7 Video Game Franchises That Leapt Into Virtual Reality

2016 has been the year of video game hardware—especially virtual reality—with the launch of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and most recently, PlayStation VR (PSVR). Developers from across the world have been hard at work creating all-new adventures for the lucrative platform, but these gaming brands are using established franchises to test out the virtual waters for themselves.

NBA 2KVR Experience

2K Sports took a leap from controlling an entire team through a video game to stepping onto the court yourself. Launched just last week, NBA 2KVR Experience places fans in Bankers Life Fieldhouse alongside Indiana Pacers’ Paul George to participate in mini-games like a 3-point shooting contest, a speed and accuracy challenge and the buzzer beater countdown. Players can earn Gatorade fuel boosts that will help their shooting, speed and recovery.

George, who is also on the cover of NBA 2K17 was happy to take part in the extra content. “As a lifelong fan of NBA 2K, it’s exciting to see them take the leap into VR,” he said in a statement, “and even more exciting that it’ll be on my home court.”


Final Fantasy XV VR Experience

Gamers flocking to Eos for the latest Final Fantasy adventure will soon be able to add virtual reality to the mix. An upcoming DLC called Final Fantasy XV VR Experience puts fans in the role of Pronto Argentum, but from a first-person perspective. Using the PlayStation Move controller, players must aim and shoot a mighty beast called Bohemoth while assisting NPC teammates.

Batman: Arkham VR

The Batman: Arkham video game series is highly-revered by fans and critics alike, so when Rocksteady announced a virtual reality experience, there was more than a bit of excitement. Dax Ginn, brand marketing producer at Rocksteady Studios explained to [a]listdaily why Batman was the ideal character to feature in a VR experience.

“The core experience of Batman: Arkham VR centers around Batman’s abilities as ‘The World’s Greatest Detective.’ Players will solve a brutal murder using all of Batman’s detective and forensic skills, and it is this aspect of Batman’s personality that fits VR so perfectly as a technology. Using gadgetry to search for clues at a crime scene and reconstruct critical moments of the story feels like a very ‘Batman’ thing to do, and it also feels incredibly satisfying to do it in VR.”

Minecraft VR

Brave explorers and builders can now experience this world-famous realm of blocks and mobs through the Oculus Rift and Samsung VR. You’ll still need a mouse to navigate, though, in case you were hoping to get one, REALLY buff arm from mining. (Sorry!)

Famed game developer and co-founder of id Software, John Carmack shared his thoughts with Oculus about why this is an exciting moment for mobile VR. “Minecraft is a game that you can both figuratively and literally lose yourself in. In fact, my strongest memories of being inside VR are from the time I’ve spent exploring Minecraft on Gear VR,” Carmack said. “Experiencing it in virtual reality changes it from an abstract activity to a visceral one—it goes from a sense of playing the game to one of being inside your world, and spinning around to find a creeper sneaking up on you leaves a powerful impression. Infinite worlds have been explored, shaped and shared by millions of people, and now in VR; that sounds a bit like the fabled Metaverse.”

Rise Of The Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider received quite a few visual upgrades for its PS4 launch, particularly on the PS4 Pro, but Crystal Dynamics went the extra mile by creating an immersive experience designed especially for PSVR. The development team found inspiration not in a tomb, but in Lara’s ancestral home. In the DLC, Blood Ties, Lara is in danger of losing possession of her manor and must search through its secrets and history in order to keep it.

“You can’t just go back and add VR to this,” Chris Johnson, associate brand manager at Crystal Dynamics told [a]listdaily. “That doesn’t really work. So, as we were building this space out and adding all this adventure, we got inspiration from games like Gone Home. That’s what led us to say, ‘this would work really well in VR, let’s give it a shot.’ So, our team has been busy making that feel immersive. As you’re going through the manor, we felt really excited by it, because for the very first time, players could actually experience the world through Lara’s eyes.”


Resident Evil 7

Many gamers (myself included) have fond and frightening memories of battling zombies in the dark, abandoned buildings of Resident Evil, but Capcom struck a new kind of fear in our hearts by introducing virtual reality to the mix. Resident Evill 7: Biohazard will be released on January 24 in traditional forms, but can be played entirely or through a mix of virtual reality, meaning a lot of nightmares for a lot of people.

