Time to break out the turntable, Call of Duty fans! iam8bit has partnered with Infinity Ward to release two limited edition vinyl soundtracks for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Call of Duty: Zombies in Spaceland. Limited to 3,000 prints each, these albums will be sold separately and available for pre-order beginning Friday, September 2 through iam8bit’s website.
The iam8bit Call of Duty: Zombies in Spacelandsoundtrack vinyl features ’80s pop synth-inspired music by the Infinity Ward team and David Hasselhoff’s DJ game character on the cover. Pressed on a 10-inch UFO picture disc record, the soundtrack also includes the digital edition. “Of special note, it’s really fun to watch the UFO spin on the turntable,” iam8bit added in a statement.
Meanwhile, The Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare soundtrack vinyl features music by composer, Sarah Schachner (Assassin’s Creed: Unity) and exclusive album art by UK-based illustrator, Chris Skinner. The set includes 2xLP picture discs with music mastered specifically for vinyl as well as the digital soundtrack.
In a recent interview with Game Informer, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare composer, Sarah Schachner said she wants the soundtrack to “capture the loneliness felt in space and the burdens of war.”
“I think the emotional aspect of this Call of Duty sets it apart in an interesting way,” Schachner continued. “Also, the future setting allowed more room for creative experimentation than if it was tied to a past or present era. The developers at Infinity Ward really wanted to try something different with this game, and that was a lot of fun for me.”
Schachner is participating in the “Maestros of Video Games” panel during PAX on September 4 with fellow composers, Inon Zur (Eagle Flight, Fallout 3 & 4), Jack Wall (Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 & 3, Lost Planet 3), Sascha Dikiciyan (Deus Ex: Mankind Divided), Austin Wintory (Banner Saga, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate) and David Housden (Volume VR).
Market research firm Newzoo has revised its eSports revenues forecast for 2016, bumping its projection from $463 million to $493 million (a $30 million difference). Taking into account this adjustment, Newzoo’s latest market report pegs the rate of eSports revenue growth at a remarkable 51.7 percent year-on-year.
The revision has been made in response to a wave of publisher investment in the burgeoning eSports arena, as well as the accelerating uptake of the media rights business model that Newzoo anticipates as a key driver of future growth. It’s this shift from direct advertising income to media partnerships that the company believes will propel eSports to $1.1 billion of revenue in 2019.
All of which is to say that eSports revenues are growing even faster than expected, and that’s largely been driven by an increase in publisher investment, as an increasing number of companies look to eSports as a means to expand their audiences and boost engagement among existing players. Tournaments and competitions have emerged as a key site of publisher interest, with prize pools often standing at millions of dollars.
It’s not just competitors that benefit from these big money events though – it’s created an opportunity for third-party event organisers, too. Newzoo estimates that publishers will have spent somewhere in the region of $100 million on these service providers by the year’s end.
The firm’s report notes that publisher investment is unlikely to continue growing at this rapid rate over the coming years as the number of companies entering the arena shrinks. Instead, Newzoo expects eSports growth to be driven by a significant increase in revenues from brands.
ESports revenues from advertising, sponsorships and media rights are already considerable, and Newzoo believes that they’ll reach $350 million for 2016. But there’s still plenty of room for growth in this arena—even if the rate of publisher investment begins to plateau—and the firm notes that the investment by brands expressed on a per fan basis is still several times lower than you see in traditional sports.
Even at present levels, investment by brands still represents 71 percent of the “eSports economy,” with the still sizable remainder generated by consumer purchases of event tickets and merchandise or publisher spending on service providers.
The report anticipates that the percentage of eSports revenue represented by brand investment is only set to grow as publishers double down on sponsorship and advertising opportunities. And, as the popularity of eSports teams continues to grow, Newzoo expects savvy publishers to begin sharing revenues with these gaming athletes. After all, the fanbases for celebrity gamers may very soon outstrip that of the games they’re competing in.
One of the most important job functions for marketers at all levels is to keep abreast of the latest industry news, trends and metrics. That knowledge not only informs your overall marketing strategy and day-to-day marketing tactics, it’s vitally important for marketers to share critical knowledge across their company. All kinds of decisions about product development, business development and management depends on this knowledge, and marketing is where most businesses look for that info. Even more important is taking in information from a variety of sources as a way to verify important trends and to look for inconsistencies.
