How PC Gaming Grew In 2016

While mobile games, at about $36 billion, have become the leading game revenue sector globally, PC games were close behind in 2016 with about $32 billion in revenue. Unlike mobile games, casual games represent only a small part of the total (about $5.2 billion), while massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, which include roleplaying, strategy, action shooters, and multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs) provided the bulk of the revenue.

This year saw continued strength in PC gaming, despite an overall slowing in sales for PC hardware and the lack of PC software in retail stores. The market for PC games is mostly digital now, the bulk of which is on Steam, but many other digital distributors are gaining ground, including downloads direct from publishers. Here are some of the hottest PC gaming trends from the past year.

ESports Grow More Powerful

The impact of eSports on the PC game market was felt strongly this year, as major publishers announced new professional eSports initiatives and viewership climbed. Established PC eSports are notching record numbers, and new PC games are doing their best to become eSports. It’s becoming a great way for marketers to reach a significant audience that’s hard to reach through other media or venues.

Activision kicked things off with the acquisition of Major League Gaming, and by hiring the former CEO of ESPN to run it. So far, the effort has brought more Call of Duty eSports and a record-breaking Counter-Strike Major Tournament. Beyond that, Activision Blizzard announced the creation of the Overwatch League, a professional eSports league that builds on the success of Overwatch, during the BlizzCon keynote in November. There are already over 20 million Overwatch players, and a professional league should help to significantly grow that number.

Electronic Arts also used 2016 to launch an eSports division, headed up by veteran Peter Moore. The focus initially is on EA Sports games like Madden NFL, but certainly other EA games like Titanfall or the Battlefield series could lend themselves to eSports. Especially considering how Battlefield 1 was featured at EA Play earlier this year with a live 64-player match featuring celebrities Jamie Foxx and Zack Efron.

Smaller developers like Psyonix are finding great success in eSports with titles like Rocket League. The game has been hugely successful on both PC and consoles, and Psyonix is currently working to implement cross-platform play. Furthermore, the developers partnered with Twitch to form the Rocket League Championship Series earlier this year.

VR And 4K Gaming Arrive

While graphics cards for PCs are always advancing, the jump in 2016 was particularly impressive in both price and performance. Both Nvidia and AMD pushed forward strongly, driven by the graphics-hungry nature of two of gaming’s hottest trends: VR and 4K/UHD gaming. Although top-of-the-line graphics cards are still very pricey, both companies are working to offer more affordable solutions to help drive the growth of VR gaming.

While PC gamers haven’t made a huge switch over to gaming in virtual reality, 2016 was the year where VR really has begun to impact PC games. The rapid advance of graphics cards and monitors was just part of this trend. We’ve also seen top PC game developers begin to create VR games based on popular franchises or include special modes in their games. Bethesda, for instance, is bringing Fallout 4 to VR. Games being designed with VR in mind include CCP’s EVE: Valkyrie (based on EVE Online) and Gunjack. You can bet that every major PC game publisher is at least thinking about VR and how their games can work with it in the future.

The next leap forward in PC gaming graphics really started to take hold in 2016, with 4K/UHD monitors (3840 x 2160 pixels) are now much more affordable; you can get good quality monitors for under $400 now. Sale prices can even be under $300, and prices are going to continue to fall. Combine those with graphics cards that can drive such a display with a good frame rate, and 4K gaming is now affordable to a much wider audience.

The advent of 4K gaming is already affecting the market in interesting ways, especially since 4K TVs are also getting very affordable. Now we’re seeing 4K streaming on YouTube, though Twitch is not yet ready to offer that level of streaming. Developers are beginning to support both 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR) color in their games, and it’s a massive upgrade in the visual quality of games.

Blizzard Intensifies

OverwatchOne of the biggest stories of the past few years has been the renewal of Blizzard. The company has an incredible 20-year history, with some of the best-selling PC franchises around, including Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo and World of Warcraft. But given the incredible success of World of Warcraft, Blizzard went a long time without a big new game, and even longer without a new IP. Meanwhile, World of Warcraft subscribers were leaving, and the game had shrunk to nearly half of its highest point.

Then Blizzard began a series of releases that have turned the company from a sleeping giant to the engine that’s pulling Activision Blizzard into new sales highs. Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, and the World of Warcraft Legion expansion have all outperformed expectations.

Marketers of PC games have seen another great year for PC games, with old franchises continuing to do well or even get new life with new sequels, expansions, or extensions. New technologies like 4K and VR are expanding the horizons of PC gaming, while eSports and streaming are expanding the audience and marketing opportunities. The future looks even brighter for PC games.

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Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends For 2017

In a world where you can do just about anything online, brands know that digital advertising is a must. Eighty percent of marketers will increase their focus on digital advertising in 2017, according to Conductor. As we look forward to a prosperous New Year, let’s take a look at the trends that are shaping the digital marketplace for brands.

Digital Is The New TV

According to the Digital Content NewFronts: Video Ad Spend Study by IAB, 68 percent of those polled feel that original digital video will be just as vital as original TV programming in the next three-to-five years.

A separate study by IAB revealed that ads appearing through original digital video (ODV) are most memorable with those in the 18-to-34 cord cutters/nevers group by 48 percent, followed by 18-and-over cord cutters (45 percent) and general population over 18 (38 percent).

YouTube is confident in their millennial influence, and for good reason. “We reach more 18-to-49-year-olds during primetime than the top 10 TV shows combined,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said during this year’s Digital NewFronts.

