While a few consumers are totally going to try that, the age of artificial intelligence means tremendous potential for marketing applications (although you might want to invest in cat videos, too). AI has already leaped from the pages of science fiction and into our homes—and although the technology is still new, brands are feeling the pressure to adapt.
Research by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in April found that 37 percent of global marketing executives believe big data and AI were among the technologies they expected to have the biggest impact on marketing companies by 2020.
EMarketer’s latest report, Artificial Intelligence for Marketers: The Future Is Already Here, explores industry predictions for the future of AI, but also how the technology is being used today. A November 2015 survey of IT executives in North America by 451 Research found that 30.4 percent of respondents used or planned to use machine learning techniques for campaign and sales program optimization and 26.8 percent for pricing optimization. These tasks were closely followed by cross-channel analytics (26.2 percent), ad targeting and selection (25.6 percent) and market and customer segmentation (24.4 percent).
With all the metrics-gathering programs out there, sometimes it’s hard to measure return on investment or plan where to budget the most effectively. Each social media platform, for example, has its own metrics analysis and brands must turn to a source that can compile this unstructured data.
AI systems excel at parsing and crunching massive volumes of data from disparate sources, and can take information from a variety of inputs, find relationships, connect dots and make predictions in ways that are not humanly possible. “Marketers are using these capabilities to enhance customer intelligence, marketing research and forecasting accuracy,” notes eMarketer.
A May study conducted by the National Business Research Institute (NBRI) for Narrative Science found that 38 percent of US business executives considered this type of data crunching and predictive activity to be the most important solution provided by AI.
IBM’s natural language processing service, Watson, analyzes unstructured data to help marketers make better use of the data they collect. “We’re at the very beginning of the possibilities with augmented intelligence and cognitive computing for marketing and advertising,” Nish Parekh, IBM’s program director of Watson client services, said in eMarketer’s report. “In the near future, we hope to see more brands across industries and throughout the world adopting cognitive systems, engaging with their customers to create personalization based on their location through mobile phones or wearable devices.”
The evolution of bots on smart devices is also expected to open up a market for new advertising opportunities, especially in the area of paid voice search. According to a September forecast from Juniper Research, more than $12 billion annually will be invested in this format by 2021, up a whopping 3,000 percent from the company’s estimate of 2016 paid voice search.
From messenger bots to super computers, AI is here and it’s learning, so marketers should, too.
From creating the first glass mouse pad to becoming the massive eSports presence it is today, SteelSeries’ history is fueled by gaming and innovation. The Danish company, responsible for the first mechanical gaming keyboard and the first MMO gaming mouse, shocked the gaming world with a complete headset redesign—the Arctis.
SteelSeries eSports teams won over $11.5 million in prize money in 2015 (the most in history) using the company’s flagship model Siberia headphones, mice and other peripherals. So why mess with a winning design?
Brian Fallon, category manager of audio for SteelSeries and creator of the Arctis told [a]listdaily why the company felt it was time for an upgrade.
“Siberia (V2 headphones) came out about nine years ago and gaming has changed a lot in that time,” Fallon explained, “[and] who gamers are is more diverse than ever. We felt it was time to take a step back and think about who our customers are and if our current products fit what they want.”
The New Look Of SteelSeries
SteelSeries’ Arctis headphones were redesigned from the inside-out, from aesthetics to materials and (of course) audio. A stark change from its Siberia line, the Arctis is low profile and minimalistic, aside from optional illumination available on the 5 and 7 models. “We wanted to keep it really slim and small; there’s no reason to have a bulky headset,” Fallon pointed out. “There’s no acoustic reason or performance reason a headset needs to be really big, it’s just a choice that’s been made by designers over time. We felt like having a slimmer design to the headset [would be] more appealing across a wide variety of people.”
“We don’t think gamers necessarily want the direction that headsets have gone lately—the big, bulky, wide, plasticy designs,” Fallon added. “[We] think gamers want something that’s a little more attractive. Headsets are the one [gaming peripheral] you actually wear on your body.”
This bold redesign marks a new era for the brand, Fallon stated, and not just for headphones. “The design of Arctis is certainly going to influence SteelSeries design going forward. We see this as being the future of our style.”
Sports Industry Inspiration
With video games entering the pro sports arena, it’s no wonder that Fallon and his team of designers turned to the athletics industry for ideas. “We actually looked at the athletic apparel industry and the kind of work they’ve been doing on different materials that are breathable, moisture-wicking and had cooling properties—that’s how we developed the air wave cushions that we have on all the Arctis headsets,” Fallon explained. “It’s a material that we sourced from a company that makes fabrics for athletics apparel.” In addition to being soft and breathable, the Arctis air wave cushions are removable and even machine washable.
The Arctis features a suspension design that eliminates pressure points and naturally adjusts to the shape of the user’s head. While Fallon and his team wanted to keep the Siberia’s suspension aspect, they took this opportunity to improve. “With the Arctis suspension we challenged our designers to think about it in a different way to see if there was some influence we could pull from outside of gaming or audio, even to come up with an even more comfortable solution to a suspension headband,” said Fallon. “The idea of taking an elastic fabric just like on a ski goggle band (something else you wear on your head for long periods of time) and then working that into the suspension—we ended up really loving that idea. It was a way to have the headset better conform to people’s heads and still be self-adjusting very easily.”
Made For ESports
In recent years, SteelSeries has consulted professional gamers to help design its products, and this was especially important when designing the Arctis, particularly when it comes to the company’s eSports presence.
“We actually have a CS:GO team that practices right here in our Chicago office so that’s really nice for me as product manager,” Fallon laughed. “All I have to do is walk downstairs and I have easy access to a pro team. We talked with them even before we started the process to ask them [what’s important to them, what’s been missing from other products, what they can do better, etc.]. Early on, we were able to get them prototypes and have them start testing, try things out and give us feedback—let us know what’s working and what’s not.”
A major change to the Arctis that Fallon is particularly proud of is the bi-directional microphone. Turns out the pros liked it, too. “A lot of that feedback was great validation to us. [While using the Arctis prototype] for the first time they didn’t have audio bleeding from each other into each other’s microphones. They could all be separate and have a really clear line of communication which is critical in those games.”
Dota 2 champion team, Evil Geniuses wore prototypes to practice with and were instantly hooked, Fallon said. “They didn’t want to give them back.”
SteelSeries currently partners with around 100 “stream team” members who act as influencers for the company’s line of peripherals. Influencer Deadpooly Plays was so excited about the Arctis that he naturally stepped into the role of spokesperson—even visiting the company’s Chicago office and filming a series of educational interviews.
“He is by far one of our most enthusiastic and excited about Arctis, and literally pitches the product to almost everyone he knows,” said SteelSeries global PR director, Tori Pugliese. “For our team, he’s been a really excellent benefit to our SteelSeries stream team. That roster is growing pretty steadily. We’ve got a number of folks who not only use the SteelSeries products that are Twitch streamers, but also help represent the brand to their own community to educate why our products outlast and outperform others.”
SteelSeries revealed that it has partnered with The Chive, as well as a few partners from the sports industry and more to be announced soon. Much like the redesign of its headphones, SteelSeries is diversifying its audience. “Gaming is a passion that we all share, but it’s not the only attribute that defines us,” Pugliese concluded. “We’ve taken that very heavily into account when designing the Arctis.”
Seriously has had success with its initial Best Fiends mobile game, attracting over 50 million installs since the October 2014 launch across iOS and Android devices. The free-to-download game has over 2 million daily active users, and has generated over $50 million in revenue to date.
“We’re building brands,” Andrew Stalbow, co-founder and CEO of Seriously, told [a]listdaily. “Best Fiends is a universe with over 200 characters and we felt with the big audience shift away from traditional platforms to mobile platforms, mobile is the best place to build an IP.” Now the second game in a planned trilogy, Best Fiends Forever, is available across mobile devices. Stalbow said while most mobile game companies would create a game in the same genre, Seriously wanted to find another genre to show off the world, the characters and continue the story.
“We decided to make a clicker game because we felt like we could redefine what a clicker adventure could feel like. My prediction is in 2017 some of the biggest Hollywood’s IPs will make clicker games.” Stalbow said the connective tissue between Seriously’s games is the casual, approachable nature of these titles, which are designed for the whole family. The game features music by Hollywood composer Heitor Pereira (Despicable Me) and the story was written by Emmy-award-winning producer Stewart Burns (The Simpsons).
“We have over 5 million social media followers to promote the game to,” Stalbow said. “We have our own mini-network. It’s an interesting time for brands because we’re connected to our audience.”
The mobile game company is using the original game as a platform to launch this sequel. “In traditional media when I was at Fox, our content wasn’t connected to our audience,” Stalbow said. “But as a mobile developer, we’re directly connected to our audience of 2 million daily players. We’re using our first app as a platform to launch the second game and communicate to our fans that we have a new game out.”
Seriously is promoting the game with its biggest influencer marketing push to date, which will kick off on October 22. “We will have the world’s biggest YouTubers with over 100 million subscribers, including Pewdiepie, Markiplier, Joey Graceffa, Dan TDM, Jack Septiceye, LD Shadow Lady, Wayne Goss, Cinnamon Toast Ken and many more,” Stalbow said. “In addition to these high-profile videos, we will have over 200 original video integrations across Gamers, DIY, Fashion and LGBT YouTube channels.”
Seriously has created an experiential slug slapping video and a gameplay launch trailer. In November, they’ll release gameplay pro tips from YouTube stars. And they’re also working on a stop-motion video for the new game.
“We try to be as creative with our marketing as we are in developing our products,” Stalbow said. “We’ve focused on YouTube as a platform for a couple years now. Before we launched Best Fiends 1, we asked mobile CMOs what was working and they said FaceBook and Twitter were working well, but they couldn’t connect with and YouTube couldn’t connect. So we decided to focus on YouTube. We’ll mix in some nice creative videos.”
Seriously recently partnered with actress Kate Walsh and YouTubers Rossana Pansino and Joey Graceffa to create the “Don’t Download Best Fiends” viral video. Stalbow said the video ranks in the Top 10 of all video ads on YouTube alongside some other big brands. The first few weeks the video had over 3 million YouTube views and over 8 million Facebook views.
“The video made people laugh, and that’s what we’re in the business of doing,” Stalbow said.
Stalbow said the plan is that that video might turn into a mini-series. It’s something Seriously is working on quietly in the background now. “I want to marry working with social influencers with creating our own brand videos,” Stalbow said. “We started with influencers and it’s a natural evolution to create our own videos.”
The company added a “video” button to Best Fiends so they can promote other videos they’re creating directly from YouTube. Stalbow said a video button will also launch on the second game.
“The app is a great platform to promote a lot of things,” Stalbow said. “What’s interesting about the mobile opportunity is that we can take the audience on a bit of journey between games. We believe it’s the right way to build a franchise.”
Stalbow said the real opportunity for a brand like Best Fiends is that if you have an audience in your hand, give them experiences that are only one click away. “We’re developing high-quality animated shorts,” Stalbow said. “We’re building out our video proposition over the next 12 months.”
Seriously is also stepping into consumer products, although Stalbow said the company is taking a “less is more” approach for merchandise. The company has some limited edition Best Fiends vinyls and plush toys available through KidRobot, as well as t-shirts on Amazon.com.
“Later next year you’ll see some more interesting news from us on the licensing front,” Stalbow said.
With a mix of incredible graphics, stand-out characters and hard-hitting combo moves, Tekken stands as one of the most recognizable fighting games around. The newest addition to the series, Tekken 7 releases in 2017 and its developer and publisher Bandai Namco is giving it a strong push.
One of the most unique promotions is a limited edition sukajan jacket—a souvenir jacket, inspired by the character Heihachi Mishima, who has been the main antagonist of the series since the first game. The reversible satin bomber jacket features two distinct designs: One is a fierce tiger as seen on Heihachi’s gi, and the reverse side has Fujin, the Japanese God of Wind, as seen on an alternate costume. Bomber-style jackets are said to be inspired by Japanese culture and popularized by American GIs.
Designed by Carrie Sleutskaya of Project Runway fame, the numbered premium sukajan jacket features 440,000 stitches in its embroidery and retails for $449 on the Bandai Namco store. The jacket made its debut at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con when Katsuhiro Harada, the famed director on Tekken 7 who has been part of the franchise since the beginning, wore it at the Tekken 7 panel. Pre-orders are available now, and the jackets are expected to ship in December.
Abelina Villegas, e-commerce specialist at Bandai Namco, talks to [a]listdaily about how the fighting game became involved with premium fashion and expanding the Tekken lifestyle brand.
What inspired the creation of Tekken 7 Heihachi Sukajan Jacket?
Our goal for the official Bandai Namco store is to develop exclusive merchandise and promotions for the most passionate fans of our products. Being a Tekken fan myself, I understood that apparel was one of the most important categories for us to explore and that we needed designs that really spoke to this audience. Alongside our Team Mishima jersey and Crying Heihachi hats, we wanted to push the envelope and create something that really stood out.
Tekken 7 branded apparel currently includes a sports jersey and ball cap. What made you decide on a high-end, limited edition, bomber jacket?
Traditional sukajan and sukajan-inspired jackets have been experiencing a resurgence in popularity recently, and we saw a great opportunity to take some of the amazing graphics and iconography from Tekken and create this unique piece of wearable art.
How did you decide on using Heihachi as the inspiration for the jacket?
As the patriarch of the Mishima clan, Heihachi has always been synonymous with the Tekken brand. His gi and the tiger on the back are iconic and is such an amazing visual to work within this medium and his new alternate costume in Tekken 7 provided the inspiration for the more colorful “statement” reverse side with Fujin, the Japanese God of Wind. The level of detail in the embroidery is spectacular. While we explored designs for a number of Tekken characters, after some pretty lively debate internally, we felt Heihachi enabled us to showcase this contrast in a reversible jacket.
Is there any consideration being given to making jackets (or other apparel) based on other characters from the Tekken 7 roster?
Absolutely, we already have some designs!
How did Bandai Namco come to work with Carrie Sleutkaya to design the jacket?
Carrie was introduced to us, and from day one, we knew she was a great fit for the project. She brings expertise from the fashion world but also understands the culture of the audience we’re appealing to. She worked closely with our team, including Harada-san himself to ensure the designs were authentic to Tekken lore, but also pushed the envelope with the design and quality of the final piece. The stitching on the “Tekken” kanji even follows the direction of the correct brush strokes!
How have fans reacted to the bomber jacket?
Tekken fan reaction has been really great, but what’s also been fun to see is the reaction outside of the Tekken community. This is certainly an investment piece and when we’ve showcased the jacket at events like PAX or New York Comic-Con we’ve received great feedback from everyone that sees it.
How would you say the Heihachi Sukajan Jacket increases awareness of Tekken 7 or the Tekken brand in general?
Our goal on the Bandai Namco Official Store is to develop merchandise for our most passionate fans, so the creation of this kind of high fashion piece was also an opportunity for us to expand the messaging around our Tekken 7 campaign to acknowledge that Tekken is a lifestyle brand.
Nintendo continued its hot streak last week when it officially announced the Nintendo Switch (formerly NX) to the world. The device, which is a gaming tablet with a dedicated docking station, brings together the big screen experience of console systems and the portability and convenience of a mobile device. The announcement was given through a three-and-a-half-minute trailer showing the Switch’s capabilities and a short press release that revealed how 48 developers, including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Activision, have signed on to develop for the device. Nintendo is still seeing a lot of love, as the trailer has had over 17 million views since then, which is a testament to its longstanding brand.
Although the excitement of a new console announcement may help fans overlook how there are plenty of unanswered questions ranging from battery life, to game support, to graphical fidelity and pricing, Nintendo shouldn’t wait too long before answering them. Especially given how both the Nintendo Wii U and handheld 3DS consoles have been in decline in recent years, mainly due to the meteoric rise of smartphones and other mobile gaming devices.
The Wii U, for instance, has a similar-looking portable screen on the Wii U Gamepad, except that it’s used to stream games from the main console. This concept didn’t catch on, and the Wii U is still mainly regarded a niche gaming device, despite being the wildly popular Wii console’s successor, having relatively strong developer support at launch, and releasing a year before the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 came out. Major game releases such as Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros., along with original exclusives such as Splatoon and Bayonetta 2 helped lift sales, but were ultimately too little too late.
Time will tell if The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, possibly one of the last games for the Wii U console, will be an effective farewell, or if fans will purchase it for Switch instead. However, there is a possibility that Nintendo will be generous with its final Wii U/debut Switch game by offering cross-platform purchasing—where a person who buys the game, even the physical version, will also own the digital version, downloadable for either console.
In order to prevent history from repeating itself, Nintendo needs to go beyond relying on its stable of iconic characters and show that it’s still relevant to today’s gamers. Given how 3DS and Pokémon game sales skyrocketed after the phenomenal success of Pokémon GO for mobile devices, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Nintendo has figured out how to treat mobile gaming as more of an introduction or supplement to the console experience.
Nintendo has already shown its embrace of mobile by announcing SuperMario Run at Apple’s annual iPhone event in September. Gamers that download the endless runner when it releases in December will get a taste of the Mario experience, which may lead to picking up the console version for deeper gameplay. Although there are plenty of both free-to-play and premium mobile games that help promote main franchise games, few have seen the kind of success that followed the release of Pokémon GO, which will no doubt impact sales of PokémonSun and Moon when they release for the 3DS next month.
But relying on the popularity of mobile games may become problematic in the long-term. Nintendo’s biggest challenge, as the March launch of the Switch draws closer, is to convince consumers to pick up a Nintendo console instead of or in addition to the multitude of existing tablets—some of which feature amazing graphics (for a mobile device) and can connect to televisions. That’s in addition to releasing after powerful mid-cycle consoles such as the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Pro have been around for a while. Not to mention how Microsoft’s Project Scorpio, which will be the most powerful gaming console in existence, is expected to launch next fall. The company’s traditional reliance on classic characters and support from its diehard fan base is a strong start, but (as the Wii U demonstrates) it isn’t a complete plan for success.
By creating a console/tablet hybrid, Nintendo will also have all the marketing challenges for both platforms in one system. The Switch will need to continue emphasizing its unique experience, with a focus on communal gaming using detachable Joy-Con controllers that can be shared between two players. Nintendo will have to reveal what games are launching with the console, along with what’s coming soon after. There are numerous factors that must be considered between now and the Switch’s release, and Nintendo needs to work toward addressing them in the coming months in order rise up again.
Tyler Bushnell has spent his entire life surrounded by games. Such can often be the case when your father, Nolan Bushnell, is the founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese.
And just like the aphorism of apples not falling far from trees, Tyler is planning to pioneer on the past promise of classic arcades with Polycade, the plug-and-play, super-sleek arcade cabinet of the 21st century capable of playing thousands of both old and new games.
The initial idea was such a hit that it raised $125,276 for its original Kickstarter campaign goal of $20,000.
Polycade is compatible with Steam, providing owners with a seemingly endless galaxy of their favorite games, past or present. Polycade is pre-configured with open source emulator software for systems such as Arcades (MAME), NES, SNES, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, Turbografx-16 and Atari 2600.
Equipped with a 27-inch 1080p monitor, two-player controls using Sanwa joysticks and buttons, and a trackball that doubles as a mouse for navigation for desktop applications, Polycade weighs 80 pounds and protrudes off the wall by 17 inches. It is 48 inches tall and 30 inches wide.
Taking up only one third of the space of a traditional machine, each unit is complemented with two full-range speakers that are powered by an amplifier. The speakers serve well for those who want to enable Apple’s Airplay and have Polycade double as a jukebox.
Tyler Bushnell, the mastermind behind Polycade, joined [a]listdaily to dive into the promise of his creation.
What sparked the idea for Polycade?
When I was growing up we had a small arcade in the house. Most of the games were in some state of disrepair, or broken, but a few that we spent a lot of time on were Pengo, Donkey Kong Jr., and Super Breakout. If you’ve ever moved an arcade machine, you know that it’s a truly hateful experience. They don’t fit easily through doors, are difficult to get around corners and are extremely heavy. As our family moved from house-to-house, the machines either didn’t make the cut for space or simply broke down with no one willing to fix them. So we got rid of them. I never stopped missing these machines—except for moving them—and dreamed of an all-in-one machine that would also make sense in an apartment. So I set out drafting designs for my own arcade machine.
How many titles come equipped with Polycade?
Our primary version of the Polycade runs on Steam and is shipped with 15 awesome games installed in addition to a $100 gift card for Steam. We’ve found that it’s better to allow customers to choose their own games from the Steam app store, so a list of recommended games along with the $100 gift card works great.
How are you leveraging the power of the Steam app store?
Steam is a great universe for gaming. It has a built-in app store—sort of like iTunes, but for video games—that allows users to purchase games that they want and then browse their personal library. Additionally, Steam features not only modern hits like Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X, but also numerous retro titles such as Pac-Man, Dig-Dug, Centipede, Missile Command, Tempest and other classic titles. The Steam Link is an awesome tool when paired with a Polycade. At home, I use my Polycade for arcade-style games, and then for long-form, sit-down games, I use the Steam Link with my TV to stream games from my Polycade. It’s a ridiculously awesome setup.
How can brands utilize Polycade with experiential marketing activations?
Polycade machines are ideal for in-person activations. They can be skinned with a vinyl wrap to add any graphics. They’re easy to move around and they provide a great interactive experience for people of all ages and genders.
What are the social elements to Polycade?
Arcade machines are social by nature. The barrier to entry is extremely low, the controls are intuitive and the focus is either high scores or versus play. This translates to a wider range of players, as well as natural shoulder-rubbing competition over high scores or versus. I can’t stress the importance of ‘barrier to entry’ enough. Imagine you’re at a party, and there’s a console-and-couch setup in the corner as well as an arcade machine. You’re probably going to avoid sinking into the couch and getting lost in a never-ending game, but you won’t think twice about taking a couple turns on the arcade.
What did you learn most through Polycade’s Kickstarter campaign?
When I launched the campaign, I wasn’t sure of the demand for this type of product. The greatest takeaway from the campaign was validation.
What would you advise to those who take the crowdfunding path to a project?
Whatever you think your ship date will be—add an additional six months.
What kind of an influence has your father Nolan had on your life and creative career?
My dad has always encouraged us to build, hack and iterate on various projects. He also pushed us to sell things. At ages 8 and 10, my brother Brent and I were harvesting mistletoe in the woods behind our house, wrapping a red bow around little bunches, and hawking them at the local grocery store. I feel like I had a reasonable grasp on the differences between good and bad business models from a pretty early age. It’s been really useful bouncing business ideas off him for the past 30 years.
It’s another big week for video game releases, and these publishers have been hard at work laying the groundwork for a successful launch. From bringing life-sized mechs to expos to leaving giant statues at train stations, these two games have fans ready to play.
After a stunning reveal trailer at E3, Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall 2 has been on a mission for success through a new singleplayer campaign mode and by building on its existing multiplayer action. Published by Electronic Arts (EA), Titanfall 2 has been making the expo circuit with strong presences at E3, Gamescom and PAX, offering hands-on demos for fans. Those who attended the GameStop Expo this year were also treated to a life-sized titan. While press coverage is still a necessity, it’s becoming increasingly important for publishers to get these big releases into the hands of those who buy them, especially influencers. This consumer-first attitude has resulted in a number of publishers holding fan events rather than big press conferences at major industry expos. Time to find out if it worked!
With two major releases so close together, EA took the opportunity to tie in promotions for both Battlefield 1, which released last week, and Titanfall 2, releasing on Tuesday. Those who play Battlefield 1, for example, can unlock a special Red Baron skin for their Titan.
PC gamers in the market for a new laptop are being enticed to play the game, thanks to a partnership with MSI. Those who purchase select MSI laptops through November 30 can choose to receive either Battlefield 1 or Titanfall 2 for free. The game is also one of the first to support PlayStation 4 Pro 4K resolution on disc.
If gaming makes you hungry, you’re in luck—EA has partnered with Mountain Dew and Doritos to offer double XP, access to Titan skins, a special 1-on-1 competition mode called Coliseum, and more. Likewise, those who eat at Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants between October 28 and the end of November 2016 will receive access to Coliseum mode in Titanfall 2 multiplayer mode and a Titan insignia.
World of Final Fantasy
Square Enix took over Tokyo’s Shibuya Station for a week in October, giving fans an opportunity to interact with giant figures of characters, Butz, Cloud, Vivi, Yuna and Lightning. The figures shouted lines from the game in front of large promotional posters for the game. Although fans can’t take the giant versions home, miniature figurines from the game will be available through Static Arts in March 2017.
A free demo of World of Final Fantasy was made available on PlayStation 4 and Vita and fans were invited to vote on mirage (monster) stacks that would appear in-game through the official Twitter account.
The game was made available to play at New York Comic Con and with the Final Fantasy Fan Festival taking place two weeks before the game’s launch, the timing was right to get gamers excited about the franchise. Those who pre-order the Special Collector’s Edition were entered to win a PS4, signed posters and more. In addition, the team has been hard at work with livestreams and mirage reveals on Twitter leading up the game’s release on Tuesday.
Although we live in a digital age, live events and activations are still a major draw for fans and brand loyalty. From photo ops to helping shape the game, itself, these publishers are ready for a successful launch.
A collection of heavyweight creatives from some of the biggest entertainment companies in the world, including Marvel, Lucasfilm, Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Animation, is congregating in Turin, Italy from October 24-28. They’re joined by leaders in the virtual and augmented reality fields, including speakers from Google, Baobab Studios and Microsoft. The gaming world will be represented by speakers such as Adam Volker, creative director of Moonbot Studios; Siobhan Reddy, studio director of Media Molecule; Adam Orth, CEO and creative director of Three One Zero; and Daryl Anselmo, art and creative director at Zynga.
The occasion is the VIEW (Virtual Interactive Emerging World) Conference, which celebrates computer graphics, interactive techniques, digital cinema, computer animation, gaming and visual effects. The conference will feature a new exploration of virtual reality and augmented reality, as well as lectures, meetings, exhibits, screenings and demo presentations.
Some of the big names flying in from Hollywood include Zootopia director Byron Howard, Storks producer Brad Lewis, Trolls directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dorhn, and Sausage Party co-director Conrad Vernon. They are joined by Lucasfilm’s CTO, Rob Bredow.
Maria Elena Gutierrez, director of the VIEW Conference, explains to [a]listdaily how the event has grown over the past 16 years in this exclusive interview.
Can you talk about the genesis of the VIEW Conference?
It was founded in 2000 by a group of academics and practitioners in the field of computer graphics and initially known as Virtuality Conference. Soon after, it was re-branded as VIEW Conference. VIEW is an acronym, which means Virtual Interactive Emerging World. It underlines a larger thematic perimeter, open to all the facets of digital technology applied to images.
What is your audience for this conference?
Professionals, researchers, students and innovators who use and develop computer graphics and digital media applications and technology from not only Italy and Europe, but audiences from around the world.
How have you seen the size and attendance of this conference grow since inception?
We’re proud that it has grown steadily through the years into an internationally recognized conference. Our share of international participants has regularly been growing over the years.
How does the global nature of game development and filmmaking influence the types of speakers you attract to this event?
We invite speakers from around the world. Because so many of the major motion pictures and the new technologies originate in the US, many of our speakers come from there. But the overall idea is to establish a truly global meeting place to share different experiences.
How has the reality of virtual reality being in homes now impacted the scope of VIEW?
Except for Google Cardboard and 360-degree experiences, virtual reality is more of a promise than a reality in homes, at least as of right now. At VIEW, we have speakers who are working on a wide range of VR applications—VR films, games and medical applications—and those taking a broad overview to help people understand where VR is now, how it might evolve and how it might impact them professionally and personally.
Turin, Italy isn’t top of mind when you think of virtual reality. What type of VR industry and VFX infrastructure is there?
There are some, but not many, VR developers in Turin. We have a slightly larger visual effects scene in Turin, and a much larger computer graphics industry, given the important presence of design firms in the area. Turin, in fact, has been and still is an important information and communications technology center. A number of relevant innovations were born here in the last few years, including the MP3 standard and the Arduino platform. So, it would make sense for Turin to be a more important center for VR and digital media. We have excellent universities—including the best technology university, the Politecnico—and technical schools. Italian artists and designers are lauded throughout the world. And, we have VIEW, the largest computer graphics conference in Italy, and one of the best in Europe.
How have you been able to attract so many Hollywood creatives to Italy?
My guess is that they want to introduce their work to European audiences, and that they have heard from their colleagues that the VIEW Conference is amazing, inspiring, and well worth their time.
One of the things that makes the VIEW Conference unique is the participation throughout the week by the speakers, whether keynote speakers or those giving talks. The conference is organized so that the speakers can attend most of the talks as an audience member, and they do, which provides a depth of interaction among speakers and audience members that’s unique.
Also, it isn’t difficult to convince people to come to Italy.
How are the VFX and VR industries learning from each other?
To me, VR has grown from visual effects, but this is more of a question for people in those industries than for me to answer. You might find the talk by Lucasfilm’s CTO Rob Bredow on the work being done at ILMxLabs particularly interesting. He would be an especially good person to answer that question.
How are you integrating game developers into this conference?
We have game developers giving talks and offering workshops, as well as joining a bootcamp with investors. There is clearly a growing interaction between the VR and the gaming scene.
How is game engine technology like Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 5 impacting VR beyond even games and entertainment?
Obviously, developers use game engines for VR applications and some studios use game engines for pre-visualization. We have two speakers coming from Epic Games, Luis Cataldi and Sjoerd De Jong, who will address this question in two workshops and one talk.
How are you seeing traditional entertainment learn from game design in VR?
It’s a big question that should begin with, “Are traditional entertainment studios considering game design for VR, or are they finding other ways to move traditional forms of storytelling into VR?” It’s a provocative question that many of our speakers will be considering in various ways and I hope we can all find some answers during the conference.
Can you talk about the scope of your gaming talks beyond traditional “entertainment” games?
We have speakers offering applications in neuroscience and medicine, where gaming is becoming one of the emerging therapies for behavioral and cognitive problems.
How have you seen storytelling evolve in virtual reality even at this early stage?
I agree that VR storytelling is in its infancy. We have several speakers addressing this question and bringing examples: Maureen Fan of Baobab will look at storytelling in VR and show that studio’s short film, Rob Bredow will show ILMxLab’s experiments with cinematic VR, Luke Youngman and Felix Massie will show Google Spotlight Stories, Tuna Bora will talk about the short film, Pearl. Each of these speakers will offer different types of VR storytelling from those that involve the viewer in some interactive way to those that are more narrative.
How do you see VR evolving over the next five years?
My job is not to be an expert in virtual reality, but to have an open mind, to keep my eyes open, and then to bring experts to VIEW for everyone to learn from, including me. Please come to Dr. Greenberg’s keynote talk. He will be addressing what it takes to make VR real.
What role does mixed reality/augmented reality play in your conference?
Other speakers might address this, but I would recommend Rob Bredow’s talk about the work going on at Lucasfilm’s ILMxLab in particular.
How do you see lessons learned in VR applying to AR?
Again, I’d like to suggest that you come to Dr. Greenberg’s keynote talk. If there are lessons from VR to be applied to AR, he will most likely address them. I believe he considers VR to be part of a larger whole that includes AR.
Universal Studios’ annual attraction in Halloween Horror Nights reaches horrific new heights this year by bringing director Ryan Murphy’s groundbreaking horror anthology American Horror Story to life by way of a maze.
The intense show’s twisted and iconic scenes and memorable characters are just the tip of the torturing fright fest the haunted theme park currently has playing out for its Hollywood and Orlando destinations.
If living through iconic horror films with a live audience, as wickedly slick scareactors with big-budget aesthetics jolt the bejesus out of you is your thing, then the attractions Universal Studios has in store this season is the place to get your scare on.
John Murdy, creative director of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how he’s unfolding disturbing and perverse storylines with his installments.
Attractions:The Walking Dead, The Purge, Terror Tram, a show by the hip-hop dance crew Jabbawockeez, as well as Universal Studios Hollywood mainstay rides in Transformers, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park and The Simpsons.
What are your goals and vision with the “Halloween Horror Nights” experience?
Going all the way back to the silent film era, Universal is the movie studio that invented the horror movie. For me, what becomes ideal is creating what I like to call ‘living horror movies,’ which is licensing some of the biggest properties in the world of horror like American Horror Story and TheWalking Dead but also recent movies like Krampus and older ones like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist, which to me, is the scariest movie ever made. What we do is try to bring these to life for our guests with an approach as if we were making a movie. The sets, props, makeup, lighting, audio—everything. That’s always been the vision. And the reason we’re selling out virtually every single night is because the lineup is so strong. It’s the ultimate fans dream—or nightmare. It really represents the whole spectrum of horror.
How do you decide which properties, whether it be a movie of TV show, to work with? Which IPs offer the best creative freedom?
We license properties from every major studio. We’re so connected to the creative community of horror. It’s not about just going to a movie studio and ing ‘hey, we’d like to license this film.’ Often times we’re doing that with the director’s blessing. Or on the flip side having directors say ‘hey, I’d love for you to do my movie.’ These people also become our advocates. It makes the pitch process much easier. There’s nothing better than collaborating with the community. We’ve always had three things we look for: The first one we refer to as ‘awareness,’ meaning popularity. Is it a property horror fans know and like, and do they want to see it? The second is ‘environments.’ When you look at something like American Horror Story, every season of that show has a completely different story, time period and environment. So for us, it gives us a wealth of different things to choose from. And the third is ‘iconic characters.’ Being able to bring them to life with live performers is critical.
What is the process of writing, producing and shooting like? How are you reinventing and retooling storytelling each year? Where do you draw influence from?
I’ve been doing this since I was 10-years-old as a kid in my parents’ house, and entertaining the neighbors. So I have been doing this my whole life. For us, it’s a year-round thing. As the Halloween Horror Nights is going on right now, we’re already planning and taking meetings for next year with filmmakers and producers. There is an awful lot of research being done as well. I’ll request to go over all of the location photography and review thousands of pictures. Krampus, for example, had 32,000 pictures we went through. Then, an art director and I will start putting the maze together with Post-it notes. A treatment for the maze follows, which is usually around 100-pages long. If you multiply that with all of the mazes that we do, it’s like writing a novel. We also prey on all of the senses of our guests, which helps us break down the fourth wall and helps with storytelling. In addition to the narrative, there is a technical part, too, which is breaking down each scene and adding all of the layers. I would say it’s the equivalent of making about a half-dozen movies at once.
What’s one video game activation that you’d love to work on?
Several years ago we did Silent Hill, which of course also had movies, too. To date, that’s the only time we’ve ventured into video games. I thought that one was a perfect match for us. Though right now, I’m literally staring across my desk for a video game experience that we are considering for next year. A lot of times, people will come to us and ask ‘will you consider this?’ And that’s what we have right now.
If fans have a choice between Six Flags, Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland, why should they choose Universal Studios?
Los Angeles is the most competitive market in the world for this kind of an event. People have a lot of choices, event with individual, stand-alone haunted houses, or elaborate home haunts for people who just do it for the love of it. What put us on the map was our vision to take these beloved horror properties and bring them to life. It feels like you’re living a movie. Another reason is Universal’s connection to the past. Our Terror Tram experience is our famous studio tour that drives through our historic back lot, but right now is the only time of the year that guests can hop off, walk through and see where all of these movies were made. The area features the Psycho House, the Bates Motel and the amazing plane crash from War of the Worlds. The extra connection to the iconic sets and environments hits home. Universal is the place where the American horror movie was born.
How do you engage and listen to your consumers?
Fans of horror movies are extremely passionate about the films that they like. What we’ve learned over the years is that you can’t go back by popular demand and do the same product. It always has to be new. We listen to our fans. We have a very faithful, rabid and obsessed community of fans for Halloween Horror Nights year after year. No matter how scary it is, they always want it scarier. They tend to push us and drive us to constantly improve it. But they also tell us what they want. I almost think of this year as a ‘fan appreciation’ year because we’re doing so many properties that they have requested over and over again. I’m at the park every night, and most guests will stop me just to say, ‘thank you.’
What is your marketing strategy to acquire new fans?
Honestly, it’s old-fashioned word of mouth, plus a little bit of social media. When you ask our fans who are attending for the first time, it’s almost always ‘a friend told me it was really cool.’ Our fans become our advocates, and that community spreads the word. Properties like American Horror Story fuel a lot of it, too. We’re very lucky to have fans that are extensions of our marketing department. It’s a very cool thing.
How important is this yearly activation for the entire Universal Parks & Resorts brand?
Horror doesn’t get the love that other [film categories] get. It’s always been in the shadows of Hollywood. It’s one of the most profitable forms of filmmaking, but it’s never really gotten the respect—like being nominated for Best Picture. We do Halloween Horror Nights all over the world now in our parks. When you think of Halloween, it’s historically a very American holiday. When I was a kid, people in Europe didn’t celebrate Halloween. The whole brand of Halloween has grown so much. Now, there are Halloween tourists during this season. Hollywood is a movie industry town. Our focus is very much on branded-horrors and bringing iconic movies to life.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned over the years? How has Halloween Horror Nights evolved?
One of the things I’ve learned is to really study psychology because our job is to scare the daylights out of our guests. That’s what they come here for. It’s a very intense experience. You learn effective ways of scaring people, and sometimes it’s just mathematical. You realize that a performer coming at you from your peripheral vision is scarier than if they are right in front of you. I train every single one of the performers—or scareactors, as we like to call them—for Halloween Horror Nights. It’s a new show every 10 seconds for them because a new audience comes in. You have to approach it from the mental discipline of a marathon athlete. There is 28 nights, and each performer will do their act 60,000 times. If all of the performers are on the same page, it really makes for a really great product.
This week, we learned that people are willing to pay more for live experiences, but not news. As always, we take a peek at what millennials are up to as well as the future of technology.
Look, Internet, No Hands!
Garner Analysts predict that by 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be conducted without a screen. With the rise of voice-activated technology like Google Home and Amazon Echo, consumers will not be limited to traditional screen-based browsing, Gartner predicts, especially since web browsing will be extended to other areas of daily activities such as driving and exercising. The company also believes that by 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality, and that the Internet of Things (IoT) will save consumers and businesses $1 trillion a year in maintenance, services and consumables.
What Is A VIP Experience Worth?
A lot, according to a survey by StubHub. When asked what they would sacrifice to watch their favorite band/musician/sports team/athlete perform live, the results are rather interesting. Not surprisingly, 42 percent would work on a major holiday but other results border on the disturbing—11 percent would go without toilet paper for a week, for example. “Sorry, babe, I’m leaving you for the band,” may be heard more often than you think—seven percent of those surveyed said they would break up with his/her partner for a VIP experience.
That’s A Whole Lot Of Games
Video games aren’t going anywhere soon, and analyst firm DFC Intelligence has released a new report predicting software sales to reach $98 billion by 2020. For the current year, DFC expects game sales to be up 8 percent to $79 billion.
“A major area of growth is occurring as digital products are able to embrace a more premium business model where consumers are willing to pay top dollar upfront for digital content,” DFC analyst David Cole noted in a press release. “This is a major change in the recent mindset where games are given away for free and forced to rely on a freemium business model that simply does not work for many games.”
African American Millennials Love Their Tech
Nielsen’s latest report entitled, Young, Connected and Black: African-American Millennials Are Driving Social Change and Leading Digital Advancementreveals a strong and growing demographic. Second only to Asian Americans, 91 percent of African Americans own a smart phone and 91 percent say they access the Internet on a mobile device, an increase from 86 percent in 2015. Not only that, but more than half (55 percent) of African American millennials report spending at least one hour a day on social media, which is six percent more than all millennials, and 29 percent say they spend at least three hours a day on social media—nine percent more than all millennials.
Get With the Program
Amazon and Netflix have officially invested more in programming—$7.5 billion last year—outspending giants like CBS, HBO and Turner. The World TV Production Report 2016by IHS Technologyexplores how TV producers are adapting to the era of internet TV. “The levels of investment we are seeing from Netflix and Amazon are only topped by Disney ($11.84 billion) and NBC ($10.27 billion),” said Tim Westcott, senior principal analyst at IHS Technology. Programming is big business, one that is currently led by the United States. IHS estimates that in 2015, the US represented 33 percent of worldwide expenditure on TV programming, with $43 billion invested across free-to-air, pay TV and online.
Millennials Love TV . . . But With A Catch
When it comes to watching TV, the coveted millennial demographic consumes the most content at an average of six hours per day. However, millennials don’t have time for nonsense. Fifty four percent report to have “show dumped,” that is, given up on a show they previously enjoyed, because it became too difficult to access the content. A report by TiVo reveals that 91 percent of millennials pay for at least one subscription streaming service, 73 percent have streaming devices at home and 55 percent would pay to simplify search across platforms.
Extra! Extra! Millennials Aren’t Buying It
With the decreased popularity of print media, news outlets that have moved online are attempting to recoup losses through paid content. While 55 percent of US millennials pay for digital entertainment, only 25 percent are willing to pay for some kind of digital news service. A new report by Business Insider notes that publications are questioning their pay-for-content models in order to reach this demographic. “Most legacy publishers have already adopted digital paywalls, but few digital natives have them in place,” Business Insider reports. “In 2015, 77 out of 98 US newspapers tracked by the American Press Association have implemented digital paywalls. However, none of the top digital native publishers have yet to ask readers to pay for content.”
I’ve Got A Twitter Hashtag THIS BIG
Pain relief brand Excedrin cashed in on election year madness by purchasing a promoted trend ad with the hashtag, #DebateHeadache. The campaign resulted in 46,000 Twitter mentions on Wednesday during the presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, according to social analytics firm Talkwalker. That number represents a 3,100 percent increase compared to the prior day.
Thank you for your continued support and readership.
-The AList Team
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