‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ Director Paul Anderson On The Film Franchise’s Legacy

Sony Pictures and Capcom will see synergy across the latest game, Resident Evil 7, and the new movie, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. The new multiplatform game ships on January 24 followed by the film premiere on January 27. It marks the continuation of the 20-year video game franchise and the culmination of the most successful video game-based movie series.

Paul Anderson is the man behind the Hollywood adaptations, having convinced Capcom to explore the big screen with the original Resident Evil back in 2001. Since the original low-budget horror movie debuted in 2002, Anderson has written and produced every Resident Evil film and directed four of them. He also directed the original Mortal Kombat movie and is now preparing to adapt Monster Hunter for the big screen. He talks to [a]listdaily about the key to Resident Evil’s success in this exclusive interview.

How has the Resident Evil game franchise influenced this movie?

The movies are born out of the game franchise. It’s really born out of my love of playing the first two games. That’s how I became involved, and the DNA of the games is just intertwined with the DNA of the movies. Although we tell a slightly different story—we tell a parallel story that very much occurs in the world of the video games. So the look of the movies, the way they’re shot, and the creatures—that’s all very much the world of the games.

How are you going to up the ante with the monsters and the action in this film?

We really went for it. This is the final movie in the franchise, so I felt a great pressure to really deliver for the fans and also end on the best movie of the franchise. The action in this movie is pretty insane. It’s nonstop. By the end of the movie you haven’t just watched the apocalypse, you’ve actually been involved in one.

How has the success of these films impacted what you’ve been able to do this time around?

This is by far the best Resident Evil movie. The main reason for that is that we’ve juxtaposed the big action that the franchise has become known for with the kind of horror that we had in the very first movie. The first movie was very intense. It was all set in one location underground—very claustrophobic and horrific with some great traps. When Colin Salmon got chopped up in the laser grid, it was shocking. As the franchise went along it became more action-oriented. Now we go back to The Hive and back to the horrific feeling of the first movie. This one is combining big action with big horror, which is really the first time we’ve done that because the first movie was relatively a low budget film.

I didn’t have the kind of money to execute the big set pieces that we have in this. In fact, some of the ideas in this film I had 15 years ago but we couldn’t actually execute them. I wanted to kill people in unpleasant and spectacular ways in The Hive back in Berlin 15 years ago. Finally, Sony gave me the money to do it, so some of these scenes have been a long time coming.

What’s it like to get back to Raccoon City after all of these movies?

It was amazing. For The Hive, we actually reconstructed some of the sets that we had originally built for the first movie. So walking onto those sets for the first time was like traveling back in time. It was great.

What has Raccoon City opened up for connecting the cinematic universe with the game universe?

In the movie, we’re returning to The Hive and Raccoon City. Those two things are obviously from the video game universe. The very first game was set in a mansion in the woods outside of Raccoon City that had this lab, which we called The Hive underneath it that’s infested with the worst kind of creatures and horrors and terrors.

So we’re returning to that. We’re bringing characters both from the video game franchise, Claire Redfield, but also characters from the film franchise with Milla’s character, Alice. It’s like the greatest hits of both of the video game franchise and the film franchise.

How has Capcom been involved with this franchise over the years?

I’ve always been heavily influenced by the games. The first thing I did when I signed to do the very first movie was fly to Japan, meet the creator of the game, and pitch him my idea—which I spent two days doing through a translator—then he made his comments. When I write a script now, it’s always sent to Capcom. They always give their thoughts. I always take that into account because while the film franchise and the video game franchise are slightly separate, we never want to do anything that messes with that world, and vice versa. There’s a lot of communication between us.

What do you feel the secret ingredient is to the longevity of the box office success of the Resident Evil movies?

The key to our success is Milla (Jovovich). She is really the beating heart of the franchise. She gives the franchise a humanity that people can latch onto and her struggle of the individual against the giant corporation is something that everyone can really associate with. It’s something that people feel right now—that maybe these big corporations don’t have our best interest at heart, even more than the zombies and the monsters. That for me is what Resident Evil is all about.

How has the film franchise evolved alongside the video games over the years?

They’ve always changed and evolved. That’s very important. If you look at the game franchise, Capcom wasn’t afraid to introduce new characters and new locations. It’s not like Tomb Raider, where as good as Lara Croft was, people became tired of playing Lara Croft. The Resident Evil game franchise always introduced new characters, and we’ve done that as well. We’ve always told new stories and sometimes we’ve been criticized for that because we’ve deviated slightly from the games, but I feel like that’s been the strength of the movie franchise because we’ve expanded the universe.

We haven’t just done the straight adaptation. We’ve shown the fans new and interesting things, and in this return to Raccoon City and to The Hive, fans will learn more about the Umbrella Corporation than they’ve ever known before. They’re going to discover all the dark secrets of Umbrella, of Alice, of the Red Queen, and answer a lot of questions that people have had for the last 15 years.

Is this really the final chapter?

Absolutely. It’s the end of the franchise and it brings the whole story full circle. It’s Milla returning to The Hive, returning to where everything began, and finishing the job that she started 15 years ago.

Resident Evil 7 is coming out for PlayStation VR. Do you have any thoughts about virtual reality gaming?

I love VR. I’ve always been an early adopter and I loved 3D when it first came out. Resident Evil was right on the cutting edge of that. We were the first native 3D movie to come out after Avatar and I love VR for exactly the same reason. Anything that expands the world of gaming and the world of movies and makes them more immersive, I want to be involved in.

How will these Resident Evil movies help you bring Monster Hunter to the big screen?

We’ve made the biggest and the best video game movie adaptation ever, so that’s made us the premium brand in terms of adapting video games. It’s definitely eased the path for Monster Hunter.

