saw brand as the most important lesson of Pokémon GO. “Having an awesome brand helps,” Merel said. “And having an awesome brand helps!” Merel also pointed out that keeping the core game loop very simple was a big plus. “Pokémon GO has helped with AR awareness in a huge way,” Merel said.

All in all the industry response gathered at Casual Connect was happiness, because the game has demonstrated three important things for mobile games. One is that it’s still possible for a small company to crack the top 10 of mobile games, when some have worried that the top games list has become very static. Granted, it took the immense power of the Pokémon IP to accomplish that, but there are other blockbuster IPs out there. Second is that this phenomenon happened with enormous speed, both in the viral uptake and in monetization—normally players don’t pay until they are into the game for weeks or even months, yet Pokémon GO are spending right away. Finally, Pokémon GO is seen as a clear endorsement of the power of AR to engage players, and by extension VR. That’s certainly a pleasant thought for all of the companies working on AR and VR titles.

OpTic Gaming Co-Founder Discusses Rise Of ‘Call Of Duty’ ESports

Ryan “OpTicJ” Musselman, co-founder and chief operating officer of OpTic Gaming, is featured in a new paperback book from Harper Collins, OpTic Gaming: The Making of eSports Champions. Musselman, along with co-founder Hector Rodriguez, have been around since the infancy of eSports.

Activision Blizzard has taken control of Call of Duty‘s destiny through the acquisition of Major League Gaming, and console eSports are getting a push from Sony, so things are looking up for OpTic Gaming and other pro teams. With Infinity Ward readying Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and a new Call of Duty XP event planned for this fall, Musselman talks about the past, present and future of eSports in this exclusive interview with [a]listdaily.

When did you see the potential for Call of Duty as a sport?

We had an inkling in 2007 when Hector (Rodriguez) and I competed in OpTic’s first LAN event (and finished in third place) during Call of Duty 4, but the content, streaming and the overall embrace from the developer’s end were still in [their] infancy. Similar to the rise of eSports with other titles, the intensity and engagement of the community from players, event organizers, fans, publishers and developers provided a good indicator that something special was on the rise, even with the absence of large prize pool commitments at the time.

What was the eSports scene like back in the early days?

It was raw, but nonetheless exciting. The scene was certainly more niche and you wouldn’t hear the word “eSports.” Seeing teammates in person on a very irregular basis made for some great memories and a growing passion to see the industry evolve into what it looks like today, especially knowing that we’ve only just begun. It was common to see overcrowded living rooms, LAN centers and small hotel conference rooms as the main stage for competition. You can get a good feel for it in the Smash Bros. documentary that was released on YouTube back in 2013. Experiencing competitive gaming at an early time was such a golden experience that we will appreciate forever.

How did OpTic work with Activision and its developers in fine-tuning Call of Duty for eSports?

A strong line of communication was opened with Treyarch, primarily through David Vonderhaar, their studio design director. We first met David during a Black Ops livestream as he jokingly teased us about OpTic’s infatuation with the sniper rifle. He and his team have been amazing advocates of community feedback, pro feedback and eSports growth overall. That simple line of communication led to additional involvement from other organizations, which further paved the way for more growth, shoutcasting and competitive development.

What impact have you seen the relationship between pro gamers and Call of Duty developers have on the quality of eSports?

Better in-game mechanics as it relates to competitive play, not to mention the overall institution of the Call of Duty World League. Collaboration and communication continue to be key as eSports grows.

What are the challenges of having to learn a new game every season with Call of Duty?

Overall, it’s adjustment to spawn points on new maps, weapon and perk combinations, callouts and playing styles that vary based on the game mode within the map. A lot of it comes down to communication and decision-making, but players are getting very seasoned with this annual change, so solving the challenge may become less burdensome.

What’s it been like looking back at the 10-year history of OpTic Gaming through this book?

Hector and I had a moment of reflection on this the other day, and coupled with the amazing and tremendous progress came a deep sense of appreciation for our Green Wall followers—the dedicated fans who teamed with us to realize our dream and see the organization become what it is today. We’ve seen pictures of OpTic tattoos, fan art and more. A fan once cut the OpTic logo into the grass of his yard. We can’t help but look back and see our roots: friends sitting in their bedrooms while playing video games on the internet.

What do you feel has been the secret to the success OpTic Gaming has had with Call of Duty over the years?

