Glu Mobile Appoints New CEO; New Anheuser-Busch VP Of Marketing

Here are some of the top personnel moves in marketing over the last week.

Glu Mobile Appoints New CEO

Nick Earl, previously Glu Mobile’s president of global studios, has been promoted to CEO of the mobile gaming company. He replaces Niccolo de Masi, who will transition to executive chairman and will focus on “enhancing the company’s long-term growth plan, including strategic acquisition planning and maximizing celebrity relationships,” according to a statement. Some of Earl’s previous positions include being president of worldwide studios at Kabam and being senior vice president of EA Mobile.

Anheuser-Busch Names US Marketing VP

Anheuser-Busch InBev has promoted Marcel Marcondes to lead its US marketing team to grow its biggest and most important brand: Bud Light. Marcondes was previously the brewer’s global VP for marketing brands and growth development platforms. As the new VP, Marcondes will oversee the US market.

Rovio Loses One; Picks Up Two

Patrick Liu is stepping down as general manager at Rovio Stockholm to take up the position of senior product owner at Spotify. Reginaldo Valadares, former head of production, has been promoted to replace Liu.

Additionally, the Angry Birds developer announced two new senior appointments. Antti Viitanen will join as senior vice president of studios in 2017, and comes from Sulake, where he was responsible for product development and management. He will help guide global studio strategy, and the company’s studio heads will report to him. Jarkko Rajamäki also joins Rovio as vice president of ads—a position he previously held at Rovio from 2010 to 2013.

CastAR Brings In Eat Sleep Play

Augmented reality company, castAR continues to grow as it approaches its official launch in 2017. It has hired mobile game and console developer, Eat Sleep Play to join its Salt Lake City studio. Eat Sleep Play has a 20-year history of development experience, having worked on games such as Twisted Metal, Warhawk and more. The team joins Avalanche, which most recently worked on the Disney Infinity franchise.

Unity Gets Head Of AR And VR

Unity, recently announced that Tony Parisi, one of the first pioneers of virtual reality, is joining the game development technology company as its head of AR and VR strategy. The announcement was made on stage at the Unite 2016 conference, where Parisi discussed the company’s strategy and promising that Unity would enable studios to “make and sell products, interpret complex data and make compelling presentations.”

Parisi co-founded the Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) and has authored multiple technological development books, including VR. His most recent role was as vice president of platform products at WEVR

App Annie Hires Chief Product Officer

Aaron Mahimainathan has been appointed to the role of chief product officer at the mobile analytics firm. He has over 20 years of experience in product management and product marketing, having served in executive roles at Telerik Inc, SAP, Siebel Systems and Oracle. In his role at App Annie, Mahimainathan will be responsible for expanding its mobile app intelligence products.

Bryan Cave Appoints Director Of Marketing

Law firm Bryan Cave has appointed Keith Hardie to the newly created role of director of marketing for Europe. Hardie brings 20 years of marketing communications experience, and was previously head of marketing and communications as well as baseline as commercial director at the international law firm, Bird & Bird.

IAB Hires Buchheim For Multiple Roles

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has hired Dennis Buchheim, who will hold two titles: SVP of data and ad effectiveness and GM of IAB Data Center of Excellence. Buchheim’s responsibilities include developing business cases and executive programs that promote effective advertising. Additionally, he will oversee the education of 3MS (Making Measurement Make Sense), a cross-industry initiative that’s focused on improving measurement, planning and transactions of digital media. Buchheim was most recently Yahoo’s VP of product management for advertising platforms.

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Brand Love And Ads For Dads: 9 Marketing Stats You Shouldn’t Miss

This week we look toward a virtual future, why dads aren’t happy with advertising and what makes a consumer fall in love with brands.

Accept No Substitutions

It’s no secret that Instagram has been “borrowing” elements from Snapchat, but do millennials prefer one platform versus the other? Adweek commissioned a study by Survata to find out and discovered that users aged 13-34 still prefer the original. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said Snapchat is “cooler,” 67 percent said that Snapchat had better features and if they could only have one app, 51.1 percent named the original ghost.

Judging A Book By Its Device

According to a study by PayPal and SuperData, consumers prefer to read on a multi-purpose device rather than a reader alone. Sixty percent of US respondents read eBooks on their tablets, and 66 percent cited they purchase eBooks because they are cheaper than buying a hard copy and they can read it right away. Digital bibliophiles are compulsive, too—42 percent said that they buy or download an eBook immediately after becoming interested in it for the first time.

Sponsored Growth

LinkedIn has released its first quarterly earnings since being purchased by Microsoft and things are looking up. Year-over-year, users grew by 18 percent to 467 million, member page views saw 20 percent growth, and mobile made up more than 60 percent of all traffic to LinkedIn. Total revenue grew 23 percent to $960 million. The real star of this growth is sponsored content, contributing around two-thirds of the site’s $175 million income.

Netflix Feels The Love

When surveyed about which brands they love and why, respondents named Netflix as the most fun. Fitbit, meanwhile was named the most relevant, Apple was loved for its engagement, Facebook for being social and Amazon for being helpful. Overall, digital brands earned more brand love than traditional ones, according to findings in the 2016 Love Index from Accenture Digital.


Don’t Forget Dad

In a survey conducted by Geometry Global, 38 percent of dads don’t believe brands and retailers portray the way they view their role as a parent accurately. While less than 7 percent of advertisements are geared (predominantly) to men, fathers spend 15 percent more than mothers on household supplies and groceries per shopping trip.

It’s A Virtual Future . . .

While the virtual reality industry is expected to grow slowly over the next two years, Greenlight Insights predicts that it will explode across multiple industries to hit $38 billion in revenues by 2026. VR hardware will account for about 61 percent of the revenues in 2026, according to forecasts, and revenues for the 360-degree spherical camera (or VR camera) segment will build to nearly $4.6 billion by 2026.