Listen Up

More brands are investing in digital audio, according to a recent study. Advertising Age and The Trade Desk, along with Advantage Business Research, surveyed 532 marketing and media professionals about the future of digital audio ads, and the potential impact of programmatic buying. In June, respondents said seven percent of their ad budgets were set aside for digital audio, but in the next 12 months, their investment in the format would likely grow to 11.6 percent.


Market That Mobile

Zenith predicts that in 2017, mobile advertising will surpass advertising on desktop. In fact, 75 percent of internet use will be accessed via a mobile device in 2017—up from 68 percent this year, according to a mobile advertising forecast released by Publicis’ Zenith unit.

Covering 60 countries worldwide, the report focuses exclusively on mobile advertising and technology trends. Spain leads the way for internet markets with 85 percent, followed by Hong Kong at 79 percent, China at 76 percent and the US at 74 percent.

Brands Go Insta

While it’s no surprise that a majority of marketers (85.8 percent) will utilize Facebook in 2017, eMarketer predicts that Instagram will finally overtake Twitter next year as a marketing platform.

By 2017, the research firm forecasts 74.2 percent of US companies with more than 100 employees will use Instagram for marketing purposes, whereas 66.2 percent will be using Twitter. To put that into perspective, eMarketer estimates that 66.1 percent of marketers currently use Twitter, compared to the 53.2 percent who use Instagram.

Beware Of Blockers

According to Juniper, ad-blocking will continue to rise in popularity among consumers, resulting in a loss in revenue by 70.2 percent in the next few years. “Adoption (of ad-blockers) is being driven by consumer concerns over mobile data usage and privacy,” noted Sam Barker, author of the research report. “They are also incentivized to adopt the technology in order to reduce page load times.”

The most important strategy is to be authentic and to understand the connected customer journey across all touch points. A new study by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council reveals this to be one of the biggest challenges for marketers in 2017.

“Savvy CMOs don’t see digital as a destination for transformation but instead see the digital experience as a constantly moving evolution for both engagements and operations,” noted Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing for the CMO Council. “The year ahead will represent a real turning point in the customer experience as marketers plan to turn their sights toward connecting, streamlining and measuring the entire journey.”

‘ROM: Extraction’ Launches First Contact Into The VR Space

First Contact is a virtual reality game studio founded by video game industry veterans from Starbreeze, Robotoki, Blizzard, Treyarch, Infinity Ward, SCEA and Spark. They were joined in October by VRLA co-founder Jessica Ward—who oversees the company’s relationships with VR and gaming communities—and former Skybound Interactive executive producer, Matthew Candler, who now serves as First Contact’s chief revenue officer.

Its first game, ROM: Extraction, released earlier this month for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift on Steam, and a PlayStation VR (PSVR) launch is expected in the near future. Speaking with [a]listdaily, Candler describes the game as an endless arcade shooter, where players are challenged to take out as many enemies as possible in three minutes using orbs that explode when shot.

ROM is set in the near future, where we’re extracting minerals from the moon,” said Candler. “On a production level, it was one of those things where the programming team was playing around with different mechanics and found a fun one that involved throwing and shooting. Everyone who tried it thought it was really fun, so the mechanic came together in about the span of a week. We saw it, thought it was fun, and said, ‘let’s get it to marketing and have the company go through a production release process.’ Then we could iron out the kinks of launching content and publishing it on Steam, Oculus (Oculus Store) and PSVR (PlayStation Store). So, it came from this fun game mechanic and a desire to go through a product release to learn how to develop and launch, since as a team, we hadn’t done it yet.”

ROM: Extraction may seem pretty straightforward right now, but First Contact intends to update the game with additional levels, weapons and enemies. “We want people on the market to understand that we’re going to continue to support the game and integrate features into the product,” Candler explained. “We think that the publishing landscape [for VR] is still very new, and we’re trying to be smart by not making too many large commitments.”

rom-extraction-2In discussing how the First Contact team came together, Candler spoke about how he worked with three of its founders on The Walking Dead VR Experience, a fan experience featured at Walker Stalker Con, while at Skybound. It was in 2015 that Starbreeze made a pivot into the VR space, and the developers learned that they had a knack for it, so they decided to start their own studio. “They had about two years of experience in VR and decided that they wanted to work on multiple platforms, so they went out and raised some money,” said Candler. At around the same time, Candler thought, “wow, this is a great time to jump into VR” and decided to join them.

Virtual reality is still in its early phases, which makes game promotion challenging, but Candler believes that livestreaming and video content play an important role in promoting new games.

“You have a limited amount of hardware out, but more hardware is coming into the market, so that’s good,” said Candler. “There are fewer participants in VR compared to people streaming traditional PC and console games. It (livestreaming) is a fairly new part of the business and it’s a very powerful way to market a product—having a lot of videos and content created by streamers.

“The other thing is that we’re starting to see that mixed reality is starting to become the preferred way of showing video. The person who is playing the VR game actually looks like they’re in the experience.”

Although mixed reality livestreams are preferred by viewers, Candler explained that there are some technical hurdles, and First Contact is coordinating with the Unreal Engine team to overcome the challenges. “We have a very short development cycle,” said Candler, “so implementing and updating mixed reality is something that we’re getting to—it’s just taking us a little bit longer.”

In the meantime, First Contact intends to keep ROM: Extraction growing and evolving with fresh content. “We’re going to add multiplayer, more weapons, more enemies, and we’re developing two new levels,” Candler said. “We will announce those levels and when they’re going to launch in short order, in the New Year. I think with VR, being nimble is helpful, given how things are kind of in flux across the market.”

