Pizza Hut Exec Dishes On Xbox One S Marketing Promotion

Pizza Hut, owned by Yum! Brands, continues to expand its marketing footprint with gamers. The restaurant chain has partnered with Microsoft to cross-promote the $300 Xbox One S console. Pizza Hut is giving away 1,140 free consoles as part of its $20 Triple Treat Box offer, which includes two medium one-topping pizzas, an order of breadsticks and a Hershey’s ultimate chocolate chip cookie.

Every pizza box also includes an entry code for a chance to win an Xbox One S and custom Pizza Hut-designed red controller, as well as an offer for $10 off an Xbox One game. Additionally, all customers are entered into a grand prize drawing that includes an Xbox One S, Samsung SUHD TV and a surround sound audio system.

Doug Terfehr, senior director of partnerships at Pizza Hut, told [a]listdaily that from previous marketing campaigns, which have included Xbox, the company has learned that the gaming audience is very engaged and loyal to the brands they like.

“We’ve had previous successful partnerships with Microsoft Xbox, and we liked the idea of timing this around the holidays when families are not only busy and on the go, but also looking for the hottest gifts,” Terfehr said. “The Triple Treat Box and chance to win an Xbox One S combine that into one.”

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Pizza Hut recently launched a television commercial promoting the Triple Treat Box and the Xbox One S. It’s part of a cross-company marketing partnership that has Microsoft promoting Pizza Hut across its website, social channels and dashboard.

“As popular as gaming has been for a long time, it only continues to grow,” Terfehr said. “We understand that, and we think we understand what the community wants from a pizza company. A great pizza, with a great deal and something that could make their gaming experience even better.”

In addition to the current Xbox promotion, Pizza Hut has been the title sponsor for the past two Rooster Teeth RTX fan experiences, which targets gamers and has eSports competitions. The company was also the title sponsor for the Endemol Beyond digital series, Legends of Gaming. In recent years, Pizza Hut has worked with Major League Gaming, as well as eSports teams directly.

“Entering early into the more competitive gaming space has worked well for Pizza Hut,” Terfehr said. “We are fortunate to have partners who have helped us integrate organically into the community. We anticipate doing more and more in eSports in the future.”

Pizza Hut has worked with Microsoft to allow Xbox 360 and Xbox One gamers order pizza online without having to leave their favorite games. The app was an immediate hit when it launched in 2014, selling over $1 million of pizzas in the first four months.

“The ordering behavior of gamers is similar to that of most consumers—they want convenience,” Terfehr said. “Our mission is to make it easier for them to get our pizza, and that’s true for all consumers.”

Terfehr said Pizza Hut will continue to look for new opportunities to connect with gamers as well as eSports fans.

Why Purchasing Machinima Is ‘Game On’ For Warner Bros.

Warner Bros., a large investor in Machinima, formally acquired it recently and will now fold the gamer-centric video service into its recently-formed Warner Bros. Digital Networks (WBDN).

“Machinima is a strong gamer, fandom content and social brand with enormous reach and high engagement with audiences that play our games and are big fans of DC films and television shows,” Craig Hunegs, president of Warner Bros. Digital Networks stated in the press release. “Machinima also produces great, high-quality content for their community, and together we can create an even more compelling experience and do some really exciting things involving our key franchises. This acquisition is another meaningful move forward as Warner Bros. develops more direct relationships with our consumers.”

Most famous for its motion pictures and animated shorts like Loony Toons, Warner Bros. has grown into a media giant, cable provider and holder of some of the world’s most popular IPs including DC Comics film adaptations (Batman, Wonderwoman), TV shows like Big Bang Theory and Mom, and video games like Batman: Arkham VR and Mortal Kombat. Prior to the purchase, Warner Bros. made several online-video programming deals with Machinima including Mortal Kombat: Legacy and the Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles.

Joost van Dreunen, CEO and co-founder of analyst firm, SuperData believes that the WB name will have a significant impact on the Machinima brand and its fan base. “There are several obvious synergies between the two firms,” he told [a]listdaily. “I expect Machinima’s audience to be enthusiastic about the available library of WB content, which lines up closely with its gamer mindset.”

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“This acquisition benefits WB’s overall audience reach, but is more so poised to have a positive effect on offering its user base a more diverse range of programming and content relevant to gamer audiences,” van Dreunen added.

This strategic move also means massive opportunities for WB-branded content through an already popular network, as well as access to Mach-1, Machinima’s eSports agency formed in May and the monetization power of Machinima’s Preferred Media Solutions platform. “Currently, there is a slew of brands and advertisers hoping to get access to a qualified consumer audience via eSports,” commented van Dreunen. “The challenge lies in providing a meaningful experience, rather than merely plastering a brand across players’ screens. Machinima’s expertise will serve WB well.” He also predicts that we’ll see much more eSports content like Mortal Kombat X: Chasing the Cup in the future. “The current appetite for content around competitive gaming, in addition to the events, is strong and puts the WB/Machinima in a strong position to take advantage of that.”

As digital video continues to grow, so does livestreaming—something that Warner Bros. and Machinima will no doubt take advantage of moving forward.

“Initially, the market consisted mostly of uploaded videos,” van Dreunen concluded. “The live connection with a person on the other end, whether amateur or professional, has proven to be a strong accelerant for the overall gaming video content market, allowing it to grow to $4.4 billion this year.”

Featured image credit: tubefilter

Why Mountain Dew Is Infiltrating Fashion And IoT With “Camo Out”

 

Mountain Dew continues to maintain its message of marketing innovation by constantly testing and evaluating new technologies.

Their latest conquest comes through their unique take on wearable tech with “Camo Out,” a collection that takes consumers through the past, present and future of camouflage by exploring history’s, fashion’s and technology’s relationship with the iconic pattern.

Dew partnered with youth-culture fashion brand VFILES to integrate media-based tech as part of their digital innovation program. The smart clothes collection includes a hat, Bluetooth jacket, solar-powered backpack and jackets and pants with built-in headphones. It debuted earlier this month at the pop culture trade show ComplexCon in Los Angeles.

The collection was also complemented with an experiential push using augmented reality technology. Using mirrors equipped with hologram-AR technology, guests were virtually outfitted by the custom “Camo Out” patterns and immersed into a virtual music video of the future.

Trail-blazing brand marketers at PepsiCo’s marketing innovation team, Creator, a catalyst group of internal experts who identify where the future of marketing is going from consumer trends to never-before-been-done technology, took the quantum leap toward procuring the partnership.

Stinson Parks, Mountain Dew’s digital marketing manager, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how the soft drink brand is constantly evaluating and evolving in emerging trends and technologies.

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When you think of Mountain Dew, “integrating media-based tech into wearable products and connected clothing” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Why was it important for Mountain Dew to move toward an experiential push using wearable tech and augmented reality for the first time?

Dew extends well beyond the amazing beverage products our fans know us for and over time, has become part of the lifestyle and culture that our consumers live and breathe. The brand’s mantra, ‘Do The Dew,’ has come to life in a variety of ways over the years through our activations and experiences such as Dew Tour, and more recently in partnerships with the NBA and DR-1 Drone Racing League. When the brand is at its best, it’s constantly innovating, instigating and pushing the culture in a meaningful way for all of our fans—they expect it from us. The areas of tech and innovation are important for Dew and we are always pushing the boundaries as a digital instigator. The “Camo Out” wearable tech collection was the perfect way to enter into the fashion space, but in an area important to the brand

How do you describe the collection to someone who can’t experience it?

The “Camo Out” collection is how Dew does camouflage. It’s a fun, forward-thinking play on the classic print, and everything from the patterns to the materials to the wearable tech elements add a mix of flair and utility. With bright Dew greens and neon yellows, this is the camo for those who’d rather stand out then blend in. 

How did the collaboration with VFILES come about? Why is telling the past, present and future story of camouflage a good fit for Mountain Dew, and one of particular interest?

As soon as we met with the VFILES team and heard their vision—which is all about inspiring and enabling youth culture and creativity—we knew they were a perfect fit for Dew. The story of camouflage is an important one for Dew because by nature, it’s one that is universally relevant to any young guy out there in the Dew Nation. Whether you’re into hunting and fishing or you’re a fan of more urban brands like BAPE and Maharishi, from the Midwest to New York City, camo has probably played a part in your life at some point. While we have a history with the more traditional aspects of camo—like creating a camo-branded Mountain Dew can—this was our opportunity to reverse the traditional role of camo and really own that story and tell it in a meaningful way.

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How was the “The Camo Collective” installation received at ComplexCon? What is the main message, and takeaway from consumers?

The activation was very well received. Those who were able to experience the Camo Collective walked away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of camouflage and camo culture. They were able to learn about its relevance in fashion and art, function and future approaches through our art gallery, AR and VFILES pop-up shop experience. If there was one takeaway, it’s that camo is forever, and the future is an exciting one.

Is there a specific social or influencer marketing strategy you plan on executing here to further promote “The Camo Collective”?

There were a variety of influencers who stopped by the Camo Collective activation, both organically, and through our own outreach before ComplexCon. Everyone from social media influencers like Tyler Blake and Vashtie to music and entertainment artists like Migos and Madeintyo came through, and many like Versace Tomagachi decided to share the experience on social with their fans, too. We also promoted the experience on Dew’s social channels and all partner channels like VFILES, Complex and Green Label. We even launched a Camo Collective website featuring a documentary all about the history and future of camo.

What kind of social and experiential campaigns work best for Mountain Dew? Do you have a particular favorite planned in coming months?

The experiential campaigns that work best for us are the ones where we get to provide original experiences to our fans that bring them right in the center of the action. Whether it’s events like Dew NBA 3X, a six-city street ball tournament that debuted this year, or our past events in music with Green Label Sound, we know our consumers want to be a part of the things we do, which is why the experiential piece is always so much fun. We have Dew Tour Breckenridge in Colorado coming up in December where we’ll debut a totally reimagined course for the snow competition. That one will be particularly exciting to check out.

What kind of a role do you want to have with Mountain Dew in art, fashion and emerging tech like IoT and AR/VR moving forward?

Dew by nature is a creative brand, an innovative brand and most importantly, a fun brand. Wherever Dew can continue to flex those muscles, be it in art, fashion and tech—or in ones we have yet to discover—there will always be an opportunity to keep showing up, pushing boundaries and having a damn good time.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

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‘The Unspoken’ Adds Magic Of VR To World Of ESports

Oculus is preparing to take virtual reality to the next level: eSports, and it is partnering with ESL to showcase the potential of VR eSports at competitions such as ESL One in New York last month and the recently concluded IEM Oakland. The game featured as a potential eSports contender is The Unspoken, a competitive urban fantasy game developed by Insomniac Games exclusively for the Oculus Rift.

The Unspoken pits two players against each other in head-to-head competition—each using Oculus Touch controllers to summon spells to throw at their opponents or defend against them. Although the game is still in development and doesn’t officially launch until December, it is the ideal demonstration for how VR can be brought into the world of eSports.

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Ryan Schneider, Insomniac Games chief brand officer

Insomniac Games’ chief brand officer, Ryan Schneider, recently spoke to [a]listdaily about The Unspoken and how it could pave the way for virtual reality to become an integral part of the eSports industry.

The Unspoken has enjoyed critical praise and excitement from all who have seen or experienced it since it was first revealed earlier this year,” said Schneider, detailing how the game came to be featured at events such as ESL One. “That has led to opportunities from many sectors—including the ESL—to showcase The Unspoken at ESL One and now IEM Oakland as a benchmark for the future of competitive VR games.”

Schneider explains how player reactions to the game have been strong. “They enjoy The Unspoken’s depth and strategic choices, but really it’s the sense of immersion that gets them the most excited. It’s one thing to experience a competitive game from a top-down or limited FPS (first-person shooter) view. It’s entirely different when the fast-paced action literally surrounds you. We think it’s the first game that really delivers on the fantasy of being an all-powerful mage who can physically cast spells.”

When asked what opportunities VR opened for eSports, Schneider said that “there are opportunities from all perspectives. Players can become the first to master the fastest-growing segment of the games industry. How exciting would it be to not just be a pioneer of the VR eSports movement but also its greatest player? Spectators can find a way to be closer to the action than ever before. Imagine seeing critical gameplay decisions from an entirely different perspective, which in turn can make spectators more knowledgeable and even better players themselves. Brands will find a way to connect with the community in deeper ways by virtue of the medium’s immersive nature. Every day, we learn about how brands are innovating within the world of VR. The opportunities just continue to multiply.”

Schneider also thinks that eSports could lead to faster adoption of VR technology as long as it’s done well. “If eSports players and fans feel like they’re getting something crammed down their collective throat for the sake of novelty, it could de-position VR as nothing more than a fad,” he said. “That’s why we’re approaching this from a very grassroots level, seeking game feedback from experts and the most passionate players. Certainly though, the potential is there to grow VR adoption because you have a huge base of PC players hungry for fresh, competitive experiences. On the surface, nothing in gaming is hotter at the moment than VR/AR and eSports. Marrying the two is inevitable.”

If marrying VR and eSports is inevitable, we asked if Insomniac was developing The Unspoken with an emphasis on eSports in mind. “We’re primarily focused on making The Unspoken a great competitive game, period,” Schneider replied. “One of the better ways to do that is to demo The Unspoken at events like ESL One and IEM Oakland. Go to where the most passionate players already live. We can absorb and incorporate valuable player feedback there for future versions of the game. So, we’re not attending to push an eSports agenda—we’re legitimately there as part of a broader plan to make the best competitive game possible.”

That being said, The Unspoken still has high potential as aSport. “The things that make The Unspoken a stand-out competitive game could help it resonate as an eSport,” said Schneider. “The Unspoken offers variety in its character classes, multiple and unique spell types, and the complexities associated with when to summon each spell along with critical gesture-based movements.

“What’s especially exciting to me is that the potential here for players is to be on the ground floor of a new way to play sport altogether—kind of like learning to play basketball at the time it was first invented. From a spectator perspective, we’d be able to offer fans a center court, front-row seat to the wonder and danger inherent in an urban magic fight club.”

unspoken_oc3_cobrasGiven how The Unspoken is a modern urban fantasy, we asked if there were opportunities for brands to be integrated into the arenas if the game were to be adopted as an eSport.

“That’s a tricky topic,” Schneider replied. “We’ll never do anything that either detracts from or doesn’t add to the player’s experience. That said, we are already working with trusted partners like Intel and Nvidia to ensure we’re delivering game content that can be fully optimized on the most sophisticated of gaming PC rigs.”

With the incredible success of movies such as Doctor Strange, the timing is perfect for a game like The Unspoken to reveal itself. We asked if the movie’s popularity could indirectly promote the VR game. Although Schneider hasn’t seen it yet, he does believe that a paranormally themed movie set in an urban locale could help The Unspoken. “The same can probably be said even for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” said Schneider. “It just goes to show that there’s still a healthy appetite for the world of arcane magic, and that kind of fantasy can play out in many different forms.”


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.

Organic Valley Sculpts ‘Heroes Of Butter’ In Livestream Campaign

“Haters are gonna hate . . . until they have to bake,” dairy farmer Dave Hardy says in a promotional video for Organic Valley.

After about 60 years of bad reputation, butter is back in style and Organic Valley (as well as taste buds everywhere) are celebrating. The farmer-owned cooperative of more than 1,800 organic family farms has launched a holiday campaign in defense of the creamy but long-thought unhealthy dairy product—just in time for Thanksgiving cooking.

You see, butter was deemed unhealthy in the 1950’s, but more recent studies have found no connection between the saturated fats in butter and cardiovascular disease, as the public was told. Now, butter is making a comeback as a health food, differentiating all-natural “healthy” fats in favor of trans fat and artificial ingredients found in butter substitutes.

Organic Valley has taken a unique approach to this marketing campaign, immortalizing “Heroes of Butter” by sculpting their faces in—you guessed it—organic butter. The “brave men and women that never gave up” on that delightful yellow stuff can be nominated by friends and family on Twitter, then encourage votes on the “War On Butter” website. Those with the most votes have been immortalized daily in gooey gold by expert food sculptors Marie Pelton and her husband Jim Victor via livestream.

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The first person to be sculpted was George Siemon, the founding farmer of Organic Valley. “Every material we use is a bit different,” said Pelton in one of the promotional videos, “and Organic Valley is a really dense butter that has a lot of body and a beautiful, golden color.”

The Pennsylvania couple has sculpted some intricate pieces for special events in the past made of chocolate, caramel, cheese and even bacon.

In addition to watching butter sculptures come to life each day on livestream, the “War On Butter” website also features recipes, coupon offers and even tells viewers where the nearest participating dairy farm is located.

This isn’t the first time Organic Valley has taken a fun approach to marketing. Last year, the dairy co-op produced a series of “Brononomous Hotline Intervention” videos that encouraged gold-wearing, weight-lifting, protein-chugging bros to lose the chemicals and reach for Organic Fuel instead. Armed with its own hashtag and “Save The Bros” website, the original campaign video has garnered over 2.5 million views to date.

From its playful #SaveTheBros outreach to creating videos for coffee lovers, animal lovers and lovers of all things organic, it seems that the co-cop has a campaign for everyone.

Team Liquid Details Strength Of Monster Energy Sponsorship

On the heels of its acquisition by Axiomatic, Team Liquid has signed its first non-endemic sponsor, Monster Energy. The energy drink maker is working with the team and its players just as it does with extreme athletes around the world. Team Liquid’s director of operations, Mike Milanov, told [a]listdaily that the energy drink category is very important to Team Liquid because these companies are sponsoring events and teams around the world.

“We wanted to find a partner that worked well with our writing staff and video content creators,” Milanov said. “Monster cares about winning and supporting our players directly, and giving them tools to win. What they do with extreme games and what they do with sponsoring the most prestigious athletes worldwide is impressive. That brand is on your wish list if you’re a pro sports organization.”

Team Liquid, which is owned by Steve Arhancet and Victor Goossens, began conversations with Matt Simpson, the director of eSports and gaming at Monster back in March at the energy drink’s LA headquarters. “What’s cool about Monster is that when they came into eSports they sponsored Alliance, Envyus, Fnatic and Evil Geniuses and they’ve never let go of those teams or partnerships,” Milanov said. “Knowing that history was attractive to us. We liked how they were running their eSports division.”

Team Liquid and Monster had multiple meetings around the world at eSports events in London, Malmo and Germany. Monster is also a major sponsor of DreamHack. Milanov said these meetings allowed the brand to learn about Team Liquid’s team and infrastructure.

In addition to providing players with product, Monster has also spent some one-on-one time with players to promote across social media or provide video resources when a new player comes onto the roster. “Monster is close partners with Razer, which is another company we’ve been with for a long time—seven years next year,” said Milanov. “They also do work with HTC, which is one of our partners. Monster integrates well with our existing partners and this deal also opens up cross-promotional opportunities.”

Milanov said that since Monster attends every single eSports event, they’re always around to help out the team, even when they lose like at the recent IEM Oakland event.

“Despite the team not progressing to the arena stage, Matt Simpson still wants to take the team out to dinner and forge that relationship,” Milanov said. “Any time we have a boot camp in Holland or LA or NY or Korea, he’ll always ask how we’re preparing for the event or check to see if there are video opportunities and stories they need to tell. Monster has contractors all over the world—they send professional photographers and do a lot of written articles and cool recap and highlight videos.” Additionally, the energy drink maker has Team Liquid team profiles and social media integration on MonsterEnergy.com.

Milanov said this is the team’s first non-endemic partnership, but certainly not the last. Axiomatic has been working closely with Team Liquid to expand the brand. “They care about the brand deeply at Axiomatic,” explained Milanov. “One of the ways [of expanding the brand] is attracting non-endemic business. There’s a wishlist of things we’d love to get from the partnership. They have great relationships from Mandalay Entertainment and the Golden State Warriors, for example. Our goal is to do some of the first non-endemic partnerships with a Nike or adidas or do something with airlines or credit cards like the traditional MLB, NBA or NFL deals. We’re looking at those and we’ve been working with our investors to map out what our new level of strategic partnerships look like.”

Team Liquid has no plans to alienate its current partners. Milanov said the team is in this for the long haul, having worked with Alienware for six years and HyperX and HTC for three years. “We’re never going to drop those companies because they’ve brought us to where we are today,” Milanov said. “We’re looking to add new non-endemics.”


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.

Nissan Goes Rogue With ‘Star Wars’ Branded Car And VR Activation

When Disney and Lucasfilm dropped the news of their latest film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in March 2015, Nissan found out like the rest of the world.

Seeing the name correlation for their Rogue line of cars and looking to capitalize on the symbolism with their fan base, the car manufacturer immediately picked up the phone and began brokering a unique partnership that reached its birth 20 months later with the dual-branded vehicle “Nissan Rogue: Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition.”

It is the first production car to include Star Wars-branded elements.

“We’re all about innovation, excitement and engagement with fans. That was the most intriguing for us, so we found an opportunity to work with them to promote our new car, and the most anticipated movie of this year,” Jeremy Meadows, senior manager of marketing and creative strategy at Nissan, told [a]listdaily. “We looked beyond the name correlation. There is a strong correlation between the both of us with epic adventures.”

The car company added a sizable chapter to the massive marketing blitz slated for the forthcoming release of the film by making 5,400 units—white models for the Stormtroopers, black for the new Deathtroopers—for the US and Canadian markets.

Meadows added that in addition to the range of custom features and equipment, each vehicle also comes with a numbered, full-size replica collectible Deathtrooper helmet.

As for the car, some of the unmistakable branding includes “Rebel Alliance” and “Galactic Empire” logo decals, a “Star Wars” logo clear rear bumper protector and Rogue One logo badging on the front doors. Special features inside of the vehicle include logo carpeted floor mats and “Star Wars” logo illuminated kickplates. The Rogue One package will cost consumers an extra $1,990 on top of the car’s MSRP.

Jeremy Tucker, vice president of marketing communications and media, said that the Rogue model is their No. 1 best-selling model and is up 10 percent year-over-year. “We want to make this model go to the very next level,” he said. “So bringing these iconic brands together, this is our moment, and we’re going full force.”

Nissan is one of five global brands—Duracell, General Mills, Gillette and Verizon are the others—to join forces with Lucasfilm and launch an extensive global promotional campaign in support of movie.

And like any marketing campaign that has a strong story to share, Nissan also introduced a virtual and augmented reality experience to fans that highlights the Rogue SUV’s Intelligent Safety Shield technologies.

“We want to provide customers with very engaging experiences. A lot of brands, and not just car companies, do really great VR marketing, but we wanted to take it a step further and provide a really good opportunity to see our vehicle and provide something extra special for fans with Lucasfilm,” Meadows said.

Meadows mentioned that the VR experience released at the LA Auto Show last week was a first for Nissan; a long-form Star Wars version will be released next spring.

Meadows said that they want to amplify their Rogue partnership with an influencer marketing campaign.

“If you’re not familiar with Nissan, or the Nissan Rogue, we want to further spread the awareness of what we have to offer to customers. We’re working closely with our agency team and other folks at Lucasfilm to find out what is the right mix to get the message out about the vehicle and movie,” Meadows said. “The good news is that the Nissan and Lucasfilm brands already have a strong connection with fans. There’s 131 million Star Wars fans across the country. And we have a lot of fans, too. It’s a really relevant activation for both of us.”

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Grasshopper Manufacture And GungHo Entertainment Bring ‘Let It Die’ To Life

Let It Die is an over-the-top, free-to-play, online hack-and-slash roguelike action game releasing exclusively for the PlayStation 4 later this year. It features a crazy post-apocalyptic Tokyo setting where players battle both monsters and each other to the death to ascend the Tower of Barbs floor-by-floor until they reach the promise of treasure at the top. Along the way, players acquire weapons and skills needed to take on bigger challenges. The catch is that if you die while making your way through the Tower, you’ll lose all the equipment you picked up since the last time you visited your home base, and you’ll have to start from the beginning with a new or alternate character.

Although the title might suggest otherwise, Let It Die is not completely about dying in fantastically gory ways. The game monetizes through “insurance” sales, which are essentially resurrection opportunities that can be purchased by players using either in-game or real currency. Additionally, dead characters are revived at the spot where they perished as computer controlled characters called Haters, which will also appear in other people’s games. Therefore, players have a chance to reclaim their fallen characters and equipment by battling these Haters. Alternatively, Haters can be left wandering the tower to take on other players in the game and earning special rewards.

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There are also the zany and unique characters, which are practically a hallmark of games made by Japanese developer Grasshopper Manufacture (which also made Killer Is Dead and Lollipop Chainsaw) and its CEO, Goichi Suda (aka Suda51). One of the most prominent characters is a skateboard-riding grim reaper named Uncle Death, who wears novelty glasses and acts as a kind of guide. Ironically, Uncle Death helps bring the story to life by adding a sense of humor to a survival game that features a ton of gore and menacing creatures.

Hideyuki Shin, Let It Die director at Grasshopper Manufacture
Hideyuki Shin, Let It Die director at Grasshopper Manufacture

Let It Die’s director, Hideyuki Shin, recently spoke to [a]listdaily through a translator about working on its first project with Puzzle & Dragons creator, GungHo Online Entertainment, which acquired Grasshopper Manufacture in 2013.

After working with GungHo on Let It Die for three years, we asked about how it stood out from previous Grasshopper games and how GungHo was helping to develop and promote it. Shin responded by saying that the biggest difference from previous games is online and PvP (player-vs-player) elements. Grasshopper had not had any titles with online capabilities before. Furthermore, Grasshopper had only made packaged titles before working with the GungHo group.

“With this new initiative, not only has GungHo provided information and know-how for making online games, but they’ve also had GungHo members come into Grasshopper to create the game together—as opposed to saying, as a publisher, we want these things,” said Shin. “They actually came in to be very direct and hands-on with the development process, which is something completely new.”

Given Grasshopper’s history, we asked why the developer decided on a free-to-play model. Shin said that “it wasn’t necessarily the case that, during the development process, we said ‘this would be better free-to-play.’ It was decided from the very beginning, before anything was put together, that the first initiative that Grasshopper would do with GungHo was to make a free-to-play action game.”

When discussing how he kept a roguelike game, where players must start from the beginning if they die, interesting and motivating for its players, Shin explained that players don’t necessarily have to start with nothing after they perish. Several factors, including the character’s skill mastery and experience level, remain unchanged and players have a chance to go back and reclaim them. Additionally, crafted equipment is available when players restart, and they can purchase new items from the in-game shop.

1_uncledeathThen, of course, we asked about how Grasshopper came up with the crazy characters that often show up in its games. “We get asked that a lot,” said Shin. “It’s not necessarily, at Grasshopper, we say ‘oh, we need to make unique characters.’ Making new characters starts with Suda51 and the scenario creation with the story.” The studio starts with the world setting, then the characters come from it. “It turns into a whole creative process where everything starts influencing each other.”

Let It Die features an online competitive mode where players battle each other, or they can raid another player’s base with all of his or her computer-controlled alternate characters defending it. When asked if there were any plans to include a cooperative mode, Shin said that there currently weren’t any plans to include one and that the world of Let It Die is a kill or be killed free-for-all. As for social features to connect its global players, Shin talked about the revenge list that is populated each time another player kills you, “so, you know who got you, and you can go and return the favor if you’d like to.” In the world of Let It Die, getting revenge is considered to be a kind of social event.

When asked if it was difficult to design games that are for a global audience, Shin said that “we certainly try to make games that are appealing to a global audience. A lot of times, when you think about Japanese developers, you have this image of them making games mostly for Japan and maybe the world will enjoy them. Grasshopper tries to have a more global mindset by thinking about what will appeal worldwide. It’s quite difficult because we are a Japanese studio, but we do have a lot of fun, and I think we seem to have gotten it this time.”

In discussing his thoughts about why so many players found roguelike games attractive, Shin said that “the roguelike style of games can be quite challenging and difficult, but I think people are drawn to it—not just because it’s challenging—but because there are story elements that usually follow. It drives players to continuously follow through the game to figure out what’s going on with the story. Let It Die is not entirely a roguelike because you don’t lose everything you can lose, but we do have story elements for players to enjoy. I hope that players find the pairing of the story elements with some roguelike elements to be enjoyable.”

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We also asked if there was any interest in using new technology such as the PlayStation VR to help enhance or promote the game. “There are no current plans to have things like VR to add on to the experience, but I think the biggest game changer is that Let It Die is free-to-play,” said Shin. “That means anyone with a PlayStation 4 can download and play it, so we can get to a wider audience of people. With such a low barrier to entry, I think that makes it quite an interesting experience.”

Let It Die is also unique in that it features over 100 Japanese music artists, assembled by Akira Yamaoka, who is famous for making the soundtracks for horror games such as Silent Hill, Shadows of the Damned and many more. For this project, he told the bands that Grasshopper was making a game called Let It Die and asked each of them to make a song using the title as inspiration. “All of the songs in the game are titled ‘Let It Die,’” said Shin. “To get their originality, they had complete creative control, as long as it had to do with the title, Let It Die. Whatever they felt Let It Die meant is what they used their creativity to make for the game. You can unlock songs from the bands for your radio and choose the song that plays in your base. There’s also a radio station that takes the top five songs that other people are playing on their radios around the world, which can also be set to be the background music for your base.”

Finally, we asked Shin what his favorite weapon and gore finish (aka goretastic finish) move was. “My favorite goretastic finish scene is with the Magnum,” he said laughing. “If you’re able to trigger the goretastic finish move, it’s like a short scene from a movie. You bring the Magnum to their face, and they’re like, ‘No, no, no… don’t shoot me.’ Then you say ok and shoot them in the head anyway.”

Play Hard: 2016, The Year Of Video Game Hardware

2016 is the year of new video game hardware, particularly in the realm of virtual reality. While some brands look to the future to attract tech-savvy consumers, nostalgia has never been far from other marketing campaigns.

Oculus Rift

From its humble Kickstarter beginnings to the cover of TIME magazine, Oculus Rift paved the way and kicked off a virtual reality “space race” to bring the emerging technology to market. Oculus has come a long way from being a project in creator Palmer Luckey’s garage to becoming one of the biggest entertainment devices for 2016. Purchased by Facebook in 2014, a major focus of the Oculus Rift is to support the ecosystem it helped jumpstart and of course, keep more people logged into Facebook. During the Oculus Connect in October, for example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated virtual reality chat sessions in which avatars could all see and interact with one another in real time. Insomniac Games has become a major partner for developing games for the Oculus Rift, with three titles released in 2016.

“We’re big VR enthusiasts,” Insomniac Games studio director, Chad Dezern told [a]listdaily, “and we have really liked working with Oculus as a publisher because we feel like we’re in this new experimental situation where we’re learning new mechanics just as the hardware is coming online. There’s a spirit of working together to figure it out and see what we can do with this new technology.”

The Oculus Touch launches in December, bringing with it new games and ways to interact with these virtual worlds.

HTC Vive

Despite being associated with Valve and Steam, the HTC Vive isn’t limiting itself to video games. In fact, the virtual reality platform is making it possible for developers and entrepreneurs to build businesses around the technology. Rikard Steiber is the senior vice president of virtual reality for HTC, managing the global Viveport VR app store business and mentoring Vive X companies. “We believe VR will change the world for consumers and business alike,” Steiber told [a]listdaily. “We want to make VR available for everyone. I think the initial content has been focusing on games and entertainment, so it’s become widely available. What we want to do now is help all the other developers and creators to reach out globally with their content and build a business.”

Viveport, in particular, has created not just a store, but a community. Available in over 30 countries, Viveport serves as a first window into virtual reality with a wide variety of content. Last month, HTC unveiled its Viveport Arcade system—creating a revenue-sharing marketplace for public entertainment centers to access the latest interactive titles. Pilot programs for Viveport Arcade have already been deployed in a number of locations over the last few months and according to HTC, will soon expand to hundreds of gaming centers, amusement parks and karaoke bars across the globe. The company even released its own Vive-branded VR cafe in Shenzhen, China at the end of October.

https://youtu.be/-mxDQycSyDg

Xbox One S

Microsoft’s latest console was a big hit with fans—accounting for nearly a third of all hardware sales in August while its controller became the top-selling gamepad that month at 79,000 units. At PAX 2016, Microsoft revealed eight custom Xbox One S 2TB consoles, which convention-goers could snap a picture of and share on social media for a chance to win. Giveaways from Doritos, Mountain Dew and Pizza Hut assisted in building hype before and after the console’s launch, continuing a long tradition of food and video game brand partnerships.

The addition of Play Anywhere titles and big exclusives like Gears of War 4 and Halo Wars 2 helped bolster sales and attract die-hard fans of these franchises. The Xbox One S, which is slimmer and 40 percent smaller than the current Xbox One console, features HDR gaming and support for 4K Ultra HD video, a 4K Blu-ray player and a redesigned, Bluetooth controller.

PS4 Slim And PS4 Pro

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

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End bundle was the month’s best-selling hardware, accounting for 17 percent of total hardware units sold in the month. While the PS4 Slim offers accessibility to those who had been meaning to pick one up but were concerned with the price point, the PS4 Pro is betting on 4K TVs to become mainstream. We will be anxiously waiting to see what sales have been in November.

PlayStation VR

PlayStation’s entrance into virtual reality has been hyped since last year’s E3, and fans are finally getting their hands on PlayStation VR (PSVR) technology. Sony has no shortage of competition, but a smaller price point and trusted video game brand are working in the company’s favor. “When you look at all the activity in the VR space, 2016 is the year of VR. It all came together at the same point in time, and that’s good. It’s raising awareness for VR,” Shawn Layden, chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios explained to [a]listdaily.

In September, Taco Bell teamed up with Sony for a PSVR pop-up arcade in New York City. The two-day event included demo stations and free food, as well as a special GIF-making station perfect for sharing on social media. In addition to the arcade, hungry gamers could enter to win a PSVR of their very own by purchasing a Taco Bell Big Box before October 19.

Nintendo Classic Edition

While Sony is looking forward, Nintendo is looking back with its newly-released NES Classic Edition. This pint-sized version of the original ’80s console made no promises of cutting-edge graphics, but rather sold out with nostalgia on its side. Pre-loaded with 30 retro games like Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda, the NES Classic Edition needed no special marketing—just great memories, and consumers bought them all up within seconds of its launch. Hopefully, Nintendo can capture imaginations the way its original console did when its Nintendo Switch launches in the spring.

Andrew And Luke Wilson Explain The Power Of VR Marketing

American brand Shinola teamed up with Reel FX and Hollywood brothers Andrew and Luke Wilson to take fans behind-the-scenes of the company’s massive Detroit factory. The Wilsons served as co-directors for the four-and-a-half-minute 360-degree experience, which shows the company’s watches, bicycles and leather goods. Luke Wilson had previously worked with Reel FX on a project, and after seeing the brothers’ short film on the Los Angeles transfer of the Space Shuttle Endeavor, the VR company reached out to them to work on the Shinola short VR experience.

“The brand is something that we have a lot of respect for and it’s a great company,” Andrew Wilson told [a]listdaily. “We know the people involved with the company and have a lot respect for those people, so it was a natural fit for us.”

Andrew Wilson explained how virtual reality gives brands a chance to stand out from the crowd. “It’s a way to differentiate yourself,” he said. “We’ve seen it with past technologies. We’ve seen brands affiliating themselves with cutting-edge technology throughout the history of marketing and this is just the latest example of that.”

“VR could help brands make their products more accessible,” said Luke Wilson, telling [a]listdaily how virtual reality is opening up new opportunities for brands that want to stay ahead of the curve. “You could see yourself riding a Shinola bike around their factory, or in their stores in Detroit or on Abbot Kinney. It’s hard for me to push my brain to think of just how far it will go; it’s beyond what you can ever imagine. There are some truly technical visionaries that will think of not only how great a Shinola watch would look on your hand, but what it would look like with, say, a Filson jacket!”

Luke Wilson referenced a recent Charlie Rose episode where Tommy Hilfiger talked about a new flagship store that won’t even have actual clothes. “You will go up to a screen, see how something fits and how it will look on you and what color looks best—it’s unbelievable,” he said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wraJppF0kyg

During the two-day shoot, the brothers worked with Nokia’s Ozo 360 camera. Andrew Wilson said that in wanting to utilize the technology and the most effective form, they didn’t want the 360 technology to take over the message. “Because we did you the classic ‘man on the street’ interview style, that naturally holds people’s attention if it’s a short thing,” Wilson explained. “And Luke is doing a real (David) Letterman-esque gift of gab, fast talking and chatting with people and joking around. So that helps to generally hold people’s attention, and then you’re free to look around. We wanted people to look around. Obviously, that’s a great feature of the technology.”

Virtual reality also gives early brands that are exploring the technology the ability to capture consumers’ attention through multiple views, since they can look in different directions and control the action. “It helped me a lot to watch it multiple times, and I saw things that I’m sure that people that watch it once or twice won’t see,” Andrew Wilson said. “That’s a thrilling aspect of the technology. It’s like a theater where one audience member might be looking at one part of the set and somebody else might be looking at something else. So you take very different experiences away from watching it because of the freedom that you have as a viewer.”

The Wilson brothers are the latest Hollywood names to jump into the VR game, following directors like Jon Favreau, Robert Stromberg and Doug Liman. The brothers both are game to further experiment with 360 filmmaking.

“I’m just like everyone else in Hollywood right now, learning about the medium as it’s developing,” Luke Wilson said. “In the past 20 years or so that I’ve been in Hollywood, I’ve seen it go from 33mm to digital. VR seems like the next step in technology, though not necessarily for everything.”

Luke Wilson added that VR opens the opportunity to take a short length and make something a little more fun and interesting to watch. “The first time I put on a headset, I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” he said. “It really does seem like the future.”