‘Resident Evil 7’ Producer Digs Into The Roots Of The Franchise

After expanding beyond survival horror into globe-trotting action, Capcom has gone back to its roots with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. The January 24 release for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR (PSVR) and Xbox One introduces a brand new storyline set in Louisiana. The game also offers a first-person perspective of the scares, which takes the immersion up a level, especially with the PSVR version of the game.

Masachika Kawata, Resident Evil series producer, has been working on this franchise from the very beginning. [a]listdaily caught up with Kawata at Sony’s recent PlayStation Experience event to find out how the franchise has evolved since the original game launched in 1996, and what’s in store for fans in the newest chapter.

What were your goals heading into Resident Evil 7?

Our primary goal was making sure we had a numbered flagship Resident Evil title on next generation hardware and really making sure that we were going back to our survival horror roots and offering the most immersive experience possible.

Can you talk a little bit about going back to the roots of the franchise and what that means for Resident Evil?

If you look at the history of Resident Evil, we’ve evolved the franchise after every three titles. This actually isn’t intentional. It’s kind of lined up with the changing of the game industry and the changing of the times. We felt that the franchise has moved forward in a more action-oriented direction and we figured this would be a perfect opportunity to take RE7 and really go back to our roots—revisit them and rethink what it means.

What did the first-person perspective open up from a horror storytelling standpoint?

The fact that you’re not able to see a character from a distance. You’re actually kind of in the experience yourself. You’re more simulating an experience. That’s something that we were able to take and offer a more intimate story experience.

Louisiana is known as a very haunted place. What inspiration did that setting open up for you creatively?

In terms of the vision that we were going for in with the overall background and the environment, we felt that the setting of Louisiana really meshed well with our vision for our next title.

Did you do any type of research trips down there and stay at any haunted places as inspiration?

I personally was not able to go out to Louisiana, but other staff members went and were able to get a lot of data that we were able to incorporate into the game. Not only were they able to get a lot of different shots of the scenery, they were able to experience a lot of the wilderness as well.

Where do you draw inspiration from when it comes to horror and what scares you?

In terms of general inspirations for entertainment as a whole, we draw a lot of inspiration from movies. As a great example, we definitely drew a lot of inspiration from Evil Dead, and a lot of classic horror titles that we grew up with for the development team as a whole. For me personally, when developing this game, I tapped into just the fear of death. That’s a fear that anyone can relate to and Resident Evil offers you the opportunity to figure out a way to escape death, fight back against your adversary and try to survive one more second. So that was definitely something that we took into account with developing this title—to make sure that that element of fear is definitely there, and a lot of the players still find a means to escape.

How do you go about creating new creatures and adversaries?

In terms of the process of coming up with a new adversary, the first thing that we always want to think of is what kind of experience do we want to offer the user. From there, we ask the question, “How do we offer that experience to the user?” And the easiest way of offering that experience is through some kind of tangible adversary. Then we think about what unique aspects does he have? How do they offer these terrifying experiences? That’s the very general means of how we come up with the enemies in our games.

Does the element of cannibalism, which is part of this new game, scare you?

The conversation of cannibalism is definitely taboo for a human society, so I’m definitely scared of the idea and I think most people are as well. But it’s something that adds to the level of these characters—you’re not really quite sure what they’re going to do. It’s another level of unpredictability that they have. . . the fact that they are unstable and that they’re a little bit distant from regular social norms. That really adds to that little extra attention to the horror that these characters offer. One thing I want to make clear is that cannibalism isn’t necessarily the main theme of this title.

What impact did having a Western writer involved in working with you have on the story, especially with the setting being in Louisiana?

The base script was still written by the Japanese development team. The benefit of having a Western writer come in was the fact that we were able to make sure that it fit within Western norms a little bit better, to make sure that dialogue flowed a little bit better. It’s a little more natural. It’s things that people would actually say, so it adds to that realism that we were really trying to strive for.

Nielsen Weighs In On The Year’s Top Video Game Trends

We take one final look back before celebrating the New Year. [a]listdaily speaks to Nicole Pike, director of games at Nielsen, to talk about the past year’s biggest gaming trends and how they might impact what’s to come in 2017.

Nicole Pike, director of games, Nielsen
Nicole Pike, director of games, Nielsen

What were some of this year’s biggest trends and developments in console gaming?

First and foremost, the biggest news of the year was the mid-generation console updates. Sony put out the PlayStation 4 Pro, Microsoft released the Xbox One S and announced Project Scorpio for 2017, and it’s the first time we’ve ever seen that happen within console lifetimes. It mimics the smartphone or Apple approach, where we don’t need to wait for a big new release, but manufacturers are starting to think about upgrades and keeping up with technology over the course of an existing system instead of letting it run its course over seven or eight years. The PS4 Pro had some very good sales over the holiday and the Xbox One S did very well, so I think it’ll be very interesting to see how Scorpio does next year. It’s a very different way of doing things on the console side.

