Slow And Steady: Revising Expectations For Virtual Reality

Sony promoted new PlayStation VR (PSVR) games at PlayStation Experience over the weekend, among a number of other exciting announcements. However, that doesn’t overcome how SuperData Research singled out VR as the “biggest loser” of this year’s holiday season and downgraded its forecast for 2016. The PlayStation VR saw the most significant reduction, as SuperData now expects less than 750,000 (down from 2.6 million) of them to sell this year. While estimates for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR remain unchanged at 450,000, 355,000 and 2.3 million, respectively, Google Daydream is expected to sell 261,000 units (down from 450,000).

Although the PSVR still has the strongest potential to be broadly adopted by consumers, reaching that potential is taking longer than expected. With an installed base of over 48 million and a relatively low price point compared to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the PSVR seemed like it would make for the perfect conclusion to VR’s first year on the market. Stephanie Llamas, director of research and insights at SuperData, has stated that she believes that Sony was in the best position to take advantage of the holiday season and could have sold over 2 million PlayStation VRs, except “supply inconsistencies and lack of marketing have put them behind their potential.”

Not only did the PSVR have a relatively quiet launch, but there were no first-party deals, restock bundles or special deals for the device over the Black Friday weekend. Instead, Sony put marketing focus on its consoles, particularly the PlayStation 4 Pro, and consumers were aware that the Pro offered a performance increase for the PSVR over the standard PlayStation 4 and Slim models. According to Llamas, the message was clear for most gamers: “Get the Pro now, then the PSVR later.”

When asked how PSVR sales from Black Friday compared to its launch week, Llamas told [a]listdaily that “PSVR has had slow and steady sales since launch. Sales will continue to rise gradually into 2017 rather than riding a seasonal wave. We expect Sony to soon increase its effort behind rolling out bundled hardware, which so far have all sold out.”

Llamas also suggests that Sony’s moves are deliberate, and it may be sticking to a quiet release and limiting units until it has the “killer app” needed to truly demonstrate the PSVR’s capabilities. Plus, Sony can afford to take things slow, since it has no competitor in the console VR space.

“As the only provider of virtual reality in the console market, it does not have to rush to market and overpromise,” said Llamas. “It is clear now that Sony is taking a more prudent approach, choosing to market the PSVR under the PlayStation family brand as opposed to an independent piece of hardware. In the absence of competitors, it makes sense for Sony to provide enough units to prove the case for mainstream consumer VR, while gradually building up its third-party support and a larger title inventory.”

For comparison, we asked Llamas how well the PS4 Pro sold in comparison to the PSVR, considering how the console requires a 4K television to take advantage of its features. She stated that the “PS4 Pro has and will surpass PSVR sales this year. The console is a substantial upgrade from the standard PS4, and consumers without a 4K TV who plan to buy one later still benefit from purchasing the Pro now. Consumers are also aware of what using the console is like and the differences they’ll see from the standard version. This is a challenge that VR in general still has to overcome—providing experiences to new users. As opposed to the PSVR, it’s much easier for a parent to buy their child a Pro because they know what it is and why their kids want it.”

Furthermore, when asked how important Black Friday sales were to the overall health of the VR industry, Llamas said: “Not that important since first adopters have mostly already bought in. They weren’t waiting for holiday sales to opt-in, so right now those headsets are mostly reaching out to borderline enthusiasts and expanding awareness to the general consumer base. Adoption will grow linearly and is not likely to ride a significant seasonal wave this year.”

That’s good news for the industry, but it still leaves it with many of the same problems it started with. Llamas has also observed how Oculus took a risk this year by releasing the headset by itself first and the Touch controllers months later, potentially splitting its user base. As a result, developers had to choose between creating content for Touch and non-Touch users. The HTC Vive, which comes bundled with motion controllers, has outsold Oculus despite having a significantly higher price point. “The HTC Vive has consistently outsold the Oculus Rift due to both their controllers and room-scale capabilities,” said Llamas. “They are estimated to ship 420,000 shipments by the end of the year, versus Oculus at 355,000.”

That gap may continue, since Oculus no longer has a price advantage when Touch controllers are factored in. The controllers alone are a $200 expense on top of a $600 purchase (not including VR-capable computers), and the bundled set ($798) offers an insignificant discount, which puts the Rift at the same price as the HTC Vive. Furthermore, Oculus’ decision to offer purchasers a $100 credit for the Oculus Store instead of taking $100 off the device may have further put consumers off.