One of the leaders in creating development tools for the games industry is Unity, and its enormous user base of developers provides a broad perspective on what’s happening across the games industry. Its latest report, Games By the Numbers Q2 2016, has plenty of useful information. As the report notes, “With 238,248 made with Unity games generating 4.4 billion installs across 1.7 billion unique devices globally in Q2 2016, Unity is uniquely positioned to help understand trends across the greater mobile games industry.”
The report details the progress that mobile games are making and the current market conditions around the world. The growth in game installs is being led by the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China, who collectively accounted for four of the five top countries for global game installs with 41 percent of the total (42 percent of Android game installs).
Android Fragmentation Continues
One of the biggest issues for Android is the severe fragmentation of the user base, both with the incredible range of devices and the variation in Android operating system versions. Those two factors make it difficult for developers to create games that can work seamlessly across the Android market. Worse, trying to test software across a representative sample of Android devices running different versions of the Android OS can be expensive, difficult and time-consuming. So product developers need to know from marketers just what the Android market currently looks like, so that developers can address the minimum number of different devices and OS versions.
The Android OS fragmentation is clearly an issue, with Marshmallow (Android 6.0.x), the latest version of Android OS, only at a 7.5 percent market share. Version adoption is spread, with Kitkat (Android 4.4.x) at 37.6 percent, Lollipop (5.0.x) at 14 percent, and Lollipop (5.1.x) at 20.9 percent. Android’s latest OS, Nougat, is being released now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Android OS fragmentation issue will get better any time soon. It seems more likely the situation will continue about the same or even worse. In short, Android 5.0 or above covers over 40 percent of devices, and games that work on Android 4.4 or better may capture nearly 80 percent of the market.
The report also noted that while Samsung led the BRIC Android market with 18.1 percent of game installs and 35.1 percent of the overall market. Other top Android phone makers were all Chinese: Xiaomi, VIVO, OPPO, and Huawei. That correlates with other sources, which show that the growth in the mobile phone market is coming from the lower-end and midrange Android phones. These mobile devices have enough horsepower to do a good job playing games, and lower prices that are attracting a broader audience. Although some lower-cost manufacturers are gaining on Samsung, none of the other companies have risen out of the single digits in market share.
The iOS market has a much cleaner situation, with 78 percent of installs occurring under iOS 9. If you include iOS 8.x’s 12.5 percent share, you’ve got over 90 percent of the iOS device market covered. As far as the hardware goes, iPhones are over two-thirds of game installs. The latest versions of the iPhone (the 6 and 6s models) collectively account for over 36 percent of the iPhones out there, or over half of all the iOS devices.
Geographic Trends: Android Vs. iOS
While Android is clearly dominant in terms of sheer numbers across the world, that dominance varies from place-to-place. Some 96 percent of game installs in Indonesia are on Android; both Korea and Brazil have Android game installs at 92 percent of the total. China saw 81.4 percent of its game installs occur on Android, the US saw 68.8 percent of game installs on Android, and Japan saw only 47 percent of game installs on Android. Overall, 82 percent of global game installs occur on Android and only 17 percent on iOS devices.
The best places for iOS software are clearly China, Japan, and the US. Those three nations combined had 60 percent of iOS game installs worldwide. Beyond that, individual countries are responsible for low single-digit amounts of iOS worldwide game installs, with the UK in fourth position and dropping from there.
The leading countries for Android installs are China (with almost 30 percent), the US (with 8.6 percent) and Brazil (with 5.4 percent), trailing off into low single digits from there. Collectively, all the top 10 countries for Android installs were only 63 percent of total Android game installs, while the iOS top ten countries represented over 75 percent of game installs. Android is just more widely spread than iOS, and there’s no sign that will change in the future.
The mobile game market continues to increase in size, with Unity alone seeing 238,248 mobile games made with Unity generating over 4.4 billion game installs in the second quarter of 2016, reaching over 1.7 billion unique devices. That’s up from first quarter by 4 percent on unique devices, 6 percent on installs, and 8 percent in the new games available.
Unity is probably responsible for at least one-third of all mobile games out there, and perhaps more. These numbers they’ve shared provide significant insight into the market, and marketers should make sure this information gets shared to the people who need to know.
Stella Artois, an Anheuser-Busch InBev brand, has developed new technology to connect with its consumers. According to Todd Allen, vice president of global marketing for Stella Artois at Anheuser-Busch InBev, the premium beer brand targets the 25-to-39-year-old mobile-first generation.
“They’re tech-savvy and everything needs to be enabled through mobile and social media, which is how they connect with brands,” Allen told [a]listdaily. “We’re catering to a slightly more affluent consumer who values experiences over possessions.”
Stella has partnered with hip-hop band The Roots, creative agency Sid Lee and production company Tool to release “Bittersweet,” an interactive music video (and original song) that can change the flavor of the Belgian beer.
Allen said The Roots experimented with different pitches, instruments and music styles to create an original, multi-sensorial song that stimulates the ears and the taste buds, based on the research of Professor Charles Spence of the University of Oxford. Professor Spence found that there are surprising connections between the senses (hearing, vision, touch, taste and smell)—when one sense is stimulated, it triggers an effect on the remaining four senses. Called “crossmodal correspondences,” this theory comes to life in two versions of “Bittersweet.”
“The bitter side uses deeper sound and darker colors that can influence the taste of the Stella, while the sweet side is brought out with the more high-energy, fruitier flavors through brighter colors and horns from the music,” Allen said.
Dustin Callif, managing partner of digital at Tool North America, said his team created designs that were projection-mapped in the background during music video featuring The Roots.
“We stacked the videos together so users can seamlessly toggle between the two versions of the song and experience the music video,” Callif said. “There’s a slider at the bottom of the interactive music video that allows you to track whether it’s more bitter or sweet based on what you’re watching and listening to.”
Allen said Stella is encouraging a conversation online and through social channels for people to discuss this interactive experience. The Roots has also been active in promoting the music video through social media. It’s part of a bigger marketing effort that combines multiple senses.
On August 17, The Roots performed both arrangements of “Bittersweet” at an exclusive seating during the opening night of Stella Artois hosts “Le Savoir,” a multi-sensorial dinner theater experience in New York City that ran through August 22 at Skylight Clarkson Square. The show launched August 4 in Montreal for eight nights and moves to Buenos Aires September 9 for eight nights.
Approximately 400 people per night attend the two-hour experience with 134 people per seating and there are three seatings per night. Allen said at Le Savoir,”Stella Artois is bringing together culinary wizards Bompas & Parr, 45 DEGREES (Cirque du Soleil’s events and special projects company) and The Roots to create an experience that stimulates all the senses. Guests will be transported through the seasons during a multi-course dinner featuring food and beer pairings inspired by the spectrum of flavors in a Stella Artois.
Allen said Stella will continue to deliver these experiences throughout this year and into 2017 with local events at key restaurant accounts around the world. There’s also an at-home activation, which encourages consumers to host a party that combines the passion points of food and music.
Stella has explored technology in the past. In January, the company partnered with Matt Damon’s Water.org by launching a YouTube 360 video, which brings to life the experience of one woman and her family in Honduras. The company used the Sundance Film Festival to debut the 360-degree video.
“Virtual reality is going to be a huge platform going forward,” Allen said. “We launched this project where consumers could buy any of three limited edition chalices, and for every chalice sold Stella Artois will help Water.org provide five years of clean water for one person in the developing world.”
Allen said virtual reality allows people to live and feel what it’s like to be the woman who has to walk six hours to get clean water. It shows that the problem is real. “VR is an incredibly important and innovative medium,” Allen said.
Tencent is one of the largest investment, internet technology and entertainment companies in the world, with a deep connection to one of the biggest mobile audiences in the world: China. The company is a leading gateway to the massive Chinese user base through multiple channels including the Weixin/WeChat and QQ communication platforms, Qzone for social networking, and the QQ games platform for online games, QQ Music, and much more. For perspective, Weixin/WeChat has over 800 million combined monthly active users while the QQ instant messaging service has nearly 900 million active monthly users.
Today, Tencent and global mobile marketing attribution analytics company AppsFlyer announced a partnership. With it, AppsFlyer becomes the first third-party service to track the effectiveness of app install campaigns on Tencent Social Ads. According to data from AppsFlyer, about 4.4 percent of Chinese app users spend money on in-app purchases (IAP) and spend an average of $12.71 per month. AppsFlyer has tracked over 550 million app installs in China over the past three months alone and found that Asians spend 40 percent more than the rest of the world. Additionally, Chinese networks such as Mobvista, Avazu and others have grown significantly over the past six months.
Ran Avrahamy, marketing VP for AppsFlyer, talks to [a]listdaily about the partnership with Tencent and how it represents a gateway into the massive Chinese market.
What led to the partnership between Tencent and AppsFlyer?
Tracking and measurement is a core ingredient of almost every successful mobile ad campaign, and Tencent was looking for a trusted, independent third-party global measurement partner that could provide advertisers throughout the world with objective and accurate tracking across its vast media properties. AppsFlyer and Tencent have been working together in different capacities for years, and as both are market leaders in their respective industries in China, once discussions started they moved pretty fast. AppsFlyer works with the largest brands, developers and advertisers both in China and across the globe, and Tencent’s channels are go-to outlets for nearly a billion mobile users in China, so this partnership is a natural, powerful fit. Advertisers now have access to the channels and data they need to conduct smarter, more informed app marketing campaigns that reach the masses in China.
How does AppsFlyer enhance the Tencent Social Ads platform?
AppsFlyer provides tracking and measurement of ads on the Tencent Social Ads platform, which gives advertisers more confidence in the accuracy of their results on one of the largest ad platforms in the world. This in turn allows them to spend greater ad budgets with more confidence—as well as optimize their activities and compare the quantity and quality of traffic coming from Tencent Social Ads with other media sources. And on the optimization front, by using detailed data on install and post-install activities sent by AppsFlyer will enable Tencent advertisers to further optimize their campaigns.
What are the challenges of tracking mobile install campaign effectiveness on so many different channels (WeChat, QQ, QQ Music, etc.)?
There’s always a challenge in tracking install campaigns across so many sources, but that challenge is largely met by having a proper attribution partner. AppsFlyer now measures across more than 2,000 integrated ad networks, so from an integration standpoint, it’s one more integration that an advertiser can easily access through a single dashboard. But this isn’t “just another” integration—it’s a milestone that benefits everyone involved: the advertisers and the media sources alike. It also represents a gateway into the massive Chinese market.
From an advertiser perspective, they’re able to track their campaigns on Tencent Social Ads on one dashboard at a high, aggregate level, as well as on a more granular level, so our dashboard really makes this easy for them as well, especially to measure and compare activities across the different channels. It’s just a matter of marketers keeping an eye on the numbers so that they can optimize their campaigns accordingly.
With 800 million monthly active users on WeChat alone, and 900 million on QQ, how would you characterize a successful campaign compared to one in Western markets?
With Tencent, they have so many users that there’s really no single platform in the West that can really compare, with the exception of Facebook. So the ability to scale quickly obviously exists in a big way, allowing advertisers to attract both a quantity and quality of users throughout China. But at the end of the day, the benchmarks for advertisers will all be fairly similar in terms of performance on different media sources, with marketers focusing on conversion rates, engagement and monetization—and fine-tuning their campaigns to hit their objectives.
What would you say is the most important thing to keep in mind when launching a new mobile campaign on a platform such as Tencent Social Ads?
Probably the most important thing is to keep a close eye on the numbers, especially early on, because there will likely be some surprises. Any time you start advertising on a new platform, it’s important to see what’s working versus what isn’t working and adjust from there. But for Western developers and marketers looking to advertise on Tencent, it’s especially important to measure the effectiveness of certain campaigns because it may require a different creative spin, timing and messaging in order to achieve the desired results and lifetime value of users.
Under Armour’s ambitious efforts in providing meaningful data-backed health and fitness tracking insights has the Baltimore-bred company on the cusp of reaching Fortune 500 glory.
Their cosmic expansion within key connected fitness sectors in the last three years, further evidenced by big bets on acquiring fitness tracking technology companies like MapMyFitness, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal for a total of $715 million, has them on the fast track to building the biggest connected fitness platform in the world.
In January, the sports apparel maker launched a suite of connected fitness products in the HealthBox Fitness Platform, a kit equipped with an activity-tracking wristband, a chest-based heart rate strap and a scale. Designed to “change the way athletes live,” all of the health data saves in the UA app.
CEO Kevin Plank, who previously has stated that “data is the new oil” and has plans of growing the company from roughly $4 billion today to $7 billion by 2018, made the clothes-to-technology philosophy change official in January with the launch of the connected fitness platform. It’s a far cry for the once-fledgling T-shirt startup, who’s now the second-largest sportswear brand only behind Nike.
How is Under Armour growing its connected fitness platform, which according to the company’s annual report in 2015 represented just 1.3 percent of its total revenue? Chris Glodé, vice president of Under Armour Digital, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how UA will be at the forefront of the data deluge.
Why is the company structured to ambitiously pursue new verticals in data and fitness tracking? What is it designed to accomplish?
