Exclusive: Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aimé Discusses Company Strategy

The old adage, “never count Nintendo out,” couldn’t be more true today. Who would have thought a game for a console (the Wii U) that’s in a distant third in the current video game battle would be the talk of E3 2016? Yes, it’s an amazing new Zelda game, but it’s one that’s been delayed numerous times for a platform that many people have written off, especially with the NX on the horizon for a March 2017 launch. Yet Nintendo has proven once again that the power of its core franchises still entice fans and influencers to stand in line for hours to play for 30 minutes.

And those E3 accolades came before the company announced that it will be launching a mini collector’s edition NES, based on its original Nintendo Entertainment System console from 1985, this holiday season, and the Pokémon GO phenomenon that catapulted Nintendo’s stock and instantly turned augmented reality into a mainstream sensation.

Nintendo’s long-delayed entry into the mobile gaming space has seen two hits out of the gate, with more lined up and waiting in the wings. The company has also generated excitement about the NX, even with no real information about it revealed yet.

Nintendo of America president, Reggie Fils-Aimé, talks to [a]listdaily about the power of Zelda, the evolving E3 trade show, and why Nintendo has always done things its own way in this exclusive interview from the Nintendo E3 booth on the last day of the trade show.

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What are your thoughts about the evolution of E3 into a trade show that’s partially now open to the public?

This is my 13th E3 and each one is different. There’s always an evolution. From that standpoint, the evolution to have more influencers participate is wonderful. The evolution that we’ve gone through with doing much more broadcast activity has been a tremendous evolution for us. We essentially were streaming constantly from E3. Our average viewership was very strong—double the Twitch stream—which was great to see. For us, E3 is going to continue to evolve. And as a member of the ESA, I’ll be helping to push for continued evolutions that work for this event and to keep it as the premier gaming event in the world.

Gamescom in Germany has a separate business area and public area that overlap. Do you see that as a model for E3?

It could be. The Gamescom happens in a huge facility, much bigger than what we have here in LA. So the facility is one aspect that needs to be taken into mind. The other piece that needs to be considered is timing because Gamescom happens typically in that late August time frame when the content is largely done. With Zelda, we’ve brought a game to E3 that’s not launching until 2017. It’s playing on development equipment. There are a lot of complexities when you’re dealing with that type of situation, so all of these things are what will need to be considered as we think about where this event goes. Certainly, from a Nintendo perspective, we love for fans—for average consumers, if you will—to be able to get their hands on our content. That’s why we do tours; that’s why we take our content on the road all the time. So from our standpoint, we’d love to see that type of evolution.

Can you talk about Nintendo’s early adoption of livestreaming through Nintendo Direct, done long before any other company used the format?

It’s Nintendo’s mentality to always push the envelopes to do things that others aren’t, but more importantly, we do things to best show off our content and to best communicate what’s unique about our content. We moved to the Nintendo Direct-type of program because we wanted to go in deep on our games, and share what we felt was the backstory and the compelling nature of the game. This year, we wanted to focus on hands-on through our Treehouse experts communicating the gameplay experience. Based on the numbers, I see that’s worked well. So we’re going to continue to push that envelope and look to bring new and different types of experiences. Sony had an orchestra at their E3 event this year. We had an orchestra when we were celebrating Zelda’s 25th Anniversary [in 2011]. So a lot of these ideas come around and then circulate within the industry. We take pride in often being the first to try some of them.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild consistently had the longest lines at E3. Were you expecting this kind of outpouring from fans?

We certainly knew we had a fabulous game. We hoped that the show attendee would appreciate it. We did not anticipate four-hour lines, and we worked hard to do some things to try and improve the pace of the experience and get as many people through the experience as possible. But still, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and we appreciate the love that the attendees are showing for the game.

Can you talk about the cross-platform strategy for the new Zelda game?

This game has been in development for a number of years. As Mr. Miyamoto indicated, he wanted to change the Zelda conventions and to create something that would not only satisfy the historical fan of the series, but be compelling enough to bring new fans into the series. So that’s why you see this open air gameplay. This is why you see the crafting elements within the game in terms of cooking and making your own elixirs. You see over 100 shrines in the game, and in these shrines you’re rewarded, once you solve a puzzle, with items that can help you in your quest. These are all things that we believe are going to appeal to that consumer who’s maybe heard a little bit about Zelda but never jumped in. This will be their opportunity to get into the franchise.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

What role do you feel Zelda will play in launching the new NX hardware?

We think it’s going to be a very effective way for us to reward the buyer—many of which have been waiting for this game—but [it’s] also the critical component of helping drive the NX. We’ve said that it will launch simultaneously on the two platforms. We haven’t said whether Zelda’s going to be a launch title or not for NX. So there’s some speculation there, but over the next number of months, we’ll be sharing more and more information specifically about the NX.