“Unsurprisingly, this has been tricky for Oculus to navigate,” Llamas explained. “If they had not released the headset when they did, they may have been too late to the market and been completely overrun by the HTC Vive. However, the problem they now face is the fragmentation this creates among consumers and developers. Consumers who purchased the headset when it was coupled with $1,500 PCs now have to spend another $200. Meanwhile, PC costs have gone down, so newer users are benefitting from an all-in-one deal that is cheaper than the headset and PC combo was for early adopters. Also, developers now have to decide if they want to address only those with Touch controllers, create games that only use regular controllers, or invest in developing for both types of users. Ideally, they would have released functional Touch controllers with the headset, even if they weren’t as refined as they are now.”

Although pricing is an issue that may resolve itself in the coming year, there are bigger hurdles ahead for marketing VR. Llamas said that “the challenge right now is awareness, and marketing is only half the battle. VR is not like a TV—you can’t browse through the VR aisle at Best Buy and compare devices passively. You need to have access to a VR experience and have an interest in it in order to try it. You need to try it to know what it really is, which is why headset makers are increasingly pushing demos into stores. Furthermore, when newcomers do try it for the first time, the people giving the demos need to be able to offer a premium experience, and that kind of quality control can be difficult to monitor. If consumers don’t start with a good experience, they are going to be even harder to win back later on.”

Despite these challenges, Llamas stands by SuperData’s estimate that virtual reality will reach $30.5 billion in revenue over the next five years. “This year has strengthened our faith in VR as we see now more non-gaming companies throwing their hats into the ring. Consumer content will account for only part of revenues—enterprise, marketing, productivity, etc. all have a lot of potential to provide innovation to the market that will expand its reach.”

SuperData’s current worldwide VR revenue estimates are:

  • 2016: $2.7 billion
  • 2017: $5.3 billion
  • 2018: $10.2 billion
  • 2019: $17.8 billion
  • 2020: $30.5 billion

PlayStation Experience: Celebrating A Legacy And Unveiling The Future

On December 3, 1994, the first PlayStation console was sold in Japan and 22 years to the day, Sony celebrated a new line of virtual reality games at the PlayStation Experience (PSX). In its third year, this annual event held in Anaheim, California caters not to the press, but to the fans—a common thread among publishers today who recognize the value of influencer marketing. Sony celebrated its legacy while ushering in its future through new titles and remastered versions of some of the platform’s greatest hits.

The keynote began with a suspenseful trailer for Uncharted: The Lost Legacy that had the audience erupting in screams and applause when they realized it starred both Chloe Frazier from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Nadine Ross, who debuted in Uncharted 4. Then, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment America and chairman of SIE Worldwide Studios, Shawn Layden took the stage to welcome fans to the event and thank them for sharing PlayStation’s journey thus far. “We’ve been here for 22 years and we’re not going anywhere,” he told the crowd, “thank you for being part of that.”

Sony then proceeded to unveil and showcase over 40 previously announced games—it was like E3 in December. Uncharted’s tale of femmes fatales was only the beginning, followed by Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, announcements for remastered classics like Wipeout, PaRappa the Rappa and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Fans were also treated to additional footage from Gran Turismo Sport, Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian, Gravity Rush 2 and MLB The Show 17, not to mention The Last of Us Part II.

Hot on the heels of its PlayStation VR launch, Sony showed off upcoming experiences that feature VR support including Starblood Arena, Ace Combat 7 and Resident Evil 7, which just launched its final demo for PS4, PS4 Pro and PlayStation VR.

In addition to letting fans get their hands on some of these upcoming titles, PlayStation Experience hosted developer panels and eSports events as well. The Capcom Cup Finals were hosted at the show, as well as the Call of Duty World League, back for another exciting season.

“This has been a truly remarkable year for PlayStation—from the historic releases of PlayStation VR and PS4 Pro to the thrilling conclusion of Nathan Drake’s journey in Uncharted 4,” Layden wrote on the PlayStation blog following the keynote, “and it’s thanks to your passion and enthusiasm that we can come together and celebrate at PlayStation Experience.”

Robert Bowling Explains How GamePump Makes Old IPs New Again

For six years, Robert Bowling was the face of Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward, serving as a creative strategist at the studio. Since then, Bowling has been involved in everything from game development to eSports (he’s a co-owner of the team Denial), most recently serving as an advisor for Team NRG. The entrepreneur has also launched GamePump, a new retro-focused gaming service.

The service will officially launch in January on Steam, offering gamers a “blind” subscription model that guarantees users one new classic game on the first Friday of every month for $20 per year, $15 for three months or $5 for one month. All subscriptions are non-recurring. Last year, when he was vice president and head of publishing at Humble Bundle, he launched Humble Monthly, which was also a blind subscription service but focused on newer indie games. Bowling said that the issue was that gamers likely already owned some of those games. With GamePump, every game will be making its Steam debut through this service.

