Whether you’re traveling for business, pleasure or obligation (yay for in-laws), the hospitality industry is working hard to make the trip enjoyable for anyone who leaves home. Tasked with catering to a younger, more tech-savvy consumer and travelers who can just as easily book a stranger’s house as a luxury hotel, here are how brands are gearing up for a new year of hospitality.
Yes, there is such a thing as “virtual tourism.” The hospitality industry is finding new ways to help consumers plan their next trip with the help of virtual reality and 360-degree video. Expedia’s “Discover Your Aloha” campaign uses facial-recognition to determine what kind of Hawaiian vacation each consumer might like best, based on which images he/she smiles at.
Hilton’s “Destination Inspiration” campaign uses 360-degree video to provide virtual tours of rooms, resorts and a hotel’s surroundings before a call to action invites consumers to book a vacation. “The habit of ‘virtually experiencing’ a hotel has been part of the guest-booking experience for years now, only it was previously limited to scrolling through a property’s social feed or website,” Stuart Foster, Hilton Worldwide’s vice president of global marketing, told [a]listdaily: “Virtual reality technology is here to stay and we will continue leveraging this exciting capability to create new experiences for travelers from the moment they begin thinking about their trip to when they’re ready to book that dream vacation.”
Carnival Cruise Line has been “rocking the boat” lately with a number of new 360 experiences, hosted by Instagram influencer, Zach King. “The Vista Effect,” named for the new Carnival Vista ship, features interactive views of the cruise liner that show off attractions like dining, water park and even rides. Partnering with AT&T stores earlier this year, curious would-be vacationers were able to step aboard in an immersive, VR tour of Carnival Cruise ships and enter to win a cruise through a special sweepstakes.
Legacy hotel and hospitality brand, Marriott is setting the standard for guest entertainment by adding virtual reality to guest rooms, hosting concerts and partnering with sports clubs like the NFL and NBA. Designed especially for a younger demographic that wants meaningful experiences over just a bed and a shower, Marriott launched Moxy Hotels in 2014. “It’s a brand that was created strictly for the millennial traveler,” Catherine Leitner, senior director of Buzz Marketing at Marriott International told [a]listdaily. “It’s led by a young, fresh, female executive who really has her finger on the pulse of what that traveler’s looking for—from hotel and room designs to public spaces—and the price point makes it reasonable and attainable.”
Royal Caribbean recently launched its latest billion dollar cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, in the US—complete with ultra-high-speed internet for $10 per day, per device. The cruise line hosts a number of social media events on board and gives away prizes with the use of hashtags. By having internet speeds at sea that are comparable to those on land—as well as a partnership with Xbox—Royal Caribbean’s chief marketing officer, Jim Berra, told [a]listdailythat eSports could be part of the cruise line’s wave of the future.
“I do expect us to push harder into gaming,” Berra said. “We have a partnership with Madison Square Garden and they’re hosting eSports events. There are a couple of different ways to reach that market, and it’s untapped. We have the connectivity and the idea of having live internet-based gaming anywhere in the world is a cool area for us to explore.”
It’s hard to turn on the television these days without seeing a Samsung Gear VR commercial focusing on the reactions of people experiencing virtual reality for the first time. Marc Mathieu, chief marketing officer at Samsung, told [a]listdaily that it’s hard to convey to the audience how truly immersive Samsung Gear VR can be.
Mathieu said as ironic as it is, watching someone who watches VR seems to be as fun as watching VR itself, and it is definitely a great way of appealing to people who haven’t tried it yet. “This campaign shows a diverse cross-section of people experiencing virtual reality for the first time,” Mathieu said. “Seeing the powerful emotions elicited, from genuine fear to heartbreak to uncontrollable surprise and delight, was viscerally enjoyable without ever knowing what the VR content was.”
Hands-on trials of the Gear VR are very important for Samsung, which is why the product is available to experience at more than 15,000 retail locations across the United States. “Immersive experiences are the key component of our New Marketing Playbook,” Mathieu said. “For example, our strategic partnership with Six Flags enables millions of consumers to experience virtual reality for the first time by bringing Gear VR to real roller coasters at theme parks across North America.”
Samsung is promoting its mobile VR goggles through “The Night Before” 4D experience that runs through December 31 at Herald Square in New York City, The Grove in Los Angeles and Samsung 837 in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
“The Night Before” is a 4D VR ride that lets consumers sit in Santa’s sleigh. Riders will don Samsung Gear VR, which transports them alongside Santa and allows them to see what he sees as he travels the world on the biggest night of the year. Throughout the ride experience, the 4D seats move with each twist and turn.
Samsung worked with W+K Portland and Here Be Dragons to create the sleigh ride VR content and McKinney provided the 4D chairs. “We always aim to create immersive, never-been-done-before experiences with our Samsung VR ecosystem as the focal point. Additionally, having more consumers experience VR is always a key objective,” Mathieu said. “With ‘The Night Before,’ we are able to blur the lines between virtual and reality in a relevant, enjoyable and festive way like never before.”
Matheiu estimates thousands of people will experience “The Night Before” in 4D throughout its three-week campaign. But the experience is also available for everyone with a Gear VR to experience through Samsung VR.
Gear VR is part of a major push by Samsung this holiday. Samsung is giving away Gear VR to customers who purchase a new Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge. It’s part of the company’s “Unwrap the Feels” campaign. “To capture the warmth and spirit of the holiday season, ‘Unwrap the Feels’ focuses on families coming together and sharing special moments,” Mathieu said. “It’s candid and raw, showing the range of powerful emotions and reactions elicited when people immerse themselves in new VR worlds.”
2016 was a great year to be a video game publisher, especially if your game was Pokémon GOor Overwatch. The interactive entertainment industry generated $91 billion in revenues through video games, eSports and gaming video content, according to a new report by analyst firm, SuperData. Let’s take a look back at a year of gaming filled with new tech, breakout hits and the consumer trends that will shape this industry over the coming years.
The Good . . .
At $41 billion, mobile games were by far the most lucrative form of interactive entertainment this year, surpassing retail games and free-to-play online games by $26 billion and $19 billion, respectively. With the addition of eSports and gaming video content into its revenue stream, the interactive entertainment industry is poised to have a very nice 2017.
Subsequently, the mobile games market “has started to mature,” SuperData noted, “and now more closely resembles traditional games publishing—requiring ever higher production values and marketing spend.” Gamers are downloading a lot more titles directly to their consoles, spending $6.6 billion in 2016. Digital spending is good news, according to SuperData, because it allows publishers to generate revenue through the sales of add-on content, expansion packs and microtransactions.
PC gaming earned a cool $34 billion, driven largely by free-to-play online titles and downloadable games. With the release of a new generation of graphics cards, gamers were able to enjoy a 40 percent increase in graphics power and a 20 percent reduction of power consumption, SuperData commented.
. . . The Growing
A lot of VR tech was launched in 2016, but its first year was “sobering,” SuperData said. The analytics firm cites a high price point, the absence of a strong content line-up and difficulties with properly delivering through retail as issues that cooled consumers’ expectations of the Oculus as reasons for the underwhelming consumer response. “We expect firms with more experience in hardware manufacturing like Sony and HTC to take the lead in 2017.”
Compared to other revenue streams, eSports is relatively small at $892 million in 2016. Despite this, the competitive arena for video games is a hot spot for investors, publishers, TV executives and advertisers. “A string of investments in pursuit of connecting to a new generation of media consumers has built the segment’s momentum,” SuperData observed, “as major publishers like Activision, Riot Games, and Electronic Arts are exploring new revenue streams like selling media rights in 2017.”
. . . And The Games
The Top 5 Earning Video Game Titles Of 2016 Are:
Clash of Clans
Game of War: Fire Age
Despite launching mid-year, Niantic’s Pokémon GO came in just under the top 5 games.
Snickers became the official chocolate bar of ELeague beginning with season 2 this fall. The brand partnered with Turner and WME/IMG’s eSports league, which focuses on Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and specializes in eSports fumble highlights to promote the “You’re not you when you’re hungry” message of the candy bar.
Allison Miazga-Bedrick, senior brand director at Snickers, told [a]listdaily that her brand has been following the growth of the sport for the past few years.
“We’re excited to now officially be part of eSports as it continues its tremendous growth and popularity,” Miazga-Bedrick said. “The brand craves getting closer to ELeague’s dedicated millennial fan base, who looks for the kind of fun that aligns to the solution that only Snickers offers when ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry.’”
Miazga-Bedrick said eSports provides Snickers with a great opportunity to engage millennials on a platform that they continue to show increased passion—as more than 80 percent of ELeague viewers are also active on social media during tournaments.
“As an official marketing partner, Snickers will be tapping into Eleague’s younger viewing audiences through a number of branding elements across television and digital,” Miazga-Bedrick said. “These include sponsorship of the ELeague pre-game show airing on TBS and ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ moments airing post-game every week, which captures the biggest gaffes and bloopers from that week of gameplay.”
Additional ad spots will only air between breaks in the action alongside ELeague’s “ad tracker,” a scrolling ticker highlighting stats and additional information about participating teams and players.
Miazga-Bedrick said reaching millennials continues to be a brand priority, and eSports is a platform popular among that audience that continues to grow. “The ELeague partnership aligns perfectly with the Snickers brand and the ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry campaign,” Miazga-Bedrick said.
The nature of ELeague, which dedicates the bulk of its coverage to online content, opens up direct engagement with fans across mobile devices. “Any time we can connect with our audience where they are highly engaged is a win for the brand,” Miazga-Bedrick said.
When asked if Snickers is looking at its ELeague sponsorship as a first step into the bigger eSports ecosystem, Miazga-Bedrick said, “We’re excited about our partnership with TBS and are always looking to explore how to make our presence bigger, but nothing is confirmed yet.”
Along with Snickers, ELeague’s official marketing partners include Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Credit Karma, and Domino’s.
Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to alistsummit.com for more info.
With the launch of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR (PSVR) and Google Daydream, 2016 has been a landmark year for virtual reality technology. But how well has VR taken off, really? We ask industry insiders and analysts their thoughts on how the first year of VR has gone.
“2016 was an exciting year for VR as the launches of PSVR, Vive and Oculus have created a huge demand for content. With device penetration growing and a user base that is eager to engage, developers now have an opportunity to produce VR games and experiences profitably. For those that are championing VR, the existence of a viable business model is huge. It means that Lionsgate and others can start to bring more and more premium content into the marketplace, a key step in broadening the user base of VR beyond the core enthusiasts. John Wick Chronicles is a great example of this. You have a AAA developer/publisher in Starbreeze confidently investing in a high-quality game based on a movie that appeals to the larger gaming community.” – Daniel Engelhardt, vice president of interactive ventures, games and virtual reality, Lionsgate Entertainment
“The media business in general has moved really far over the last 50 years with the transition from print to radio to television and the introduction of mobile devices. Now with virtual reality, we have the ability to take things on the go and it’s a game changer for the industry. Taking live events with you on the road with you changes the consumption of the content. Companies all over the world are launching mobile VR experiences because mobile VR allows you to take the largest screen in your house with you. You are looking at a 180-to-360-degree world with a mobile phone and it becomes the best place to consume content.
“Live virtual reality will forever change how fans experience live events. The next 12 months will mark the first time where fans will be able watch live sports in VR on a consistent basis thanks to our partnership with the NBA. It is undoubtedly the most immersive way ever to experience sports and it will become the de facto sports watching medium of the future. In 2017, you will see the biggest electronics companies all of the world continue to make headsets and groundbreaking technology to support VR. Mobile manufacturers are making screens with higher resolutions and better processors which will improve the quality of the VR experience. With all of those changes happening, VR is going to become mass market and people will spend more and more time immersed in the technology.” – Danny Keens, vice president of content, NextVR
“The VR industry has made great progress in 2016, but faced some of the common challenges of a transformative new medium. The biggest challenge has been and continues to be reach. We all know the VR market is small but growing fast. At Vertebrae, we look to maximize and expand the reach of content as far as possible across the VR ecosystem, and even into mobile/web with 360 video. Further, the growth of VR in 2016 has highlighted the lack of interactive/VR production experience, and we have found VR advertising to be a great testing/proving ground to explore different concepts and production ideas, as these are shorter experiences and do not require the time/investment of a full VR experience.” – Vince Cacace, founder and CEO, Vertebrae
“I think there has been outstanding growth [in VR]. You’re starting to see games that were launched later in the year starting to perform really well. There’s some great content out there, with Sony and PSVR being adopted. There has been a lot of groundwork in the VR space, a lot of great developers bringing content to the market, and there’s going to be a lot of innovation in finding new ways to do things. [For example], we’ve got to solve the issues of locomotion and frame rates, and we’ve got to figure out how to market [games]. There are a lot of things that have happened in a very short time frame—starting in January—with how much more polished the content is and how many more developers are out there. It’s been a lot of progress, and it’s very exciting.” Matt Candler, chief revenue officer, First Contact Entertainment
“I like to say that 2016 was the year that VR hype became VR reality. This year, VR wowed the press but struggled to find mass market appeal. The VR hype cycle started shortly after the announcement of the PSVR and led to a stream of wildly optimistic forecasts in the press, only to finally burst after a disappointing holiday. Still, I do think that despite the barriers to mainstream VR, 2016 showed us that the systems have a real ability to transport and wow people.” Patrick Walker, VP of insights and analytics, EEDAR
“The first year has gone as we expected. Contrary to some other analysts, we have been relatively silent on VR because we foresaw a slow uptake this year. In general, we see VR video as the most important with the most revenue potential.” Peter Warman, CEO, Newzoo
“As expected, which is to say it’s done well. Considering how new the technology is, and how skeptical and unaware general consumers have been, it’s impressive to see more than 4M high-end devices ship in its first full year, especially at their price points. It also says a lot to see the kind of tech leadership that is buying in (Google, Samsung, Sony, Facebook, HTC, etc.). That kind of support is on par with the initial development of smartphones, which shows the kind of promise these heavy-hitters see for VR’s future—and that says a lot.” – Stephanie Llamas, director of research and insights, SuperData Research
While most video game demographics focus on male millennials, female gamers are often ignored. ESA states that adult women are now the largest single demographic in the gaming community—women over the age of 18 represent 36 percent of the overall gaming population, compared adult men over 18 (35 percent). More women in the US own a video game system than men, and more are actively involved in eSports, according to recent studies. Strong, female main characters have become more prevalent among video game developers and as the world becomes more connected, so too will the female audience. Want to get to know this often-overlooked but growing demographic? We’ve compiled some telling statistics that can help.
Female Gamers Are:
Active Video Game Consumers But Most Don’t Consider Themselves “Gamers”
9 percent of women aged 18 to 29 would describe themselves as a “gamer.” (Source)
41 percent of women in the US “frequently” purchase video games. (Source)
42 percent of women in the US own video game systems such as an Xbox or PlayStation, compared to 37 percent of men. (Source)
Over 75 percent of female gamers in the US play on mobile phones, while approximately 60 percent play on tablets. (Source)
For mobile games, value is the most important feature that drives satisfaction in women, while graphics are least important. (Source: Nielsen)
Nearly half of female gamers in the US prefer PC laptops over traditional consoles. (Source)
58 percent of women prefer the Puzzle genre for mobile games, followed by Arcade (48 percent) and Casino (37 percent). (Source)
46 percent of female gamers (globally) have played a Super Mario franchise in the past 3 months—21 percent of which are between the ages of 21 to 35 (Source: Newzoo)
30 percent of gamers on YouTube are women. (Source: YouTube)
52 percent of female gamers do not believe that playing violent video games can lead to violent behavior in real-life. (Source)
Involvement In ESports
Twenty-two percent of women say they’re involved in eSports compared to 18 percent of men, according to a report by PwC. “While the difference is relatively small, it indicates an early trend that women may be just as, if not more, engaged with eSports than males,” PwC noted in the report. “For viewing versus playing, men are playing slightly more than women, and men appear to watch from a competitive lens, while women appear to watch for enjoyment and for the social aspect of the viewing experience.”
A separate study by Newzoo exploring the link between traditional sports enthusiasts and eSports found that 30 percent of women were interested in eSports but not basketball.
“As the female eSports audience continues to grow, so too will the number of female players,” Deborah Bothun, entertainment, media and communications leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers told [a]listdaily. “Overall treatment of females in the gaming community has become a noteworthy topic that is being discussed, and we have heard discussion of all-female tournaments, for example.”
Koh Kim, formerly co-head of business development at Mobcrush, saw the large female audience on mobile opens up new opportunities for female pro eSports, particularly with Vainglory and Hearthstone.
“We’re seeing a better mix of male and female players in the top ranks, and many more mixed teams,” Kim told [a]listdaily in March. “That’s a great message for the community. There are more female players and personalities, giving other females the role models they’re looking for. That really puts out the message that any hard-working, talented player will have a platform to succeed, and the support of the community.”
Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to alistsummit.com for more info.
Is livestreaming video the new TV? The medium has taken a major leap, in part thanks to the launch of Facebook Live this year as users and brands alike turn on their cameras and share experiences with the world. With more outlets like Instagram becoming available as streaming platforms, it’s easier than ever to broadcast from anywhere in the world. From newscasters to entertainment, tutorials and just plain weird, here are how some companies used Facebook Live to reach a global audience.
Until recently, if your local newscaster addressed you directly during a broadcast, then some strong medication was prescribed. Now, with the help of Facebook Live, interacting with a news broadcast as it happens has become a reality. The New York Times invites its audience to share their views or ask questions through comments, which in turn, affects the action on-screen.
“We’re calling this live interactive journalism,” Louise Story, New York Times executive producer of live interactive journalism, told WAN-IFRA. “We’re not calling it video, because it’s inherently different from a produced video. In live interactive journalism what’s happening onscreen is affected by the audience in real-time. This is as much about the audience as it is about journalism.”
E! News recently launched a new live video series on Facebook called “Freestyle,” sponsored by Ulta Beauty. Hosted by E! News correspondent, Zuri Hall and senior beauty editor, Cinya Burton, the show focuses on beauty and fashion. Each episode features different guest experts, products and trends over eight 30-minute episodes running through January. In addition, the entertainment news site takes to Facebook Live several times a week to discuss other topics, and each episode averages around 300,000 views each, according to John Najarian, EVP and GM of E! News.
TMZ streams daily gossip updates and goes live for breaking news, entertaining while inviting conversation in real-time. “Social platforms, in general, whether it’s YouTube or Facebook, are becoming another screen where people are looking for regularly scheduled programming,” said Donald Alexander, director of social media and audience development at TMZ. “With Facebook Live, we can also extend beyond what we do on the TV show and finish that conversation on social.”
Making Us Hungry
Food brands like McDonald’s, Popeyes, Nescafé and more took to Facebook Live this year to inform, entertain and bring people together. Over 3.8 million people watched Tastemade prepare tiny food being cooked in a tiny kitchen. For International Coffee Day, Nescafé took to Facebook Live, Periscope and YouTube to bring coffee fans together while also supporting global farmers. “Livestreaming was the perfect way to bring people together in an innovative, and very real, way,” Michael Chrisment, Nescafé’s global head of integrated marketing, told[a]listdaily. “When you wake up, you grab your phone and a coffee. Nescafé and social media go hand-in-hand, which is why Facebook livestream was a great way to reach our fans.”
The Future Of Entertainment
Still in its infancy, Facebook Live has already displayed enormous potential for brands, particularly when it comes to engagement. This upcoming summer, Roker Media will launch the first-ever Facebook Live talk show, The Never Settle Show with Mario Armstrong. The show will be about helping people find their passions and setting them on the path to make their dreams a reality. Audience members will become guests via Facebook Live—physically displayed on a screen on set—and the format will be determined by its audience.
“We’ll have a live, interactive video wall on the set so people will be able to see themselves actually on the show which I think is really different—really compelling.” Armstrong told [a]listdaily. “The authenticity, the transparency . . . these are things that connect to millennials as well as content that can actually make an impact.”
Lionsgate is diving into virtual reality by launching a dedicated VR app for the home entertainment release of Summit Entertainment’s Deepwater Horizon. The 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD versions of the film can connect with the Deepwater VR app that’s available for iOS and Android devices. The Digital HD version is available today and the disc-based releases will be available on January 10.
The free app, which works with mobile VR goggles like Google Cardboard, adds another layer of immersion to the traditional director’s commentary track that Peter Berg provided for his film. The film’s editor, Colby Parker Jr. also provides insight into the three 360-degree scenes.
The mobile Deepwater VR experience includes three scenes with commentary and is free to download through the Apple App Store or Google Play. The first scene is fully accessible when the app is downloaded and the additional scenes are unlocked using audio recognition while viewing the film. Created by SubVRssive in partnership with Lionsgate, viewers will also be able to see renderings and sketches of the various special effects used in the film.
Michael Rathauser, senior vice president of marketing for Lionsgate Home Entertainment, told [a]listdaily that virtual reality opens up a variety of creative and marketing opportunities. “One of the things that struck me most when I watched our VR app is that we’re just scratching the surface,” Rathauser said. “When you take the director’s commentary and put it in the world of VR, it’s a more immersive and more personal way to communicate and get information from the director.”
Lionsgate captured 360-degree footage of the production on location while Berg was directing Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich and the cast of the film. “The Deepwater commentary was done in post, but we captured footage during the shooting of the film with the idea that it could be a VR experience as well,” said Rathauser.
In addition to working on Cardboard, Rathauser said anyone with a smartphone or tablet can still get a 360-degree video experience through the app without a viewer. “360 is terrific, but when you put on a headset, it is a completely different and more immersive experience,” explained Rathauser. “The jump to VR is similar to what the home entertainment industry saw when it went from VHS to DVD. You have to see it to believe it. Once people try VR for the first time, and it’s a sea change for them. That’s what it takes to understand the power of this new medium.”
Rathauser said he’s looking forward to how other creative teams embrace this technology to expand the home entertainment experience. “This is an opportunity to create more engaging experiences for consumers,” he said. On the marketing side of the equation, Rathauser said VR opens up the ability to reach consumers on app stores in addition to the digital storefront. It also introduces additional PR stories about the titles.
Deepwater Horizon isn’t the only film getting the VR treatment from Lionsgate. The movie company has partnered with Qualcomm to debut a new Power Rangers VR Experience at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, ahead of the March 27 theatrical release of the film. “We’re excited about Power Rangers,” Rathauser said. “We’ve done a few other VR experiences like Blair Witch. From a marketing standpoint, we’re using that to help market the January 3 home entertainment release of the film. VR helps us market to a broader group of people.”
According to Rathauser, home entertainment provides a great platform for Hollywood creatives to dip their toes into the new medium. “We’re seeing great interest from creatives that it’s a whole new way of storytelling,” he said.
Moving forward, Rathauser believes there are a lot of opportunities to go beyond these first Deepwater Horizon VR offerings. As more releases add VR, there’s also the potential for a dedicated Lionsgate home entertainment app. “We like the idea of an app that can be used for multiple films because there are efficiencies to that,” Rathauser said. “And from a marketing standpoint, we can build a relationship with the customer.”
While the focus today is on mobile, Rathauser is tracking Sony’s recent release of PlayStation VR, which plugs into the over 50 million PlayStation 4s in homes around the world. “With PlayStation VR the more penetration and more ways there are to experience VR, it becomes a viable alternative for home entertainment,” Rathauser said. “Gamers tend to be at the forefront of new technology.” Both the PS4 and PS4 Pro also play Blu-ray discs, which adds another level of synergy to home entertainment companies.
Lionsgate is also exploring virtual reality gaming with The John Wick VR Experience that Starbreeze is developing for IMAX VR. “We expect the game to really catch on and get people excited for John Wick 2,” Rathauser said.
The world’s first “connected reality” game, Qurius (pronounced “curious”), released in a stealth beta earlier this month on Android and had over 62,000 installs in one day. That’s quite a feat for a game that, so far, hasn’t had much if any marketing effort behind it. It just goes to show how innovative gameplay can still help games stand out in an ever-crowded mobile space.
Connected reality is a term that developer, icejam is using to describe how Qurius connects with real world data and social connections to create a dynamic game experience. The game collects local weather information from all its players and turns them into gems, which can be cultivated and spent on constructing different buildings. These buildings vary according to the weather, which adds to the sense of discovery as players grow and explore the 3D world and help the indigenous life flourish.
The game reflects the player’s celestial events (such as moon phases) and local weather, no matter where they are, to influence the game, but additional gems from around the world can be acquired by growing special trees that come from meteors that intermittently rain down on players’ lands. The trick is, they have no control over what kinds of weather tree gems will arrive. So, while building a snow town in the middle of summer is possible, it depends on a lot of luck. Players can purchase additional meteors, trees or special decorations, but they too are random.
Stuart Duncan, CEO and founder of icejam, is the former director of EA Mobile Studios and founder of Bight Games, one of the first free-to-play mobile game studios. He helped conceive, develop and produce The Simpsons: Tapped Out, which has over $130 million in life-to-date digital net revenue, and has been in the top-20-grossing iPhone games in the US for all except 12 days since its launch in 2012.
Duncan explains that the company’s goal is to create mobile games driven by real world data because it’s more fun for players, and it increases engagement by providing a constantly changing environment in which to play. He recently spoke with [a]listdaily about connected reality and how it could be the next big innovation in mobile gaming.
Qurius seems to employ a very high-concept kind of gameplay. How do you think mobile gamers will take to it?
It’s high-concept, but honestly, it’s a mass market-wide proposition in what we think is a friendly and unique IP. We turned on globally on Android and got 62,000 installs, and that’s all organic. We think the appeal is there, and even if half of those people uninstall, just the idea of it can capture the imagination.
What inspired the creation of a weather-based mobile game?
I’ve been in the games business since 1996, and I came from a conceptual art background, dealing with how audiences related to interactive art installations. So, some of my early work was on data-driven art. Twenty years later, we have supercomputers in our pocket, and users understand real-time data in a way that they never have before. In fact, not only do we understand it, the regular Joe on the street has an expectation of real-time information now. This was never the case before.
So, we have an educated audience, we have a technical capability, and we have a wide availability of cloud-based data. For us, it’s a confluence of these things that makes it the right time to do this kind of work. We think the interesting thing in the success of Pokémon GO is not augmented reality—that’s a red herring—it was a mass market acceptance of a data-driven experience. An experience related to one’s location.
Platforms have been predicting the success of location-based gaming for the last ten years, and it never happened, and there are lots of potential reasons for that. But we think it’s because it required users to be in a certain place in order to play, and what Pokémon GO understood is that a user needs to be able to be anywhere and still have the benefit of that enhanced play. It’s the perception that their environment is making a difference. That kind of gameplay is a very good illustration of why our company exists.
In the future, we’ll be using pollution and tidal information, all of which is available.
Could a game like Qurius eventually include augmented reality features?
I guess it comes down to how we define augmented reality. If we use the definition of augmented reality as injecting the real world into the game experience, then it’s already augmented reality—just not visual. We call that tight integration connected reality to differentiate from augmented reality.
Augmented reality feels like a solution built by engineers to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. I think this is the nature of how many game studios are engineering driven, whereas we’re entertainment driven. We have some of the best engineers in the business working for us, but the drive is to create the experience and bring entertainment to the customers, not to do a technical puzzle. We’re not trying to unravel something that’s just cool, technically.
How does collecting weather foster deep engagement?
In my view, engagement follows re-engagement. What our game can do is give you a real world reason to take your phone out of your pocket. In effect, the world becomes your push notification system. If it’s getting dark, you play; if it’s dawn, you play; and if it’s getting cold, you play. We want these events to be cues to get back into the experience. The gameplay changes at night—the creatures go to sleep—so the rhythms of your life and environment will keep you playing, and we don’t want to be pushing bullshit notifications at our users.
How do the social features work? Can you only collect weather gems from friends or is there a public area?
It’s only public. You can’t collect from your friends. All the trees, which are portals to other players, come in a gacha (collection and growth gameplay). They come from the sky in a giant, fiery meteor strike, and when you crack them open, there’s a tree seed inside. That tree seed can come from anywhere in the world, so it could be completely useless to you. But if it is, you have the choice to grow it and increase its yield. Trees also naturally grow over time. So, you don’t connect with your friends on purpose, but you connect with people that you don’t know who have the weather you require.
Are there going to be more direct and deeper social aspects?
Yes. We deeply understand that this is a service we’re providing, and the service needs to evolve and grow, so we have features planned out for next two years. We’ll implement those features depending on who our players end up being. Right now, it’s too early to say who they are and what they want. So, we have ideas for everything from very deep social play to roguelike dungeon crawler features. We are ready to do what our players want, but always based on the concept that the world outside is the world inside.
More games are being treated as a service now. How do you compete in an environment where companies are trying to keep players engaged for years on end?
Well, it’s expensive to compete, but just like anything else, better products win. It comes down to the differentiation of your audience, who your customer is, and how well you serve them. We just have to do better than our competitors. Better means having a differentiator, and we obviously have that. And we have a wealth of experience from one of the top-ten-grossing games of all time on iOS, so we know how to keep delivering that content year-over-year, and that experiential base is a competitive advantage for us.
How have you been getting the word out about Qurius and spreading awareness of the game?
It doesn’t seem like we need to, with 62,000 installs. We’re trying to be stealth—we’re just in the beta program. I guess there’s a high latent demand, but I can’t explain it yet. We plan to launch worldwide in a couple of weeks, but we haven’t been doing much [marketing] at all—we’re just rushing to get the game finished.
What is the incentive for collecting sad, cold and rainy weather?
It rains in-game, and it’s a really weird but cool phenomenon to look at your game to see what the weather is like. But “sad” weather isn’t sad in the game. Rain creates a beautiful gem, just like any other kind of weather, and a rain town can only be completed with rain gems. If you’re the kind of person who wants to completely decorate and customize a rain village, then you need that weather. And if you live in LA, then you might need to get it through other people’s trees.
Why are marketers obsessed with the millennial generation? Millennials (aged 19-35) now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 52-70). They make up 27 percent of the US population and are effecting brands like never before. Valuing self-expression and diversity, these creative consumers get involved with the issues and let their hearts lead their wallets. Want to get to know them better? Let’s take a look at some of the most revealing statistics of 2016.
Multicultural millennials are influential, and they know it. According to a study by Buzz Marketing Group, 78 percent of those surveyed feel that they have power as a consumer to influence big brands. If a brand agrees with those same millennials on a social issue, even better—83 percent like it when brands make a public stand for or against issues they believe in.
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.
According to Mary Meeker’s internet trends report, 48 percent of millennials prefer to be contacted via the internet or social media. AdWeek reported that email yeilds a higher response than social media and other advertising models. In fact, 43 percent of millennials, compared with 32 percent of other shoppers, have said they’ve looked at retailer emails more often over the previous six months. In addition to these findings:
51 percent of millennials used searches across brand sites more often than average consumers.
Nearly 53 percent of millennial shoppers used daily deals, compared to 38 percent of other groups.
Nearly 56 percent used price comparison sites more often.
Around 47 percent of the millennial audience printed out coupons for use with purchases over the past six months. That’s higher than the 34 percent of other audiences.
With copycats abound, do users still prefer Snapchat? Adweek commissioned a study by Survata to find out and discovered that users aged 13-34 still prefer the original. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said Snapchat is “cooler,” 67 percent said that Snapchat had better features and if they could only have one app, 51.1 percent named the original ghost.
Fifty-four percent report to have “show dumped,” that is, given up on a show they previously enjoyed because it became too difficult to access the content. A report by TiVo reveals that 91 percent of millennials pay for at least one subscription streaming service, 73 percent have streaming devices at home and 55 percent would pay to simplify search across platforms.
When it comes to reaching customer service, 70 percent of millennials feel good about chatbots, according to a recent study by Aspect. In addition, 54 percent prefer all customer interactions via electronic means and 49 percent feel that texting is the most effective communication for customer service.
Ready To Be Entertained
Twenty-two percent of all millennial males watch eSports, according to a study by Newzoo. In fact, American millennial males watch as much eSports as they do baseball and more than ice hockey. When it comes to playing video games themselves, millennials pick up a PS4 controller over any other console, PayPal found. Across all platforms, action games are the preferred genre for this age group. The same study revealed that when millennials buy an eBook, 90 percent do so from Amazon and romance is the most popular genre, while consumers over 35 prefer mystery thrillers.
While 55 percent of US millennials pay for digital entertainment, only 25 percent are willing to pay for some kind of digital news service. A new report by Business Insider notes that publications are questioning their pay-for-content models in order to reach this demographic.
So now you know a little bit more about this elusive creature that turns out not to be elusive at all. In fact, everyone is either a millennial or has seen a millennial. Mind. blown.
Thank you for your continued support and readership.
-The AList Team
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