Gravity Cats And Dummy Fingers: This Week In Game Promotions

The new year’s game launch hiatus has finally ended. This week sees the long-awaited launch of Capcom’s foray into VR, Sony’s gravity-defying sequel and Square Enix is getting ready to celebrate a major milestone. From weird-smelling candles to beautiful art, let’s take a look at this week’s big game promotions.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Horror fans are anxious to face their fears down in haunted Louisiana and solve a mystery sprouting from the roots of Resident Evil. Full of signature puzzles, jump scares and healing herbs, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard promises not only to be frightening, but downright horrifying when played in first-person virtual reality. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter also hits theaters this week, bringing the wildy-popular film franchise to a close.

Resident Evil series producer, Masachika Kawata told [a]listdaily that the series had unintentionally evolved after every three games from its suspenseful first night in the mansion to the action sequences of Resident Evil 6—but the time was right to come full circle. “We felt that the franchise has moved forward in a more action-oriented direction and we figured this would be a perfect opportunity to take RE7 and really go back to our roots,” he said, “revisit them and rethink what it means.”

Capcom has been doing a great deal of promotion for the game, beginning with a demo on the PlayStation Network called Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour. In it, players must escape a dilapidated house and in doing so, find clues about the upcoming game. Then there’s the Lantern VR demo, which debuted at Gamescom earlier this year, where players are pursued through a darkened house by a woman carrying a lantern. Finding clues and comparing theories about the game has kept fans busy waiting for launch day, especially trying to figure out the mystery of a certain dummy finger.

Those particularly obsessed with said finger can take one home inside the game’s collector’s edition. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is part of Microsoft’s Xbox Play Anywhere program, in which consumers receive a free PC version of the game with an Xbox One purchase.

Capcom has been teasing fans with images like this for months. Source: Capcom
Capcom has been teasing fans with clues like this for months. Source: Capcom

For London fans eager to fill their pants in abject terror, Capcom has been hosting The Experience: London from January 20 to 23—a real-life adventure that offers visitors a taste of what’s to come. Following the demos’ story, visitors take on the role of an intern reporter working for a paranormal investigation group called The Sewer Gators. Visitors have just 45 minutes to brave the dark house in search of missing team members, presumably without getting killed in some horrible fashion.

Virtual reality will no doubt immerse players in the game, but for that added “essence of death,” fans can pick up a candle infused with smells like wood and blood. When it comes to promotion, Capcom didn’t forget the press—several outlets received an honest-to-goodness VCR with a custom tape begging the viewer to get his message to (insert outlet name here).

Gravity Rush 2

Sony, meanwhile, is celebrating its Gravity Rush franchise with the release of its much-awaited sequel after launching a remastered version of the original in February of last year. The biggest promotion, perhaps, has come in the form of an anime series called Overture. The animated series focuses on the main character, Kat, and her misadventures between the first game and the second.

For Japanese audiences, a short film called Gravity Cat demonstrates the many ways in which Kat can traverse her environment with . . . ya know, a cat (we see what they did there).


Those who pre-ordered the game will also have access to other Gravity Rush-based goodies, including bonus costumes for Kat and a nine-song soundtrack.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue

After a delayed release, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue finally hits US shelves on January 24. Square Enix is offering a limited edition of the PlayStation 4 game that includes a collectible pin of the Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue logo with Mickey and Sora beside it. In addition, those who pre-ordered the standard edition will automatically have their purchase upgraded to the limited edition at no extra charge.

Promotions for this particular title have been on the light side, with Square Enix instead focusing on the franchise’s 15th anniversary. For example, a series of stained-glass Kingdom Hearts clock faces went on display in the Tokyo Metro Marunochisen Shinjuku Station Promenade from January 9 to 15, which resulted in numerous social media posts and videos. Visitors were encouraged to post a picture of their favorite stained-glass clock face to determine which one to feature on the main display and surrounded by the other twelve as clock dials. As an added bonus, Square Enix will be giving the faces away to 13 lucky fans.

Source: Kingdom Hearts Insider
Source: Kingdom Hearts Insider

How Sundance Is Supporting Bold, Immersive Storytelling

Calling all movie buffs—here’s a question to kick off some quick conversation this weekend: What do the films Reservoir Dogs, Memento, Napoleon Dynamite, The Usual Suspects and The Blair Witch Project all have in common?

They all premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, the always-exciting artistic showcase that delivers each year by contributing content and conversations to culture and creators from all stages of storytelling.

Founded in 1985 by Robert Redford, the much anticipated Park City-based Festival that delivers annually with a diverse slate of films commenced in the mountains of Utah on Thursday for an 11-day run.

In between the ski slopes, handshake deals and chaos of creativity, there’s plenty of pomp and pageantry, too—minus the paparazzi—for the filmmakers, movie buffs, stars, C-suite executives and critics who make the field trip to Park City to catch both the big hits and festival flops.

Jared Hendler, director of marketing for the Sundance Institute, took a brief break from the festival to join [a]listdaily and detail how the Sundance Film Festival will deliver this year with environmentally focused programming, how storytelling is evolving and the current trends he’s keeping close tabs on. 

Jared Hendler, director of marketing for the Sundance Institute

The Sundance Film Festival this year will open with a documentary about climate change starring Al Gore in the ‘Inconvenient Sequel.’ Why did you choose to kick-off with this particular project? Are there any themes Sundance-goers can expect this year?

Our programming team has been discussing the idea of an environmental focus for a long while, especially because it’s one of Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford’s most pressing causes. ‘The New Climate,’ as we’ve chosen to call our first-ever thematic programming thread, is a collection of documentaries, short films, virtual reality experiences and off-screen panels about environmental preservation, stewardship and climate change.

What kind of a role will VR be playing this year? How are these immersive experiences being received at Sundance? Is there an appetite?

There’s an immense appetite for VR storytelling. This was the first year that our curators opened submissions for the ‘New Frontier’ category and I know they were so impressed with what they found. Shari Frilot, our chief curator, was able to cherry-pick the absolute latest and greatest of AR, VR and otherwise tech-enabled stories, from artists on the cutting edge.