Robert Bowling, Gamepump founder
Robert Bowling, GamePump founder

“GamePump came from my own personal interest in games that I wanted to play but weren’t readily available,” Bowling told [a]listdaily. “I did some research and found that 90 percent of the time with these games, it was a legal issue where it ended in bankruptcy or someone owned the rights and didn’t realize it. Once I realized that, there were enough of these games that we could publish on Steam.

GamePump currently has 20 games in the pipeline as well as a few spiritual successors or modern remakes redone by a current developer in the works. “The main console we’re pulling games from is the 1983 MSX,” Bowling said. “We found Nintendo doesn’t allow you to emulate any hardware because they’re doing it themselves. But if Japanese publishers released the same NES game on non-Nintendo systems like MSX, we could acquire the MSX version. It’s the same game, but we need to localize them. The nice thing is that many MSX versions will have an extra level or different ending that the American audience never got to enjoy.”

Bowling said he’s also looking at the Sega CD catalog and some retro PC games that are not currently available to add to GamePump in the future. “A lot of deals are being closed, but the goal is to make this as diverse an experience as possible,” Bowling said. “We want to have a mix of genres so it’s always different.” The original plan was to launch this holiday, but Bowling said it has taken an unexpected amount of time to revive some of the older classics.

Bowling is marketing GamePump across social channels, which includes his 2.2 million followers. He also plans on some traditional advertising on social media. “We’re working with Twitch and YouTubers on an influencer campaign,” Bowling said. “This is an organic growth opportunity. The hope is, once it starts dropping, people will start talking about it. Releasing one game a month gives people time to talk about it.”

GamePump is a small operation with just a few people in Los Angeles. Bowling explained that half of his company does legal work untangling games from multiple acquisitions or bankruptcy while the other half is game development.

While Steam is the focus at launch, Bowling is open to publishing these games across other platforms outside of subscriptions. “We want to tread carefully and focus on building this business,” he said. “Steam is the easiest path and makes the most sense.”

gamepump-3monthsEach game deal is on a case-by-case basis due to the nature of the legal contracts. Sometimes GamePump acquires an entire catalog of games, and in those cases, they can release them on as many platforms as possible. “In rarer cases, it’s a larger publisher like a Konami or a Microprose, where they’re not going to sell the catalog but they will license it to bring to Steam because they’re not going to do it themselves and we split revenue with that publisher,” Bowling said. “If Steam goes well, it’s not farfetched to do releases on other platforms. We’re trying to own as much as we can, but sometimes it’s worthwhile to get IP you don’t own.”

It was Bowling’s role as president and creative director at the game studio Robotoki that ultimately led to this new venture. “It was a hard reality check, going from a AAA developer where you have unlimited resources, to a Nexon publishing deal,” Bowling said. “We had 55 developers in LA and a massive game that was costing over $10 million and was an original IP. We chose the riskiest thing you could do. We ended up canceling it when we parted ways with Nexon to do it as a premium title instead of free-to-play because our burn rate wasn’t the same and we couldn’t ship it with our own money.”

Bowling said that experience taught him a lot about the industry and he saw an opportunity to assist other developers. “Making games is hard technically and from a business standpoint,” Bowling said. “That’s when I got into the investment side of the business, and that led to coming up with Humble Monthly, which were alternative revenue services for developers. I liked the publishing and project financing side of the business. I’m still doing other investment fund stuff, as well as some development.”

Marketing Highlights From The Game Awards 2016

The Game Awards made history last night by being one of the largest shows to be distributed digitally. It was broadcast simultaneously across Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Steam and even VR devices with NextVR. Additionally, Tencent broadcast the show in China and highlights were posted in a Snapchat Live story. That’s a lot of eyes watching Overwatch win for Game of the Year, and there were plenty of surprises and premieres, which presented a strong marketing opportunity for its participants—especially for the featured games that went on sale across different platforms.

Promotional events included how AMD worked in partnership with EA/Dice to give away a Radeon-powered gaming PC along with a copy of the Battlefield 1 Collector’s Edition. As if that weren’t enough, the prize also included a scale model of a Mark V tank, painted with Radeon RX-inspired branding.

Meanwhile Schick, a big sponsor of the event this year, brought its own superhero to the show: Hydrobot. The costume is of a humanoid robot with a Schick Hydro shaving razor for a head.

The Assassin’s Creed VR Experience, in promotion of the upcoming movie, made its debut at The Game Awards. Ubisoft partnered with AMD, Alienware, Fox Innovation Lab and Practical Magic to bring the VR experience to the show floor. The experience begins its US tour today in AMC Theaters, starting in San Francisco before moving on to Los Angeles, Austin and New York City through January 1, 2017.

It was also announced that Guardians of The Galaxy is getting its own 5-part Telltale Games adventure, which will premiere in 2017. Meanwhile, the off-the-wall cult hit Bulletstorm is being remastered as Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition for next year and adds Duke Nukem as a playable character in the campaign.

