The ‘Dancing With The Stars’ Mobile Game Takes You To A Glittery Fantasy World

Dancing with the Stars (known in the UK as Strictly Come Dancing) is a global phenomenon with millions of viewers worldwide. The 23rd season launched in the US earlier this week, and its celebrity cast features names such as the 11-time Grammy Award winning artist, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds; silver medal Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez; Broadway actress and author Marilu Henner; and Maureen McCormick, who is best known for her role as Marcia on The Brady Bunch. Other famous (some might say infamous) personalities include former Texas Governor Rick Perry and Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. All of them are showing their best moves in this reality show dance competition, and they’re about to be joined by mobile gaming fans.

Developer Exient has created games such as Bake Escape and brought the Angry Birds trilogy to handheld console platforms such as the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. Today, it launched the Dancing with the Stars mobile game internationally in the US and the UK and, which coincides with the premiere of the show. But instead of being a dance and rhythm game, as many might expect, Dancing with the Stars is a match-3 game with role-playing elements. Matching gems will determine dance moves as players work to increase their fame.

Nick Harper, Exient COO

Nick Harper, the COO of Exient, talked to [a]listdaily about how the partnership to create a Dancing with the Stars mobile game began and how it will complement the show moving forward.

“We launched a puzzle game called Bake Escape about a year ago,” said Harper. “We just happened to meet the BBC Worldwide at a tradeshow, and they were looking for people who were interested in making a game based on Dancing with the Stars. What was important to them was that they wanted to match elements of the show with a match-3 puzzle game—a sort of mashup of the two—and because we made Bake Escape, they knew we had the skillset to do it. The basic premise behind the game is that we want to take the audience on a shared journey of excitement to a happy, glittering world where the everyday is left behind.

“It’s not just about dancing. It’s about the lifestyle of being a celebrity, the excitement of the journey, and all the struggles of balancing your everyday life as a celebrity with the practice of being a dancer. Those were the things we were trying to capture alongside celebrity dilemmas, which are humorous and add to this idea of the fantasy world that exists in Dancing with the Stars.”

So why a match-3 game instead of a straightforward dance simulator or music and rhythm game? Harper explains that there are two main reasons to go with the puzzle format. “All the data shows that puzzle games are the primary game of choice for the target audience of the TV show,” Harper said. “Also, if you’re making a mobile game that’s purely based on rhythm or dancing, the problem there is that it becomes a timing experience. People who are playing mobile don’t necessarily want to go into that level of skill. A lot of people are playing without any music on. You’re taking all the elements that are important to a dancing game, and you can’t rely on players having them.


“It felt to us that having a puzzle game really resonated with the audience, and we could link it with the dancing. But in fact, there are a lot of non-puzzle elements in the game. For example, the game structure is that you practice in a week by doing the match-3, which improves your dance moves. Then you unlock a dress rehearsal, and you get fans by matching in the dress rehearsal. Then on the weekend, all the practice you put in goes into the weekend show, where it’s basically a reproduction of the TV show. In that sense, you’re not doing any match-3—you’re watching a dance performance based on the choreography you’ve established throughout the week, which gets you more fans. The ultimate goal is to become as famous as possible. You start off as a D-list celebrity, and you’re working your way up to the A-list.”

A major part Dancing with the Stars’ allure, as its title implies, is in seeing celebrities perform alongside professional dancers. We asked if the game would have any celebrity names and likenesses from the show featured on it. “That is absolutely our plan,” Harper responded. “Because you have BBC Worldwide and ABC in America, there are a lot of contractual negotiations that have to go back-and-forth. But we’re now at the point where we can start engaging with the talent. Our plan is to get the celebrity dancers. You play as a ‘celebrity,’ and our goal is to have all of the pro dancers as all of your partners. At launch, you’ll only be able to play as a female, but we’ll include male characters in an update, and you’ll be given the opposite sex as your pro dancer. The hope is that will resonate with the audience, and we want the game to be as authentic as possible. So having as many references as possible to the live show is really important.”

Harper also stated that the developers hope to have all the voices and likenesses of the pro dancers included in the game within the first year of launch. “One of the great things about service games is that you’re always working on it,” he said. “We know that there are two seasons of the show in the US, and the plan is to do a major update in March. You’ll see new dance moves, new characters and new dilemmas. One of the big things that we really want to push for is linking the live show with the app. For example, you’re watching the live show and see one of the dancers wearing a specific outfit, and that outfit will become available in the app for you to buy and wear on your character.” Harper also stated that Exient’s intention is to offer almost real-time updates to the game, but the challenge is that the show doesn’t want to reveal too far in advance what the contestants are going to wear, but the feature could be a very strong pull for fans.

Harper also detailed the differences between the US and UK versions of the show, and what the challenges of promoting the game for the for audiences were. “The interesting thing is that the US version is a little bit more saucy than the UK version,” he said. “The dances are a little more extravagant, and it’s a lot more showy—the UK version is more conservative. We have to be quite sensitive about things like how the US costumes have a lot more flesh on display.”


Exient plans to include a social element by capturing the audience participation part of the show. Players can watch other people’s dances and vote on the performances they like best. As for the music selection, which is also a significant part of the show, Harper stated that the game has a number of tunes that will match different dance styles. But if the game becomes very popular, the developer would like to migrate towards getting licensed music.

The Indian version of the Dancing with the Stars game, which is already live, features cross promotion with the live show. The game promotes the TV show, and the show encourages viewers to download the game. The same promotion is likely to be included in the US and UK shows. “We want to be an extension of the life of the Dancing with the Stars universe,” Harper explained. “It’s not a case of, ‘this is an app that’s like Dancing with the Stars, but it’s separate from the TV show.’ We really want it to feel like a sort of second screen experience, where if you love the show you’ll play the app.

“The app is connected to the show, the show talks to the app. Stuff happens on the show then happens in the app. We have a fake Twitter that exists in the app, which talks to you about how you’re doing in the game. Our ultimate goal is to enable that to include what’s happening on the live TV show, so you really feel connected. But at the same time, we don’t want to take people away from the TV show when it’s airing.”

We also asked Harper how a Dancing with the Stars game would stand out in a mobile market that’s already crowded with match-3 games. “I think what we’ve created is a real sense of magic in the mobile gaming world. We’ve got these beautiful characters doing amazing dancing with a real sense of fantasy magic. There’s a nice structure to it with the weekly practice and live show, but you also have all these dilemmas interspersed with it. It’s kind of a parody of what it’s like to be a celebrity.

“It might be things like having to go to a movie premiere. Do you turn up, or do you stay practicing your dance moves? Whatever you do has an impact on your celebrity status. Turn up, and you’ll get more fans. Stay and practice and people don’t see you, but you might improve your dance moves. I think what we’re doing is creating an experience that captures the fantasy of the Dancing with the Stars universe in a really accessible mobile game.”

When asked what he thought attracted so many fans to Dancing with the Stars, Harper said: “I think it’s the escapism. It’s a happy, glittery world. Nothing negative happens in the Dancing with the Stars world. You have crisis and dilemmas with injuries and things like that, but everything is about the joy of dance and the romanticism of dance—the pizazz of it all—in this amazing setting that creates a fantastic escapist experience. People go there every week to escape and look at these beautiful bodies doing amazing things in an amazing setting. I think it creates a great atmosphere for the family to enjoy. That’s what we’re trying to recreate with the game.”

How Brands Are Leveraging Snapchat Scavenger Hunts

Snapchat scavenger hunts are rising in popularity as a means to engage audiences and create personal experiences within a brand space. This has proven an effective activation that results in an increase of followers and engagement as Snapchat users compete for prizes.


The Snapchat scavenger hunts began in 2014 when GrubHub hosted a week-long scavenger hunt contest dubbed “SnapHunt,” a first for any brand on the platform. Each day for one week, GrubHub posted a new challenge for followers to complete for a shot at $50 in free takeout. More than 30 percent of GrubHub’s Snapchat followers participated and the brand saw an increase of 20 percent in followers during the contest. In addition to larger contests, GrubHub also used the platform to provide additional value to followers every month through exclusive discount offers and giveaways.



Snapchat users in Los Angeles can follow clues on Delta’s new Snapchat account along with its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as part of the ongoing “Dream Up, LA” campaign. The airline is gearing up for its relocation to Terminals 2 and 3 at LAX, taking steps toward a $1.9 billion plan to upgrade and connect the complex. To get consumers in the area excited, Delta is hosting a Snapchat scavenger hunt that offers opportunities to meet professionals from the fashion, music and culinary arts just to name a few.

“Delta’s ‘Dream Up, LA’ campaign celebrates hardworking, passionate Angelenos who aspire to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be,” said Ranjan Goswami, Delta’s vice president of western sales. “With Delta DreamHunt, we want to help turn some of these dreams into realities, by providing opportunities that take them one step closer to their goals.”

The clues will lead participants to landmarks throughout Los Angeles. Participants enter to win by taking a Snapchat of the landmark with a sponsored geofilter that will be available around the location, and then sending it to Delta’s Snapchat account. Participating celebrities included Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso, music duo Karmin and Chef Ray Garcia sharing clues each week on their personal accounts.


The luxury department store chain implemented a scavenger hunt from September 3 to 5 on Snapchat to celebrate the fall launch of its “100 percent” campaign. Entrants have the chance to win a wide range of prizes such as concert tickets to Maddie & Tae, a meet and greet with Rebecca Minkoff during her upcoming fashion show, gift cards to Bloomingdale’s and a variety of fall products.

“Hiding hundreds of Snapchat filters at local stores around the country felt like a fresh take on a scavenger hunt or sweepstakes,” said Jonathan Paul, operating vice president of social media at Bloomingdale’s. “One of our insights came from Pokémon GO and that mobile user behavior. We thought that if we could gamify Snapchat geoflters we could connect with shoppers in a playful and creative way.”


Baltimore Ravens

To kick off the 2016 NFL season, the Baltimore Ravens partnered with Miller Lite for the team’s “Countdown to Kickoff Week.” From September 6 to 9, the brand was engaged with fans through tailgate parties and opportunities to win tickets to the Ravens’ first game of the season last Sunday. The Ravens set up a scavenger hunt on Snapchat for fans to find at least one of six LED letters that spell “Ravens” around Baltimore. Those who sent pictures of themselves next to the letters and used the hashtag #FindTheFlock were entered to win tickets to the Miller Lite Flite Deck for the opening game.


Adidas created a Snapchat scavenger hunt at the end of August in New York and Los Angeles to promote the brand’s line of NMD sneakers and a chance to win tickets to the The Last Encore music tour. Snapchat users had to find the Adidas Street team, marked by Adidas Snapchat street signs around the area. At the street sign, users were able to unlock a Snapchat geofilter while the Adidas street team shared information about Adidas NMD, a casual sneaker inspired by classic Adidas styles from the 1980s. The street team then directed them the Adidas Originals store to unlock a second geofilter, where both could be redeemed for a chance to win.


Snapchat is a unique animal that forces marketing teams to get creative. Even though brands can now use more targeted marketing for Snapchat, activations like these scavenger hunts are a great example of frontline marketing through experiences.

Wargaming Celebrates 100 Years Of Tanks Using Virtual Reality

Game publisher Wargaming continues to explore new ways to connect with its 140 million World of Tanks fans through history-themed virtual reality experiences. The company is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first real-life tank with an event showcasing the Mark IV replica created for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse film in London’s Trafalgar Square on September 15. The Mark I, the first tank, debuted 100 years ago at that same location.

For those who aren’t in the UK, Wargaming is launching the latest installment in its historical “Virtually Inside” 360-degree video series. “Virtually Inside the First Tanks” combines a 360-degree video walkthrough of the Bovington Tank Museum’s collection of early tanks. But Wargaming has enhanced this experience by adding in-game 360-degree scenes of the Mark I from its World of Tanks game, which Matt Daly, Wargaming special projects lead told [a]listdaily, allows anyone to jump into observer mode on any modern device without needing to download the client.

“Our hardware, software, production competency and methodologies have all drastically improved, and it shows, but I would say the biggest and subtlest innovation with this newest Mark I episode is the integration for the first time of World of Tanks in-game VR video,” Daly said. “Almost nobody is doing this right now, certainly not in this context, and the ability to provide something increasingly close to an in-game observer mode without the need for the viewer to download anything at all is a very big deal. This will become much more obvious by the end of 2017.”

Daly, who has been on all 10 of the historical 360-degree shoots, said he’s watched as the whole VR video space continues to evolve and grow. He said Wargaming’s 360-degree video view counts are currently among the highest in the medium.

“We’ve seen an overwhelmingly positive response from our community and the general public,” Daly said. “When people marvel at what they’re seeing, we know that we’ve brought them at least one of the first experiences of this kind, and that’s quite a powerful thing. We also see that people are ‘getting it.’ They’re expressing a deeper understanding of the history because they’ve just experienced it in a more immersive way, and ultimately drawing an even more meaningful connection between World of Tanks and the absolute ocean of heritage that it is built on. Creating those deeper experiences is what drives us.”

Daly said the platforms and tools for virtual reality are maturing very quickly. Since the creative community that is doing meaningful work in this medium is still small, they’re all engaging in regular dialogue with Google, Littlstar, Facebook and other toolmakers and infrastructure providers to help communally determine how the medium shapes out. “We’re seeing fewer to no immersion breakers like stitch lines or low framerates; we have better methodologies for dealing with all stages of production; and in general we have a better understanding of who is viewing these videos on which devices and what it is they’re interested in,” Daly said.

This library of videos is also working on a marketing level. Daly said if someone Googles “Mark I Tank Video” or “USS Alabama,” there’s a very good chance a top result will be one of Wargaming’s text articles, videos or VR videos. “We’re leveraging probably the biggest, highest-quality repository of combat vehicle 3D models, along with deep relationships with museums and heritage organizations around the world, to produce some of the most compelling heritage storytelling on the internet,” Daly said. “Our community, as well as anyone who might become a member of our community, tend to deeply respect that. VR video is an obvious extension of that storytelling we’ve been doing for years, and is just perfect for our online game audience because they already have the vocabulary to engage in dialogue with us about it.”

That audience is about to grow with the introduction of PlayStation VR on October 15. Littlstar has partnered with Sony as the official VR video platform for PlayStation VR, and Daly said the World of Tanks channel will be front and center on launch day. “That will increase our reach and help us stay platform agnostic,” Daly said. “Most importantly, it will allow more people to engage with these VR experiences in the most optimal way: with an actual VR headset. We also hope that the intrinsically communal nature of the PS4 living room situation will pull the medium, and our content, away from fears of isolationism.”

Wargaming isn’t just focusing on virtual reality, as the company has been at the forefront of augmented reality as well. Wargaming has just launched its fourth AR product, Tank 100, which is available on iOS and Android devices. It developed this AR experience with Ballista Digital, co-owned by historian Tom Clifford and BBC presenter Dan Snow. The app allows anyone to place 3D models of the Mark I tank onto the world, providing a sense of the scale and presence of the vehicle. That acts as a natural segue into the expanded information and storytelling about the vehicle’s history that’s offered in the app. The Tank 100 app also directly connects to Littlstar, which means users can experience any of the 10 VR experiences the company has filmed.

Daly said some of the types of data and community feedback they’ve been able to gather from their VR projects helped inform them about audience interests, population concentration, experience level, immersion threshold, etc. This inevitably feeds into the design of Wargaming’s AR experiences and vice versa. “We feel that if we keep pace with both VR and AR technologies, we’ll be best equipped to continue doing truly unique and awesome things with them at every step of the way, particularly once AR and VR inevitably integrate into an entirely new medium,” Daly said.

Wargaming is also celebrating the 100th anniversary of tanks in its games. Starting September 15, World of Tanks on PC introduces Convoy mode. Players can drive an entirely new vehicle type: the four-wheeled Lanchester armored cars, armed with fast-firing machine guns, which are quick and mobile. Players will be divided into two teams of seven with one team protecting and repairing the Mark I as it moves across a World War I battlefield, while the other team tries to use explosives to stop it in its tracks.

There’s also a special event in Wargaming’s mobile game, World of Tanks Blitz, which begins September 19. Players can take control of a modified Mark I in a 7-vs-7 battle. A special medal is earned once ten battles are completed in the Mark I during the week.

Time Inc. Has A New CEO; IBM Names Their First-Ever CMO

Here are some of the top personnel moves in marketing over the last week. Our congratulations to these people taking on new challenges!

NBCUniversal Brand Development Appoints New EVP

NBCUniversal Brand Development named Chris Heatherly as executive vice president of worldwide games and digital platforms. Starting on September 30, Heatherly will head up the unit that creates interactive gaming experiences and digital content for consoles, mobile and PC platforms with the goal of broadening game development and growing NBCUniversal’s properties across digital platforms and emerging technologies. Heatherly has over 20 years of experience in the games and technology industry, and was most recently the VP and GM of Disney’s games and apps division.

IBM Names First Chief Marketing Officer

Michelle Peluso has been named as IBM’s VP and chief marketing officer—a new position at the company. Peluso will begin her position on October 3, as the importance of marketing is continuing to grow at the technology company,  and will lead the way toward accelerating its marketing efforts. Peluso also currently serves on the board of directors for Nike, Technoserve and Tech:NYC.

Time Inc. Names New CEO

Rich Battista has been named the president and CEO of Time Inc., replacing Joe Ripp. The company stated that Ripp will continue to lead the Time Inc. board as its executive chairman. Battista has 25 years of experience in the media industry and joined Time Inc. last year from Mandalay Sports Media, where he was CEO.

World of Warcraft Creator Begins New Adventure

Formerly Blizzard Entertainment’s chief creative officer, game designer Rob Pardo announced the launch of Bonfire Studios, based in Irvine. The company includes a handful of games industry veterans and is backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz and Riot Games. Pardo details the inspiration behind the company in a blog post, and the studios purpose will be to “build friendships by creating legendary game experiences that bring players closer together, united in a sense of adventure, exploration and fellowship.”

More Adventures Beyond Blizzard

Chris Metzen, SVP of story and franchise development at Blizzard Entertainment, longtime industry veteran, and creator hit franchises such as Diablo, Warcraft and StarCraft is leaving the video game industry and going into retirement so that he can focus his attention on his family. Metzen wrote a post on the World of Warcraft forums announcing his retirement and detailing his time at Blizzard, which spans 22 years.

A+E Networks Appoints Chief Marketing Coordinator

A+E Networks has promoted Amanda Hill to the newly created position of chief marketing coordinator. Previously, she had been the chief creative officer who oversaw A+E Networks’ international marketing, communications and programming teams. In her new role, Hill will manage marketing for A+E portfolio of brands in the US and abroad, across all platforms.

From Angry Birds To Brand Breaker

Peter Vesterbacka, once listed as one of Time’s most influential people, has been named “brand breaker” and company evangelist for the learning game studio Lightneer Inc. Formerly known as Mighty Eagle, Vesterbacka was the brand ambassador for Rovio’s Angry Birds franchise. He is also a founding member of Lightneer and served as a board member and investor until now. Lightneer is currently working on its debut puzzle role-playing game, Big Bang Legends, which launches in 2017 for mobile devices and is being designed to help teach physics and chemistry to players.

Crossing From Sports to ESports

Veteran Fox Sports executive, Pete Vlastelica, was named CEO and president of Major League Gaming (MLG), which is owned by Activision Blizzard. Vlastelica joins industry veterans Steve Bornstein and Mike Sepso as part of the company’s eSports leadership team and “will expand and enhance the company’s broadcast, content and distribution leadership across the global eSports ecosystem,” according to a press release.

Have a new hire tip? Let us know at

Inside Snapchat’s Three New Targeted Ad Offerings

While brands are champing at the bit to reach Snapchat’s 150 million daily users, a recent survey placed the ghost-iconed social platform dead last for producing investment return, a harsh reality that could be attributed to a lack of on-board analytic tools. With Instagram rolling out its “Stories” feature—a blatant, if not improved copy of Snapchat’s format, the original self-destructing message app is feeling the pressure to meet marketing demands.

In an attempt to avoid being “creepy,” the messaging app has thus far steered away from ads that are targeted more specifically than age, gender, location and other determining factors. Creepy or not, Snapchat is rolling out three new targeted ad options for marketers to play with, while attempting to protect the privacy of their users.

Snap Audience Match

Marketers can now take existing lists of email addresses and mobile device IDs and anonymously match that data with Snapchat’s own pool of consumer data to target desired demographics. In this process, Snapchat is taking steps to make sure it does not employ any personally identifiable data when executing these ad campaigns. Consumers will eventually be able to opt out of the Audience Match product, but until then will have to endure any unwanted ad attention.


Snapchat Lifestyle Categories

This targeted group is fairly obvious—if I’m a video game publisher, I want to target Snapchat users who watch video game stories. Likewise, brands can target users who tend to watch videos related to the product or service they’re selling.


Lastly, Snapchat is helping advertisers target ads to consumers who share characteristics with the advertiser’s existing customer base. This should prove an easy entry point for first-time Snapchat marketers to see how Snapchat users act and compare to previous marketing campaign behavior. What does this mean for marketers? Although these targeting tactics are standard fare for many digital media outlets, it’s a new one for Snapchat.

App founder Evan Spiegel was famously quoted as saying that he doesn’t want advertising on the app to be “creepy” for consumers. In an interview at the Cannes Lions Festival, Spiegal criticized banners that follow people around the internet after they shop for products. Now that Snapchat updated its privacy policy to include tracking internet activity before and after leaving Snapchat, that view may be changing, but the company has a reputation for doing things a bit differently, so how it uses that data remains to be seen.

Why Dolby Is Diving Deep Into Virtual Reality

Dolby unlocked a new dimension of immersive audio with Atmos surround sound early last year by allowing content creators to design and deliver cutting-edge linear VR experiences through using spatial audio in a 3D space.

The emotive experience is designed to captivate consumers with pin-point precision so that they can feel they’re inside the compelling stories they’re placed in.

Doing so requires the right mix of both realism and hyper-realism, which is why the traditional movie company is dedicated to dispense object-based architecture that will provide creators storytelling freedom and flexibility—with a focus on accentuating audio.

One such way was by partnering with Littlstar in August, a network dedicated to VR and 360-degree video, where users simply install the Littlstar app and run it on supported playback devices with a VR head-mounted display to view such content as Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension 360, Rapid Fire: A Brief History of Flight and Bob’s Burgers 360—Dancin’.

“By being among the first to incorporate Dolby Atmos into a global VR content network for distribution, consumers, as well as studios, brands and content owners using Littlstar will have access to the best VR-optimized spatial audio in the industry,” said Tony Mugavero, founder and CEO of Littlstar.


Dolby Atmos also partnered with Jaunt in July, the Palo Alto-based movie studio that produces short cinematics VR pieces, with a portal that houses experiences like a private home recording studio session with Paul McCartney and performances by musician Jack White.

Joel Susal, Dolby’s director of virtual and augmented reality, who’s responsible for the company’s entry into and ongoing business within the space, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how sound is critical to guiding users through VR stories.

What is Dolby Atmos’ mission, and what is it set out to accomplish?

We’re focused on enhancing the science of sight and sound. VR is the perfect example of how our technology comes together to make meaningful experiences for consumers. One way that happens is that you have to have great artists that really understand the medium, and that have the right set of tools in front of them to create compelling experiences. If you think about cinema or TV, like baseball, when you see and hear the crack of the bat hitting the ball, I’d say 100 percent of the time, that sound is actually accentuated. That’s what enables someone to tell a better story. So one of the ideas behind VR, kind of the first cut, is people think ‘I want to feel like I’m there.’ All of that comes with having the right set of technologies in the hands of the right people. For us, it’s the Dolby Atmos, which debuted in 2012 in cinema, and is now used in over two-thirds of the world’s top-grossing films and is embraced by Hollywood as the best storytelling technology.

How are you using Dolby Atmos to deliver cutting-edge linear VR experiences?

We’ve taken these tools and technologies and applied it to use in VR. Here’s why it’s important: Dolby Atmos is object-based, which means you can place sounds anywhere around you with pin-point precision. That’s important in VR because if the sounds aren’t where you expect them to be, the whole illusion falls apart. Beyond just precision, content creators want flexibility. They want to define how far away an audio source should be. Because Atmos is object-based, we can define on a per-object basis, whether a sound is head-relative, or scene-relative. Dolby Atmos is also massively scalable, and it can be streamed over normal networks to a playback device. In addition to the stream, our playback solution provides the same experience across all devices we support. This way content creators know exactly what the consumer is going to hear. So, they have that level of assurance that what they’re creating is what people are going to experience.

How important is sound to VR?

Often times the discussion is trying to convince people that they need immersive audio. In VR, I’d say that’s actually a pretty easy step to take because anyone who has watched a VR video, they just can’t tell. They might be hearing something, but if they don’t know where, or if they have to search for where every sound is coming from, that’s just distracting. They’ve lost the story. I think there’s a lot of exploration. We have taken our content creation tools, and they’re in beta now with over 40 partners, and from what we’re seeing and hearing form those partners, we’re starting to see the beginnings of what really the audio experience needs to be in VR. The importance of that is as we continue to uncover the needs of VR audio, we’re able to introduce those features in our creation suite. It’s commonplace knowledge now that having immersive audio in VR is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.


How realistic is it for us to be having VR experiences in theaters?

It’s not tomorrow—just because I still think there’s a lot of exploration happening in VR. Certainly from a tech perspective, we’re there, and ready to provide what we would call ‘a true cinematic VR experience.’ What’s interesting about watching a movie in a shared space like a theater is if it’s a linear piece of content like a movie, concert or sporting event, you can have multiple people wearing goggles in the same space, as long as their video is synchronized. You can surround all of those people with the same set of speakers and wherever one person decides to look, the audio is going to be exactly as it should be. If someone decides to look elsewhere, the audio is going to be exactly as it should be because they’re all surrounded by the same sound source because they can choose where to look. The idea of surrounding a community with synchronized video, but one set of immersive speakers, really paves the way for these communal viewing experiences. This enables a local and social VR experience where you can actually get excited together.

How is Dolby’s VR division leveraging the overall brand equity?

Our brand is really a pillar of strength. I’ll give an example with music experiences in VR. Musicians know that their product is an audio one. While a lot of them are excited about VR and experimenting in this new medium, they’re clearly not very interested in experimenting in how their product sounds. They’re willing to take the leap into VR, but they don’t want to risk degrading what their product sounds like. So, not only having a brand, but the quality and technology that Dolby brings, has been resonating strongly with musicians. What we’ve seen from the community, the content creation community and the VR distribution community is a real affinity and preference for our experience. The best thing we can do is leverage the brand but also deposit brand equity into Dolby brand, and I think we’re doing that.

How are you utilizing your partnerships with Jaunt and Littlstar?  

Jaunt is one of our key partners, as they have plenty of content available in Dolby Atmos. Littlstar will be supporting Dolby Atmos. What we’re trying to emphasize right now is that because we have this end-to-end solution, when someone starts using our production tools and utilizes these new features, when that piece of content is played back on a partner’s service, those features are utilized from day one—compared to having to wait for the content distributor to implement these advanced features. What we provide is much faster time-to-market as these new features become uncovered and we introduce them in our end-to-end solution. Our content creation tools for post-produced linear VR are in beta right now. We’re looking for the best content creators to join that beta program. We’ll be rolling that out soon to the public. When using those tools, if you distribute your piece of art to one of our partners like Jaunt or Littlstar, and there are more on the way, that full Atmos experience immediately gets conveyed to consumers and that’s really when the best experiences are rendered. We’re excited about being on the cusp of this new technology and we’re really excited to be leading and listening to what the people want so that we can help drive it even further forward.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

THQ Nordic Explains The Significance Of Its Rebranding

THQ, one of the most prominent publishers of its time, filed for bankruptcy in December 2012 and liquidated its assets the following month. Its most high-profile franchises were auctioned off, including Darksiders, Red Faction, Titan Quest, MX vs. ATV and a host of others that were picked up at auction by the relatively unknown Austrian publisher, Nordic Games. The company also acquired the THQ trademark in 2014.

After spending $4.9 million to acquire THQ’s back catalog, the company knew that the biggest question in on many people’s minds (and headlines) was “who the f*ck is Nordic?” The company has worked to answer that question by growing significantly. It will release a remastered edition of the Darksiders collection (called the Warmastered Edition) for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC this holiday season, and it is publishing the PC retail release of the hit game, Quantum Break later this month.


Last August at Gamescom, the company revived the THQ brand by incorporating it. The publisher, now called THQ Nordic, recognizes the significance of having those properties while keeping its roots. It celebrated the occasion by releasing Titan Quest Anniversary Edition, a remastered version of the 2006 PC action role-playing game. Bringing back the 10-year-old game was a major event for fans because owners of the original game on Steam, which numbered at over one million, got the Anniversary Edition added to their accounts for free. Furthermore, those that didn’t own it could pick it up at a deep discount ($5) for a limited time.

Philipp Brock, THQ Nordic
Philipp Brock, THQ Nordic PR and marketing director

Philipp Brock, PR and marketing director at THQ Nordic, talked to [a]listdaily about why the company decided to rebrand itself after so many years.

“Now that we have lived with the THQ catalogue for a few years, we truly feel the significance of IPs like Darksiders, MX vs. ATV and Titan Quest,” Brock said. “Our team felt it was important to elevate that part of our portfolio. THQ Nordic is meant to quite literally remind people that: 1. We are home to many coveted THQ IPs that we plan to expand upon and 2. Our roots as a Swedish company are strong—we have a robust portfolio of IP separate from the THQ catalogue such as Elex, The Guild III and Battle Chasers: Nightwar that demonstrates that.”

Brock went into further detail about how acquiring the THQ properties changed the company. “The acquisition has already had a lasting impact on us—hell, we even changed our name! I’m happy to say that the core THQ Nordic team remains intact, but we’re now working with some amazing developers that we haven’t worked with before. We’re also expanding our publishing efforts to ensure every campaign receives the support it requires. We also have some really pretty Darksiders banners and giant figures adorning our office in Vienna.”

When asked about what led to the decision to develop Titan Quest Anniversary, then give it away for free or at a very steep discount, Brock responded, “We love Titan Quest, and we are stoked to introduce the experience to more gamers, first and foremost. We also think it’s important to reward the fans. Players will see more and more of that across all of our franchises.”

As to why Titan Quest was chosen specifically to coincide with the company’s rebranding, Brock stated that “all of these rich franchises with large and vibrant fan communities lend themselves to Anniversary and Remastered Editions or Compilations. We’re not picking and choosing, though. The Darksiders Warmastered Edition will be available for the holiday!”

Additionally, Brock explained that the main reason IPs such as Darksiders, Red Faction and Titan Quest continue to engage fans after so many years is because they present gamers with something unique and memorable.

“That may sound generic, but we believe that’s what it comes down to in entertainment,” Brock said. “Whether it’s a character or an environment or a vehicle or a weapon or a combat system, each of those games had their own way of pulling players in and not letting them go. Story obviously plays a huge role, especially in Darksiders. It’s fun to see fans of the franchises at shows and hear them describe specific moments from the games—they’re excited and sentimental reminiscing about their experiences.”

So the big question is: do people now know “who the F” THQ Nordic is?

“We sure hope so,” Brock said. “We are so grateful for the reception we had to our rebrand announcement at Gamescom. It really underscored why the catalogue acquisition was the right one for our company’s future. Whatever the antithesis of the apocalypse is, that’s what THQ Nordic’s future looks like right now.”

Zaxby’s Scores With Virtual Reality Tailgate Experience

Quick service chicken restaurant Zaxby’s, which has over 700 locations across 17 states, has kicked off a season-long college football virtual reality tailgate road show. The “Zaxby’s Fanz of Flavor” activation features a full-sized wooden barn that houses four HTC Vive VR systems for tailgaters to play a custom interactive experience with.

A custom mobile barn was built to mirror both the finish and look of the new Zaxby’s store environment. The VR experience starts with a waiting screen with a floating, rotating 3D Zaxby’s logo, and then users are transported to a new flagship Zaxby’s restaurant. A holographic Big Z mascot comes out of the floor and is ready for his close-up. This Unity-based experience challenges users to dip into Zaxby’s sauces as paints to create their own Big Z in VR. There’s a wireframe outline of Big Z to follow, or they can just do their own thing within the three-minute time limit. Once complete, an email with a digital photo of the experience is instantly sent, featuring an in-game video of their custom creation that can be shared via Facebook. Each VR bay is connected to a network that sends all the user-generated content in real-time.

While it’s similar in concept to the HTC Vive pack-in application, Tilt Brush, the Zaxby’s version has been built from the ground up for this activation. Everything has been done in a style and tone that matches the Zaxby’s environment.

Will Riley, vice president of brand management and marketing at Zaxby’s franchising, said virtual reality is a component of integrating the different marketing touch points around the love for fans, love of flavor and love for college football to show the community how important they are to the brand. “VR was a way we could immerse all of the sports fans and tailgaters to show them what Zaxby’s is all about,” Riley said. “If you don’t have a Zaxby’s near you, you can still get a feel for it.”

The activation opens four hours before kickoff. Riley said the first event in Austin on September 3 had over 100 people play the full experience, which led to over seven hours of user-generated content.

Zaxby’s has been a sponsor of college football since 2013 through a partnership with IMG. The restaurant worked with IMG to bring this experience to 12 college football games throughout the 2016 NCAA season. The tour kicked off with the September 4 University of Texas vs. Notre Dame game and on September 10 was at TCU vs. Arkansas.

“We’ve looked everywhere from national to local universities, as well as high schools to reach sports fans in communities,” Riley said. “VR was a great way to resonate with sports fans and college students that are up-to-speed with technology.”

Since the virtual reality experience uses cutting-edge video game technology at its core, and college students are the primary target, not only do they understand VR, but some of them have been waiting or a chance to experience it. In addition to the VR experience, there are Flavorize Your Fandom stations for fans to deck themselves out in body paint with help from two master body painters. Food samples or coupons to local restaurants are also handed out to attendees.

Zaxby’s currently operates in 17 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Facebook Messenger Is Now An ECommerce Platform

Facebook continues to evolve from a status and selfie central to a purveyor of virtual reality, live streamer and now, a source of eCommerce. Facebook Messenger has become a valuable resource for marketers, reaching one billion users in July, up from 700 million users in July 2015. According to David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of messaging, 300 million people use audio and video calling features on Messenger every month.

Facebook messengerDuring TechCrunch’s annual Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Monday, Marcus announced a significant change to how Facebook chat bots can turn conversations into revenue.

“Now Messenger bots will allow native payments,” Marcus said, using the example of a single Messenger thread to complete all of the steps of travel planning, from browsing flights to customer service and booking, all in-app. “Bringing all of these types of mobile experiences together is what will ultimately make the platform successful over time,” Marcus added.

For its new payments feature, Facebook is working with a number of companies such as PayPal, Stripe, Visa, MasterCard, Braintree and American Express, who recently launched their own Facebook chat bot. The payment tool allows users to complete purchases in-app without going to an external site. Messenger users can now use credit card information they’ve stored in Messenger to make payments via bots, as well.

“Messages with payments utilize industry-leading controls and financial information is protected with bank-level encryption,” explains the Facebook for Developers blog. “Payments will be available for select developers in beta; businesses can apply through the Messenger developer webpage. We expect to roll out this capability more broadly by the end of the year.”

According to the Facebook for Developers Blog, bot messages can now be shared with friends, as well. “We’re enabling seamless sharing of bots and messages from bots to friends on Messenger,” the company said. “People can share any message with friends using the standard Messenger share button next to the message. People can also share bots with their friends using a share option in thread details of the bot thread. All shared messages will include the bot icon, name and CTA that allows people to start a thread with the associated bot. This feature will help you reach the [one billion-plus] people on Messenger today.”

Geico Promotes ESports Sponsorship With New Comedy Series

Insurance company, Geico has a history of creative marketing, and its latest efforts take audiences behind the scenes of professional eSports team, SoloMid. Team SoloMid (TSM), known for competing in League of Legends, all live and practice in the same house, as is common in the industry during competition season. Geico created a scenario in which Russell, an obnoxious neighbor, barges his way into their home and comedy ensues. Russell suspects that the boys are hackers because of their high-tech equipment, but makes himself right at home when he learns their true identities and it seems they will never be rid of him.

The first two episodes of TSM’s New Neighbor are live on YouTube and shot in a low-budget, reality TV style—cutting between various scenes and interviews with team members. The low-key, “obviously not an actor” nature of each team member makes the branded content seem natural, and their reactions could be described as “subtly amused.” Aside from receiving a shipment of Geico swag in the first episode, the company doesn’t shove its branding down the viewers’ throat. Rather, the adventures of TSM and Russell are stories as presented by the team, and we learn through the rather desperate eyes of Russell as he explores this new world of competitive gamers and becomes the butt of practical jokes.

TSM uploads a lot of behind-the-scenes content on their own, making them the ideal candidate for Geico’s campaign. The team also filmed a number of short commercials telling viewers about different Geico offerings, all while Russell interrupts in some way. The commercials then encourage viewers to check out the TSM’s New Neighbor series.

Thus far, the content doesn’t show actual gameplay or techniques (for obvious copyright purposes) but instead creates an inside look at what it might be like to live in a house with professional gamers. This creates an accessible entry for non-gamers to learn a bit about eSports and TSM, themselves. The guys are great sports and seem to have fun with the promotion, which has garnered over half a million views on the team’s channel alone. With this series, Geico illustrates how storytelling can transcend industries and demographics, making viewers feel at home inside TSM’s home.