Were you surprised by how well consumers took to these mid-generation hardware upgrades?

Yes and no. I think any time something new is happening, there’s always a little bit of skepticism around it, and I can see some consumers being frustrated by the fact that they bought a new console a couple of years ago, and may feel obsolete. There was definitely some skepticism going in, but at the same time, we all know that there’s a strong audience that bought the Xbox One and PS4 right when they released, and those are a committed group of consumers that are always buying the latest console technology. So, I think the opportunity for such a tech savvy group to upgrade was just the kind of product they were looking for. It’ll be interesting to see, in the next couple of years, how the sales of the Pro versus PS4 (original) and Scorpio versus Xbox One S compare to each other with later adopters.

What do you think was this year’s biggest console game?

overwatch-sombraOverwatch, for a number of reasons, but mainly because it speaks to the idea that a game can be built from the ground up with eSports heavily in mind. It’s definitely a new trend that speaks to the importance of eSports within the category these days, but also the ability to bring out a new IP. Existing and annual franchises definitely dominate the console space, so with games like Overwatch and Destiny do well, we’re seeing some strong opportunities for new IPs to make place in the console industry—which is exciting, especially for consumers. Call of Duty still did well over the holidays, maybe not necessarily as strong as everyone would have thought, but Overwatch put new life into the console industry.

[The huge success of Overwatch] is probably the exception rather than the norm. Obviously, it takes a lot of money—especially for a new IP—on both the development side and marketing to compete with the stalwart franchises we have on the console space. While a company like Blizzard has the opportunity to make a big splash, I think it capitalized on the eSports trend. It just came at a really good time when there was an opportunity to expand past the five or six titles that dominate eSports today by jumping that trend while it was on the rise, which created more excitement and acceptance of it. But it also provided some innovations and changed up first-person shooters in a way that a lot of titles haven’t.

How did Nintendo do this year?

Nintendo had an interesting year in that they decided to cut things off with the Wii U and coming out quickly with Switch. Then there’s also the NES Classic Edition, which seemed to be a surprise for them. Pokémon GO isn’t console, but it made Nintendo more top-of-mind after what happened with Wii U. It’s been a transitional year for Nintendo, and they did a good job staying relevant. We’ll see how that carries over to the Switch launch.

Nintendo’s entry into the mobile market was long overdue, in the sense that they had some extremely logical IPs that were a great fit with a mobile audience. I think the fact that they finally jumped into the space was exciting for everyone and breathed some new life into mobile. A lesson we can learn is that strong IP can do well in the mobile space, and we’ll probably see more people leverage the IPs that they already have to make a big splash on mobile.

How do you think the first year of VR has gone?

I think it went about as well as expected. One of the big things about VR, if we take away devices like Google Cardboard, is the inherent cost barrier. The Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Pro are competing for gamers’ dollars, and we’re still early in the technology cycle, so it doesn’t surprise me that these [premium VR] devices didn’t take off and sell a lot more. I think they did what was intended, which was to get VR into the hands of early adopters. Hopefully, that will build excitement and trust on the developers’ end to get more content. Ultimately, the success formula is going to be getting the costs to the point where it won’t be a barrier to a broader base of consumers in addition to getting the content piece right—making sure that there’s content beyond enhanced gaming experiences that will really knock people’s socks off.

What were some of the most significant developments in eSports this year?

ESports had a big year. First of all, there’s the attention that it got, and a big part of that was some of what we saw in the second half of the year around traditional sports getting involved in eSports. It creates more awareness, especially on the investor end. Secondly, more people (especially those outside of gaming) are seeing eSports as a legitimate trend and are either looking to jump on board. We’ve even seen the announcement of a Will Farrell movie, where he’ll be a professional gamer, and the White House hosted an eSports tournament event this year. There’s just a lot more acknowledgement that eSports is becoming a part of our culture.

I think the rise of amateur eSports is also very interesting. PlayStation came out with PlayStation Tournaments and Xbox has its own tournament platform, Xbox Live Arena, in beta testing. EA is making a big push by announcing how important the competitive aspect of things is to all of their games moving forward. That’s a big trend, and having a lot of publishers are capitalizing and monetizing on the eSports trend is going to be exciting to watch. It’s going to allow more consumers to get involved in eSports on a personal level, as opposed to just watching it.

ESports is known for being mainly PC games, and Overwatch gave hope to the idea that there’s an opportunity for new games to have a space within eSports and bring in more of the console aspect. Traditionally, especially outside the US, people think of eSports as heavily PC. But with what we’re seeing with console manufacturers, Overwatch, and a few other games—console eSports is definitely a trend to watch. I think it’s more likely to grow to rival PC than mobile.

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.

Resolutions, The Future Of Digital And Other Must-Read Marketing Stats

A brand new year is upon us—a time for reflection and looking forward to brighter days to come. This week, for the last marketing statistics round-up of 2016, we take a look at how marketers are investing in digital video, what consumers are hoping for this New Year, what kind of VR headsets sell the most and why no one has time for your slow-loading mobile site.