. . . And Brands Are On Board

By 2020, over a billion people worldwide will regularly access AR and VR content, according to predictions by research firm, IDC. In an attempt to reach this growing demographic, IDC predicts that 30 percent of consumer-facing companies in the Forbes Global 2000 will experiment with AR and VR as part of their marketing efforts in 2017. A large of part of this adoption will be via digital assistants, with over 110 million consumer devices with embedded intelligent assistants installed in US households by 2019.

Mobile Growing, But Not The King Just Yet

Smartphone revenue grew by 65 percent year-over-year according to a study by Adobe Analytics. While mobile is on the rise, desktops and tablets both decreased in sales by two percent. Despite this loss, desktops remain the largest draw for both retailer website traffic and sales, with 59 percent of traffic and 75 percent of revenue.


‘Cuz I’m All About That Face, ‘Bout That Face

In its third quarter 2016 earnings announcement, Facebook revealed that its monthly active users have increased by 16 percent year-over-year, reaching 1.79 billion monthly active users. In addition, the site’s mobile users experienced a 20 percent increase year-over-year reaching 1.66 billion. If you can’t stop scrolling the feed, you’re not alone. Facebook revealed that it now has 1.18 billion daily active users (a 17 percent bump year-over-year) and 1.09 billion mobile daily active users (a 22 percent increase year-over-year).

Inside Bandai Namco’s ‘Tekken 7’ ESports Tournament Takeover

Bandai Namco is wrapping up its latest King of Iron Fist Tournament (KOIFT) 2016 eSports tournament in November with a North American championship event in San Francisco, followed by a global world finals event in Japan in December. The company has used competitive gaming to market Tekken 7 before the game’s official console launch next spring.

Michael Murray, game designer on Tekken 7 at Bandai Namco, told [a]listdaily the KOIFT 2016 has progressed very well.

“Not only did we include some staple fighting game tournaments like Final Round and Evo, but several stops on the Wizard World tour,” Murray said. “The Wizard World stops have seen participation of a different audience that we may not have gotten with just the established tournaments alone. Also, it is quite difficult to plan and execute these large-scale tournaments, so it’s a good experience for our events team to have when we decide to possibly hold events after the launch of the console/PC version. We’re also trying to share this experience with our event teams in other regions so that we may possibly have more events for fans in Europe and Asia as well.”

Mark Religioso, brand manager for Tekken 7 at Bandai Namco, told [a]listdaily that when his team brainstormed what they were going to execute this year, Japan already had the game in arcades and their competitive gaming scene was already big. But that wasn’t the case in the US, where the arcade game was never released.

“We wanted people to get their hands on the game to try it out and play it,” Religioso said. “We wanted to bring awareness for Tekken 7 as we’re preparing for its console launch in 2017.”

Bandai Namco took the competition on the road to 16 different cities. It was free anyone to enter and there was a $3,000 prize pool at each location. In addition to Wizard World conventions, the game was also featured at bigger indie tournaments like Combo Breaker, Final Round, Evo and the Soul Calibur Regionals across North America. Religioso said the circuit allowed Tekken 7 to generate buzz in secondary market cities like Tulsa and Pittsburgh throughout the year.

Bandai Namco worked with sponsors Asus, Hori, Mad Catz and BenQ on this tour. One of Religioso’s goals for eSports this year was to get players sponsored. A few players in the finals are sponsored by different eSports teams, and the game doesn’t officially launch until next year.

“We’re just getting our feet wet in eSports,” Religioso said. “Our goal was to meet the right people and right partners for the post-launch eSports activation. We’re looking at what other publishers are doing and seeing what fans like and don’t like about tours and applying that to next year.”

One positive that Religioso has already seen from the American competition is an even playing field. At Evo, two Americans were featured in the top eight going up against Japanese and Korean talent. One American, Keysmasher from the Midwest, beat the world champion from last year in Evo.


“We have the culmination of our Tekken Tour with the 20 best players throughout North America going head-to-head in San Francisco for $20,000 and a slot in the World Finals in Japan in December where $80,000 will be up for grabs,” Religioso said.

The majority of fighters will be from Korea and Japan, but there will be three finalists from Europe and North America. The event will be streamed on the Tekken Twitch channel in English, Japanese and Korean.

Religioso said not many players are using the same characters in competition, which points to the development team’s work in creating parity among the characters.

“What makes fighting games such a big thing is that it has to be equal for all characters, otherwise no community will support the game,” Religioso said. “There are only a couple of fighting titles up there at the top and the most important thing is solid mechanics.”

That’s something the development team focused on while creating the two arcade versions of Tekken 7 for the new PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 coming next year. Religioso said the team also used the arcade versions, as well as feedback from players during the tournaments, to fine-tune some characters like Asuka, who was overpowering in her first iteration.

“For Tekken 7 we added several gameplay mechanics to make the game not only more exciting to those playing, but for those spectating as well,” Murray said. “Rage Arts and Rage Drive, both extensions of Rage, add a new layer of strategy to the match, while also making the game visually more exciting. The super slow-motion mechanic mentioned earlier is also another example of this influence.”

Murray and producer Katsuhiro Harada have been going to Evo and other competitive events for many years now, so they can see how a game appears to different audiences while on stage and on streams.

“One thing we noticed while watching tournaments, was that Tekken, and perhaps 3D fighters in general, was highly enjoyable for people playing the game and those with knowledge of how the game works, but not so much for your average spectator or someone that is new to the series,” Murray said. “A lot of the action on-screen required knowledge of the moves and characters to see what strategy each player was trying to employ, as well as see when the tide of a match had turned. It’s kind of like boxing or grappling arts, both of which are more enjoyable when the viewer has more knowledge of what is going on on-screen.”

