Capturing The Magic Of ‘Final Fantasy XV’ In Live-Action

It took a decade of development, but the wait was worth it. Final Fantasy XV launched last week and instantly became a huge hit, topping charts around the world. It has already become the fastest-selling game in the series’ history, with publisher Square Enix reporting that the combined day-one retail shipments and digital sales exceeded five million units.

Additionally, the game received wide critical acclaim for its open world gameplay and the stunning graphics that have become a hallmark of the Final Fantasy brand. However, one of its key promotions, the TV commercial, took a decidedly different approach. The live-action spot, set to the song “Stand By Me,” features a group of kids who come together to defeat a giant monster using traps, weapons and magic.

It’s one of the first and only live-action commercials for the game franchise and its director, Kasra Farahani—who has worked on blockbuster movies such as Alice in Wonderland, Star Trek Into Darkness and Men in Black 3 in addition to the upcoming Black Panther movie—recently spoke with [a]listdaily about putting it together. Farahani is a gamer who has many fond memories of Final Fantasy VII, which played a role in the original pitch for the commercial. He proposed adding a magical Final Fantasy element called materia, which longtime fans might recognize. He was joined by Mat Kishimoto, senior product marketing manager at Square Enix America, and Andy Franco, product marketing specialist at Square Enix.

What drew you to the Final Fantasy XV promotion?

[Farahani]: It was very appealing—it wasn’t a tough decision to try and get it. There’s a great, nostalgic quality to the storyline the had about these four kids that were facing insurmountable odds. The idea of whether or not they succeeded, while important, was secondary to their bond. First and foremost was their devotion and the fraternal quality between them. Also, it had a really cool giant monster and visual opportunities in terms of shooting in a foggy forest.

Farahani was also very excited to be a part of the franchise’s 30-year legacy.

What were your thoughts when you first saw the finished trailer?

[Kishimoto]: It’s really been a labor of love. We kicked off with the Omelet team in February, so it has really been a pleasure to see it go through different iterations and pivots to where it is today. It was a real surreal moment—the first time I saw it in all of its final glory—to see something that we’ve been working on for so long come to life.

digic_omen_011_18How did you come up with the theme?

[Farahani]: I can’t take too much credit for that. The basic kernel of the idea came from Omelet, which presumably came out of discussions they had with Square Enix. The core of it was there, and what I did was work with a great, collaborative team to refine it and tailor it to a story about brotherhood and devotion in the world of Final Fantasy.

We didn’t want to do anything generic, which is part of why the villain that they’re fighting is the Iron Giant. There are a lot of cool beasts [in the game], but if Final Fantasy is a pillar of video game history, then I think the Iron Giant is a pillar of Final Fantasy history. It has been in many games and offers something to hardcore fans.

How would you say the trailer captures the look and feel of FFXV?

[Kishimoto]: We took a lot of creative liberties with it. It doesn’t take place on an actual world within Final Fantasy XV, but we wanted to capture the same kind of drama and intensity that the game has, bringing it into the real world.

How does FFXV stand out from previous games and its numerous spin-offs?

[Kishimoto]: I think there are two big key differentiators. One is that it is a full-blown action game rather than a turn-based strategy game. That makes it more accessible to more modern gamers. The second key differentiator is that it’s an open world game. While there is a critical story path, you can do things in any order that you want. For hardcore fans of the franchise who love the rich storytelling, deep characters, classic monsters and other core Final Fantasy elements—those are in Final Fantasy XV. So, there’s something for everybody.

What are the key elements to any Final Fantasy game?

[Franco]: One is that they’re all individual games. Each Final Fantasy game is a standalone title—meaning that you don’t have to have played previous versions in order to jump into the next game in the series.

[Kishimoto]: That is one of the most important things. There are so many games out there that have a linear story that carries on from each sequel, whereas Final Fantasy is unique. The characters and world are completely different, and even the combat systems and villains are different. But I think what strings the series together is the graphical quality. Final Fantasy has always been known for its beautiful vistas and high graphical fidelity that blends together medieval, fantastical, and sci-fi elements into one universe. The world has a mix of mechs, magic and swords all in the same universe. The other thing is that Final Fantasy known for its iconic music, which is orchestral and operatic.

[Franco]: Then there are the stories—really deep, engrossing stories. One of the main things we’ve heard from fans of the game is that one of the things they have a long-lasting connection to are the stories that they feel they become a part of.


Was it challenging to create a promotion for a game franchise that’s known for cutting-edge CGI graphics?