Digital, The Star Of Video Ads

Digital advertising is well on its way well to exceed the $59.6 billion spent last year, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Internet Advertising Revenue Report. Marketers spent 20 percent more year-over-year on digital advertising in the third quarter to total $17.6 billion, bringing the total to more than $50 billion spent in 2016 so far with one quarter left. Video, in particular, will be a main focus for brands in the coming year—IAB’s Digital Video Ad Spent Study for 2016 in cooperation with PricewaterhouseCooper, found that ad buyers expected to increase spending 63 percent on digital video, 62 percent on mobile video, 41 percent on advanced TV and 30 percent for broadcast, cable and set-top TV.

Loading? Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That

Are you tired of looking something up on your phone only to have it load for what seems like forever? You’re not alone, and consumers aren’t putting up with it. New research by Google has found that 53 percent of mobile website visitors will leave if a web page doesn’t load within three seconds. Google’s report, “The Need for Mobile Speed,” found that mobile sites that loaded within five seconds performed much better than those that took 19 seconds to load. In addition, sites that loaded within five seconds boast 25 percent higher ad viewability, 70 percent longer average sessions and a 35 percent lower bounce rate.

VR Is On The Move

Tractica estimates that more than 88 percent of all consumer-grade VR head-mounted displays (HMDs) sold in 2016 were mobile headsets, and predicts that mobile HMDs will account for three-quarters of annual consumer-grade HMDs shipments in 2021. By that time, the market intelligence firm forecasts that the total market for mobile VR hardware and content will reach $10.9 billion worldwide.

“Mobile VR has a tremendous amount of momentum, but there is much work still to be done,” said principal analyst Mark Beccue in a statement. “VR is an extremely complex technology and there are many obstacles to a frictionless, optimized user experience.”

Toasting For Health And Wealth In 2017

New Year’s resolutions traditionally involve hitting the gym, and a year-end survey by Visa found that not much has changed, with 35 percent who wanted to get healthier and physically fit. However, a nearly identical amount were determined to either get their financial house in order (19.8 percent) or save more money (14.9 percent). People are feeling pretty good about their choices, too, with 84 percent feeling positive that they will achieve their goals in the coming year.

Saving money, as it turns out, starts this weekend with 53.3 percent of those surveyed saying they plan to stay home with family or friends on New Year’s Eve. Of those who will celebrate, Visa reported, more than 35 percent plan to spend less than $50, compared to just 14 percent who say they plan on spending over $100 on celebrations.

Other 2017 resolution priorities included spending time with family & friends (9.7 percent), getting a new job (9.5 percent), traveling more (7.7 percent) and starting or ending a relationship (3 percent).

2017 Industry Predictions For Gaming, VR/AR And Marketing

We may not have psychics standing by (or do we . . . ?) but current events and previous trends continually shape the future of the marketing industry. From video games to shopping without hands, global experts weigh in on what’s to come.


SuperData estimates that by the end of 2017, the global mobile games market will be worth $44.8 billion, and $54.5 billion by 2019. Free-to-play PC games like League of Legends will reach $19.6 billion in 2017, premium PC games will fetch $5.3 billion and premium console games will garner $7.3 billion. By 2020, total software sales are estimated to reach $89.7 billion, Superdata predicts. This figure is conservative compared to estimates by analyst firm DFC Intelligence that software sales with reach $98 billion by 2020.

Superdata also predicts that eSports revenue will continue to rise over the next few years, reaching $1.1 billion in 2017 and upwards of $1.4 billion by the year 2020.

AR/VR And Mixed Reality

By 2020, over a billion people worldwide will regularly access AR and VR content, according to predictions by the 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. Garner Analysts predict that by 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be conducted without a screen, relying on voice-activated assistants such as Amazon Echo. Garner further estimates that 100 million consumers will shop in AR.

The global mixed reality market is expected to reach $6.86 billion by 2024, according to a recent report by Grand View Research, Inc. “The surging acceptance in entertainment and automobile and aerospace designing arenas is expected to boost the market growth,” the company stated.

Video Marketing For Games


Seventy percent of marketers will spend more on marketing in 2017, with 67 percent saying they will spend up to 75 percent. Just 19 percent said they will spend the same and 5 percent plan to spend less. About one-third plan to hire more SEO and content professionals, according to a study by Conductor. The data, which focuses on supporting content and search engine optimization, found that 80 percent of marketers will increase their focus on digital advertising, content marketing and SEO in 2017.

Zenith, meanwhile, predicts that in 2017, mobile advertising will surpass advertising on desktop. By 2018, Zenith estimates that mobile advertising will reach $134 billion, more than what marketers will spend on newspaper, magazine, cinema and outdoor advertising combined. Mobile revenues are expected to increase, according to Newzoo, predicting that global app revenues will grow to $80.6 billion by 2020.

By 2018, programmatic digital video advertising will reach $10.65 billion, or 74 percent of total video ad expenditures, according to predictions by eMarketer.