How is the American independent film market progressing? What common themes are you noticing?

Perhaps it’s the digital age, perhaps it’s the 24/7 news cycle—both of which can be dehumanizing to some degree—but people are more drawn than ever to telling deeply human stories. That rising tide of empathetic and dimensional storytelling, created by independent artists, encourages the year-round work we do at Sundance Institute, which is supporting and amplifying the boldest and most trenchant voices.

How will the second installment of “Digital Storytelling”—the event that unites brand marketers with digital content creators—evolve this year? Why is it critical for marketers to partner with storytellers?

Digital Storytelling is an event that happens at the beginning of the Festival, and their program is independent from ours. They are an Institute Associate, one of the tiers of support we have within our corporate fundraising area. We were happy to welcome them into the fold because storytelling has always been an important part of marketing. Brands are learning to listen—there’s a very real feedback loop between audiences and brands, and it’s tightening daily as analytics advance. There is no better way for them to bring value to their audiences than working with artists who have the expertise and passion to deliver on that. We’re so fortunate to have a wide selection of partners who respect and support the work we do, and who respect the intellect and curiosity of our audience.

Why are so many brands now making documentaries to better connect with consumers? How has brand storytelling and branded content changed?

Brands used to be able to buy their way into an audience through a media buy. While that still can be the case, it is no longer as effective as it used to be given how fractured the media landscape is today. The switch from ‘push’ to ‘pull’—which the entertainment industry knows how to deliver upon so well—is a key driver. If you don’t bring value, the consumer will skip it. Value first, advertising second. The ‘content’ piece is clearly driving now, rather than the ‘branded’ piece. People connect with well-told and substantive stories and, especially in a crowded marketplace, the most informed consumers appreciate stories that involve nuance and service. Brands are seeing an upside in providing more emotionally and intellectually resonant content, rather than just straight product pitches.

How will you be engaging with the public through Sundance’s social media? What is your strategy for your online showcase? Will you be testing any emerging platforms?

Actually attending the Festival is an experience everyone should have—but for those who can’t make it to the mountain, we’ll be livestreaming select live programming, including our signature ‘Power of Story’ panels and our ‘Celebration of Music and Film’ on our homepage and our YouTube and Facebook pages. We’ve got a full schedule of social content as well, with photos and updates from events, screenings, conversations and, of course, lots of local color from the streets of Park City. We’re fortunate to have a very engaged audience and we distribute across multiple platforms in order to reach that audience wherever they prefer to be. What used to require a media intermediary now allows us to go directly to the public, and our content strategy reflects that access. Our goals in outreach are twofold—we strive to reach both artists we can support, and the audiences who will support our artists and the goals of the Institute.

How is Sundance and its sponsors bringing experiential marketing to Park City?

One of the unique aspects of our sponsorships is that they are actually one of our important fundraising channels. Our corporate development team works with brands to support the year-round work we do with artists as well as some of the exciting activations at the Festival. Our superb sponsors are always pushing the envelope on how to best engage our mutual audience of savvy consumers. They’re as game to innovate as we are, which is so refreshing. This year—among many others—we have the Festival Village Presented by Acura, where guests can virtually experience Acura performance and handling through a VR Simulator; SundanceTV HQ, which hosts daily panel conversations and special events; Chase Sapphire on Main, offering local restaurant sampling, celebrity chef demonstrations and exclusive cardholder events; Festival Base Camp presented by Canada Goose, where guests can enjoy daily musical performances. This year, we’ve created an ‘Official Partner’ seal, to highlight the brands that generously partner with the Institute.

What is on top of your marketing “hot list” this year? What emerging trends are you zeroing in on in order to explore and innovate the Sundance brand?

How stories can influence culture and how culture can bring about change. When you look back at the stories that have come through our programs and our Festival, you will be amazed at how many of those were not only personal favorites that you never knew originated with the Institute, but also how many of them have influenced our culture.

How has the Sundance brand strategy and messaging evolved since you took the position in January 2016?

As an Institute we do a lot. That can make for some confusing messaging, so we are looking to be more focused. That being said, there are many things that we do as an organization to support artists all year round that many are not aware of. From our multinational, cross-department (theater and film) labs, to our support of artists via financing and distribution initiatives, along with all of the important work on diversity and inclusion that is threaded throughout all of these programs. We are also working with the next generation of digital creators along with our work with episodic format content. Expect that to all be wrapped up in messaging of how we contribute to our culture. We are the first festival of the year—it starts here. Conversation happens on the ground, with or without us.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Live Video, Social TV And Other Must-Read Marketing Stats

This week, consumers expect a lot and want to see before they buy. Social media may love TV, but marketers are letting their Snapchat profiles grow dusty. Meanwhile, the tables have turned (ever so slightly) on how consumers watch live video.

Great Expectations

Modern consumers demand more from brands, which creates “an increasingly challenging environment for products and services seeking brand engagement,” according to the 22nd annual 2017 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI), conducted by Brand Keys. Examining 740 brands across 83 categories, the study states that while consumer expectations have increased 23 percent over 2016, brands have only improved by 4 percent, leaving an enormous gap between what consumers want and what brands are seen able to deliver.

“’Brand engagement’ is a measure of how well a brand meets expectations consumers hold for the path-to-purchase drivers in a given category,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, in a statement. “Those drivers and expectations can be measured against a Category Ideal (100 percent) with brands best meeting consumers’ expectations generating greater loyalty and profits. Brands that cannot meet expectations lose customers and market share.”

For 2017, the top five sectors where expectations grew the most were:

  1. Online: Social Networking and Entertainment (+35 percent)
  2. Technology (+32 percent)
  3. B2B: Services and Equipment (+30 percent)
  4. Cosmetics (+28 percent)
  5. Personal Products & Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) (+26 percent)

“Interestingly, there was only one category where expectations virtually stood still,” noted Passikoff. “Non-alcoholic beverages were up 9 percent, the lowest expectation growth in years. Perhaps that’s why selling soft drinks has become so problematic.”

Source: Brand Keys

Keeping It Social

According to Nielsen’s Social Media Report, adults spend an awful lot of time consuming media, particularly that of the social variety. Not surprisingly, millennials spend the most time on social media—six hours and 19 minutes weekly, or 24 percent of their total time spent on media overall. This figure is up 21 percent. It’s not just the “kids” that are doing it, either—share of media time spent on social media has jumped 64 percent among adults 50 years and up. They now spend 20 percent of their media time using social media.

Did you see that shocking scene in that one show you like? Of course you did, and chances are, you posted about it online. Nielsen reports were 14.2 million social media interactions about TV across Facebook and Twitter on an average day this fall in the US. On Twitter, 81 percent of the engagement with TV-related tweets come organically from audience tweets, while the remaining 19 percent come from owned content.

While brands are eager to reach young consumers with Snapchat, not a lot of them follow through, according to a new report by L2. Per the report, 62 brands opened up a Snapchat account between January and October of 2016, meaning that 64 percent of marketers have adopted the app. The watches and jewelry category grew the most, adding nine brands in nine months. Per L2, once a brand opens an account, it often goes unused. In January of 2016, 70 percent of brands’ accounts were active while only 67 percent were active in October.


Marketers and media agency professionals in China are eager to invest in social networking sites on mobile this year, according to AdMaster. Nearly 70 percent said they would prefer to invest in the medium, while 55 percent preferred to do the same on desktops and laptops. “More ad formats and marketing vehicles that are being made available to advertisers are relevant to younger generations,” said AdMaster COO Calvin Chan in the report. “This includes more in-feed ads on social media platforms like WeChat, QQ and Sina Weibo.”

Short video clips, in particular are becoming more popular in the region. “Though China doesn’t have a strong player like Snapchat yet, there’s an increasing number of apps like Meipai and Miaopai that encourage users to upload and share video clips that range in length from a few seconds to a few minutes.”

You’ve Got To Fight, For Your Right, To Live . . . 

Live video isn’t just for news anymore, and a study by the UBS Evidence Lab found that millennials are the biggest consumers and creators of live video—63 percent have watched live content and 42 percent have created it. However, the number of people watching live video streams experienced a slight drop in just a few months’ time. Thirty-six percent of internet users said they watched live video as of November—two percentage points less than those who reported watching in a June survey by UBS.

In June, live video was consumed the most on YouTube, but Facebook Live won by a nose during a follow-up in November study, at 16 and 17 percent, respectively.

Source: eMarketer
Source: eMarketer

Visual Shopping

According to a report from DigitalBridge, there is an increasing “imagination gap” impacting purchasing decisions in the UK. The research found that in the last 12 months, a third of consumers delayed or decided against buying items when they couldn’t visualize how they would look like in real life. The majority of consumers revealed they would use a visualization tool if it was offered, and more than 55 percent believe it would make them more likely to make a purchase. That may all change, however, in a matter of years—Gartner believes that by 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality.

Game On

Pokémon GO generated an estimated $950 million in revenues in 2016, according to a report by market researcher App Annie. The game brought in a staggering $800 million in consumer spend in 110 days (by the end of 2016, the game reached over $950 million). This was far faster than some of the most successful mobile games of all time. To put Pokémon GO‘s success in a broader perspective, its global consumer spend in 2016 exceeded the total worldwide box office gross of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Video game industry sales saw a decline across the board in December, dropping 15 percent to $2.8 billion. Individually, however, Microsoft enjoyed a year-on-year, 10 percent increase in the number of Xbox One systems sold during December. PlayStation 4 was the top-selling hardware system in the month and the PlayStation 4 Slim System 500GB Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Bundle was the month’s top seller.

The NPD’s top 10 best-selling games for December 2016 are:

  1. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  2. Final Fantasy XV
  3. Battlefield 1
  4. Madden NFL 17
  5. NBA 2K17
  6. Watch Dogs 2
  7. Grand Theft Auto V
  8. Pokémon Sun*
  9. FIFA 17
  10. Pokémon Moon*

*Asterisks indicate that digital sales were not accounted for.

Stardock’s Strategy For Bringing ‘Star Control’ Back

Originally launching in 1992 for MS-DOS PCs before being ported to the 3DO console, Star Control II is regarded by many as one of the greatest PC games ever made. However, its near perfect blend of story, humor, ship-to-ship combat action and gameplay made it a tough act to follow, which is one of the reasons its sequel failed to catch on with both fans and critics.


But there was still a great deal of enthusiasm for Star Control II, as evidenced by a community developed project called The Ur-Quan Masters, which remade the 3DO version of the game for modern systems. Hope for a new game was revived when Stardock Entertainment (makers of the Galactic Civilizations franchise, Ashes of the Singularity and Offworld Trading Company) acquired the rights to the franchise in 2013 and later announced that a reboot was in development. The game, titled Star Control Origins, is expected to release later this year and will have players exploring the galaxy in a prototype vessel as humanity embarks on its first journey into the depths of space.

Stardock Entertainment’s CEO, Brad Wardell, recently spoke with [a]listdaily about reviving the 25-year-old franchise and bringing back the excitement of space exploration with it.

Brad Wardell, Stardock Entertainment CEO
Brad Wardell, Stardock Entertainment CEO

What attracted you to the Star Control franchise?

Star Control II was my favorite game of all time. When Accolade went out of business, Infogrames picked it up, and when that went out business, Atari got it. When Atari declared bankruptcy, we picked up the publishing rights to Star Control I, II and III so we could create a home for the existing trilogy. What we want is a space adventure game. I like Space Rangers and a few other games that touched that genre, but nothing scratches that itch like Star Control does. You go out, meet a bunch of aliens, have cool battles, explore planets and build up.

One of the problems that I think No Man’s Sky ran into is that people want to explore space, but they want to be guided a little bit. They want a reason to go out and see these planets, not to have a giant procedurally generated universe that offers all the same stuff. That’s where I thought the magic of Star Control was at. There’s a story, there are aliens out there, and I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Star Control III released in 1996. Is there still interest in a game franchise that’s over 20 years old?

We know the appeal of Star Control exists because we just saw No Man’s Sky scratch the itch of wanting to explore the universe. The two games aren’t in the same genre, but we know that there’s that desire. Also, when people see Star Control, they know what it’s about. There are enough people that know that it involves space battles, having a cool ship, exploring planets and meeting whacky aliens. The name has a certain kind of gameplay associated with it. From there, it’s merit—you have to deliver a game that people want to play, and that’s enough to get other people on board. I still think that Star Control’s gameplay is super-compelling, especially nowadays.

Star Control III was panned by both critics and fans when it released. Does that history make it difficult to make a new game?

I guess it was a good thing that Star Control III came out. SC2 was made by a guy named Paul Reiche III and his friend, Fred Ford. They went on to create Skylanders, which is a super-popular franchise. What happened with SC3 is that you had a different group try to take what they did and run with it.

We got to talk to at length with Paul and Fred, and what they hope to do someday is continue their own stories. So, what we’re going to do is make the new Star Control a multiverse, where SC1 and 2 are one universe. Since we can’t pretend that SC3 didn’t happen—that happened in a completely different universe. Our universe is going to be an alternate history with a different cast of aliens. You’re still the Earthlings, but you’ll meet a different cast of characters and that allows us to go back to the start, where humans are just going into space while dealing with how their android servants took off.

Will there be an entirely new cast of aliens, or are you keeping some of the more iconic ones?

I don’t want to have any spoilers, but the main cast of Origins is all-new.

Are digital stores like GOG helping to revive nostalgia for the franchise?

Absolutely. Both GOG and Steam have been super helpful to us on this side. We sell the Star Control trilogy on GOG right now and we’ve been playing around with putting it on Steam.

How is Stardock adding its own flavor to the franchise?

starcontrol_UI_melee2We’re trying to keep the flavor the same as Star Control II. For example, we were able to recruit the original musicians that did SC2’s music. The art style is very much a modern version of SC2, it’s cartoony, but not in a comic book kind of way. We contracted writers from Cracked.com to make sure the writing is funny but not stupid.

The graphics of Star Control II may be retro, but the gameplay isn’t. When you play Star Control Origins, nobody is going to say that this is a retro game. I like to think that we’re expanding Star Control into areas that make sense, like planet exploration, interaction with aliens, and the ship designs.

What other features will help provide a fresh take on Star Control?

We have a powerful story editor that we can give out to others, so people can make their own stories. The other thing is that the aliens are dynamic. We’re using the Nitrous Engine, which we used in Ashes of the Singularity. The founders of Oxide Games (makers of Nitrous) were the same guys who did Civilization V, including the leader heads. All the alien lip-syncing and movements will be procedurally generated on the fly, with nothing pre-canned. You can literally put in the words and they will say them.

We could (and totally should) do a podcast or livestream with the aliens saying the words, because they will have the full facial movements.


Given how games like Homeworld have been remastered recently, has there been any consideration given to remastering Star Control II?

Unless we use the community developed project, The Ur-Quan Masters, we would have to go back to DOS. So, we would be rewriting it from scratch instead of updating it, and that would be really hard to do. Homeworld was a 3D game that had a Windows version. I think we’ll have to wait until Origins comes out to see if we can go back and (with Paul’s permission) do an update to bring back the game using the new engine.

Are there concerns that Star Control will be compared to current popular space adventures like Mass Effect?

Yeah, a lot of people have said that Mass Effect is basically a reimagining of Star Control. Since this is Star Control, we don’t have to get into the third-person shooter gameplay. It’s much more about ship-vs.-ship combat and the adventure of meeting crazy aliens. I think most people who played Mass Effect realize that it’s an epic adventure, but the field of it is more of a third-person action game.

Snapchat Snags Sony Entertainment CEO; Wizards Of The Coast Opens Digital Studio

Donald Trump has been inaugurated as the new President of the United States, but he isn’t the only business person stepping into a new role this week. Here are some of the major job moves from the past week.

After 13 years with the company, Michael Lynton is stepping down as CEO of Sony Entertainment and is joining Snapchat as Chairman of the Board. The transition should complete in six months.

Thomas Tull, who co-founded Legendary Entertainment 11 years ago, is leaving his post as chairman and CEO of the film company.

Leading toy maker, Mattel, has appointed former Google Americas president, Margaret Georgiadis, to serve as chief executive officer. This move marks the second CEO switch since 2015. Georgiadis officially takes the role on February 8.

Premium cable content network, EPIX has named Sandy Ashendorf as executive vice president for content distribution. In this role, Ashendorf will head the network’s distribution partnerships on all platforms.

Conde Naste Entertainment has hired Croi McNamara to the role of senior vice President of programming for digital. McNamara will oversee creative development for projects produced on CNE’s slate in addition to collaborating with editorial staff.

Target has promoted Rick Gomez to the role of EVP and CMO. Formerly the SVP of marketing, Gomez will now be in charge of brand positioning and leading marketing, media strategy, creative, research, loyalty and corporate communications.

A Wireless, a premium retailer for Verizon Wireless, has appointed George Sherman as its new CEO.

Unity, makers of the Unity Engine, announced that it has hired Dave Rhodes as chief revenue officer for the company’s core license and platform business. Rhodes previously served at Paradigm, where he was EVP of sales, services and marketing.

Interior designer and author, Nate Berkus, is returning to television this spring on TLC, having recently signed an agreement with Brillstein Entertainment Partners. He will star alongside fellow interior designer Jeremiah Brent, but will continue to run his Chicago-based design firm, Nate Berkus Associates. Berkus also serves as artistic Adviser for LG Studio.

After leading the Directors Guild of America (DGA) for over two decades, Jay Roth announced that he is retiring from the role of national executive director this spring.

Conspexit, a new studio in Bankside, London with a focus on helping people with visual impairments, has hired Russell Harding as its creative director. Harding formerly served as creative director at Sony Interactive Entertainment’s London Studios and led the vision behind PlayStation VR Worlds.

Trainline appointed Mark Brooker as chief operating officer. Brooker will be responsible for company marketing, products and Trainline international.

Integral Ad Science has hired Nick Morley to the newly created role of managing director. Based in London, Morley is tasked with driving the company’s growth and further expansion into key European markets.

Dentsu has named Toshihiro Yamamoto as its new CEO after Tadashi Ishii stepped down from the role amid a series of major scandals.

Former Techland COO, Pawel Zawodny, founded a new game studio called Strange New Things based in Wroclaw, Poland. He is joined by former members of IO Interactive, CD Projekt Red and Techland.

Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro, who founded Deadly Premonition developer Access Games, is returning to game development with a new studio based in Osaka, Japan—White Owls Inc. At this time, Suehiro is the only team member listed on the company’s website.

Ubisoft has acquired FreeStyleGames, maker of DJ Hero and Guitar Hero Live, from Activision. The studio has been renamed to Ubisoft Leamington.

Wizards of the Coast is reimagining its entire digital strategy, and has created Digital Games Studio to follow through with that plan. The studio features a team of video game industry all-stars led by Jeffrey Steefel, and it will handle development for Dungeons & Dragons games and Magic: The Gathering. Additionally, the studio will look for opportunities to enhance its real-world properties with technology.

“We will make your Wizards experiences more efficient, connected, and convenient,” said Wizards of the Coast president, Chris Cocks, in a press release.

Television network giant, Fox, recently opened FoxNext—a new division that is focused on expanding the company’s video game, virtual reality and augmented reality operations.

Have a new hire tip? Let us know at editorial@alistdaily.com.

Hollywood Walk Of Game: The Stars Of Video Game Promotion

From A-list actors to the world’s best athletes, celebrities have made a growing number of appearances in video game promotions over the past few years. While a number of brands enlist the help of social media creators to promote their titles (Day of Doom, for example), today we’re looking at traditional celebrities who recently stepped in front of the camera to promote a video game.

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Mobile Strike

The former Governor of California, action movie star, and current reality TV show host has starred in a number of promotions for Mobile Strike, most notably with a live-action commercial aired during Super Bowl 50. Mobile Strike publisher, MZ CEO, Gabe Leydon attributes the game’s success to diversification of marketing. “What we found is that while most of your television ads don’t do much, what they do have is a tremendous effect on your mobile digital ads,” Leydon said at the Web Summit in London. “When people see Arnold Schwarzenegger on television, and they look down at their Facebook app and they see Arnold Schwarzenegger on a video ad there, they make that emotional connection from what they’ve seen on TV and it legitimizes the product in a lot of ways.”

T.I. – Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

Rapper-turned-actor, Tip “T.I.” Harris stars as Marcus, a member of the cartel in a new short film released by Ubisoft. War Within the Cartel is a prequel to the upcoming open-world tactical game, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands. The 30-minute video features the Santa Blanca drug cartel as they seek to flush out a traitor within their ranks—and its events will lead up to the opening moments of Ubisoft’s new game.

Gary Cole And Gary Busey – Hitman

To keep players engaged between episodes of Hitman, IO Interactive released elusive targets—contracts that players have only one opportunity to complete or fail. Among these elusive targets is actor Gary Busey, who won a fan vote against fellow actor Gary Cole for the honor of being killed in the game. In making a case for himself in the humorous promotional video, one of the villainous things Busey did was kidnap vegetarian kids and raise them on meat.

Blake Anderson – Dead Rising 4

Actor Blake Anderson didn’t know what he was getting into when he agreed to help promote Dead Rising 4 . . . other than a giant snow globe. Man vs. Holiday was an hour-and-a-half livestream from inside the aforementioned snow globe, where Anderson sat next to zombies as he attempted to play Dead Rising 4 through twelve holiday-themed challenges like ugly sweaters and incessant snowfall.

Everyone – Call of Duty

Activision has a reputation for enlisting celebrities to help promote its games, particularly when it comes to live-action trailers. Most recently, Olympic gold medalist, Michael Phelps, and comedian Danny McBride appeared in a trailer called “Screw it, let’s go to space”—a tongue-in-cheek nod to public criticism over the game’s location as well as election-year strife. Unable to handle it all anymore, citizens simply get on a spaceship and forget their woes in a symphony of explosions and gunfire. Appealing to sports fans, UFC champion Conor McGregor plays a villain named Captain Bradley Fillion in the game’s campaign mode in both voice and likeness, which is sure to bring some excellent cross promotion.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare throws a bit of ’80s nostalgia into the mix with its Zombies in Spaceland mode—employing celebrities from the era like Paul Reubens and David Hasselhoff. Actress and musician, Kate Micucci (Scrubs; Garfunkel and Oates) assumed the role of Alana—a Facebook chatbot for Terminal Tours, a choose-your-own-adventure promotion that went on to create over six million exchanges within 24 hours.


Living Essentials Energizes ESports With Detroit Renegades

Living Essentials, the makers of 5-hour Energy shots, has entered into eSports. The non-endemic brand has teamed up with the Detroit Renegades, a team owned by NBA player Jonas Jerebko. As part of the new sponsorship, the brand has been integrated into the official name of the Overwatch team, which is now officially called the Detroit Renegades 5-hour Energy Overwatch team. The Detroit Renegades also features professional eSports players and teams across Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Call of Duty and Super Smash Bros.

“ESports is a rapidly growing field that has a very dedicated fan base where we feel our product can make a big impact,” Melissa Skabich, director of communications at Living Essentials, told [a]listdaily.

Jerebko said in a statement that this sponsorship by Living Essentials epitomizes the shared values of hard work, innovative marketing and efficient operations. “As our first non-endemic sponsor, being headquartered in Michigan encourages a beneficial relationship to support our organization and players directly,” he said.

This is Living Essentials’ first eSports sponsorship using the 5-hour Energy brand. “We look at eSports as expanding on traditional sports marketing for a digital fan base,” Skabich said. “This means there are some similarities to sponsorships we’ve done in the past with racing and golf, but there is also a whole new world of content and consumer engagement with a new audience.”

Skabich discussed how having someone like Jerebko, with such a large voice in the athletic world, brings a sense of professionalism and experience to this sponsorship. “We take this space seriously as a professional sport, and we truly believe our product can positively contribute to the gaming industry, fans, players and pro teams,” she said. “Above all, we want to have a positive impact on the growth of eSports and the entire gameplay experience.”

According to Skabich, one of the things that drew the brand to the Renegades team was how engaging and collaborative they are on social media. The team, which was founded in 2015, has earned global recognition since Jerebko’s acquisition. “We have found their entire organization to be highly creative and enthusiastic when working with sponsors, so we are excited to team up with them on fun, engaging content for both their fans and ours,” Skabich said.

Living Essentials’ target demographic for 5-hour Energy is tired people. “We know that’s a broad spectrum, but gamers in particular are notorious for keeping odd hours and pushing themselves to grind for new gear, work towards that next level, or compete for the high score,” Skabich said. “5-hour Energy shots have an application in day-to-day work life, fitness, sports, etc., and gamers are a diverse group whose lives definitely overlap into these different areas.”

Jeff Zajac, the director of operations for the Renegades franchise, told [a]listdaily that 5-hour Energy not only provided the energy to stream, practice and perform in all aspects of gaming, but has been an inspiration to the team with its innovative strategies for eSports.

“Gamers need a healthy alternative to fuel them during their intense gameplay,” Zajac said. “Instead of having to rely on the high sugar and additive alternatives, they can turn to 5-hour Energy to provide them with long-lasting clean energy.”

ESports allows companies like Living Essentials to tap into a broad spectrum of gamers.

“Obviously the gaming sphere is a 24/7 place, so we know gamers are always looking for an energy boost to keep them feeling alert—whether streaming, during gameplay or for fan interaction,” Skabich said. “The small size of 5-hour Energy shots, compared to energy drinks, allows gamers to keep playing games without having to constantly sip on a large beverage.”

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.

How ‘Hitman’ Kept Players Engaged With Killer Content

Developer IO Interactive is best known for its Hitman franchise, where players have the opportunity to put on the suit of a professional assassin tasked with eliminating targets using whatever creative means they can come up with. The company took a big chance with the most recent release of the game, simply titled Hitman, by launching it as an episodic game supported with live events, but fans ended up warming up very nicely to the new format.

Players would receive new locations on a regular basis—usually a month or two—with a target that progressed the main story. However, to keep players engaged between episodes, IO Interactive released elusive targets—contracts that players have only one opportunity to complete or fail. Among these elusive targets is actor Gary Busey, who won a fan vote against fellow actor Gary Cole for the honor of being killed in the game. In making a case for himself in the humorous promotional video, one of the villainous things Busey did was kidnap vegetarian kids and raise them on meat.

The first season of Hitman draws to a close with the launch of the disc version on January 31. This release will include all the content from the game except for past elusive targets. It also puts Hitman in the unique position of being a game that started as a traditional franchise, became an episodic live game service, and will soon have a kind of traditional game release.

IO Interactive’s creative director, Christian Elverdam, recently sat down with [a]listdaily to discuss the many facets of Hitman, how it maintained player engagement over the first season, and how Gary Busey ended up in the game.

In discussing the reasoning behind creating Hitman as an episodic game, Elverdam said: “For us, it meant that the game would feel alive. The game world and community would feel as though this were a living and breathing experience. There would be a feeling of co-presence—a little like watching a football or basketball game, following your favorite team live and knowing that other people are watching. We knew that since everyone would be on the same mission that there would be a feeling of co-presence in sharing the discovery of each location and finding the different elements.”

“There was also the feeling of an ever-expanding game,” he continued. “The way Hitman starts is certainly not how it ends in terms of what content is available. Some people have called it the game that keeps on giving, and I think that’s something you can only get from a service game—one that insists on expanding its content regularly.”

Elverdam also explained how the idea to turn Hitman into a service game came very early on. “We decided about four years ago that we would do a game like this,” he said, “because there was a trend happening with the next (now current) generation of consoles and how Microsoft and Sony were starting to see their platforms. For the longest time, it was possible to do a service game (a game with frequent updates) on PC, but until the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Sony and Microsoft weren’t on par with the flexibility of the PC. So, we saw that by the time we were ready to launch the next Hitman game, it would be a kind of service game on consoles. We had some interesting conversations with Microsoft and Sony because we were one of the first to do this.”

Hitman-DisguiseIn describing what differentiated Hitman from traditional games that were supported with DLC updates, Elverdam said that it was “the desire to integrate the way people are playing the game. A crucial example is the disguise system, which has been a notorious sore thumb for a lot of Hitman games. Knowing that the disguise system worked by the second epiode allowed us to experiment with the disguise rules in the final episode of the season. Focusing on how people are engaging with the game made a big difference for us.”

How did IO Interactive get Hitman fans used to this new format? “That’s sort of what I call the fairy tale journey,” said Elverdam. “It started off rough, in that people were quite skeptical. The reason we wanted to go episodic with Hitman specifically is twofold. One is that it fulfills the fantasy of being an assassin who gets assignments over time and has to travel the world. The other thing was a fundamental problem within the Hitman franchise, in that it’s very detailed and has a lot of layers to discover. What we found was that if people played it like a traditional game, many didn’t get to appreciate the depth. The game is meant to be replayed and experimented with. If you don’t do that, it’s not a great game—it’s just a good game.

“So, we figured that if you feel like you’re spending a month in Paris, and you really like the game, you’ll dig into all the details. You’ll probably be playing alongside all the other Hitman fans and exchanging ideas, tactics and discoveries. That turned out very well for us. We converted a lot of skeptics into believers of why this is a good idea for our game.

“But I want to mention is that one of the things we feared about the episodic format was our ability to deliver consistent content, because we hadn’t tried it before. I think that’s something that anyone who would do episodic games should consider. Even though our game is fit for the episodic format, if we had been massively delayed with our content, I don’t think this would be a fairy tale story. I think people would be disappointed. But I think we managed to hit the beats as promised, and that’s a big kudos to the team here at IO. But a big risk is that if you’re delayed, then the loyalty of your fans will start to waver.”

When asked how elusive targets compared to traditional features such as unlockable weapons and disguises, Elverdam said: “There’s no doubt in my mind that the elusive targets were the king of it. Other elements, like Challenge Packs and Escalation Packs, were nice but the elusive targets really took the crown in terms of how many people they brought back. They superseded our expectations by quite a margin.”

Elverdam also talked about how Gary Busey and Gary Cole came to be involved with the game. “The first season of Hitman is filled with firsts: our first live episode, the first time we did a second episode, the first time we did a beta, etc.,” he said. “This was the first time we tried to do a celebrity target to see what that feels like and how it works in our game. With a mindset of wanting to experiment, we did a fan vote for Gary Cole and Gary Busey and who would be the actual target. Both are in the level, but only one has the contract. That whole thing worked out very nicely, and I wouldn’t rule out doing stuff like that again.”

So, how many times was Gary Busey killed? “I don’t have the number, but a lot,” laughed Elverdam. “I think he had a pretty high completion rate—he was sort of on the easier side for elusive targets.”

Elverdam also talked about the methods used to make players aware of new elusive targets. “There are many different ways,” he said. “One is our companion app, which is very effective for those that have it. I think most people check our Twitter feed and our web page for updates, but news outlets have been very kind in giving out updates when a new elusive target is coming.”

As the game prepares for its retail disc release, we asked Elverdam if the company was shifting its strategy to engage with these new players.

“Not really,” he replied, “because we will continue with many of the live elements for a while, including elusive targets and escalation contracts. It’ll still very much be a living game. What we’re interested in seeing is what the behavior of people who come in with the full experience will be. Will they spend less time in the game if they can binge through the content? But people getting into the game will get a taste of what the live season felt like.”

B&O Play: The Audio Industry Is In A Very Exciting Place

Bang & Olufsen is a near-century-year old company. Naturally, the Danish electronics audio brand has some offspring—and a boatload of competition champing at the bit for market share.

That’s where their sub-brand B&O Play enters the audio fray by targeting an audience of young, urban professionals with a fashion forward and contemporary offshoot of more affordable products than their parent company—all while upholding their quality design, sound performance and craftsmanship that they’re most known for.

“We are a start-up with a 90-year-old heritage,” Jens Jermiin, director of global marketing for B&O Play, told [a]listdaily. “We are standing on the shoulders of giants. At B&O Play, we are driven by a focus to bring to life our heritage of combining technology and design to create iconic products and outstanding experiences.”

Promotions and new product introductions are helping the expedited growth in the Bluetooth market. However, according to an NPD Report, Beats by Dre and LG accounted for approximately 65 percent of dollar sales in the Bluetooth headphone market for the first half of 2016. That leaves a bevy of brands hustling for proverbial bread crumbs from consumers already fully embracing a wireless future.

The product B&O Play is kicking off with this year is the sleek, bass-filled B&O Play Beoplay M5. And like their other products, the 360-degree speaker is compatible with the free Beoplay connected mobile app for iOS, which allows consumers to personalize and update their audio products on a single platform.

“Our key messaging to consumers is ‘to make beautiful music,’ achievable with B&O Play products in their lives,” Jermiin says. “We believe that music is basically making the world a better place—and we believe that if people are using our products to listen to music, they will listen to even more music.”

In December, the luxury subsidiary further touched on that notion by reimagining the importance of everyday sounds and the artistic values it holds by launching their first branded content campaign featuring a variety of artists discussing how they perceive sound in their daily lives. Each one-minute movie for the US-focused campaign is a nonlinear story about sound and highlights the connection between content and real-life happenings. It closes with the same message: “Make beautiful music.”

When discussing the design-oriented brand’s approach to capturing style-conscious customers, Jermiin says his brand’s focus is to drive end-to-end campaigns with linked activities that move the audience through the consumer journey to conversion.

In October, they used drones to promote their new B&O Play A1 Bluetooth speaker at a beach club in Singapore. The fun-in-the-sun concept allowed bikini-clad beachgoers to experience B&O Play’s mobility and sound quality, and even rent an A1 speaker by sharing their #BEOPlayA1 experience on their social channels.

“We are using social data to tap into relevant topics and events that have the attention of the people we would like to talk to, to build our position as a cultural leading brand and thus to become even more relevant and emotionally meaningful,” says Jermiin. “In line with our overall ambition to become the leading audio lifestyle brand in the world, we are working hard every day and leveraging data into actionable insights, to understand people and the role that audio plays in their lifestyle.”

In order to explore and innovate the brand, the brand is not shunning from experimenting with its marketing with emerging trends like virtual reality and SMART audio, Jermiin adds.

“It’s something that we follow with great interest as potential categories disrupting trends and services,” Jermiin says. “We are in a very exciting place. As an industry. As a company. And not the least, as a brand.”

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan