4 Video Game Brands Powering Up With Branded Merchandise

The video game industry is a money-making machine, but its potential lies not just in hardware or software—gaming brands are reaping the benefits (and revenue) from merchandise, as well. Let’s take a look at some successful brands who take their game franchises a big step further through branded merchandise.

Square Enix

Square Enix, known for such titles as Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider reported net merchandising sales of ¥3,997 million ($35.4 million US) in 2015, an increase of 5.6 percent from the prior fiscal year. The game publisher hosts its own online store, where it offers a variety of goods from software to jewelry.

“The merchandising segment has grown into a stable business where we leverage not only our own properties, but also make proactive use of third-party content,” Square Enix stated in its 2015 Annual Report. “Our high-quality merchandise has met with a great reception from customers, and more recently our collectors’ boxes and other special fan offerings have also proven popular. We intend to continue to build up our merchandise lineup as we see it as a key element in further enriching our content offering.”



Capcom, with video game franchises that include Mega ManResident Evil and Street Fighter hosts a modest offering of character-related merchandise from lanyards to T-shirts, but suffered a slight decrease in sales last year. With the upcoming launch of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the company would benefit greatly in a merchandising push.

According to the Financial Results for the Fiscal Year ending March 31, 2016, “The net sales from Other Businesses, mainly consisting of the publication of game guidebooks and sale of character merchandise, were ¥2,043 million ($18.1 million US), a decrease of 4.7 percent from the previous fiscal year.”


Bandai Namco

Like Capcom, Bandai Namco traditionally offers an array of the usual T-shirts and toys, but has recently begun offering high-end collectibles such as a $499 Tekken 7 designer jacket and $400 Dark Souls III collectible statue.

“Our goal on the Bandai Namco Official Store is to develop merchandise for our most passionate fans,” Abelina Villegas, eCommerce specialist at Bandai Namco told [a]listdaily, “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 is a great example of how merchandising can help set a gaming brand apart from apparel to toys and most recently, a partnership with Universal Studios. The gaming giant even has its own retail store in New York. “We want to be the right intellectual property. We want to do this in a way that is a growing, sustaining type of volume—not hits and misses,” Nintendo president, Reggie Fils-Aimé told [a]listdaily. “From that standpoint, we’re looking at a wide range of categories. Wearables certainly are huge. Collectibles are a big opportunity. The relationship we have with companies like Hasbro and Mattel, bringing our intellectual property to some of their game elements like the Mario-themed Uno set of cards that we’re bringing back. There’s a lot of activity that we’re doing in the space. But the main thing is that we want this to be an upward trajectory growth business, not a cyclical business.”

Instagram Videos: The Link Between Analytics Tools And ROI

Fads come and go, but brands know that video is here to stay. According to a new study by Demand Metric and Vidyard, more than 90 percent of marketers said that video content is becoming more important. In addition, more than half of participants produce 11 or more videos per year. Nearly half of respondents said they use internal staff and resources to produce videos, up from 38 percent a year ago.

The State of Marketing Benchmark Study Report revealed that social media is the preferred method for delivering marketing videos, second only to the brands’ own websites.

Linking Analytics To Return On Investment (ROI)

“The use of advanced metrics has become imperative for organizations that produce higher volumes of videos annually,” Demand Metric’s report noted, “as these metrics enable optimizing performance and understanding the true ROI of their investment.”

While 96 percent of participants said that conversion performance for video has stayed the same or gotten better, 59 percent reported an improvement in video return on investment (ROI) compared to just 38 percent last year.

“Study participants reporting that the ROI of their video is changing for the better were twice as likely to use advanced metrics to measure video effectiveness than those who report their ROI is unknown,” the report noted. “Respondents who use advanced analytics are twice as likely to say their ROI is better and more likely to increase their video budgets year over year.”

Instagram videos come with the benefit of Facebook’s on board analytics tools, making it a prime location to connect with its user base of 500 million.

Source: Demand Metric

Marketing Video The Insta-Way

“Instagram content should be encouraging and aspirational,” Caroline Collins, director of social media at Ayzenberg Group, advised in the fourth quarter Earned Media Value index. “By resisting sales offers and focusing instead on content that serves as a visual celebration of our brands, the platform can be used to strengthen brand love amongst advocates.”
(Editor’s note: [a]listdaily is the publishing arm of the Ayzenberg Group.)

The beautiful thing about producing videos is that anyone can do it and the medium is conducive to any lifestyle brand from entertainment to food, clothing to travel, tech to child-rearing and more. Instagram, in particular, allows brands to experiment with a more relaxed approach to marketing, as well.

Epic Games uploads Instagram videos and images frequently to its Paragon account, highlighting new playable heroes, game modes or patch notes. The developer utilizes humor and cinema-style storytelling rather than hard sells to get fans hyped for its free-to-play MOBA.


Nest, a tech company offering home security cameras, thermostats and smoke alarms, gets its consumers involved by inviting them to share amusing home footage of pets when their owners are away. Users enjoy sharing videos of their furry friends, other users enjoy watching them, and Nest enjoys a bit of free and entertaining publicity.


Since Instagram’s feed is no longer chronological, Stories—and now live video—are great ways to engage consumers in between those main posts.

“Because businesses play such a rich role within our community, we’ve seen they are the profiles that have led the way and really innovated in [the Stories] space,” Jen Ronan Instagram’s brand development lead told The Drum. “They’re telling stories of behind the scenes, of the day to day, and really building their brand in that way.”

How AD+D Will Level Up Live Video Game Events

With platforms such as Twitch, Facebook Live, Periscope, YouTube and others, live events are becoming into an increasingly popular way for brands to engage with audiences. Two UK companies, Attention Seekers and Done & Dusted, saw the growing potential of live events in the video game industry. The two companies recently announced that they have combined their expertise to form AD+D, based in Santa Monica, California.

Phil Tucker, AD+D co-owner and executive producer; Attention Seekers CEO
Phil Tucker, AD+D co-owner and executive producer; Attention Seekers CEO

Attention Seekers has a deep understanding of the video game space, having created bespoke video content for the industry. Done & Dusted is renowned for its work on spectacular live shows such as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the London 2012 Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies and tours for artists such as U2 and Katy Perry. By combining Done & Dusted’s expertise in creating live events with Attentions Seekers’ experience and credibility in the gaming world, AD+D will take live video game events such as consumer experiences, media briefings and eSports competitions to a whole new level.

AD+D co-owners, Phil Tucker and Simon Pizey, spoke to [a]listdaily recently about the formation of the company. Tucker is an executive producer at AD+D and CEO of Attention Seekers. Pizey is the joint CEO of AD+D in addition to being the CEO of Done & Dusted. The two are joined by Jason Wiltshire, executive vice president at AD+D. Together, they will bring a new level of flash and professionalism to gaming events, developed from a gamer’s standpoint.

What are AD+D’s goals?

[Tucker]: This exciting evolution in the video game industry is that the live space is becoming more valuable. We’ve seen audiences that are en masse and look to the calendar year to gather, and there are many more opportunities game companies can have in generating meaningful moments that are above where their normal marketing beats would sit. We are looking to empower the game industry and bring our professionalism to help understand what is true authenticity when it comes to creating live moments. It’s not just about taking something that has worked traditionally on television or what would have worked in a standard touring event format—it’s about taking this time to invent new interesting formats that will build to a bigger moment where we place live engagement at the front and center.

Simon Pizey, AD+D CEO, Done and Dusted CEO
Simon Pizey, AD+D joint CEO; Done and Dusted CEO

Can you describe what this new format might be like?

[Wiltshire]: We’re all gamers, and that allows us to bring that authenticity into projects because we look at it from the gamer’s point of view as well as our producer’s. Whether it’s media briefings, game launches or competitive gaming, we’re always thinking about it from the gamer’s standpoint.

[Pizey]: One thing that will become an even more important part of the narrative building to these live moments will be the gamer’s journey and the storytelling that fits behind a lot of the players. Whether that’s for competitive gaming, eSports, there’s a whole array of storytelling mechanics that are currently not used within the gaming industry. It’s not just about rewiring the events to become more engaging and taking some of the tricks D&D put together in delivering live stage shows, but also in creating more of the preamble and promo building up to these events—through which we can start to develop meaningful methods of engagement that would end go up on television or Twitch.

[Tucker]: The real opportunity is with the gamers at home and the max views online. How do you think about them? How do you entertain them? How do you give them what they want? I think, more than ever, there’s an appetite for creation in this space while keeping authenticity, because we know gamers see through people making content for them that don’t understand games.

Jason Wiltshire, AD+D vice president
Jason Wiltshire, AD+D executive vice president

This year featured a number of live gaming events, including EA Play. What is the video game industry missing out on?

[Pizey]: I think it’s doing a good job of talking to its core audience. One of the important factors when the game companies invest so heavily in establishing these events is letting it talk to the core audience—let it become a place of gathering and celebration and show competitive gaming. But then also acquire an audience. Live is a great way of capturing the imagination and creating that “circus comes to town” moment. We all know that video gaming is intertwined within our lives, but these are great opportunities for gaming companies to make a real show that is engaging to an audience that they might not otherwise get to connect with.

We offer a level of elevation that would make that event reach out to other broadcast outlets or connect with a broader audience. We love what the games industry is doing—they’re fantastic steps and a real empowerment—but we believe we can add another layer to help make more of those moments.

[Tucker]: I think there’s a huge opportunity there. Yes, eSports is coming on stride, and all the game companies are putting on bigger and better eSports activations, but we still look at the percentage of gamers. You look at some of these big AAA titles and they have a massive audience, and the amount that participates on the eSports side of things is small percentage—whether it’s viewing and certainly when it comes to playing. The core eSports model is very often what’s applied to these big mainstream titles when actually, there’s opportunity for ramping up entertainment and aiming it at the more mainstream audience.

How do you grow a Twitch, YouTube Live or Facebook Live broadcast to a broader audience?

[Tucker]: I think there are lots of ways to do that. We see lots of live activations that aren’t promos that are aimed at an audience beforehand to generate that groundswell of excitement. Also, it comes in the way that we approach content and how competitive gaming could be. Console games are accessible to a mainstream audience, but when it comes to a live eSports broadcast, “are they as accessible?” is the questions we should be asking ourselves. As part of the mainstream audience, what excites me? What’s my reason for watching? What’s my investment? I know, when I go and watch a football match this evening, that there’s investment, narrative and entertainment there.

What are thoughts on VR livestreaming?

[Tucker]: VR is a very exciting space. We’re currently working on a VR project that allows us to have a mixed reality live studio space. So, when you look at that room, it has that “wow” impact. It offers those who are watching, either in the room or from a remote location, a varied experience within the program. You’re talking to enhance that layer of experience.

[But] we’re all hoping that we take our time with VR, and it’s not a desperate rush to create a gimmick that goes down too soon. We ultimately believe that VR offers a valuable experience to live engagement, so you want the format to have a consistency and an experience that you can trust and return to.

[Wiltshire]: VR is great, but the install base isn’t huge from the live events point of view. But it’s getting bigger all the time, and it’s certainly on our radar.

[Pizey]: In my head, I think there’s no hurry on it. I’m really interested in seeing what happens next year, but I don’t feel that we necessarily need to be at the vanguard of VR. I’m quite happy to be a bit of a spectator and see where it’s going because it’s a slightly Wild West, where everybody is chucking stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Some bits that I’ve been involved with work and some not so much. The next year is going to be fascinating.

Royal Caribbean Is Using Tech To Entice Millennials To Set Sail

Royal Caribbean recently launched its latest billion dollar cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, in the US. The world’s biggest cruise ship joins sister ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas as three of the most technologically advanced vessels on the seven seas.

Royal Caribbean’s chief marketing officer, Jim Berra, told [a]listdaily that these new ships, as well as the launch of last year’s Anthem of the Seas (which includes an Xbox One gaming lounge above the bumper car attraction) have been designed to target millennials. “We’ve shifted dollars out of more traditional advertising into all forms of digital,” he said. “We’re showcasing what we have to offer to a maturing millennial market. In particular, millennials with kids is a big area of focus.”

Berra said Royal Caribbean, like the entire cruise industry, had seen a slight downward trend in attracting new-to-cruise guests on their first vacation at sea in recent years. But Royal Caribbean managed to reverse that trend this year. “We’re attracting that maturing millennial family that has been disproportionately represented,” Berra said.

The company has been using everything from ultra-high-speed internet, to virtual reality, to video games to land these new passengers. “We do have a competitive advantage with Wi-Fi connectivity with Voom and OC3,” Berra said, referring to the company’s satellite-based ultra-high-speed internet that costs $10 per day, per device. “We’re running social media happy hours with contests and programming on board that allows our guests to log on for free for a couple of hours and share their stories. We’ll do some prizing off various hashtags. We’re able to do that because we have the speed and bandwidth to allow every guest complimentary and instant access.”

Part of Royal Caribbean’s marketing effort is “full stream ahead” and Berra said the internet at sea is comparable to hotels on land, offering streaming for Netflix as well as web browsing and social media sharing with no latency. All of Royal Caribbean’s ships have Voom high-speed internet and the four newest ships have ultra-high-speed connectivity.

“Anything we develop has to work across any device the consumer brings,” Berra said, referring to the trend in which customers don’t take a vacation from their tablets and smartphones. But for those who don’t have a device with them, Royal Caribbean has created a series of tablet stations throughout its ships to look up all the activities, shore tours and entertainment.

The company is also using its investment in satellite internet to market its newest ships. The company has hand-picked 20 crew members across the fleet in various departments of the ship to serve as social ambassadors. Harmony of the Seas’ Captain Johnny is one of those social influencers.

“People are always fascinated with the captains of our ships,” Berra said. “He’s funny and relatable. It’s a great way to show people an inside look at what it’s like to live and work on board our vessels. And it’s been so popular we’re expanding the program in 2017.”

Royal Caribbean has also tapped into the growing influencer marketplace to attract new passengers as part of its marketing effort. Berra said the company worked with over 50 social media influencers this year, including Dan Moore (@danandmoore), Anika (@literallyanika), Tyson (@tysontravel), The Vons (@thevonfamily), Marisa (@missmarzipan) and Jack Morris (@doyoutravel) across Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.

“Last year with Anthem of the Seas we did a live Periscope program with Dan Moore and High on Life as part of our ‘Come Seek Live’ program from on board the ship and port destinations,” Berra said. “This year we did a large set of influencer programs while Harmony was in Barcelona. We also did Snapchat as she sailed across the Atlantic. Rather than one large campaign running over a week, we’ve been pushing out this content over an extended period of time while Harmony was in Europe, crossing the Atlantic and in South Florida.”

Royal Caribbean has also “aggressively” used 360-degree video content created by Dan Moore on Harmony in Europe to market the ship. “We’ve seen millions of non-paid views so far across Facebook 360 and YouTube 360,” Berra said. “We’ve just scratched the surface of what we can do. The next step is to move more into virtual reality as that tech becomes more prevalent and the user base grows. It’s a great way to experience ships and activities and also ports of call. Until you cross the gangway you have lots of questions as a first-time cruiser. The killer app for getting people excited about cruising is video, and video will become more 360 moving forward.”

Video games have also become a way of life for the majority of passengers around the globe, including the older audience that Royal Caribbean still markets to as a “mass market brand.” “Video game areas like the Anthem’s Xbox gaming area and arcades are very important,” Berra said. “They won’t be number one in marketing but it needs to be part of our offering because it’s part of people’s daily ritual. We’ve done that with our newer ships, and it doesn’t require a massive footprint so we can expand it to other ships. And where things are heading with augmented and virtual reality will be very important.”

Berra also sees eSports potential at sea, and the company has a partnership with Microsoft and Xbox. “I do expect us to push harder into gaming,” Berra said. “We have a partnership with Madison Square Garden and they’re hosting eSports events. There are a couple of different ways to reach that market, and it’s untapped. We have the connectivity and the idea of having live internet-based gaming anywhere in the world is a cool area for us to explore.”

How Movember’s Message For Men’s Health Has Grown Throughout The Globe

In his lifetime, a man spends about six months shaving. But over the last few years, for a one-month stretch in November, razors are relegated to the cupboard in favor of letting the whiskers ride.

Whether it be full-on displays of upper lip art, or a something that looks more like a pencil sketch, a bunch of bristly bros across the world have come together for one cause—raising awareness for men’s health by maintaining a mustache no matter how mountainous the task, or itch, may be.

Thirteen years after four friends in Melbourne brought the mustache back to fundraise and focus efforts on men’s health, another Movember comes to a close today.

Movember. Mo problems. Mo mustaches—all thanks to the Movember Foundation, which has become a global movement and raised more than $710 million in 21 countries for 1,200 men’s health projects focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention since 2003.


“Men are dying too young, on average, six years younger than women, and we can’t afford to stay silent,” Mark Hedstrom, senior vice president of global operations at the Movember Foundation, told [a]listdaily. “When it comes to their health, too many men don’t talk, and don’t take action for their health. We want men to live happier, healthier, longer lives and work toward doing so by running awareness and fundraising activities year-round, with the annual Movember campaign in November being globally recognized for its fun and innovative approach to raising money and getting men to take action for their health.”

Mustachioed men have increasingly been sharing the significant story, and it’s a progressive work in process. By 2030, Movember aims to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25 percent.

“For years, it was a great way to build awareness and establish our brand,” Hedstrom says. “This year, and moving forward, our messaging is about the causes we support. Our goal, to ‘Stop Men Dying Too Young,’ along with our focus on the stories of real men and women who have been impacted by prostate cancer, testicular cancer or mental health issues, either directly or through family and friends, exemplifies how our organization is undeniably maturing and evolving.”

The foundation demonstrated a diverse approach to marketing this year by partnering with brands like Jeep, Jameson, Visa and Sofar, among others, to collectively amplify their message.

Hedstrom says the support of their partners has been invaluable, and the relationships continue to help drive Movember’s success by increasing visibility of the cause to raise critical funds through internal participation and marketing efforts, and by creating unforgettable experiences for the Movember community.


The creative and branding for this year’s Movember was focused on highlighting ‘Real Stories from Mo Bros and Mo Sistas’ with deep ties to the cause, and a consistent loyalty fundraise.

The concept was further evidenced in the content, visuals and stories throughout Movember.com and the foundation’s social media platforms. On Sunday, the Movember story moved on to Snapchat Discover as men from all over the world showed their support for the stache.

Movember has also drawn support from celebrities from all industries in year’s past. Remember the ones LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers had? And just look at the one Marcus Mariota is sporting this year. The foundation also has influencers and ambassadors like Bubba Wallace, Ian Somerhalder and Colman Domingo who use their platform and audience to start conversations that encourage people to join the movement.

Shaving brands like Harry’sGillette, Braun, Remington, Proraso, Barbosal, Neutrogena, Dollar Shave Club and The Art of Shaving have organically aligned their efforts for Movember in recent years, too.

“We work extremely hard to build and maintain strong relationships with our community members, which is done primarily through our development team who are on the ground connecting with loyal supporters throughout the US,” Hedstrom says. “We also recognize the five million in Mo Bros and Mo Sistas who reach certain fundraising thresholds with various rewards.”

The Movember Foundation is uniquely placed to address the crisis of men dying too young at a global level. The overarching goal is to help make change happen sooner, and they’re doing that by prioritizing the funding of three of the biggest health issues faced by men—prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.

Hedstrom says they’re supporting ground-breaking programs all over the world and engaging with men where they are to understand what works best to ensure a long-term impact.

“We’ve been amazed to see how much it has created a deepened connection with our supporters, and inspired others to take action for their health, or the health of a loved one,” Hedstrom says. “From humble beginnings, the Movember movement has grown to be a truly global one. The Movember Foundation wouldn’t be where it is without the enthusiasm of all of those men and women around the globe.”

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan


Marketing VR Apps in the Oculus Store

The frontline for virtual reality (VR) product marketers can be found in the VR app storefronts. This is the first place that anyone who owns the hardware is going to look for content, and therefore it’s a critical place for marketing. More than that, these VR app stores are evolving rapidly, and some of the innovations to these app stores may even lead to changes to other app stores.

At the Oculus Connect Conference, Dan Morris, head of digital store for Oculus, went into detail about the company’s plans for the Oculus Storefront to an overflow audience of rapt developers and marketers. “We are linked, and we’re going to succeed or fail together,” Morris said, noting the Oculus content ecosystem is indeed interlinked like its biological counterpart. “The store is a pivotal place where discovery occurs,” Morris said. Oculus is highly motivated to make the store successful and to provide all the best support for marketing that it can, because ultimately revenue is driven through the store. That’s why Morris aims to make the store “the most delightful experience we can.”

Oculus assumes rightly that if the store is working well for developers and marketers, then more great content will come to Oculus and more hardware will be sold. “Solve for developers, and everything else gets solved,” Morris noted.

There are two basic approaches to putting apps into a digital store, Morris explained. Apps can be put in programmatically with an automated system, or they can be put in via a curation process using people who are experts in the field. “The downside is it (curation) is a very narrow bottleneck for so many apps to come through,” Morris acknowledged. Of course, the programmatic method can lead to problems as well. Oculus is using both, trying to find the best compromise between the two. Oculus wants to be sure that all VR apps meet a minimum technical and quality standard, because otherwise that wouldn’t be good for the Oculus Store or for the market in general.

While Oculus plans to curate the store “forever,” it also wants to take advantage of programmatic tools. “We thought long and hard about the quality metrics that we want to reward,” Morris said. “We have instituted models that are working right now, to try to show us the kind of apps we might not have looked closely at initially, but are being played a lot by users, generating money on a per user basis at a good rate, and others.” Morris said they will be tweaking these metrics over time, but they will try not to be overly programmatic.

“We have been fixing, building, and changing some things based on our conversation with you (developers), ” Morris said. “We’ve taken a lot of action recently to make the Store operate much better. “That’s not only improving and speeding up the app approval process, but making it much more detailed so developers know what to do in order to get the app approved.

“Here we are in VR, in this marvelous 3D space, totally immersed, and our store is still pretty much 2D tiles floating in a grid,” Morris acknowledged ruefully. “It feels like we should do a bit better than that. We certainly aim to do better than that.” The Store is working well, users are downloading apps and spending money, but Oculus plans to take better advantage of the space to create more opportunities for browsing. “A rich media storefront that really gives the user a sense of what they’re about to see before they download the app is something we want to arrive at pretty quickly,” Morris said. One thing they are tinkering with is bundling apps into packs, like an Exploration Pack, that give apps more of a chance to be downloaded and launched.


One interesting addition to the Oculus Store is the Gallery Apps section, where the technical standards are relaxed to showcase some exciting, experimental stuff. “When we see apps that are worthy of people’s attention, but not the kind of thing we would stick at the front of the store, we really think there deserves to be a place in the store for apps like that for discovery,” Morris explained.

This is also a chance for experimental apps to earn some money while they are still in the process of development. Even though the apps may have issues, Oculus feels the current audience, at least, is “pretty adventurous and interested in this kind of thing, and as long as they’ve received a very clear explanation of what they’re getting themselves into, they’ll actually be very interested to see what’s in there.”

Morris stressed that the customer experience in the Oculus Store is critically important. Customers should have a delightful experience, a strong sense of what to expect, and a wide range of VR experiences. For developers, Morris feels Oculus owes developers a clear set of acceptance criteria data developers can act upon, ongoing contact, and most of all an exciting store presence. “These storefronts really should be dazzling places to get a glimpse into what you guys have built,” Morris said.

As for business intelligence, Morris promised that the Oculus Store would be delivering more actionable data in the future. “We’re actually taking some people and making an investment in a reboot of this [their developer dashboard], so that you’ve got a more granular sense of what’s happening in different territories,” Morris said. He also noted they would be looking at that data globally as well to share trends and provide insights into where the market is headed. “We’re starting to gain some insights and see some trends in the use of VR across hundreds of apps,” Morris said. “At this point, it’s time to start turning that into knowledge you guys can use.”

How ‘Wordie’ Became An Instant iMessage Success

Developed by The Fast Mind, Wordie is a mobile game where players are challenged to guess the common theme from four pictures, then spell out the word using available letters. It was also one of the original apps for iMessage when it first launched with iOS 10. It has since received tremendous success, with over 20 million downloads to date with over 3.5 million active users per month, indicating 99 percent organic growth.

Wordie was recently updated to support animated images from GIPHY so that its players can create custom puzzles to challenge each other with. Groups of up to 40 people can participate in challenges using iMessage, and the game syncs across multiple devices such as iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. About 25 percent of players in the US engage with the game using iMessage.

The Fast Mind co-founder and CEO, Jorge Prado, spoke with [a]listdaily about finding success on a messaging platform and how it got players around the world wild for Wordie.

Jorge Prado, The Fast Mind founder and CEO
Jorge Prado, The Fast Mind founder and CEO

In what ways have you seen iMessage gaming grow since you first launched Wordie?

With iOS 10, iMessage became a powerful platform in our game. We’ve seen Wordie played on iMessage more than we ever imagined. Over 20 percent of all levels are won through iMessage, and we strongly believe there is still plenty of room to grow and innovate. iMessage has transformed the way people play Wordie from only a solo mode with some help from their friends to a truly collaborative and cooperative mode. Before iMessage, you could still share your score, challenge someone, or ask for help through different messaging platforms, but there was no real gameplay happening in the conversation. Now, there are groups with over 40 users who play the game in the same iMessage chat. The average group is over 4 players and growing every day.

Wordie recently announced 20 million installs. How were you able to get the word out—so to speak—about Wordie?

Nice pun! Wordie’s growth is all about our users and the communities they have created. The viral infrastructure that is embedded into the gameplay allows our players to challenge their friends through any social media channel or messaging platform looking for help or just for fun. That function has made Wordie one of the most viral word games ever. Wordie has reached over 60 percent of smartphone users in some countries. At The Fastmind, we’re proud of what our users have done with the game to spread their voice all over. A number that never fails to impress us is that 50 percent of all our engaged users have shared or will share a level during their lifetime in the game.

Wordie is also available as a standalone mobile app, but we hear that most users prefer to play through iMessage. Why do you think that is?

It’s not that most of the users play in iMessage, it’s that the users that discover the experience on the iMessage extension will play with their friends in the new platform, rather than play only by themselves. We think it’s because it feels very natural and follows into the serendipity of any conversation. It’s just there for you to use it, it’s easy and fun. Mobile gaming is about having fun during brief windows of time, and I think it’s genius to take the gaming experience to where people are sending billions of messages every day. Now you don’t have to open an app to start a playing experience but can combine the social feeling with the fun of the game experience. That is the power of playing with someone or a group of friends, in real time, in the middle of a conversation. On the other hand, the standalone app often serves as player’s training mode to be ready to answer the challenges of their friends.

What are the benefits to an iMessage game compared to a standalone app?

We have seen two main advantages so far. One main advantage is that iMessage offers a social gaming experience you build from day one without having to create a new community because you have your friends already connected to you through your phone. The other key benefit is the fact that you do not have to push the user to make them play with a notification. Instead, those invites, nudges or reminders are coming directly from players’ friends, which makes them much less annoying.

Can Wordie work on other messaging apps such as Facebook Chat? Has there been any consideration to adopting more platforms?

We’re looking forward to bringing Wordie to every messaging and social platform where people can have fun with their friends. You can expect that very soon.

wordie-2How can users use GIPHY to make their own puzzles, and how have you seen the feature increase engagement?

Nowadays everything is about being in the moment, and with Wordie you can create a puzzle about ongoing events and share it with your friends instantaneously.

The GIF factory is a very intuitive interface where you can search among the GIPHY database for the four GIFs that best suit the word you want to send as a challenge. It’s common to come up with even better words than you thought of when you start browsing the GIFs. We’ve been receiving a lot of fun and creative GIF levels from our community. Messages platforms are for users to create content as well as consume. Wordie allows our users to create their own levels and play other users or community levels.

There appears to be a growing shift toward messaging apps for gaming. Why do you think it’s such an attractive platform?

To sum up a little of what I said before, I think there are three main reasons why messaging apps are such an attractive platform. First we have the established communities of users that they offer. You don’t have to create a community or a user base, the platform automatically allows you to share your progress with friends, coworkers, family and other groups. As a game developer, you enter into a preexisting community that helps with the distribution of your product. Second is the communication channels that are available. Normally, it is the developer who is in charge of sending push notifications and maintaining the communication with the user. Now, it has pivoted to the point where it is the user himself who makes those notifications and encourages other people to play the game. And let’s face it, you are more likely to pay attention to a message sent by a friend than by an app.

Finally, these messaging platforms are made to create and consume content. If you develop your app properly, you will be able to immediately generate content and give it to the users so they can enjoy it. Wordie incorporates all of these characteristics (user communities, communications and the creation of content), which is what makes it such a viral app. Using a platform that is still in early stages of development and that has a lot of potential, we are proud to be one of the first games to embrace this opportunity. It’s about being there in the moment and having the capabilities to engage in a fun experience. We want to make the best word game in the world. That’s a beautiful thing, mobile gaming bringing people together to have fun. We believe in the power of fun to create a better world!

‘Hidden Figures’ Inspires PepsiCo To Launch A STEM-Inspired Scholarship

The forthcoming film Hidden Figures—the story of three African-American NASA employees who turned around the Space Race in the ’60s and served as the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit—will debut in theaters Jan. 6.

The movie inspired PepsiCo to partner with 21st Century Fox and the New York Academy of Sciences to launch a scholarship contest designed to help uncover the next generation of female leaders in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“The Search for Hidden Figures” contest was designed to support emerging female STEM visionaries by awarding over $200,000 in scholarships and other prizes like a trip to the Kennedy Space Center to over 20 winners between the ages of 13 and 19, and professionals 20 and older. Winners will be announced Jan. 12.


Hidden Figures stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae and was produced by Pharrell Williams—who also will serve as one of the four judges.

The contest was complemented with a national TV and digital media campaign, along with a collection of STEM mobile and web games, quizzes and challenges for students and fans of the film to test their skills.

Jeff Boron, PepsiCo’s senior director of digital, joined [a]listdaily to detail how the food, snack and beverage corporation is deepening their commitment to science and technology and investing in today’s emerging talent.

Why was Hidden Figures a specific project PepsiCo wanted to get behind? What is the message you are trying to convey to consumers?

We’re committed to promoting STEM education both inside and outside of the company at PepsiCo—especially among women and girls who may be considering careers in STEM-related fields. With the special story associated with the upcoming film, it’s our hope that this contest will empower those who are making strides in STEM, while also inspiring the next generation of female visionaries.

How does promoting women and girls doing unheralded work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) tie in with PepsiCo’s Performance with Purpose?

As part of its Performance with Purpose 2025 agenda and goals, PepsiCo recently announced a commitment to improve the lives of 12.5 million women and girls by 2025. Given that women represent only 24 percent of the STEM workforce, PepsiCo is particularly committed to expanding and encouraging STEM opportunities among female students and professionals.


Why was The Search for Hidden Figures the perfect film to launch with? How do you decide which movies get incorporated with PepsiCo’s marketing plans/budget?

The Search for Hidden Figures tells the ‘untold’ story of three African-American female NASA mathematicians whose achievements not only supported the country’s Space Race, but crossed gender and race lines. After learning about this inspiring story, we saw a powerful parallel—the film would deliver a one-of-a-kind platform for PepsiCo to further support the discovery of STEM talent and the development of STEM skills in the workforce.

How is PepsiCo planning on further marketing and branding the film with the digital media campaign that’s tied to the initiative? What’s going to be your social media strategy? Do you plan on working with influencers?

To help encourage participation in the contest, we’ve created a digital media campaign featuring the film’s lead actress, Taraji P. Henson, as well as messages of encouragement from additional film stars. As part of these efforts, we’ll also be releasing exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from Hidden Figures directly to consumers through the contest’s website.

What are the mobile and web games, quizzes and challenges designed to accomplish? What can consumers expect?

As you know, STEM skills are the foundation of many of the world’s most important industries, and will continue to grow in importance as we soar into the future. These fun, interactive games were created to sharpen basic STEM concepts that are the building blocks of many STEM-related career tracks. Consumers will be challenged to think outside the box and, hopefully, discover hidden STEM talents of their own.

Pepsi played a prevalent role in Empire last year. Does PepsiCo have any plans for product integration with The Search for Hidden Figures?

Not at this time.

How will PepsiCo support the discovery of STEM talent and the development of STEM skills in the workforce moving forward?

As part of its ongoing STEM efforts, the PepsiCo Foundation has given a $1 million grant to support the New York Academy of Sciences’ Global STEM Alliance, which inspires high school students to pursue STEM careers. PepsiCo also sponsors mentorship programs including STEMconnector’s Million Women Mentor program, a global initiative to increase the interest and confidence of girls and women to pursue and succeed in STEM programs and careers. Lastly, we strengthened our partnership with STEMconnector, a US-based organization focused on promoting and expanding the teaching and learning of STEM skills, on ‘Career Accelerator Week.’ Every year in October, PepsiCo hosts hundreds of students from grades 8-to-11—approximate age range of 12-to-18—across PepsiCo headquarter locations—including educators and parents with the goal of exposing young talent to career possibilities with a STEM education.

How do you wish consumers respond to the overall campaign? How will you measure success?

Success will be measured by our engagement with emerging leaders throughout STEM, and in doing so, we hope to secure a significant number of applications to “The Search for Hidden Figures” contest. In the end, this contest will enable us to empower and recognize young girls and women interested in STEM and we look forward to learning about each of their stories.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan


Study: The State Of In-Game Advertising

In-game advertisements. Those who play free mobile titles have come to expect them, but publishers seem to adopt the practice reluctantly. According to a recent survey by analytics firm deltaDNA, 51 percent of game publishers consider in-game advertisements to be a “necessary evil,” but only 17 percent see them as “worth it.” In fact, comparing results from last year’s identical survey, deltaDNA found that respondents were on average less confident in their mobile advertising efforts than last year.

Meanwhile, 38 percent of publishers surveyed view in-game advertisements to be an important monetizing opportunity, 29 percent see them as a way to monetize non-payers and 25 percent consider them as vital to the game economy. When asked to describe their approach to integrating these ads, however, only three percent were confident with their efforts.

The survey revealed a slight increase in targeting the mid-core market—31 percent compared to 30 percent in 2015. While casual players are still the most sought-after at 58 percent, both casual and hardcore players saw a one percent decrease in ad targeting compared to last year at 59 and 11 percent, respectively.

in-game advertisements survey
“What audience does your highest monetizing F2P mobile game mainly reach out to?” (Source: deltaDNA)

Action games were named as the highest monetizing free-to-play (F2P) mobile games among respondents at 37 percent, a one percent decrease over last year. Strategy games made a major leap to 29 percent, compared to just sixteen percent in 2015. Casino titles, meanwhile have become less targeted for in-game ads at just one percent compared to nine percent in 2015.

While interstitial ads were the most popular type last year among publishers, 50 percent now prefer banners, followed by Rewarded Video ads at 44 percent. Like all advertising, there is no hard and fast rule on what works—but when choosing the frequency of displaying such ads, the biggest concern among publishers was “less player engagement” at 39 percent, followed by “lower levels of player enjoyment” at 29 percent.  Is it really possible to make ads enjoyable to the player? One game developer, Hyper Hippo, was pleasantly surprised by its efforts.

Mobile game, Adventure Capitalist integrates rewarded advertising by allowing players to watch up to five rewarded ads a day, providing a double-income boost for four hours. During a 2015 GDC presentation, the game’s producer Anthony Pecorella said that when Hyper Hippo launched this new feature, players were even reporting bugs with the rewarded ads because they wanted to take advantage of the offer. “There’s no better to way to know that we did the ads well than to have people say, ‘Hey! We can’t watch your ads. Fix it,’” he said.

Featured image source: Hyper Hippo

Jinx Sees Huge Opportunity In ESports Apparel

Jinx Inc. has been making gaming clothes for 17 years. The company recently launched a pair of new lines: Jinx Brand, which is a collection focused on gaming, and Jinx Pro, an original label catering to professional gamers and eSports enthusiasts.

These are the first offerings since the company hired John Nite as vice president of creative and product, who previously served as design director at the traditional sports apparel company Under Armour.

Jinx currently works with Rick Fox’ eSports team Echo Fox as well as Team Liquid, providing jerseys and clothing for the players as well as their fans. Both teams will see an expanded line of clothing in 2017.

Jinx co-founder and CEO, Sean Gailey, explains to [a]listdaily why the company is investing in eSports merchandise in this exclusive interview.

Why did you decide to launch these two lines?

Jinx was created to celebrate gaming culture and lifestyle. Video games are not just something we do, they are woven into who we are. That passion and expertise uniquely positions us to establish the Jinx Brand and Jinx Pro lines as the gold standard for core and competitive gaming apparel at an unprecedented scale.

What differentiates the two lines from other gaming and eSports clothing out there?

Both the Jinx Brand and Jinx Pro lines offer consumers a means of paying tribute to not just one particular video game license, but rather gaming culture as a whole.

How are you marketing these two lines differently to gamers and eSports fans and what type of crossover is there? What’s the messaging?

Jinx Brand is a collection of core clothing featuring soft fabrics and the relaxed attitude of gaming. We wanted to create something that is comfortable to wear while playing, yet versatile enough to be worn out and about. Jinx Pro caters specifically to professional gamers and eSports enthusiasts. Maintaining focus while playing to win requires comfort and confidence. The Jinx Pro line offers styles on par with those of mainstream sports. While there are plenty of gamers who will relate to both product lines, we felt that there was enough of a difference to separate the two.

How big is the female gaming audience across both lines? How big of a male audience is there?

This first launch offers a fairly wide product offering for both men and women, with a few more cut and sewn pieces such as joggers for men. By wave two (early 2017) we will be rolling out with even more women’s designs, at which point both lines should be an even keel.

What eSports teams and pros are featured for jerseys or other clothing?

Currently, we design team apparel for both Team Liquid and Echo Fox.

How are you working with team owners, casters and personalities for Jinx Pro?

Jinx has been around for nearly seventeen years. In that time, we’ve managed to befriend some truly amazing companies and individuals. The minute word got out that we were planning on launching our product lines, the wave of support we received was astounding.

Will teams be wearing any of your clothes in competition?

Jinx Pro is the foundation for the performance jerseys we developed for our sponsored teams, Team Liquid and Echo Fox. The only difference between our team jerseys and Jinx Pro line is the branding itself.

How important is it for your brand to be seen worn by pro gamers and other eSports personalities for authenticity?

We feel that the eSports community will happily embrace the Jinx Pro line. Gaming dominates popular culture, but is underserved by the fashion industry. It’s especially striking how underserviced professional eSports players are compared to their counterparts on ESPN (like the NBA or NFL) in terms of professional-grade performance wear. As a company full of competitive gamers, we simply designed the type of products we ourselves would like to wear.

Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to alistsummit.com for more info.