The analytics firm also predicts that YouTube’s net US video ad revenues will reach $2.89 billion in 2018, up from $2.16 billion in 2016. Superdata, meanwhile, predicts that gaming video content revenue will reach $5 billion in 2017, and continue to grow to $5.9 billion by 2019.

Why MediaMation Is Building A Network Of Interactive ESports Theaters

MediaMation has built a network of one-hundred-and-fifty 4D motion theaters around the world and is adding ten new theaters in a month. While the primary use of these MX4D Motion EFX Theaters—which feature seats that are programmed to match the on-screen action and special effects to impact all the senses—is for watching movies, Dan Jamele, CEO of MediaMation, told [a]listdaily that he’s building a new network for eSports competition.

“We’re focusing on micro tournaments, not the big playoffs,” Jamele said. “We have an avid audience of gamers that want to do something like this. We won’t compete with ESL’s 20,000 seat stadiums, but there are other players that push the regional, collegiate and weekly competitions that give players a place to go.”

Jamele is currently in talks with Riot Games and other developers about this new eSports opportunity. “We’ll have options for clients for micro eSports tournaments with full spectator motion as you’re watching, providng a network of venues for eSports,” Jamele said. “We’re hoping to have an announcement in Q1 2017 to open a flagship location, and with that comes a lot of gravitas.” A typical MediaMation theater has 100 to 150 seats, so there is great opportunity for regional eSports, gamers compete locally.

What separates these theaters from the Regal Theaters Coca-Cola has used in recent years to host League of Legends Worlds viewing parties is that they’re interactive. The motion control seats feature front air and water blasts, leg and neck ticklers and seat poppers, while overhead effects like wind, rain, snow, bubbles, scene and lightning strobes are timed to the action. While Coke currently focuses on watching pros play, MediaMation is offering a network for amateurs and college players to compete in front of an audience.

Theaters have experimented with eSports in the past. On August 23, 2015, ESL and By Experience, in association with Fathom Events, brought the ESL One Counter-Strike: Global Offensive finals from the Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany to cinema screens across the US and around the globe in over 25 countries. The companies also created exclusive behind-the-scenes content for theater goers, but that event hasn’t been repeated.

On September 21, 2015, Canadian theater chain Cineplex Entertainment bought 80 percent of Canadian eSports company, WorldGaming, for $10 million and invested an additional $5 million into developing an eSports league for its theaters. At the time, Pat Marshall, vice president of communications and investor relations for Cineplex told Fortune, “The eSports audience is an audience that comes to our theaters, but maybe not with the level of frequency they may have in the past. This is an opportunity for us to increase that frequency.”

Riot Games recently partnered with Super League Gaming to bring the City Champs amateur League of Legends competition to theaters in 12 cities by the end of Q1 2017, with plans to grow to 20 cities by the end of next year. Super League is also launching City Rec in 2017, which will allow anyone to come into theaters and play League Unlocked.

The latest company to enter the world of big screen eSports is ESC Games, which has launched a 750-square-foot ESC Game Theater in Paramus, NJ with plans to expand around the country. That theater features exclusive casual multiplayer games like Robot Basketball, Astro Beams and Pixel Prison Blues that up to 30 people can participate in at once using wireless touch screen motion controllers within a special effects-filled room.

MediaMation also has further eSports plans. The company recently debuted a new multiplayer ride-based virtual reality game called Ion Torq, which will be available in theme parks and arcades later in 2017. The multiplayer ride, which uses actual ATVs and runs on either Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, features 3D Live’s mixed reality LED screen, which allows spectators to experience a holographic version of what the riders are experiencing inside the VR game.

Nathan Huber, co-founder and CEO of 3D Live, told [a]listdaily that screen open up new opportunities for eSports, and not just for this motion-based rides, but for theaters and even stadiums. “It brings the audience closer to the video game action,” said Huber.

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.

5 Experiential Marketing Trends For 2017

Experiential marketing taps into consumers’ fear of missing out (FOMO), the desire to create fond memories and the ability to connect with others who have similar interests. While these activations serve to inform consumers about a product or service, attendees are more inclined to not only participate, but help promote. This is especially true for millennials—eight out of 10 value experiences over physical purchases.

Sharing The Brand Love

A recent study by EventTrack revealed that 98 percent of consumers capture content at live events, and 100 percent of those who capture content share it across their social media networks. While 83 percent of consumers share content from events up to 15 times—nearly half (47 percent) would prefer to share content they captures versus content fed to them by a brand.

For the 25th annual Lollapalooza music festival, Toyota was on-hand with an exclusive, pop-up concert that was accessible only to festival-goers who used Toyota’s limited-time “golden ticket” Snapchat geo-filter. Toyota’s “25th Hour” surprise concert featured performances by Grammy-nominated recording artist Leon Bridges and Outkast rapper Big Boi.

While not all updates shared on social media had anything to do with cars, the activation proved to be a fun way for attendees to show off their latest adventure.

