Storm8 Turns Up The Competition With Its Casual Games

Competitive mobile games are steadily making names for themselves on the eSports scene, but it can be difficult to imagine match-3 puzzle games (one of the most popular genres on mobile) as a competitive experience. Storm8 is out to change that perception by bringing some friendly competition to its casual games. In May, the developer updated its match-3 game, Candy Blast Mania with a feature called Puzzle Tournaments. And more recently, Hungry Babies Mania, a puzzle game that features cute little animals, was enhanced with Global Events, which allows players to compete and collaborate for rewards.

Norbert Kalman, senior product manager for Hungry Babies Mania, Storm8

Storm8’s senior product manager for Hungry Babies Mania, Norbert Kalman, explained to [a]listdaily that in each Global Event, “players are tasked to collect a specific item to earn event points, such as a puzzle piece or a power up. In particular, Team-vs.-Team introduces players to a team-based competition not before seen in a casual puzzle game.”

The four Global Events are:

  • Solo: players collect points and win prizes by completing each of the event’s five goals.
  • Leaderboard: same mechanics as the Solo event but players can win additional prizes by ranking highest on the event leaderboard.
  • Community: players are randomly placed into a Community, and each Community must complete the same five event goals to win rewards. Bonus prizes are given to players who make it to the Community Leaderboard.
  • Team-vs.-Team: players are randomly placed into one of four teams and collaborate to compete against other teams to win prizes. Prizes are awarded based on both team rank and an internal team leaderboard.

“At Storm8, we’re always looking for new ways to entertain our players,” said Kalman. “Our live operations team did an amazing job of bringing both a collaborative and competitive spirit into a casual game—offering our gamers something fresh. Even for older titles, there’s always new ways of bringing a new element of excitement to players’ day-to-day gaming.” Kalman noted that Storm8 was working to bring more limited time events to its casual games to keep players engaged for years.

With the emphasis on competition, we asked Kalman if eSports were starting to impact the development and promotion of casual games. “I wouldn’t say that it’s impacting our development per se,” he responded. “Most of our games will remain casual given our audience. However, we’re certainly taking some competitive elements, like what you see in Global Events and titles like Candy Blast Mania or Frozen Frenzy Mania, where we have team-based competition and tournaments to enhance gameplay. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone and keeps players entertained.”

When asked about how fans have taken to the competitive features, Kalman said that “the response has been tremendous. Players love it! In response to the great feedback and engagement we’ve seen from players, we’re actually enhancing that feature with more tournament types, which should go live in the next few weeks.”

hb_globalevent_goal_personalFurthermore, Kalman discussed featuring a competitive tournament in Hungry Babies Mania called Hungry Games. “When Hungry Games launched, about 70 percent of the game’s players participated and we’ve seen the game’s all-time revenue high, which is incredible.”

As to whether Storm8 had to do a lot of promotion for its competitive features, he said that “Since it’s not a core part of the game loop, we have to (in a way) educate our players and let them know that they have new ways to earn rewards.” New features are usually announced on the company’s forums, on its blog, its social media channels and through traditional media. Games are also updated with an icon that appears on the main screen, and users are given daily pop-up notifications that inform them of when new events start and end, along with what rewards they can earn. Players who opt-in may also receive push notifications about events.

It turns out, friendly competition is a great way to engage with audiences, compared to games that don’t have competitive elements. “We have seen about a 25 percent increase in daily games played in titles where we added these competitive elements,” said Kalman. “It has definitely enhanced overall engagement without cannibalizing the core game play, which is important. We’re also mindful of the fact that there may be some players who like to stick to the core game loop, so there’s always that option for them.”

However, given the cute art styles of Candy Blast Mania and Hungry Babies Mania, how competitive can these puzzles games get? Kalman said, “To our surprise, casual players can get pretty competitive! I think that when features are the designed the right way, people are encouraged to play and compete. In Hungry Games and Tournaments, it almost feels like a party, with so many people participating and playing in real-time. At the end of the day, the ‘fun’ aspect and the right execution is what drives the engagement.”

Kalman also explained how Storm8 was doubling down on cooperative gameplay. “Team-vs.-Team has both a collaborative and competitive aspect in that players work together to drive to a common goal and earn rewards,” he said. “At the same time, they also need to be strategic with their matches so they can make it to the top of the leaderboard. It’s that combination that really brings it home.”

So, how did Storm8 bring a sense of competition to its casual games without upsetting the core experience? “Global Events is an added element outside of the core game loop,” Kalman said. “Essentially players can play their regular level progression and collect points. The points feed into a meta layer where we add up all the team members’ points to calculate the overall team’s points. The teams then compete against each other for the top spot based on team points. Players can monitor the real-time status. We’ve built in elements within the user interface, such as leaderboard animations and a team member contribution ticker, to help make players feel invested in their team’s progress.”

But if casual gamers find themselves competing against each other at a high level, can they still be considered casual players? “I think that casual games like ours will remain casual unless the core loop of the game changes completely,” said Kalman. “In Hungry Babies or Candy Blast, these are sub games that provide players with an additional layer of entertainment within the game, but the core loop of the games remains casual; it’s a puzzle mechanic.

“I think that if there’s a real-time PvP match-3 game, where there’s one game board and two players take turns making matches, that’s when I’d say the game could cross over into mid-core—games like Hearthstone or Clash Royale. For our games, we’re building structures and adding that competitive layer on top of our core loop to add a fresh level of experience for players. It’s a casual game meets mid-core feature, but still a casual game at heart.”

CastAR CEO Explains How ‘Pokémon GO’ Will Help Market AR Games

With Microsoft currently focusing on enterprise customers with its HoloLens Development Edition augmented reality headset, startup castAR will have a relatively open playing field to launch its AR gaming platform in 2017.

The company has been beefing up its development team by enlisting Eat Sleep Play (makers of WarHawk and Twisted Metal) to help create games. CastAR previously hired top talent from the Avalanche development team, which had worked with Disney Interactive to create the bestselling Disney Infinity franchise. Eat Sleep Play will collaborate with Avalanche at the Salt Lake City studio.

CastAR was founded in 2013 as Technical Illusions after Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson left Valve Software’s augmented and virtual reality team. Funded by Playground Global, the company is developing an augmented reality entertainment platform that blends digital characters with the real world.

The company recently hired gaming and technology industry veterans Peter Dille as CMO, Mel Heydari as head of talent and Arnie Sen as vice president of engineering. They join Steve Parkis, COO and president, and CEO Darrell Rodriguez (former president at LucasArts). Rodriguez talks to [a]listdaily about the startup and how marketing an augmented reality platform may be a little bit easier thanks to Pokémon GO‘s success in this exclusive interview.

Darrell Rodriguez, castAR CEO

What are the advantages of marketing augmented reality gaming compared to virtual reality?

It’s our view that augmented reality is more accessible, which also makes it a bigger opportunity. Rather than shut you off from the world, AR takes the world around you and brings your imagination to life right on top of it. There’s no doubt you can create some cool experiences with VR, but it’s not for everybody. We think AR experiences will have mass market appeal.

How has the success of Pokémon GO and its mainstream exposure helped lay the groundwork for castAR’s launch next year?

The Pokémon GO phenomenon will be tremendously beneficial in helping to articulate what’s possible with AR gaming. It’s a terrific example of bringing the real world together with a fantastical world. To date, consumers have been exposed to a lot of VR marketing but not a lot of AR. We see that changing next year and by then, consumers will have been well conditioned to new gaming experiences.

While there’s a lot of activity in VR, AR has been mostly left to enterprise and business. Why did you decide to explore AR gaming?

Our team’s background is in gaming. Our founders, Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, have long and distinguished careers in game development. I’ve run gaming companies. Steve Parkis, our COO, has run gaming companies. It’s our view that gaming technology drives tech adoption. So we’ll build an installed base via gaming and expand out from there.

What does the Eat Sleep Play team bring to the table when it comes to AR gaming?

The team from Eat Sleep Play has a 20-year track record of building critically acclaimed and commercially successful games. They’ve worked with world class IP and have built launch titles for every Sony gaming platform (PlayStation 1, 2, 3 and PSP) and they’ve recently added mobile to their resume. They know how to deliver.

How has Avalanche’s background in working with Disney Infinity helped with exploring augmented reality?

Steve and I both have backgrounds at Disney, where we learned that story and character transcend the medium. We think characters will play a big role in the success of our offering. The Avalanche team, having worked with Disney and on Infinity, honed the ability to create amazing characters that come to life in AR and drive amazing engagement.

How will the reputations these two developers have with mainstream gamers help you deliver and market quality games?

You have to have great content to compete in this space and the teams from Eat Sleep Play and Avalanche have first-rate reputations among gamers. We’re exceptionally proud they’ve decided to join the team here at castAR to bring our system to market.

What does bringing gaming into the real world open up creatively?

One of AR’s greatest strengths is the ability to interact with other players—not just virtually, but face-to-face. Social gameplay has been missing from modern gaming—really since the Wii. We will fully leverage this in the games we make available to our customers

VR is targeting more hardcore PC gamers and now console gamers. Who are you targeting with castAR?

We’re not going into too much detail with our marketing plans at this time. But we can confidently say that we think anyone who likes gaming will want to keep an eye on castAR next year.

Why Instagram Is Experimenting With In-App Purchases

Instagram is social, influential and already a place for users to find inspiration on purchases. But how do you encourage Instagram users to shop without turning the app into a catalog? The Facebook-owned app is experimenting with the idea of tagging products like someone would tag a friend.

Partnering with 20 brands including Warby Parker, Kate Spade and J. Crew, the experiment will attempt to close the gap between inspiration and purchase.

instagram-shoppingTapping on the item will bring up an information page that allows users to research the product without leaving the app. Studies have shown that more than half of consumers research purchases online before committing, and around 25 percent utilize YouTube for the same purpose. Instagram’s product information page will have a link to the retailer’s site when they’re ready to buy.

“It’s been a little frustrating to us in the past to not be able to have people purchase on Instagram,” said Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s president and creative director, per Bloomberg. “Not only has it become a place for people to get influenced by their friends, but they’re walking into our stores with their phones and saying, ‘do you have this?'”

For Warby Parker, it would be nice to create a seamless buyer’s journey from inspiration to purchase. “Right now, there isn’t a simple, clean way for us to share details about the products featured within our posts,” Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker commented on the Instagram post. “Customers often have to ask us, which creates a bulky experience on both sides.”

The product-tagged posts will roll out across a select group of US iOS accounts beginning next week. The move is just one of many in recent months by social media brands trying to implement purchases directly into their platforms.

Facebook, for example, has partnered with brands like Fandango along with local businesses to turn conversations into revenue. Pinterest, meanwhile has introduced buyable pins that feature calls to action, allowing users to purchase inspiring products directly from the app or website.

Earned Media Value Index Update Reflects Rapid Changes In Social

(Editor’s note: [a]listdaily is the publishing arm of the Ayzenberg Group. To read the updated Q4 EMVI report reflecting the rapid changes in social, click here.)

Written by: Robin Boytos

Earlier this year, at Ayzenberg, we created our first iteration of the Ayzenberg Earned Media Value Index (AEMVI) to help marketers better justify the value of content marketing. Since then, we’ve been regularly watching and evaluating market trends and decided enough fluctuation in earned media values warranted a formal Q4 update. (For a refresher on EMV, read our original article here. We’re committed to regularly monitoring these trends to ensure values are up to date.)

Part of the reason we created our own EMVI is because the social landscape changes so quickly that all publications we’ve found with EMVs were quickly outdated. Often, we also found that their methodologies are not thoroughly defined, or they were making use of indexes that were difficult to present as justification for value with executives at Fortune 1000 companies.

Since our last update, we’ve seen Snapchat soar in popularity, Instagram continuing to see exponential growth and making up for Facebook algorithm changes that throttle brand reach. We also witnessed the launch of Facebook reactions, the shutdown of Vine, and so much more.

To truly understand the effects of these changes, we take a holistic comparison-based approach that involves reviews of auction-based pricing on social networks, paid social and media campaign data, organic social data, and third-party publications across several key verticals—auto, beauty/fashion, consumer electronics, gaming, entertainment, and our newly added verticals, finance and healthcare. For more thorough details on our methodology, you can watch our video here.

What’s New?

As mentioned above, we added in finance and healthcare as verticals to our comparisons due to popular demand and customer feedback from the first AEMVI report. Financial industry pricing tends to skew much higher, and therefore we recommend applying a 2x multiplier to our baseline values if using these values for financial content marketing.

We added LinkedIn as a platform. LinkedIn is a valuable network especially for consumer electronics and healthcare. AEMVI inquiries helped encourage more research and numbers of actions on this popular social business platform.

We added a value per post for some networks. If engagement metrics are absent from data provided to you as a marketer or provider, then cost-per-post can be applied to help prove the value of marketing initiatives. Our goal is to aggregate as much information as possible to help show the value of earned media.

Most importantly, we switched our labels to “value per” as opposed to “cost per.” This was done to be clearer about what the Index communicates. Both actual prices and other research about the value of social endorsements and actions are included so the term “Value” is more appropriate. Some cost-based prices are included for reference with the values.

Biggest Shifts In Values

The largest and most surprising shift in value is Facebook’s value per click. Facebook recently launched major changes to their programmatic buying platform, allowing marketers to reach more people with better targeting, and making clicks much more competitive. These trends make sense to us at Ayzenberg, since we know from eMarketer that 74 percent of sales from social channels come from Facebook. Additionally, the launch of the Buy Now button has helped click-through conversions across all verticals. Simply put, clicks are valuable on Facebook.

Another big shift in value is Facebook’s value per page likeSince network pricing is more competitive in January and June, there was an increase in value during those months. There is a lot more content published by brands during these months, making it harder to stand out from the crowd. If you are evaluating a campaign for January or June, we recommend bumping up a multiplier from our baseline value in these months.

Instagram is the fastest growing social network, which makes obtaining a new fan a bit easier; this drove down the value per page like. However, engagement is strong. Instagram is where millennials and Gen Z are actively spending their time, making these engagement metrics that much more important.

LinkedIn has a very deliberate audience, driving rich value per click. Click throughs on this platform mean the person wants to learn more with a solid expectation of what they’ll be consuming beyond the gate of the social platform.

On Snapchat, not only did we add value per engagement (screenshots), we also adjusted down the value per view on this platform after learning this platform uses a less precise page load view methodology.

What’s To Come?

As mentioned above, social media platforms change quickly. We’re excited to see the effects of Facebook Live and 360-degree video on engagement metrics. On Instagram, we can look out for the addition of Instagram Stories. The network also recently announced they’re rolling out Facebook’s programmatic buying platform, which will surely cause rifts in values. As for our favorite update, Snapchat is coming out with a reporting API which will give us a wealth of knowledge and insight into the value of our engagement on this platform.

With the holidays around the corner, marketing behavior and consumption habits change dramatically, and it will be interesting to see how this activity drives values both up, and down.

As always, we’ll be monitoring and be excited to share a post-holiday release. Stay tuned to hear more about these updates by subscribing to and be sure to download our most recent Q4 report here. To contribute rate cards to our study, or to provide feedback, please email

Twitch SureStream Improves Ad Quality And Deters Blockers

Today, Twitch introduced SureStream, a first-party product that delivers optimized ads throughout the platform. As a popular destination for gamers, musicians and artists that reaches 50 percent of US millennial males, Twitch has a good reason for attracting a wide range of advertisers from diverse industries. But until now, many advertisers have experienced technical issues that arise from inserting videos from an external source. SureStream will ensure that more advertisements are viewed, which benefits both brands and streamers alike. SureStream will gradually be rolled out across the platform beginning Wednesday, reaching all viewers over the coming months.

“Since the video ads played by our streamers during their broadcasts are an important source of revenue for them, it’s our responsibility to constantly improve the advertising experience for all parties in the Twitch ecosystem,” said Twitch’s chief revenue officer, Jonathan Simpson-Bint, in a statement. “SureStream helps ensure they can keep doing what they love, while providing a more seamless experience for viewers. It also helps attract and retain advertisers who are now able to effectively reach an elusive audience.”

Twitch claims that 75 percent of its users are male, with 73 percent of them between the ages of 18 to 49. Studies show that gamers are more interactive and loyal when it comes to brands—so being able to reach this audience more efficiently is good news all around.

The video streaming platform hopes that by hosting ads natively, Twitch will have greater control over the types of advertisements it delivers and “can ensure viewers see the highest quality version of the advertisement, better representing the brand’s message.”

Once SureStream is enabled, more viewers will see video advertisements—including those who use third-party software designed to bypass ads (ad blockers), thus encouraging subscriptions or joining Twitch Prime if they want to enjoy ad-free streaming. Twitch viewers will also see a significant improvement on existing ad issues, the company stated, including volume improvements that adhere to a viewer’s settings, less freezing and pausing, and faster removal of problematic advertising.

Study: Console Gamers Buy Quickly And Millennials Prefer PS4

PayPal has released its Digital Goods Economy Survey, conducted by SuperData Research, observing the habits and attitudes of digital media consumers, including video games. While the results echo many common trends, such as the rise of mobile gaming, they also offer insight into the differences between console and PC gaming purchases, and why gamers prefer certain payment methods over others.

Smartphones Are The New Gaming Handhelds

When asked which devices they used to play mobile digital games, 78 percent of US respondents identified smartphones versus a tablet (59 percent) or laptop (47 percent). In fact, the smartphone is the most popular gaming platform in nine out of the 10 countries surveyed.

“Mobile is indeed still growing for games, especially as the phone increasingly becomes a multi-functional hub for entertainment and communication,” Stephanie Llamas, director of research and insights at SuperData told [a]listdaily. “It’s been less than 10 years since the iPhone debuted and the smartphone has become a single device that houses the capabilities of every major modern media: computers, TVs, music players, telephones and so on. So it’s no surprise that we are gaming more on smartphones, too—especially now that the mobile market offers titles for all gamer types who can play on the go.”

SuperData estimates that by the end of 2016, the mobile games market will be worth $37.6 billion, accounting for just under half of the total $77.3 billion worldwide games market.

Millennials: PS4 Over PC

The study explores what digital gaming platforms respondents prefer and divides them into groups according to age group and gender. Mobile gaming is the preferred platform across all groups, including smartphones and tablets. There is definitely a generation gap in console preference, however—consumers aged 18 to 34 prefer PlayStation 4 over all other consoles, while those 35 and up indicated a preference for PC. In case you’re wondering, women prefer PC desktops and Xbox 360, while men prefer the PS4 just slightly over a PC.

Gamers Spending Time And Money

consolesEighty-two percent of US respondents cited “ease of use” as the reason for why they preferred their most-used payment method for mobile gaming. PayPal was cited as the payment method used the most in the last three months by US respondents to purchase digital video game downloads or in-game content for their PC/Mac or laptop.

“As [smartphones] become the standard for games, consumers are more willing to spend and are comfortable spending more,” Llamas observed. “Efficient payments have a huge hand in this, particularly with the rise of eWallets. Eight of the 10 markets showed a preference for eWallets since they can house all your payment methods and do not require users to input their information repeatedly, which is both inconvenient and not as secure.”

Mobile may be the most convenient and therefore popular method for gaming, but when players sit down to the console, they plan on staying there for a while. Forty percent of respondents play their console video games one-to-two-hours for each session, with 34 percent playing for two-to-four-hours. This was greater than the time cited spent on PC/Mac or laptop games, mobile video games and eBooks, SuperData reports. For mobile games, 31 percent reported spending 30 minutes to one hour at a time.

Game Purchases: Now Or Later?

SuperData reports that console gamers purchase in-game content twice as fast as those on PC. AAA release schedules allow console gamers to plan their purchases accordingly, resulting in an average wait time of nine days between deciding to make the purchase and sealing the deal. PC gamers, on the other hand, tend to wait for sales and wait an average of 18 days to make purchases from the time they decided to buy content.

How US Consumers Will Tackle Holiday Shopping This Year

Eating leftover Halloween candy for breakfast is a sober reminder that the holidays are coming up fast. Excited or not, how will US consumers handle the pressure and/or joy that is seasonal shopping? Grab another chocolate bar and let’s find out.

Holiday Shopping Happens Much Earlier Than You Think

If you haven’t started crossing items off your holiday shopping list yet, you’re not alone. In a September 2016 poll by Epsilon, 36 percent of respondents said they would start their holiday shopping before October, but Halloween seems to be the tipping point with 23 percent more starting around that time. Most of the remaining 41 percent of shoppers who plan to start after October will do so in November. In fact, November is the most popular month to begin the yuletide planning at 27 percent, with the least amount of consumers shopping for the holidays in the early months of April or May.


ECommerce Is Taking Over Retail

EMarketer predicts that holiday retail eCommerce sales will reach $94.71 billion and account for 10.7 percent of total retail sales for the first time. Kantar Retail has a similar outlook, forecasting online holiday sales to increase by nearly 16 percent for the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to 14.8 percent last year. Foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores is in steep decline, especially as shopping malls become less popular. According to US Department of Commerce figures, department store sales have declined from $87.46 billion in 2005 to $60.65 billion in 2015. Consumers have, in recent years, made a shift to specialty stores over the everything-under-one-roof approach of the classic department store. RetailNext measured year-over-year drops in US retail foot traffic each month of 2016, peaking with a 9.9 percent drop in May. But those physical stores are still where the vast majority of shoppers will spend their holiday money.

Physical shopping is still (for now) the most popular method, however. According to a study by ad tech company, Fluent, 78 percent of respondents said at least half of their shopping will be done in stores, while 22 percent said at least half of their shopping will be done online.

Mobile Purchases Are Becoming More Common

The mobile phone changed the way we communicate, but the smartphone changed everything, including how consumers make purchases. Fluent’s study shows that a little more than half (54 percent) of consumers will research purchases online beforehand. In a recent report by Google, about 25 percent of US mobile video viewers utilized YouTube before purchasing while they were at a store or visiting a store’s website. Meanwhile, 45 percent of shopping trips include some mobile shopping, according to a Facebook IQ study of US internet users conducted in September 2015. Another Facebook study released in December 2015 revealed that during the holiday season, US millennials, moms and multicultural shoppers collectively drove 81 percent of all mobile transactions.

Social Is Influential

Is it important for brands to have a social media presence? Consumers say “yes,” according to an April study by G/O Digital. More than half of US social media users polled said a social presence has some degree of influence on whether they’ll buy from the brand during the holiday season. While 44 percent said that a brand’s social presence is “irrelevant” to purchasing decisions, 7.4 percent said that it was an important factor.

Now when someone else mentions a brand, that’s a different story. According to Hubspot, 71 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference. In fact, when Levi’s added a Facebook “like” button to its website, the brand experienced 40 times the website traffic. Likewise, American Eagle customers spent 57 percent more after a “like” button was added. With the power of influencer marketing, it’s no wonder Facebook added eCommerce to its platform.

Ready? Set? Shop ’til you . . . oh, sugar crash.

‘Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare’ Explores Space With Facebook Messenger

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was announced in a big way earlier this year, particularly when a spaceship appeared over in the popular Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer map, Nuk3town and a character from the upcoming game—Lieutenant Reyes—appeared on the map’s TV screens to invite players to get on Facebook Messenger. On Messenger, fans could interact with a chatbot posing as Reyes and could unlock a special Easter egg from the interaction: a look at the upcoming Infinite Warfare trailer before the rest of the world.

The chatbot went on to create over 6 million exchanges within 24 hours. With Infinite Warfare set to launch on November 4, Activision is out to re-engage the 24 million Call of Duty Facebook fans with an all-new Messenger experience: Terminal Tours. The experience, which launched yesterday, features a guide named Alana, who takes players on a tour of the solar system, highlighting different locations related to Infinite Warfare, such as the moon, an asteroid, Europa and Titan. She’ll present users with choices along the way, like whether to push a button, and some will lead to hilarious GIF-generating results.


Terminal Tours features actress and musician, Kate Micucci (Scrubs; Garfunkel and Oates), who gives a face to Alana as users embark on a comical Choose Your Own Adventure-style experience.

Activision’s SVP of consumer engagement, digital marketing and PR, Monte Lutz, spoke to [a]listdaily about using Facebook Messenger to engage with fans in a personalized way.

What inspired the creation of the original Facebook Messenger bot featuring Lt. Reyes?

For our hardcore fans, Call of Duty isn’t a passive experience that you jump into for a few days and leave behind; they are still playing for hours on end, six, nine or even 12 months after the game launches. So, when we thought about how we wanted to introduce the new game, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, to our most loyal fans, we knew that there was no better place than within the game they were still playing. So, we updated Call of Duty: Black Ops III and placed Easter eggs in the game that drove fans to Messenger so that they could interact with the lead character for the next game. Messenger was the only platform that had the tools in place (bots) and community at scale (24 million Call of Duty Facebook fans) to create a one-to-one experience for fans but on a massive scale, giving them a totally unique Call of Duty experience.

How does the new Messenger experience differ from the original one?

The original experience started in-game, as the enemies of the newest Call of Duty game, Infinite Warfare, invaded the current Call of Duty game at the time, Black Ops III. That experience, dubbed Hostile Takeover, took place at reveal and was designed to engage core players and give them a chance to be the first people to hear about the new game.

Terminal Tours, on the other hand, is coming out on the eve of launch, so we are both talking to current players and re-engaging fans who are getting ready for Infinite Warfare to launch on November 4. The Messenger experience is coupled with our new live-action spot, “Screw It, Let’s Go to Space,” which both takes an irreverent approach to showing players all the fun they can have in space.

What does using Facebook’s sponsored messages allow you to do that you couldn’t before?

The sponsored messages helped us to reach the people who participated in the first Messenger experience and invite them to check out Terminal Tours. This is an audience that both loves our games and had fun engaging with the Lt. Reyes Messenger bot we created earlier this year, so they are the most likely group to dive into the new experience. Sponsored messages provided a direct line to re-engage them. Getting this core group excited, in turn, led them to share and invite their friends to get involved, bringing more people into the Messenger experience and the Call of Duty universe.

What are some of the things you can talk to Alana about?

Alana plays the part of your trusted tour guide, showing you the locations you will play the new game in, while divulging bits of the in-game story. But she also has the bad habit of steering you toward making terribly dangerous decisions in each of the game’s locations she takes you to. You’re responsible for pushing the buttons that result in your various “accidents” but she happily shines a light on them, in highly GIF-able ways. Alana is more Dolores than the Man in Black (characters from Westworld), but you still end up with a lot of “oops, that looks painful” [reactions].

In this vein, Alana’s also able to recognize natural language prompts about you (“who am I?”), the game (“who is Setdef?”) and questions about recent pop culture events, ranging from the World Series to Westworld and Pokémon GO.

Are Messenger bots and narratives changing the way games like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare engages with their fans?

We see Messenger as an important part of our ongoing digital channel strategy and our approach to mass personalization. Messenger bots allow us to reach people in a very personal way through the accessible and interactive format of text chat, combined with GIFs, images and characters in an automated way at scale that wasn’t previously possible. We have millions of fans—tens of millions. Through Messenger, we can create unique experiences for each of them that teach players about the games while answering questions they have and having a little fun in the process.

What’s your favorite place to visit with Terminal Tours?

The asteroid. Gets me every time.

Skybound Interactive President Discusses ‘The Walking Dead’ Video Game Strategy

Skybound Entertainment was early into the video game business. The comic book company has evolved into a transmedia indie giant thanks to the success of The Walking Dead, Outcast and dozens of other original serialized stories. Skybound Interactive has strategically been partnering with leading game developers to expand The Walking Dead. The first company Skybound Interactive president, Dan Murray, enlisted was Telltale Games back in 2011 to create an episodic series based on Robert Kirkman’s bestselling comic book.

“It’s been a great, organic process,” Murray told [a]listdaily. “Telltale works closely with our editorial team. It’s been a great marriage between their writing staff and our editorial team. With each season, we’re looking for ways to build out new storylines and new characters.”

The Walking Dead: Season 3 debuts later this month, and although Clementine will once again be the focus, she’ll be a different character this time. “You’re seeing a new version of Clem as we jumping ahead (in time) in the series,” Murray said. “The Michonne mini-series allowed us to jump further ahead. Season 3 is a full season and we’re going back to characters from Season 1 and 2 and seeing a new version of Clem, who’s growing up.”

Murray said that Telltale has grown its storyline and characters organically. Skybound treats the game as its own piece of content, but it’s connected to the world of The Walking Dead and the comic. “Yes, there will be some connections with the comic in Season 3,” Murray said. “We’re bridging the gaps in the timeline and figuring out ways to connect the two worlds. We’ve done that with other properties, as well. It’s always exciting for fans with these shared universes to connect two storylines.”

Skybound has 1.4 million “insiders” that the company can market to. They tapped into this fan base with Scopely’s The Walking Dead: Road to Survival mobile game, which has over 25 million downloads to date. “There are a lot of players on mobile who may not have known about the Telltale games,” Murray said. “We’re finding ways organically through those established games, including in-game content pieces where we introduce storylines and characters from the Telltale series and let Scopely and (developer) IUGO figure out ways to work together to deliver something authentic that exists in their mobile game.”

Murray said Skybound is giving game developers working within The Walking Dead universe “swim lanes” to launch games to ensure fans aren’t flooded with too much content all at once. The latest game developer to enter the universe is Disruptor Beam, makers of Star Trek and Game of Thrones games.

“It was pretty obvious that there were a lot of different genres to play with across different platforms in the ever-expanding world of The Walking Dead,” Murray said. “It’s the beginning of civilization, not the end. We started talking to Disruptor Beam three years ago. Scopely had a great idea and a way to build something relatively quickly. We told Disruptor Beam to give Scopely this window, and then they went and did Star Trek. We’re trying to create a consistent level of quality and unique gameplay for fans with each partner. We’re making sure the partners we work with feel like they get something coming out of Robert Kirkman’s company and the source material from the comic book. We help amplify their efforts.”

Console and PC gamers should be getting the first cooperative multiplayer first-person shooter game set in The Walking Dead towards the end of next year, according to Murray. Starbreeze is developing the game with feedback from Skybound over the past couple of years. “We’ve put a lot of effort on the part of what we’re trying to build for fans,” Murray said. “We want to offer something different for these platforms in this genre. Starbreeze has some amazing hooks and they’re doing stuff on the technology side that will separate this game from past games in the genre.”

Starbreeze has also developed a virtual reality game demo set in The Walking Dead universe, although the company has been busy of late working with IMAX to launch location-based entertainment centers using the game developer’s proprietary headset. “We’re ‘all in’ with VR, as a general statement,” Murray said. “We’ve been waiting for the technology and platforms to emerge.”

Skybound’s first VR game will launch on Oculus Rift in early 2017. Giant Cop, a new original title coming from Other Ocean Interactive, is being designed for Oculus Touch controllers. Murray said the game is being funded by Oculus and the Canadian Media Fund.

“We have several unannounced VR projects on our calendar ahead,” Murray said. “As we look at some of the strengths at Skybound, we think of the storytelling they can provide. As we look at how narrative storytelling and interactivity evolve, VR is the perfect marriage between the two. We’ve been patient on how we approach VR. We want to do something that moves the needle and makes people get excited. We may not be there for the launch of new VR platforms, but we’ll be there.”