While eSports remains a digital entertainment experience, Religioso believes Tekken 7 could benefit from the recent influx of televised eSports in the US.

“Fighting games are the most relatable game to a casual fan,” Religioso said. “If you see a League of Legends or a Dota 2 match on TV, it’s a little hard to follow and understand,” Religioso said. “Fighting games are almost like watching a boxing match. I think TV is going to be huge. ESPN’s airing of Evo Finals had a bit of mixed reviews. The presentation of the product needs to be presented in more a traditional sports way with storylines about the players and where they came from, the history behind grudge matches. That’s what motivates people to watch, adding that extra layer of content.”

Trion Worlds Expands ‘Rift’ And Strengthens Core Values

Rift is a fantasy MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game) that first launched in 2011 and it is still going strong, thanks in large part to its transition to being a free-to-play game in 2013. It’s a game that seems to only get better with age. The game will soon launch a paid expansion called Starfall Prophecy, which recently started its open beta and will launch on November 16. It includes a host of new content—with a particular focus on the dynamic events Rift is known for.

To learn what it takes to keep an MMO going strong for so many years, [a]listdaily spoke to Trion Worlds CEO, Scott Hartsman, and Rift’s senior design director, Simon Ffinch. The two talk about how players are taking to paying for an expansion to a free-to-play game, and where MMOs fit in today’s world full of online games.

How has Rift changed since it first released in 2011?

[Hartsman]: Trion, in a very realistic way, is the house that Rift built. Rift was our first tentpole—it’s always going to be our spiritual core. I was originally executive producer on the game, so it has always got a special place in my heart. Over time, it has grown tremendously through paid expansions as well as large free updates. The team has created more new world space, new Rift Events, and more new types of dynamic content over the years than I’ve ever seen in another MMO.

[Ffinch]: It’s more than quadruple its original size. I’ve been working on and playing Rift for eight years now, and I still absolutely love it. Echoing what Scott said, it has a very special place in everyone’s hearts here.

How did going free-to-play impact the player base?

[Hartsman]: Free-to-play has been a fantastic way to reignite interest in Rift. We made the transition in mid-2013 and we had a blast of new users that rivaled that of what we got at launch. Without intending to, it was essentially a relaunch of the game. It’s been a fantastic way to continue bringing in new users.

[Ffinch]: It is the ultimate “try before you buy” kind of experience. You can play so much of Rift and never have to pay us anything, but if you find that you really like it and you want to stay, then there’s plenty of opportunities to augment your look and various other things. But all of the content that’s currently in the game today, you can play for free.

How have you managed to sustain a strong player base for so many years?

[Hartsman]: One of the things that Rift hangs its hat on is dynamic content. Rift was one of the first, and is still one of the best at zone-wide and worldwide events and localized dynamic content. If you are going to keep these games alive and healthy into the five, ten and fifteen-year range like the first MMOs, [then] it’s a pretty big investment on our side to make sure the games are competitive—you have to be willing to make it.

Can you describe what the Starfall Prophecy expansion is about?

[Ffinch]: In a nutshell, there’s a big comet that’s been traveling through space and the planes, and it has gathered all sorts of bits and pieces to itself. That’s where the players are going to go: essentially five new zones. They’re absolutely gorgeous; I think our artists managed to notch up the look of Rift.

So, five gorgeous new zones, more new systems than you can shake a stick at, [along with] tons of content and thousands of hours of gameplay for players to sink their teeth into. In fact, at a recent show, people were looking at Starfall Prophecy and asked, “hey, when is this game coming out?” They were looking at it, and it looks competitive with games that are coming out today even though it’s six years old. We were pretty proud of that.

Why have a paid expansion for a free-to-play game, and how are fans taking to it?                                                                                                      

[Hartsman]: In general, I think very well. In order to have a super-successful free-to-play game, a lot of the time what you’ll see are features that you might not get access to without extended grinding. Or you’ll see a lot of consumables that need to be paid for in order to experience the game in an optimal way. Rift doesn’t really have elements like that. While free-to-play was a natural fit for some of the elements, it wasn’t for others. For example, the last expansion we did was a free expansion, but obviously, there were things that we charged for. What we essentially did was give away all of the real estate and the things that we charged for were things like new equipment slots or new storage space for gear.

What we found was that, even though it was financially successful, it wasn’t something that the core players were interested in. We found ourselves at odds with our own customer base a lot more than we liked—we don’t ever want to be at odds with our customers. So, what we thought was, “if you guys are interested in a flat and even playing field for an expansion, without us having to do things like sell you access to new equipment slots, the let’s just make it a flat buy to play again.”

The reaction has been generally very positive, because it’s a very easy-to-digest thing of buying the expansion and getting the standard set of things they’re used to with an expansion as opposed to us potentially creating negative surprises. We were trying to make this about positive sentiment as much as possible.

[Ffinch]: The way I look at it is that it’s a continuation of our philosophy with Rift since day one, which is listening and collaborating with our players. We’ve done many things in conjunction and in reaction to what they were saying. This is just another thing that we heard after we released our last expansion, and we’re trying to address their concerns. We will continue to listen to them, and so far—as Scott said—things seem very positive, and we haven’t even launched the expansion yet.

[Hartsman]: I’m a big believer in that business models can’t be a religion, like many companies take them as. You can tell if a business model is good when it fits the team, the product and the audience. For this game, this team and this audience at this time, this is definitely the right call.


Are there concerns that a premium update will divide the audience?

[Hartsman]: That is always a concern, and it’s something that we’re going to keep an eye on. We can see the data of what adoption looks like every day and because of our platform, we can do things like gifting or create other incentives. [Or] we can add other features to make sure players can always play together. One of the great things about Rift’s dynamic content layer is that it’s global to the entire game. So, there will always be ways to play with your friends.

With so many multiplayer games available now, including MOBAs and online role-playing games such as The Division, what space do MMOs occupy in the gaming space now?

[Hartsman]: I think what you’re seeing in a lot of games is that a lot of people are noticing changes and you see that reflected in what they’re implementing in their games. When you look across culturally, what you find is that back when MMOs were first born, people used them as ways to make friends online. They were ways to connect with people across the world, and you’re banding together and doing things for long periods of time, filling a real social need.

Today, we’re in the era where the entire world’s population is online. Everyone already has contact with essentially everyone they’ve ever met through things like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and so on. So, the role of MMOs have had to adapt over time. The way it has adapted is by having more types of drop-in/drop-out content. In order to stay relevant, the content needs to remain increasingly accessible and in consumable size chunks that people are interested in investing in.

rift_40website_monsters_005b[Ffinch]: I think MMOs have always, even in the old days, been about providing a wide variety of experiences. So, you have something quick for somebody who may only have half an hour to play versus people who want a three or four-hour raid. You have to make sure there’s something for both groups of players.

[Hartsman]: One of things that’s true about the state of MMOs today is that despite the fact that a lot of us talk about short-play content, what we still find—whether it’s Destiny, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy or one of our six games—is that there are people that want to play these games for extended periods of time. They just want to be in more control over how that time is spent. It’s up to all of us as developers to find ways to give it to them.

How is Rift reaching out to new players in the millennial generation?

[Hartsman]: We actually don’t target young audiences for any of our games. Even for games like Trove, the largest groups of people that we see tend to be in the 17-35 age group. Some of the more classic games have growing audiences of older gamers. What we’re seeing is that we have this generation of people that grew up with games and they’re not stopping gaming when they get older. When we look across games in general, the largest and most rapidly growing groups of gamers are females 50 and over. As the world’s populace gets online, they turn into gamers. I think you’re artificially limiting yourself if you’re solely trying to create games for the kids.

When you end up with too many games that are aiming for the kids, you end up with a glut of certain game types. I think MOBAs are an excellent example to use, where too many different games all went after what they thought was a salient audience, and suddenly you end up with three or four survivors with twenty shutting down. I think you have to be careful to not always try to chase what’s going to be cool next, because you’re going to make yourself a flash in the pan. We’ve proven that our games and our types of games have staying power well beyond what most people would expect.

How Volvo Is Approaching Virtual, Augmented And Mixed Reality Marketing

Customers encounter and explore vehicles in a variety of ways, and virtual and augmented reality is increasingly becoming a go-to option for car companies to introduce their cavalcade of vehicles.

Last year Volvo joined the growing list of auto manufacturers that are planting company flags in the immersive experiences space by announcing a partnership with Microsoft HoloLens to reimagine the car-buying experience.

Volvo’s union with Microsoft added a completely new layer to customized commerce and showrooming. The next-level marketing is designed to portray a human-centric approach, all while leading to new sales opportunities for the car maker to capitalize on.

Brace yourselves . . . virtual showrooms are coming. And why shouldn’t they? US car dealers spend $2.75 billion annually on interest to keep new vehicles on their lots, per Bloomberg, so brands reconfiguring medieval sales concepts in order to save a boatload of bullion is imperative. Can you remember the last time you got giddy about spending a splendid Saturday stopping at one dealer after another? Now you can have the dealerships come to you.

BMW, MazdaKia and Ford, among others, realize this, and are exercising their AR and VR muscle for marketing, training and research and development because the technology will not be driving off into the sunset anytime soon.

An October study says that the automotive AR market will grow steadily at a compound annual growth rate of almost 18 percent by 2020. The increased use of heads up display (HUD) in low-and-medium-range cars is largely the reason. An August report by ABI Research indicates that by 2025, more than 15 million AR HUDs will ship, with more than 11 million to be embedded solutions.

Bruno Renhult, Volvo’s senior manager of artificial reality, joined [a]listdaily to discuss the car company’s strategy in the space.


How is Volvo using VR and AR technology toward research and development?

Artificial reality presents seemingly endless cases of usage possibilities. In addition to what it opens up from a communication and marketing perspective, we’re paying attention to training, design, research and development, and other defined areas with large potential. In these areas we’re able to get a completely different dimension, in both how to teach but also, and importantly, how you are able to interact with what you learn. The same applies from a design and development perspective. By utilizing VR and AR technologies, you can experience the results directly through scalable 3D models in a real physical environment. Several people have the possibility to interact simultaneously with exactly the same object from different geographical locations if desired. Given the broad applications and potential benefits, this is an area we’re definitely experimenting with and testing out at the moment.

How was Volvo’s partnership with Microsoft HoloLens received by consumers? Looking back at it now, what worked well?

Our partnership with Microsoft and their HoloLens technology got us positive comments and attention from our peers on social platforms and in the media community. Mixed reality (MxR), as in HoloLens, has the advantage that you can mix reality and real objects with digital content at the same time as you’re also interacting with other people; this in the same room or other physical locations. In this set up, you can conduct yourself to the physical space/room in a completely different way than in VR where you must ‘track’ where you are and replicate any physical objects digitally. Over many other VR platforms, HoloLens also has the advantage of being completely wireless, and this combination gave us good leverage to put our products and features in front of our audience and potential customers, when launching the Volvo S90 and V90.

How is Volvo positioning the company for the future with immersive experiences?

We take this ‘new’ technology very seriously. In the same way we’ve encountered and worked with emerging technology in the past, we’re taking our approach and applying it to immersive experiences. As a company, as a brand, we’re open-minded, we’re agile and we’ve worked this way before. We can use our learnings and the structure we’ve applied to earlier technologies; building, testing, experimenting, to uncover new methods and applications. It’s easy to jump in this new area and pick the ‘low-hanging fruit,’ but how do we take this where it’s never been taken before? That’s where you find the outstanding, innovative experiences. You need to live with it for a while, to find the structure, processes and resourcing, and all the while not get distracted by this and take the chance to move past the generic to the exceptional. Perhaps specifically in this field, the difference and the need to approach this somewhat differently lies in the speed and scale at which things are developing. This in itself places fresh demands on how we need to act to be able to not just stay on top of things, but to lead and break new ground.


How will AR and VR change the car-buying process in the future? What are virtual showrooms/dealerships in a briefcase capable of accomplishing for car manufacturers?

It will scale things to a different level compared to today and offer accessibility to product experience that was not possible before. This opens up possibilities for our competitors also, of course. I believe we will also experience new challenges in how to compete, and break through the ever increasing media and content buzz to reach and engage potential customers and get their full attention.

Aside from HoloLens in 2015 and Google Cardboard in 2014, how else is Volvo using AR and VR for its marketing campaigns moving forward?

It is difficult to predict future applications, especially where we already see virtually endless possibilities with artificial reality technology. So far we have mainly used the technology to offer existing and potential customers the ability to experience and learn about our products in new and innovative ways. We have used it primarily as a supplement in places or sales channels where it’s difficult to demonstrate or test drive a real product. We did it for the launch of the 2014 Volvo XC90 on the Beta version of the Oculus Rift, as well as Google Cardboard, and the 2016 Volvo S90/V90 with HoloLens. Given their complexity, our product, its systems, functions and services can be difficult to grasp and fully understand through more traditional tools, manuals and information sharing methods. Here we see a great potential to overcome these obstacles with the help of VR, AR and MxR experiences throughout the consumer experience from purchase journey to ownership and beyond. Anything we can do to simplify for people, to create more engaging and effective experiences, will be beneficial.

Why is it important for brands to be at the forefront of these emerging technologies?

Brands need to do more than just be at the forefront. We, as creators, need to make good experiences and initiatives—period. Of course, doing things fast and early has PR value that translates to reach and communication impact, but we need to know why we’re doing this for consumers and to act with purpose. Innovation is so often jumping in and locking in to a specific new technology. But what’s the story? Where can we achieve bringing that story to life for our customers in a more relevant way, in a more impactful way? Taking a human-centric approach to emerging technologies will make it actionable—not just elevating the consumer experience, but producing business results.

Why is VR the major trend of the future? What does it enable that other tech simply can’t?

It is how it interacts with you as a human on both a physical and psychological level. Your brain interprets a premium VR-experience as the real deal in the way that you get a totally immersed experience. Your brain thinks it’s real and you experience it as real. To blur that boundary is a truly exciting and powerful thing. Done well, it has the potential to open us up to visceral, emotionally charged experiences that tap into how our brains work; how we receive and process information. That’s experiential. Commercial purposes aside, this can impact us on a human level. Beyond the technical perfection in the VR experience, it’s how it made you feel. That’s the difference compared to any other media experience so far and why it has the potential to be a game changer.

What kind of a role will VR have in auto industry in five years?

I personally believe it will play a central role and become a tool in our daily work. The excitement of invention is that we can sort of imagine how it will be applied, but we don’t know which executions will become reality. We’re humble in the face of the possibilities. In the past, we’ve been able to predict where certain emerging tech will lead, but I believe that with VR, it’s such a powerful tool, we can’t even imagine. That’s the thrill and I definitely believe the auto industry will be along for this journey.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Astro Gaming Delivers An ESports-Grade Audio Experience

Astro Gaming recently launched the newest version of the A50 wireless gaming headset, and it promises to deliver the best audio experience a gamer can get.

Technical product manager at Astro Gaming, James Lang, explains that there are two new versions of the A50: one for the PlayStation 4/PC and the other for Xbox One/PC. Both include a base station for charging, and the A50 itself has about 15 hours of battery life. The included base station (which can be purchased separately) has battery status and headset mode indicators, and complements the Astro Command software suite, which lets users customize their presets and equalizer settings.

Additionally, the base station accepts multiple audio inputs and combines it into one stream, which helps console gamers put their content onto video services such as YouTube or Twitch without needing additional audio equipment. Other features include microphone settings to optimize for home gaming tournaments or streaming, but the A50 cannot be used at eSports tournaments because rules prohibit wireless headsets.

James Lang, Astro Gaming

The A50 also includes one of Astro’s signature features: support for mod kits. The headset has a removable headband and ear cups, which can be switched out for customized versions. But unlike models such as the A40 TR, the A50 does not support customizable headphone tags to show off support for artists or brands. The A50 currently has one mod kit at launch—black leather ear cups for improved noise isolation—but more are expected to release sometime in the future. Astro Gaming has worked with publishers to create game-branded mods for its headsets before, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the company were to do it again with the A50.

Although the A50 and Astro Command software has many tools for streamers to use, Lang explains that the headset is still targeted for the broad gaming audience.

“I think there’s a lot of crossover now,” Lang said. “A lot of people who are streaming are also just hardcore gamers. Anyone who has the desire for the best audio experience in their homes is our target user.”

With developers such as EA putting increased emphasis on home tournaments, we asked Lang whether this approach was impacting the way Astro approached headset design and promotion. “We’ve always had a focus on eSports and pro gaming,” Lang replied. He discussed how the company got its start ten years ago in the Halo pits by offering efficient communications solutions so that players wouldn’t have to wear a hodgepodge of different devices.

“We’re one of the first companies to take eSports and pro gaming seriously, so that’s always been in our DNA. Everything we do is focused at that consumer, the aspiring home pro, or streamer,” he said.

Since pro-teams can’t use the A50 in tournaments, we asked if that posed additional challenges to promoting it compared to Astro’s other headsets. Lang said, “I don’t think so. We’re a pro gaming company through-and-through.” The A50 uses much of the same technology as last year’s A40 TR, but wireless. “It takes all of those pro elements and puts it in a more user-friendly, wireless environment.”


Lang also discussed how Astro engaged with current fans by taking their needs into consideration when designing the new headset. Astro took all feedback it received over the past five years to help design a headset from the ground up. While the iconic design of the Astro headset remains relatively unchanged, the internal technology was rebuilt for a truly superior audio experience.

Astro continues to stand out from the competition using a “laser-focus on who our consumer is,” Lang explained. “We have a lot of respect for pro gaming, and we have a lot of pro gamers in the office. So, we pay lot of attention to what their needs are and we deliver on it without a lot of gimmicks. That’s always been our ethos; solve the problems that pro gamers have, then those solutions tend to work for lots of different people.”

Lang compared Astro’s pedigree in pro gaming to how Porsche and Ferrari have pedigrees in pro racing.

A significant percentage of Astro’s audience is comprised of aspiring pro gamers. When asked what he thought the difference was between a pro gamer and gaming enthusiast, Lang replied “Dedication. People in all walks of life may have the talent, but not the drive. Or they don’t have or want to spend ten hours a day [practicing].” Lang added that most of what it boils down to is the question: “Are you going to put in the practice necessary to make it?”


Promotional videos and streams can only go so far when conveying an audio experience. So how does Astro get gamers to try on its headsets to fully understand the experience? “That’s a big challenge for us,” Lang said. “That’s why we go to so many events. We’re always at PAX and we were at Rooster Teeth this year, and we will be in the future.”

Astro Gaming has been the official headset at PAX events for the past few years. At events, the company partners with a variety of game developers and studios to showcase their games at their booths because “they understand that their game shows better when it’s using good audio.” Astro has also worked with developers to create custom presets for their games.

“Once you get them on someone’s head, 90 percent of the time, people get it,” Lang added. “It clicks immediately, and I honestly think using a headset is better than using a surround sound system, especially with first-person shooters and games that have audio cues. You’re much more in tune with the positional cues than you are with a surround sound system.”

When asked how Astro approached audio design for uses outside of gaming, such as movies and music, Lang said, “As long as you create a good audio experience, it should be compatible across whatever media you’re listening to.”

So, what are the critical elements to a high-end audio experience? “Comfort,” said Lang. “It starts with comfort. If it’s not comfortable, it doesn’t really matter how good it sounds, because you’re not going to want to wear it. Then it’s just tuning the audio to get it just right.”

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 for more info.

Super League Gaming CEO Details ‘League Of Legends’ Amateur ESports Strategy

Super League Gaming is adding Riot Games’ League of Legends to its national network of movie theater video game competition. The startup will continue to offer team-based Minecraft leagues, which are entering their fifth season. But it’s adding two new ways for amateur and everyday gamers to experience League of Legends within a structured environment in select Cinemark and other movie theaters across the country.

“We’ve always had a strategy to expand into other genres of games and to start to create larger gaming communities with different levels of play,” Ann Hand, CEO of Super League Gaming, told [a]listdaily.

Super League began conversations with Riot Games last year, after which they attended several in-theater events.

Super League Gaming LA Shockwaves

“They like the notion of bringing their community into theaters, and at the same time providing something the community wanted with a more competitive league structure,” Hand said. “It’s like a mini LCS (League Championship Series) in theaters. It also provides an opportunity for more casual players to make more friends (in person) to play with online.”

Super League is introducing its City Champs five-week league structure this year with four inaugural teams: Los Angeles Shockwaves, Miami Menace, Chicago Force and Dallas Dynamite. Hand said by next fall that number will grow to 20 cities. She expects to have as many as 12 cities competing by Q1 2017.

“We’re looking at cities based around where Riot’s community is and where they’re craving more interaction,” Hand said. “We’re also looking at major metros. Riot helped us pick the initial 20 cities, but we have four additional cities slots that are open, so gaming communities can tell us where to roll out.”

Optimized for hardcore fans who aren’t currently good enough for Riot Games’ Champions Series or LCS, City Champs players must be at least level 30 and age 16 years or older to compete.

In each market, Super League Gaming will review individual player sign-ups and invite selected players to compete for spots on each official team. Each player will pay $80 per league and receive a City Champs jersey. Teams will compete for a trophy.

Each team will be comprised of 60 players divided into 12 teams of five. These 12 teams will compete against other city teams in livestreamed competition over the course of a season. Each event will run for two hours.

Players will compete on League Unlocked, a new partner program from Riot that unlocks every champion, an assortment of skins and elevated Influencer Points (IP) and Experience Points (XP) earnings when playing at the theater.

Just as they do for Minecraft competition, each player will bring in their PC to play on within the movie theater environment.

“We have specific PC requirements to ensure a level playing experience,” Hand said. “We bring in broadband to the theater to have optimal performance on the network side. When you walk into these events we’ve created more of an experiential environment. We want to send a message to gamers that Super League is a real premium experience and something different than you can play online.”

Hand said Riot Games is excited to see the level of quality of play that comes out of City Champs, where different amateur players will be tested in these local physical competitions.

“We hope to see over time this becoming a launch pad into a bigger eSports career,” Hand said. “There’s also an opportunity to find local casters in each community who are starting to develop on their career path and that could be an interesting way to make the content more robust. We’ll be organic about it, but there are ways to make the content compelling for someone to view online.”

Following the rollout of City Champs this fall, players from all skill levels will be invited to participate in City Rec in early 2017. Styled after the pick-up basketball gameplay, Hand said pricing will range from $15-to-$20 and include premium offerings like League Unlocked.