Other new game announcements include Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, a prequel to much-loved retro indie game, Shovel Knight. Phoenix Labs announced Dauntless, a free-to-play cooperative action game that’s due out next year. Last but not least, it was announced that Starbase Arc, a free gravity-defying arena for Rocket League, will release on December 7.

The Game Awards is also known for incredible trailer premieres, and this year’s show didn’t disappoint. Nintendo, still riding high from the twin successes of Pokémon Sun and Moon, continued its promotion of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at the show with a short but sweet trailer. Other premieres included a highly-anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda gameplay video. Hideo Kojima, who was presented with the Icon Award last night, showed a new and creepy trailer for Death Stranding. It looks like sci-fi horror fans got the most out of The Game Awards show, because Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks debuted a brand-new trailer for Prey, and followed up with an 8-minute gameplay video.

Houston Rockets Hire ESports Director; Starbucks Shuffles Their Top Brass

From TV to eSports and Starbucks, here are some of the top personnel moves over the last week.

The Houston Rockets became the first NBA franchise to dedicate a front office position to eSports by hiring 25-year old Sebastian Park as their director of eSports development.

Activision Blizzard has reached a new employment agreement with CEO Bobby Kotick. A company filing states that Kotick’s base salary will be lowered to $1.8 million from $2.4 million. However, Kotick could earn up to $56.3 million in Activision Blizzard shares over three years if specific goals are attained.

Juhani Honkala, previously a senior vice president for Rovio Entertainment, has formed mobile streaming platform Hatch, which is looking to turn into the Netflix of mobile games.

Games industry veteran Chris Taylor, the creator of Total Annihilation and Dungeon Siege, has left World of Tanks publisher Wargaming to start an independent studio.

Former Bloomberg and NBA executive Todd Swidler has been named CEO of ESC Games. Earlier today, ESC Games announced a new social level of gaming with with the launch of ESC Game Theater, a high-tech experience where up to 30 people play casual games on a massive screen in a room pulsing with lights, special effects, music and energy.

“The video game industry is experiencing explosive growth, and we see major opportunities for ESC Games to pioneer a new category that taps into that demand through our unique game experience and competitive tournaments. The possibilities are vast,” said Swidler.

Games industry veteran Mike Fischer has been named president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement and recognition of the interactive arts.

“The video games industry has given me so much throughout my career over the past two decades, and this opportunity felt the perfect fit in providing me a chance to give back to my industry peers, inspirational creators and the gamers of today and tomorrow,” said Fischer. “The Academy’s mission to celebrate, promote and advance the worldwide interactive entertainment community resonates strongly with me. I’m looking forward to working with the team to put together a fantastic 2017 D.I.C.E. conference and celebrating its milestone 20th Awards show.”

Starbucks has a new leadership structure to drive its next wave of global growth. Kevin Johnson has been named president and chief operating officer. Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO, will be appointed executive chairman and will shift his focus to innovation, design and development of Starbucks Reserve Roasteries around the world, expansion of the Starbucks Reserve retail store format and the company’s social impact initiatives.

“Starbucks consistently outperforms the retail industry because our stores, our offerings and the experiences our partners create make us a destination. The best evidence of the success of the core strategy driving our business is that we continue to deliver quarter after quarter of record, industry leading revenue, comp sales and profit growth, and that the newest classes of Starbucks stores continue to deliver record-breaking revenues, AUV’s and ROI—both in the US and around the world,” said Schultz. “As I focus on Starbucks next wave of retail innovation, I am delighted that Kevin Johnson—our current president, coo, a seven-year board member and my partner in running every facet of Starbucks business over the last two years—has agreed to assume the duties of Starbucks chief executive officer. This move ideally positions Starbucks to continue profitably growing our core business around the world into the future.”

Frank Cooper, chief marketing officer of BuzzFeed for the last 18 months, is leaving the digital media giant. Cooper has held executive roles in marketing and branding for AOL, Motown Records Def Jam Records, and more recently, PepsiCo where he ran strategy, development, and brand activation for global platforms across all beverages.

Skip Chaisson has been promoted to chief creative officer for the cable channel El Rey Network. According to Variety, Chaisson “will oversee all creative and brand elements produced by the company for El Rey’s linear network as well as its digital and social-media feeds.”

Former Sony executive Andrew Gumpert has been named chief operating officer for Paramount Pictures.

Michael Moore has been appointed chief customer officer for A Wireless, a premium retailer for Verizon Wireless and operating more than 1,100 Verizon-branded retail stores.

“A Wireless boasts 20 years of providing the best possible customer experience, products and services in the wireless industry,” said Moore. “I am honored to build upon this heritage by leading our efforts in customer centricity, and ultimately delighting our customers and teammates with innovative personalized offers, product choices, and solutions that will can improve their lives.”

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Fake News, Top-Selling Games And Other Must-Read Marketing Stats

It may be too late to stuff your face with turkey, but we’re here with a heaping helping of marketing stats to chow down on. This week, we take a look at how consumers view and recognize ads, what’s important to affluent millennials, and what’s shakin’ and bakin’ in the video games world.

Trust Me, I’m An Ad

Over the years, there has been a significant shift in how consumers view and interact with advertising. People rely on the advice of their peers over experts and trust influencers over traditional celebrity spokespeople. A report by Olapic revealed that when it comes to choosing a photo for your ad, “real people” are trusted seven times more than a stock photo or “Photoshopped” image. The report details the results of more than 4,500 active social media users between ages 16 and 49 in the US and the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden in which 56 percent said they would be more likely to click on an ad that features user-generated content like a selfie over other types of advertising, and more inclined to purchase, as well.

But you know it’s an ad, right? If you’re a pre-teen or teenager in the US, you might not be able to tell the difference. An incredible 82 percent of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website, according to a Stanford University study of 7,804 students from middle school through college.

Nearly four in 10 high-school students believed, based on the headline, that a photo of deformed daisies on a photo-sharing site provided strong evidence of toxic conditions near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, even though no source or location was given for the photo. No wonder sites like Facebook and Google are cracking down on fake content!

Seems legit.

When it comes to remembering which ads you’ve seen, awareness for almost half of the major retail brands is significantly down since last year. According to YouGov BrandIndex, Walmart is number one for brand awareness this holiday season but Amazon is ranked first in value by consumers. Kmart and Best Buy suffered the largest ad awareness losses since 2015’s Black Friday, YouGov reports, with drops of 12 points and 10 points respectively.

Of course, it’s easier to remember an ad if it’s targeted to the right consumer. Mobile ad targeting is getting more accurate, according to Nielson’s Digital Ads Benchmarks and Findings report, with 60 percent of mobile ad impressions viewed by people of the age and gender intended by advertisers. This number is up from 49 percent in the same period of 2015.

“This now puts the average on-target percentage for mobile campaigns on par with that of desktop campaigns—a factor that could influence considerations of media buyers and sellers planning digital media campaigns,” the report said.

Mobile users see a lot more ads, too. While ad blocking is on the rise, a study by AudienceProject found that while 26 percent of respondents in the UK and 23 percent in the US used an ad blocker on their desktops, only two percent in both countries use ad blocking tools on their smartphones. Among the ad blockers in UK, 34 percent say that their attitude toward ads would be affected in a positive way if the ads displayed relevant messages, with 44 percent feeling the same way in the US.

Programmatic ad spending is growing in popularity and Zenith predicts that the method will grow 31 percent next year. “Programmatic buying of digital media has become the norm in major markets, and is aggressively following this path in smaller markets,” said Benoit Cacheux, global head of digital and innovation at Zenith. The Programmatic Marketing Forecasts report predicts that social spending will grow by 25 percent and online video will expand by 20 percent, with a growing proportion of these other channels will be traded programmatically by the year’s end.

Branding Is Life For Affluent Millennials

Nearly three-quarters (70 percent) of affluent millennial internet users said their favorite brands play an integral role in their life, according to a survey from BBC Advertising. While 51 percent of non-affluent millennials felt the same way, there is a significant drop in whether or not brands define one’s person. For affluent millennials, 60 percent said that they are defined by the brands they purchase, compared to 44 percent of those not considered affluent.

Attitudes Toward Brands Among Affluent* vs. Nonaffluent Millennial Internet Users Worldwide, Sep 2016 (% of respondents in each group)

Gamers Gotta Game . . .

. . . and a whole lot of them are catching “pocket monsters” right now. Pokémon Sun and Moon are now the best-selling video games in online holiday shopping in the US so far, and the fastest-selling title to be sold in the US by Nintendo.

Chances are, if someone in your home isn’t off exploring Alola, someone is probably watching eSports instead. A new study by research company Leger found that 25 percent of US Adults have someone in the household who has watched an eSports tournament. People are watching more, lately, too—the study shows a boost in viewership over the past six months, with the level of adults who watched an eSports event increasing from 15 percent to 18 percent between May and October, while overall household viewership grew from 22 percent to 25 percent.

And yet someone else in the home is probably matching candies or something on their mobile phones. According to a new study by Eedar, 83 percent of participants said they play mobile games because it’s an easy way to pass the time.


October’s digital game market experienced 14 percent year-over-year growth, according to SuperData, with $6.7 billion in total October revenue. New major releases including Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2, Mafia 3 and Gears of War 4 helped propel Console digital revenue to $628 million, a 27 percent year-over-year increase.