“This is the first time we’re using the first-person perspective for a mainline Resident Evil title,” said Mike Lunn, brand manager of Resident Evil at Capcom told [a]listdaily. “What we wanted to do is, instead of being Chris, Leon or Ada (from previous games)—where a zombie comes around the corner, and you say, ‘cool, I have a grenade launcher. I can just blow it away.’ We wanted it to feel like it’s actually you. If it’s just you, then it’s like, ‘I’m not prepared for this!’”

EVE: Valkyrie

Set in the EVE: Online universe, Valkyrie is a virtual reality dogfighting simulator set in outer space, featuring a single-player mode and multiplayer battle pitting two teams of eight against one another. Developer CCP was one of the first game companies to jump aboard the VR trend, and the game is included free with Oculus Rift purchases. EVE: Valkyrie is also available for HTC Vive and PSVR.

Even the Assassin’s Creed movie is getting in on the virtual action, debuting a new 360-degree experience ahead of the film’s launch. A whole lot more game franchises could be headed to virtual reality, especially with the rise of VR Arcades. Juniper Research predicts that hardware revenues from VR headsets, peripherals and 360-degree cameras will reach over $50 billion by 2021.

Featured image source: IGN

How Mandt VR Captured The Magic Of Disney’s Holiday Celebration

Disney, ABC Television and Mandt VR have partnered together to bring an unforgettable experience by capturing The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration across several 360-degree videos. Mandt VR helped create the 360-degree video experiences, which transport viewers to the pageantry and fun of the event. Audiences can watch from their mobile devices or computers for a front row seat at the concerts in addition to riding the floats and theme park attractions.

The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration aired on ABC on Thanksgiving Day (November 24) and Disney Parks Presents: A Descendants Magical Holiday Celebration aired the Friday after on the Disney Channel. The final show, The Disney Parks’ Magical Christmas Celebration will air on Christmas Day (December 25) on ABC.

Neil Mandt, the Emmy-award winning TV and film producer and Mandt VR CEO, recently spoke with [a]listdaily about working with Disney to capture the magic of the high-profile event in 360-degree video.

Neil Mandt, founder and CEO of Mandt VR
Neil Mandt, founder and CEO of Mandt VR

How did Mandt come to work with Disney for these 360 experiences?

We’ve had a long history of working with Disney on a multitude of projects—the Christmas parade in particular. Mandt was involved in the production of the telecast of it in the previous two years. This year, they changed the show up a little bit, focusing a lot on Thanksgiving, and wanted some 360 effort. They turned to us because we have a history of working with them successfully.

What do the experiences include?

There are several short-form videos that have been created that capture the live performances of a lot of the artists that were performing there. Some of the artists range from Boyz II Men, to Flo Rida, to OneRepublic and [then] the parade itself.

We did a ride-along with Forever In Your Mind. The experiences range from being at the show watching the live music performances to actually being involved on a float, as well as some of the park rides like River Rapids—with Forever In Your Mind on the ride.

How did Disney and ABC help promote these experiences?

It was on the front page of ABC.com and it was also pushed out to VR platforms like Oculus and HTC Vive. It was also on the ticker of the show itself.

Why do you think Disney chose this event for 360 experiences?

It’s their most important property in that it shows their park. They do an annual holiday special, and this is the perfect way to take the existing content experience and move it into the next level. People want to be there and they want to be associated with the park. The 360 experience allows people to have that immersive experience. So, this was a very organic move for them.

Do you think this signals a move from Disney to further embrace VR to promote its parks, shows and movies?

One-hundred percent. We’re living in a digital age now, and VR is on the front edge of 360 content. It’s just coming into play, but it works with existing players like YouTube and Facebook. As we look at the 2 billion smartphones in the world that have access to YouTube and Facebook, these players will automatically integrate and play 360 content. We’re already seeing high viewership, and they’re showing a higher return of viewership than non-360 videos. In this digital age, as people are pushing their content through multiple platforms—from digital, on mobile and through television—audience is really what matters, and 360 video and virtual reality video are gaining audiences.

I would say that over the coming years, you’re going to see Disney come up with a whole myriad of ways of implementing 360 content in their overall storytelling and message. They were very interested in being a part of it and really wanted to be as forward-thinking as possible. Our initial plan with them was to do three videos, and that got expanded to five once they saw the capabilities. I would see them looking to fire on all cylinders in the years to come, and I would expect nothing less from Disney. Disney does things at the highest level.

Is there a reason why a short-form format was used?

It’s where the audience is. You can’t do a 360 experience on television sets except through certain apps like Littlstar. But the majority of people who consume content through TV can only access the 2D experience. Then the people who can see the 360 experiences are looking on mobile and computers. Those people are not watching long-form content on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day on a mobile device. They’re just looking at short-form content.

So, it’s consistent with where the audience is at this particular moment in time and what the tech will allow. As we see more 360-compatible devices and VR goggles come on the market, we’ll see an uptick in the length and comprehensiveness of the 360 program.

Something like The Wonderful World of Disney seems like it’s best experienced as a family. Does the solitary nature of 360 video and VR seem contradictory to that?

I would say that this is complementary content. Teenagers and millennials view content on mobile as well as on their iPads and computers. They also like to watch things in bits and pieces. This is really meant for that sort of programming, and part of what makes VR unique is that isolated experience, where I get transported to someplace else. I think this is fine for people in the short term.

It also allows people to share the experience. If I was watching on my goggles, I could talk to someone and say, “now you try it.” So, we’re seeing a lot of shared experiences with goggles, especially if you’re talking about short-form content. I can watch it for three minutes, then you can watch it for three minutes. It’s very palatable compared to watching a half hour show then handing over the goggles, and then we would have lost each other’s attention.

How do you think television events like The Wonderful World of Disney will help grow VR technology?

Awareness is the key element in that. Having the TV audience aware of 360 content is very helpful.

What do you hope audiences will come away with after watching these 360 experiences?

I hope that people enjoy them and see the polish that 360 content can offer viewers. It’s definitely different—you’re able to look around and get a sense of the entire experience, where you have to look at whatever the director tells you to look at in traditional television. In 360, you can let your eyes meander around and have a more immersive experience, even on your mobile phone.

So, it’s my hope that people get hooked on it and say, “I want to see more.” It’s my belief that that will happen. I believe that once people see good quality 360 and VR content that they will want more of it.

Remember, this is an enhancement. It’s a new medium. It’s not meant to replace television, it’s in addition to it. There will be different ways of telling stories in VR and 360 than with television, but there’s still going to be a place for that screen on the wall for people to have a collective viewing experience.

Febreze Brings Some Funky Fresh Marketing With The “12 Stinks of Christmas”

If your house smells as if a litter box married a tray of burnt cookies and had microwaved fish as a lovechild during the holidays, then Febreze has you covered with a jingle so fresh that it’ll scintillate your senses straight through the chimney.

The odor-eliminating spray has brought back its second installment of the holiday marketing hit with the “12 Stinks of Christmas” to breathe some fresh air into the homes of Santa-celebrating citizens this year.

The hip-hop music video features “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” in beatbox pioneer Doug E. Fresh and Instagram top dog @ItsDougThePug, where the rapper counts down the stinks of the season, including “12 musty stockings, 11 burnt cookies . . . and eight frying latkes” all the way down to “a family that really needs Febreze.” @ItsDougThePug—dressed in sunglasses, headphones and a tracksuit—works the record player with his paw.

The campaign is paired with a global push with a UK rendition starring British TV personality and comedian Paul O’Grady. The odor-neutralizing message for both spots is simple—use the scent of Febreze to spray the stench out of your home and be guest-ready all season long.

“Using the momentum from last year’s campaign, we reacted to consumer responses and trends, putting together a funky fresh remix,” Mandy Ciccarella, brand communications manager at Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Febreze, told [a]listdaily. “The goal is always to reach consumers in a fun way as they manage the holiday rush and prepare for the influx of guests and parties. The ’12 Stinks of Christmas’ proves that Febreze is the only solution when it comes to holiday odors. Don’t get us wrong, the holidays are great, but in reality, they can literally stink.”

This season’s revival follows the success of last year’s viral video starring Glee stars Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison. Ciccarella says Febreze will run the campaign with a strong social push through paid media across Snapchat, Twitter, iRadio, and blogger activations—but no TV. Their frontline marketing strategy aligns with the digital efficiency the corporation is seeking after initially going big and losing out on Facebook targeted ads earlier this year.

“We are always open to testing new platforms and look forward to measuring the success of this launch,” Ciccarella said. “We have seen positive feedback from the ads, and in our comment sections.”

One proven and playful test for the brand is to incorporate an internet-famous canine. P&G previously used the Fat Jew’s social star of a dog named Toast—a petfluencer—in sponsored posts for Febreze and Swiffer campaigns.

“We think millennials will love seeing one of their favorite Instapets going from cameo to co-star in year two,” said Ciccarella.

Millennials aside, busy denizens as a whole like short and share-worthy content—even more so during the holidays—that can be consumed on the fly through their phones.

Febreze’s “12 Stinks of Christmas” does exactly that. And that smells like another success.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Apple And Other Brands Turn (RED) For World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, and as the largest corporate contributor to (RED), Apple is leading a charge against the deadly disease with the goal of an AIDS-free world by 2030. Founded in 2006, (RED) raises awareness and funds for Global Fund, an organization that provides HIV treatment, support and prevention of the virus from mother to infant.

“The gift of life is the most important gift that anyone can give,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a press release. “Thanks to the vision and dedication of (RED), an AIDS-free generation is within our reach. We want to leave the world better than we found it, and that’s why our longtime partnership with (RED) remains so important to us.”

In addition to Apple’s current (PRODUCT)RED product lineup that is available year-round, the company has added four new (RED) products including an iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case, iPhone SE Case, Beats Solo 3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones and the Pill+ Portable Speaker. Through December 6, Apple is donating $1 to (RED)’s mission for every purchase made with Apple Pay at any Apple store, on Apple.com or through the Apple Store app up to $1 million. Bank of America will also make a donation for every Apple Pay transaction using its cards up to $1 million.

Games For (RED)

Gamers have been known to fight many things from aliens to zombies, and now, they can add life-threatening diseases to the list. Twenty games from the iOS store are participating in the battle to end AIDS forever with (RED)-themed exclusive content. War Dragons’ Limited Edition (HEROES)RED Pack gives players exclusive access to Raetrix, a healing sorcerer dragon, as well as the opportunity to unlock special armor.

Meanwhile, Episode’s Limited Edition (EPISODE)RED Pack unlocks special outfits inside Demi Lovato and Mean Girls stories. Other participating titles include Angry Birds 2, Angry Birds POP!, Best Fiends, Best Fiends Forever, Boom Beach, Candy Crush Jelly Saga, Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, CSR2, Farm Heroes Saga, FarmVille: Tropic Escape, FIFA Mobile, Hay Day, MARVEL Contest of Champions, PewDiePie’s Tuber Simulator, Plants vs. Zombies Heroes, SimCity BuildIt and YAHTZEE With Buddies.


Fighting With Fashion

Ten years ago, Gap was the first apparel partner for (RED) when it was founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver. The clothing company offers a special fashion line to benefit the organization and often uses celebrities to help inspire others to do the same. This year, Gap created a new line of limited edition street-art-inspired jackets in honor of (RED)’s 10th anniversary. The company also released a series of videos across its social channels demonstrating the partnership’s fight against AIDS by sharing real stories of treatment, support and prevention.

On November 22, Jimmy Kimmel and a host of celebrity guests kicked off a shopathon to benefit (RED) live on his show. The episode was aired again on Wednesday to gain further momentum before World AIDS Day.

Starbucks is also joining the conversation December 1 by donating 25 cents for every beverage purchased that day. This is the ninth year Starbucks is partnering with (RED) on World AIDS Day. The company has contributed more than $14 million to the Global Fund to help fight AIDS, according to its website.

“Over the past 10 years, 70 million lives have been impacted by (RED)-supported Global Fund grants,” said Apple in a statement. “At the start of Apple’s partnership with (RED), 1,200 babies were born with HIV every day, and today, UNAIDS predicts that number could be near zero by the year 2020, with the end of AIDS by 2030.”