Consistent adaptation during competition and unrelenting motivation to improve, coupled with good relationships from some of the greatest CoD players of our generation.

From a long distance view, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Call of Duty seem similar. What is it about CS:GO that has catapulted that game to such a high trajectory?

It’s important to look at Counter-Strike as a whole versus CS:GO alone because the gameplay is just so timeless and still so addicting. The tactical brilliance and skill required to play at the highest level of competition makes for great entertainment.

What impact do you feel Activision’s acquisition of MLG will have on eSports moving forward?

We anticipate a continued positive impact. MLG is very experienced at running leagues and tournaments and both organizations have always been supportive of OpTic. We’re excited to be in the same pool of industry professionals who are passionately and strategically invested in the growth of the Call of Duty eSports scene.

What are your thoughts on taking Call of Duty to outer space with Infinite Warfare?

Name the playing field and we will be there.

We’re seeing more prize money in eSports across the board and new ownership opportunities for teams and players. Do you wish you were younger and able to compete in this environment?

My competitive nature will always say yes, however I’m very happy to be in my role, including my previous roles that have given me an opportunity to contribute large and small to the environment.

A lot of pros stay within the industry. Why did you decide to leave?

Pro is a strong word for my skill level. I always knew I would be more involved on the business end, compared to my teammates who compete at the highest level of competition. Simply put, the most skilled players with the best chemistry should take the reins in competitive play. My transition was ultimately driven by new opportunities in the gaming space, on top of a desire to see players and organizations work hand-in-hand to cultivate an astounding eSports industry.

How did your eSports experience, and those of many of your teammates, pave the way to corporate gaming jobs?

You learn the business in its rawest form while simultaneously building critical relationships that bring new opportunities to the table. My affiliation with OpTic is largely responsible for my career in gaming and content (alumni of Machinima and the Google/YouTube gaming team). It’s been a pleasure to meet and work with other passionate and experienced professionals from various industries who all have something unique to bring to the eSports industry.

NPD: June 2016 Video Game Sales Show Slight Dip

The NPD Group has reported the video game sales numbers for the month of June 2016, and even though some of the statistics have seen a slight drop from the previous year, they continue to be quite steady, especially with the addition of digital game sales in the report.

Liam Callahan of NPD reported, “Video game software dollar sales increased by three percent in 2015 when including digital full-game sales from participating publishers, while physical-only sales decreased two percent.” However, video game sales, including those sold digitally, only decreased by one percent, which isn’t too bad a drop.

“When including digital full-game sales, games like Grand Theft Auto V, Star Wars: Battlefront and Battlefield: Hardline increased in ranking within the top 10 games compared to a physical-only list for 2015,” noted Callahan. “Call of Duty: Black Ops III remained the top game for 2015.”

Meanwhile, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Overwatch and Grand Theft Auto V continue to be the three hottest digital titles for the year.

Callahan quickly noted that with the same period last year, video game sales were lifted with the release of the highly anticipated Batman: Arkham Knight. That game sold over five times the amount of unit and dollar sales generated by the June 2016 titles.

One of the few major releases for consoles in June came with the publisher’s release of Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which notched into a third place position for the month behind Overwatch and Grand Theft Auto V. Doom and Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, another June release, rounded out the top five.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Overwatch continued to be strong hold-overs from the month of May, however the report restates how the success of Arkham Knight made for an overall better month.

On the hardware side, Callahan noted, “After 32 months since the launches of the PS4 and Xbox One, the combined cumulative hardware sales for these two consoles exceed the sales of their predecessors by 40 percent at the same point in their life-cycles.”

The NPD’s top 10 best selling games for June 2016 are:

  1. Overwatch
  2. Grand Theft Auto V
  3. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  4. Doom 2016**
  5. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst
  6. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End**
  7. NBA 2K16
  8. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  9. Destiny: The Taken King
  10. Minecraft**

Asterisks indicate that digital sales were not accounted for.

YouTube Gaming Discusses 360 Video And ESports

“You know, a lot of people talk about competition in eSports. But, first and foremost, you’ve got to build a community around your game that people love and then eSports becomes a part of it,” said Ryan Wyatt, director of content and partnerships at YouTube Gaming to [a]listdaily.

Events are a big focus for YouTube this year particularly with the platform’s 360 video, as they look to bring the event experience to folks sitting at home. Wyatt went on to discuss how YouTube’s 360 platform has already been utilized for events like Coachella, and how it may be used in eSports as well.