[Farahani]: It’s intimidating. It’s a beautiful game, and our challenge was to tie-in to the aesthetic of the game as much as we could without trying to do a 1-to-1 excerpt from the game. The showcase of our story are these kids, and the heroes come in, but you see them in a mysterious way. You can sort of imagine that our little film is like side mission or vignette that Noctis (the main character) and his friends undertake, which is alluded to at the end of the spot.

[Kishimoto]: On the marketing side, I think it was a huge advantage. Being able to create assets and materials that are of such high fidelity is definitely a plus.

[Franco]: At the same rate, it’s a wonderful opportunity, but it raises the bar that much higher. Our job [with the promotions] is to make the game look and feel as incredible as it really is. With great power comes great responsibility, so with great assets come the great responsibility of pushing them out there and making them look phenomenal.

What are the challenges of promoting a Final Fantasy game, which has such high awareness and popularity?

[Kishimoto]: That’s the fun of all of it. There’s a lot to live up to, especially when you’re coming in at the 15th iteration, and you’ve had fourteen other titles that have been around for the last twenty-nine years or so. The fun is in how you reinvent yourself and how you make yourself relevant in the modern market when there are so many fantastic entertainment IPs out there. [Final Fantasy] is a great brand to work on because you always have to reinvent yourself on every title. You have to explain the story and who the characters are.

[Franco]: The fan base is an incredibly rabid, policing one. They take incredible pride in games that have come before and their connection to them. There’s a lot of pressure—in the quality of the game and in everything that we do—to live up to the standard that fans are expecting.

digic_omen_004_06How are you reaching new players that might not be familiar with previous games?

[Kishimoto]: There are different ways we do that through our PR channels, retail partners and social media. I think the live-action trailer that we produced was one of the main ways that we wanted to reach out beyond our core fan base. The core reason we went this route was because we could cut together gameplay trailers and cinematic assets from the game, but what would have really helped expand the core fan base was going with live-action.

What do you think it is about FF that has inspired a dedicated fan base around the world?

[Farahani]: It’s difficult to quantify. I think that they (Square Enix) reinvented the franchise a couple of times, but I think they’ve always managed to walk this line between fantasy—things that are grand and larger than everyday life—and finding moments to shade characters in a way that they seem familiar and relatable in a more conventional way. On top of that, I think they’ve done such a good job making spectacular visuals and set pieces over the years. They’re remarkable, and you want the experience just because of how epic they are. You see a trailer for a great film, and you want to experience what that is. I feel that Final Fantasy has done a good job of that.

It’s a good bit of showmanship to make them wait ten years, too.

[Kishimoto]: I don’t think there’s one single thing out there that brings in the masses; there are so many different things. I’ve talked to so many different fans and business partners, and people are drawn in for different reasons. Some people like the epic battles, some like the cinematic cut scenes, others love the individual characters and storylines. Some just love the epic scale with magic and weapons. That’s the magic and fun of Final Fantasy.

Cheetos Ventures Into Branded Merchandise With Luxury Fashion Line

Cheetos is banking on its mischievous mascot Chester Cheetah and is catering to its devoted fan base for the holiday season by bringing consumers a fashion line of branded luxury apparel. It’s the first-ever online store for the puffed cornmeal snack.

From Flamin Hot Pants and dangerously cheeky underwear to a cheetah onesie and a $20,000 sapphire-embedded ring boasting more than 190 diamonds, there is something seriously stylish and tongue-in-cheek for everyone.

“Each year, holiday catalogs and gift gurus share their most unique and coveted gift items of the year,” Ryan Matiyow, senior director of marketing for Frito-Lay, the parent company of Cheetos, told [a]listdaily. “The Cheetos brand is joining this illustrious group with the release of a legendary gift collection and holiday book showcasing an assortment of this season’s must-have gifts. Each item puts the true meaning of opulence into the holidays, delivering a uniquely Cheetos wow factor that will impress even the most discerning gift recipients.”


The fashion-oriented holiday campaign ranges clothing and perfume to furniture and cuff links. But you have to move quick because selections from the 14-item catalogue are selling out—fast—affirming consumer demand and popularity for the PepsiCo-owned snack brand. The out-of-the-box fashion offerings range from $29.99 to $69, but if you just want to get a piece of the quirky orange-and-black action, there is toilet paw-per, too.

The print-inspired gifts were promoted with a full-on fashion show and paired with serious social media efforts on Facebook that further punctuated Frito-Lay’s stance on marketing and product development.

This is not the first time the chip brand has opened up an elaborate bag of branded gifts and upped its innovation game. Channeling in on some Halloween-inspired mischief, they sold out of a doll-sized Chester Cheetah stuffed animal and accompanying book of pranks on Amazon in October. “Chester on the Dresser” was such a hit that another 800 were re-released in addition to the original 200. They also had a successful “Cheetos Museum” contest run over the summer.

“We sought to have a bit of playful fun this past Halloween, offering a different take to those festivities by bringing back the trick-or-treat,” said Matiyow. “This was another way for parents who enjoy eating our snacks to have a little fun with their family and friends, and keep the Chester Cheetahs doll and prank book for future festivities.”

PepsiCo previously has marketed branded products to consumers through mobile phones and accessories in China, proving that there is an opportunity to permeate the lives of consumers on a daily basis.

Matiyow confirms that there is an appetite for brand-themed gifts and goods.

“The Cheetos brand is always looking for fun ways to engage with our consumers beyond snacking with programs that are an extension of the playful brand personality we are known for,” he said. “The introduction of the first-ever Cheetos Store, gives fans the opportunity to enjoy Cheetos-themed gifts that bring our fun, spirited personality to life for the holidays.”

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Op-Ed: TV Ads Game The Holidays

Mobile advertising continues to grow rapidly, but the costs continue to rise with so many competing companies. Moreover, standing out in a crowded environment is very difficult. Those are some of the reasons advertisers like MZ (Machine Zone) have been putting mobile game ads on television. Marketers are finding, as MZ has, that cross-channel marketing can be very effective. Of course, television ads don’t offer the same incredible data stream that you can get with mobile ads, but the picture is not entirely bleak, as more companies are striving to provide advertising data that helps target TV ads.

There’s certainly no question that TV ads remain popular among console game publishers during the crucial holiday period. Data provided by to VentureBeat shows this clearly. TV advertising during October was dominated by Microsoft with Xbox spending, representing nearly 40 percent of the total TV ad spend for the month. Other top console brands such as PlayStation, 2K Games, and Bethesda Softworks also had a strong presence, but MZ represented only 5.5 percent of the total spend, putting mobile gaming far down the list.

Of course, the difference is that console game publishers have significantly increased their ad spend on TV for the holidays. We see the continued strength of console games on TV as the data tracks into November, where Sony captured nearly half of the industry’s digital voice. According to, the total ad spend in the period of October 16 through November 15 was $105.6 million and represented 40 brands that ran 129 different spots nearly 23,000 times.



The reach of these TV ads is impressive; Sony generated over 700 million ad impressions from its 14 commercials that aired over 2,500 times. Microsoft generated almost 800 million ad impressions from 15 commercials airing over 3,600 times. Even Nintendo got into the TV advertising spend for that time period, generating nearly 200 million impressions for 13 commercials that aired nearly 2,000 times.

The massive influx of console games for the holiday season is not unusual, considering that this is the time for the biggest consumer spending. The added incentive this year for TV advertising is that the share of digital game sales continues to rise, thus encouraging a more direct connection with the publisher that TV ads foster. Seeing an ad for a game on TV may lead to turning on a console to download the game right away. That sort of correlation is one sort of data that game companies can track, noting the extent to which downloads increase relative to the airing of TV commercials.

Hardware is playing a big role this holiday season as well. We also now have new consoles such as the Xbox One S and PlayStation Pro. There’s also VR hardware that includes Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR, in addition to an array of new smartphones, tablets and micro-consoles. Even 4K TVs, which have dropped in price, beckon for gamers to take full advantage of the new consoles. A well-crafted television ad may help encourage people to upgrade their televisions.

5 Brands Using IoT In Pioneering Ways

When you think of the Internet of Things (IoT), you probably think of Alexa, Cortana or Siri, but these helpful AI ladies are merely using the IoT to get things done.

Stepping right off the pages of a science fiction novel, IoT is now a reality and marketers have certainly taken notice. According to data published in November, 23 percent of US advertising and marketing executives identified the IoT as “very important” compared to AR/VR, conversational marketing and artificial intelligence at 14 percent each, respectively. In addition, a separate study by Deloitte found that in 2016, more than one third of executives said their companies were actively deploying IoT. Analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices.

With these devices comes a whole lot of data, helping brands to improve their products, or even literally fixing them. In exchange, companies learn more about their audiences than ever before. Making product identification, location and consumption available in convenient and fun ways is how these five brands have become pioneers in IoT marketing.


As the first luxury spirit brand on the Amazon Alexa platform, Patrón paired with the Echo smart speaker to deliver over 150 cocktail recipes, as well as recommendations and tips ranging from perfect pairings for food to proper ways to shake and strain tequila. For Patrón, using consumer-aimed voice recognition services is crucial to growing the brand’s profile.

“I think we want to cohabitate with consumers,” Lee Applbaum, Patrón’s global chief marketing officer, told [a]listdaily. “By that I mean we want to present our brand story, describe product attributes, or in this case, better communicate versatility in a way in which consumers want to engage with us, rather than forcing them to do it the way we wanted to.”


Under Armour

The sports apparel company has fully embraced IoT having acquired not one, but three health-tracking companies and morphing them all into a one-stop shop for tracking and sharing information. If you’ve ever wanted to track your steps, nutrition, map your run and see nutrition information as recorded by your clothes, Under Armour has the solution.

Your T-shirt is able to communicate with your smartphone, relaying information such as heart rate and the number of calories burned during a workout. During CES this year, the company even announced the UA Speedform Gemini 2 running shoes that record information as well.

“We’re always looking to reinvent ourselves, and our products, and help our athletes do the same,” Chris Glodé, vice president of Under Armour Digital, told [a]listdaily. “As an innovation company, we also realize that the best ideas won’t necessarily come from inside our walls. We have a long track record of finding great innovations and entrepreneurs, and using our brand and our ecosystem as a platform to deliver these innovations to the consumer.”

Tesla Motors

Analyst firm Gartner estimates that nearly 250 million cars will be connected to the internet by 2020, and Tesla’s electric cars are a prime example of what IoT can do. Rather than make consumers take valuable time out of their day to visit a dealer, Tesla simply issues an update and the vehicles “fix themselves.”

When a charger plug was found to cause fires, Tesla simply issued a fix for its 29,222 vehicle owners through a software update and in another fix, gave the suspension higher clearance.

While the internet can’t fix a flat tire (yet) or guarantee that everything is wired correctly, Tesla is paving the way toward what science fiction authors dreamed the future might hold.

Home Depot

Need a little help in a gigantic hardware store? Home Depot has connected its Pro Xtra loyalty program with the stores themselves by integrating consumers’ online shopping carts and wish lists with its mobile app. When contractors enters the store, they receive a personalized greeting, the most efficient route to navigate the store based on the items in their shopping cart and even a check of the store’s inventory. For Home Depot, the Pro Xtra program was all about making customers feel special.

“Relationships are the basis of our Pro Business,” J.T. Rieves, vice president of The Home Depot’s Pro Business told Pro Construction Guide. “We are constantly looking for ways to make pros feel special and to continue solving their needs so they turn right into The Home Depot parking lot instead of left into someone else’s.”


Using the Amazon app, consumers can now re-order the product of their choice using a Dash Button. Retailing for $5 each, the device can be left anywhere around the home and will place an order through Amazon at the press of a button via Wi-Fi.

Don’t worry about your toddler ordering a fortune in toilet paper, though—with Order Protection enabled, the Dash Button will not place a new order until your prior order is delivered—regardless of how many times the button is pressed.

You Had To Be There: Marketing With Location-Based VR

Although there are plenty of options for VR hardware, not everyone can afford them or are willing to bring this new technology into their homes. Instead, it makes more sense to head out to arcades and theaters for a taste of VR. Here’s how brands are getting creative with immersive entertainment and taking VR to the streets.

Franchise Immersion

What if, before you saw the next Harry Potter movie, you could challenge your friends to a quidditch match? Or after seeing Batman, you could explore Gotham City? Well, location-based VR experiences like these may be coming to a movie theater near you. In fact, the Assassin’s Creed VR Experience is touring AMC theaters right now.

IMAX recently partnered with VR creator, publisher and distributor, Starbreeze to bring location-based virtual reality experiences to cinemas across the world. Starbreeze regularly partners with filmmakers to create original virtual reality content such as John Wick Chronicles and Overkill’s The Walking Dead. IMAX will create a premium VR experience that will leverage Starbreeze’s StarVR headset technology, which provides a 210-degree full peripheral field of view—double that of any other VR headset currently available. It’s tech offerings like this that sets location-based VR experiences apart from its home entertainment counterparts.

“The price of the initial investment of a head-mounted display and PC that powers the headset aside,” Emmanuel Marquez, chief technology officer at Starbreeze explained to [a]listdaily, “you already have challenges with finding that spot in the house where you can move around in VR without getting your knees bruised from bumping into furniture. There are so many great accessories and setups today that enhance your experience that just wouldn’t be viable to put in a home. We can cater to that.”

The partnership between IMAX and Starbreeze makes these experiences affordable and easily accessible to those who are already in the mood for consuming entertainment. Other memorable location-based VR experiences include Suicide Squad and American Horror Story at San Diego Comic-Con and Madam Tussauds Ghostbusters: Dimension hyper-reality experience.

John Wick Chronicles lets viewers become the assassin in VR. (Source: Starbreeze)

Upgraded Experiences

Theme parks have already adopted virtual and augmented reality experiences for their attractions, such as Six Flags and Cedar Point. In Six Flags’ The New Revolution Virtual Reality experience, ride-goers strap on VR headsets and engage in a futuristic battle to save the planet from an alien invasion. With The Battle For Cedar Point, attendees can join different roller coaster-themed clans to compete with each other by scanning different areas of the park with their smartphones, such as signs and special t-shirts, for an augmented reality experience. The technology essentially turns the theme park into one gigantic video game. At the end of the day, members of the winning clan can purchase a special pin to commemorate their victory.

While braving a roller coaster may be fun on its own, adding a VR headset to the mix can create an entirely unique adventure each time, eliminating the need to build a new attraction. For example, Six Flags has a dedicated VR coaster that gets new adventures as the opportunity arises, such as the Superman: Ride of Steel attraction this past summer.

Guests don VR headsets on the Six Flags Revolution roller coaster. Source: Six Flags
Guests don VR headsets on the Six Flags Revolution roller coaster. Source: Six Flags

Playing Together

VR Arcades are popping up around the globe, finding a particularly booming industry in China. These businesses offer a range of immersive, group entertainment from interactive games to virtual rocket rides. In October, HTC unveiled its Viveport Arcade system, creating a revenue-sharing marketplace for public entertainment centers to access the latest interactive titles.

“VR has found a home with Chinese players as the majority of the market do not have the capability to support home based VR and already are happy to play their PC games in LAN Game centers sometimes called PC Bang sites,” Rikard Steiber, president of Viveport and senior vice president of VR at HTC, told Polygon. “Amusement venues and location-based entertainment sites have also grown in popularity in the Asian Dragon market—so it was logical that VR Arcades would be embryonic within this incubator.”

Analysts expect the market for virtual reality in China to grow to $8.5 billion by 2020, benefiting largely by the $1.1 billion global VR spending spree.

China is not the only country adopting this idea—Bandai Namco, the publisher behind Pac-Man and Tekken, has opened its own HTC Vive arcade in Japan called VR Zone: Project i Can. Among a number of available games is a terrifying, immersive challenge in which users must rescue a cat from a plank suspended on the side of a skyscraper. The combination of VR and environmental elements creates a sense of “being there,” a feat not usually possible in a home entertainment setting.

Coffee And #TheLastFourWords: How Netflix Rallied ‘Gilmore Girls’ Fans

On November 25, fans returned to the fictional town of Stars Hollow to catch up with Lorelei and Rory for Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life. Almost 10 years after the last episode aired in 2007, Netflix aired a four-part, four-season revival that continues the story of a mother and daughter living in a quaint, Connecticut town. While the series has been in re-runs for some time and already comes with its own dedicated following, it wasn’t until Netflix picked up the show that fans really took notice—thanks largely to an experiential marketing campaign and a massive build-up to the series’ four last words.

The series’ conclusion was so highly anticipated that #TheFourLastWords became a trending topic on social media and the Gilmore Girls official Instagram account urged fans not to spoil it for others. Fans can head to the Stars Hollow website to create and share custom buttons pledging their allegiance to secrecy or telling others not to spoil it for them, either. (Don’t worry, you won’t find spoilers here because we’re not buttfaced miscreants.)

Speaking of the official Instagram account, Netflix has been posting photos for months to get fans psyched for the show’s return. The first one, naturally, featured two cups of coffee from inside Luke’s Diner. Many of the pictures that followed, like this plate of pop tarts with an apple, had people speculating what would happen based on what they learned from previous episodes.

A number of characters also started popping up on the official Gilmore Girls Instagram account, such as Rose “Gypsy” Abdoo and Grant-Lee “Town Troubadour” Phillips.

The most talked about activation, however, was a pop-up Luke’s Diner promotion on October 5 that transformed some 200 coffee shops around the country into the show’s iconic restaurant. From 7 a.m. until noon, coffee-lovers were able to pick up a free cup of java, meet other fans of the show and take advantage of the many photo ops, like a cut-out of Luke and his strict guidelines. The experiential marketing activation fostered a sense of community, got people talking and several fans donned their best plaid shirts and baseball caps just for the occasion.

Netflix’s branded filter included an image of a toaster and sign from Luke’s and was viewed 880,000 times that day. Snapchat said the one-day marketing stunt reached more than 500,000 people. Hashtags dominated social media following the activation, including #LukesDiner, which garnered over 32,000 Instagram posts and over 43,000 on Facebook alone. #HappyBirthdayGilmore received over 14,000 mentions on Facebook as well.

For those who really, really want to visit Stars Hollow, a dedicated website for the fictional town contains information about the show’s locations as well as the town’s history. There’s even an email address that can be used to ask Luke life advice.

Gilmore Girls is part of Netflix’s “family initiative,” revisiting the popular series that now ties two generations together. Fuller House has become a flagship series for the company’s plan, whose data and focus groups found parents flocking to old movies and TV series from the ‘80s on weekend evenings. “If you look at series popular in the ‘80s they were much more family oriented,” Cindy Holland, Netflix’s vice president of original content, told The Wall Street Journal. “Parents were telling us they were watching these shows with their kids because there wasn’t anything on traditional networks but contest shows. That was a white-space area of opportunity for us.”

For series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life isn’t going to be an ongoing thing, but rather, like catching up with some old friends.

“We don’t consider this a reboot,” she told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s more like, ‘Come back and see where our girls are 10 years later.’ Then everyone can go on their merry way.”

Audi Is Making Virtual Reality History With LiveLike And Fox Sports

Fox Sports continues to explore new livestreaming opportunities in virtual reality. The broadcaster has partnered with LiveLike to bring the MLS Championship Game on December 10 to VR fans through the Fox Sports VR app. Audi has signed on as the official sponsor for the VR livestream, which soccer fans can also watch across iOS and Android devices without using a Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR viewer.

“We partnered with MLS to continue to grow the sport of soccer in the US and engage fans of the sport in new, innovative ways,” Loren Angelo, vice president of marketing at Audi of America told [a]listdaily. “We’re working with LiveLike to bring VR to soccer so that fans will have the opportunity to interact with the sport in a way they never have before.”

That interaction includes the debut of several new features within the virtual suite users will view the game from. The game will be broadcast from five separate cameras, which gives viewers the ability to select their viewpoints on-the-fly.

Andre Lorenceau, founder and CEO of LiveLike, told [a]listdaily that some of the highlights include a new DVR with rewind functionality, a first-of-its-kind feature that combines the best elements of a TV-viewing experience with VR—allowing viewers to rewind as far back as 30 minutes. “Our trademark VR Suite will now be branded with Audi, including having an Audi car in-suite,” Lorenceau said. “Audi is a huge brand and a great partner. We’re just scratching the surface of how we can integrate brands into our live VR experiences, and we are really excited to continue expanding these efforts in 2017.”

The MLS game also introduces the Audi Player Index, which Angelo said was developed to continue to grow the sport of soccer in the US and engage fans of the sport in new, innovative ways. “Similar to our development of the Audi Player Index—a statistical analysis that tracks, measures and evaluates nearly 90 components and 2,000 player movements across every MLS game—we found a way to bring technology to the sport to elevate fan engagement,” Angelo said. “Now in VR, friends and fans can experience the Index and the game unlike ever before.”

Angelo said Audi targets consumers who are passionate and driven, which aligns nicely with soccer fans. “With the highest percentage of the millennial audience of any major US sport, our partnership with MLS allows Audi to reach a diverse, passionate and fast-growing audience that aligns with our strategy of reaching the next generation of millennial buyers,” Angelo said. “Audi’s partnership with MLS parallels the aggressive, challenger spirit of the two brands.”

Lorenceau discussed how brands can take advantage of the ephemeral feeling viewers get when watching sports in VR. “The potential is just huge,” he said. “For viewers who can’t make a game or are unable to sit court side, VR immediately puts them right in the action. And with TV ratings for live sports down nearly across the board, that immediacy is super important. All sports fans want a truly immersive, lean-in viewing experience that combines the best elements of TV with all that can be done with VR. And for brands to attach themselves to this is incredibly valuable. We’re just scratching the surface of what we can do for them, and expect to see a lot of innovation around VR and advertising in 2017.”

Fox Sports has been working with LiveLike for over a year, and the broadcaster has experience with bringing soccer games to VR fans. “Some of our earliest tests were with soccer and it’s a natural fit with the ability to switch perspectives in the stadium—from a high, mid-field perspective that allows you to follow the formations and tactics, to sideline and goal post cameras that get you in close to the action,” Devin Poolman, senior vice president of digital platforms at Fox Sports, said. “I still remember streaming a test match from COPA America and catching the right moment from an incredible Venezuela goal against Mexico. I knew this was something viewers would be excited about too. That also taught us that the DVR capabilities to re-watch those moments would be especially critical for soccer, and so we added that capability recently.”

Poolman said Fox Sports will promote the Audi LiveLike VR experience as part of the linear broadcast, along with special promotions from our mobile apps to make sure those streaming or following the game on Fox platforms are aware of the additional VR stream. “We’ve evolved our experience from initial, fairly static, experiences to more the more interactive and augmented livestreams in the Fox Sports VR app,” Poolman said. “But the biggest step forward may have been the availability on any mobile phone without needing Cardboard or a head-mounted device. We’ve learned that the interactivity is compelling even with a less immersive ‘magic window’ mode.”

Lorenceau said the LiveLike experience will continue to evolve, including the addition of multiplayer that will allow friends to gather in a VR Suite together to watch a game.

Poolman said Fox Sports is very interested in new platforms such as Google Daydream and PlayStation VR for some obvious reasons, like the controllers and room scale capabilities. But they’re also intrigued by both platforms extending to the TV set directly or via Chromecast. “They both have the potential to put a lot more head-mounted devices into users hands, which will be a great thing for everyone building VR experiences,” Poolman said.

How NextVR Brought New Perspectives To ‘The Game Awards’

The third annual The Game Awards show celebrated the best the video game industry had to offer last week by broadcasting live over a wide variety of digital channels, including VR. Virtual reality livestreaming was handled by NextVR, which also partnered with the NBA to deliver weekly live games in VR and created the NFL post-game experiences. The company brought its expertise in broadcasting live sporting events to make The Game Awards the first awards show to be livestreamed in VR.

Danny Keens, NextVR vice president of content
Danny Keens, NextVR vice president of content

NextVR’s vice president of content, Danny Keens, recently spoke to [a]listdaily about working with The Game Awards and described the company’s goals: “When you imagine consuming VR content, we want you to imagine NextVR as a broadcasting network with a large variety of programming brought to viewers regularly.”

In talking about how the company came to work with The Game Awards for a VR broadcast, Keens explained that “NextVR is known for expertise in livestreaming sports and entertainment events, so partnering with an awards show that honors the achievements in the video game industry is both a natural fit and an incredible way for us to continue making consumers aware of our content—while tapping into one of the largest most dedicated audiences in gamers. The Game Awards is the first awards show livestreamed in VR, so we were excited to be the first to do it.”

The VR livestream of The Game Awards can be watched using the NextVR app, which is currently exclusive to Samsung Gear VR devices. However, Keens said that the app will soon be available for all headsets. Until then, viewers who don’t have access to a Gear VR will have to stick to watching the traditional 2D version of the show across a huge selection of digital channels, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook Live, the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, Twitch and Steam. “A translated version of the show will also be available for viewers in China through QC, a Chinese social network,” Keens added.

Keens also explained how cameras were placed in unique areas so that the VR experience had perspectives that neither the 2D broadcast or even live attendance could offer.

“The live VR broadcast of The Game Awards featured VR camera rigs placed throughout the Microsoft Theater. Viewers had multiple vantage points of the show, including a front row seat next to some of the biggest names in the industry. An on-stage robotic camera built especially for the show moved around during the broadcast to continually give VR viewers a new perspective on the awards and musical performances. Instead of just watching, we are transporting viewers into the screen and putting them on stage with their favorite artists.”

When asked about the challenges of broadcasting a live show in virtual reality, Keens said that “with virtual reality, it’s new and the perspective is different than watching content on television, so we are still working on best practices and ways to deliver the most ideal experience to viewers. With an opportunity like an awards show, it’s about coming up with the most compelling experience and creating a product that demonstrates the capabilities of VR and doesn’t simply re-create the linear broadcast experience that one would see by turning on their TV set or watching the show elsewhere.”

Keens went on to describe how VR could be used to enhance the viewing experience for awards shows. “Just as with sporting events, viewers are getting closer to the action than ever before,” he said. “You could see the show in its entirety from multiple different vantage points, but we were also able to create different virtual environments that we dropped into the production. For example, with The Game Awards, viewers were able to see a jumbotron in the Microsoft Theater playing a variety of 2D content (trailers, nominations, etc.) from their VR devices. You’ve never been able to step inside the television screen and experience an awards show like this before. Rather than catching highlights of the show on the big screen or on your mobile device, you’re actually able to attend. The technology allows viewers to feel inches away from the action and feel fully present.”

So, what kind of impact will VR have on live events? “Live virtual reality will forever change how fans experience live events,” said Keens. “The next 12 months will mark the first time fans will be able to 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.”

According to Keens, the future of VR looks bright, particularly in the mobile viewing space. “In 2017, you will see the biggest electronics companies all over the world continue to make headsets and groundbreaking technology to support VR,” he said. “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.”

Twitter Takeovers And Less Is More: This Week In Game Promotions

When it comes to promoting AAA titles, these two found success with completely different strategies. Sometimes a game sells itself . . . and sometimes you just gotta torture an actor in a giant snow globe.

The Last Guardian

This very long-awaited PlayStation 4 exclusive tells the tale of a young boy and a strange, griffin-like creature named Trico. Aside from that, however, Sony has kept gameplay details tightly under wraps. Since The Last Guardian was announced nine years ago, the overwhelming hype of the game having finally come to fruition has been enough for Sony to step back and let the pre-orders roll in. In fact, pre-order sales were higher than Sony expected.

“When you’re working on a game that has such incredibly high levels of expectation, it’s impossible not to consider the pressure of meeting player expectations,” Joe Palmer, product manager for Sony told MCV“We’ve tried to avoid fueling the hype by playing on the fact that people have been waiting a long time for this. We want people to be excited because the game looks incredible, not because of its complicated development story.”

Despite its $120 price tag, fans have shown a particular interest in pre-ordering The Last Guardian Collector’s Edition. (Source: Sony)

“We’ve seen a really positive response to the Collector’s Edition in particular, which despite its higher price point, proves there’s a huge appetite for the game,” he added. The Collector’s Edition features a steelbook case, Blu-ray game disc, digital soundtrack, 72-page art book, Trico statue and a sticker sheet, all packed in a wooden collector’s box.

Brand new game footage was revealed during the PlayStation Experience as well, helping raise the excitement.

Dead Rising 4

Capcom has certainly cornered the zombie apocalypse market with its Resident Evil and Dead Rising franchises, and promotion for Dead Rising 4 has been focused primarily on the triumphant return of the series’ original protagonist—Frank West. During E3, the character staged a Twitter takeover for the official Dead Rising account, commenting on the events’ happenings and of course, adding his trademark wit to the mix.

Taking full advantage of the parallels between Dead Rising and The Walking Dead, West took over Twitter once again to live tweet reactions to TWD‘s brutal season seven premiere and even parodied “Lucille,” Negan’s thirsty bat of hateful doom.

After all, Frank was clobbering (and mocking) the undead with his bat long before Negan showed up—a fact that he won’t let slide easily.

Halloween may be over, but it’s never too late to “undead” yourself, thanks to a sponsored Snapchat filter.

If snuggling up with some hot cocoa and relaxing to the sound of a crackling fire and zombie moans is your thing, Capcom has you covered with a special Yule Log.

Meanwhile, back on Twitter, Frank was at it again on Friday—answering questions with the hashtag #AskFrank to ring in the weekend. Frank commented on other Dead Rising protagonists, Resident Evil cross-over fan fiction and gave viewers advice, all live on Facebook. Okay, so technically he didn’t say anything, but the recorded video shows him reading, reacting to and typing answers on his phone. Viewers were then encouraged to read Frank’s responses on the Twitter feed.

Actor Blake Anderson got in on the fun with Man vs. Holiday, livestreaming from inside a giant snow globe with zombies as he attempted to play Dead Rising 4 through 12 holiday challenges like ugly sweaters and incessant snow fall.

Continuing the holiday spirit, Xbox created a Dead Rising 4 trailer completely in Christmas lights and let fans turn them on live via Facebook and Periscope. The lights are hanging in the Brunswick Centre in London, which can be seen in the photos below.

Nutella’s Branded Video Series Spreads Some Joy

Branded content is increasingly being perceived more positively than display ads, and marketers are filling the funnel.

Italian food giant Ferrero, maker of the Nutella hazelnut chocolate spread, wants to promote some positivity and increase brand equity with “Spread the Happy,” a four-part documentary-short series on the brand’s YouTube channel that celebrates citizens in their communities.

“We were inspired by these stories of people spreading happiness and wanted to provide a platform for which to tell them,” Eric Berger, marketing director of Nutella USA, told [a]listdaily. “Since Nutella is all about spreading happiness, this idea is a great fit for our brand. We felt compelled to tell them to a large audience.”

The webseries—which includes one episode with pop group Echosmith and another about a special friendship formed between a three-year-old and the local garbage man—spotlights individuals who go out of their way to bring a moment of joy and inspiration to people—and with very little product placement of Nutella’s notorious hazelnut goodness.

Berger said they didn’t want the series to turn into an ad because branded content provides a better communication platform.

“Launching this campaign just felt like the right thing to do,” Berger said. “Hopefully people will enjoy this series and spread the happiness. Branded entertainment is a tool that we are using to build long-term brand equity, but we also have traditional advertising on via television and digital.”

Marketers from companies like Starbucks, Cap’n CrunchGeico and Chipotle are increasingly using branded content in favor of traditional ads to improve recall, brand perception and intent/consideration.

Brand recall is 59 percentage points higher for branded content, per a joint study from IPG MediaLab, Forbes and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. The September report also noted that consumers are 14 percent more likely to seek out more content from the brands after a single exposure to branded content.

Berger said the first season of the series—which culminated Sunday—is being supported with paid social and digital media, and that success will be measured by the number of video views and feedback received from viewers.

“These inspirational stories will make a connection with people in a way that an advertisement may never will,” he said.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan