Geoff Keighley Breaks Down The Game Awards 2016

Geoff Keighley, founder of The Game Awards, host and veteran game journalist,  joined us for [a]list Live to reveal the journey, challenges and brand partnerships that go into making his show the massive success that it has become.

After working for over 20 years as a video game journalist, a TV host and contributor for the SpikeTV Video Game Awards, Keighley still felt that something was missing. “What I found is that there was really never that show that could be the Oscars for this industry,” he explained.

There are so shortages on award shows these days, but what sets Keighley’s apart is the format. “I’d done television work for over a decade and three or four years ago, I began to see this shift for millennial audiences to consume all their video content on digital platforms,” said Keighley. “When I was thinking about creating something like The Game Awards, one path was to go back to television but I said, ‘maybe there’s something new or interesting to do here to with creating an all-digital show.'”

The decision to broadcast The Game Awards digitally has paid off by reaching its target audience right where they live—over 600 million gaming screens worldwide. “It just felt natural,” Keighley said. “If you’re trying to reach gamers, and celebrating gaming awards, why would you force them to go to Cable?”

The awards show is a mix of honoring game titles over the past year, but Keighley also felt it was important to look to the future with exclusive announcements, trailers and even musical acts. “We try and do a lot more than awards on the show.” The 2016 Game Awards will feature virtual reality, transporting viewers to strategic locations around the event.

When it comes to branding, the show’s non-linear format offers a sense of liberation for how to integrate sponsored content. Although brands can purchase traditional, 30-second spots during the broadcast, Keighley has experienced a sense of excitement from potential partners who want to get involved “Almost everyone has said, ‘we want to work with you to figure out what we can do in this space that’s going to resonate and be authentic with this audience.'”

Inside Mountain Dew’s Marketing Strategy For The NBA Season

The NBA season tipped off on the hardwood floor this week, as did a host of campaigns off the court for brands pushing their hoops marketing messages for the 2016-2017 season.

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s tip off, Mountain Dew introduced 40-foot-tall glowing basketballs in Los Angeles, Miami and Cleveland, markets that have played in 15 NBA Finals this millennium, winning a total of nine.

The soft drink brand also renewed its national partnerships with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and segued Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving from Pepsi to Mountain Dew. The perennial all-stars headline Dew’s 19-player marketing roster that will help deliver the brand’s message in a variety of ways this season.


“Dew gets me as both a player and an individual and I’m proud of our collaborations over the past year and a half,” said Westbrook. “I love that I can do me, while still doing the Dew.”

“I am excited to be a part of the Dew lineup,” said Irving, a star of Pepsi’s “Uncle Drew” campaign. “Mountain Dew is a brand that celebrates being an individual and I continue to work to be the best version of me on and off the court. I can’t wait for what’s coming up next.”

Mountain Dew’s roster of NBA stars for the season rounds out with Justin Anderson, Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Bradley Beal, Patrick Beverley, Devin Booker, Mike Conley, Danny Green, Elfrid Payton, Rodney Hood, Reggie Jackson, CJ McCollum, Emmanuel Mudiay, Bobby Portis, Julius Randle, Isaiah Thomas, Myles Turner and Justise Winslow.

Richie Cruz, who handles NBA marketing for Mountain Dew, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how Dew will be dribbling for a fast break in hoops marketing this season.

What is Mountain Dew’s national and local marketing strategy for the upcoming 2016-2017 season to get fans closer to the NBA lifestyle?

The NBA is a community of tastemakers and creators who blaze trails their own way—influencing everything from style and music to art and tech. This season, Dew is getting in on the action by bringing fans closer to the game beyond the game, and we have 19 NBA players who can bring that to life in unexpected ways. Everything we do is about embracing creativity, fun and originality.


What are the 40-foot-tall glowing basketballs designed to accomplish from an experiential marketing standpoint? What did the experience accomplish?

The basketball installations were designed to ignite fan excitement and engagement leading up to NBA tip off. Fans had the opportunity to show their fandom and snap a photo of the massive basketball, witness surprise appearances and have a shot at scoring tip off tickets. We took the experience to both coasts and culminated at the home of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, where excitement was at an all-time high.

Why did Mountain Dew specifically choose the Los Angeles, Miami and Cleveland markets?

We wanted to highlight cities where NBA fandom is part of the culture and embrace the diversity of the fan celebration in each coast, culminating in Cleveland where the world was watching Tuesday during opening night.

Dew is humorously aligning style, music, art and technology to the company. What are some of the in-store and event activations slated for this season? How about on the TV, digital and social media side? How will the 19-man Dew lineup be involved?

Storytelling that brings fans closer to the culture and lifestyle of the game in unexpected ways will drive our campaign. It will include all traditional content formats in addition to exploration of new content formats that we haven’t yet executed as a brand. As leaders in NBA lifestyle, the Dew NBA lineup will be involved in all aspects of the campaign helping to inspire fans, and to show a more fun and personal side that we as fans don’t always get to see.


Mountain Dew used VR earlier this year at the 2016 NBA All-Star Game through the “Court Vision” installation. With the NBA now streaming weekly games in VR, how important is the immersive technology to Dew, and what kind of VR activations can we expect from the soft drink brand moving forward?

It’s very important to us as a brand to monitor and immerse ourselves in the latest in sports, technology, entertainment and lifestyle. A key focus within those categories is pushing the boundaries of alternate realities including VR applications as well as other interactive and social media experiences yet to be widely exposed to consumers. We do not have VR activations to announce at this time, but it is an important format which Dew will continue to be active in.

