How Google Is Taking Virtual Reality To The Next Level

Google has made a strong impact on the virtual reality market with its affordable Google Cardboard viewer, which sells for $15. In some cases, you can get them for free. However, with the launch of Daydream in the fall and the Tango augmented reality device, the company is ready to take bigger strides with virtual and augmented technology.

The company detailed on its blog how VR technology will be utilized greatly not only for creators and storytellers, but also advertisers. Google noted that global search interest for virtual reality has increased nearly four times within the last year, gaining larger interest in the general market. Of course, a majority of that is consumers looking to get more out of the technology, whether it’s with games, apps or other immersive programs.

“The promise of VR is what the industry calls ‘presence’—the feeling that you’re really somewhere else,” wrote Aaron Luber, head of partnerships for VR at Google and author of the blog post. This “presence” can help immerse users into a new technology, whether they utilize the cheaper Cardboard model, or wait to see what the company has to offer when Daydream launches this fall.

“At Google, Cardboard was our first step toward this future. Soon, our VR platform Daydream will enable even more powerful, mobile, high-quality experiences with a headset that’s comfortable at an accessible price.” Luber also mentioned the company’s promise to create more powerful apps with this tech in mind, including Google Play, Maps and YouTube.

Google is heavily promoting the use of 360-degree video on YouTube, which is utilized not only for viewing on desktops and laptops, but also with virtual reality headsets. Immersive experiences like the School of Rock video have helped push a diverse way to view content through a number of devices.

Of course, nothing promotes VR and AR quite like games, so Google has announced its first Indie Games Festival, which will take place on September 24 in San Francisco. With it, the company hopes to attract hundreds of submissions from Android developers that hope to reaching consumers through Google’s devoted channels, including Amazing Indie Games and New Indie Highlights. In addition to traditional mobile games, developers may be excited to show off what they can do with technologies such as the Tango device and Daydream.

Google has already reached out to these talents before on its devoted Developers page, but the Festival will provide them the ability to showcase new games at a public event, which could mean good news not only for promoting the new Android N platform, but also generating bigger buzz in both Tango hardware and Daydream.

Luber concluded the blog entry by addressing common concerns about virtual reality, such as what kind of experience it will provide. It will bee able to “transport people to a place, immerse them in a world and compel them to explore.” As to providing a better feel for the consumers, VR will allow them to see “items in real size and form when shopping online.” Lastly, when providing something beyond a “that’s cool” sort of moments, Luber suggests a “compelling hook” to keep users engaged.


Is Emoji-Based Marketing Really Effective?

Those little faces and icons—emoji, as they call ’em—are everywhere. From text messaging to emails to Kim Kardashian’s cleavage through Kimoji, and now, marketing. Brands are turning to the age-old tradition of communication through symbols to reach their customers on an emotional level.

Recently, Pepsi created an entire campaign around the idea, and L’Oreal created their own keyboard for beauty enthusiasts. Volvo used a combination of emoji and photos to tease its latest model on Snapchat, using a casual tone to build hype around the brand. Disney Interactive, meanwhile, has integrated the expressive power of character-themed emoji into a new game.

While marketers may not hesitate to insert a smiley face into their inter-office chat or text message to mom, the idea of using an emoji to communicate with customers may seem inappropriate. To find out how consumers respond to those little faces, research firm Appboy surveyed over 500 individuals about their perception.

In general, people respond well to emoji-based marketing. The poll found that overall, 52 percent find their use to be fun or relatable. However, it’s important to note the remaining 47 percent of those surveyed range from a resounding “meh” to downright disgusted. As always, the use of a popular marketing tactic comes down to knowing the target audience. For example, those surveyed over 45 years of age were the most opposed to emoji messaging in ads, while those between the ages of 25 and 44 find them to be the most fun.


Appboy’s study found that active marketing campaigns containing emoji have increased by 557 percent year-over-year. While brands are jumping onto the smiley-face hype as if it were a Botox clinic in Beverly Hills, the question, as always, will be return on investment.

Conversion rates associated with emoji messaging campaigns have also increased 135 percent during that time, according to the report, “though other factors beyond the use of emojis could potentially be impacting the number of conversions produced by individual campaigns.” While early attempts at the marketing tactic were more of a shotgun effect, brands are paying more attention to who these messages are being sent to. “[The conversion rate] suggests that brands are increasingly taking advantage of segmentation and message targeting to deliver messages with emojis to customers who are likely to be interested in receiving them,” Todd Grennan, senior content producer at Appboy, notes in the study.

So, why do customers respond to emoji? They’re casual, universally understood and easy to use in everyday conversation. On a scientific level, the human brain has adapted to recognize type-based emoticons much in the same way as a real-life facial expression.

According to a recent study published in the journal Social Neuroscience, looking at faces crafted from colons and parentheses can trigger the same facial recognition response in the brain that takes place when we read the subtle expressions of another human.

Could picture emoji be the next step in facial recognition? “There is no innate neural response to emoticons that babies are born with. Before 1982 there would be no reason that ‘:-)’ would activate face sensitive areas of the cortex but now it does because we’ve learnt that this represents a face,” researcher Owen Churches told Australia’s ABC. “This is an entirely culturally-created neural response. It’s really quite amazing.”

Jack In The Box Cooks Up Special Marketing Sauce Via Virtual Reality

Known for its comedic and often strange TV commercials, Jack in the Box has begun testing the waters for virtual reality marketing. To create hype around its new Brewhouse Bacon Burger, the restaurant released two video teasers in which mascot, Jack “goes undercover” with glasses and a mustache. The same day, a “VR Experience” was released, which doubles as a 360-degree video with no headset required.

Sitting at a bar, viewers can look around and explore the environment without leaving their barstool. A man demands a drink, while some girls begin to flirt. Eventually, the bartender brings a dark ale, which can only be stared at. Jack comes out of the back room, gingerly holding the Brewhouse Bacon Burger, which he presents without a word. The mustachioed, bespectacled Jack gives the signal to keep it a secret, then quietly takes his leave. The scene fades out, leaving the food in spotlight.

jack burger

The VR experience was created not so much for the public, but for members of the media, according to Richard Cran, ‎vice president of marketing and communications for Jack in the Box. The video’s purpose is to get media as close as possible to Jack and the new menu item.

“The press got the thread presented in a way that was very personal and one-on-one,” Cran told The Wall Street Journal, “And VR enabled that. Our consumers broadly will get that through television and streaming video and digital television.”

Although the extent of virtual reality or 360-degree video marketing for the brand has yet to be unveiled, Cran reportedly hinted at plans to cash in on the Pokémon GO gaming craze. Fast food chains like McDonald’s have been testing virtual and augmented reality as well, offering Swedish consumers VR headsets made out of Happy Meal boxes and AR codes to promote the Angry Birds movie.

More brands are looking into virtual reality marketing, and for good reason. According to estimates from research firm Forrester, approximately 52 million units of virtual reality will be in enterprise and consumer use in the US by 2020.

Now, if only each unit would be complemented with a brew and a burger.

Roundtable: Experts Explain Marketing Kids Games For Mobile

Educational software—kids games—was once a billion-dollar market on the PC back in the 1990s before it collapsed, wounded by a variety of factors. Now, mobile devices have charged up the learning market. SuperData estimates that kids games pulled in $1.9 billion in 2015, with about 7.8 percent of the total worldwide mobile game market. Growth is expected to continue, with the total market exceeding $2 billion this year.

Not surprisingly, premium games rule in the kids market, with the obvious reason being that parents are reluctant to have their kids making in-app purchases without supervision. SuperData’s figures show that premium titles bring in more than twice as much as free-to-play titles that monetize with in-app purchases. While premium games tend to be more popular for parents, the revenue stream can be limited, and it’s difficult to fund ongoing development and support unless you can find a way to sell more content to your audience.

Free-to-play mobile kids games are more popular among older kids, with 75 percent of the revenue coming from kids aged 10-13. Subscriptions have potential, but so far they are only pulling in about $37 million per year, a small share of the total market.

Recently, [a]listdaily spoke with several experts in the kids game market to get a sense of where things are headed. Jen Helms, co-founder of Playmation Studios, and David Kleeman, senior VP of global trends for Dubit, talked about marketing kids games. They are joined by Terry Schussler, Corona Ambassador for Big Bad Wolf Enterprises, which focuses on bringing traditional comic book industry products into digital.

What are some of the things that guide you when creating successful kids games?

Kleeman: Kids go straight to YouTube to learn things. Education and entertainment can’t be separated. Marshall McLuhan said anyone who says they can doesn’t know the first thing about either one. So when you make a kids game, you are competing with every other game on the market, not just the educational games.

Helms: We believe in creating games where the subject is immersed in what you want them to learn about or to explore. We believe that in doing that you can create something that is engaging and entertaining. You can have an experience that has learning elements without feeling like you’re being hit over the head with learning. A big problem in the industry is that a lot of games have been created where the learning element and the game element are out of sync. You have gameplay that is really disconnected from what you’re trying to teach. The better we get at creating a seamless learning experience, the less you’ll feel like you’re playing a game.

What issues arise when designing software for different ages?

Kleeman: The American Academy of Pediatrics states that no software should be used by children under two, but most parents don’t follow that at all. You can really understand how their brains are developing by what they are able to do. You do want to respect their play patterns.

With games for children, you often have to market to the parents as well. What are the dos and don’ts of marketing educational games?

Helms: That is where having the educational element is really important. We found parents are happier to purchase such a game for their kids, and happier with their child playing such a game if they can see there is an educational component. Of course, a child isn’t going to want to play a game if it’s too explicitly educational.

Another thing we’ve found valuable from a marketing perspective is to try to get that validation from various organizations—to say that this is a game that has some value. By doing that we see a lot of success.

Schussler: I would argue that if you go back to when we were selling shrink-wrapped software, the parent was the purchaser. But really you have two separate audiences. You have the consumer, the user who is the child, who really is making the purchasing decision. You should be talking to that target user just as much as you are talking to the parent. At the end of the day, you’ve got to speak to the child and make sure you’re messaging to that child what your product is about. You have to remember that these are young children that won’t understand long words. Some app developers forget that, and they’re always talking to the parents all the time, and I think that’s a mistake.

Kleeman: Of course, the elephant in the room is how you can not only make this a sustainable business, but also make it fair to kids. Nothing makes parents more angry than finding out their kid was making in-app purchases that they didn’t expect. Although I’ll qualify that; if a parent feels it’s a lasting purchase—like buying more books in an e-book library—if it’s buying new levels in a game that they like for their kid, then they are more willing to accept it. But right now the industry’s struggling to find a sustainable way to get discovered and have a sustainable business.

How is app discovery the same or different for kids games? What can marketers do to find an audience for their games that are aimed at kids?

Kleeman: One thing I’d say for children is we know that innovators and early adopters among kids share their favorite games nearly twice as often as the majority would. So anything you can do to help the early adopters of a game tell their friends, give them the resources to do what they want to do and tell people, “hey I just discovered this game and it’s really cool” is going to help you out enormously. The other thing I would mention is YouTube. We have seen in our quarterly trends survey in the past year the number of kids who say they find new content via YouTube has doubled.

Helms: One thing that helps is if you’re designing something really new, that can really help with discoverability. That can really help with generating press.

Schussler: Differentiation is key. Building another “Crappy Bird” isn’t going to make you a million dollars. You need to think really fundamentally what makes what you’re doing different and unique, and then really talk to that, more than anything else. You can have beautiful eye candy, wonderful musical scores, and all these other things, but if you don’t have that freshness—that uniqueness—it’s going to be really hard for you to make yourself rise above all the other players in that field. You really have to think carefully about that differentiating factor and push it.

Skillz CEO Explains Why ‘Doodle Jump’ Could Be The Next Big ESport

Developer Lima Sky has done an excellent job of building a global audience for its Android and iOS single-player game, Doodle Jump. The game has been downloaded over 200 million times since it launched in 2009, it currently has 10 million monthly players, and it has its own merchandise line. Now Lima Sky has partnered with Skillz to develop a multiplayer version of the game, which will launch this fall in tandem with a competitive mobile eSports league.

To give a sense of the game’s size, Skillz has 7 million players engaged in games from 1,600 studio partners. In 2015, the company reportedly awarded $16 million in earnings to its players. The company has raised over $28 million to date.

Andrew Paradise, CEO of Skillz, explains why this is the game his company has been waiting for to make a legitimate push into eSports in this exclusive interview with [a]listdaily.

Why is Doodle Jump important for your company?

When you look at the size of Doodle Jump, it was the biggest game of the year in 2009. And even today, it has over 10 million active users, which puts it in the same category as CS:GO. It has that critical mass. For example, Dota 2 has 550,000 reviews on Steam, while Doodle Jump has 950,000 reviews on Google Play alone.

Doodle Jump has also been featured prominently in pop culture, appearing in episodes of award-winning television shows like The Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

What does the single-player nature of the current game open up for multiplayer?

People are already competitive with the line in the game to challenge and beat their friends. People are competing asynchronously. Having a direct competition and multiplayer system will only further enhance that system.

What will the multiplayer experience be?

We’re working on conceptualizing the exact multiplayer format. But if you think about games like a Mario Kart, where we might be inspired by that type of racing format with power-ups, the game could be a race to scale the platforms with players competing against each other. And we may have levels instead of an endless format in the single-player game.

What does this game mean for mobile eSports?

When Riot Games announced Season One of League of Legends in 2010, it was a seminal moment for eSports. It was the moment when a hugely popular game crossed over into being a sport. That’s what we believe we can create here.

How is Skillz working with Lima Sky?

Lima Sky is working with Skillz to build the multiplayer component of the game, which we’ll launch this fall.

We do all of the live opportunities for tournaments. Part of the value proposition of working with us is that we organize, officiate and broadcast the tournaments on Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Live. Tournaments are either paid through entry fees, are brand sponsored or [using] freedancer (virtual-currency-only prizing).

How many players does Skillz currently support with multiplayer mobile games?

We’re powering multiplayer from two players to the largest tournament we’ve held so far: 7,500 people. Normally our system runs with two to ten player multiplayer.

What does Doodle Jump open up for the future of Skillz and mobile eSports?

It’s important because it already has a mass market following. You know instantly when you add in elements of competitive leagues and spectatorship, there’s already an engaged fan base. These are all very important elements to build an eSport.

What does this audience open up for physical eSports events?

We’ve done about 70 events so far in 180 countries. We’re backed by owners of the New England Patriots, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Mets that are all stadium owners, so we intend to work with our investors in terms of physical events. We’ve been waiting to have a mass market IP.

We haven’t used stadiums before because the smallest is a 20,000-seat NBA stadium and we haven’t had an IP that we thought would have the mass appeal to fill that volume. This is a seminal moment for our company.

Do you envision a league or seasons structure as we’ve seen with Hearthstone and Vainglory?

A league with structure is definitely something you’ll see for this game. It’s our first big mega game. It’s a top 100 game of all time.

The benefit of Lima Sky working with us is that they don’t have to refocus their entire business on multiplayer and eSports like Super Evil Megacorp and Riot Games have done. They can still continue to build games because we’re building out an entire eSports infrastructure.

Is this part of a push for bigger game partnerships for Skillz?

We expect to add other big IPs. We’re in talks with a lot of other top 100 games. Developers are interested in working with us because it’s a giant rat hole to build your own eSports infrastructure—which is an entire business by itself—and we can take care of that.

How are Hearthstone and Vainglory helping Skillz in mobile eSports?

I would argue that Clash Royale is the most successful of the mobile games involved in eSports. Supercell’s most recent feature was a high-end tournament where you pay money to run tournaments starting at $1,800. That’s way more expensive than anything Skillz does, which ranges from 50 cents to $20.

Clash Royale is top 10 grossing game. Many say it has over 10 million daily active users. That makes it a bigger eSport than any computer or console game.

How much can players win in Skillz tournaments?

Anywhere from $1 up to over $10,000 in single tournament. We’re more about people paying small amounts of money to compete against lots of people. Our average players are spending small amounts of money, but we have lots of people playing.

We founded our company on the premise of making mobile games meaningful. The best way to get excited about getting three gold stars in Angry Birds is by beating someone else.

How is the explosive success of Pokémon GO impacting mobile eSports?

Although the game isn’t an eSport, the primary mechanic of Pokémon GO is player-versus-player (PVP). You go to a gym and compete against other players with your Pokémon. Mobile gaming is becoming about PVP today, just like you saw with computer and console gaming. It started with the arcade single-player experience and moved to PVP. All eSports are PVP. We’re seeing the same thing happen in real-time in mobile.

Pizza Hut Delivers Tech-Savvy Ordering Through Twitter And Facebook With Chatbots

Next time you go on social media to openly discuss the fact that you’re desperately in need of a deep dish, just slide up in Pizza Hut’s direct messages instead because they’ve introduced a chatbot that will take your order on Facebook Messenger and Twitter.

The free service will offer menus, deals and promotions for pies that are specific to each store. Conversational ordering, sharing current deals and simplifying the customer experience is the key to the social ordering platform. The integrated pizza palooza will commence in August, the company announced.

Pizza Hut is just the latest high-profile company that is jumping on the big bot bandwagon. It’s a social strategy forward-thinking brands like American Express—among a slew of others—are quickly implementing ever since Facebook’s chat bot initiative that was announced during April’s F8 developer conference.

Baron Concors, the chief digital officer for Pizza Hut who’s responsible for driving digital innovation across marketing, technology and partnerships, joined [a]listdaily to talk about how he plans on engaging the brand’s strong social following, and to further extend its focus on personalized customer service.


How did Pizza Hut identify that chat bots would be their next marketing frontier? What was that “a-ha” moment? 

We study customer behavior and monitor trends. In Mary Meeker’s latest report, she identified there has been (and will continue to be) significant growth with messaging. It is clear people are turning to messaging as their primary means of communications.

What kind of conversations do you envision having with customers?

We want to make it easy for customers to order or get whatever information they are looking for—this could be customer service, nutritional information or deals and offers.

Why is conversational ordering the next new thing? How will you leverage this to further brand retention?

There is a clear migration to messaging as the primary way to communicate so we decided to meet customers where they are to make it really simple. Our goal is for our customers to try the experience and say ‘Wow—that was easy!”

How did you identify Conversable’s enterprise platform as the right fit for the launch?

We evaluated several companies and Conversable stood out due to the efficiencies. We can build the messaging engine and easily add the messaging channels. We’re starting with Facebook and Twitter but we envision adding even more. The Conversable platform makes that easy.

How was the activation received when it was launched on Wednesday at Venturebeat MobileBeat Conference?

We had an overwhelmingly positive response at Venturebeat. I had numerous people come up and tell me ‘they can’t wait to try the new experience.’


How will you measure success of this integration to further build out capability?

We will always lean on the voice of the customer as our primary measure. If our customers love it, we know it is a success. If they tell us they want more capabilities, we will add them.

What is Pizza Hut’s digital strategy on the platform going to be moving forward?

We are executing a holistic strategy of simplification and personalization across all of our digital channels. If we think it will make a customer’s life easier, we will add it to the platform.

Do you plan on experimenting on other channels to enhance the digital experience?

Yes. We are experimenting with all channels that are adaptable to conversational commerce.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan


How ‘Superhot’ Meets The Challenges Of VR

Superhot provides the ultimate action movie challenge. Assailants come after player with a variety of weapons, but the action only progresses only move as the player moves. Time is otherwise frozen, giving players the chance to figure out a path to dodge all the bullets, reach their enemies, and take them out. It’s a challenging mix of strategy and action that made for the perfect demo when Oculus was showing the DK2 version of the Rift headset at conventions.

The regular, non-VR, version of the game released last February for PC and on Xbox One in May. While it enjoyed a great deal of critical acclaim, fans were left wondering when the virtual reality release would be coming. As it turns out, the developers—Superhot Team—had bigger plans in store. Instead of turning the existing game into VR, it decided to rebuild the game from scratch so that it would properly fit with the technology. Created in partnership with Oculus VR, Superhot VR was announced with an all-new trailer that revealed how it would support the upcoming Oculus Touch controllers for deeper immersion. However, the response wasn’t quite what the independent developer expected.

Tom Kaczmarczyk, co-founder of Superhot Team talks to [a]listdaily about working with Oculus to transition Superhot to VR, the challenges of working with a new platform, and some of the unpredictability involved.

Superhot VR is said to be completely re-imagined and redesigned experience. Can you go into detail about how the experience compares to the non-VR version?

It’s an intensely physical experience. More so than with most VR games, I would say. That feeling of intensity—of being in the center of the action that we focused on so much in regular Superhot—is now amped up to eleven in VR. You felt a bit like you were choreographing a badass action sequence every time you completed a level in Superhot. Well, now you physically need to go through the entire choreography yourself.

You feel 100 percent engaged, [and] it often gets tough as nails if you push yourself, but once you dodge that final bullet and smash the head off of that last remaining enemy with your own bare hands, you feel just exhilarated.

From a design perspective, we’ve got a lot of new locations and scenarios and there are even a few gameplay mechanics that emerge in VR that we wouldn’t have in a regular PC/console incarnation of Superhot. The entire story mode is now delivered differently. It erodes the borders between the realities in and outside of the headset and plays with your feeling of immersion in a rather dark, disturbing manner.

Why redesign Superhot for VR instead of porting the current game?

We started exploring VR way back in 2013. Oculus reached out to us even before our Kickstarter campaign, and we did a bunch of experiments around adding VR to our old browser-playable prototype. We were pretty much at the wild, uncharted forefront of VR development at that time.

After the first batch of prototyping and research, it very quickly turned out that a naive, one-to-one VR adaptation of Superhot simply would not cut it.

You often imagine that shooters in VR are going to be among the coolest experiences ever. You expect that games will just drop players into Quake-like mayhem, give them virtual rocket launchers and have everyone instantly run and jump around like it’s 1996 but in VR. As it turns out, that’s about as far from the actual experience as you can get. The range of motions available to players in VR is vastly different from regular games. You put a player in VR and suddenly he’ll be able to crawl, sidestep, look around corners and shoot from behind cover, but he won’t be able to walk freely without feeling ill.

It’s a much, much greater difference in a FPS than in any other genre. Board games, platformers and TPP (third-person perspective) games can be VR-ified fairly one-to-one. VR FPS (first-person shooter) games need to be designed with VR in mind from day one, or they just feel wrong.

So back in 2014, we found one part of the Superhot experience that worked really well in VR and shipped it as a 5 minute tradeshow demo for E3 for Oculus DK2. It was loads of fun; people loved it, and the extra publicity gave a huge boost to our Kickstarter campaign. It also opened our eyes to how much more research we needed to do before we could create a truly satisfying Superhot experience for VR that spans beyond that 5-minute demo.


What are the challenges in promoting Superhot VR compared to the non-VR version?

Ooh, that’s a funny one. Turns out we showed up with our VR announcement right in the middle of a very emotional discussion around VR platform exclusivity. Sort of like the darkest time in that Community episode with Troy bringing pizza just to find everything inexplicably on fire.

We started teasing and released a short gameplay trailer for Superhot VR at the beginning of June. We expected cheers and excitement that Superhot VR is a tangible title and that it’s being treated with the care and budget it needs to flourish. What we didn’t know is that apart from reaching our usual terrific bunch of players and followers, the timed-exclusivity also inadvertently triggered a negative reaction from a super-vocal group of PC Master Race gamers.

Before we had a chance to react and properly explain why we needed a timed-exclusivity agreement with Oculus, pretty much all of our social channels got set on fire.

It took a while for the discussion to die down. We went super transparent and put a lot of spotlight on the developer’s side of the story; we talked a lot with some of the more vocal anti-exclusivity activists, but it’ll still take a truckload more time for all the damage to heal after that short period of aggressive brigading.

Generally speaking—blissfully running a controversial announcement head-on against an emotionally loaded bunch of highly engaged gamers: 3/10. Would not recommend.


In the long run though, we’re hoping to get people as excited as we are about the VR incarnation of Superhot. It’s such a tremendous amount of poetically abstract, exhilarating violence and pure physical fun that it’d be a pity if there were VR players who overlooked the experience. We’re still figuring out how to best convey that immersive gameplay experience in regular trailers and videos, and that’s a rather tough cookie to crack. How do you talk and convey the emotions and the intensity you feel while playing Superhot in VR to a player who hasn’t played anything in VR yet? We’re still scratching heads and looking for good answers.

How has Oculus helped in developing and promoting the game?

On the most basic level, Oculus provided the funds and resources that we needed to be able to afford to make Superhot VR from scratch instead of lowering the bar and just gluing VR support onto regular Superhot. The actual involvement goes a lot deeper, though.

Our relationship with Oculus started a lifetime ago, back in 2013. Oculus reached out to us even before our Kickstarter campaign, and we became good friends throughout the years of developing “regular reality” Superhot. We bounced a lot of different concepts and spent a scary amount of time figuring out how to do proper VR FPS design. Once we got close to releasing Superhot on PC, we took a short breather, considered our options and decided on a hardline—forget porting and just redesign Superhot for VR from scratch.

Since we understood how much effort, expertise and money we’d need to throw to make this a truly excellent title, we poked Oculus, figured out a way to make the arrangement work together and have been using their swaths of VR experience ever since.

Will Oculus Touch controllers be required for Superhot VR?

At first, yes. It’ll work with other hand tracking controllers a short while after release, though. We’re thinking about VR gamepad support as well, but that’s definitely not coming until later.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges for mass adoption of VR technology right now?

From a developer’s perspective, I see a very strong chicken and egg problem here. It’s near-impossible to produce high-quality titles for VR when there’s only around 100,000 people with headsets out in the wild. The market is tiny, compared to consoles or PC. Using only expected sales revenue to finance development, budgets simply don’t add up if you’re hoping to create anything larger than a short experimental experience or a proof of concept. You simply can’t make a responsible decision as a studio head to commit your company to a large VR production without external financing.

At the same time, the lack of high-quality VR games does not really inspire mainstream players to buy into VR just yet. Most gamers aren’t particularly excited about technology just for technology’s sake. They’re excited about what they can do with it and what games can they play. Right now, it’s tough for most mainstream players to feel excited about any of the currently available VR games enough to rationalize spending $700 on a VR kit.


On the one hand, we have the economies of game development prohibiting studios from making high-budget games for our fledgling VR market. On the other hand, we have the lack of high-budget games prohibiting gamers from flocking to VR and expanding the market. This vicious circle is super limiting to the rate at which VR is adopted organically.

Knowing that, we’re seeing a very strong commitment from platform owners to leapfrog a decade of organic growth by throwing money at the problem and bankrolling high-budget, high-marketing VR titles right now. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and I’m fairly certain that’s the best shot we’ve got at getting VR mainstream by 2020. At the same time, that means that most if not all of high-budget games available for VR for the next couple of years will be handpicked and groomed by just a few tiny groups of people working for platform owners.

Since it’s just a handful of hardworking, well-meaning people stuck doing gatekeeping for an entire ecosystem, we’re running a risk of excellent and innovative game ideas never getting realized simply because they’ll never manage to get properly pitched to those guys. Be it because the developer is in the wrong geography, the genre isn’t really a favorite for the reviewer or because maybe the reviewer just had a bad day. The situation will improve as the market matures and publishers and investors join the fray, giving devs lots more options to pitch their concepts. But for the time being, it’ll be tough for some devs to find enough resources to realize their creative visions.

Fingers crossed we’ll no longer have that problem in a year or two.

Groovin’: Video Game Soundtracks Return To Vinyl

They’re flat and round and full of video game sound—the last decade has seen a revival of soundtracks being released on vinyl, opening the market to collectors everywhere. Although the practice is far from new, with albums dating back to the 1970s, there has been a significant rise in popularity for the platform in the last decade.

The most recent franchise taking its music to the turn table is Rocket League, an eSports phenomenon that attracts both casual and hardcore fans. The game’s developer, Psyonix has just announced the Rocket League: Vinyl Collection, a 3xLP, 180-gram album housing both Volumes 1 and 2 of the Rocket League Official Soundtrack. In June, Hello Games unveiled a worldwide music tour by band, 65daysofstatic for the No Man’s Sky soundtrack, also released on vinyl.

More and more, developers are using video game soundtracks to promote their brands with behind the scenes looks and celebrating a game’s legacy through live concerts. These days, developers and publishers announce the release of a soundtrack with as much fan fare as the game, itself. That usually includes digital and physical CDs, however, although more and more and turning to the classic, grooved medium.

So, why vinyl? It’s not just for hipsters anymore. Assuming the LP was produced from an analog master and not digital, gaming audiophiles prefer the true, warm sound of a record over a CD. It also comes down to rarity. In recent years, several publishers have offered special limited vinyl collector’s editions of game soundtracks like The Last of UsMinecraftBioshock 2 and Hotline Miami, limited to anywhere between 500 to 5000 copies. The Machinarium vinyl soundtrack, for example, included five pressings, the first pressing limited to 555 printings and all first pressings signed and numbered.

Vinyl, itself, is also considered more rare, and is therefore more collectible by fans. As the music industry transitions to a digital age, any physical copy will start to become more collectible in nature. According to an April report by International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 2015 digital music revenue surpassed those from all physical music formats for the first time. This is largely attributed to the growing popularity of streaming music services like Pandora and Apple Music. What this means for consumers is the growing desire to own something they can hold and show their friends.

Releasing a physical, vinyl soundtrack may not appeal to all fans of a franchise, but it will certainly appeal to the most loyal. So long as the practice does not become so popular as to saturate the marketplace, limited edition vinyl soundtracks are an effective way to ensure a physical legacy for a brand.

How Celebrities Are Expanding Their Brands With Mobile Games

Celebrities do quite well for themselves, between big name projects, promotional appearances, endorsements and more that keep them buzzing on social media. But one area that’s becoming increasingly hard to overlook these days is mobile gaming.

Ever since Kim Kardashian teamed up with Glu Mobile in 2014 with Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, the way consumers perceive celebrity-licensed games has changed quite a bit. Hollywood has managed to gross more than $100 million over the past two years, mainly due to in-app purchases of virtual items, like new outfits.

Since then, a number of celebrities have tried gaining similar success, and even Kardashian herself has found new ways to always be talked about. Here’s a rundown of how celebrities are growing their brands with mobile games.

Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian-West followed up the success of Hollywood with a special emoji keyboard app called Kimoji late last year. Selling for $1.99, the app features a number of Kardashian-inspired images for users to communicate with. The app recently launched in-app purchases for $.99 and is reportedly doing very well with the over-160 new stickers introduced to it, further signifying Kardashian’s place not only in pop culture, but also the digital space.



Instead of starring in another Hollywood simulation, the rap star opted to put himself in an endless running game called Kingin’ World Tour. It puts the superstar on the run from camera-wielding paparazzi, while avoiding objects and collecting coins in the world. The real draw of this game is its Cash Competition Mode, in which players can compete to see who can run the longest and earn real money. As a result, the app has fared rather well, and put Tyga’s name further on the market.

Gordon Ramsay

Ramsay is a celebrity chef who has made a name for himself with his no holds barred attitude on shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Master Chef. That makes him an ideal star for Glu Mobile’s Ramsay Dash, a simulated cooking game where a virtual version of the chef judges your food service performance. Dash includes bleeped out swearing, matching with Ramsay’s kitchen attitude and authentically recreates his persona in game.

Taylor Swift

The pop superstar made a name for herself with several number one singles and a hit tour, but now Taylor Swift is set to introduce a “new, one-of-a-kind digital gaming experience” later this year with Glu Mobile, the team behind Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Not much is known about the game just yet, but it won’t be Glu’s first pop music-inspired game, given that it has worked with both Katy Perry and Britney Spears. Regardless of how the final release ends up, Swift will no doubt see a huge boost from the mobile game, one that fits her celebratory stature.

Jason Statham

Action star Jason Statham stars in the action game Sniper X, which released last year, and puts players firmly behind an assault rifle to take down enemies. Statham provides steady narration throughout the game, as well as tips on how to stay in one piece. It’s a unique approach for a celebrity-endorsed game, but one that has done well for adrenaline junkies.

Demi Lovato

Late last year, songstress Demi Lovato got involved with Pocket Gems for a simulation-style mobile game called Path To Fame, where her fans can make key decisions with their singing career. The game has been a moderate success for all parties involved, and have helped push Lovato to a record-breaking 2016 with a tour and single releases.


The hip-shaking superstar, who recently starred in the Disney movie Zootopia, has has shaken up mobile with a game called Love Rocks. In it, players can take on traditional match-three puzzle gameplay while competing against other Shakira fans—and even the superstar herself—for the highest score. Love Rocks has done considerably well for the pop star and Rovio, which is mainly known for the Angry Birds franchise.

Newzoo: Top Mobile Game Publishers Unchanged Since 2015

Who will dominate the lucrative mobile game market? According to a new report by Newzoo, the top four publishers have remained completely unchanged since 2015, with Supercell, King, Tencent and Machine Zone still dominating app stores around the globe.

US Market

Games catering to the midcore market top the iOS revenue charts, with Game of War: Fire Age stealing the top spot from Clash of Clans and new entry, Mobile Strike sitting at number two. King Digital’s Candy Crush Saga is still “crushing it” at number three, holding its position from 2015 while Candy Crush Soda Saga dropped down to number five. While Supercell’s Clash Royale claimed the number one spot when it launched in March, the title dropped to number eight in June.

Of the top 10 grossing games in the US for June, there were only two new titles to hit the charts compared to 2015: Mobile Strike and Clash Royale.


Chinese Market

China is set to reach a $10 billion mobile games market this year. Tencent and NetEase are by far the most dominant publishers in China, earning about five times as much as the number three publisher. Tencent alone claimed about 45 percent of Chinese Android revenues in May, publishing 23 of the top 100 titles. King of Glory, a popular MOBA mobile game, continues to be the company’s top-performing title in terms of revenues while the most-installed game by the publisher is Happy Lord. Newzoo predicts that Tencent will climb even further in the coming months, following its recent acquisition of Supercell and Clash Royale’s release on the WeChat platform.

Mobile MMOs are the most popular games on the Chinese market, although top 10 charts fluctuate much more in this region than in the West. NetEase’s Fantasy Westward Journey is the only game to remain in the top ten since June 2015, while Fantasy Westward Journey 2 climbed back to number two in June, followed by Tencent’s King of Glory at number three. Fantasy Westward Journey 2 launched last October and the franchise consistently sits atop the App Store in the world’s biggest mobile market.


European Market

Supercell currently dominates the European iOS charts, with Clash Royale still claiming the number one position and Clash of Clans at number two, knocking King Digital down a notch. Supercell’s other hit titles, Hay Day and Boom Beach are also holding their top ten positions, making Supercell the number one grossing publisher in Europe.


Global Market

Since June 2015, there have been only two new publishers in the global top ten grossing ranking: NetEase and Epic War, a subsidiary of Machine Zone. Combined revenues on iOS of both Epic War and Machine Zone in June puts the company in second place position, directly behind Supercell. Epic War’s Mobile Strike, fronted by Hollywood icon Arnold Schwarzenegger, has taken the app store by storm since its release in July 2015.