Peter Moore Explains Electronic Arts’ ESports Strategy

Electronic Arts was a very early entry into competitive gaming, given the natural correlation between sports games and video game competitions. The company has partnered with ESPN on television programming over the past decade with Madden Nation, Madden Challenge and Madden Championship. Additionally, the FIFA Interactive World Cup has been going strong globally for years.

With Electronic Arts now firmly committed to competitive gaming at all levels of play, the company has assigned long-time game industry vet Peter Moore as executive vice president and chief competition officer. EA kicked off some competitive tournaments around UFC 2, Need for Speed, FIFA and Madden at its EA Play event at E3—and that’s just the tip of the competitive iceberg. Moore talks with [a]listdaily about EA’s strategy in eSports in this exclusive interview.

We’ve seen CS:GO and League of Legends sell out soccer stadiums and the Staples Center. What role do you see traditional sports stadiums play for what EA is doing moving forward?

The events in the arenas are important to be aspirational. Yes, we’re going to be there, but the bottom of the pyramid that is competitive gaming is the focus. We want to make stars out of all of our players, not just the people who can be at the Staples Center, or Madison Square Garden, or the SAP Center in San Jose. They’re important to aspire to, but at EA, we’re a players’ first company and we want to make sure that anyone can compete in competitive gaming, whether it’s Madden or FIFA or Battlefield and have some fun at the level I play at.

My analogy is sports itself. I was a descent soccer player as a kid, but I was never going to play for Liverpool. But I loved what I was doing at the level that I was doing it at, and it really consumed me. That’s where we think we play an important role. Yes, those events at the Staples Center or the big stadiums are incredibly important, but we believe the real focus needs to be on the entire pyramid of competitive gaming, not just that little sliver at the very top.

How is eSports impacting the way games are being developed at EA?

Our development teams are looking through a different lens. Our goal is to still provide a tremendous premium experience where you pay your $60 for your game. They’re live service games with fresh content coming in, but we look at the future here. We recognize we’ve got to put more and more competitive gaming modes in the games that allow them to be used as competitive gaming.

It’s about getting smaller maps; it’s about looking at team play in a different way; it’s about spectator view. We need to get matchmaking right with our platform. We need to make sure there’s integrity in the games, so we’re building anti-cheating mechanisms. There’s a lot of work to be done. We’re not in denial that we’ve got to do some work here, but it’s a long-term strategy for us. We truly believe in competitive gaming at EA. Our dev teams in every studio around the world love the challenge. If the genre is compatible, appropriate and relevant to competitive gaming, you bet there’s work going on right now to build modes in there.

Traditionally, eSports has been PC-focused. What opportunities do you see for the console space?

We’ve seen some successes, like our friends at Microsoft with Halo. There’s the ability for us to look at different ways to play. The challenge right now is that these games are built one-versus-one, peer-versus-peer. We’ve got to get camera angles right. We’ve got to think about how we can build four-versus-four. You can play that in both Madden and FIFA, but there’s a lot of work to be done. Nobody wants to be the goal keeper. So from that perspective, how do we build tournaments if it’s one versus one that you compete for your country? Things like the Ryder Cup, think about Grand Slams, think about points. Those things are team-based, even though they’re individual sports. We’re looking at all different types of mechanisms and actually looking at real sports to take advantage of the experiences and the things they built there and applying them to competitive gaming.

Speaking of real sports, how aware are the traditional sports leagues when it comes to what’s going on in the eSports space?

For our partners at FIFA, NFL, NHL, NBA, UFC—every single one of them has eSports as one of their top three priorities—at least to understand it, then to be able to be able to leverage it. They recognize one thing: this is a demographic that’s coming through, that’s looking at sports in a different way, and all of our partners in the licensed sports space say, ‘We’ve got to have a position here, otherwise we’re going to be an aging demographic if we don’t get in here and do something with our games.’ They’re all very supportive, all very collaborative, and all working very hard with us to make it a reality.

What opportunities do you see with Fantasy eSports?

It’s still a little controversial with regard to the utilization of money. We know outside of the US, it’s a little easier, where gambling is ‘legal.’ I’m mixed on it because you start hearing about match fixing. It becomes like real sports, where people are taking bribes to throw games. So we look at this and we look at our friends in this space—the FanDuels and DraftKings certainly here in the US—and try to figure out where there’s a relationship there. But always remember that we’re a licensee not the licensor, so we have to work in collaboration and with the approval of our league partners, and their comfort levels of fantasy and where that comes to play.

What eSports opportunities do you see in the mobile space, given the success of Vainglory, Hearthstone and Clash Royale?

Well, look at our Madden mobile franchise, which is doing incredibly well. The Ultimate Team mechanic has huge opportunities of being the kind of competitive gaming mode, where you build your ultimate team, I build my ultimate team, and we put them in the games against each other. There’s still work to do with mobile. It’s not easy to actually show it because it’s a very much a heads-down, individual solitary-type environment and team play is a challenge. But looking at the Vainglories and the Hearthstones that are doing relatively well—not yet scaling yet—but it’s certainly on our radar. I think it’s going to be an important part of our future.

What potential do you see for eSports with Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1?

There’s great opportunity. The priority right now at both Respawn and DICE is to ship a top quality game. The other advantage you have now is live services and updates, which allows us to bring modes down the line. We have so much opportunity to build new modes into them as part of the regular cadence of delivering content. I think you’re going to see that both of these games will have long tails. They’re not annualized games. They’re games that are going to be a very important part of a gamer’s life for many, many years to come, as we’ve seen with our Battlefield franchise—where 9 million people in Q4 were still playing. Our ability to deliver competitive gaming modes over the coming months and years is right there for us, and we intend to do that.

Logitech Talks ESports And New Mouse Geared To Pro Players

Logitech has been a key member of the eSports ecosystem since 1997. With nearly 20 years of support in the space, their latest foray expands on that commitment with a mouse with and for professional eSports players—the Logitech G Pro gaming mouse—announced this week.

“We’re excited that [eSports] are finally reaching that tipping point now because we’ve been doing it for so long. It’s finally getting the mainstream recognition and we think it deserved for a very long time,” said Logitech’s Ujesh Desai, VP and general manager of gaming. “We want to continue that partnership with the eSports teams and the eSports players.”

For Desai, whose daughters lean toward watching Twitch and YouTube instead of traditional sports on TV, this is this generation’s sport. “It’s validating for me to see that now coming into the spotlight.”

In order to develop the new Logitech G Pro gaming mouse, the brand worked side-by-side with players to create the ideal eSports mouse. Contrary to the Swiss Army knife-style mouse you would expect, players opted for a much less complicated design that focuses on accuracy, provides a spring button tensioning system, and gives players their desired agility by being lightweight.

To understand what players truly wanted and needed from a gaming mouse, Logitech benefitted from having an in-office testing ground with their eSports facility.

“Literally 10 feet from my office, we have an eSports facility that we made,” said Desai. “We want to see them using our equipment and how they work with it.”

Virtual Reality Is No Longer Science Fiction And More Than A Trend

Virtual Reality may be all the rage, but you might be asking yourself, “is it more than just a trend?” As you stare mournfully at your 3D TV. The answer appears to be a resounding “yes,” and the VR industry could see its first $1 billion year in 2016. According to a new study by International Data Corporation (IDC), Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) revenues are predicted to increase by more than 30 times from $5 billion in 2016 to $162 billion by 2020, with half of said revenue arising from hardware alone.

As with any new technology, the initial price tag limits consumer purchases, but IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Augmented and Virtual Reality Spending Guide claims this is about to change. “The rise of new, less expensive hardware will put virtual and augmented reality technology within the grasp of a growing number of companies and individuals,” said Tom Mainelli, VP of devices and AR/VR at IDC in a statement.virtual reality vr

Another potential reason for VR/AR staying power could be attributed to how the technology is integrated into our everyday lives. If you remember how luxurious (and huge) cellular phones were in the 1980s, you understand why a majority of consumers lived just fine without them until mobile became the norm. Someday, a life without AR/VR could be a distant memory as well, but for now, 360-degree video is an affordable substitute.

“For many years, augmented and virtual reality were the stuff of science fiction,” said Chris Chute, VP of IDC customer insights and analysis, in a press release. “Now with powerful smartphones powering inexpensive VR headsets, the consumer market is primed for new paid and user generated content-driven experiences. Recent developments in healthcare demonstrated the powerful impact augmented reality headsets can have at the industry level, and over the next five years we expect to see that promise become realized in other fields like education, logistics and manufacturing.”

IDC’s spending guide predicts that the majority (75 percent) of global AR/VR revenue will come from Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan), the US and Western Europe this year, but the US will lead by 2020. Investors are confident in the future of AR/VR as well, pouring money into the technology like never before. According to research from venture capital database, CB Insights, the amount of investor dollars earmarked for virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) has increased about 7.5 times in the last year. In fact, investment in those technologies reached $1 billion in the first quarter of 2016, eMarketer reports, compared to $144 million in the same quarter of 2015.

“The big buzz around VR started with the Oculus Rift announcement, and when it started shipping we saw a 548 percent increase since January 2015,” Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director for Adobe Digital Insights (ADI) told [a]listdaily. “And we’re not seeing much decline. VR is holding that excitement, especially the HTC Vive, which has seen an over 2,000 percent increase since January 2015.”

Gaffney said the sustained excitement is because different devices are coming out. But that’s not translating to a lot of sales. “Right now the market is early adopters who want to try all the new stuff, while others are waiting.”

Epic Games Discusses ‘Paragon’ ESports Plans

Epic Games has launched the free open beta for its new third-person perspective PC and PlayStation 4 multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, Paragon. While the game has no official release date, it’s the first big step towards building a large player base and community for the 5v5 MOBA. If successful, that will essentially lay the potential eSports groundwork for this cross-platform action strategy game.

“We’re making a very competitive game,” said Steve Superville, creative director on Paragon at Epic Games. “We’ve seen a lot of companies come out and say, ‘Hey guys, here’s the next great eSport.’ And the community is like, ‘Hang on a second. We’ll tell you when it’s a good enough game.’ So our focus from the beginning has been making a highly competitive game, engaging with our community because they’re going to tell us what works and what doesn’t, and eventually—if they ever bring us to eSports status—we’ll be thrilled to support them.”

The community has already begun running Paragon tournaments without Epic’s help. “We’ve seen a couple of tournaments that run for the EU and North America,” Superville said. “Germany just ran their first tournament a few weeks ago and Russia has run a couple since then. The community is really enjoying it, but [they’re] also being very communicative and vocal about where we’re falling short, and we are working really hard to fix those things.”

One area where having a dedicated and vocal Paragon community has helped Epic is hero balance. The internal team does a lot of quality assurance gameplay testing, but that pales in comparison to gamers getting their hands on all of the game’s heroes.

“The community will find a broken thing and let us know about it and we try to fix it within the next week or two as we go through our patch cycles,” Superville said. “We patch every week, and the community is often playing about three or four days past what the developers are playing. So they’re right on our heels, and that gives us the most actionable and real-time feedback.”

Epic Games has also designed Paragon for a broader gaming audience. MOBAs are known for being a bit harder for a television audience to follow compared to Call of Duty or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

“One of our goals was to make the game feel physical,” Superville said. “In a lot of other games, there are a lot of particle effects that explain what’s going on, and unless you know exactly what’s happening you are lost. For Paragon, we wanted to allow people to just look at the game and enjoy it. My wife is not a gamer and she can see one of our characters, Rampage—who rips a giant rock out of the ground and throws it across the level to hit somebody—and she doesn’t have to know about cooldowns and mana costs and positioning. She just knows that getting hit in the face with a rock hurts and that makes it much more approachable. All of our characters are built with this idea of being physical rather than just purely energy- and magic-based.”

Superville said that in keeping with the entry level theme, Paragon will have far fewer heroes to choose from than other MOBAs. The game has 18 heroes and a new one will be added every three weeks. “It’s a lot more inviting because people aren’t immediately overwhelmed by heroes,” Superville said. “And again, the card system allows players to come in, be given a deck of cards that are applicable and relevant to the character that they pick, and then they learn the game. And as they play, they get card packs and their burden of knowledge grows with their experience of the game.”

From a business model perspective, Epic Games is following the free-to-play route. All of the game’s heroes are free all the time. Superville said the studio made that commitment early on because they wanted the game to be competitive.

“Nothing that provides advantage in gameplay is purchasable with real money,” Superville said. “Cards and stuff like that all come from the time currency, which we call reputation. You play the game, you get card packs and you get more powerful options. Then we sell the cosmetic things. We sell skins and boosts and traditional things. We also have some more new cosmetic things that are coming out that we’ll be sharing in the future.”

Epic Games is also reaching a much larger audience with its MOBA by tapping into the 40 million PlayStation 4 consoles in homes, as well as billions of PCs, and Paragon allows for cross-platform play.

Reuters Goes For Storytelling Gold By Shooting Rio Olympics In Virtual Reality

The all-time greats of Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles have been dominating the daily headlines from the 2016 Olympic Games, stockpiling medals as if were a Gold Rush.

Fans who want a better focus, or a bigger picture on the manifold moments from Rio constantly ranging from triumph to defeat by the minute, will be thrilled to know that Reuters is using the Summer Games to showcase the athletes that will inspire generations to come by using their gravitas in the fairly nascent storytelling medium of virtual reality.

Samsung is standing firmly in the center of the VR revolution—and even more so in Rio. Before the Opening Ceremony, the tech conglomerate collaborated with Reuters for the Focus 360 partnership to bring virtual reality and 360-degree video and photography to all of Reuters’ platforms. Reuters journalists will be using Samsung Gear 360 cameras and editing technology, which is not yet publicly available.

“Reuters’ core business is based on delivering trusted information and news to global consumers and publishers, in all available formats,” Jess April, Reuters’ head of strategic partnerships and program management, told [a]listdaily. “VR and 360 photography are unique, visual mediums to tell the world’s stories—and as a partner to so many media organizations, it’s important that we’re using, testing and distributing the latest multimedia news products.”

The Rio Games have unofficially turned into the VR Olympics, immersing viewers like never before. Samsung is also spearheading 85 hours of VR programming with NBC over the 16-day event.

Getty Images is another news organization pushing the limits of storytelling with a similar strategy to Reuters. Getty Images jumped head first into the VR pool this year to start shooting over 180,000 events with 360 cameras—photos taken by underwater robots and shots in VR have already surfaced from the Summer Games.

Across the pond, BBC has introduced BBC Sport 360, an experiential service for the UK audience, and brands like Kellogg’s have used the Olympics for marketing a 360-degree video. Even athletes from the US Cycling Team are all in on VR, using the technology to train for the games.

Jess April joined [a]listdaily to further discuss how Reuters will provide rich VR and 360 content to meet the changing needs of customers.

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Final - Men's 100m Final - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 14/08/2016. Usain Bolt (JAM) of Jamaica celebrates after winning the gold medal. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates after winning the gold medal. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

What is the mission of Focus 360? How will you measure success?

There are two goals associated with this program—the first is to create unique, compelling and exciting content that our readers will enjoy and find value in watching. The second is to offer a new format of storytelling to our global publishing partners, giving them the opportunity to leverage Reuters content to enhance their own platforms and stories. In addition to watching the traffic and views on, we’ll be looking to see how many of our customers download or embed our VR and 360 stories to determine success.

Why was Samsung the perfect partner for this initiative? How do you plan on leveraging their suite of VR services?

This partnership came together in an organic way because our editorial team had a desire to begin capturing VR content, and they had already been using and testing the Samsung gear. Given a sense of familiarity with the equipment, we felt confident that we could scale our usage across the globe, and deliver new content for our customers and visitors. Samsung is also a great marketing partner given its eagerness to enable Reuters and other publishers to do things that they have never done before—but asking that we stay true to our editorial principles. Our collaboration on this project allowed us to continue to report on news the way we always have, but now with the latest 360 technology.

Getty Images recently got into the VR fold, too. How will 360-degree video and VR change journalism for storytellers across the world?

Our VR and 360 video provide our users with more information about what happened in one particular moment in time, giving a new angle to our storytelling. In addition to enjoying Reuters award-winning photography and video coverage, our readers and customers can now go in-depth with our journalists to find out more about their stories—What is happening behind the camera? How were bystanders reacting? What was the weather like that day? A 360 photo or video provides a new perspective to our unmatched global coverage.

The Opening ceremony at Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (REUTERS/Antonio Bronic)
The Opening ceremony at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (REUTERS/Antonio Bronic)

What is it going to take for immersive storytelling methods to be mainstream?

Like all new innovations, it will take public adoption of the latest and greatest technology for immersive storytelling to truly go mainstream. As people upgrade their phones, computers, tablets, watches—whatever gear they use to consume content—publishers will see increased views and more interaction with VR. This is a new medium for publishers—and as a breaking news operation, we’re experimenting with how this content can add more value to our readers and our business.

How can advertisers and marketers begin incorporating 360-degree video and VR into their brand strategy? 

By working with publishers, who are true experts in storytelling, there’s no limit to what advertisers can do to enhance their campaigns and interact with their customers. There’s an amazing opportunity to exercise the art of creativity and surprise by using VR. It’s a great time to get in on the ground floor with 360 video and advertisers and marketers should jump to get involved with this new medium of storytelling.

VR technology is still in its infancy. Do you believe your audience is ready for photography and video VR? What are the numbers indicating for previous projects?

The audience is extremely savvy and the adoption of interactive multimedia stories has skyrocketed. Through the launch of Reuters TV, our video news app, we’ve seen new users with an insatiable appetite for visual content consumption. As our users clamor for more content, it’s a natural progression for us to find new formats to bring them stories. VR and 360 provide us with an opportunity to increase the output of our newsgathering services in engaging and stimulating ways.

Brazil's Ygor Coelho de Oliveira waves to fans after losing the match against Ireland's Scott Evans during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, August 13, 2016. Ygor Coelho grew up just half an hour north of Rio’s bright new Olympic Park and a world away, in the Chacrinha favela. His father built a badminton gym to change young lives and few were transformed more than Ygor’s, who has been playing since he could walk. He is now the best in Brazil and a competitor on the international circuit, but on Saturday he had the rare opportunity to compete at the highest level with the home crowd behind him. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
Brazil’s Ygor Coelho de Oliveira waves to fans during the Olympic Games. (REUTERS/Antonio Bronic)

How much weight will mobile and social carry for VR, and what is your strategy for those platforms? 

Mobile and social platforms are great for consuming any content—and VR and 360 are no different. We want to ensure our readers can view our 360 content wherever they access Reuters news—across, Reuters TV and Reuters apps. In addition to those Reuters properties, we will also be publishing our VR content across our social media channels. We’ve already seen some of our publisher partners adopting the VR content we’re creating for use on their own websites—but they’re also publishing directly to social media. It’s great to see how this content will be organically used as we continue to grow our product.

What is Reuters’ integrated marketing strategy to have consumers clamoring for this kind of content moving forward?

This program provides the opportunity for Reuters to dive head-first into the world of VR and 360. We can create content from all over the world, analyze what our clients and users want to see and then continue to produce what we find to be most popular, valuable and newsworthy. We want to discover what 360 content works well for our desktop, mobile and social platforms—but also, what’s useful for our news agency customers. We want to be efficient and creative about what we produce, so we can work to develop the best VR and 360 news offering out in the market.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Performers take part in the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
The Rio Games have unofficially turned into the VR Olympics, immersing viewers like never before. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

‘Lost Castle’ Publisher Leverages Steam To Succeed In China

It’s hard to believe that Steam, perhaps the largest PC gaming platform in the world, only launched in China (with one of the biggest PC gaming audiences in the world) late last year. But since then, its users in the country skyrocketed, and it continues to grow steadily. Additionally, the platform opens a world of opportunities for Western game publishers that are looking to reach that audience.

One publisher that has benefitted greatly from Steam’s presence in China is the publisher Another Indie Studio, which launched the roguelike game Lost Castle on Steam Early Access in February. After only six months, the game (which is priced at $7.99 US) sold over 130,000 copies, which is quite a feat in a country that prefers free-to-play games with microtransactions.

In Lost Castle, players take the role of nameless Treasure Hunters as they battle their way through the demon-infested dungeons of Castle Harwood in search of loot.

Iain Garner,Another Indie Studio's global developer relations and marketing director
Iain Garner, Another Indie Studio’s global developer relations and marketing director

Iain Garner, global developer relations and marketing director at Another Indie Studio, spoke with [a]listdaily and describes the game as a roguelike that features permadeath. Every time the player dies, it’s the end of that Treasure Hunter’s adventure.” However, “dead heroes’ souls can be sacrificed to upgrade the subsequent Treasure Hunters that the player controls. Castle Harwood will consume the souls of many heroes before players uncover its secrets.”

Even with Steam, it can be difficult for games to stand out, especially when they’re independent games that are still in Early Access. When asked about how the publisher got the word out about Lost Castle in China, Garner replied, “Lost Castle was a hit with streamers in China who both loved the game and wanted to support the local indie games industry. Most Chinese PC games are very casual and free-to-play driven, making Lost Castle stand out from the crowd, given its roguelike elements and premium pricing.

“We saw an unexpected surge in sales and interest that resulted in mainstream media coverage. Lost Castle rapidly became one of the most popular games in China, reaching 130,000 sales despite still being in Early Access on Steam.”

Garner also discussed how Lost Castle managed to sell so many copies in a market that prefers free-to-play games.

“Recently, Steam opened up their digital storefront to accepting Chinese Yen, and this had a massive impact in China,” Garner explained. “Previously, only gamers with access to foreign cards or key-resellers were able to purchase games on Steam. After Chinese currency and payment methods were allowed to be used, there has been a boom in Steam sales in China and the country has been the third highest spender on Steam for the last few months, according to SteamSpy.

“Steam is growing at an amazing rate in China, and there are numerous communities springing up around it. is one site that we’ve spent a lot of time and energy interacting within to foster a community. Our employees are active members of several online gaming communities, which has enabled us to chart and follow the developing tastes of China’s gamers.”

When asked about how Chinese tastes in games compared to Western ones, Garner said that “Chinese tastes are very varied. The majority of gamers here use mobile phones, but there’s a committed contingent of hardcore gamers who enjoy playing roguelikes and are interested in Lost Castle. It’s their conversion to buying the game on Steam that has made the greatest impact.

“Chinese gamers tend to have a higher tolerance for repetition after many years of mobile gaming, and are much more accepting of gameplay bugs, understanding that they will be fixed—as Lost Castle is in Early Access. Western gamers tend to crave variety and are more easily bored. Balancing this difference in tastes has been one of the hardest challenges in developing Lost Castle.”

In addition to cultural differences, Garner said that the biggest challenge Another Indie Studio faced in promoting Lost Castle for both Chinese and Western audiences was language translation. “All promotional content needs multiple versions and multiple perspectives to accurately reach audiences around the world. This can create real problems with creating trailers and other assets from a development perspective.”

Additionally, “in China, media coverage is predominantly paid. We were very lucky at first because we were able to garner organic streamer interest, but now that our brand is more developed, we need to pay for articles most of the time. This gives us some control over what is said and when, but the end result is that gamers are much less trusting of media than Westerners.” The publisher has also been working hard in the West to gain attention on social media via advertisements, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter—with notable success using Instagram to reach fans and find new players.



Given how different the Chinese PC gaming market is compared to the West, we asked Garner what was the most important thing to keep in mind when reaching out to players in China.

“The most important thing is to make an effort with Chinese gamers,” Garner replied. “The Chinese as a whole are pretty accustomed to foreign companies not making significant efforts to sell products. If you don’t speak Chinese or have knowledgeable Chinese partners, then you will always have problems dealing with the Chinese market and Chinese gamers as a result of not understanding the culture.”

Twitch Acquires Curse Network Of Gaming Websites

Livestreaming giant, Twitch, has announced the acquisition of Curse, a global multimedia and tech company focused on video games.

“We’ve long been fans of Curse, which is an innovator in the games industry with a strong culture built around its offerings—from Curse Voice and Curse Client to Gamepedia,” said Emmett Shear, CEO of Twitch in the press release. “While it’s still early days for Twitch and Curse, we’re kindred spirits in many ways and are looking forward to working together to enhance our users’ gaming experience.”

The kindred spirits declined to comment on what this acquisition means for the two companies, although creating a community around eSports and influencers would be an obvious choice. Game publishers already look to Twitch stars to livestream game play prior to a title’s release. Twitch plays a huge part with players and retention, according to a recent study, 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.

Twitch is a major source for eSports coverage, as well—an industry that reached $1 billion this year. NewZoo reports that fans have watched a total of 803.7 million hours of league and tournament-related events on Twitch channels between August 2015 and May 2016. ESports content in general has accounted for 14 to 31 percent of total hours watched on Twitch, with event organizers getting the most viewability with 71.3 percent to total eSports hours watched. This includes bigger partners, such as Riot (the publishers of League of Legends) and the ESL.

The acquisition of this network of popular gaming websites will allow Twitch to share its content across even more channels and access the communities that already exist there. Founded in 2006, Curse offers wikis, news, guides and databases—according to the acquisition press release, more than 30 million people visit these web properties, video channels, social media channels and desktop application each month.

“We here at Curse have been avid gamers and Twitch users for quite a long time, so we’re thrilled to be joining the Twitch family,” said Hubert Thieblot, CEO of Curse. “I’m really excited to see how we can bring Curse services into the Twitch network, and provide an unparalleled experience to both Curse and Twitch users. This is going to be terrific for the millions of players who use Curse, and for the larger gaming community.”

How IBM Watson Is Diving Deep Into The Data Deluge

Whether it’s supermodel Karolina Kurkova wearing a smart dress at the Met Gala, or Wimbledon fans being scanned by a supercomputer at the All England Club, or teaming up with Sesame Street to advance early childhood education, IBM Watson has had no shortage of innovative activations to announce this year to leverage its cognitive business platform.

How are brands using data to understand consumers and to better communicate with them on a personal level?

Stephen Gold, the chief marketing officer for IBM Watson Group and vice president for partner programs and venture capital at IBM, joined [a]listdaily to discuss the company’s approach to their data deluge. 

Stephen Gold, chief marketing officer for IBM Watson Group and vice president for partner programs and venture capital at IBM.

Take us through the strategy a bit when forming an alliance. What are you specifically looking for to deem that it’s the right fit?

The activations are instrumental in helping us engage and educate a market on a new era of computing. With Watson, we look to reach a wide array of industries and professions on use for case-specific challenges. In the case of Macy’s, Watson is helping the retailer improve the customer shopping experience. This pilot effort stems from Macy’s desire to provide better ‘wayfinding’ assistance to their customers—a significant issue, as most of their stores have unique layouts—and a willingness to embrace new technologies as an avenue to deliver that functionality.

In a very different context, the Met Gala project was a demonstration of how Watson can be used to amplify human creativity. By applying various cognitive capabilities from Watson, like Color Theory and Tone Analyzer, IBM helped bring man and machine together to create an exceptional fashion design. We’re continually applying the dozens of Watson core cognitive services to meaningful societal and business challenges, focusing on building out applications that will help individuals, industries and organizations transform the way they operate.

In which particular sectors—from major to minor—are you looking to form strategic alliances in? What works well with Watson?

Watson’s cognitive capabilities lend themselves to situations that are data rich, but information poor. This spans everything from health to retail, financial services to the public sector and mining to telecommunications. There isn’t a single industry that won’t be transformed by this technology. Currently, tens of thousands of developers, and hundreds of clients and partners, representing over 20 industries across six continents, actively use Watson. Today you can find Watson at work in Thailand, where over 1.1 million patients at Bumrungrad Hospital can benefit from Watson for Oncology; in Singapore, where more than 5 million citizens get tax advice with an app powered by Watson; and in Australia, where and over 40,000 students get campus and administrative guidance through a Watson application, just to name a few.


How do you see market expansion and partnerships developing for Watson in the future? What are you putting a particular emphasis on?

IBM is committed to maintaining an open platform environment to encourage use and adoption of its Watson API services by students, hobbyists, developers, independent software vendors and the community at large. This will continue to spark innovation and the next generation applications that will tackle some of life’s toughest challenges. IBM’s continued investment in research and development, approaching $6 billion annually, and head start in the area of artificial in intelligence has allowed us to bring Watson to a point where it’s easier to teach, use and connect to existing technologies, systems and data sets, as well as easier for developers to build Watson into their applications. Over the past two years, IBM has taught Watson many new languages; increased its core knowledge of key industry domains; made it available via new form factors—tablets, smartphones, robotics and smart watches like Apple Watch—and enhanced it with technology that allows it to ‘see,’ as well as understand tone and emotion. We believe that in the future, every critical decision will be informed by a cognitive system like Watson.

Over the past two years, IBM has taught Watson many new languages; increased its core knowledge of key industry domains; made it available via new form factors—tablets, smartphones, robotics and smart watches like Apple Watch—and enhanced it with technology that allows it to ‘see,’ as well as understand tone and emotion. We believe that in the future, every critical decision will be informed by a cognitive system like Watson. 

How has Watson’s data-crunching systems been received by marketers? Why is employing Watson’s A.I. tech a big boon for brands?

Marketers have long sought to better understand their customers, clients, patients, partners and citizens, and gain the ability to communicate with them on a very personalized level. Much of the data explosion that has occurred, especially in the social realm, has provided an incredible wealth of information for marketers to learn from and respond to. But to take advantage of this newfound resource, they need cognitive capabilities. This will change the way they communicate, target, promote, and respond to their audience. Watson-based solutions today exist to help marketers personalize their message by understating in real-time an individual’s personality, sentiment and tone. They can also extract concepts from blogs, articles and tweets to stay on top of the latest trends and chatter.

As part of a three-year agreement, Sesame Workshop and IBM will collaborate to develop educational platforms and products that will be designed to adapt to the learning preferences and aptitude levels of individual preschoolers.
Sesame Workshop and IBM will collaborate to develop educational platforms and products.

How are companies looking to develop tailored marketing campaigns and products? What are they looking forward to learning most?

Marketers pay a steep price for not understanding their customers’ needs and reactions to their business decisions. Watson can help marketers better understand their customers on an individual level, creating a more personalized experience that can lead to deeper engagement and stronger brand affinity. The marketing industry is awash in unstructured data, from tweets to Facebook posts to photo-sharing apps like Instagram. Locked away in that data are tremendous insights into what we as individuals are looking to do, how we expect to be treated and what we want our interactions to be like. Cognitive systems like Watson can help marketers unlock that data to for a better, more complete understanding of their audience, and the best way to connect with them.

Watson recently moved into a retail store setting by partnering with specific Macy’s locations to improve the in-store experience of locating products, facilities and service. How will you be marketing this new initiative, and measuring the success of it?

Macy’s On Call is an example of how retailers can use cognitive systems to make the shopping experience more impactful. In the case of Macy’s, this means helping consumers locate products, facilities and services. The Macy’s effort is a pilot that taps into an intelligent engagement platform built by Satisfi, one of our Watson developer partners. They’ve incorporated Watson technology to boost the functionality of their app and deliver on the specific experience Macy’s was seeking—including applying Watson’s language abilities to converse with Spanish-speaking customers in their native language. This is another example of how our developer partners are amplifying the reach of Watson in the market and helping the technology reach new consumer audiences.

The Macy’s in-store mobile companion that assists in servicing customer needs.

What is the biggest challenge in marketing the world’s first cognitive computing system? On the flip side, what are the exciting opportunities it presents?

Helping individuals understand this new era of computing where systems understand content in context, reason with a purpose, learn at scale and interact naturally with humans is the most pressing challenge. For over 60 years, what we have known about computing has been based on rules—hard-coded logic—against information that was neatly organized into rows and columns. With cognitive computing, we’re redefining the possibilities of how humans will use information of all types to enhance, scale and accelerate their own expertise. Today, we’re focused on scaling the technology across multiple domains and making it proficient in multiple languages. We continue to make Watson easier to use, teach and deploy. This is the first five years of what will likely be a 50-year history of this new form of computing, and the horizons for cognitive computing—and the ways we can market it—are endless.

Earlier this year, Kia used IBM Watson to help set their lineup of social media influencers for the Super Bowl. What’s your view of Watson’s commercial approach to the influencer marketplace?

Watson’s cognitive services enable marketers to make sense of this data, and turn it into meaningful insights that can help advance client-business objectives. For example, in the Kia project, it’s another great example of our partners in action. Developer partner Influential used Watson’s Personality Insights API to go beyond assessing quantifiable stats (like demographics and social reach) to a new layer of assessment that determined key personality insights based on data pulled from an influencer’s social media feeds. This allowed Kia to choose brand ambassadors based on how they’re perceived by their followers, and how well the influencer’s specific personality fits the personality of the brand.

How do you see influencer marketing evolving, and what kind of role will Watson be playing in it moving forward?

Technology is increasingly being used by brands to further their digital and influencer marketing efforts—and Watson, either directly from IBM or from our developer partners, is embedded in many of these initiatives . . . This is just the beginning. As adoption of Watson continues to grow, we’ll see even more creative use cases for bringing this technology, and the more personalized experience it provides, to consumers.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

How Trion Is Partnering To Bring ‘Trove’ To China

When thinking about a fantasy MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), few might imagine a game like Trove. In this bright voxel-based world, players are encouraged to band together to face challenges, and (similar to Minecraft) there is a strong emphasis on building and sharing creations with other players. It’s this uniqueness that made it the perfect game to bring to China.

Trion is no stranger to bringing games overseas. In addition to developing games such as Rift and Atlas Reactor, the company currently publishes the Korean game ArcheAge in the US. But in order to do the reverse and publish a Western game in Asia, Trion is partnering with the Chinese company, 360 Games, to support and promote the game in China.

Scott Hartsman, CEO at Trion, talks to [a]listdaily about partnering to bring a relatively new MMO to Asia and how it will stand out in one of the largest PC gaming markets in the world.

What is Trove about, and what makes it the ideal game to bring to China?

Trove is one of the first products that we incubated at Trion in our grassroots pitching project—we put the call out to everybody to submit one-pagers, and we whittled them down from 30 [pitches] to 3 prototypes, and Trove is what came out on top. The idea is: what would happen if we took everything that people love about MMOs and put them into a super approachable package that was very easy to drop-in-and-out of?

The entire game is based around the idea of other players around you being a benefit. Social friction is nonexistent, and getting into playing is a very easy experience. Given how we chose to express that in voxels, it gave us the ability to do that in fully constructible and destructible dynamically generated worlds.

There are a couple of reasons why it’s perfect for China. Number one is drop-in, drop-out gameplay is very convenient, which is increasingly important. If you look back over MMO history—ten years ago, the average play session was four hours, and it was more like a hardcore hobby. The days, people want to play a game that they can get into and out of in twenty minutes, but if they want to stick with it, they can play it for hours. Trove fits that bill very well. It’s also incredibly colorful, which is something that we’ve learned is a critical part of reaching a global audience. A lot of what we do in a typical Western fantasy is very dark and gritty and tends more toward high realism and fidelity, as opposed to colors, where everything is focused on gameplay.

Those two things made 360 Games fall in love with Trove.

Is Trove being adapted to suit the Chinese audience?

In talking with 360 Games, they have some pretty hardcore gamers on their production team, which was great for us. They got the game very quickly and immediately leapt onto some reasonable suggestions to make the game work well for their users. For example, learning the game is part of the fun for a Western gamer, but that isn’t the case for their audience. They want a little more handholding.

Also, if you’re familiar with Minecraft, you should know about biomes. Our game is organized in different biomes. A biome has its own unique creatures, structures, music and visuals. We will be doing some custom biomes along with some custom assets and destinations. But the core gameplay will remain largely unchanged.

Trion has experience bringing ArcheAge from S. Korea to the US. How does bringing a Western game to the Asian market differ?

The way we think about it, it’s the inverse of the relationships that we have today. We already know how to work with partners in shipping builds, schedules, and tweaks back-and-forth and doing press in other territories—all of the things that sit around the idea of getting a game running. [The difference is that] you have to have a lot of trust in your partner about what they’re telling you about their local market. That’s one of the reasons it was so important for us to do a deep-dive on who they [360 Games] are and who the individual people are that are going to be shepherding this game over there. We have to have a lot of faith in them because it’s not like we can surf the forums and read what users are saying. We have to rely on a solid partner that’s knowledgeable, not just in terms of what people are saying about the game, but also that that feedback is being interpreted correctly—and the people working on the game can get at the meat of what we can do to make the game better.

When talking about feedback on any app or game, a lot of the time, what people say isn’t necessarily what they want. But when they have strong opinions, it does speak to some underlying need or way we could do better. We’re very reliant on partners to help communicate that across clearly.

In China, most PC gamers play in arcades and cafes. How do you promote a game in that environment?

That’s the reason there are some territories we do on our own, and there are others that are practically impervious to outsiders. It becomes much smarter for us to partner with experts. When we were evaluating potential partners, a big part of it was: what is this partner’s secret sauce when it comes to reaching out to customers? In the case of 360 Games, they’re a relatively new entrant into the PC games business, but they have a very strong PC software and mobile games business. They have some great thoughts on how to make the PC games business a big part of what they do moving forward. They already have 800 or 900 million installs of PC software, plus a relatively strong slate of PC games coming up. So, they’re able to take advantage of those networks to get the game in front of the right number of people.


How would you describe the Chinese game market?

Having just gotten back from ChinaJoy, it persistently amazes me, not just the scope of what PC gaming is out there, but how news of the size of that market from a customer point-of-view seldom makes it back here organically. It feels like there are almost two different worlds.

ChinaJoy is the second biggest games show in the world, second to Gamescom. It takes place in eleven different tradeshow halls—it’s huge. It’s a huge market and one that’s still strongly growing and extremely vibrant. The scope, scale and spectacle that goes into getting people interested in these games are unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

How did you show Trove at ChinaJoy?

360 Games did a full custom booth build-out with a big stage show and a 50-foot monitor. It was really impressive, and the attendees seemed to like it a lot. The game show that they did had a crowd out in front of it. The booth itself had custom builds that included a huge dragon and our candy-themed biome. People got a kick out of it. It stands out compared to typical fantasy tropes, which Trove is very different from, and contrast is great.

With Trove is releasing for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year, what do you think is the future of console gaming in China?

Looking at the market in general, consoles in China are going to have a bigger barrier than they do here in the West. If you talk to people on the ground in Shanghai, they’ll tell you that you could have gotten grey market consoles there for years. If they were going to turn into an explosive thing, why haven’t they yet? Then you talk to the other side, which says adoption is held up because they haven’t been 100 percent legitimized.

I think you have to look at what the general culture looks like—and the general gaming culture tends to be more around PC download free-to-play and anything that has inherent piracy protection. Culturally speaking, their PC gaming and core gaming audience grew up fairly differently than ours did. While I think that console gaming could turn into a big thing in China—and we’d be ready in an instant if and when it does—but I think it has bigger challenges than what some of the console makers expect.

Explore ‘Don’t Breathe’ In Snapchat’s First 360-Degree Video Ad

Sony Pictures Entertainment is the first company to use 360-degree video within a Snapchat ad, offering an interactive push for its upcoming thriller, Don’t Breathe. Coming to theaters August 26, Don’t Breathe tells the story of three would-be burglars who target a blind man, but get far more than they bargained for. The blind man pursues them through his house, where they stumble upon dark secrets that tell a much more sinister story.

The 10-second Snapchat ad, rolling out in the United States, allows users to swipe up and explore environments within the movie. The ad will also be shown in the United Kingdom and Australia.

don't breathe

“Audiences increasingly expect more from us,” Aaron Wahle, senior vice president of international digital marketing at Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in a statement. “And, as a result, digital marketing departments now have more access to provide higher quality content to satisfy this thirst for engaging content through the mobile phone. This, in turn, means that more thought must be put into activities across the board—it’s not just about one-sheets and trailers anymore, but about creating incredible experience.”

Sony is also utilizing the power of influencers to promote Don’t Breathe. On July 28, online influencers from around the world united in Spain for an event to relive the experience of the horror film. Welcomed by director Fede Alvarez, the internet stars walked through a recreation of Don’t Breathe environments with night vision and GoPro cameras, with the aim of finding money that was hidden in different locations, under a strict timeline. Influencers were also introduced to the new Snapchat ad campaign.

For 360-degree experiences, it’s quickly gaining popularity as a means to promote films and television. Netflix offered a 360-degree and VR experience for Stranger Things, and EPIX created a fully-interactive 360-degree experience for Berlin Station, a spy thriller coming this fall.

Allowing would-be viewers to explore environments and scenarios creates personal experiences that audiences can take with them. This example of frontline marketing creates memories, and therefore, emotion-based buying decisions.