“Can you imagine being at the League of Legends World Championship and having a 360 junk cam in the middle of the audience and feel like you’re right there watching?”


New Social Platform, Candid, Gives Companies Honest Conversations

As a former head of product for Google social apps, who helped bring social aspects to apps such as Google Docs, Blogger and more, Bindu Reddy has had a long history with social media. She later went on to put that experience to work as the CEO and founder of MyLikes—a content and advertising platform for social publishing with over 1.5 million publishers across Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Tumblr and Pinterest. Now she’s out to repeat her success by launching a brand new anonymous social media platform today called Candid for iOS and Android, which gives users a chance to speak their minds without fear of social backlash.

Bindu Headshot 3
Bindu Reddy, CEO of Candid

Reddy explains to [a]listdaily that, “I’ve been around social media for a really long time, back when it started with blogging through things like LiveJournal,” and that she’s “passionate about social media and sharing minds freely,” which led to the creation of Candid.

“Over the last couple of years, I’ve had this sort of social anxiety and fear of backlash, so I’ve had to censor a lot of my posts on Facebook and Twitter,” said Reddy. “I think everybody really needs to think twice right when they post anything . . . You have to censor what you’re saying, or you’ll get comments and responses from your friends, co-workers and even potential employers. Expressing your mind freely can have very negative consequences.”

Users can have the Candid app pull information such as education, employment history and friends from their Facebook accounts, which is then used to recommend topical channels to join. They are then assigned a random identity with every post so that they can comment on issues without worry. At the same time, identities may be marked as “friends,” so that users know which posts are written by people they know from their other social networks. Posts can also be shared across other social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

As Reddy describes it, “Candid is your personalized newsfeed of things that you care about and people that you care about in an anonymous context, so that there’s more authenticity. Candid is the place to get authentic information—the news behind the news, the story behind the story.” She further explains that “connecting with Facebook will pull employers and education and recommend communities based on that. If you work for Yahoo, for example, it will recommend the Yahoo community to you. Now you can talk about Yahoo in an anonymous context with other people who work at Yahoo, and that is the key. Candid is the only place for you to express what you feel to relevant people.”

In discussing the limitations of current social platforms, Reddy states, “You can go on Reddit to talk about it [your topic], but you won’t necessarily be talking to people who care about it. Candid is kind of like a common man’s Reddit, which gives you the right communities and personalizes your news feed and information. Compared to other anonymous apps, these channels are moderated to ensure each post belongs to the community it’s posted in.”

Candid uses artificial intelligence (AI) to moderate channels by ensuring that each post is relevant to the topic, which separates it from the manual process Reddit and Facebook employ and guarantees an unbiased process. The program also analyzes sentiment, to determine whether a post is positive, negative or neutral. “Posts that are particularly libelous or call people names will be pulled down,” explains Reddy. Users are given different badges according to their posts. For example, an often negative user will be given a “Hater” badge. It’s a way to help users become more self-aware and encourage them to become less negative, people who continue to be haters are kicked from the platform to make to “prevent the platform from devolving into a cesspool of gossip, hatred and slander.”

Lastly, the AI has a rumor detector that will cross-reference posts with sources such as Twitter and Wikipedia, marking them as either facts or rumors while eliminating outright falsehoods. Given enough time and data, Candid could potentially become a platform for the most honest and truthful opinions and conversations.

So how can brands make use of a platform that specializes in anonymity? “It’s really good for brands to do beta testing,” said Reddy. You can use it for “releasing new products and trailers to see authentic reactions. Targeting specific people who they think are potential customers. A movie about politics can be promoted on a politics channel or an actor’s group. Disney could target interested fans directly and brands can start conversations about particular movies. There’s already a thriving Pokémon GO group, and brands can target those players with services, features and announcements.”

Furthermore, Reddy notes that “you can get information and honest feedback about your brand, and you can promote your brand to people who have interests that align with it.”

The platform still has plenty of room to grow, with a desktop platform expected to launch in the future for long-form posts. Reddy also has plans to expand the platform so that it can link up with information from platforms besides Facebook. Some of the more ambitious features on the horizon include livestreaming, video support and messaging, all of which could make it an ideal platform for discovery and conversation.

Reddy believes that “there are a lot of things that people want to say that they can’t today.” Candid could become the platform to remedy that, and companies looking for honest opinions could benefit.