When asked about how First Contact was working with partners to raise awareness about the game, Candler said: “Steam has been great, and all the guys over there have been really exceptional and supportive. We got some time in at the Steam Dev Days with demo windows. The hardware partners have been great; both HTC and Oculus have been fantastic and Sony has been very supportive. There are some things coming up that we’re going to announce soon, and our hardware partners will help us promote the product. Our strategy is to work with those people to create a symbiotic relationship between hardware and software and help drive consumer adoption.”

Candler also noted how ROM players were already picking up a strong sense of competition in climbing the leaderboards. With Oculus working to promote The Unspoken as a VR eSport, we asked Candler about his thoughts on eSports support for ROM.

“We hear a lot about eSports,” he responded. “My personal opinion is that there are a few dominant players, and if a product organically evolves into one, that would be wonderful. It’s not something we’re targeting, but we are working with location-based entertainment places, so there’s a lot of opportunity there. If the game evolves in that direction—if that’s what the fans want—then I think we’ll be ready to support it. But it’s not something that we’re saying is a definite thing, because I don’t think there are quite enough units out there for anyone to take a definitive direction.”

When Candler was asked about what he thought was needed to help grow VR adoption, he said: “I think it needs awesome content. Our main goal for ROM, and the reason we launched it, was to get more people experiencing good VR content. We were doing a lot of demos of the product, and we wanted to get it out there to have people experience it.”

Candler also believes that, in addition to location-based demos, retail spaces will play a strong role in getting consumers to adopt VR.

“A great way to sell content is to have people go to an experience and say, ‘I want that,’” said Candler. “That’s what we’re seeing with ROM, where people will come in, play the game, and say, ‘Wow, how do I get that in my home?’”

Beyond ‘Let’s Play:’ 5 Unique Video Game Influencer Campaigns

Video games and influencers go hand-in-hand. Despite FTC crack-downs on transparency, publishers and social media stars maintain a close-knit relationship, made popular by “Let’s Play” videos and livestreams. Challenged with creating a truly authentic experience for viewers, these publishers got creative with influencer campaigns to inform and entertain millions.

Hitman: Real Life Hitman

To promote the return of Agent 47 this past March, IO Interactive teamed up with Realm Pictures—a group of indie filmmakers whose “Real Life First-Person Shooter” video went viral on YouTube and quickly exceeded 10 million views. Realm Pictures created a similar scenario in which various YouTube superstars, which include Smosh Games and the eSports champions, OpTic Gaming, guide a “real life” Agent 47 (the main character from Hitman) through a scenario similar to one found in the game. In iconic Hitman fashion, the “players” could accomplish tasks in multiple ways, and not everything went as planned during the “mission.”

“[Real Life Hitman] is one of the best campaigns I’ve ever seen our brand team put together,” Square Enix senior director of marketing, Mike Silbowitz told [a]listdaily. “With how crowded the marketplace is these days, you can’t just show gameplay. You have to find unique ways to show off your experience. One of the things I absolutely loved about this is how it detailed choice in the game, and not just scope.”

Bejeweled Stars: #ShinyPlace

Launched this May, Popcap and EA’s newest mobile version of Bejeweled needed a way to stand out from its “candy crushing” competitors. To accomplish this, the publisher teamed up with social media influencers, who then showed off their “shiny place”—the game’s catch phrase—through pictures and video. Influencers included The Bachelor‘s Sean Lowe, social media filmmaker, David Lopez, and even adorable, tongue-out kitty, Lil Bub. The most popular of these promotions, with over a million views, was from Jiffpom, a “petfluencer” on both YouTube and Instagram whose specialty is being generally fluffy and cute . . . this time, with a sponsored hashtag.

Doom: Day of Doom

Bethesda went all out for the launch of its gory reboot with promotions ranging from race cars to live-action commercials. Despite already being one of the most anticipated titles of the year, Doom got the influencer treatment in style thanks to a partnership with Rooster Teeth, professional athletes and some highly popular YouTubers. Rooster Teeth’s Day of Doom commenced on March 29 with a livestream of the tournament on YouTube Gaming. Going head-to-head in the 6-on-6, single-elimination tournament were NFL and MLS sports stars Rob Gronkowski, Thierry Henry, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, and Antonio Brown. They were teamed up with YouTubers like Rooster Teeth, SSSniperWolf, Funhaus and iJustine for the bloody battle.

Tom Clancy’s The Division: Agent Origins

Ubisoft worked with popular YouTube filmmakers, RocketJump and devinsupertramp to develop Agent Origins, a four-part live action series based on Tom Clancy’s The Division. The film was produced by Corridor Digital and detailed the background stories of four agents tasked with restoring New York City after a devastating viral outbreak. The four episodes debuted first on YouTube, then with exclusive scenes on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service on January 19.

“YouTube is an amazing channel for the video game industry,” Ann Hamilton, brand representative at Ubisoft, told ION. “It allows us to share our video content with our consumers directly through our own channels. It has been a great tool at building communities for each of our games. We release a variety of content including gameplay walkthroughs, interviews with game development teams, game trailers, as well as partnering with major creative talents on projects like Agent Origins. Additionally, it’s a venue for fans to create their own content based around our games and share it.”

Sonic Boom: Smosh Games Scavenger Hunt

The gang at Smosh Games set out on a San Francisco scavenger hunt, inviting Twitter users to suggest locations and activities. At the end, Sega invited them on a tour of its facilities, gave a hands-on with Sonic Boom and a peek behind a forbidden door to discover a mind-blowing secret. The video garnered 1.7 million views and over 17,000 likes, raising awareness for the new game and showing off Sonic Boom gameplay through a unique, comedic situation.

Top 5 Social Media Trends For 2017

A lot has happened this past year in the realm of social media. Facebook introduced live video, Instagram launched Stories, Snapchat became a camera company and Vine went the way of the dodo. While ad spend is up for social networks, customer satisfaction isn’t as high as in recent years. Social media users are more diverse and digitally savvy than ever before—challenging brands to engage them through meaningful, frontline marketing. Let’s take a look at some of the top social media trends going into the new year . . . we hope you’ll “like” it.

Paying To Play

A recent study by Steelhouse/Forrester revealed that a majority of marketers (89 percent) spend on social advertising, while 77 percent purchase display banner ads, 65 percent use video advertising and 60 percent use email advertising. According to a separate survey by Animoto, a cloud-based video creation service, 70.8 percent of respondents said they plan to invest in social video ads, including ads to boost content over the next 12 months.

When it comes to marketing B2B, brands are struggling with whether social media is worth the effort. According to a study by Regalix, 67 percent of respondents said they allocate budget to social media ads. Despite this fact, whether or not the investment is worth it seems to be in question. While 52 percent said that social media marketing is “very important,” the remaining 48 percent said the effort was “somewhat important.” Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they hope social media marketing will increase brand awareness and a majority (58 percent) named LinkedIn and Facebook as having delivered efficiently on advertising dollars.


Influencers Reign Supreme

Per Social Times, 84 percent of brands are now using influencer marketing to drive their business goals, and for good reason. Forward-thinking brands realize that the word of an influencer is far more powerful than a pop-up ad. Massive video game events, once the epicenter for press conferences and secret demos are now moving in a completely different direction. During Gamescom, Peter Moore, Electronic Arts’ chief competition officer said, “I’m not too sure that press conferences have a future. The medium is changing. Influencers, celebrities who aren’t the classic journalists are finding their own way. Our job is to put the games in their hands.” Brands like EA and Microsoft opted for public user experiences rather than press conferences to accomplish just that.

A study by Think With Google revealed that 70 percent of YouTube subscribers relate to YouTube creators more than traditional celebrities, making a strong case for the power of branded content and strategic influencer partnerships.

Women Want Answers

According to a study by Influencer Central, 88 percent of women say they often seek peer opinions over social media prior to making purchases, while 59 percent turn to experts, and women value firsthand experience over any other reason for the recommendations they receive. While a vast majority of women reach out on social media channels for help, the offer goes both ways. Seventy-two percent of women consumers often share their own opinions, advice and recommendations via social media as well.


Rising Demographics

Analytics firm, eMarketer estimates that 17.5 million social network users between the ages of 12 and 17 will use a social network at least once per month in 2016, with that number growing to 18.2 million by 2020.

In addition, more than half (55 percent) of African American millennials report spending at least one hour a day on social media, which is six percent more than all millennials, and 29 percent say they spend at least three hours a day on social media—nine percent more than all millennials.

Facebook Love

According to the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released in July, social sites such as Twitter and Facebook saw a decrease in satisfaction year-over-year, dropping 9 and 8 percent, respectively. If you’re wondering which social media site ranked the highest in customer satisfaction, Wikipedia dominated with a 78 ranking. Top satisfaction rates were followed closely by YouTube (77) and Google+ (76). Pinterest (76), Instagram (74) and Tumblr (67) all dropped 3 percent. LinkedIn (65) tied with Twitter for last place.

A drop in Facebook satisfaction hasn’t stopped users from flocking to the site, with 71 percent of American adults using it, according to Pew Research. Advertisers love it, too, naming Facebook the best platform for calculating return on investment (ROI). Facebook Messenger is now the top messaging platform of its kind, with a whopping one billion active users.

The Rise Of Collegiate ESports

Collegiate StarLeague (CSL), a division of WorldGaming, has inked a deal with Campus Insiders to cover its college eSports leagues and tournaments in the same way the site covers NCAA football and basketball. CSL has over 1,000 teams from 700 campuses across North America competing in League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Vainglory and Starcraft II.

Collegiate StarLeague CEO, Duran Parsi, told [a]listdaily that collegiate eSports is a burgeoning subset of the eSports industry. “There’s a lot of maturation that is needed; we’ve seen collegiate teams go from unorganized groups of five friends to being fully fledged athletic teams, complete with full scholarships, to incredibly monolithic student organizations such as Triton Gaming at UCSD or UBC eSports,” Parsi said. “That’s been the coolest thing for me to see.”

Beginning January 16, CSL content will be featured across the Campus Insiders network, which reaches over 100 million college sports fans through various streaming applications and connected devices including Sling TV, Verizon’s go90, Xbox One, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, Facebook and Twitter. Brooks Boyer, CEO of Silver Chalice, owner of Campus Insiders, 120 Sports and the ACC Digital Network, told [a]listdaily that eSports is a natural fit for its always-growing portfolio of high-quality collegiate sports content.

“We’re excited to provide a cohesive space for all of the games, leagues and players in the collegiate eSports space to tell their stories to their fans,” Boyer said. “We have been closely engaged in the rise in popularity of eSports, both professional and collegiate, over the past year and want to ensure the Campus Insiders’ fan base has access to the best content of this kind, when and where they want it.”

The content partnership will also allow Campus Insiders and CSL to collaborate on and create new and exciting live events within collegiate eSports. It will create a unified portal for collegiate eSports content coverage, making it easier for fans to follow their favorite teams as they compete regionally and nationally in these events.

“As the popularity around eSports continues to grow at a rapid scale both at the professional and collegiate levels, our network (Campus Insiders) strives to meet the needs of our audience to ensure that they have the best content possible built around all sports, whether they be conventional ‘stick and ball’ or of the eSports variety,” Boyer said. “Our partnership with CSL affords us the opportunity to keep a ‘close ear’ to the collegiate eSports community and has brought to light the lack of a ‘one-stop shop’ for all things collegiate eSports. As a result, we have responded to this need.”

Since 2009, CSL has awarded over $300,000 in scholarship money to student gamers from around the world. It has over 20,000 registered players across 600 registered schools.

Parsi said CSL is currently the only collegiate organization that provides regular content. “We produce interviews, features, recaps and really focus on the awesome stories,” Parsi said. “Campus Insiders is giving us at outlet for those stories—they’re giving us the resources to do more. One of the ways you’ll probably see this happen is the addition of a lot more video content produced in collaboration with Campus Insiders.”

Boyer said collegiate eSports opens up Campus Insiders to a whole new audience of previously untapped sports fans. “We already have a strong audience within the younger demographic, and this new relationship with CSL strengthens it by increasing our expertise in another area that they (our fans) are interested and engaged in, in a natural and credible way,” Boyer said.

This is part of a growing synergy across traditional college sports and eSports. The Pac 10 has officially added eSports to its collegiate competition. Parsi believes more conferences will get involved in eSports in the near future. “My hope is that the conferences take a measured and authentic approach to getting involved in eSports and don’t simply try to impose traditional sports methods on top of it,” said Parsi. “Gaming is significantly different.”

This being a new industry, Parsi believes there are still steps that need to be taken to ensure continued growth.

“Blizzard cutting other organizations like ours out of hosting leagues for its game is a disservice to the community,” Parsi said. “Its Overwatch League for example, was restricted to one team per school—meaning only a handful of Overwatch players on a given campus were able to compete. The thousands of other players, who could have played in a league like CSL, were left with nothing to do. That isn’t helpful for anyone, so I wish Blizzard would be more friendly to third party organizers who are trying to grow the space together.”

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 ‘Killing Floor 2’ Splatters Gore Onto The PS4

In the over-the-top horror game, Killing Floor 2, up to six players are challenged to work cooperatively and combine their firepower to fend off waves of “Zeds” (also referred to as “specimens”)—mutant monsters that are somewhat comparable to zombies. They come crawling, staggering and running out with the single-minded goal of wiping out the players.

The first game released in 2009 exclusively for the PC, and developer Tripwire Interactive maintained the game for several years with annual events and updates, supported by a large community of modders, before announcing a sequel. Killing Floor 2 spent over a year in Steam Early Access before officially launching last November. In addition to featuring spectacularly gory graphics, the sequel has a special versus mode, where teams of six battle against each other—one team as the humans, the other as the Zeds. Furthermore, the game is expanding its audience by releasing for the PlayStation 4 with support for the PlayStation 4 Pro.

Tripwire Interactive vice president, Alan Wilson, recently spoke to [a]listdaily about growing the Killing Floor brand to include a console audience and what it will take to keep the sequel running for at least seven more years.

Alan Wilson, Tripwire Interactive vice president
Alan Wilson, Tripwire Interactive vice president

Did the reputation of the previous game on PC help make promotion on the PlayStation 4 easier?

It is a mixed blessing, to some extent. On the one hand, all those who already know the game and Tripwire as a studio are likely to be very positive and become evangelists for us on a new platform. Happily, we never really got much into the “PC vs. console” debate, as we were able to make clear from early on that neither platform was going to “suffer” in any way to make it easier for us to support multi-platform.

More recently, we had the PS4 Pro support that we could highlight as well, so that the PS4 was getting all the gameplay of the PC version along with controller support designed in from the get-go and 4K support. The reputation of Killing Floor 1 certainly helped, but it was still an entirely new franchise to a significant portion of the console player-base. To that end, we’re back at promoting something completely new, even though to us and the PC fans, it is a sequel to a very successful game. That really just meant we had to manage the messaging subtly and differently between the platforms.

How have players taken to the game?

For PC, it was a sequel to a highly-successful first game, but on the PS4, it is a new franchise, albeit well-known to some players. Mind you, judging by the noise we got at the first PSX in Las Vegas to the game’s announcement in the keynote presentation, I’d say there were already a good few gamers who were really happy to see the franchise come to console!

Have you found that PC and PS4 players have different expectations from the game?

In general, not hugely. There are requests like split-screen for the console, but mostly we’re finding that a game involving 6-player co-op and 6-vs.-6 player competition really migrates very easily between the platforms. In this day and age, the distinctions between the hardware are rapidly blurring, and the gaps closing, so there is less and less reason for games to be very different.

How did a lengthy Early Access period help with promoting the game?

I’d have to say it has sometimes been a mixed bag. Initially in the Early Access period, we were simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of feedback coming in. It was well above our expectations. That told us that a lot of players were heavily engaged and vested in the game, which is a good thing. But it did leave us scrambling in the early months to handle it all, respond to it, and quickly roll out updates to the game. It took us longer than we wanted to really hit our stride with updates. The flip side, of course, is that the game has been very well honed as a result of all that feedback. So, we did have to deal with some disappointment in the first months, as we struggled to keep up the pace. However, once we’d hit that stride, it meant that we could show dramatic additions and improvements to the game, and that is always well received by players.

What is the key to keeping a game like Killing Floor 2 engaging for the long run?

We learned a lot of lessons with the first game. We were trying out all sorts of ideas over the years—providing extra content to the game for free. This meant our own content (maps, weapons, characters and the much-loved seasonal events), as well as a growing pool of community-made content. So, we added in Steam Workshop support and unlockable items and DLC packs as well. Some of that was effectively retrofitted to the first game.

With Killing Floor 2, we’ve built for that from the get-go. Systems [are there] from the start, allowing for content to be put into the Workshop much more easily, and it’s much easier to find in-game. [We’re] monetizing the best of that content through the in-game economy, so that contributions from the community can be more directly rewarded with actual money, which has led to a wonderful level of support from the community, providing players with a ton of great content. We’ll continue to supplement that by encouraging community mappers, with things like mapping contests and making the best of that material “official,” so that it is seen by everyone.

The seasonal events haven’t been forgotten, naturally, and we’ve got a few more ideas we’ll be trying out as we go. Ultimately, we provided enough new content to Killing Floor 1 to keep the game fresh—and players returning regularly—for over six years. So, we’ll be doing all that and more for hopefully for just as long with Killing Floor 2.

A large feature on the PC side is mod support. How challenging was it to bring KF2 to the PS4 without the support from that community?

The key point is that we’re not going to leave all that support behind. Clearly, yes, we are more limited in what we can do on the PS4, but the PS4 players are already seeing a bunch of content generated by PC modders in the in-game economy, as well as community-made maps included for free with the game itself. That isn’t going to stop. We’ll continue to bring as much of that content as we can across from the PC. Hopefully, console players will soon learn that we provide a lot of support to our games in the form of additional free content and special events. We have always operated that way, and we’re not planning to change that just because we’re operating on new platforms.

Has PlayStation 4 Pro support helped to further popularize the game?

The PS4 Pro certainly enabled us to get an “in” on a surge of interest. Apart from being able to show people how good the game looks by ourselves, it has also gotten us into Sony’s marketing alongside games with very much bigger marketing budgets than we can afford.

What led to partnering with GameStop for the exclusive retail release?

The practicalities of the current retail market, realistically. Shelf-space is much more limited than it was even just a few years ago, especially during the November timeframe, when so many big-budget games are launching. It becomes a serious fight for the buyers’ attention and for the store managers’ inventory slots. On this occasion, Deep Silver (who handled the retail distribution in North America) simply got to a great deal with GameStop, and we went with it. Early indications are that many GameStop stores sold out overnight and have re-ordered, so hopefully everyone will be happy with it!

What do you think it is about Killing Floor 2 that inspires such a dedicated fan base?

That’s the $64-million-dollar question. We see it as a combination. At the core, you have (as many reviewers have been saying) a wave-based horde shooter, honed to be the very best of its breed, with a combination of awesome gunplay, crazy monsters, great level design, mad levels of gore, and some dark humor sprinkled in. Perfect mayhem after a busy day at work or school. But the fans are also dedicated because of the levels of support we’ve always brought to our games, with free content, special events and unlockable content rolling for years. Players do not need any of the content that is available to buy ([premium] DLC in the first game, [and] through the economy in Killing Floor 2) but many players do choose to pay for some of it—both because it is fun and because the revenue it generates also helps pay for the ongoing stream of content that every single player gets for free.

Major Nostalgia And Super Spin-Offs: The Top 5 Mobile Games Of 2016

Mobile games accounted for more revenue than any other form of interactive entertainment in 2016, generating over $40.6 billion worldwide. While the top-grossing titles of the year were dominated by existing franchises like Monster Strike and Clash of Clans, these newcomers made their mark through remarkable launches, unexpected success and some old-fashioned marketing strategy.

Pokémon GO

It’s no secret that the world was consumed by “Pokémania” this summer, thrusting Niantic’s monster-catching game into the spotlight and changing the way publishers looked at augmented reality. Despite being free, Pokémon GO brought in a massive $788 million in microtransactions and no doubt contributed to the success of Pokémon Sun and Moon, as well as increased sales of the 2DS and 3DS just in time for the franchise’s 20th anniversary.

“Despite a stuttering rollout, server issues, and a lot of uncertainties, [Pokémon GO] managed to not just earn a lot of money but captivate audiences,” SuperData CEO, Joost van Dreunen told [a]listdaily. “Ultimately the ambition of most game designers is to offer people a new, innovative experience that changes their perspective on something, even if it is in a minute way. Pokémon GO offers this perfect mix of innovative gameplay, real world exploration, nostalgia, and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to connect with total strangers in public, which given the current sentiment in global politics is a breath of fresh air.”

Clash Royale

Launched in March, Supercell’s wildly popular spin-off title earned $197 million in its first month alone and earned an impressive $1.1 billion dollars in 2016. Recently acquired by the giant Chinese company, Tencent, Supercell utilized the power of eSports engagement to increase brand awareness during the 4th of July holiday week this summer. In the two weeks since the tournament update, Newzoo reported more than one million additional Clash Royale downloads and more than $1.5 million additional revenues when compared to the two weeks before the tournament week. Total hours spent watching the game on Twitch more than doubled during the event to 614,200. At its peak, downloads were up more than 50 percent compared to the baseline.

Clash Royale showed the world that eSports can work on mobile in a meaningful way,” Chris Akhavan, chief revenue officer, Glu Mobile told [a]listdaily. “In addition, the title illustrated for the first time that real-time PVP (player-vs-player) can drive a #1 top-grossing hit. Prior to Clash Royale‘s launch, the mobile ecosystem was largely ignoring the viability of eSports and defaulting to asynchronous PVP as the go-to structure for social competition in mobile gaming.”

Since the beginning, Supercell has employed creative marketing techniques for its mobile games through commercials, celebrities, influencers and most recently, an animated comedy series by the writers of The Simpsons.

Mr. Robot: 1.51exfiltrati0n

This clever show tie-in may not have topped the charts for revenue or downloads but 1.51exfiltrati0n.ipa makes our list for its expert use of “less is more.” Taking place during the first season of USA Network’s Mr. Robot, you find a smart phone on the ground outside the Fun Society Arcade at Coney Island. Little do you know that the phone belongs to Darlene, a black hat hacker who is about to commit the biggest cybercrime the world has ever seen—but she needs her phone back to do it. The 99 cent “game” is completely text-based and makes the user feel as though they are communicating with a real person, during which social engineering must be used to accomplish the task at hand. To further add to its authentic feel is E-Corp’s private messaging platform, and although 1.51exfiltrati0n.ipa clearly promotes the show, it does not display ads or offer microtransactions of any kind.

Rollercoaster Tycoon Classic

Just released on December 20, Atari’s acclaimed theme park-building sim is already climbing the charts on both Android and iOS. Fueled by nostalgia and the convenience of mobile devices, Rollercoaster Tycoon Classic combines features of the first two games, plus optional expansion packs.

“As the creator of the original RollerCoaster Tycoon PC games many years ago, I have seen how much excitement and entertainment they have brought to players all over the world,” the game’s producer Chris Sawyer said in a statement. “It was my long-term ambition to bring the classic game to modern touch screen devices as its visual style and tactile nature are so well suited to smartphones and tablets.”

Super Mario Run

Mario’s first leap onto mobile is, thus far, a record-breaking success with Nintendo reporting over 40 million downloads in just four days. In addition, the game reached number one on the App Store’s free game list in 140 countries and regions (Super Mario Run is free for the first four levels, then costs $9.99 to unlock the complete game).

Available only for iOS at the moment, but expected to be released for Android sometime soon, Super Mario Run is a test for Nintendo to see how mobile games will shape the company’s future. “We anticipate that in a couple of years from now, smartphone and tablet games will account for at least half of Nintendo’s software revenues,” Peter Warman, CEO at Newzoo predicted in a statement just prior to the game’s launch. “[December 15], Nintendo takes the first step. A small step for the industry, but a giant leap for Nintendo.”

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.

The Biggest Mobile Gaming Trends Of The Year

The largest segment of the gaming market, mobile games, had another banner year in 2016. Overall, worldwide revenues for mobile games topped $36 billion according to analyst firm, Newzoo, which was 82 percent of the overall app market. A number of trends arose this year that are of great importance for marketers to succeed in an increasingly crowded market.

Mobile Games Growth Continues

Mobile represents the largest sector for gaming, and it’s a strong market, which is normally something that helps all related companies. However, mobile games are much more geographically diverse than other types of games, which makes the growth picture more complex. Overall, growth in mobile games has slowed in the US, and Newzoo predicts this growth will continue to slow in the coming years, leading games to become a lower overall share of the total app market revenue, dropping from 82 percent in 2016 to 72 percent in 2020.

Growth in mobile games has slowed in mature markets like Japan, Korea, and the US, while there’s continued strong growth in China and Southeast Asia. China overtook the US in total app revenues in 2015, and that share continued its expansion in 2016.

The two leading operating systems (OSs) in mobile, iOS and Android, continued to show divergence. Apple’s iOS saw decreased market share as smartphone sales slowed in mature markets, while the strongest growth in emerging markets was in low-end Android smartphones. Still, Apple has the highest market share of all mobile devices with 34.8 percent, Samsung is #2 with 23.3 percent, followed by Huawei, Xiaomi, and Lenovo. Apple devices are the most-used in North America, the Middle East and Africa, while Samsung leads in Latin America and Europe.

Game revenues continue to be strong on iOS, despite the lower market share. Android users are far more numerous but don’t seem to spend as much. Additionally, the fragmentation of the Android market continues to hamper app developers.


Brand Extensions Rule

Brand extensions prove to be a very compelling strategy for mobile games in 2016, as some of the top brands continued their time among top-grossing apps by extending their brands. King Digital’s mega-hit Candy Crush Saga was extended with Candy Crush Soda Saga, and now Candy Crush Jelly Saga. The brand extensions have proven to be solid performers for King Digital, and the Candy Crush line continues to provide the bulk of the company’s revenues.

Supercell used a different tactic in extending its huge Clash of Clans brand. It took the characters and setting and used it as the backdrop for an entirely different game with Clash Royale, which is a card battle game similar to Hearthstone. Interestingly, Clash Royale has been consistently ahead of Clash of Clans in revenue, with some analysts speculating that Clash Royale has cannibalized some of the Clash of Clans audience. Still, the revenues of the two games put together are massive, and they are more than Clash of Clans produced alone.

Machine Zone’s approach toward extending Game of War: Fire Age was to launch Mobile Strike, a strategy game that uses Arnold Schwarzenegger as its celebrity spokesperson. In reality, it’s essentially a reskinned version of Game of War: Fire Age, set in a modern battlefield. While that may have taken away some users from Game of War: Fire Age, the two games together are doing quite well. Another successful example of brand extension, though in this case, it shows that game mechanics and gameplay can be an important part of your game brand.

Pokémon GO Shocks Mobile Gaming

The biggest surprise of 2016 in mobile games is clear: Pokémon GO. It launched to great fanfare over the summer, garnered over 500 million downloads in two months, and over $600 million in its first 90 days. Despite a big drop in users since releasing, the game continues to perform, occupying the #1 position in October for mobile game revenues, according to SuperData.


Marketing Mobile Games Gets Harder

Overall, the relentless advance of user acquisition costs continues. As Michael Chang, SVP of corporate development for NCsoft said recently, he expects developers to budget “$20 to $40 million in first year user acquisition marketing.” Absent that sort of budget, marketing has to get creative in order to find the necessary audience for a mobile game, and creative, powerful marketing strategy is at least as important as a great game design.

How Chatbots Are Finding A Voice

Messenger apps, particularly Facebook Messenger, have begun to emerge as a fast-growing platform for user engagement. According to a Pew Research study published in June, 49 percent of smartphone owners age 18 to 29 use messenger apps, and the number of users is expected to reach 2.19 billion by 2019. Additionally, Facebook Messenger added over 11,000 chatbots over the summer (a number that continues to grow), bringing user engagement to a whole new level.

Messenger apps and chatbots are regarded by some as the next big gaming platform, and that’s a tough idea to argue with when Choose Your Own Adventure-style interactive bots such as the initial Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (where a bot posed as a character named Lt. Reyes) created over 6 million engagements in 24 hours. The engagement was so successful that Activision created a follow-up version at the game’s launch called Terminal Tours. It features actress and musician, Kate Micucci (Scrubs; Garfunkel and Oates), who plays the role of an interstellar tour guide named Alana, who has a penchant for killer pranks.

Whether users are playing messenger games or planning their next big trip, there’s a chatbot for that.

Kiwi, Inc. CEO and Sequel founder, Omar Siddiqui, recently spoke to [a]listdaily about how chatbots and messenger platforms have grown over the past year, and what could be worth talking about in the near future.

Omar Siddiqui, Kiwi, Inc. CEO; Sequel Founder
Omar Siddiqui, Kiwi, Inc. CEO; Sequel Founder

How advanced have chatbots become in the past year?

Over the year, Facebook, Kik, and Microsoft launched bots on their respective messaging platforms to take a niche trend from Slack and Telegram to the mainstream. We’ve since seen the industry grow with brands, developers, and creators rushing to create bots and jump on the bot bandwagon.

Bot developers have been busy primarily figuring out the interaction model that will work for consumers in this new medium. While the initial expectations had been that we would go to a full natural language-only experience in interacting with bots, it has actually been a combination of native messaging app user interface elements, ranging from vertical and horizontal carousels, and graphics-rich buttons combined with conversational text that has emerged as the most effective paradigm.

In addition, the know-how to catch customer intent and steer them into the workflows that they intend has been another area of major improvement, engendered not only by improving capabilities on the part of the messaging platforms as well as bot toolsets, but also the experience on the part of bot creators.

How do users discover brands through messaging apps?

It all depends on the messaging platform being used. For instance, Kik has a bot shop where users can browse through top bots in categories such as Entertainment, Fashion and Beauty, Games, and Lifestyle, or search for a specific bot. For Facebook Messenger—while there is a set of bots that are featured by the platform in a discovery area, the primary mode of consumer discovery is through the brand’s Facebook Page or other launch point into the experience that is integrated with the brand’s overall web presence.

Do you think messaging apps and bots are significantly changing the way people engage with brands?

The change has been gradual, but consumers are expecting to engage brands in conversation. This trend has been organically seen already through the rise of platforms like Facebook and Twitter for customer service, and it would be a shame not to extend the dialogue that starts through a customer service issue to an overall consumer relationship. Bots enable this dialogue to occur in an automated way, and it seems inevitable given consumer preferences on how they want to engage and communicate with each other and the significant brands in their lives.

It has been said that messaging apps and chatbots could surpass the app stores in growth. What are your thoughts on this?

It’s hard to judge on an absolute basis since the bot market is still relatively early and emerging. Although, it would be fair to say that connecting with what you want done through conversation is a massive trend that will permeate all aspects of our lives. This trend will be expressed not just through messaging app-based bots, but increasingly through interactive audio experiences on platforms like Alexa and Google Home and other novel platforms as well. So it is definitely an exciting trend, and we’ll certainly see changes in the market in how consumers interact with the brands and services they care about.

How do you think messaging apps and bots will continue to evolve in 2017?

It’s still the early days for bots, and we firmly believe that the evolution of these automated conversations will be one of the greatest endeavors over the next few years. Right now, bots are where web pages were in 1995. It will take time for the medium to emerge and become what it inevitably will be, but we are excited about the future possibilities.

Over the course of this year, we’ve seen improvements in the interface elements offered to consumers to aid their interactions as they speak with bots, as well as some initial conventions on what it means to build a great bot experience.

Next year, we’ll see continued improvements in the same interaction design supported by both platform improvements and technological progress on how best to utilize natural language as part of the bot experience. We’ll see the messaging apps continue to make improvements in bot discovery for consumers and more organic means by which bots can be surfaced to consumers at appropriate points in their work flows on these apps. We will also see the emergence of multimedia bots with audio and voice taking more of the mind-share as a complement to text-based experiences.