Last week Sony and ESL partnered to deliver a new NBA 2K eSports event. You guys launched the Mountain Dew League earlier this summer. Is Dew’s involvement in NBA 2K right around the corner, and a logical next step? How critical is it for the brand to acquire an eSports audience?

As the gamer’s drink of choice, Dew and gaming go hand-in-hand and our history with the gaming world dates back to 2003. We are an active partner of NBA 2K, including being the first partner of their ‘Road to the Finals’ tournament this past summer, and now our Dew NBA 3X tournaments are integrated into 2K to keep fans engaged throughout the year. On the eSports front, we are currently focused on our recently launched Mountain Dew League, and are always exploring ways to bring gaming fans new, exhilarating experiences.

How will you measure the success of your NBA marketing campaigns for this season once the championship confetti has fallen in June?

Consumer engagement, brand health and partnership fit. But perhaps more importantly, was it memorable?

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

How Roker Media Invites Twitch Viewers To Dine In

Twitch launched its food channel earlier this year with a marathon of Julia Child’s The French Chef, and now the Amazon-owned streaming platform is partnering with Al Roker’s Roker Media to take things a step further. A new two-hour cooking show called ChefShock will debut on Twitch starting Monday, October 31, 5 pm Pacific time. The live show features former Food Network Star winner, Justin Warner as the host.

Viewers will be able to purchase ingredients before each daily episode airs, either by looking at the meal schedule or by choosing one of the show’s home delivery partners, so that they can cook along with the host.

Ronald Pruett, co-founder of Roker Media with Al Roker, and Tracie Brennan, executive vice president at Al Roker Entertainment and Roker Media, spoke with [a]listdaily from The LiveFronts in New York City—an event that focuses the growing trend of live content—about ChefShock and how livestreaming platforms could become media networks in the future.

Ronald Pruett Jr., co-founder of Roker Media
Ronald C. Pruett, Jr., co-founder of Roker Media

What inspired the creation of ChefShock?

[Pruett]: We’ve wanted to do something on Twitch for a long time because we love their platform and the community they’ve built. We approached a partner of ours, SXM—a gentleman named Tom Bannister—who was also very keen on Twitch. He had been working with different partners to develop a slate of shows that might fit that platform. One of them was in cooking, and we at Roker Media have a deep background in the food space, and he had a perfect show in development that we wanted to partner on.

It all came together very quickly because we all wanted to work with Twitch, Twitch wanted more shows on their Creative channel, and we put all together in about two or three weeks.

ChefShock will be geared towards millennials. How do you plan on targeting that audience, specifically?

[Pruett]: I’ll leave it to the chef to ultimately decide, but I think it’s in Justin Warner, an award-winning chef. Cutting-edge, very in-tune with the gaming community and the millennial marketplace. So, we asked him, “What do you think would work?”

It turns out, he’s a collector of all artifacts gaming. So, he’s going back into the ‘70s with crazy gaming stuff around his house. So, we decided to shoot it out of his kitchen. The set will be his kitchen in Brooklyn. It’s authentic, if nothing else.

How did you come to work with Justin Warner?

[Pruett]: We got to know him through Tom Bannister, who was talking about different show ideas. Justin is just a natural. He’s someone who can take food and make it simple for just about anyone to understand. We met and we all liked each other immediately, and that’s how it evolved.

Do you think it’s funny or ironic that Chef Warner was a winner on Food Network Star?

[Pruett]: You know, it’s both, but it is more ironic. When we started down the path of livestreaming, we started in the food category because we think that the next Food Network is going to be on a livestream. In fact, one of our early advisors was the creator of the Food Network.

So, we’ve had our eye on this space for a very long time. There’s irony to it, but it’s also somewhat by design.

How will ChefShock stand out from cooking shows on TV or YouTube?

[Pruett]: First of all, it’s live. When anything is live, anything goes. Justin is a terrific chef, but he’s also a little bit crazy too. So, I think he’s going to make it an interesting event every day. The food will be different, but it’ll also be food that anyone can prepare. He’s really tuned in to his audience.

With livestreaming, it’s interactive. If the audience doesn’t like what you’re doing, they’re going to let you know. So, it’s a show that might even change midstream based on the reaction we’re getting from the viewers.

[Brennan]: The call to action is to have the audience cook along. As part of our channel page on Twitch, we’ll have shopping lists days before [the livestream] for each day so our audience can cook along with Justin during our two-hour long live show—which is daily from 5-7 pm Pacific and 8-10 pm Eastern.

Tracie Brennan, executive vice president at Al Roker Entertainment and Roker Media
Tracie Brennan, executive vice president at Al Roker Entertainment and Roker Media

Two hours is a lot of time to fill. How did you come up with that format?

[Brennan]: Because he (Warner) literally wants to go from taking the ingredients out of the bag and starting from there. A lot of his audience probably aren’t chefs or even home cooks. The goal is to take them from A to Z. Whereas on most cooking shows, you’ll see everything pre-measured in glass bowls that are poured into a larger bowl, that won’t be the case here. We’re going to measure everything, pull them out of their packaging, and go from beginning to end with the audience following along.

Plus, Justin is really fun. He’s going to be taking questions, he’s going to be demoing, and it’s going to be a big interactive experience for the audience. Believe me, that two hours is going to fly by.

[Pruett]: You were asking about how it was an authentic show, and Tracie helped design it. It’s like a real cooking experience. It’s what everyone goes to every night at home, and they’re going to walk through it with Justin. It’s totally novel.

[Brennan]: He’s also going to eat it. He’s going to invite the audience, once they’re done, to eat with him. They’re cooking a meal at home, then all sitting down to meal together on a livestream.

How will you work with the inevitable downtime while cooking?

[Brennan]: Well, you’ll have to tune in to see. Justin has a great personality and he’ll be taking questions. Maybe they’ll be talking about games that have come out or what games he’s hot on right now. I don’t think there will be that much downtime to fill.

[Pruett]: That is why it’s so important, when you’re doing a livestreaming, to find the right personalities that can keep people interested. It’s not like YouTube or some of the more edited platforms. It’s live, like a talk show or radio show. You really need someone who can, while something is cooking, get them interested in something else.

Will ChefShock have a theme for the food?

[Brennan]: That comes from Justin’s personality and the type of food he likes to cook, but each day will have a theme, and it’ll be the same theme each week. [For example] Monday is Meaty Monday, where a lot of times you’d find Meatless Monday. They’re all Justin’s ideas.

Will there be cross-promotional plans for some of the ingredients Chef Warner will be using?

[Pruett]: Yes, one reason we’re interested in Twitch is because of their parent company, Amazon. We have been looking at coupling content with commerce, and we think Twitch has got a lot of it figured out. We have interest from various e-commerce platforms to work with us, but we don’t have anything to announce yet.

We’ve been thinking from the beginning: why aren’t platforms doing more with commerce tied to content? There are new ones like Busker that are starting to do that, but we’ve all along thought this way.

How do you think livestreaming has impacted the way people consume media?

[Pruett]: We all believe that we’re at the early stages of this—we’re at the first base of many. We think that probably the biggest component of it is [how] not only are people consuming it, they’re participating in it. You’ve seen that on Twitch—the ability to interact with the host is something that’s very novel, at least in the platforms we’ve been working with.

I think that the next so-called networks are these online platforms we’re seeing evolve in front of us—YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and more—because they not only provide transactional capability, but content distribution.

What convinced you to choose Twitch, as opposed to YouTube of Facebook Live?

[Pruett]: We’ve worked on a multitude of platforms, from YouNow to Periscope and Facebook Live. We haven’t done as much with YouTube, but we’ve always had our eye on Twitch because we really respect the incredibly strong community that has built up on that platform. For us, this show is just a natural for Twitch.

What are the benefits of being able to broadcast live to the world in real-time?

[Pruett]: [You can do it] at the press of a button with no carrying costs that a traditional television network has. I spent a lot of my life abroad, so we always approach these things with a global view. We saw the potential of how you and I, at the press of a button, could build a global audience using Periscope, YouNow and Facebook.

We know from looking at the analytics that when we launched a show like Camilla Alvez on Facebook, her biggest audience is in Brazil because she’s Brazilian. We could create these crazy global shows instantly. Never before have you been able to do that.

What are the challenges of creating a live show for a global audience?

[Pruett]: We’re wrestling with a couple of things, but first is language. The types of technology different countries use could be an issue. Commerce platforms and time of day are a challenge, but also the brands. If you want to get your show sponsored, if you’re predominantly an American brand or known primarily in the US, you may have a different brand name in France. So, do you want to be on a global platform?

We haven’t figured all these things out, but I feel like the economics of livestreaming are so compelling, and the communities being built are so passionate, that you’re going to see a whole new wave of programming and shows being developed.

What is Roker Media’s long-term goal and how does a show like ChefShock fit in?

[Pruett]: When we started out, we wanted to learn and work with as many platforms as possible. We are agnostic when it comes to the platforms we partner with. As we evolve, we want to continually provide good programming that the viewers want to watch.

Our goal is to create interactive, optimized shows for the audience. In the long-term, we want to create the next network with programming on a cell phone. We’re going to create an LSN—a Livestreaming Network. LiveFronts is our step in that direction, to couple advertisers with programming.

At this time, what is your measurement for success with ChefShock?

[Pruett]: With ChefShock, it’s getting out of the gate and doing something new. The second phase will be getting brand interest. ChefShock is the next type of show in the cooking genre. There are a lot of great cooking sites out there, from Food Network to Tasty, but this is different because it’s live and interactive.

So, our goals are getting viewership, getting brand interest and then getting the numbers up to where we have a big interactive opportunity with the audience.

What do you think will matter more, live viewership or on-demand views of archived shows?

[Pruett]: We’ve done a lot of shows that have smaller live audiences but have really long tails on the archive piece of it. We’ve always looked at live as being hybrid, so we’re as interested in the longer tail syndication of the show as we are the live piece. Honestly, we’d love to have a big of a live audience as possible. I think that’s the main driver of success, but we’ll see how this new space plays out.

SuperData: Mobile And Free-to-Play MMOs Rule September 2016 Digital Sales

SuperData has just released its digital video game industry revenue data for September 2016, revealing that although revenue is up, what people are willing to pay for is a’changing.

September Digital Video Game Sales

Overall, September proved to be a successful one as the global market reached $6.2 billion—an increase of 5 percent over September 2015. Revenues were dominated by a growing mobile ($3 billion) and free-to-play MMO market that brought in $3 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively. Mobile game revenue enjoyed a growth of 11 percent over last September, largely due to the success of its number one game for the third month in a row . . . you guessed it, Pokémon GO. Mobile Strike holds its own at number two, followed by Clash Royale

Pay-to-play MMOs experienced a 12 percent year-over-year growth thanks to a successful August launch of World of Warcraft: Legion. The wildly popular game holds its number two spot on the charts for a second month in a row behind free-to-play online game, League of Legends. Unchanged from August, Crossfire holds the number three spot for PC in September. Despite growth within the MMO genre, overall PC sales decreased six percent to $334.8 million and those in the Social genre dropped four percent to $618.3 million compared to September 2015.

Thanks to its Rise of Iron expansion, Bungie’s Destiny topped the September console charts, followed by newcomer, FIFA 17 and Call of Duty: Black Ops III holding its numerical equivalent. Overall, the global console market fared better than its PC cousins at $493 million, although it suffered a 14 percent decline from the previous year.

League of Legends holds its #1 spot on digital PC sales.

The Power of DLC And Expansions

“Destiny highlights the importance of additional content releases for AAA titles,” noted SuperData CEO, Joost van Dreunen in the report, citing Activision-Blizzard as a leader in this strategy. “Since April 2016, Call of Duty: Black Ops’ additional content revenue has never dipped below 80 percent of total revenue.”

Legacy franchises like Call of Duty and Destiny can not only charge a premium upfront price,” van Dreunen added, “but continue to take the lion’s share of console spending for months or even years.” Destiny’s The Rise of Iron expansion skyrocketed the title’s revenue from $7.2 million in August to a whopping $59.1 in September, where it rests comfortably at number one for console games.

Monetization, The Twitch Way

Amazon is changing the way people watch, play and pay for video game programming through Twitch and Twitch Prime. The gaming video content segment has seen significant growth over the past year as Twitch continues to release new features aimed at getting online viewers to spend more while watching others play games. One such method of monetization includes Stream+, a virtual currency that viewers can use to bet in real-time during eSports events.

In addition to Twitch Prime, which offers significant benefits to Amazon Prime subscribers, users can now acquire a virtual currency called “bits” by watching ads or paying directly. “While this feature is new to Twitch,” van Dreunen commented, “Chinese streaming platforms like Douyu have already successfully monetized it [and] viewers frequently gift hundreds of dollars’ worth of emotes in a few minutes.” With Twitch getting a 30 to 40 percent cut of all revenue donated in this way, SuperData estimates that total donation revenue for gaming video content could exceed $1 billion worldwide by the end of 2017.

DreamHack Continues US Expansion And ESports Growth

DreamHack expanded to the US for the first time this year with its inaugural Austin eSports event. The Swedish company is also doubling down on America for 2017 to take advantage of the fastest-growing eSports audience in the world.

In 2017, DreamHack will bring its eSports festival to convention centers in Austin (April 28-30), Atlanta (July 21-23) and Denver (October 20-22). In addition, the company will host its first US DreamHack Masters event in Las Vegas February 15-19 at the MGM Grand. Sixteen of the world’s best Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) teams will compete for a $450,000 prize pool.

The inaugural DreamHack Masters in Malmö, Sweden this year had over 12,000 attendees from around the world. The tournament garnered over 32 million stream views, making it the most viewed CS:GO event in 2016 outside of the Valve Majors. DreamHack Masters is a touring eSports championship that will visit different cities and venues with different game titles, depending on market and timing. In 2017, DreamHack will produce two DreamHack Masters events—both featuring CS:GO.

Michael Van Driel, business developer at DreamHack, talks to [a]listdaily about what’s in store for the company’s US expansion in this exclusive interview.

What do you feel defines the DreamHack brand in eSports?

DreamHack is one of the pioneers in the eSports space and has been doing it from the very beginning. One of the keys to success is that we have always worked extremely close with the community, teams and players by being transparent. Our main focus is to maintain authenticity and see what our audience wants, and then do that.

DreamHack is one of the pioneers in the eSports space. How are you drawing from your extensive experience in European eSports for your US eSports initiatives?

We are drawing in a great number of ways from our experiences in Europe. When looking at our DreamHack festival events, our goal is to bring something for everyone, rather than strictly focus on one area. We like to have DreamHack as a smorgasbord of different eSports activities and be a platform for the community that is attending the events. In that way, we look to create a different experience, still focusing on our core pillars of BYOC (bring your own computer) LAN, eSports and gaming exhibition, but augment it by focusing more on popular activities in the US such as tabletop gaming, and this year we are eyeing console eSports.

What did you learn from DreamHack Austin that you’re applying to Las Vegas and other US eSports initiatives?

We are overwhelmed by the welcome we received from the American audience in Austin and the feedback we got when announcing our 2017 events. We will continue to offer the unique DreamHack experience and push the boundaries for gaming and eSport entertainment on our events. Overall, the US is a very different market when it comes to hosting events, and we’re keen to continue to learn and optimize to make our events the best possible for all visitors, sponsors, competitors and partners.

What role do you see the US playing for the future of the DreamHack brand?

The US is the largest market we have entered, and with the success of DreamHack Austin in 2016, it will (for the coming years) be one of our core markets. The US viewership has always been a significant part, but it’s important for us that our European presence and core market in the Nordics continues to develop and expand. Our overall thinking is that where there is a community and DreamHack fans, there should be a DreamHack event. The key challenge for us is to maintain a high quality of events, and that each visitor will get that unique DreamHack experience that we were able to create originally in Sweden in Jönköping.

What do you feel separates DreamHack eSports from what ESL has done on its own?

Typically, we focus mostly on DreamHack and don’t look at much as what other companies do, since DreamHack is very uniquely positioned in the eSports space. In general, DreamHack is an events company first and an eSports company second. ESports is just a part of what we do and our foundation will always be our festival events, which stretch far beyond just the eSports component, and are more about the social experience visitors have. ESports is simply a platform for bringing people together.

How do ESL and DreamHack work together?

DreamHack and ESL have been working together long before we shared MTG as a parent company. DreamHack operates entirely as an independent company and works together with ESL in the same manner. We have worked with all sorts of different eSports companies, such as FACEIT, PGL and others. Our ambition is always to work with as many other companies as possible. At the same time, it’s important for DreamHack to continue breaking new ground on the eSports side of things. ESL continues to be our main competitor where we want to deliver the best events, broadcasts and experience to our ability.

How are you choosing which US markets to focus on?

Overall, we want to reach as many Americans as possible and make it as easy as possible for any American to visit a DreamHack event. This means considering a great number of different cities and dates. DreamHack events are very special, such as our ambition to always offer a BYOC LAN party open for 24 hours a day during the event, the rigorous demands on internet and more, we need to make sure we can find a city and venue that is capable of hosting us.

What role do US sports stadiums like the Las Vegas MGM Grand Garden Arena play for DreamHack eSports events?

Arena venues play a key role. We created the DreamHack Masters event brand because convention centers simply didn’t fit the bill for building big enough stages and fitting the number of spectators with an appetite to watch the biggest tournaments. Therefore, arenas are crucial for success. MGM has been a great partner to work with, and the format of eSports events requiring visitors to be at a venue for 8-to-10 hours a day over multiple days is something that venues need to plan and consider for, which is very different from a standard concert or sports match. We don’t have any intention to focus more on DreamHack Masters events than DreamHack festivals, so convention centers will always be the location of most DreamHack events, but we do see that as long as eSports continues to be as popular as it is, US sports stadiums will be a key part.

What will differentiate the DreamHack Masters Las Vegas CS:GO event from other CS:GO eSports?

We believe we created the best standalone CS:GO event with the first DreamHack Masters event we hosted in Malmö. We will look to create this again and do it bigger and better. This will mean that we will have a variety of ticket types to cater to all visitors, we want to create an atmosphere in which visitors will have the best possible access to players, while still respecting the needs of the players as world-class competitors. Furthermore, DreamHack Masters Las Vegas will feature 16 teams competing live to ensure that the arena show has the opportunity for the best possible teams, as well as a record-breaking prize pool for a non-Valve event held in the United States.

We have been paying lots of attention to the community, and as arena events become more common, we have been visiting them ourselves and evaluating to offer the best possible experience. One big factor that will create a very different experience for visitors is that we will—instead of having a flat facing stage—build a stage in the center of the floor, to much more mimic a traditional sporting event.

How do you decide which games to focus on for DreamHack US events in Las Vegas, Austin, Atlanta and Denver?

Game selection is a complicated process in which we weigh a lot of variables. Of course, the number one criteria is community interest, both onsite and online. If a game is popular, we will want to host tournaments in it. Alongside this, we always also take into consideration a variety of factors like other eSports events happening and the general calendar, as well as more common publishers. In general, we always want to host as many titles as possible at our festival events. At DreamHack Austin, we hosted major international tournaments in CS:GO, StarCraft II, Heroes of the Storm, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Street Fighter V, Pokken and Hearthstone. We will aim to continue to always host as many titles as possible.

Microsoft Plays To Gamers With Upcoming Creators Update

In its Windows 10 event this morning, Microsoft took a page out of the Twitch playbook by introducing Beam system integration for the Xbox One and Windows 10 as part of its forthcoming, Windows 10 Creators Update. The company aims to prove its claim that Xbox Live is the fastest most reliable multiplayer network by supporting 4K graphics on AAA titles like Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4particularly when it comes to livestreams. The company promises interactive broadcasting where viewers can interact in real time “right alongside them.”

“Gaming has exploded in popularity as both spectator entertainment and as a sport,” Microsoft said in a statement. Livestream gaming has become a major source of brand awareness and loyalty thanks to influencers—a major reason publishers like Microsoft are moving away from press exclusives and into fan-centric events.

The Creators Update will also beef up mixed reality with the Microsoft HoloLens. HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer and ASUS will ship the first VR headsets capable of mixed reality in 2017. These accessories will contain built-in sensors to enable users to explore virtual worlds and mixed reality without the need for markers. 3D and mixed reality are also a major focus of the update, allowing 3D capturing, modeling and printing capabilities together with a partnership with a new Remix3D community, a place where Minecraft players can share their 3D creations.

Windows is “getting creative” with its target demographic—appealing to professionals within the design, music, architecture and gaming industries as well as pretty much anyone who uses a computer for work or play. Apple has traditionally dominated the creative market, but Microsoft has revealed a brand-new, high-end line of hardware that aims to change that forever. From the announcement of the Surface Studio—a hybrid desktop PC and digital canvas—to the new Surface Book laptop with twice the GPU power of its predecessor, Windows is stepping up its game to make creation accessible and interactive . . . for gamers and beyond.


3 Marketing Takeaways From The LiveFronts

The LiveFronts, an event that discussed the ins-and-outs of the livestreaming content, took place yesterday in New York City. With a keynote from TV personality Al Roker and MC’d by Emmy-award-winning host Mario Armstrong, who is hosting a livestreaming talk show called Never Settle on Facebook Live, the first Livefronts conference broke down the science of creating live content on platforms such as Facebook Live, YouTube, and Twitch and how brands can benefit from using the format.

Brand And Content Strength

In the first segment, Jim Bell, executive producer for NBC Olympics, spoke about how Rio was the most dominant Olympics NBC has ever hosted across broadcast, cable and digital. It was also the most profitable, bringing in $250 million to the network. For comparison, the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia had about 170 hours of coverage over broadcast television. Twenty years later, that number jumped to nearly 7,000 hours of content, making it the most consumed Olympics ever.

“It speaks to the power of the brand and our company’s ability to pump it out. And hopefully while doing so, maintain the polish and prestige the Olympics have,” said Bell.

He then presented the audience with a question: “There were 200 billion minutes of Olympic content that was consumed on our linear and digital platforms. How much do people think digital represented in that?” Although many guessed that it was anywhere from 60-80 percent, the answer is a mere 3 percent, meaning that the overwhelming 97 percent of Olympic content was still being consumed on linear TV despite NBCUniversal’s partnerships with Buzzfeed, Snapchat Facebook and other social media platforms on the digital side.

Even the hard-to-reach millennial audience, which statistics show prefers shorter content—clips versus long-form—tuned in on large screen televisions, where it is best enjoyed. According to Bell, of the 3 billion minutes of livestreamed content consumed, roughly 70 percent was watched on smart TVs. “It’s not that younger viewers aren’t interested in it (video content), they’re just touching and consuming it differently. We were willing to engage them and get them involved.” Bell then discussed NBCUniversal’s Olympic content on social media. On Facebook, people 18-34 were “engaged at a very high rate, with nearly 50 percent of that group liking, sharing or commenting on posts.” Meanwhile, the Snapchat campaign (which was mainly handled by Buzzfeed) reached 33 million users, and 95 percent of them were under the age of 35.

Monetizing Live Content

A later panel discussed monetization models for live video content. The moderator, media and tech analyst Rich Greenfield (from the financial services firm, BTIG) began by asking the panel, “What is working?”

Allison Stern, CMO and co-founder of Tubular Labs said that, “Facebook Live is extremely engaging,” and get twice the number likes, comments and shares as regular Facebook videos. Chewbacca Mom is still the number one Facebook Live video of all time with 150 million views, up there with news, music and celebrities.”

Eric Korsh, president of Mashable Studios, admitted that learning to monetization live video is still in its nascent stages. Videos such as climbing Trump Tower and having celebrities such as Jon Hamm in the office do well, along with the occasional video that has a sense of anticipation built-in, particularly Buzzfeed’s rubber band watermelon explosion. However, everything is still “super experimental,” but they’re still light on the data side for now. David Wong, senior vice president of product leadership at Nielsen, explained that (unsurprisingly) the most popular live videos tend to be sports, serial dramas and any type of content that makes sense to watch live. Meanwhile, sitcoms and cartoons are more popular in stronger on-demand platforms such as YouTube. Stern followed up by saying that live content eventually becomes on-demand as viewers watch it after the fact. Chewbacca Mom grew from 25 million views to 150 million after it was broadcast live.

So, the big question is how to monetize the live viewing audience without turning them off. Considering how much of the digital audience doesn’t typically watch television, livestreaming is becoming an increasingly important avenue for sponsors and advertisers. When asked about what the least intrusive way for a brand to reach an audience through a livestream, Stern told [a]listdaily that: “The least intrusive way probably product placement, but now there are FCC guidelines in terms of making sure that you let people know that it’s an ad. The most intrusive way is a midstream ad or a pre-roll ad. Skippable ads are great because those are less intrusive. Sponsored buys are also a powerful way. For example, Papa John’s sponsors MLB home runs. So, on Facebook, MLB will upload a home run clip and say ‘with Papa John’s.’”

When Livestreaming Is Right

As for the actual livestream content and growing a brand, authenticity and engagement was the going theme. It’s important to engage viewers “in the moment,” as Vincenzo Landino, creative director at Aftermarq, explained when he talked about working with Applebee’s to create Taste the Change—an experience in Times Square built around its menu using R&B and pop performers. About 2,000 people were able to try the new menu, and their reactions were broadcast live. The experience generated over one billion impressions.

Live video works best for marketers looking to build anticipation or increase awareness of an event or product launch. However, the format may not be appropriate for every brand and occasion. It all depends on what the brand want to get out of the campaign. Live video has a great deal in common with live events such as sports and concerts. One of the most engaging activities being eSports, which enjoys one of the longest viewer engagement times of any type of event.

‘The Walking Dead’ Pairs Mobile Game And TV For A Deadly Combo

Fans of The Walking Dead who also play the official mobile game, No Man’s Land, can now unlock weekly content that directly ties into the already shocking seventh season. In a real-time partnership between developer, Next Games and AMC, fans will be able to unlock exclusive weekly content in the game that features new playable characters as they appear on the show bonus themes, special cuts and behind-the-scenes videos.

The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land launched last year and has since been downloaded nearly 15 million times. Players are challenged to survive the zombie apocalypse by maintaining a camp, gathering supplies and battling both “walkers” and other people what want what you have. The game ties directly into the show with official characters like Michonne, Daryl, Rick, Carol and more and features touchscreen, turn-based combat.

“A game and a TV show have never been integrated in quite this way before, and we owe it to all the incredible support The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land received during its first year,” said Teemu Huuhtanen, CEO of Next Games in a statement.

The first unlockable content was made available on Monday following the horrifying season seven premiere of The Walking Dead, taking advantage of the social media storm that followed. The bloody season opener was seen by 17 million viewers—16 percent more than last year’s debut (14.6 million) and on par with the Season 5 premiere (17.3 million). Aftershow The Talking Dead, broadcast live in the famous Hollywood Forever cemetery, scored its largest audience ever at 7.6 million viewers. A sponsored Twitter hashtag featuring Negan’s baseball bat named Lucille, also served to keep the conversation going through the week.


The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land stays true to the nature of the TV show through hard decisions and even tougher situations, but now fans can play as Negan, a bit of therapy may be in order. “The great thing about Negan is we’ve seen bad guys at Terminus and we’ve seen The Governor,” David Alpert, CEO and co-founder of Skybound Entertainment told [a]listdaily. “They’ve been seriously bad and they’ve done horrible things, but they’ve always been on a size of scale that you can wrap your heads around.”

One thing fans have learned about Robert Kirkman’s franchise—no character is safe, a fact literally beat into viewer’s brains on Sunday by the brutal execution of a couple fan favorites. “The truth is, when we start the year nobody has to survive,” explained Alpert. “Everybody is on the table. If somebody was to come in the room with a pitch that was incredibly compelling as to why we write-off one of the leads, we’d take it on.”


Why Topgolf’s Business Model Is A Hole In One

Bright lights, brassy beats, billowing bars and the bare pleasure of launching a ball into the night—Topgolf is not your grandfather’s driving range.

In a handful of years, Topgolf has turned the glorified game’s grandeur on its head and reimagined sports, and in essence, flipped the traditional driving range model to create a new high-tech entertainment category for millennials.

And it’s just getting started for the rapidly expanding, natively social brand. In September, the chain secured $275 million in funding to facilitate its aggressive expansion plans throughout the US. Topgolf plans to build 7 to 10 locations a year with its sights set on 50 US locations by 2017.

Their roots are originated in Watford, England, the location where they first started serving a digital golf audience in 2000. They quickly expanded stateside shortly afterward and have since grown to 29 venues and serve 13 million guests annually.

With golf courses around the country accelerating toward a decline, those numbers are even more impressive considering the amount of golfers in the US has dropped 20 percent, from 30 million to 24 million since 2005, according to the National Golf Foundation.

With its nightclub-like vibe, Topgolf is far from being a ghost town. It’s the closest thing to unearthing the next Happy Gilmore.

Susan Walmesley, vice president and sales and marketing for Topgolf, joined [a]listdaily to discuss the fast-growing company’s aggressive strategy in building a unique integrated entertainment and sports experience.


How do you describe a Topgolf experience for someone who has never had one? 

The games can be played by anyone—any age or skill level. Players use real golf clubs and hit microchipped golf balls, aiming for giant targets on a 215-yard outfield. In the classic Topgolf game, the farther the target and the closer to the center of the target you hit, the more points you score. Your yardage and score is instantly relayed to a TV screen in your hitting bay. The hitting bays are covered and climate-controlled for year-round comfort. While you play, you can enjoy music and delicious food and drinks brought to your bay. Each venue offers other entertainment options, such as pool tables, shuffleboard and Xbox Kinect. The venues also offer golf instruction, leagues, tournaments, kids-only events, theme parties and more. There’s something for everyone.

How does Topgolf intersect with the traditional sport’s elements?

Topgolf is a great entry point for traditional golf. People who might not otherwise pick up a club jump right into playing at Topgolf because the environment is fun, casual and non-intimidating. We offer golf instruction for all ages to help promote that transition to green grass.


Who is the demographic you are trying to reach?

Topgolf appeals to all ages, but the majority of our guests are ages 18-to-34. Female visits have increased by 13 percent in the past three years, and we are excited to see that fan base grow for us. Approximately 32 percent of Topgolf players are women.

How are you leveraging a purely social approach to further build on your brand? How do you judge the success?

Topgolf is an inherently social and shareable experience because of the interaction the environment fosters. In fact, the average group size is four people. With our private-events business, we bring together diverse groups of people who bond over the playful competition. The majority of our visitors are non-golfers, and they are eager to share photos and videos of their swings on social media. We make sure that we engage with our guests online and remind them to interact with us on social media through in-venue advertising, our social wall that populates near real-time content, step-and-repeat photo backgrounds, Snapchat geofilters, and more. Topgolf’s popularity was largely built on word of mouth and social media. We judge our success on social based on quality and quantity of engagement activities with likes, comments, shares, retweets, follower growth, referrals to and several other KPIs.


What is Topgolf’s approach to social? Are there any platforms you’d like to test further?

Up until this year, we had a decentralized marketing model in which each venue had its own social media accounts. This year, we faced maintaining more than 150 accounts and decided that it would be best to post from only one main corporate account on Twitter and Instagram. The venues will maintain their Facebook accounts so they can still share local content and guests can ‘check in’ locally. Our new approach will help us track and respond to guest service issues as well as share higher-quality content. We are excited to explore Snapchat further in the near future. We’ve experimented with geofilters and have had huge success with them, so the next step is creating our own Snapchat account to share the Topgolf experience.

What is your approach and strategy in telling the Topgolf story? What works? What hasn’t?  

Topgolf has gained significant brand awareness through earned media. Our story has evolved so much over the years—we started off focusing on being a really cool driving range then evolved to become a sports entertainment venue. Our relationships and partnerships within the golf industry have evolved over time as the industry grew to embrace Topgolf for how it could help grow the game. This year, we are thinking beyond the venues to foster Topgolf as a lifestyle brand that fans can tap into in-venue or online. In terms of PR, we find it’s critical for reporters, tastemakers and influencers to experience Topgolf firsthand so they can help tell the story from their unique perspective. It’s hard to explain Topgolf to someone who has never heard of it—visuals are necessary to tell our story and convey all that we offer.


Topgolf recently secured $275 million in additional capital to execute an expansion plan across the US. Where will we be seeing new Topgolf locations?

We are opening in Jacksonville this month and Edison, New Jersey in December. Next year, we will be opening in Charlotte, Orlando, Nashville, near Indianapolis, near Philadelphia and in Fort Worth. In 2017, we will also open our first location in Australia.

Which of your current markets have been performing the best? And why?

Our Centennial venue near Denver is a top performer. The Denver culture embraces outdoor recreation activities, and Topgolf is a place where you can play outside year-round. Our Tampa venue is another high-performing location. Its food and beverage sales have broken company records; there aren’t as many casual dining restaurants in the vicinity as some of our other venues. Our Scottsdale location usually leads the pack in terms of our private events business because its tourism industry is so strong. And of course, Las Vegas is our flagship venue that opened this year and is performing extremely well. It features swimming pools, a concert venue, a Callaway fitting studio, a retail shop and many amenities that aren’t available at our other venues.


Is there a non-location-specific experience you’re looking to offer? Or is it only for fans within a region?

We are actively working on creating a Topgolf experience that can be enjoyed in markets where we don’t yet have a location. There will be more details to come on that soon. Our fans can also play Topgolf 24/7 on the WGT Golf app. The game is incredibly realistic and has gotten rave reviews.

Where do you see Topgolf in five years?  

I see Topgolf moving beyond being a great brand to becoming a noble brand. We are focusing more than ever on giving back to charity and helping grow the game of golf. In five years, I also believe Topgolf will be a household name regardless of location. Topgolf has always been a digital-first company, and I’m excited to see how we will innovate and personalize the guest experience as technology advances.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan


Nathan Fillion Explains The Power Of Crowdfunding And Mobile Gaming

Actor Nathan Fillion is known to mainstream fans for his portrayal of Rick Castle in over eight seasons of the ABC series, Castle. But sci-fi fans will forever remember him as Captain Mal Reynolds from Joss Whedon’s short-lived Fox series, Firefly and its big-screen follow-up, Serenity. To date, fans continue to flock to meet Fillion and the cast of the shows.

That inspired Fillion and Firefly co-star Alan Tudyk to create Con Man, a digital series that follows the lives of a pair of actors who starred in a fictional sci-fi TV show, Spectrum, that was canceled too early. The comedy raised over $3 million on Indiegogo and has spawned both a comic book and Con Man: The Game from Monkey Strength Productions. With new content expanding the mobile game world, Fillion talks to [a]listdaily about the power of crowdfunding and the importance of social media and community interaction in building an IP in this exclusive interview.

What did the Con Man video game open up for you guys creatively as an expansion of the series?

When we started this whole thing, we were really hoping we could do three episodes of Con Man and just show people this great idea Alan (Tudyk) had. We had no idea how the crowdfunding was going to go. Imagine three guys sitting in a room and starting to dream: We could do the whole series and at the end of it, we can build a spaceship; we can do a comic book. A game was brought up and we thought that was a great idea, never really considering what if it happens. The following day, it became apparent that it was going to happen. So that’s the order it happened in, and then we had to sit down and think what would be a great way to honor this Con Man world in a game.

How has all of the work you’ve personally done in games like Jade Empire, Destiny, Saints Row and the Halo franchise over the years impacted you in helping to bring ideas to this Con Man game?

As a game creator, I wouldn’t hire Nathan Fillion. I really wouldn’t. My strength lies in playing the game and saying, “You know what would be great is if this cut scene was a little shorter because it pops up and it’s right in the middle of when I’m actually doing something important, so if I could fast forward through that cut scene, I’d be a lot happier as a gamer.” That’s where my two cents comes in. And that’s actually my asking price for my opinion: two cents.

The great thing about mobile games is that they’re constantly evolving as a platform. How is the real world inspiring new content like the nerdy collectibles and Jack Moore’s Bottled Sweat that you guys have just added to the game?

What’s wonderful about mobile app gaming is you create a game and then you can monitor exactly how people play. What parts of the games are moving fast, whats parts are moving slow. Tons and tons of data come in and you can glean an understanding of where your game could improve. We also have the added benefit of it’s our fans. The people we built it for are actually the people playing. They’re on social media and they comment and they talk about it and they have excellent ideas. So we have so much information coming in, it’s kind of down to what’s the best of all these wonderful and amazing ideas.

It’s pretty amazing to be able to update a game. This is all very new territory for me. I’ve played games, but I’ve just never thought of anything other than the user perspective.

How did you get the idea to include Nolan North in his mo-cap suit in the game as a character?

Yeah, Nolan North really comes alive when you put a suit on him. It’s such a dichotomy and Nolan North is really wonderful at this. He puts on that suit and you can’t help but laugh looking at him. I mean it’s a ridiculous suit, but he becomes empowered. This is his tool. This is how he communicates, this is his work. He makes it so majestic that it really juxtaposes quite nicely the idiot suit he’s wearing. He’s really proud of that suit. We’re all very, very proud of it. We couldn’t not have it in the game. It’s kind of a no-brainer.

Do you see bigger potential in the gaming space for Con Man as a franchise when you look at consoles or the virtual reality systems that are out there today?

That’s something that really interests me—the virtual reality aspect. I would love to be able to bring a portion of Con Man into the virtual reality world. That would be quite interesting. And this is just me talking, but it’s probably not that hard to do. I’m sure there’s some programmer somewhere going, “That son of a bitch!”

What about the wave of new 360-degree storytelling in both virtual and live-action formats being explored in VR?

Yes, I read an article about that. There are startup companies where their entire purpose is trying to make sure people are looking at the right place at the right time to continue the story. We can continue the story without the missing part because they’re paying attention to something in the corner. That’s the danger of 360 movie telling. You can’t direct someone’s attention.

Do you think it increases the importance of audio, so you have 360 audio in VR and they are using that to guide people in certain ways?

Great idea. Problem solved. Go Hollywood!