‘NASCAR Heat Evolution’ Opens New Opportunities For Sponsors

NASCAR Heat Evolution is available now, released by a brand new publishing company, Dusenberry Martin Racing (DMR), but developed by veteran NASCAR Heat and NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona developer Monster Games. What’s very different this time around is that DMR investors include NASCAR drivers like Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. The drivers, who are also gamers, helped during the development process and are also marketing the game across their social media platforms.

Blake Davidson,
Blake Davidson, NASCAR vice president of licensing

Blake Davidson, vice president of licensing at NASCAR has been involved with NASCAR video games dating back over 20 years to the original Papyrus NASCAR Racing games. “There’s never been a product like this one, which has had as much driver involvement during development,” Davidson told [a]listdaily. “The drivers understand that what they do is entertainment. They’re unbelievable athletes, and they know some people are going to play and want to have that challenging experience and others want to just have fun. With this product, you can do either one of those things.”

The new NASCAR game is the first to integrate all of the real NASCAR sponsors. Davidson said the challenge in the past for sponsorship integration was limited by technology.

“The game captures this point in time where whatever sponsor you were able to get in there was capped and you were never able to get everyone,” said Davidson. “In today’s NASCAR sponsors change a lot more than they used to. For example, at Darlington this year, the vast majority of the field had throwback paint schemes, and some weren’t unveiled until right before the event. But with DLC you can do all of that. It puts NASCAR in a good position to offer various DLC packs where the fans can get those paint schemes.”

NASCAR Heat Evolution also uses an age verification to allow gamers to download an alcoholic sponsor for the first time. Keselowski’s Ford Fusion features a Miller Lite sponsorship. The game features alternative sponsors out of the box, but gamers can download the Miller Lite paint scheme. “A large number of people playing the game are over 21 and they want authenticity,” Davidson said. “DMR group worked with Keselowski’s team and through Miller Coors to get approved on that.”

Unlike other sports, and sports video games, sponsorships are plastered on every uniform, car and track. There’s a lot of opportunity there for NASCAR in general, but it adds more value to allow the partners that are already in NASCAR,” pro racer Joey Logano explained to [a]listdaily. “I drive the Shell Pennzoil Ford, and in the video game, it’s the Shell Pennzoil Ford. That brings added value to what Shell already pays for our race team. There’s a lot of opportunity and product placement inside of NASCAR Heat Evolution, but just like in anything else, it has to be authentic. It can’t feel forced on. NASCAR does a good job with being authentic about what we have on our race cars.”

Logano said if you look at NASCAR and take the gaming industry out of it, there is no NASCAR without partners like Shell sponsoring race cars. And taking a step further back, without fans, there are no sponsors that want to put their names on the cars. “Video games are another avenue for race teams to give their partners added value, which ultimately grows our sport,” Logano said. “That’s why I want to be involved in this game, and I think it’s important for our sport to have a NASCAR racing video game. It adds in so many different areas that I don’t feel like we’ve tapped into in the last two years.”

The past four years have seen developer Eutechnix release NASCAR: The Game 2011 and NASCAR: The Game Inside Line for publisher Activision and NASCAR 14 and NASCAR 15 for publisher Deep Silver. “You learn about sponsors pretty quick (in NASCAR Heat Evolution),” Logano said. “I was playing the game the other night in my bus in Darlington and when you start (in career mode) your car is not really fast. You start with a slower car and the best I could do was finish 25th. Eventually, you make money from where you finish and you gain the attention from other sponsors. Then you can sign sponsors up, and some of them are incentive-based and some of them are guaranteed money, just like in actual NASCAR racing. So it brings the business side of it into the game.”

Davidson said DMR has done a good job with inserting more driver personality into the game, real driver images in the game, and a number of features where driver videos are giving tips and different things around the racing itself to help gamers perform better. In these videos, players will see all of the sponsors on the driver uniforms. “We work closely with the tracks and there’s a keen interest in getting everything authentically replicated,” Davidson said. “We meticulously look at every billboard and replicate in the game.”

Looking ahead, Davidson said NASCAR is working with DMR now on whether mobile iterations or different types of games make the most sense, given the pent-up demand for NASCAR products. “With the advances in technology with PlayStation 4 Pro, NASCAR is a sport that can take advantage of that by optimizing the games for that hardware,” Davidson said.

When it comes to PlayStation VR, Davidson said there’s not another sport or type of game that will showcase better in virtual reality than NASCAR. “It’s a very natural first person experience, putting you in driver’s seat and controlling everything,” Davidson said. “Everyone has a feel for driving and understands what you’re supposed to do. It’s just in NASCAR video games, you can do everything a lot faster.”

How ‘Batman: Arkham VR’ Will Turn PlayStation VR Players Into Crime Fighters

The Batman: Arkham trilogy is one of the most revered series in modern video games. Developed by Rocksteady Studios, the games put players into the role of the Dark Knight as he fights crime and combats supervillains using a variety of skills and gadgets. Last year, the trilogy game to its conclusion with the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Knight, but fans were treated to a big surprise last June when Batman: Arkham VR was announced.

Developed for the PlayStation VR, which launches in October, the new game will let fans become Batman and put on his costume in virtual reality and experience what it’s like to be the world’s most famous crime fighter. A short demonstration was shown at conventions such as E3 and Gamescom for attendees to try out, and the response has been phenomenal.

Dax Ginn, brand marketing producer at Rocksteady Studios explained to [a]listdaily why Batman was the ideal character to feature in a VR experience. He said, “Batman has a wide range of elements to his personality and it is this breadth of abilities that makes him so well suited to so many different forms of interactive entertainment.

Dax Ginn
Dax Ginn, brand marketing producer at Rocksteady Studios

“The core experience of Batman: Arkham VR centers around Batman’s abilities as ‘The World’s Greatest Detective.’ Players will solve a brutal murder using all of Batman’s detective and forensic skills, and it is this aspect of Batman’s personality that fits VR so perfectly as a technology. Using gadgetry to search for clues at a crime scene and reconstruct critical moments of the story feels like a very ‘Batman’ thing to do, and it also feels incredibly satisfying to do it in VR.”

Key components of the game involve identifying a killer in a classic detective story style from the first Batman comics. “Gamers will have the opportunity to travel to a range of iconic locations throughout Gotham City in order to pursue the killer and engage in interactions with some of Batman’s best-known villains from the Arkham-verse,” said Ginn. “The Batcave is just one of these locations and the player will be able to utilize the full power of the Batcomputer across a number of consoles within the Batcave.”

Although players will not have the open world exploration from traditional Arkham games, they’ll still get to visit a number of legendary locations throughout Gotham City. Ginn explains that “the way that we have developed Batman: Arkham VR is quite different to the way that we have built our previous Arkham games. Players will not have the freedom of navigation that they will have seen in the other games in the Arkham trilogy, but what they will have is a very intensive experience in each of the locations to which they travel. The process of crime scene investigation is very intensive and requires a lot of analysis of the environment, so players will really get a very deep understanding of the locations within the game.”

Batman is almost certain to encounter recognizable supervillains while investigating a case, but Ginn is keeping quiet about which ones are making a VR debut. “The story is very involved, and we are looking forward to allowing players to unravel the plot of the story as they play, so I don’t want to name any names when it comes to supervillains, as that would be a pretty significant spoiler.” Ginn also said that “the impact of a face-to-face encounter with a well-known enemy is that much more powerful when done in VR.”

Given how the game was demonstrated live at conventions such as Gamescom and E3 this year, we asked Ginn what his favorite reaction from an attendee was. He replied, “the most common reaction has been the way that Batman: Arkham VR makes players genuinely believe that they are Batman, and the thing that gives me the most enjoyment to watch is the way in which players relate to Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler. There is such a long history between the two characters that this lifelong relationship plays out very easily when talking to Alfred. Some players are respectful, some are dismissive, but everyone acknowledges his presence and his importance in the life of the Wayne family.”

With the positive reaction Batman: Arkham VR has gotten so far, the natural question is whether or not Rocksteady is interested in developing a longer—perhaps even full-length—VR experience in the future. “Our primary focus at the moment is on the release of Batman: Arkham VR,” Ginn said. “It has been a challenging and incredibly enjoyable game to create, but at the moment we have not made any plans for future VR titles.”

According to Ginn, Rocksteady began experimenting with VR development after shipping Batman: Arkham Knight in June of last year. The company chose PlayStation VR as its launch platform because “the technology of PlayStation VR was something that the team felt very comfortable with, and we were able to build compelling gameplay very quickly, so it was a natural fit for us to continue that development through to launch.”

Ginn also discussed how, as a technology at the start of its lifecycle, VR faces many of the same challenges as any other new technology. “Without exception, everyone who tries VR for the first time is immediately impressed by the sense of immersion and believability that it offers—but the number of people who have access to VR is still relatively small. It is a technology that has to be seen to be believed, but it is only a matter of time before a critical mass of gamers have had the opportunity to experience VR for themselves.”

That being said, Ginn also discussed how Rocksteady had to adopt a whole new approach when developing a VR experience. “The lesson that we learned very early was that a lot of the systems and preconceptions that we held as a team did not translate to developing for VR. All of our navigation and UI systems needed to be redesigned from the ground up. Additionally, we needed to reset our heads to develop a first-person game rather than third-person. So perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that you have to develop for VR and make decisions that are right for a VR game, rather than a traditional console game.”

Op-Ed: Sony’s PS4 Pro Marketing Challenges

This holiday season will be a milestone in the history of video game consoles as we see the first mid-generation upgrades appear. Not only that, but we have a new console appearing from Nintendo in March 2017, as well as VR hardware on sale for the first time during a holiday selling season. We could be seeing a significant new model emerging for how consoles are sold, or the market could be cool to the idea—but either way, as consoles enter a period of uncertainty, marketers should pay careful attention.

Sony announced last week that the PlayStation 4 lineup will consist of two consoles: the PlayStation 4 Slim at $299 (essentially the original PS4 in a smaller size and lower price) and the PS4 Pro, a PlayStation 4 with substantially improved graphics and CPU, capable of displaying 4K/UHD (Ultra High Definition) and HDR (High Dynamic Range) games, for $399. Sony said that all PS4 games will be playable on all PS4 models (original, Slim, and Pro), and a patch will update all existing consoles with HDR capabilities for supported games.

While this type of mid-generation upgrade hasn’t been seen before with home consoles, it’s been the go-to strategy for Nintendo with its handheld consoles. We’ve had the 3DS, the 3DS XL, the New 3DS and the 2DS, just to cover a lower price point. The New 3DS came with a significant horsepower upgrade and is apparently doing well, which may be indicative of PS4 Pro’s success.

Marketing Challenges For Sony

There are several marketing challenges ahead for Sony, and there are no easy answers. The features of the PS4 Pro and the benefits are confusing at best, even to savvy consumers. Not all games will benefit from the PS4 Pro, and those that will benefit will not do so in a consistent way. Some games played on PS4 Pro will have higher resolution, requiring a 4K/UHD TV to display. Some games will have HDR color, requiring a different 4K TV that supports the capability. Some games played on a PS4 Pro will look better on a standard HDTV than with a regular PS4, but not always.

Therefore, the first marketing challenge for Sony is this: Why should someone spend $100 more for a PS4 Pro? Sony no doubt has answers lined up, which we shall see when their marketing appears. The deeper question behind this one is that of the target audience. Will there be a large number of the existing PS4 owners who will upgrade to the PS4 Pro? That seems likely, given the number of hardcore gamers who were early adopters of the PS4. Still, those PS4 owners will have to sell their existing console and put the money towards a PS4 Pro.

The upgrade issue is complicated by the need for a 4K/UHD TV with HDR to get the full PS4 Pro benefits. Those TVs are still uncommon, but with falling prices, it’s reasonable to expect the install base to grow. PS4 owners with a perfectly good HDTV may not be eager to spend $600 or more for a new TV, but Sony would probably love the use the PS4 Pro to help sell new 4K/UHD TVs, though. Might we see some marketing from Sony to help make this cross-sell happen?

Long Term Challenges

Looking out beyond this holiday, the picture gets more complicated for Sony when Microsoft ships the Xbox One Scorpio, which will be significantly more powerful than the PS4 Pro. But that competition won’t appear until holiday 2017, giving Sony plenty of time to tune its marketing strategy. Of course, that also gives Microsoft plenty of time to observe how the PS4 Pro is doing in the marketplace, and how Sony’s marketing efforts are working.

The more interesting question for Sony is how to split the marketing budget between PS4, PS4 Pro, and PSVR. We’ll probably see bundles of a PS4 and PSVR, but which model PS4? How important is the pricing versus the increased power of the PS4 Pro when it comes to PSVR? In the long term, does Sony hope to move the bulk of new PS4 buyers to the PS4 Pro? Watching the marketing strategy unfold over the next year will give you some clues as to Sony’s long-term intent.

Right now, Sony has said that all PS4 games must play on all models of the PS4 with no PS4 Pro exclusives. That makes sense, since the changes needed for a game to play on all PS4s are minor, akin to the graphics options we commonly see on PC games. That might change at some point in the future, perhaps if PS4 Pro sales become the vast majority of PS4 sales.

Key Points For Marketers

The console market is getting more complex, as we now have Sony with two models of its best-selling console, and Microsoft will follow next year with a third (counting the Xbox One S) model of the Xbox One. Not only will both console makers have two console models to sell, they will need to explain to users the differences and why both are good buys. Moreover, this is made much more complicated because much of the benefits require a user to have a new TV to realize those benefits. More challenging still is the fact that you won’t be able to see those benefits by looking at a video on your current monitor or TV screen—you’ll have to see them in person.

Thus we can expect more in-person efforts by Sony (and eventually Microsoft) to show users the differences between consoles and why they are important. Retail kiosks, traveling demos, displays at conventions are all likely to be used. This may be good for game titles that get showcased, but it may also make it tougher to get retail space for other types of displays such as software or for VR hardware.

Marketers should look to take advantage of the effort that will be put into marketing games that show off the differences for advanced consoles. Sony will have a “PS4 Pro Enhanced” icon on its PS4 Pro page and all related software packaging, signifying that the software takes advantage of the PS4 Pro’s added features. Of course, the caveat immediately follows: “Features vary from title to title. Select features depend on the type of display connected to PS4 Pro.” It’s going to be up to each game’s marketers to figure out how best to take advantage of this.

Marketers should be looking to development teams to get the very best images from games that take advantage of new features, then work to get the public informed of those advantages. The advent of 4K and HDR console gaming is going to be another differentiating point for marketers, and those that are able to leap on it first will have an advantage.

Professional ESports Association Commissioner Discusses ‘CS:GO’ Plans

There’s yet another new eSports league focusing on Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). This one, the Professional ESports Association (PEA), is the only one completely owned and operated by CS:GO teams and players, according to PEA commissioner Jason Katz. The founding PEA team franchises include Team Solomid (TSM), Cloud9, Team Liquid, Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), Immortals, NRG eSports and compLexity Gaming.

“This represents an evolution of eSports to the major traditional sports league model like the NBA and NHL use,” Katz told [a]listdaily. “Historically, only third-party independent organizers or publishers have run leagues. This will allow us to finally build a stable, healthy, long-term environment for the players, the community, the media and the sponsors.”

The PEA will kick off its inaugural CS:GO season in early January 2017. Twice-weekly matches will be streamed live during the first 10-week season. Teams will compete for a prize pool of at least $1 million for the first year and $500,000 for Season 1. Furthermore, the league is completely funded by the team owners. Players and owners will receive an equal 50 percent share of profits and each caster will receive a share equal to a player. The PEA will also provide a suite of financial benefits and services to the players, including retirement and investment planning, health insurance and more.

Katz believes that the players, because they are also in a position to benefit from profits, will be more motivated to produce content and drive audiences to digital and television broadcasts to support the league. That’s good news for sponsors of all kinds. “We’ll continue to see non-endemic sponsors move aggressively into this space,” Katz said. “There’s no reason for eSports to be dominated by endemics. Just as in days past of traditional sports, manufactures of sporting equipment were the first sponsors. But today, mainstream sports are a very broad marketing channel to reach males in general. And today, eSports is a broad marketing channel to reach young adult males with disposable income.”

ESports are an important way for companies to market messages, Katz explained, since there are so few marketing platforms that hold the attention of young males in a place where they’re willing to be exposed to and receive marketing messages. “ESports is pure and simply the best individual platform for any marketing service,” he said.

Katz came on board six months ago, long after the conversations for the league first began, and said that a lot of key things are still being worked out. Scheduling will happen in collaboration with the players, and the league will come up with a schedule where their total work commitment is comfortable. The goal is to have events around the other established league schedules, so teams can compete across multiple leagues.

And the PEA will also discuss where events will take place, especially as more CS:GO competitions are held in traditional sports arenas. “Arenas play a growing role and that type of live engagement with live audiences is something that makes the experience communal and special in a way that can’t be easily replaced,” Katz said.

The PEA has also started broadcast conversations. Katz said since eSports lives online for the most part, the league’s broadcast arrangements will reflect that. With ESL already doing random drug tests for CS:GO, Katz said drug testing will be addressed and resolved through discussions with players and team owners. The sale of in-game stickers, another staple for other CS:GO leagues and events, will also be discussed.

“We’re committed to giving players 50 percent of all profits and involve them as closely as they want to be involved in the operational decision-making,” Katz said. “That’s in the best interest of the teams, the players and the community as a whole.”

Katz also explained eSports leagues are a combination of operational activities and a web of legal relationships. His background as an entertainment lawyer and a game marketing professional led him to work with DirecTV on the Championship Gaming Series and later with Riot Games in building the architecture of the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS). “I have experience on the legal side, the marketing side and the operational side of eSports and those are the fundamental cornerstones for a league,” he said.

When it comes to his role as the commissioner, he said his goal is to be an impartial arbiter of any conflicts that need to be resolved and a clear-eyed strategist in terms of making sure that the team organizations and players are in a position to take advantage of opportunities. “ESports is a highly fragmented and quite volatile landscape with a lot of tectonic shifts happening at the same time,” Katz said. “It’s a complicated ecosystem, and half of my time and energy I expect to spend navigating through that ecosystem and making sure we’re protected against risks and taking advantage of opportunities.”

Op-Ed: It’s The Perfect Time For Nintendo And Apple To Be Friends

Dear Readers,

After covering the video game industry for over a decade and being a contributing writer for [a]listdaily for almost a year, it is a privilege to officially become the senior games editor. In this role, I will continue to follow and report on entertainment marketing trends, particularly as they apply to video games and technology. As interactive entertainment continues to evolve and grow, I look forward to all the innovative campaigns and partnerships that will come in the future.

Steven Wong

Senior games editor, [a]listdaily

Few companies have been quite as resistant to jumping into mobile gaming as Nintendo. In the past, the company has often cited quality control issues regarding its highly recognizable game brands such as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong and many others. It was clear that, according to Nintendo, quality could only be assured when a game was played on its hardware, whether it be a Wii U console or a portable 3DS handheld system.

However, these past few months have brought overwhelming evidence that fans are more than ready for Nintendo to make the big leap onto mobile devices. That includes the successful launch of Miitomo, Nintendo’s first official mobile game, designed as a social experience. But far more notable is the spectacular Pokémon GO phenomenon, which is based on a widely recognized property and boasts over 500 million downloads worldwide. SuperData Research characterized the game as having the most successful launch in mobile history, leading to skyrocketing sales of Pokémon 3DS games.

What makes the success of Pokémon GO even more impressive is the fact that it required very little marketing. Nielsen observed that there was exceptionally high awareness of the game, with about 52 percent of US gamers ready to download the game during its launch week. Nicole Pike, director of games at Nielsen, stated that: “We saw that even before it released—especially in the weeks prior to release—there was really high awareness for the game, not only in terms of a new game, but any game new or established.” Whether Pokémon GO’s success has more to do with the popularity of its brand or its novel use of augmented reality (AR) is up for discussion, but there is no question that the game has left a deep impression the mobile game market—and its popularity is expected to grow when its wireless accessory, Pokémon GO Plus, launches on Friday, September 16.

The success of Nintendo’s mobile endeavors so far no doubt led to last week’s surprise—and long overdue—announcement that the company would be working with Apple to bring its most iconic character, Mario, to the iPhone with the game Super Mario Run, which launched in December. Although the game appears to lack the depth of a traditional Super Mario game—the character runs endlessly, players tap the screen to jump and hold down to go higher—it was designed for one-handed mobile play, which the legendary (and the world’s most beloved) game designer Shigeru Miyamoto demonstrated during the game’s announcement.

Miyamoto later stated in an interview that Pokémon GO proved that it was time to reach out to a much larger audience. There was once a time when Nintendo consoles were the first gaming systems kids engaged with, but that changed long ago. These days, children’s first gaming devices tend to be their parents’ smartphones. While the game has a free trial period, but it is a premium title that has a one-time purchase and no microtransactions as you would find with free-to-play games, which parents might find appealing.

Although Super Mario Run will eventually release on Android, it’s clear that Nintendo considers the brand recognition and install base of Apple’s iPhone as the ideal starting point, which is amusing in a way, considering how gaming was barely recognized as a major iPhone feature. However, Tim Cook made gaming a major point during last week’s Apple Event by stating that gaming is the most popular category on the App Store, with over 500,000 titles to choose from. So, two companies that were originally resistant to each other have finally decided that the two can greatly help each other. Topping it all off is the fact that Pokémon GO will also be coming to the Apple Watch.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect for the two companies to put aside their reservations, as Apple is launching both the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 this week. Meanwhile, Nintendo is winding down its Wii U console in preparation of the NX’s launch in the spring while preparing to launch Pokémon Sun and Moon in November.

More to the point, prior reservations are helping to hype the upcoming games. Fans will be eager to check out Mario’s debut on Apple’s mobile platforms, perhaps with almost the same anticipation as Pokémon GO. That anticipation may be what Apple needs to boost sales of its new devices.

“It’s a really exciting moment when industry giants like Apple and Nintendo play nice together,” SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen told [a]listdaily. “After initially saying they would never release their games on someone’s hardware (because of their emphasis on quality control), Nintendo changed its position slightly and instead argued it would do so to bring consumers to their own platforms. We’ve seen this with DeNA with a focus on the Japanese market, and now with Apple. Obviously, the recent excitement around Pokémon GO further accelerated this agenda, and having Mario featured during an Apple event suggests that Nintendo has become more accepting of other dominant market participants. Apple, on the other, has come to the realization over the last few years that content may, after all, be an important driver behind hardware adoption and revenue generation. They’ve featured deals with major music labels, video producers, and now also with game publishers.”

Succeeding In China’s Soaring Mobile Game Market Grows More Challenging

The growth of the Chinese market for games has been impressive over the past decade, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, largely spurred by the ever-growing mobile game market. Market research firm Niko Partners released its latest report recently, 2016 Chinese Mobile Gaming Report and 5-Year Forecast, showing that Chinese mobile game revenue will reach $8.3 billion in 2017 after growing 28 percent in 2016. Game publishers cannot afford to overlook such a huge potential market, but there are many obstacles to success in the China mobile game market.

That $8.3 billion in revenue represents a full 31 percent of all digital game revenues in China for 2017, according to Niko Partners’ estimate. That’s up from 11 percent of digital games revenue in 2013. China has surpassed the United States to become the biggest market for mobile games (particularly iOS) in terms of revenue, according to market intelligence firm App Annie. China’s revenue from iOS games nearly doubled in one year.

App Annie found that locally developed games were dominant in China, and the main reason for the strong growth. “Specifically, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) like Fantasy Westward Journey, Westward Journey Online and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games like Hero Moba were main drivers of China’s growth in iOS Games revenue. China will continue to present huge opportunities in mobile gaming. While foreign publishers have seen success in the the country—as evidenced by Clash Royale ranking at number 10 by iOS revenue in Q2 2016—local publishers dominate the top iOS revenue chart,” App Annie stated in the report.china-revenue-app-annie

Mobile games in China have made great strides in recent years as part of the total gaming scene in China, but all is not clear sailing for mobile game publishers.

Government Restrictions on Mobile Gaming in China

Back in June of this year, a Chinese government agency in charge of censorship issued a notice that mobile game makers must submit their content for approval with the agency 20 days prior to launch. Those games that are already on the market will have to be submitted for approval by October. The regulations appear “very comprehensive” according to Niko Partners’ manager and co-founder Lisa Cosmas Hanson. “It will insure that all mobile games get approval by 20 days prior to launch, and retroactively for those games already in the market,” said Hanson. “The games already in the market have until October to get their approval, and any major changes or updates to existing games must also be approved in the same manner.”

The effect of these regulations is mixed, according to Niko Partners. “The regulations that began in July 2016 will curb supply by slowing the new games into the market and speeding up market consolidation of smaller studios. But the regulations will not curb demand, which is still voracious, for the tens of thousands of games that are currently available to Chinese gamers.”

Opportunities for Mobile Games in China

Despite these new regulations, strong growth is forecast for mobile games, but it’s going to require more effort. “The new regulations are daunting, but by understanding the Chinese gaming audience, the rules and the process game developers can still release games into the market, albeit at a slower rate,” said Hanson. “Now more than ever it is crucial to study Chinese gamer behavior, build relationships with publishing partners, and invest in localization that reflects cultural understanding beyond the requirements for all games to include only Chinese text.”

The market size for mobile games in China is impressive, with Niko Partners projecting some 465 million Chinese mobile gamers by the end of 2016. That’s up by 100 million players in only two years, and the growth is likely to continue. The increasing market share of lower-priced Chinese-made smartphones is helping to spread the audience further, as these powerful devices reach an eager new audience.

The market for mobile games in China is increasingly dominated by two players, according to Niko Partners. Tencent and NetEase together command over 70 percent of the market share. Tencent alone has 53 percent of the domestically derived mobile games revenue. Both Tencent and NetEase showed significant growth in their recent second quarter results; Tencent’s revenue increased by 52 percent year over year to $5.3 billion, while NetEase’s revenue shot up 96 percent year over year to $1.3 billion. Those two companies continue to pull ahead of others in the Chinese market.

As well as improving revenue from China’s market, Chinese game publishers are doing well by exporting mobile games to other markets. Niko Partners reports that Chinese mobile game developers will generate an additional $1.3 billion in 2016 from mobile game exports to other markets, and nearly double that to $2.1 billion by 2020. While there are certainly cultural differences between some games popular in China and elsewhere, the leaders in the market are figuring out what works in other markets and how to adjust titles to succeed.

The opportunity for Western publishers in China is large, but not easy to seize. It’s no surprise to learn that many of the biggest game companies have deals with either NetEase or Tencent to help bring their games to market in China. That sort of partnership is beneficial on many levels, from providing help with localization to help with navigating government requirements. “Foreign publishers may see more success in the market by partnering with Chinese publishers to cater to local demand, secure distribution and generate awareness. Together, China, the US and Japan are responsible for approximately 75 percent of gaming revenue on iOS,” App Annie said. “Since Games is the single largest revenue driver on iOS, we predict that China has the potential to become the #1 market for overall iOS revenue in the coming quarters.”

How Non-Gaming Brands Took On National Video Games Day

National Video Games Day is upon us and brands are taking the opportunity to reach this lucrative market through social media. Naturally, game developers and publishers gave a shout-out to the masses, but here are a few non-game-related brands that found creative ways to connect.

Pizza Hut

Pizza and video game parties go hand-in-hand, so Pizza Hut wanted to extend a thank you to its gamer fan base.

US Air Force

Even the military got in on the action, knowing full well that gamers have some of the best reflexes on the planet. To test those skills (and inspire enlistment), the US Air Force promoted a video game on their website.


The online business locator and review site is catering to the Pokémon GO craze by offering a special filter for Pokéstops—designated areas that offer free in-game items. Players can also place a “lure” at the location, attracting Pokémon creatures to the area.

Burger King

The social media account for Burger King Philippines created a Pac-Man level out of a chicken patty, chicken nuggets and french fries to mark the occasion, which looks as fun as it is delicious.


The soda’s United Kingdom Twitter account offered this simple but effective way to show off different versions of Coca-Cola with four bottles playing a video game together.


Subaru created and reinforced brand awareness with gamers through nostalgia, reminding (or informing) players of the BRZ model in Forza Motorsport 6.

New York Islanders

Hockey fans were treated to an NHL 17 video game giveaway, courtesy of EA and the New York Islanders on Monday.

Laporu Nails

Laporu Nails, a mobile app for finding and booking nail appointments, posted this clever mash-up of nail art and video games to promote the brand.

Classic FM

A classic music radio station in the UK celebrated the beauty of video game soundtracks with a two hour broadcast.

Jacamo Outfitters

This company out of the UK provides clothing “for the real man” in all shapes and sizes. You don’t want to be facing down a fire ball with pants that are too tight!

Short and sweet—these Twitter shout-outs allowed brands to join the conversation of a lucrative, growing and enthusiastic community. Not into video games? Don’t worry, September 12 is also National Chocolate Milkshake Day and National Boss/Employee Exchange Day, in case your boss walks in to find you with your feet on his/her desk while slobbering chocolate syrup all over the TPS reports.

How Rukkus Uses Virtual Reality To Market Ticket Sales

New York-based startup Rukkus was early to the virtual reality game—and according to CEO Joe Messineo, the secondary ticket seller for entertainment and sporting events has already seen the technology boost profits. Messineo said the overall ticket market is a $30 billion business, but it’s a complex and fragmented space. Outside of Ticketmaster’s huge hold in the primary ticketing business, the secondary market has companies such as StubHub and TicketNetwork.

“There’s a lot of wiggle room in this space, where there are only three or four companies making above the $50 to $100 million mark,” Messineo told [a]listdaily. “We’re doing about $100 million this year, which is up from $20 million last year.”

In 2014, Rukkus launched with an iPhone app and then moved quickly to Web and Android. This past May, the company entered the virtual reality space. Messineo said the idea to explore VR came about when there were just a handful of employees (there are now over 23) talking about what was wrong with the current offerings in the secondary ticket market.

Joe Messineo, Rukkus CEO
Joe Messineo, Rukkus CEO

“Companies weren’t even showing an image of what your seat view looked like,” Messineo said. “StubHub provided a virtual rendering of what they thought the seat might look like. We thought 360-degree photography was advanced and no one was using it at the time.”

YouTube had just launched its 360-degree video channel, so Rukkus took that technology and integrated it with its iOS app. Customers can pan their phone around using the gyroscope and look any direction and see exactly what their seat looks like in 80-90 percent of pro sports arenas out there today. Over the next few months, Rukkus will have 100 percent of the arenas incorporated, as well as some concert-only venues.

“We had to create our own camera and software to get the images from each stadium,” Messineo said. “We had to build the custom camera rigs and the software, which took about a year. We started by capturing each section of an arena and we use tricky coding that is able to offset the images a little bit for each seat in that section, row by row. We’d move the rig around and capture the entire stadium.”

For now, only Apple users can view 360-degree seats on mobile devices, but Rukkus will be launching an Android version in the future. The technology also currently works on PC. “We’ve seen a big conversion rate lift on both iOS and PC since launching into VR,” Messineo said. “We’ve seen a couple million dollars of tickets sold through the VR platform in the first couple of weeks.”

Since venturing into VR, Rukkus has seen rival StubHub launch a VR app as well.

“We’re a tech company first,” Messineo said. “We don’t come from the same background as our competition. For us, it’s about creating a great product. A lot of companies have invested in VR, but we feel like we’re one of the first companies to use it for everyday use—not for video games or viewing entertainment, but for e-commerce.”

Messineo believes VR will open up e-commerce for big ticket items out of the gate. “You’re not going to buy expensive seats that are on the 50 yard line or behind home plate without being able to see that view,” Messineo said. “It makes a big difference when people can experience something first-hand. VR gives a brick and mortar feel with instant gratification. You can transform e-commerce if you do it right.”

Since it sells everything from sports to concert tickets, Rukkus works with a large demographic of consumers. Messineo said the overall platform is approximately 50/50 male to female, although certain sports skew higher and younger with males—just as certain concerts like Taylor Swift attract a younger female audience.

Rukkus doesn’t allow fans to resell their tickets. The company only works with ticket brokers, which Messineo said allows the company to sell tickets for less than the competition. “The exact same tickets are sometimes 30-40 percent cheaper than on StubHub or TicketMaster,” Messineo said. “We want to be fairly priced. And as a brand, we want people to see the difference in price and say ‘wow.’”

“Content Marketing Is The Only Marketing Left” And Other Things You May Have Missed At Content Marketing World

The biggest event in content marketing rolled into Cleveland this week and it was out of this world. That’s not just because Content Marketing World 2016 had Star Wars’ own Luke Skywalker (okay, Mark Hamill) as its keynote speaker. The four-day event, which wraps today, brought together over 3,500 content marketers to talk about best practices for creating effective content.

Why Cleveland? It’s the hometown of the Content Marketing Institute, which was established back in 2007 by founder Joe Pulizzi, to educate the industry and advance the idea that marketing should provide value to customers before attempting a sales pitch. Not longer after, marketing guru Seth Godin would declare that “content marketing is the only marketing left” in a modern era when interruptive advertising is easy for consumers to avoid and known to be ineffective.

Content Marketing World began not long afterward to bring the brightest minds in content strategy and custom publishing together. This year was no exception. The halls were filled with distinguished and influential voices in content marketing filling the halls. Just about every aspect of a branded content strategy, implementation and distribution was discussed.

While many top industry consultants and analysts peopled the stages, leading brands like Microsoft, Wells Fargo, LEGO, Kellogg’s, Dell and dozens more showed others how they have built effective content strategies, teams and measurements of their success.

Content Marketing World: Research Informs The Show

The conference always begins with a release of research conducted by the CMI in collaboration with MarketingProfs, influential content expert Ann Handley’s consulting firm. This year, the evidence suggested that content marketers still struggle to get full support within their organizations. Only 20 percent said their organization is fully committed to content marketing. That means there is budget, appropriate hires and executive commitment to sustain a content strategy. Pulizzi called from the main stage for content marketers to work hard to get buy-in because without a full commitment to regular content, brands will not gain the benefits of the strategy. “Mediocre content will hurt your brand more than doing nothing at all,” he declared.

Content Marketing World

A common theme throughout the conference was not just what to do but also what to stop doing. CMI’s strategy director, Robert Rose, repeatedly told marketers to stop building massive PDFs and start finding more effective content formats to engage their prospects. Michael Brenner, former VP of SAP and current CEO of the Marketing Insider Group, put it simply, “Research shows that 74 percent of CEOs are unhappy with their CMOs. Stop doing stuff that doesn’t make an impact.”

Keynote speaker Andy Crestodina offered marketers good advice on building effective content. He advised marketers to understand the purpose of content before creating it. Some content is for informational purposes, while other content is for transactional experiences. He offered many keys to content success, including working with influencers that can help spread your message because he noted that, “it’s not the best content that wins—it’s the best-promoted content that wins.”

Content Marketing World
Most Presentations At Content Marketing World Are Captured In Ink

Many Fortune 5,000 brands showcased their content success on stage and in panels throughout the week. LEGO, whose passionate commitment to content spans many decades, highlighted how they inspired user-generated content on social channels with a $100 campaign that generated millions in earned media value. Their innovative approach tapped into the creativity they knew their fans would express when challenged to build a simple character and take him to iconic places around the world. Marriott’s award-winning content studio set out a mission to “become the Red Bull of hospitality” and has done so with innovative original, influencer and real-time content that has tapped into the zeitgeist effectively. REI’s Eric Hess made a pitch for long-form content instead of the snackable, short-form content bites that won’t deliver the same kind of SEO and educational benefits their brand is enjoying. Wells Fargo showed that an innovative and nimble approach to content is helping them win over the hard-to-reach Millennial audiences that represent an increasingly large portion of their customer base.

With workshop days before and after the main event, Content Marketing World is an ideal forum for learning the craft or just getting much better at creating valuable content for your customers. Attendees learned everything from the right technology to support a content team, to creating compelling social content, to building global marketing teams and planning for multi-channel content production.

What about Mark Hamill? Why was he the closing keynote speaker for a content marketing event? As the actor took the stage, he admitted that an article written by the aforementioned Michael Brenner last week shook his confidence that he belonged on the stage. But Hamill need not have been worried. The article’s excellent analysis explained it all in the context of storytelling. Content marketing is about sorting out the right way to tell a story. It’s about redemption. As Brenner put it, “If marketing has a marketing problem, then content marketing is the solution. If banner ads are evil (and you know they are), then content marketing is the hero.”

Bethesda Exec Discusses ‘The Elder Scrolls: Legends’ ESports Plans

At PAX West, Bethesda Softworks held the first official public eSports competitions for its new strategy card game, The Elder Scrolls: Legends. But it wasn’t the first time the public had played the game in organized tournaments. That happened as soon as Bethesda unleashed the open beta for the game, and that fan interaction is what opened the door to another eSport for the game publisher—which is also mapping out a strategy for its 2017 game, Quake Champions.

Pete Hines, vice president of marketing at Bethesda Softworks, talks to [a]listdaily about the opportunities Legends and Champions open up for the game company in this exclusive interview.

Pete Hines, Bethesda Softworks vice president of marketing

Why did you decide to jump into eSports with The Elder Scrolls: Legends?

We felt like Legends was a game that was a good fit for eSports. Most importantly, what we care about is making a game that’s not only fun to play, but fun to watch. Both of those things also make it a good candidate for being an eSport title.

What do you feel are the key ingredients needed for a game to succeed in eSports?

The biggest thing is: it’s got to be a good game that’s fun to play and that’s fun to watch. If you don’t do those two things, then eSports is never going to happen. We tried to focus on aspects that make it really fun and engaging to play and offer a lot of variety and make it a really competitive title.

What does PAX open up as a proving ground for introducing eSport titles to gamers?

One of the things we’ve been able to do here at PAX is not only have competitions and do some streaming with influencers and devs, but also start to have tournaments where fans who have had a chance to play the game in the open beta can come in and try their hand with some of the decks that they’ve created. We’re starting to embrace that idea of it’s a competitive game. It’s about trying to figure out how to make the best decks, how to figure out the meta game, and what everybody else is doing. PAX is a great way to open up that to fans.

What role do influencers play in helping grow a new eSport?

For a title to be successful, it has to have a whole bunch of different elements working. It’s not just one thing. In the case of influencers and streamers, the more people that are exposed to the game and the more they understand how fun it is to play—how fun it is to watch—that only helps. So working with the streamers like TrumpSC, Kolento and Kenji only helps because they’re really into it. Those guys were beating the devs (the guys who designed the game) in matches, so it shows that it’s not just that you can reach an audience, but that those folks are really passionate about games like The Elder Scrolls: Legends.

What can you learn from what Blizzard has done with Hearthstone in eSports?

My approach to Bethesda since I’ve been there is to focus on us and what we’re doing, so a game like Hearthstone is going to do whatever it thinks is best for itself. Same with a game like Magic: The Gathering. We’re going to take our own approach and find our own way to go in terms of the kind of game that it is and the audience that we reach and how we approach eSports.

Outside of PAX, do you see bigger eSports potential for The Elder Scrolls: Legends?

Absolutely. What we did here at PAX is really a case of time and where we were as a game. We have our own QuakeCon, which was one of the very first eSports cons. It’s not just about celebrating gaming but it’s also where we started doing Quake tournaments well before Bethesda was involved with it. I definitely think you’re going to see tournaments and competitions in eSports happening at a variety of shows like PAX, but also in a bunch of other places.

What do you hope to learn from these initial PAX eSports competitions?

Like with anything, you try something, you see what works, and figure out the things that resonate and try to do more of those—and try and figure out the things you didn’t do well, or could have done better, and try and improve. I’m a big believer in that, whether it’s going from one game to the next or one eSports event to the next. So at PAX, we tried some things and hopefully we’ll take those learnings to whatever we do next.

Looking ahead, are there marketing initiatives that Bethesda can use across eSports titles from Legends to Quake Champions?

Yes, one of the things that we believe is that the game has to come first and the eSports will roll out of that. We do have a legacy in eSports with titles like Quake that have been part of the eSports scene for many, many years. And we want to try and take all the things that we’ve learned from running competitions at QuakeCon and outside of QuakeCon with Quake, not only with Quake Champions, but to apply those learnings to Legends, and honestly anything else we do where we think there’s a good fit—or that people are interested in competing and using that game to express themselves in competition.

Do you envision any crossover fan bases across these two eSports games moving forward as they’re rolled out?

Sure. If you’re interested in really fast first-person shooters and you’re also interested in strategy card games, then obviously there’s going to be some crossover. But our mantra has always been: we make the kind of games that we get excited about, and we make them for whoever is interested in those games. So if you’re only interested in strategy card games, then you’re probably not interested in Quake and vice versa. But certainly, exposing all of those to an audience allows you to hit folks who do have an interest and do focus on a lot of different kinds of games, or different genres, and might be interested in competing. Maybe they’re competitive in Quake, but maybe they only play Legends casually or for fun. We want to make sure people are aware. It’s free to play. It doesn’t cost you a thing. Give it a try.

What role does eSports play today in marketing and fan engagement?

Like a lot of things, eSports is just a component. It’s not the defining component. We don’t center everything around eSports. It’s simply one part of the puzzle, and there are a lot of things that have to go into promoting a title, marketing it, and making it a success. ESports is part of that, but it’s just a part. It’s about reaching out to fans, finding out the kinds of things that they’re interested in; the kinds of things that they want to do. In the case of Legends, as soon as we went into open beta, we saw that fans were creating their own tournaments and competitions, which said to us: “ESports should be a part of this because even without us being involved, they’re going out and starting their own tournaments and competitions themselves.” Clearly, it’s something fans are interested in and we simply want to foster that and grow it.