Under Armour has a unique opportunity to advance our mission of “Making All Athletes Better,” through Connected Fitness. Helping athletes of all levels, all around the world, measure, train and improve is a foundational component of not only our footwear and apparel businesses, but also guides our work in Connected Fitness. While the tools and gear might be a bit different between the core business and the digital business, the end goal is the same: to help people improve. The true opportunity for innovation at UA emerges when we collaborate closely between the various areas of our business. The Speedform Gemini II is a great example. We mined our database to understand runner habits all around the world and designed a shoe specifically around those consumer needs. The shoe offered the perfect platform for us to integrate sensor technology, and the resulting product is the world’s smartest running shoe that delivers both an amazing ride, plus all the data a runner needs to get better. Those are the kinds of projects that give a glimpse into the potential of UA Connected Fitness—but we’re just getting started.
What are you currently doing to move the digital strategy forward for better consumer engagement?
We are employing a number of strategies on this front: One is to reduce friction. We need to make it easier and more convenient to engage in our digital experience at every turn. This means everything from a world-class user experience design, to building rock-solid wearables and apps that can be relied on by athletes of all levels. The second is to provide guidance. The obligation is on us, as the stewards of highly valuable and personal health data from our consumers, to reciprocate that trust by providing insights, guidance and motivation that they simply cannot get anywhere else. This is a lofty ambition and we’re actively tapping both our stable of professional athletes and trainers to build this, as well as leading experts in fields like exercise physiology, behavioral science and sports medicine. The third is to inspire the athlete. Our aspiration is that when someone engages with UA via digital, the experience is beyond what the consumer could possibly have expected. It’s easy to overlook the idea that a user in our app is giving the same level of attention as a one-to-one conversation—we need to approach every interaction with the same level of attention and service as though they were an individual customer asking us a question in a UA store. We impart expertise and motivation—at scale, to an audience of over 175 million users.
CEO Kevin Plank has hinted that the company can grow to $7 billion by 2018. How are you leveraging your suite of apps and products to attract investments from other brands to further create audience ownership in the space?
We have some of the most unique brand partnership strategies in the health and fitness category. Our fitness challenges are a great example. We partner with world-class brands to activate them on our platform—giving them the ability to reach consumers in the ‘moment of sweat’—when their endorphins are surging and they’re working hard to get better. These are truly win/win/win partnerships: our community wins because UA and partner brands provide motivation, prizes and competition to help them reach their goals. Our partner brands earn the opportunity to encourage and engage our loyal users. And UA wins by being able to play host to the contest and serve the needs of the athlete.
How does UA differentiate digitally from the likes of Nike, Reebok and Adidas and other competitors?
Under Armour is uniquely positioned to continue to lead in the Connected Fitness category for a few reasons. First, the scale of our global community is unparalleled and we continue to grow at over 100,000 new users per day—this is organic, word of mouth, happy customers. Next, Under Armour is first and foremost an innovation company. The coming quarters will show what happens when you combine world-class app developers, exercise scientists, materials specialists and the most innovative footwear and apparel designers. We often say at Under Armour ‘we have not yet built our defining product’ and increasingly, we think that product just might be combining the best of Under Armour footwear and apparel, and reimagining how it should work in a truly connected world.
The Rock has unparalleled loyalty among his hard-won fan base. At the core of The Rock, you’ll find a lifetime of hard work—he knows of no shortcuts. This is similar to how Under Armour approaches training. UA Connected Fitness doesn’t promise any shortcuts, but we can help you train smarter and get the best results from your hard work. The Rock has a life-long track record of delivering amazing results from his hard work. We’re extraordinarily lucky to have him as a strategic partner.
How have consumers responded?
The response from The Rock’s 90-plus million followers on social media has been outstanding; we’ve been selling his branded lineup of gear which he personally helped design. He and his fans have provided amazing feedback on our Connected Fitness products that will help shape future generations of gear that we’re actively designing.
How is UA marketing its mobile platforms? Which ones are consumers responding to the most?
What we’ve learned more than anything is that building amazing products and offering outstanding customer experiences is the best form of marketing. We’ve spent very little on directly marketing our digital products; by far our best weapon is word-of-mouth, and to earn that, we have to deliver excellent products.
What does UA have to accomplish to be the unequivocal standard for health and fitness technology?
Our opportunity is to build on our core mission of making all athletes better through passion, design and relentless pursuit of innovation. If our products can make you better and healthier, physically, emotionally and mentally—we will have achieved our goal and we know that athletes will choose the Under Armour experience. This lofty ambition is what drives us day and night, and given our unique resources—brand, technology, expertise, championship athletes and global focus—we have a special obligation to bring this vision to life.
How do you see the future of connect technology developing?
At Under Armour, we’re always looking to reinvent ourselves, and our products, and help our athletes do the same. As an innovation company, we also realize that the best ideas won’t necessarily come from inside our walls. We have a long track record of finding great innovations and entrepreneurs, and using our brand and our ecosystem as a platform to deliver these innovations to the consumer. We’re working on a number of innovations, spanning new apparel technologies as well as digital tools to make tracking more effective and frictionless. We envision a world where data collection and the resulting insights and guidance are simply something athletes expect from any piece of connected Under Armour gear. It’s a bold vision, but we have the team to pull it off.
There is almost no brand as recognizable as FarmVille when it comes to social gaming. The original game launched on Facebook in 2009 and quickly became the most popular game on social networking site, with emphasis on engaging with friends in order to grow virtual crops and raising livestock.
The series has come a long way since then, and its newest addition—FarmVille: Tropic Escape—launched last week for mobile devices. In it, players go on a tropical getaway and enjoy the island vibe with tropical foods, adorable animals, fun excursions and their own beachside inn and tiki bar.
Nicole Opas, general manager leading the FarmVille: Tropic Escape team and executive producer for mobile and social games at Zynga, talks to [a]listdaily about the latest FarmVille adventure. Furthermore, having worked at Zynga for five years, Opas discusses the enduring strength of the FarmVille brand.
What is FarmVille: Tropic Escape about?
FarmVille: Tropic Escape is a completely new FarmVille game set in a tropical-themed world where players run a dynamic and fun beachside inn. Escaping to their own personal oasis, players journey through the island completing story-based quests, exploring uncharted areas and uncovering rare items along the way. With lovable new characters and companions, players can bask in paradise year-round as they create the most desirable tropical destination for VIP guests, all while discovering the mysteries of the island.
In what ways does Tropic Escape differ from previous FarmVille games?
FarmVille: Tropic Escape is a fresh, modern twist on the beloved world of FarmVille. When we set out to create a new experience for our players, the idea of escape and vacation really resonated with our team. In talking to our players about their ideal vacation, the overwhelming response was that they envision a tropical destination as their perfect getaway. We researched everything from the best restaurants in Hawaii to exotic island animals to make the game feel as realistic and authentic to an island vacation experience as possible.
In addition to building on the FarmVille legacy and taking players to a new destination, FarmVille:Tropic Escape brings new mechanics to the FarmVille franchise like the opportunity to earn daily rewards and in-game advantages by completing mini-games and enhanced social features.
Many mobile games are designed for short experiences. Does FarmVille: Tropic Escape follow that trend?
Our approach to design is player-first, where we imagine the different ways people play, when they play, and what they want to achieve in both short and long sessions. We designed FarmVille: Tropic Escape to be a game that you can pick up and play for just a few minutes of fun or for longer sessions. For example, a player can hop into the game, collect all the crafts and crops they had been producing and set up their next goals, which is a very satisfying short session. Or, they can spend more time strategically thinking about how they become the Top Resort on the weekly leaderboard and help their in-game friends, which turns into a longer experience. We also know that people play FarmVille games for years and years, so we’ve designed a game that’s rich in storylines and experiences to delight our players over months and years.
How has the FarmVille series evolved since 2009?
At Zynga, we create games that are social at heart. We’ve had that focus since the first FarmVille game in 2009 and that remains a focus through this new addition to the FarmVille franchise. The way players want to be social has evolved and changed with the mobile landscape, and we’ve adapted to players wanting different ways to connect with their friends.
In web versions of FarmVille, we focused on players sending gifts and parts to each other to progress. On mobile, we’ve made the social interactions less about asking for items and more about playing together. We have these fun Beach Clubs in FarmVille: Tropic Escape where players can chat with friends, trade, send their guests to other islands and help friends achieve goals together.
How does a game like FarmVille: Tropic Escape stand out in an increasingly crowded mobile market?
FarmVille: Tropic Escape has exciting new gameplay that our players are really enjoying, like the mini-games, the brand-new characters, and storylines of mystery and romance—in addition to improvements to the interaction in core play like farming and crafting. We invite players to a modern-day island that makes them feel as though they’re leaving their hectic everyday life for the island life. We’ve been able to achieve this with eye-popping visuals, sounds and a level of authenticity that makes it feel like you can slip away to your own escape. We want our players to feel as if they are truly carrying a tropical vacation in their pocket.
What would you say is FarmVille‘s most enduring quality that keeps fans coming back?
FarmVille put social games on the map and proved just how mainstream games could become. Since 2009, FarmVille games have been installed more than 700 million times, and that’s a testament to FarmVille as a truly mass market entertainment experience with appeal that crosses geographies and generations. From pioneering social to giving players high quality, engaging gameplay, there are a number of reasons why FarmVille fans continue to love our games.
But one of the biggest factors is the connections that our players make with one another in FarmVille games. Whether it’s reuniting family members to introducing them to the love of their life in-game, FarmVille has helped players form incredible connections with people around the world. At Zynga, our mission is to connect the world through games, and FarmVille truly embodies that spirit and focus.
Apple is about to enter the branded content foray with an original reality-competition TV show about iOS app developers. “Planet of the Apps” just wrapped an open call for 100 aspiring tech entrepreneurs and the show itself is scheduled to air in 2017.
Although specific details about the program’s format have yet to be revealed, it appears that “Planet of the Apps” will be a Shark Tank-type program for app ideas, which can then be funded by interested mentor judges.
Lightspeed Venture Partners, which was the first institutional investor in Snapchat and Alba’s Honest Company, has joined the series as a venture capital partner. Lightspeed is committing $10 million to fund the development of the apps selected in “Planet of the Apps”
Mentors and advisors for the project include Hollywood elite like Gweneth Paltrow and Alba. Also on board is musician will.i.am and tech investor Gary Vaynerchuck. Paltrow and will.i.am will also executive produce the project, along with Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens of Propagate.
“Planet of the Apps” is Apple’s first original TV program and a big move in the direction of branded content. The tech giant was recently named the most valuable brand portfolio in the world, and clearly has no plans of slowing down. The show is scheduled to film this fall, and applicants were required to have an iOS, macOS, tvOS, or watchOS app in a “beta or functional state” by Oct. 21, according to the entry guidelines.
“As a mentor on ‘Planet of the Apps,’ I’m looking forward to meeting entrepreneurs looking to address a problem with an innovative solution, and to help them realize their vision,” Alba said. “I can’t wait to see the ideas the app developers bring to the table.”
Ever since the FTC released its most recent guidelines on native ads, the agency has been cracking down on violations, especially on social media. The guidelines state that native ads must be tagged with “ad” or “sponsored advertisement” for proper disclosure.
When the new guidelines were released in December, Todd Krizelman, co-founder and CEO of tracking and ad analyzing company MediaRadar, revealed that only about 30 percent of sites already complied with the rule and 26 percent of websites run native ads without any sort of mention of the sponsor whatsoever.
Eight months later, the numbers are surprisingly unchanged. According to a study by native ad developer Polar, about one-third of native ads don’t meet FTC guidelines for native ad disclosures, according to an analysis of 137 ad units on 65 publisher websites.
“Regardless of the medium in which an advertising or promotional message is disseminated, deception occurs when consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances are misled about its nature or source, and such misleading impression is likely to affect their decisions or conduct regarding the advertised product or the advertising,” the agency said when it released the native ad guidelines in December.
The report also studied native ads that complied with the FTC guidelines and determined which labels to be the most effective. Native ads labeled as “promoted” achieved the highest click-through rate (CTR) at 0.19 percent, while “sponsored” reached 0.16 percent and “presented” hit only 0.12 percent.
With ad blocking on the rise, it’s a reflection of a changing attitude toward intrusive and uninteresting advertising. However, with 408 million people using ad blocking software as of March 2016—a 90 percent growth (nearly double) from last year, even well thought-out ads go unseen.
Tetris has continued to evolve over the decades. The classic game that helped Nintendo sell the original Game Boy has a brand new iteration, Tetris Battle Drop, available now for Apple iPads and playable on Facebook from The Tetris Company. That’s in addition to new games published by Ubisoft and Electronic Arts across various platforms. There’s even a sci-fi feature film franchise in development from producer Larry Kasanoff (Mortal Kombat) based on Tetris.
Casey Pelkey, vice president of marketing at Tetris Online, Inc., talks about the newest game and explains what has kept this franchise at the forefront of gamers’ minds all these years in this exclusive interview.
What were your goals heading into Tetris Battle Drop on Facebook?
Our primary goal with Tetris Battle Drop on Facebook was to expand our audience by offering a new type of play control using the mouse instead of the keyboard. You can count on one hand the number of games on Facebook that require a keyboard to play. Despite that hurdle, we managed to attract over 50 million users into our Tetris Battle game. User retention has always been more favorable for the younger audience. We learned over time it had less to do with the competitive nature of the game, and more to do with the play control options. Throughout the years, we’ve developed and tested many different ways to play with the mouse, but none of them worked well. Last year, The Tetris Company approached us for feedback on new mouse controls they developed. After the first game played, we were completely hooked.
What differentiates this mobile tablet game from that iteration?
Although both games share the same design, we were able to leverage the processing power of the iPad to deliver a richer experience. Transitioning from a mouse to touch was easier than from keyboard to mouse, but there are some noticeable differences. The biggest difference is how the ghost displays below a falling Tetrimino. The ghost represents where the falling Tetrimino is going to land when you drop it. On the Facebook version, the ghost displays wherever the cursor is. However, when playing on a tablet, you need to first touch the screen to make the ghost appear. Lifting your finger will then cause the Tetrimino to instantly drop into place—it’s surprisingly intuitive.
Is there any cross-platform play?
Yes, but most of the cross-platform benefits are happening behind-the-scenes. Users on the iPad are currently playing against users from the Facebook version of the game. We had to do this to ensure there’s always someone ready to play against, 24/7. As the iPad audience grows, direct competition from other players on tablet devices will become more standard. Beyond that, we plan to migrate many of the features from the tablet version of the game back into the Facebook version. When that happens, we can also allow users to share their progress between both platforms.
What’s the rollout plan for this game beyond Facebook and iPad?
Before jumping into more platforms, our design team is working on new features we believe will help attract and retain more users. Our next big update for the iPad version, which we hope to release within the next month or two, will allow for two users to play head-to-head using the same device. Playing against another person online is incredibly fun, but playing face-to-face with a friend or family member is downright awesome. Initial user testing of this upcoming feature has everyone here very excited about the future of the game.
What do you feel separates Tetris from other games out there?
Many games come and go, but the Tetris game never gets old—it’s timeless. I have just as much fun today playing Tetris on my iPad as I did on my Nintendo Game Boy when it first launched. No other game has come close to having that same lasting effect on me. Sometimes it’s best to not question why—just keep enjoying it while you can!
How has the proliferation of tablets and smartphones impacted the success of the Tetris franchise?
The breadth of gaming platforms has been a huge opportunity for Tetris. If a device plays games, you’ll likely find an official Tetris game on it. Electronic Arts has experienced tremendous success with smartphones and tablets, leading to over 500 million mobile Tetris downloads.
What do new platforms such as Apple TV and Android TV open up for the Tetris brand?
Tetris is now available on Amazon Fire TV, Roku devices, and Samsung Smart TVs, where it has been downloaded by millions of users. Apple TV and Android TV are both interesting platforms. The Tetris Company is currently exploring these opportunities.
What’s the challenge of coming up with fresh Tetris games today?
After 32 remarkable years, we’re still coming up with new ways to play the Tetris game. We’ve certainly benefited from new platforms, which have opened up new ways to play—from gameplay mechanics to online connectivity. The game will always remain true to its core gameplay elements, but there are infinite ways to expand upon that.
How does the company handle multiple games across multiple publishers?
Hundreds of millions of Tetris games have been sold for more than 50 platforms. We’ve been working with multiple developers, publishers and licensees around the world for many years. We love having the opportunity to work with so many talented and creative people and companies globally.
What’s been the strength of the Tetris brand over the decades?
Tetris is one of the leading and most iconic video game brands and franchises in the world. People have an inherent desire to create order out of chaos, and Tetris satisfies that on a very basic level. Every Tetris game remains true to that core game play element. For 32 years, hundreds of millions of players of all ages and cultures have come to share a common bond through their love of Tetris.
How has Tetris opened up new opportunities for in-game branding with companies such as Progressive and Toyota Corolla in Tetris Blitz?
Tetris is an iconic brand with broad appeal and huge awareness. Companies look for that in promotional partners. If it’s the right fit for the Tetris brand, we’ll explore those opportunities.
What are the challenges of bringing video games to the movie screen?
The challenge is coming up with a compelling story. While we can’t share any details yet, we are excited about the story being developed for the Tetris-based movie and will share details as soon as we can.
What happens when a big movie like Pixels, which featured Tetris, doesn’t find a box office audience?
It was fun to be a part of Pixels, but Tetris just had a small cameo at the end of the film. We hope the hundreds of millions of Tetris fans out there will want to see the Tetris movie.
How are you approaching the Tetris movie?
Our new movie is a Chinese co-production. We’re very excited about the project, and we’ll keep you updated as details are unveiled.
Thank you for your continued support and readership.
-The AList Team
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