Premium PC experienced the greatest growth of any segment, however, jumping 78 percent to $592 million in revenue, which SuperData attributes to the strong performance of Civilization VI, a PC-exclusive title. Mobile gaming continues to grow steadily, with revenue increasing 15 percent year-over-year to $3.1 billion.

SuperData’s Top-Selling games for October are:


  1. League of Legends
  2. Crossfire
  3. World of Warcraft
  4. Dungeon Fighter Online
  5. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
  6. Overwatch
  7. Battlefield 1
  8. DOTA 2
  9. World of Tanks
  10. Fantasy Westward Journey Online II


  1. Battlefield 1
  2. FIFA 17
  3. Mafia III
  4. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  5. Grand Theft Auto V
  6. NBA 2K17
  7. Destiny
  8. Gears of War 4
  9. FIFA 16
  10. Star Wars Battlefront


  1. Pokémon Go
  2. Clash Royale
  3. Monster Strike
  4. Clash of Clans
  5. Mobile Strike
  6. Game of War: Fire Age
  7. Fantasy Westward Journey
  8. Candy Crush Saga
  9. Puzzles & Dragons
  10. Clash of Kings

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.

How ‘Pure Pool’ Is Calling The Shot By Entering ESports

Ripstone, developer of games such as Pure Chess is making the big leap into eSports this weekend with its game, Pure Pool. The company is working with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) and ESL to promote the Pure Pool Contender Cup, which takes place tomorrow, December 3. Competitors across Europe will test their skills to see who is the best pool player.

Ripstone’s head of PR and marketing, Michelle Turner, recently spoke to [a]listdaily about the event and how a Pure Pool (which has sold 300,000 units to date across PS4, Xbox One and PC) could make a name for itself in the eSports scene.

Michelle Turner, Ripstone Head of PR
Michelle Turner, Ripstone Head of PR and marketing

Turner explained that eSports was something that Ripstone has been considering for quite a while for several of its games, particularly Pure Pool and Pure Hold’em. Furthermore, the communities for those games were already setting up their own tournaments.

“Our account manager at Sony contacted us and brought Pure Pool to the table (excuse the pun) , so it seemed like a no-brainer,” said Turner “We’re using Pure Pool as the test-bed with the hopes of expanding this to more countries and more of our games in the future.”

Speaking about why the pool game made for an ideal eSports pick, Turner explained that “the popularity of Pure Pool shows that there is a real passion for pool and snooker games. We’ve already seen our players, especially on PlayStation 4, getting into the spirit of the game and starting their own tournaments, so for us, it was the obvious next step to set up official tournaments.”

With players already setting up their own tournaments, Ripstone did not have to force a tournament mode into the game, and eSports seemed like a natural progression. “In the ‘real world’ pool and snooker championships are televised and are hugely popular proving that the desire is there from people,” Turner continued, “so why not bring this to the gaming world?”

However, it’s tough to overlook how the eSports scene is currently dominated by MOBA games like League of Legends and first-person shooters such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. So where does a game like Pure Pool fit into that space? “Pool is a game that everybody knows, so it makes it a little more accessible to people that may find MOBAs or first-person shooters a little daunting, or if people want a relaxing alternative to those kinds of games ,” said Turner. “If you want something a bit more chilled or a different kind of intensity as to whether someone is going to make that shot or not , Pure Pool is a great choice for that. The audience isn’t going to be as big as those other genres but there’s still a great following of people who love the game and want to get involved.

When asked how Ripstone was working with SCEE and ESL on putting the tournament together, Turner said that “we have a great relationship with SCEE, having published our games on several of their platforms—PS4, PS3 and Vita. Pure Pool does really well on PlayStation 4 , as does the rest of the Pure series, which includes Pure Chess and Pure Hold’em. It was actually our SCEE account manager that came to us initially, and he introduced us to ESL. They’ve been great in handling all the setup and logistics of the tournament and guiding us through the process as it’s our first foray into eSports.”


According to Turner, Ripstone is interested in expanding the Pure Pool eSports tournament to North America. “We have a huge audience of Pure Pool fans in North America already so it would be great to expand the tournaments to include those players too so they can be part of the action,” she said. “Once we’ve done the initial launch in Europe we’ll see how we can expand it further from there.”

Turner also detailed how the company was generating awareness for the Pure Pool Contender Cup. “We’re trying to promote it as much as we can in the lead-up,” said Turner. “There are Live Tiles on the PlayStation Store, so all current owners of the game will see this in their dashboard. We recently did a price promotion for the game alongside our initial announcement about this partnership. It’s included in the PS4 Events App and on the ESL website so people can sign up there. We’re continuously sharing through our various social media channels and doing newsletter mail-outs to our fans, as well as practicing our own pool skills on our Twitch channel to help generate excitement.”

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.

Voke Reveals NFL Virtual Reality Game Plan

Intel-owned Voke is partnering with the National Football League (NFL) to create virtual reality content for four upcoming games. Using Voke’s TrueVR technology, the tech company will produce 360-degree highlights starting with the Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars game on December 4, followed by the New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 11, the Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans on December 18, and the Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles on January 1.

Voke will work alongside NFL Films to produce the in-game and postgame highlights, which will be hosted by NFL Network reporter Courtney Fallon and former NFL wide receiver David Nelson from each game site. The duo will introduce the experience and will be calling the plays and providing analysis of the 360-degree highlights.

Fans will be able to access the NFL VR experience for free in the NFL channel within the Voke app. “Virtual reality has the potential to bring a unique perspective to our fans to complement the different ways they currently enjoy the game today,” William Deng, director of media strategy and business development at the NFL said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Voke as we continue to experiment and create new experiences in this emerging medium.”

Dr. Sankar Jayaram, co-founder, president and CEO of Voke

Voke co-founder Sankar Jayaram told [a]listdaily that the company will use between 48 and 72 of its proprietary cameras arranged in grouped arrays at multiple positions on the field. NextVR recently created 360-degree content with the NFL, but Jayaram said Voke’s technology is fundamentally different.

“Our TrueVR technology is based on multiple pairs of stereoscopic lenses stitched together in real-time,” Jayaram said. “This provides true stereoscopy through the entire field of view and also allows for significant customization for various types of sports and entertainment events. In addition, our technology provides an undistorted 2D panoramic, user controlled experience for smartphones, tablets and computers.”

Jayaram said 360 is a completely different medium and should not be thought of as just enhanced video. “360 opens up a large number of possibilities for new fan experiences, in addition to capturing everything all the time on the field,” he said.

Since being acquired by Intel in November, Voke has upped its game. “The Intel Sports Group is focusing on next-generation fan engagement through the digitization of sports,” Jayaram explained. “VokeVR fits really well into this focus. We have put plans in place for significant growth to support a large number of events to be covered worldwide in the next 12-24 months. There are also significant synergies with existing Intel technologies that we are already beginning to exploit.”

While NFL experiments with 360-degree video have focused on highlight reels so far, that could change in the future. “I believe all future engagement of fans with sports and entertainment will be in a medium very different from what we have today,” said Jayaram. “It will definitely be surround experiences.”

Jayaram said new platforms such as Google Daydream View and Sony PlayStation VR will result in larger audiences for the VokeVR experience. In addition, these platforms will need really good experiences to take advantage of their capabilities. These lead to very good synergy between VokeVR experiences and these platforms.

Holiday Game Sales Are Down, But No Need To Panic

Despite a record-breaking Black Friday, overall digital games sales for the holiday season are down two percent from 2015 according to SuperData Research. It’s not just this year, either—the last two holiday seasons have shown a year-over-year decline of around five percent, which SuperData attributes to recent hardware updates and aggressive bundling. While this has caused an overall shift in sales trends, no one should panic just yet.

“The industry as a whole is fine,” SuperData Research CEO, Joost van Dreunen, told [a]listdaily. “What is declining is the proportion of physical sales. What has allowed physical sales to continue to do well up until recently is the current hardware cycle, which performed above expectations, and the slow adoption from the legacy publishers of digital distribution. When we look at the share of full game downloads during the holiday season from a few years ago, only five percent of revenue came from digital sales. This year, full game downloads represent around 27 percent in the United States.”

In 2012, full game downloads accounted for only six percent of total unit sales around the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, but for 2016 that number was four times higher. “Sales this year were hampered by a weaker than usual line-up of new titles,” SuperData reported, “even as Battlefield 1 managed to perform well.” Despite the hype train, VR was named 2016’s “biggest loser,” with “notably fewer units sold than expected due to a relatively fragmented title line-up and modest marketing effort.”

However, van Dreunen notes some highly anticipated releases that could help turn things around. “Upcoming releases that will drive excitement and revenues this holiday season are The Last Guardian, Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR Mission for the PSVR and Steep,” he said. “It’s important to remember that the entry into virtual reality means a range of new hardware and software sales, which will initially be mostly purchased physically. We expect Q1 next year to see Resident Evil 7 and Horizon Zero Dawn driving momentum.”

Pokémon GO helped pave the way for Sun and Moon to become the fastest-selling US titles in Nintendo history. Source: Nintendo

SuperData considered Nintendo to be this year’s “biggest winner,” with updates to Pokémon GO and selling out of the NES Classic Edition. After becoming the most pre-ordered video games in Nintendo history, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon have now become the fastest-selling games that Nintendo has ever launched in the Americas.

“On mobile, we recorded a spike in earnings as players made the most of the Thanksgiving special for Pokémon GO,” Van Dreunen commented. “The game’s ability to stay in the forefront of people’s minds as we approach the release date for Super Mario Run may prove beneficial for Nintendo, which has yet to make a convincing claim on the $38 billion mobile games market.”

What’s going to keep gamers breaking out their wallets? Van Dreunen says it’s all about value.

“Overall, consumers are expecting more bang for their buck. In the face of a growing amount of alternatives in interactive entertainment, the traditional offering has already become stronger, giving people a lot of more for their money,” he told [a]listdaily. “Bundling has been a huge driver for both hardware and key software sales this year, for instance. As long as the traditional console business continues to deliver high-quality experiences it will meet consistent demand. But therein also lies the challenge, as a shrinking group of publishers is capable of delivering those experiences, and the market continues to consolidate.”

AMD And Alienware Are Marketing ‘Assassin’s Creed’ Through VR Experience

Ubisoft Films, New Regency and 20th Century Fox are preparing to launch the Assassin’s Creed movie globally on December 21. To promote the feature film based on Ubisoft’s bestselling video game franchise, AMD, Alienware, Fox Innovation Lab and Practical Magic have partnered to promote the feature film through an exclusive five-minute virtual reality experience that is available on Facebook 360 today.

There’s also a takeover of The Game Awards green room (now dubbed the red room) in Los Angeles tonight, where kiosks featuring Oculus Rift and AMD-powered Alienware Aurora PCs will showcase the 360-degree experience. Beginning Friday, similar kiosks will tour across the country in AMC Theaters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and New York City through January 1, 2017.

Jeff Elefterion executive vice president of domestic marketing at New Regency said Assassin’s Creed is the perfect fit for a VR experience, not only because of its origins in the gaming world but because of the very nature of its unique and fascinating storyline.

“The main protagonist in the film, Cal Lynch, is hooked up to a machine called the Animus, which virtually transports him to another time and place to experience the life of his ancestor,” Elefterion said. “What could be more perfect in terms of applying that concept to a VR experience?”

Chris Sutphen, director of product marketing at Alienware, told [a]listdaily that in addition to the theatrical marketing campaign, the company will be sharing information and getting the word out in email and social media.

“We’re gamers too, so we know it feels a little validating when a game-related intellectual property enters mainstream culture,” Sutphen said. “We’ve seen it with game-related movies for years, and we’re seeing it with eSports today. We feel that these are moments to celebrate with other gamers because they represent milestones in the story of video game culture.”

The Assassin’s Creed VR Experience puts players in the role of a new assassin and features a cameo from Michael Fassbender, who produces and stars in the big screen film. The VR experience tells an original story that was filmed on the movie sets across London’s Pinewood Studios, Malta and in Los Angeles. It focuses on the Spanish Inquisition but also gives fans an up-close 360-degree video of the Animus (a kind of virtual reality time traveling machine) that was created for the big screen adventure.

“The Radeon Technologies Group worked closely with the developer for the content, Practical Magic, assisting them with technical advice, supplying them with hardware, early driver access and engineering support for optimizations,” Roy Taylor, corporate vice president of alliances at AMD, told [a]listdaily. “James Knight, virtual production director for AMD RTG whose credits include Avatar, I Am Legend and Spider-Man, helped the Practical Magic team and worked closely with them too.”

Taylor said the Radeon Technologies Group Loom technology is an advanced solution for real time stitching for 360 VR video.

“It is proving exceptionally popular because of its high performance and excellent quality,” Taylor said.  “Optimized to be used in conjunction with AMD Radeon Pro professional graphics both were supplied for the making of the Assassins Creed VR Experience. In addition, the target playback performance was aimed at the popular Polaris RX 480 and RX 470 VR Ready graphics solutions used by Dell/Alienware and which will form the most popular graphics solution for location-based experiences and home users around the world.”

Ubisoft has sold over 80 million copies of Assassin’s Creed to date, although there’s no new game this year. Instead, the big screen feature and this virtual reality experience will have to satiate fans of the sci-fi series.

“This VR experience will give gamers a chance to experience the Assassin’s Creed universe in a way they haven’t been able to before,” Elefterion said. “This is not the game. And it’s not the movie. It is an immersive experience that will hopefully build on the already legendary fascination with this unique property by making the viewer feel as if he or she is part of what they are watching.”

Virtual reality is continuing to gain steam, thanks to a huge influx of investment from companies like Facebook, Sony, Microsoft, Intel, Samsung, HTC and AMD. Experiences like this have opened up new marketing opportunities for companies like Alienware.

“This is an important moment in PC gaming. HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have proven that PC offers the best VR experience,” Sutphen said. “And we see a real opportunity to let people know that an Alienware rig is the perfect computer to power these VR experiences. PC gaming is getting even more attention from the general public because of VR.”