Why was E3 not the right place to showcase NX?

Once we made the decision to launch NX in March, we then thought through the beats of information. The first beat has to be the positioning and helping people understand the core concept. Doing that here at E3, we thought would be a little complicated, especially when the game we have for showing here at this event actually plays on the Wii U. Yes, it also plays on the NX, but we’re not prepared to show that on the NX. So all of these elements were taken into consideration to first say, “Okay, we’re going to make this largely about Zelda: Breath of the Wild, we’re going to showcase it on the Wii U. Let’s make that decision.” And then over the next number of months, we’ll decide the right times to share the proposition, give a sense of the launch titles, share the specifics of launch date, launch price, etc. There’s a lot of time between now and March 2017 to communicate that information.

Does that connect back to the Nintendo Direct option of being able to communicate to fans any time?

I would say yes and no. We do believe in communicating direct to the consumer. We’ve been doing that for years, but the decision around this E3 was much more about making sure we did a first-rate job of communicating how this Zelda has the potential to be another in a line of momentous events for the industry that Nintendo has brought forward. We needed to do that first before talking about NX.

We’ve seen Activision and Warner Bros. continue with toys-to-life, while Disney has left the business completely. How has amiibo been progressing?

We’re fortunate that our amiibo business continues to be quite strong. What we have found is that our strategy in having amiibo play across a variety of games and across both our handheld (with the new 3DS) and home console business has been very effective. In addition, we’ve been fortunate that our amiibo is motivating both a more casual type of consumer as well as the collector—someone who feels that they have to have every one. So that certainly also is something that’s helped our business. Our focus continues to be bringing new and unique amiibo, and we have three that are compatible with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We’ve also shown exactly how the Wolf Link amiibo that’s being sold right now with Twilight Princess works in the new Zelda game. We’re going to continue to bring these types of innovations, but the core element of gameplay across multiple platforms and across multiple titles is a differentiator versus what others are doing in the space.

The NPD Group Details Its Digital Game Tracking Service

For years, the NPD Group has issued monthly reports detailing video game software, hardware and accessory sales, showing the growth and decline of the industry. However, the one missing feature is how those reports didn’t cover digital sales made on services such as Steam, Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network, which make up a very significant (and growing) part of video game revenues. But that will soon change, as the NPD Group recently announced the launch of its Digital Game Tracking Service, developed in partnership with major publishers that include Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Square Enix, Capcom, Deep Silver and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. NPD has been tracking the digital sales data from these publishers for the past several years to get a more comprehensive look at the video game industry, which will be shown in this month’s report.

There are still a few limitations. Specifically, major publishers such as Microsoft, Sony, Bethesda  and Nintendo are not part of the group. Furthermore, data regarding DLC transactions will not immediately be released to the media, pending refinement. Nevertheless, this is still an important step toward seeing the bigger picture.

Liam Callahan, executive director and games industry analyst at the NPD Group, talked to [a]listdaily about the Digital Game Tracking Service and what might be in store for the future.

Liam Callahan
Liam Callahan, executive director and analyst at NPD Group

How difficult was it for NPD to develop the Digital Game Tracking Service?

It was certainly a long journey in that it took us several years to recruit publishers and even to determine that a publisher source methodology was the right path for us to reach this goal. Then we were in beta for several years. So it was certainly difficult in the sense that it took a long time getting publishers to the comfort level they’ve reached now—to go with us on this journey—and reveal data in the public domain.

Were publishers supportive of developing the Digital Game Tracking Service?

Generally, we have a great representation of some of the key publishers in the industry, and we are continuing to talk to non-participants to further flesh out the service. We’ll continue to engage with those folks. I think the list [of publishers] really speaks for itself. We received a lot of strong support, and I think part of that was the benefit of having publishers have access to this data over a beta period so they could understand that this was an important thing to move forward with—that it was an important data set that could help them with their business. That was all part of the process.

Does the Digital Game Tracking Service take into account events such as major discounts from digital retailers?

Yes, it takes into account any sort of discount. It’s the real data, so any kind of promotional activity or temporary price reduction is part of the methodology. Same thing with our physical side. Whatever the price is when somebody buys it, that’s the data that we have.

Data regarding add-on content won’t be released to the media yet. What are the challenges involved with tracking DLC sales?

The reasoning behind us not releasing it has nothing to do with challenges from a data perspective. We’re coding the data properly, and we have that data in-house. It’s a matter, first, of how we want to have a bit more comprehensive participation before DLC is ready for prime time. Second is just the comfort level with the panelists. Panelists moved to a point where they felt full game downloads combined with physical was the right first step.

That’s the first step we’re taking now, and hopefully over time, we can get to the point where there’s comfort with also releasing DLC. We’ve had many other steps, but this is the first one we’ve talk about publically, and we’re going to see many more steps and move further along.

In addition to including more publishers, how do you see the digital tracking service evolving in the future?

For me, I think there’s an opportunity to develop robust projection methodology. Part of the plan is to have something in place that accounts for non-participants, much like we do on the physical side, and having that be the gold standard for digital tracking—just as much as our physical data in the US is considered the gold standard in terms of its accuracy and representation of the full market. We have a lot of things we’re evaluating, and we knew it would take a while to get there. We wanted to take that first step, and we understand it’s a partial set, but it’s a highly accurate set in terms of having all the data from those participants. Those participants represent a wide variety in terms of the size of publisher and content.

Then, as I mentioned, getting to a comfort level where DLC goes for long-term. I think NPD in general will go where the trends go. We will go where our clients want us to go, which is constantly a conversation with our clients to understand the things that they think are important from a tracking perspective.

I’d rather not be super-precise about it because it’s a dynamic industry. You have to be flexible on what you may do at step 3 or 4 because whatever that might be might not even be in existence right now. If you think about DLC and some of the free-to-play mechanics we’ve seen evolve over the last few years, they weren’t in place to the degree they are now a number of years ago. So some of it is being flexible, understanding that the industry changes, and we have to adapt and change along with that. That’s how we think the service, and our research products in general, will continue to grow and evolve.

How long do you think it will be before we can see the big picture in regards to consoles, PC games and DLC sales?

Honestly, I can’t put a timeframe on that. Some things may happen quickly, and getting to certain areas of gaming to participate may take longer. Incentives might be different for certain panelists. It’s about recruiting, and it’s about projecting and having something in place that accounts for everything. That’s our near-term goal. I can’t really say how long that will take because those things are moving targets.

Do you think that someday independent developers like Riot Games and Psyonix may want to participate in the Digital Game Tracking Service? What would be the incentive?

Yes, I think that we’ll continue to grow the panel to get independent developers and really big free-to-play guys like Riot. I think the incentive for them is to understand what’s going on in the marketplace outside of their own business, understand different business models, franchises and types of games—to use that for planning anything that has to do with their business decisions. And I think it’s very much like the incentive to have questions answered that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

But if you drill in more to the physical side of things, I think the reasons you get with our physical business are the same reasons and conversations we had with publishers on the digital side about the value of the data. Namely, understanding your competitors, understanding the pace and size of digital, how quickly it’s growing, and how big it really is.

I think there’s something very unique in digital regarding DLC. It’s something, if you consider the grand scope of video games, that is relatively new. And I think there is a lot of learning that is still taking place, such as how to maximize it, how to roll-out DLC, and even taking the kind of durable map pack and mod driven model (which still works for many games) and moving it toward a consumable model—where currency is something that’s popular. How that dynamic takes place? What are the pros and cons? That’s something that’s an incentive for someone to join because they’ll be able to see things beyond their own data to understand the bigger picture. I think that’s the point of this data—and really, any research is sort of to get that competitive information and that bigger picture, and then make better decisions about your business going forward.

Emoji And Stickers Becoming A Key To Brand Growth

Sometimes you need more than a marketing message to push a particular brand—and that’s where emoji can come in.

The imagery, which has been popular on Twitter over the past couple of years—with brands like UFC and Star Wars taking full advantage—is starting to take off more with companies, as more and more are introducing personalized versions of it to draw in fans.

Earlier this year, 20th Century Fox worked with Snaps Media to produce a series of emoji based on the hit comic book film Deadpool, making it a top draw with fans. (The film went on to generate over $700 million at the box office off of just a $58 million budget.)

Now, more brands are getting into the swing of things. Following the release of her hit mobile game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (produced in conjunction with Glu Mobile), the mega media mogul launched her line of Kimoji in December, charging $1.99 for a series of personalized emoji featuring a number of Kim’s expressions.


As a result, it’s become one of the best-selling celebrity emoji-based apps on the market. Quartz noted, “Kimoji’s success can be attributed to disparate factors. Firstly, it’s a keyboard app, which means it can be universally access from within any iPhone application that requires text input. Secondly, the Kimoji app is still quite fiddly because it’s a keyboard app. Users have to activate it in their phone’s settings before it’s available. By contrast, a version of Kimoji released as a native sticker app for iMessage would be frictionless.”

This week, Disney wants a bigger piece of the emoji picture. Not content with just dominating Twitter with Star Wars imagery last year (starting with the Star Wars Celebration event and leading through the release of The Force Awakens in theaters), the company has released the new game Disney Emoji Bliss, a match-three effort that comes with a plethora of emoji characters, based on its most popular properties, including Alice In Wonderland, The Little Mermaid and Monsters Inc.

“Collect and play with hundreds of Disney and Pixar emoji like never before in an exciting matching game! Play fast-paced rounds of match-3 to earn prizes, complete missions, and discover new emoji,” the company noted in a press release.

The game encourages players to keep matching up and unlocking emoji, which can be used in text conversations for iOS and Android.

Between these three properties alone, licensed emoji have really come a long way over the past couple of years. And with Facebook expanding Messenger features with more emoji selections (including general expressions and licensed characters from Elf, Inside Out and Angry Birds) and Twitter introducing a customizable emoji-like sticker system to liven up photos posted to the social page, there’s no sign of the emoji trend slowing down.

Social Marketing And Measuring Return On Investment

“You have to spend money to make money,” says the old adage. Long gone are the days of placing an ad in the newspaper and watching customers line up outside the store. In a world where influencers advertise our products, the modern marketer has to balance brand awareness with engagement, call to action and monetary return. When it comes to social marketing, measuring the success of campaigns can be tricky. But thanks to tools like the Ayzenberg Earned Media Value Index, that nut has become a lot easier to crack (read more about that here).

If you’re having a hard time calculating the Return on Investment (ROI) for a social campaign, you’re not alone. According to a recent study, over half of the marketers surveyed named “measuring ROI” as the number one challenge they face. In fact, only 9.4 percent of marketers said they were able to quantify the revenue driven by social media. One major reason for this challenge lies in the way we measure success. Unless your campaign is strictly to gain followers on a platform, detailed metrics of user behavior are required. Social media platforms vary greatly in which analytics they provide, which naturally leads marketers to feel more confident in numbers they can sink their teeth into.

In a separate survey conducted by Social Fresh, Firebrand Group and Simply Measured, over 95 percent of marketers named Facebook as the best social media platform for ROI. Facebook’s 1.65 billion share of the 2.2 billion global social media users makes it an obvious target for brand awareness, and a big reason why so many companies consider Facebook to be central to their social marketing strategy. Another attractive feature is the ability to track analytics directly through a Facebook profile.


Despite its increasing popularity, Snapchat has some catching up to do in the way of measuring ROI. The survey placed Snapchat at the very bottom of the list for producing investment return, which could be attributed to a lack of onboard analytic tools. Snapchat currently does not offer direct monetization, but brands are still finding ways to measure financial success through the app. MeUndies, a company targeting loungewear and underwear to millennials, used a call-to-action with vanity URLs in a series of comedic skits. The company saw a conversion rate of 16 percent on Snapchat traffic in June.

With the prevalence of “Dark Social,” a term for what audiences say about your brand in private chat, many brands are now turning to social media messaging apps to connect with their audience. While measuring ROI may be a mystical, marketing unicorn right now, brands are forced to get creative and that’s no bad thing. The savvy marketer will utilize frontline marketing, understand the buyer’s journey, and use storytelling to connect with their audiences in a unique way.

How Augmented Reality Shifts Car Marketing Into New Gears

The phenomenon of Pokémon GO has catapulted augmented reality into the mainstream conversation over the last week, but—news flash—the proliferation of AR applications across a wide spectrum of industries has been on a progressive path for quite some time.

The auto industry is just one specific sector that’s been successfully using AR in its favor. Brands like Hyundai, Volvo and Jaguar, among a slew of others, have proved that marketing in AR is not just a flavor of the week, but a consistent strategy worth investing and establishing. It’s all part of an immersive plan that mirrors what most manufactures are doing with virtual reality—which has also had a sizable uptick in activations thanks to forward-thinking manufacturers.

“As a marketing tool, VR and AR have potential to give people an experience without physically having to be in the vehicle. It will give an opportunity to take your product and make it accessible to more people in their own environment and own time,” Eric Watson, Mazda’s marketing director, told [a]listdaily. “You’re able to change the color of car, go into the interior and really get an immersive experience. Eventually, someone will want to go to the showroom to have a one-on-one experience with the car.”


In an interview with [a]listdaily, Juergen Lumera, Bosch Automotive’s director of global product management and innovation, said that applying AR to simple components like the owner’s manual is a popular marketing tactic, too.

“It explains the car more, and all of the accessories. If I have a complex vehicle, I need to know how to operate it,” Lumera said. “The application can show what each feature is capable of. It will enrich an experience and make the complex situations easier to understand. People will use it, but not day-in, and day-out.”

Hyundai, for one, built an owner’s manual app in AR called the Virtual Guide to make the lives of their owners simpler earlier this year.

AR is also one of the rare technologies that can really make a change in the way service technicians receive information, Lumera noted. Last year, Bosch Automotive officially authored a system to ease the creation of AR solutions with a large volume of data and deliver information after the sale. The frameworks of the application allows the production of content, and the publishing of it thereafter for service technicians.

“So far, it’s separated between training and the information in the workshop. We believe those two things will grow together to train on-demand,” says the Germany-based Lumera, noting that that Europe was the place where AR was mostly born and cultured over the years. “European car brands really invested a lot of time and money to develop the technology.”

Bosch Automotive applies AR with almost every carmaker across the continent, and they are slowly seeing stateside adoption, too.

Can Cars And AR Be Marketing Magic?


AR can also help you buy your next car, as evidenced by Volvo’s partnership with Microsoft HoloLens. Their union adds another immersive wrinkle in the changing world of customized commerce and showrooming, specifically leading to new sales opportunities for car makers to maximize.

According to Bloomberg, U.S. dealers spend $2.75 billion annually on interest to keep new vehicles on their lots. To make showrooms look less like a bag of Skittles, dealerships are introducing VR and AR for consumers to reimagine the car-buying experience—and for them to save on some overhead.

Fiat Chrysler followed in Volvo’s footsteps in a similar fashion earlier this year at Mobile World Congress by showcasing a new car sales app that uses AR and allows customers to modify features in a car before they buy it.

Ditto for Ford. In January, they debuted a customer-focused experiment involving AR optics and the dealership experience where customers could wear smart glasses as they guide themselves through a showroom.

Meanwhile, MINI’s AR glasses allow drivers to see through the body of their car.

And as if the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz had a hard time unloading their line of supercars, they too have joined long list of brands using AR tech sorcery to modify their respective models in recent years.

Though, the AR sensation is not limited to global powerhouses. It’s also made its way to startups, as evidenced by Swiss company WayRay’s product “Navion,” which is designed to improve driver safety and adaptability by using holographics to project GPS imagery and driver notifications onto the windshield of a car.

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Jaguar made it to the windshield by way of an AR concept that provides drivers with an interactive “virtual windscreen concept” display.

On last week’s episode of [a]live, Noah Eichen and Matt Bretz, both of whom are creative directors at the Ayzenberg Group, discussed the potential behind virtual, augmented and mixed realities in a wide ranging conversation.

“It will take time for all these technologies to sort themselves out, and figure out which brand and device rises to fore,” Bretz said. “And there will be ones that we don’t even envision now that come forward to be the successful iteration of it.” 

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

What’s Next For TV ESports Coverage

In September 2014, ESPN president John Skipper noted that eSports wasn’t worth the coverage, mainly because “it’s not a sport—it’s a competition.” However, less than two years after he made that remark, the network will be airing its biggest eSports block to date.

This Sunday, July 17, the ESPN and ESPNU channels will air an unprecedented 18 hours of eSports programming, starting early in the morning with re-airings of matches from the Madden NFL 2016 Championship as well as the 2015 and 2016 Heroes of the Dorm competitions. Following these, ESPN 2 will broadcast live coverage of the EVO World Championship for the first time, airing the final round of the 2016 Street Fighter V face-offs. Audiences will also be able to stream each of these shows using the WatchESPN app.

This is the latest move in covering eSports, which first began when it aired Heroes of the Dorm back in April 2015. Even non-traditional eSports fans, such as Michelle Beadle, got into it, noting, “I took the bait. Just turned on ESPN 2. As someone whose face appears daily on the channel, I don’t have answers. #LeeroyJenkins #chicken.”

Speaking with [a]listdaily, John Lasker, vice president of programming and acquisitions for ESPN Digital Media, explained the importance of airing eSports competitions on its channels. “We’ve bought into this competitive side that the content needs to be live, and that’s the most important peak point of our findings,” he explained.

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

But ESPN is part of a much bigger picture as eSports continues to evolve on television, moving beyond the usual livestreams provided by Twitch and YouTube. Back in April, the ESL announced the world’s first 24/7 eSports TV channel, eSportsTV, featuring a cavalcade of coverage through a number of partners, including Twitch, Azubu, Hitbox and Yahoo. Featuring over 2,000 hours of live gaming and eSports content, as well as traditional ESL-based shows, the network is expected to be a big hit this year.

More mainstream networks are getting involved with more eSports-related programming. The CW, partnering with Machinima, aired a Mortal Kombat X-related eSports special earlier this year, where players competed for $100,000 in prize money. TBS has taken over Friday nights with its ELeague series, focusing on devoted Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players competing for high stakes.

So what could be next for eSports on television? There are a few things that could happen. Firstly, ESPN is likely to continue expanding its coverage with other popular events. It could air The International, Valve’s Dota 2 Championship, which has thousands of fans and millions of dollars in tournament prizes. That would expand upon its ESPN vertical, along with events involving Street Fighter V. Then there’s Riot Games’ immensely popular League of Legends Worlds Championship, which pulled in 4.2 concurrent viewers last year.

After covering Mortal Kombat X, the CW could broadcast Injustice 2 competitions after the game releases next year. The superhero fighting game would match well with the channel’s collection of popular comic book-themed shows that include The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. Furthermore, the CW is co-owned by Warner Bros., which would make it an excellent way to promote its games to an enthusiastic audience.

As more companies become involved with eSports, and the industry becomes more popularized online through Twitch, YouTube and initiatives from Facebook, we can expect to see broadcast coverage of eSports continue to grow.

How Twitch Leads To Games Sales And Retention

Twitch is an ideal service not only for livestreamers to broadcast their favorite games, but also developers and publishers that work with these influencers to showcase different titles. But how closely Twitch correlates with a game’s success has largely been a matter of guessing until now.

The company recently shared a report compiled by Twitch data scientist Danny Hernandez, who discussed the analytics behind the successes. He began by explaining how a Twitch community grew for a little-known title three years ago called Hearthstone, which would eventually become one of Blizzard’s most popular titles, generating $250 million this year alone.

Smaller publishers and developers are benefitting from Twitch livestreams. Hernandez discussed how some players get into a game by watching someone else play it on Twitch first, then purchasing it. “Twitch provides the most authentic preview of a game you’ll find on the Internet,” he explained, as opposed to game trailers that simply showcase features.

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Hernandez noted how indie titles like Punch Club and The Culling saw a small percentage of their sales attributed to Twitch broadcasts and influencers giving them recommendations. Not only that, but major titles such as Tom Clancy’s The Division from Ubisoft saw a near 20 percent boost thanks to Twitch broadcasts.

Some Twitch broadcasts come before a game even launches, with developers providing the game to influencers ahead of time to build buzz around it. That’s exactly what the team at tinyBuild did for Punch Club, but with a twist. It hosted a Twitch Plays presentation where viewers could input commands into the chat for the player to perform—very similar to Twitch Plays Pokémon, except with a live player. As a result, the company found a community of fans who loved the game.

“Within six weeks, 1.2 million viewers watched Punch Club on Twitch,” noted Hernandez. “The viewing experience was so compelling that 2.8 percent of Steam-connected viewers went on to buy the game.

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A large number of sales are also attributed to those with larger concurrent viewer counts. About 46 percent of the games with referred sales had between 33 and 33,333 concurrent viewers, although some with only zero to three also gained a good deal of interest. “Mid-tier broadcasters convert views into purchases 13 times more effectively than top-tier broadcasters, and small broadcasters convert views into purchases 1,000 times more effectively than top-tier broadcasters,” said Hernandez.

Retention also makes a difference with a game’s success, since “products that can’t retain users stop growing and eventually disappear.”

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These numbers indicate that some games get a boost from players continuing to take part in them on Twitch, including Valve’s competitive multiplayer shooter, Team Fortress 2, along with the free-to-play Path of Exile—both of which have a high number of viewing fans. Other games, such as Dota 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops III, have a strong retention rate that’s mainly due to the offering of new content.

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Twitch plays a huge part with players and retention, with 82 percent of viewers indicating that they watched player channels to some extent to keep interest in the game, compared to the 77 percent that didn’t with certain games.

Danny Hernandez sat down with [a]listdaily to talk more about the report’s results.

What do you think is the biggest draw factor when it comes to an indie game finding success on Twitch?

The biggest draw for any game on Twitch finding success is being compelling. It might sound obvious, but there are other mediums where a less compelling game can have significant buzz based on trailers that show selective gameplay footage. Twitch makes it super clear what the actual gameplay looks like and how much fun the broadcaster is having. Because of this, Twitch makes it much more achievable for great indie games to find their audience without a huge marketing budget.

Do mid-tier influencers make a big difference in a game’s long-term success?

Based on my research, mid-tier broadcasters convert views into purchases 13 times more effectively than top-tier broadcasters, so they are definitely a key part of the equation. I also view the intimate nature of mid-sized influencer channels as being critical in forming communities that retain players. This, in turn, translates to long-term success.

Retention really seems to make a difference with some games on Twitch. What do you think it is that keeps players coming back?

Games provide long-term value to their players in a variety of ways. For example, eSports leverage other players to keep things fresh, survival games exhilarate broadcasters and audiences with high stakes and fear, and sandbox/modable games leverage the unending desire of players to create.

Content is king, but while content is frequently viewed as what is happening on the screen, we’ve learned that the chat is also a form of content. If the broadcaster frequently engages with their community, things the community suggests or comments on in chat can and frequently do impact the choices a broadcaster makes, thus creating content that otherwise might not have existed if chat were disabled. The community in chat also can impact engagement based on how they interact with new viewers. For example, if the chat regulars are overtly welcoming and social, visitors are more compelled to stick around with a goal of joining that community. At the end of the day, there is no shortcut to success on Twitch, but a myriad of ways to achieve it.

Mountain Dew Details Amateur ESports League With ESL

PepsiCo has officially entered the eSports arena through its Mountain Dew brand. The soft drink maker is giving gamers a chance to become professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players through the new amateur Mountain Dew League (MDL). In partnership with the ESL, the 20-week global tournament will bring 7,400 players down to nine teams. The MDL global championship will culminate with one amateur team joining next season’s ESL CS:GO Pro League.

Sonika Patel, senior manager of marketing for Mountain Dew, explains the strategy the brand has taken with its first foray into eSports in this exclusive interview.

Why did you decide to enter the eSports arena?

ESports is quickly becoming an integral part of gaming culture. As instigators in this space, we want to push the boundaries of competitive gaming and enable everyone in this community to take part in the experiences. Dew has had a rich legacy in the gaming world since 2003, and with eSports becoming mainstream, we wanted to have an impact on how amateur gamers can take their talents to a professional level. We worked closely with OMD Zero Code, a team that specializes in the gaming space, to create a program that was not only authentic to the eSport environment, but offered real value to players and fans, thus aligning with Dew’s already established equity within the gaming industry.

Why did you decide to focus on CS:GO with your first eSports activation?

Dew has a history of partnering with the biggest titles in gaming to give gamers more value. With the scale and growth of CS:GO, we knew they were the right partner. Viewers can easily understand the game, but it also offers depth to keep more experienced viewers engaged. Additionally, the players’ style and personality are perfect for storytelling. Fans really create a strong bond with players, teams and leagues, which felt like a natural fit for Dew.

What has this partnership with ESL been like thus far in terms of working together?

At Dew, we take pride in being a cultural instigator, which makes ESL a great fit for us. As the world’s largest eSports company, they’re truly an industry leader with numerous online and offline competitions that reach our Dew consumer. We’re excited that our partnership with ESL is unique, in that it gives everyone a platform to participate on a level playing field.

How does the CS:GO eSports audience align with your Dew brand?

Both brands, CS:GO and Dew, have a similar demographic from an age and gender perspective, but there’s also a natural overlap in the way they interact with the brands—super passionate and engaged.

How will you decide on which players can enter this amateur league across territories?

The league is open to players across the United States, the European Union, Australia and Brazil. Go to ESEA.net for more information and to sign up for the qualifiers.

How will the MDL global championship differ from the Coke Zero Challenger amateur league for League of Legends?

Dew is creating a completely new league that would not otherwise exist, which is different from other branded sponsorships of existing leagues. Dew is not only providing a guaranteed spot into the pros, but actively helping players grow as e-athletes with coaching, top gear and access to events and influential personalities they wouldn’t otherwise have. The Mountain Dew League is a deliberate entry into eSports, strategically aligning the brand in championing the narrative of aspiring amateur athletes and their journey to pro gamer.

Can you break out the three main prongs of the MDL?

The league takes place over three distinct phases:

Phase 1: Starting now through the end of August, gamers can compete in open qualifiers for a chance to join the league.

Phase 2: At the end of August, the top 24 will be selected to compete in the Mountain Dew League. Over the course of the following nine weeks, these 24 teams will compete head-to-head in a round-robin-style competition.

Phase 3: The top six teams will make the playoffs at the end of the year, and two will move on to the MDL Championship Finals to be filmed live in December. This structure will be mirrored in every participating region so the final event will feature 6 teams in total battling it out for the title of MDL champions. The entire competition will be accessible for fans to watch on ESL channels.

Will there be any money up for grabs for the winners? 

Yes. The MDL will have over $125,000 up for grabs with the winning teams from North America and Europe earning a spot to compete for $750,000 in the next season of Pro League.

How will Dew cross-promote this competition through its own channels?

We’re excited to support the MDL messaging and custom content throughout the campaign across all channels. Twitch is also signed on as a partner, and will help deliver all of the content we create to eSports fans across the globe.

It was also very important to align closely with ESL and its community, creating a program that feels authentic to the platform and its audience. In keeping with this, all MDL content will live first and foremost on ESL channels. The hope is this becomes an integral part of the ESL ecosystem.

How will Dew work with ESL to livestream these matches and how often will they occur?

ESL will be working with ESEA, and Mountain Dew League matches will be streamed live at least three nights a week on twitch.tv/ESEA. Additionally, the MDL Championship will be a live event that will be streamed from a yet-to-be-announced location.

Do you have plans for the amateur league to become part of the ESL minor league system?

We’re excited to kick off year one, and would love to see this become a part of the ESL ecosystem. As Dew has been a major player in the gaming space, we continue to look for ways to enhance the gaming experience for our fans for future years!

Are there plans to incorporate CS:GO onto cans or products, as we’ve seen Red Bull and Coke do with other eSports games?

As of now, we don’t plan to incorporate this on cans or products. The idea was to enable gamers to advance in their gaming aspirations in an authentic way and give them the opportunities they truly want.

Twitch’s ESports Evangelist To Brands: “It’s Not Simply: Buy ESports. Check.”

Twitch’s eSports evangelist, Andy Swanson, sat down with Ayzenberg’s Matt West to discuss how Twitch is working with developers and brands to explore opportunities in eSports.

“We are starting to see this trend of eSports for everyone,” West noted as games like Rocket League, a pick-up-and-play family game and Vainglory, a mobile multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) have lately emphasized eSports.

“I think the important thing is going to be treating the higher levels—the upper echelon—as a true eSport, making sure that you’re not going too casual,” said Swanson when asked what the current challenges were with developers and publishers getting involved in eSports. “When [professional players] get to this level, they are doing this for a living, in most cases. That’s what we want to do—create a sustainable place where each of these games has an opportunity to create their own eSport and have it be sustainable for the long tail future.”

“You also have to have an audience. You also have to have consumers. You also have to have people that will play the game and be aspirational about ‘I want to be able to do that,'” Swanson went on to say.

“With a professional league, you have to have a premium production to go behind it and with a premium production, you have a premium price tag. Sponsors inevitably end up being part of the conversation,” said West, highlighting Amazon Appstore’s involvement with Vainglory. But what other brands are sponsoring?

“Interestingly enough, en route with Rocket League, we actually got, the very first, I believe, of branding dollars from Exxon Mobil that Twitch has ever seen,” said Swanson. “They see it as a natural brand association.”

Swanson went on to say that other non-endemic brands have expressed interest in the space, like tire manufacturers and quick-serve restaurants, alongside more obvious sponsors like peripheral companies.

“We’re just opening Pandora’s box in terms of all the opportunities that are coming out,” said Swanson, but cautioned that for non-endemic brands, there is a lot of education and alignment which must happen in terms of understanding what games, viewers, demographics, content and timing fit most with the brand.”It’s not simply: buy eSports. Check.”

Swanson and West also touched on the upcoming broadcast of the Street Fighter IV Championship at EVO on ESPN 2 and what this kind of mainstream exposure means for the eSports community.

“We know that by going on to linear television that you’re exposing this tour to an audience that generally wouldn’t have watched it or ever seen it before,” said Swanson. “We really view this as a validation of what we’ve been doing these past years.”

AppsFlyer Breaks Down Apple Store Purchases; Only 3.5% Of Gamers Make In-App Buys

A new report from AppsFlyer has broken down the success of Apple’s App Store, which has managed to reach $71 billion in app revenue to date—though the majority of profits aren’t coming from in-app purchases.

The report, titled “State of In-App Spending,” looked at over 100 million users across over 1,000 different apps to tally up its totals, and based on what was found, more revenue was made from in-app revenue and paid applications, instead of in-app ads.

The chart below shows just how much numbers has changed over the years. In 2011, paid-for applications dominated the Apple App Store by well over 75 percent. However, this year, it’s dwindled to under 50 percent, with the rest being made up by in-app purchases and advertising. That said, even though in-app ads have dropped into the minority, they’ve continued to show an increase over the years, and will continue to slightly bump up going into 2017.

“Our data showed that only about 3.5 percent of gamers spend money in-app, but those users are big spenders, spending 30 times more than the average gamer (paying and non-paying) with $9.39 vs. $0.32 a month per gaming app,” the report states.

Chart 1

The report noted that “the average global paying user spends $9.60 a month per app, which is 20 times more than the average user.” That said, it also noted that only about 5 percent of app users make purchases overall—a very small minority of overall users.

Another chart breaks down the monthly in-app spend per user for April and May 2016, with more being spent on iOS. All users spent around $1.08 per month, while the average purchase is around $12.77—that’s more than double the $6.19 spent on the Android platform, across the $.43 spent by all users.

Chart 2

Breaking numbers down by region, Asia continues to be the defining leader when it comes to monthly in-app spend and average purchases per user, with $.70 per user and $10.65 per average purchase. North America is close behind with $.61 for all users and $8.68 average purchase, close to the global average.

Chart 3

The report also made note in specific categories, with shopping apps leading the charge. The average monthly in-app spend in this category is $2.68—well over two and a half times the $.32 spent on gaming apps. (Keep in mind that most of them are free-to-play.)

“As app developers lay out their development, marketing and engagement strategies, it is critical for them to understand the differences in in-app spending behaviors across different platforms, geographic regions and app categories,” said Ran Avrahamy, AppsFlyer’s vice president of marketing. “Our data shows that in-app spending continues to present a significant opportunity for app publishers and marketers. While only a small portion of app users actually spend money on in-app purchases, app developers and marketers can capitalize by ensuring they always offer an optimal in-app experience, and by constantly measuring and optimizing their activities in order to build a strong base of loyal, valuable users.”