A Sense Of Community

Eventbrite reports that 69 percent of millennials believe attending events makes them feel more connected to other people, the community and the world. Millennials aren’t alone in this sentiment, however—when Netflix surprised Gilmore Girls fans with a pop-up Luke’s diner at their local coffee shops, long lines were made fun through camaraderie.

“It ended up being great because everyone in the line was so happy,” wrote Danielle Trullo, a journalist for Cosmopolitan after attending an event in New York City. “They all love Gilmore Girls and their childhood dreams were coming true.”


Getting To Know You

report by the Event Marketer showed that after attending an activation, 98 percent of consumers feel more inclined to purchase, 74 percent have a better opinion about a brand and 70 percent become regular customers.

Taco Bell teamed up with Sony to create a pop-up VR arcade in New York, allowing anyone to try the new PSVR for themselves and get some free tacos while they were at it.

Making Memories

Seventy-seven percent of millennials say some of the best memories of their life have been made at live events.

Ahead of Dishonored 2, Bethesda hosted a scavenger hunt around London. One of the items participants could find was an invitation to Karnaca Supper Club, a Dishonored-themed banquet on November 4. The activation, hosted by GrubHub, was a huge success and those who attended showed up in cosplay and posted dozens of times across social media. One couple even got engaged at the dinner table.


Getting Involved

Engaged consumers spend more, and 65 percent of brands say that their event and experiential programs are directly related to sales, according to Event Marketer. The company also reports that 77 percent of marketers use experiential marketing as a vital part of a brand’s advertising strategies. Experiential marketing not only provides an opportunity for fans to spread the word online, but for brands to engage with them to create lasting relationships.

According to Twitter, customers are willing to spend anywhere from 3-to-20 percent more on items from a business that engages with them through Twitter. In addition, those who receive responses on the social platform are 30 percent more likely to recommend the brand to others, and 44 percent more likely to share their experience online and off.

InMobi Discusses User Engagement Strategy

InMobi is one of the world’s largest entertainment ad platforms, reaching over 1.6 billion users worldwide, with half of that audience relating to video games. While the company’s goal has always been to enable users to discover more of the content they want, its approach has begun to shift more heavily toward re-engaging dormant users and retaining current ones. Its remarketing approach applies to any app-based business, whether it involves mobile games or taxi hailing.

The company’s chief product officer, Piyush Shah, recently spoke with [a]listdaily about its remarketing platform, the changing needs of mobile apps businesses, and re-engaging with users.

Piyush Shah, InMobi chief product officer
Piyush Shah, InMobi chief product officer

“The InMobi remarketing platform is a very new initiative from our side to solve for the problems that app-based performance marketers are facing around the issue of retention and engagement of users,” said Shah, describing the service. “Its objective is to work with advertisers and marketers across verticals, including gaming, retail and the taxi vertical, to maximize in-app engagement. The way it works is that it solves for key specific use cases and needs for our customers. We help them activate new users and reactivate dormant users, which is a very large use case nowadays. Finally, we help them retarget existing high-value users who may have deviated from the game or service so that they can come back.”

So, of the three groups (new users, dormant users, existing high-value users), which is the hardest to reach out to? “Given that they are users that have installed the apps already—technically speaking, it’s easy to reach out and target any of them,” Shah replied.

However, the challenge is in the size of the group businesses are trying to reach. “If it’s a larger base of users for a game or retail app, then it is much easier for our solution to retarget them, find them on our network, and get them going,” said Shah. “If it is a much more specific set of high-quality level players or an extremely niche set of users, then it becomes a bit complicated. So, I guess it’s easier to reactivate dormant users and focus on re-engagement rather than doing the same thing for retaining a small group of active users.”

Apps, especially mobile games, are facing a huge problem with user retention, as most users uninstall games within a week. When asked how developers are dealing with the issue, Shah said: “The whole problem of uninstall has become very acute lately, partly because of the increasing size of apps. App developers are working to ensure that uninstall rates are lower and the retention rate is much higher. The first thing that they’re doing is reaching out to users who install the app within the first few days with some kind of offer or coupon. A lot of people are utilizing the first few days to make sure that happens because 70 percent of users who uninstall will do it after the first few days. Notifications though a remarketing/retargeting platform like ours is definitely a way they would want to improve their retention rates beyond the first few days.

“For example, a taxi app service would utilize us to start showing first ride coupons during peak office hours, right after the install happens. In the case of games, a lot of them are utilizing us to reactivate dormant users by offering them free level-ups and things like that. There are a bunch of techniques, but apps are doing a lot more than driving the install.”


Given how different mobile games are from service apps, we asked Shah if he saw a lot of overlap between the two when promoting engagement. “I think the core need to reactivate dormant users or retarget existing loyal users are the same,” he said, “but the dynamics change, of course. On the gaming side, because the percentage of payers is far lower (about five percent), that’s an extreme and precious set of users that the developers want to stick with the game. They’re willing to go to all levels to retain them.

“For services such as taxi companies, the number of paying transacting customers is much bigger. But we were surprised to see that, depending on each different vertical and the life-state of that particular company, they will resort to focusing a lot more on reactivating dormant users or focus on protecting their valuable core set of users. That varies, based on app to app.”

In discussing the challenges mobile games face when reactivating dormant users, Shah said “I think the biggest challenge is the price that they’re willing to cough up to reactivate users, given how there’s a lot of competition out there. With a small percentage of paying players, the dilemma for gaming companies is whether they want to spend a lot of money to reactivate players who aren’t necessarily payers, or if they should work harder to protect their precious five percent of paying players.”

Shah continued by saying, “Given the high competition among gaming companies, the biggest challenge is for these guys to allocate their marketing spend in the right manner across new user acquisition, versus re-engaging with dormant users, versus retargeting the set of high-value users. I don’t think that the economics are completely understood yet, and we want to be a partner for gaming companies to figure out the equation for themselves.

“It’s been a very interesting journey for us to evolve from the classical performance user acquisition marketing to now solving for the retention and retargeting problem. In doing so, it has been interesting to note that it isn’t just relevant to gaming, but applicable to any app-based business out there.”

How Console Gaming Evolved In 2016

It’s been a banner year for gaming consoles, with the newest generation of hardware continuing to set sales records. Sony recently announced that the PlayStation 4 line has sold over 50 million units, with almost 370 million pieces of PS4 software sold as well. Microsoft’s Xbox One line, while behind in overall units, has been the best-selling console in US stores for the past four months, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

We have also seen this year the demise of the Wii U, which has ceased production as Nintendo prepares to launch a new console line in 2017. The Wii U sold little more than 13 million units, and never garnered major third-party support.

Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 continue to sell strongly, as both platforms get a steady release of top games. There has been no lack of solid entertainment for both consoles, and that looks to continue. Here are some of the major events of the year in console gaming:

Consoles Get Mid-Cycle Refresh

This year saw something unprecedented: significant improvement to existing consoles, without shifting to a new architecture and without making current software obsolete. When this possibility was rumored earlier in the year, one of the big questions was whether or not consumers would accept this change. That’s been answered resoundingly, as sales of the Xbox One S have powered it to be the leading console sold in US stores for the last four months. The PlayStation 4 Pro has been well-received by reviewers, though Sony has not yet released sales figures for it.

The Xbox One S is smaller and somewhat more powerful than the original Xbox One, and sports an Ultra-HD Blu-Ray drive in addition to 4K HDR (high dynamic range) color output, at a price of $299. The PlayStation 4 Pro is significantly more powerful than the standard PlayStation 4 (now sold in a slimmer form factor) and sells for $399 while the original PS4 is now priced at $299. Both the PS4 Pro and the PS4 now support HDR output.

Microsoft isn’t done with mid-cycle console upgrades. The company announced Project Scorpio at E3 earlier this year, and it promises to be even more powerful than the PS4 Pro, with support true 4K gaming. That will ship sometime during the 2017 holiday season.

These mid-cycle console refreshes are driving substantial sales of both hardware and software, and giving marketers new features to focus on. Meanwhile, gamers are getting more powerful consoles without losing any of their old favorite games, so it’s a win-win.

Nintendo Prepares For Switch Launch

The Wii U never managed to live up to the Nintendo’s lofty expectations, but the company is moving on. Not only did Nintendo launch some very successful mobile games this year, but after much rumor and speculation, it officially revealed its new console, the Nintendo Switch, set to launch in March of 2017.

So far, Nintendo has kept the information limited about the new console, with one video showcasing the console’s ability to move between playing games on a TV and spontaneously going mobile by switching to the device’s built-in screen when on the go. A reveal with hands-on time for the press is promised in January, which is none too soon for a console that’s planned for March release.

There’s plenty of excitement among Nintendo fans for a new console, as well as for the only official game announced so far for the Switch: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which got a truly breathtaking booth at E3 this year. Nintendo has gotten its fan base prepared for new hardware while shipping the highly anticipated Pokemon Sun and Moon this holiday for the 3DS to keep its fans engaged while they save up for the Switch.


VR Comes to Consoles

One of the biggest additions to console gaming in 2016 has to be the PlayStation VR (PSVR), which brings the excitement of virtual reality technology in an easy-to-use, relatively low-cost platform. Initial sales are less than initially projected by analysts earlier in the year, but Sony hasn’t put a lot of marketing effort behind the PSVR hard yet, perhaps because it is waiting for more games to launch first.

Still, early adopters have been pleased with the promise of console VR. Sony has an impressive lineup of current and upcoming titles, and it has the potential to bring VR to millions of people over the coming year. VR on consoles is only beginning, and it’s sure to have a much greater impact in the future.


4K Gaming Hits Consoles

With the new hardware launches, the hottest trend for consoles is 4K along with HDR, quadrupling the resolution of games along with vastly improving the color output. Many observers believe that HDR is going to have a great impact on gaming, but the situation is still complicated for consoles, given how 4K TVs with HDR support haven’t been widely adopted yet. However, that may soon change, given the huge price drops we saw this holiday. Right now, 4K/HDR gaming is just beginning on consoles—but the impact is already being felt, as games are updated and more players purchase 4K TVs.

The Shift to Digital Distribution

Digital distribution of content has been around for a long while, but as more households get high-bandwidth connections, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 saw a significant increase in digital purchases. More and more full game sales are happening through downloads.

The bigger impact of digital distribution is to make it even easier, and more profitable, to produce additional content for console games. Add-ons are now standard offerings, and we’re seeing more in-game items, free-to-play games, and the whole range of new features being offered. It’s also leading to greater engagement with console titles, as regular updates keep players entertained for the long term. Destiny is a prime example of how digital distribution is transforming both gameplay and marketing, as the game’s dedicated players keep enjoying new content.

2016 has been a great year for consoles, and it looks to be the foundation of more strong years for console gaming ahead.

Then Vs. Now: The Evolution Of Videogame Commercials

Video games have come a long way from the blocky (albeit addictive) gameplay to the 4K, interactive stories we see today. Just as games and consoles have become more sophisticated over the past few decades, so has the way brands market them. While all campaigns are different and there are exceptions to every rule, let’s take a look at how game marketing has evolved from low-res footage of screaming, teenage boys to high-def, cinematic masterpieces.

Then: Kids Play Together

The first video game commercials focused heavily on how much fun the consumer (and his friends) would have when they played. While gameplay footage was shown, the primary selling point was usually the act of playing itself. Teenage boys yelling excitedly as they watched one another with the controller was a common sight throughout TV spots for Atari and Nintendo.

Now: Everyone Plays Together

Today, the average video game consumer is 35 years old—a demographic consisting of those teenage boys (and girls) all grown up. In fact, adult women now outnumber teenage boys as active gamers, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). As a result, modern video game commercials feature adults more than children.

For grown-up gamers who want to share a bit of nostalgia with their children, Nintendo once again marketed toward having fun with others—this time including everyone in the family, young or old, with the Wii console. Now, with the launch of virtual reality, the challenge has been to market a community experience rather than one person blindly walking around the living room in a bulky headset. Oculus Rift ads in particular feature millennials enjoying a virtual reality experience together and getting really excited like those teenage boys of commercials past.

Then: Game Features Are Explained

Retro commercials often featured a narrator that explained the game or console’s features and selling points. When computer graphics began to evolve, so did the game’s competitive edge—something that continues to this day with photo-realistic rendering and 4K graphics.

Now: Game Features Are Shown

Today, brands create emotional experiences by showing consumers what it’s like to play a game and let them draw their own conclusions as to how it makes them feel. While not all popular games are photo realistic (Minecraft, for example), a lot of them are, which allows brands to showcase their work in a more polished, cinematic fashion.

When it comes to trade shows, publishers like EA, Sony and Microsoft are focusing more on community events and influencers for hands-on demos with new titles rather than solely relying on the press to tell people what’s good or not.



Then: Gameplay is King

When marketing Final Fantasy II in 1988, Square Enix touted its infamously long play time as value for its customers.

Now: Story is King

For Final Fantasy XV (which is still insanely long, by the way), Square Enix focused on the game’s story of friendship and battling together, showing gameplay footage for only a moment at the end.

Some Things Never Change

Despite all these changes, some things never do, and for good reason. Live action helps bring game concepts to life . . .

. . . and a little humor can go a long way.

‘Storks’ Producer Brad Lewis Gets Animated Over Films, VR And Gaming

Producer Brad Lewis has been involved in some of big computer animated films over the years, including Antz, Ratatouille, Cars 2, Storks and the upcoming The LEGO Batman Movie. Recently, he also spoke at the VIEW Conference in Turin, Italy about the explosive growth of computer animation in Hollywood, where [a]listdaily caught up with him to discuss the new opportunities virtual reality and video games are opening up for creatives to expand their big-screen storytelling.

What was it about computer animation that inspired you to leave the live action filmmaking?

The interesting thing about animation for me is that increasingly, it has become what I consider to be the highest form of entertainment for everybody, from kids all the way up through adults. We strive to put out animation and animated movies that are like the great old clever television features from the ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s. It’s one of the most difficult art forms to tell a really great story. That can mean [different] things for people from three-years-old to 80-years-old, but I love that idea of clever comedy. General entertainment is the thing that we concentrate on more as an industry than other aspects of movie making.

What has computer animation opened up in bringing crazy ideas to life, like having a rat cook French cuisine in Paris?

Certainly, animation lends itself to the impossible idea, but telling a three act 90-minute story with something that has an impossible setup is a great ride for an audience to go on. Nobody came to Ratatouille feeling like, “Oh, I can’t wait to see a rat in a kitchen.” It was the opposite, which is really, “I don’t know if I want to see a rat in the kitchen.” With Storks—you know storks are going to deliver babies, but the question is, how do they make babies? We set up the audience in such a way that it’s going to be something impossible. It’s a stimulating experience as a filmmaker to try to solve those story ideas.

Cars has had multiple video games. How does what the game industry is doing influence the potential for expanding these computer animated universes?

The thing about video games is that they’re becoming incredibly sophisticated as far as their graphics, their characters, and their animation and so forth, which is really exciting. I’ve been in the industry long enough to see it go from Pong to where we are today. Every time I see a new generation of gaming I’m blown away by the quality. That being said, there’s a length to go as far as character and story development, both in video games and in social applications.

It feels like the logical next extension in a way for us to make an animated movie that somebody goes and sees once or maybe sees again on DVD or online. Those characters we work so hard on people understanding their motivations and their personalities—it feels like they should go on and live in new ways. That’s not necessary a sequel and confined to a cinematic experience, even though it’s an incredible cinema experience to start with. I’d love to see that be applied into nonlinear storytelling and social media platforms, as well as game platforms. That could be an even more addictive style of gaming, whether it’s VR or just being able to experience characters in different and new ways.

How do you feel VR helping to extend franchises or explore storytelling?

What has always happened in animation, computer animation, gaming and now in VR (or 3D, for that matter), the technology comes first and the storytelling has to catch up. VR is at the place where people are starting to explore its unbelievable power through immersive high-end graphic experiences. We can do environments and sets that you feel a connection with. There have been some early VR animation that’s beginning to try to take advantage of those. It’s on the cusp of where some very talented filmmaker or filmmaking team will dive in and make an immersive feature-length experience that will be mind-blowing.


We’re seeing a lot of VR shorts early on. What role do you see this medium playing for storytelling?

Typically, shorts are the way we start to understand how the new technology is going to work and what we might be able to do with it. Some of the VR—and I haven’t seen everything that’s out there—is certainly visceral and emotive. I believe that it’s opening the door to show us the possibilities of what we can do once we can really get in there. The other thing that’s interesting in both social and in VR is there’s an active choice the viewer makes. In VR you have the ability to say I’m not confined to just this proscenium. I can look over here. I can divert attention. Now it creates two things. It’s a different art form because in filmmaking, we’re working with a proscenium. We’re telling you through lighting, focus and camera, what to look at and what that means to the story. So, there’s story control once you allow a viewer to suddenly make choices within this environment. VR throws the principles of great proscenium cinematography theater out the door. How do we control the aesthetic experience, if assuming for a moment that we can tell stories that have multiple strands, multiple characters and people can go in a variety of different directions? Can it still be aesthetically beautiful, can we control those elements as well?

What role do you see computer animation playing in Hollywood today?

There’s still a bit of a point of view that animation is more of a genre than it is a medium, and that it has already defined itself as one type of family fare that’s lightly comedic that will entertain people and that’s it. The technology of computer animation and the artists, directors and producers that are involved, are capable of far great things than just that. Hopefully, a movie like Sausage Party, that comes out and is R-rated, can show that it’s not a genre; it’s a medium and that we can make some vastly different choices within that. We haven’t even begun to explore the variety that you can do with the look in these movies. It’s much more versatile. I hope that it will be perceived as that, and that we can still make mainstream movies that can make enough money to justify them. The budgets can come down so those two can converge and there can be greater variety in animation.

How does the decreased budget for quality computer animation allow more creativity?

The tools and the software that animators use are getting faster and easier to use, so people that come out of studying this in university or other art schools are coming out much more highly trained. And the technology is not as expensive as it used to be, so in general production companies are able to get prices down, although it still has to trend farther down to really become viable. The second thing is that the artistry is amazing. There are people that worked on Storks that are fresh out of school that did some of the best animation I’ve seen. It took some great veteran animators a decade to get that level of skill, partly because of the tools and partly because of not having that training early on in school. Across the globe, there are actually small companies that are creating production companies that are doing some really good work. At some point in the next 10 or 20 years, those are going to converge at much lower budgets and at the same level of artistry, or a very high level of artistry.

How is the success of big animated films like Finding Dory, Moana, The Secret Life of Pets and The Angry Birds Movie impacting the industry?

People look at the bright and shiny stuff like, “Oh, here’s a big animated movie. It made a lot of money and everybody fell in love with those characters, so it looks simple and we can do it too.” Studios see the family movie space as an important movie area they want to be in financially. So, it provides inspiration for both studios and companies and artists to get involved in it. But the other side of that is the really good movies that have been done by Pixar, Disney, PDI, Dreamworks, Warner Bros., Illumination and others—they’re really hard to make. The process is so methodical that it’s a very difficult process. It looks like a bright and shiny easy object, and it’s just not at the end of the day, so there’s a little bit of fool’s gold there for people. It comes back to finding people that really understand the medium and are filmmakers that are talented, entertaining artists.