Unlike City Champs, which caps each team at 60, Hand said there’s no limitation on the number of five-man teams they create for City Rec. She believes 60-to-80 players will be the optimal setting for Rec Play, although some theaters will hold 100-to-120 people.

“We’ll be testing those events in January and rolling out City Rec at a clip going forward,” Hand said. “The premise is to speak to the more casual gamer seeking new ways to make new social connections.”

Both City Champs and City Rec open new opportunities for sponsors, but the focus now for Super League is on getting everything right.

“Most millennial brands have money to speak to young social gamers and the challenge is how to get to them,” Hand said. “We know this is a huge opportunity, but it’s important to make sure we have a compelling offer for these players that’s providing a premium experience. If we can execute on that and have a high gaming satisfaction, there will be other opportunities for sponsors down the road.”

Also further down the road, Hand believes some cinema partners may think about turning one or two theaters inside the multiplex into a dedicated 24/7 gaming space.

“We’ve talked about in the future if this auditorium is a gaming arena, there’s no reason we couldn’t design them in a way so they have the right seating and desks available and even getting into laptops and equipment,” Hand said. “Right now we’ve done over 1,000 Minecraft events and players are comfortable bringing their own laptops and gear.”

This partnership announcement comes on the heels of new funding, including $5 million led by aXiomatic from Peter Guber and Ted Leonsis.

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 for more info.

Live Like Lara: Square Enix Offers ‘Tomb Raider’ Survival Training

Celebrating the launch of Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration Edition, Crystal Dynamics is getting into the adventurous spirit by instilling a bit of Lara Croft’s survival skills in its fans.

The developer has teamed up with Cliff Hodges’ Adventure Out to host Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration survival training. This one-time event will have 35 participants head into the wilderness of Boulder Creek, California for five hours of survival training that includes fire-by-friction, constructing earthen shelters, collecting and purifying water and making a bundle bow for hunting food. For those who wish to channel their inner hunter-gatherer, sorry to say, but a BBQ lunch will be provided.

The event will take place on November 12 in Northern California’s Santa Cruz mountains to get would-be survivalists immersed in the beautiful yet potentially deadly setting of the latest Tomb Raider adventure. Fans will be joined by NatGeo Remote Survival host Cliff Hodges and crew as well as members of Crystal Dynamics’ Rise of the Tomb Raider development team, and a number of guests from news outlet IGN.

Teams will be paired with Crystal Dynamics staff and receive points for activities and challenges, with the winning team earning a “rare” prize. All attendees will receive Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration branded giveaways at the end of the class. To mark the release of the PlayStation 4 Pro, all participants will be entered in a raffle to win the console and a copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration.

The game, which released October 11, includes additional content like classic Lara Croft skins, a VR experience and a zombie-fighting mode called Lara’s Nightmare.

Crystal Dynamic’s survival event is just one of many ways the developer is celebrating its most famous video game heroine. Throughout the year, the developer has hosted fan-centered events around E3 and PAX, hosted a scavenger hunt, gave away a Jeep Wrangler and even filmed a documentary around the series’ soundtrack, culminating in a live concert.

Carl’s Jr. Sponsored A Livestream With Twitch’s First Live Ads

News and lifestyle publisher Vice has just unveiled Waypoint, a dedicated site to the world of gaming. To celebrate, Vice hosted a “72 games in 72 hours” marathon over Twitch, during which it tried something a bit unorthodox courtesy of Carl’s Jr.—live advertising.

Rather than use traditional pre-, mid- or post-roll advertising, Waypoint’s “big hello to the world” acted out skits live on the air featuring “Happy Star,” the mascot for Hardy’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants. This was the first time live ads have been produced in a Twitch stream. Happy Star was seen doing odd things around the Vice offices, much to the delight of viewers who even shared on-the-spot fan art during the event.

“Everyone was truly surprised at how positive the instant feedback was,” Brandon LaChance, director of advertising for CKE Restaurants, told Adweek after the stream.

Although this is the first time the fast food restaurant chain has featured live advertisements, it is no stranger to the appeal of gaming livestreams. Last October, Carl’s Jr. hosted a two-hour event on Twitch as part of its #UltimateCarePackage campaign, where guests played Call of Duty Black Ops III and ate Carl’s Jr. burgers.

With ad-blocking on the rise, Twitch and other outlets are forced to get creative for the millennial audience—a high-spending, enthusiastic and story-driven demographic that is rather short on attention span.

To combat this, Twitch is rolling out a native ad platform that ignores automatic ad-skipping software. CKE Restaurants, who owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardy’s, calls their demographic “young, hungry guys,” so partnering with the brand that appeals to this audience is organic.

Live advertising offered the brand real-time interaction and metrics associated with the livestream—something fast food chains have been playing with on Facebook Live.

Now that the livestream is over, Carl’s Jr. and Hardy’s will take the popular Happy Star segments and edit them into short-form content for further distribution on other platforms.

Facebook, Google, Nintendo And More VR, AR Coming To Unity Platform

Unity Technologies returned to Los Angeles for its second conference in eight months to announce another round of partnerships for their development platform, this time with the likes of Facebook, Google and Nintendo, among others, to increase their reach across mobile, console as well as virtual and augmented reality gaming.

Facebook, who previously procured a partnership with Unity in August that enabled creators using the platform’s game-making engine to publish on the social network, revealed its new dedicated PC gaming platform in Facebook Gameroom and announced open beta access of their export-to-Facebook feature in Unity Editor to all Unity developers.

Google, who was one of the several dozen exhibitors at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, took the Unite LA stage to announce a Nov. 10 street date for Google Daydream. Google also announced that the Daydream Home storefront will feature the ability to promote deep-linked content for easier discovery of new apps and new experiences in the existing product.

Nintendo’s first game made specifically for smartphones—Super Mario Run—was made possible with Unity’s to engine and development tool. It’s due for a December release. That relationship will further be cemented down the line with Unity’s support of the Nintendo Switch leading up to its March 2017 launch.

Unity, who enjoyed nearly 5 billion downloads of Made with Unity mobile games in Q3 alone, continued to keep VR and AR to its core principles by revealing numerous updates and features to support creators in their respective spaces, including: a completely new video player; a new version of its EditorVR authoring tool; open beta for Unity Connect, a talent marketplace dedicated to Unity enthusiasts, game developers and VR/AR creators; a native integration for AR platform Vuforia to support and accelerate new content creation.

[a]listdaily sat down with Clive Downie, Unity’s chief marketing officer responsible for global strategies and tactics in customer marketing, product marketing and e-commerce, to discuss their latest announcements.

Clive Downie, CMO of Unity

What is the strategy Unity used while forming the partnerships with Facebook, Nintendo and Google? What direction are you headed in now?

We have a stated principle that we like to remind the world anytime we have the stage—and it’s one of our three stated principles in democratizing development. What you see is us bringing developers who choose to make things on Unity out to the widest possible audience. What you’re seeing is additional ways to bring Unity developers to new people.

Earlier this year, Unity and Facebook teamed up to support game developers. What does it mean for developers to have access to this new PC platform?

The distribution power of Facebook is unmatched. Their ability to put games in front of the right people at the right time is a powerful thing. They have a very large-scaled audience and that gives them an opportunity to have a broad cross section of gaming fans. That’s a really exciting thing for Unity developers to tap into. Not just that scale, but imagine the data Facebook has around ‘interest’ and ‘social groups’ to match people up with the right games. It’s just another exciting distribution channel.

How will the Facebook PC platform differ from the likes of Steam? 

Steam is very good at doing certain things. It has a specific customer base. They have their early access program, which has had a lot of success among gamers and game makers alike. It allows game makers to put their earlier versions of the product in front of groups of people in order to get feedback. In a world where you want to make your product better, that program is very important, and is a powerful thing. What Facebook gives is reach and a level of targeting that only Facebook can provide. Both of them are complimentary in the ecosystem of PC gaming. Choice is good.

Valley, "The Outsiders"
Valley, “The Outsiders”

You previously used influencers to help share the Unity story. What have you learned from your campaigns?

We created Made With Unity as a sub-brand to allow us to bring stories to life of great creators making great things. What we want to do is raise the profile of people who are choosing to use Unity. We’ll work with them to bring their stories to life in marketing materials. In doing so, we allow people who might be researching, or wavering, to identify with us better. The Outsiders is a perfect example of this initiative.

Earlier this month Unity announced that it was bringing its VR/AR summit to Beijing. How is the Chinese market impacting VR? And how do you see it growing? 

The Chinese market impacting VR is really no different from how they impact other consumer products and industries. The Chinese market is consuming VR in ever-increasing numbers. The appetite is large in the country. You’re seeing major announcements about VR gaming centers to the tunes of tens and thousands. HTC also recently announced a big investment cycle there around bringing VR to thousands of city centers. Also, local manufacturers in China are already creating mobile VR headsets. When you think about Unity’s desire to open new markets for developers who are using our platform, we’re very excited about that opportunity.

Timoni West, principal designer at Unity Labs, demonstrating the platform’s tools.

Has Unity seen a huge uptick in VR development now that all three of the major headsets are on the market?

I don’t have specific data, but there are ever-increasing numbers of developers creating AR and VR products. It’s only accelerating.

Unity is responsible for countless titles. Are you considering making games yourself in the future? Is there a plan to self-publish one day? 

No. We are not a game developer, nor are we an app store. We’re very happy focusing on making great products and tools for people to make great things. Our focus has always been on making it a tool. That’s what we do, and that’s what we specialize in. We are humbled that people choose to use Unity, and agnostic as a company enough to broker great deals with people. Thirty percent of mobile games in the world—and growing—use Unity, and 70 percent of VR creators use Unity. If you add Unity spending time, effort and money making games to that mix, you have to ask ‘why would we do that?’ We leave it to the experts in making games.

What is the message behind the Unity Connect talent marketplace all about?

We’re fortunate enough to have a large number of developers use Unity globally. A couple of truths persist in that ecosystem. In the indie world, people are not good at everything. You might be a great coder, but not a good artist. Rather than having to forge forward with sub-optimal stuff, you can browse through the Unity community to see if others are available for micro-jobs. Imagine browsing through hundreds of people’s projects and going, ‘yeah, I want you to work on my project.’ It’s a great way to create jobs and connect people with others who are better than you in certain disciplines.

How do you make Unity stand out from a consumer-facing standpoint? Where do you see yourselves from that lens?

Consumers aren’t our market. That being said, we do think there is a job to be done around marketing the discovery of great games. That might move us more into a consumer-facing place. When we think about our role, one of them is enabling success for our developers. One of the key areas to enable success, and one that no one is doing, is to solve discovery. As we start to deliver against that more, we might have more of a presence in the consumer world.

How do you envision the VR market developing moving forward?

We strongly believe that sometime between now and 10 years from now, a billion people a day will tune into some form of VR activity. VR radically changes how you use your time. It makes your life better. That’s a true statement. Next year, we’ll continue answering ‘what’s VR going to be used for? How is it going to make life better?’ It’s going to be another year of solving problems and asking the questions. I’ll tell you now—game’s will be a component of what people will do in VR, but VR is going to have a part to play in education, healthcare, design, travel, retail and other verticals. VR has something for everyone, and it’s found its place in the consumer ecosystem.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan