GameStop: Nintendo Switch Is Friendlier To Developers

One of the original games in Nintendo’s Switch launch window this March is Frozenbyte’s Has-Been Heroes. The rogue-like adventure game is the latest publishing effort from GameStop’s GameTrust initiative to support independent developers.

The media recently had an opportunity to go hands-on with the original IP at Nintendo’s New York City unveiling of the $300 Switch console. There, Mark Stanley, head of GameTrust at GameStop, was on hand to talk about the new platform and explain how Nintendo’s attitude toward developers and third-party publishers has completely changed in this exclusive interview with [a]listdaily.

What does Nintendo Switch open up for GameStop as a new distribution platform?

From a GameTrust perspective, it gives us an opportunity to reach an even wider audience for Has-Been Heroes, which is going to be our third game released for GameTrust. We’re working with FrozenByte in Finland, which is familiar with working with Nintendo, having developed the Trine series back in the Wii U days. This game was very easily adapted to the Switch and takes advantages of some of the features like the linear vibration and the portability of it. This is a game that’s highly playable—the repeat playability of it is huge. So it allows us to jump on that portability side of Switch because you never want to stop playing.

GameTrust has always been about taking independent developers’ content to a larger audience and having another platform to do it in obviously brings up a whole different world of reach. We’re very happy to be part of that launch window for Switch with this game, and we’ll be looking at all our future games to try to also do all of them for Switch.

How easy is it to develop cross-platform for Switch versus in the past with Wii U?

Nintendo outreach to third party developers is incredible this time around. With GameTrust, the support they’ve given us as a third party partner has been incredible. And we’ve been able to take something that was probably not going to be in the launch window and make it into the launch window because of all the support we had from their third party relations team in Japan. We’re seeing nothing but a really wide open approach from a Nintendo perspective to third party partners, which from what I hear hasn’t been the case in the past. So that’s going to really make a difference in the success of Switch.

How will GameStop be able to put additional marketing power behind this game?

Within the GameStop ecosystem, we’ll be able to prioritize this title along with the two or three first party titles. We have at least three first-party titles and maybe five third-party titles in that launch window and it’s really about staggering the release of content this time around. So we’ll be within that launch window, but we’ll to do it in a way where we’re continuing the flow of content onto the platform versus one launch and then radio silence. That’s going to help us piggybacking with our ecosystem of GameStop being able to bring the game physically to stores. We want to make sure that we provide a physical option for folks and also a Collector’s Edition option.

So there will be a Collector’s Edition and other items?

Yes. We will have an announcement with all the details on that in the coming weeks, but that’s really what we’re striving to do with GameTrust is be able to leverage not only the distribution power of GameStop around the world, but also leverage our foray into collectibles with our acquisition of Think Geek. We’re able to take a property like this, a brand new IP, and come out with different collectibles associated with that IP so that the gamer can dive into the IP not only with the game, but through other mediums like collectible items.

What did you learn working on Insomniac’s Song of the Deep last year?

We learned a couple of things with Song of the Deep. One of them is lead times are huge because you’re working on development of a game. That’s why we like to come in really early in the development process. We’ll talk to developers when they’re in the napkin design stage because we need to be able to work ahead on the development of collectibles. Sometimes, if you’re developing a really high-end statuette, you need nine months of manufacture lead time to be able to meet the game.

Song of the Deep also had a book at Barnes and Noble.

Working on something like a book deal with Barnes and Noble—that was a big learning curve because the gaming world and the book publishing world have rarely worked with each other. We found it fascinating, how it allows us to bring a radically different audience to the IP. Song of the Deep would have never been played or viewed by any of the book audience. Brian Hastings, the author from Insomniac, went on the road on book tours. You’d never see a creative head from a [game] publisher be on a book tour and have the IP have that exposure. And that was our goal. How can we bring more eyeballs and more audience to an IP that otherwise would have just been digitally uploaded and that’s it? Song of the Deep was a big success because of that and we’re applying some of those learnings to our following games.

What has been the developer interest Switch, since a lot of consumers bypassed Wii U?

It’s been pretty huge. Everybody we’ve talked to is either working on something for Switch or planning on something for it. We speak to a lot of independents developers, from small size to big shops, and everybody is interested. Everybody is really rooting for it. As an industry, we could use a successful launch because it’s probably going to be a fairly quiet year as far as hardware moves, so we’re all rooting for it. And with Nintendo, you can never write them off because they’ve always been at the heart of gaming.

EA’s Brand Messaging Says, ‘It’s All About The Fans’

Electronic Arts (EA) has had its fair share of ups and downs as a video game publisher, from blockbuster hits to cutbacks and from acclaim to controversy. EA has now evolved into an advocate for diversity and a company that caters its offerings to the fans—not just the press.

So Long, Press . . . Hello, Influencers

Electronic Arts has always been an annual mainstay of the E3 show floor, standing right in the middle of the South Hall with a number of big titles for users to try out. Last year, the company opted to “do its own thing,” as it were, with a private showcase held just down the street at the Novo Theater in LA Live: EA Play. It soon became clear that EA was no longer focusing on the press, but on the players. While game journalism still plays an important role in the marketing of new titles, EA’s move to abandon the convention norm is a nod to the power of influencers. The publisher continued this trend with Gamescom and Paris Games Week, opting for fan-centric events and demos over flashy press conferences. While social media stars are an effective tool for getting your brand out there, EA Play invited anyone to take part—valuing personal recommendations alongside those with thousands of followers.

On February 2, the publisher will host its inaugural EA Sports Bowl at Club Nomadic in Houston. The event will challenge pro athletes to play Madden NFL 17 and FIFA 17 against one another. Fans will also be treated to live music and “a few other surprises,” EA said in a statement.

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From “Worst” To “Player First”

When your most popular games are sequels of the same franchises, how do you keep innovating? Soon after taking the reins as CEO in 2007, John Riccitiello (currently CEO of Unity Technologies) acknowledged the lack of innovation seen in the industry as a whole. “We’re boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play, he told The Wall Street Journal. “For the most part, the industry has been rinse-and-repeat. There’s been lots of product that looked like last year’s product, that looked a lot like the year before.”

Being named “Worst Company In America” two years in a row certainly didn’t help the publisher’s reputation, and neither did allegations of horrible work conditions for its developers. The company looked inward, made some changes and in 2012, EA’s games were ranked highest of all large publishers in the industry, according to Metacritic. 

In a recent interview with IGN, EA’s chief competition officer, Peter Moore spoke about how the company has re-assessed what is most important as a company. “[W]e made a deliberate attempt to say, ‘Fine, how do we go forward here?’ And the mantra that we came up with was this concept of player-first,” Moore explained. “To this day . . . in meetings, questions are always asked—’what do we need to do here? When do we ship that? What type of experience does this need to be?’ Somebody will say, ‘but is that player-first?’ And that’s the moment we all stop and think,” he added. “It’s not about revenue—it’s not about what benefits EA.”

That mantra must be working, because Battlefield 1 debuted at number one in console video game sales in its first week in the UK, outselling the combined week one sales of Battlefield 4 and Hardline. Prior to launch, the game’s open beta drew in over 13.2 million total players, making it the biggest in EA’s history.

Titanfall 2while not as financially successful as Battlefield 1was nominated for eight awards including “Game of the Year,” and awarded “Best Online Multiplayer” at the Game Critics Awards 2016. Unlike its predecessor, Titanfall 2 was not a console exclusive, allowing more players to experience the mech-fighting adventure.

Battlefield 1

Looking To The Future

EA recognizes the future of mobile gaming by offering a number of companion apps for its most popular titles to keep players engaged. As announced during a Google I/O presentation, EA is a development partner for Google Daydream and released Need For Speed: No Limits VR last December. 

Also launched this past December—EA’s new Competitive Games Division focuses not just on the best of the best, but those still climbing the championship ladder. “Our vision for competitive gaming is pretty unique,” EA’s chief competition officer, Peter Moore told Venturebeat. “We want to make stars out of all our players. Competitive gaming is a pyramid. At the very top of that, there are several hundred players who make a full-time living playing games like DOTA 2, League of Legends, or Counter-Strike. In our case, Madden and FIFA have full-time professional players, as well as a few Battlefield players, but our real focus is going to be further down that pyramid—not just the top professionals.”

When it comes to making games for Star Wars fans—among the most passionate fan base in the world—EA wants to include everyone. “What we’re really trying to do at EA,” said Justin McCully, general manager of EA Star Wars, “is to cater to different parts of the Star Wars universe and create different game experiences that are tailor-made for those fans.”

EA is also highly active in the fight for inclusion in the workplace and beyond—including LGBTQ characters in its games, as well as partnering with equality organizations for women and those with disabilities. The company says its mission is not only to create “a welcoming workplace” but also “an inclusive gaming experience for [its] fans through programs, events, and community partnerships.”

How American Greetings Is Connecting With Consumers In The Digital Age

American Greetings is using its paper card to have a tongue-in-cheek talk with techies about the importance of the most powerful messaging device on the planet—written communication.

The 111-year-old Cleveland-based greeting card company travelled to Sin City and CES for the first time earlier this month to introduce a “Device Like No Other,” a product billed as having “unlimited memory, is ultra-thin and has more powerful ways to connect than you ever thought possible.”

Spoiler alert: The device is still a greeting card, and actually an experiential marketing move to have meaningful conversations and connect with consumers in the midst of arguably the world’s most chaotic trade show.

The American Greetings Connection Hub just outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center demonstrated how greeting cards still matter and do just as good of a job—if not better—in sharing a powerful message.

Actor Nick Offerman

Actor Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation, Fargo) and New York Times best-selling author Randi Zuckerberg helped introduce the “Device Like No Other” and talked about the importance of cultivating relationships using the technology for the right occasions.

“I was sincerely honored to be asked to represent the venerated sentiment-delivery system known as the greeting card by American Greetings,” said Offerman. “In my family, we rely on cards to signify moments of great magnitude as well as just simple affection, a warm practice I am happy to share with my fellow Americans.”

“In this fast-paced world, the most valuable thing you can give someone is your time and creative energy. No matter how high-tech we are, there is truly nothing like receiving a handwritten card and is one of the few things in my life where I can say “there’s no app for that,’” said Zuckerberg. “That’s why I’m so thrilled to be partnering with American Greetings to remind people that tech is wonderful, but sometimes you need to unplug in order to truly connect.”

This isn’t the first time American Greetings—which generates annual revenue of approximately $1.9 billion—has crashed a tech show to say “slow down!” At SXSW in Austin last year, they left a footprint during the Interactive portion of the festival with their experiential “Analog” activation.

Alex Ho, executive director of marketing for American Greetings, sat down with [a]listdaily to discuss the brand’s approach to connecting with consumers and how they’re encouraging them to take breaks from the digital revolution.

American Greetings executive director, Alex Ho
American Greetings executive director of marketing, Alex Ho

Why was American Greetings at CES earlier this month?

We were there to do what pretty much every other company comes to CES for—which was to talk about our technology and make a product announcement in the ‘Device Like No Other.’ The punch line is that if there is a ‘Device Like No Other,’ it’s a greeting card. We were at CES to send a message and a reminder that greeting cards are complementary to all of the digital communication that’s happening right now. The environment was calm, and not noisy like most of the other booths. Consumers found a moment to take a breath and look inward. We allowed people to customize limited-edition CES greeting cards, mini gifts or 30-second shareable Instagram videos. We were very happy with our presence and consumer response. Whenever we look at our next event, we’ll have to look at it from the context of our objectives. We enjoy putting them on. We intend to do things different with the experiences. But the message remains the same.

What is the mission behind the “Device Like No Other”?

What we found out throughout consumer research is that consumers today are using greeting cards in different ways. Our business has been stable throughout the entire rise of social networking over the past 10 years. Now they have more convenient electronic devices to connect digitally, visually and frequently. Amongst that entire volume of communication, what they’re missing is the deeper, more meaningful connections that people really care about. That’s what greeting cards do.

Does your experiential marketing move hit closer to home for people who are traveling at a trade show?  

The reason why the experience and space is like that is to demonstrate the importance of personalized, written communication, and what that means. We’re finding that consumers in the space are engaging with us and actually telling their own stories about greeting cards they’ve received in the past, or kept, or specifically about the people they are writing it for. It’s really raising awareness about personalized communication.

How has the American Greetings brand message evolved? How are you re-telling your story today?

American Greetings is a purpose-driven company. Our brand positioning is to make the world a more thoughtful and caring place. When we attend events, we want to make those places a more thoughtful and caring place, too. The brand message and tonality is around being real, authentic and creating meaningful connections. People are responding to us.


Although American Greetings is about advocating written communication, how are you trying to have ownership and an identity in the social space?  

The interesting part about our message is that greeting cards and digital are not at war with each other—they’re complementary. While we’re asking people to actually create cards, we’re using social media for what it’s best at—sharing, reaching out and connecting with people on a digital level. With our product launch with Nick Offerman, we used Periscope and Facebook Live to broadcast our announcement. We’re also using all of the social channels that are appropriate for our heavy visual art categories. But we’re continuing to look at other emerging platforms as they develop to see if they are appropriate for our audience base.

Nick Offerman doesn’t need much of an introduction, and he’s an influencer on a grand scale. Do you have an influencer marketing strategy?

Our influencers, which in addition to Nick included Randi Zuckerberg, are authentic and have a high reach and a footprint with their established social audience. We brought them so they can tell their own stories, and why they are important in life. We’re not digital people. We’re not marketing people. We’re just people. Humanity needs that kind of connection and emotional resonance. Their audience is large because people want to hear from them. What they believe is complementary to what we believe, so that’s how we chose our influencers.


As a marketer, what are the challenges you are trying to overcome?

As all media channels mature and evolve, there is some level of plateauing. Executives are constantly looking at their media mix between display, search, native and content. We are constantly doing the same, too. Tent pole events need to be complemented by a constant stream of content and marketing every day as well in order for your KPIs and brand message not to erode.

What is the consumer feedback from the brand message you have been sharing in the last year?

People may be surprised when they see us at SXSW and CES among the hardcore, digital-centric brands and people. But the opposite is happening for people who you think might dismiss it. We’re finding that once people get the tongue-in-cheek joke about our ‘device,’ they’re really embracing it. We’re always focused on consumer insights and consumer learnings. What we’re finding is that millennials are the fastest growing segment for greeting cards. They are actually over-indexing on their fair share of buying greeting cards. When you look at that fact, combined with this idea of digitally connected people wanting to differentiate their social media friends from their real friends, it makes sense why greeting cards continue to have a role in today’s communication landscape.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Op-Ed: Nintendo Needs To Switch Out Sense Of Uncertainty

Nintendo took a major step on the road to launching the Switch console. It was revealed in a special livestreamed presentation that the console, which allows users to switch from a home television gaming system to a portable one by removing the device from a dock, will sell for $300 on March 3. The company tapped into its 33-year gaming history in hopes of bringing a sense of nostalgia to the event by recounting all the past consoles and how they moved the industry forward. The Switch is said to have the DNA of all that came before it. They showcased the console’s major features in addition to several other announcements, including new games, a premium online service (similar to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold), and third-party developer support.

But in contrast to the general enthusiasm felt by critics and audiences when the Switch’s announcement trailer first released in October, impressions from the official reveal have been mixed. Some commended the Switch for its unique features, which bridge the world of home console entertainment and the mobile market. Others were disappointed with the slim selection of launch titles and relatively high price point for what many see as a secondary console that complements owning a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One—both start at $300.

It appears Nintendo is out to please almost everyone, which might explain why the little Joy-Con controllers have so many features, such as “HD rumble,” an NFC reader for Amiibo, and infrared scanning. This is clearly a system that both casual players and gaming enthusiasts might enjoy, but gatherings and parties deserve special emphasis, given the portable nature of the Switch and how it was party games like Wii Sports that brought the Wii console to its heights of popularity. Although newly announced games such as 1-2 Switch and Arms have the potential to catch on as party games, it’s unclear whether either one will see the same kind of popularity that Wii Sports did. Aside from having to crowd around a small screen to watch the action, it’s also unclear at this point whether a battery life that ranges between 2.5 and 6 hours, depending on the game, will be enough to satisfy gamers.

The slim collection of launch games isn’t helping matters, either. While the announcement of Super Mario Odyssey made a huge impression on audiences, the game isn’t expected to ship until at least the fall, which means that it won’t necessarily be able to take advantage of the momentum established by Super Mario Run on mobile devices. Most agree that Splatoon 2 is shaping up to be a fun shooter that may even be picked up as an eSport, but it won’t release until months after the Switch launches.

Furthermore, even though third party publishers have committed to the Switch, games such as FIFA are already available on other consoles. Meanwhile, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim might have been a greater win for Nintendo if it weren’t a five-year-old game that had a remastered edition launch for other platforms last fall. The fact that most games, including original ones such as Xenoblade Chronicles 2, don’t have a release date may hamper the enthusiasm for the console.

All this means that Nintendo will essentially have to pin all its hopes on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as the game that will appeal to its core fan base while showcasing the console’s capabilities. This in turns leads to a host of other questions, such as whether or not one game—even one with Zelda in the title—coupled with a few casual party games is enough to convince consumers to pick up a Switch when it launches. Even if it does, one can only guess how long the game will keep players engaged before they decide to move on.

Reggie Fils-Aimé, president and COO of Nintendo of America, said that the company has learned from its past mistakes with the Wii U, but it is still sticking to its reputation for “doing its own thing.” That approach has helped it break into the mobile space with the social app Miitomo and the endless runner, Super Mario Run, but it is one that has often left fans wondering about consoles and games instead of championing them.

Nintendo Switch TabletopNintendo would do well to reveal more details about its online service, which will be free for players from March to sometime in the fall. The service will support a connected mobile app and will offer one free SNES or NES game a month with the subscription—some upgraded with multiplayer. Given the steady growth of digital sales and subscriptions over the past year, coupled with the tremendous success of the NES Classic Edition, a service that draws heavily from the company’s gaming history to keep players engaged is almost a sure win. Much will rest on pricing, and Nintendo must address whether digital Wii U purchases will carry over to the new system, but this feature may have a greater chance of generating enthusiasm than its portability, the handful of party games, and HD rumble controller capabilities can create.

In other words, Nintendo should go back to its original plan of using its incredible sense of nostalgia as a foundation while it builds a game library and proves that the Switch is a must-have console for livening up gatherings. We can hope that the Switch does significantly better than its predecessor, the Wii U, but it will need a stronger and clearer marketing message to convince consumers that it’s worth getting.

How Sony Pictures Is Using VR To Market ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’

According to producer/writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the last film in Sony Pictures’ lucrative franchise. Based on Capcom’s bestselling game franchise, the new film hits theaters January 27 in tandem with Capcom’s Resident Evil 7 across gaming platforms on January 24.

Sony Pictures enlisted special effects house, Mr. X to create a 360-degree virtual reality experience set on the killing floor of The Hive—a setting first introduced in the original film and revisited in this sixth installment. The free experience is available now as a way to market the film beyond the traditional linear advertising campaign.

According to Aaron Weintraub, senior visual effects supervisor and director of the VR experience, the company used the same computer-generated (CG) pipeline as traditional visual effects for the film to model and animate this VR experience. The end result is a pre-rendered spherical experience where the user can control the camera to take in the assorted undead dogs and horrific creatures that inhabit every nook and cranny of the killing floor.

Available on Facebook 360 and YouTube 360, the VR experience features an introduction by Milla Jovovich, who has played Alice in all six movies.

Weintraub told [a]listdaily that since the idea to do the VR piece came up well after the practical shoot was completed, since they didn’t have the option to go back and shoot live-action.

“We had most of the assets already created for the film, so this project became an opportunity for us to dream up our own story that used them in a way that nobody had ever seen before,” Weintraub said. “Being entirely virtual gave us the ability to really plan it out and do whatever we wanted, as well as tweak any aspect at any point without being locked into something that we photographed. Furthermore, we could focus on the animation and overall look without devoting too much time to the less creative aspects of live-action VR production like stitching plates and painting out artifacts.”

The hanging undead scare in the opening of the VR experience was a moment taken right from the film, using the identical CG assets and animation. All of the CG assets, including the dogs and Bloodshot (humanoid monsters), were also reused from the film’s visual effects with new animation created specifically for the piece.

“The only area requiring a significant new build was the actual killing floor environment itself,” Weintraub said. “We had built pieces of it for the film, and had a LIDAR scan of the full set from the shoot, but had to actually create the full space for the way that we used it in 360.”

Mr. X came up with the treatment and ran a short two-page script by Anderson just to get his blessing for us to go ahead and he loved it. While he wasn’t looking at progress every day, Weintraub said Anderson’s aesthetic hangs heavy over the entire piece—something the artists at Mr. X have become very familiar with over the years.

The fact that the films are based on the video game franchise and feature characters from that universe also impacted this CG VR experience.

“We’re definitely aware who the fans are and what they are expecting, so everything we do in these movies plays into that,” Weintraub said. “Being a game player and fan himself, Paul really caters to that and is always making these films explicitly for them. Now that VR is coming into the games as well, it’s just another area where we can overlap for the fans to give them a single seamless Resident Evil experience, no matter what the medium: film, games, VR or some hybrid.”

Like games, virtual reality opens up a replay value for users since it’s impossible to look at every angle on the first, or even second, viewing.

“While there’s definitely a ‘hero’ way to watch most of it, we added action around the entire set to keep things interesting if the viewer decides to look somewhere else,” Weintraub said. “One of our favorite gags is the blood/slime dripping from the ceiling, since not a lot of 360 experiences have you looking straight up—usually because of live-action stitching problems.”

In the experience, once a Bloodshot runs away from the user after falling from the ceiling, there’s an option to try to follow him around the set, or stop to look at the dogs coming towards you. And once the dogs have surrounded the user, Weintraub said all bets are off and you can look anywhere.

“If you happen to miss being eaten the first time around, you can certainly come back and watch it again,” Weintraub said.

With Google Daydream available with a controller and platforms like PlayStation VR at retail, Weintraub hopes that interactive VR projects like this one will reach a larger audience, and thereby increase the demand for this type of content.

“Pre-rendered 360 experiences like this one that are available on YouTube can reach a staggering amount of people, which is what makes it so attractive,” Weintraub said. “Anyone with a computer can participate, and anyone with a smartphone and a Google Cardboard can experience it immersively. It would be great to reach the same size audience with an interactive project.”

10 Brands That Are Using Games For Fan Engagement

Think gaming is just for endemic brands? Think again. From sports to TV—8-bit to virtual reality—these brands prove the power of engagement through video game marketing.

Gatorade: Serena Williams’ Match Point

Snapchat’s first multi-level video game ad made its debut in August, just in time for the 2016 US Open. Serena Williams’ Match Point offered 22 levels in retro, 8-bit graphics that was playable on Snapchat, ESPN Discover and its own dedicated website. The game celebrated Williams’ career and all the wins that led her to the 2016 US Open and her 22 Grand Slam singles titles, hence the number of levels.

Serena Williams 1

Under Armour: It Comes From Below

Athletic brands are keen to attract the 14-to-22-year-old demographic, a target audience that spends a lot of time on Snapchat. Following the release of Under Armour’s It Comes From Below ad campaign, a tie-in game was created for Snapchat that challenged fans to navigate Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton through a forest of obstacles. Users were encouraged to beat their previous score, as well as share the game with friends. In the first day running ads for It Comes From Below, 20 percent of Snapchat users swiped up to play. Those who did spent an average of 78 seconds playing the game and 19 percent of users who played shared the game with one or more friends, per Snapchat.


Paramount Pictures: Jack Reacher: Never Stop Punching

Ahead of its October 21 release, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back received an 8-bit tribute game called Never Stop Punching. The objective of this “endless runner” is simple: just do as the title implies. Jack Reacher: Never Stop Punching may not have a plot to speak of, and technically you can just jump over enemies without hurting anyone, but this marketing shows a delightful ability to parody its own source material.

Lionsgate: John Wick Chronicles

John Wick: Chapter Two hits theaters February 10 and to mark the assassin’s return, Lionsgate and Starbreeze Studios will release an all-new, VR game series for HTC Vive. The first chapter of John Wick Chronicles, called An Eye For An Eye, casts players as Wick himself, but don’t expect a direct movie adaptation.

“The VR experience has a separate plot line, so it’s not necessarily tied to the movie. However, it’s played out in the same universe, so you will meet with characters from the movies,” Almir Listo, global brand manager at Starbreeze Studios told [a]listdaily from the New York Comic-Con show floor where it was demonstrating the first chapter of the game. “We don’t want to shy away from the message of the movie, and want to make sure John Wick Chronicles builds on it and empowers the [film].”


Netflix: A Netflix Original Game

The streaming media giant has released an endless runner game in which players can assume the role of one of four characters from popular Netflix shows: Stranger ThingsOrange Is The New BlackMarco Polo or Narcos. The game, playable online, challenges users to navigate their respective character through environments related to his/her show, jumping to avoid enemies and collecting items like frozen waffles (Stranger Things) or roosters (Orange Is The New Black).


KFC: Kentucky Fried Football Challenge

Continuing its ongoing football-themed marketing strategy, Kentucky Fried Football Challenge is an interactive game on Instagram that invites users to play football from the restaurant’s profile page. A page of thumbnails creates an image of a football field, along with a “start here” tab. Users can select the play they want to run from the caption area and are directed to a football field with a marker showing how far the ball progressed down the field. Users then watch a replay of the gain or loss before choosing their next move—repeating the process toward scoring a touchdown.


Champs Sports: Secure The Bag

Secure The Bag“—DJ Khaled’s catch phrase about staying on track with one’s goals—has become a new boot from Timberline and also a retro-style video game of the same title. In Secure The Bag, Khaled has missed the big Timberland boot launch so his only logical option is to hop on a time-traveling jet ski to make things right. (Seems legit.) Steering the DJ through a number of time periods fraught with dangers, users collect boots and fend off enemies like “Veloci-rappers” and robots on hoverboards. The game is available on its own dedicated mini-site ahead of the boot’s launch on January 25.

Jacksonville Jaguars: River City Rollers Pinball

Believed to be the first NFL team to create its own video game, the Jacksonville Jaguars started it all with an 8-bit game last year called Duval Dash. Using the same formula as aforementioned titles like Jack Reacher: Never Stop Punching and Secure The Bag, players must navigate an endless runner scenario, jumping to avoid obstacles and collecting items along the way. Next up is River City Rollers, a pinball game launched on the team’s Jaguar Arcade sponsored by Bud Light.

“Jaguars Arcade was designed as a means to engage with our brand while enjoying a challenging and fun digital experience,” said Steve Ziff, the Jaguars vice president of marketing and digital media, via ESPN. “Our goal is to reach Jags fans of all ages, and we look for this to be a key entertainment asset to grow the relationship and interact with them all year long. We will continue to create and develop more digital and mobile offerings in the future.”

River City Rollers

Warby Parker: Worbs

This easy-going little time-waster appeared on eye wear brand, Warby Parker’s website last August. The game is part of a partnership with game developer and online publisher, Kill Screen to create a new pair of glasses called Burke. The object of Worbs is to group like-colored orbs together in order to eliminate them for points. While the concept is simple, the game quickly gained a reputation for being quite relaxing and addictive.


Detroit Pistons: One-On-One

Premiered last month, the Detroit Pistons’ game invites anyone to a virtual challenge of one-on-one. The live-action game was filmed using a number of possible scenarios based on how the user reacts to “quick time events,” in which players must hit certain keys at just the right moment to achieve a desired outcome. Users go head-to-head against Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Each of the players is also pushing the game on their social media channels with a link that starts One-On-One against that particular player.

The free game is monetized through an eight-second “spark” ad by Dodge and revenues are split evenly between the Pistons and the game’s developer, Interlude.


These forward-thinking brands utilize frontline marketing to reach their audiences in a new and entertaining way that encourages social sharing. Just as professional athletes continue to invest in the budding world of eSports, non-endemic brands are using video games to expand their reach like never before.

Twitch Hires VP Of Commerce; Viacom Appoints New International CEO

Amazon and Twitch make some major moves as other companies lose CEOs and welcome new ones. Here are some of the major job moves from the past week.

The Amazon-owned livestreaming platform, Twitch, has hired gaming industry vet Matt McCloskey as its VP of commerce. In this role, McCloskey will help content creators grow subscriptions in addition to creating new engagement opportunities for game developers.

When asked what drew him to the position at Twitch after a long career in game development, McCloskey told [a]listdaily, “the combination of Twitch and Amazon offered an opportunity to transform how entertainment is distributed and consumed. Since I love empowering game and video creators, it is deeply aligned with my passions.”

Amazon has reportedly hired Jamil Ghani, former SVP of strategy and innovation at Target, to run its Amazon Prime membership business in international markets. While at Target, one of Ghani’s chief tasks was to figure out how to find new growth opportunities in an Amazon-dominated sales environment.

Viacom Inc. announced the appointment of David Lynn as the president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks. In this role, Lynn will manage and oversee all of Viacom’s media networks and related businesses outside the US. Additionally, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish recently set a three-year contract with an annual compensation package valued at $20 million.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced that she will be exiting the board after the company sells its core business to Verizon and changes its name to Altaba. She is joining co-founder David Filo and four other directors who are stepping down from the company.

John MacFarlane, co-founder of the smart speaker company, Sonos, has resigned from his role as CEO but will remain on staff. Patrick Spence, who has been with the company for four years, will become the new CEO.

Theme park company, SeaWorld Entertainment, announced that Denise Godreau has joined as its new chief marketing officer. Godreau has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality and entertainment industries, driving global brand strategy, digital marketing and technology, and revenue generation.

Nordstrom has named Geevy Thomas to the newly created position of chief innovation officer. Thomas, who was recently the president of Nordstrom Rack, is charged with finding ways to better serve customers by integrating its retail stores with digital and mobile.

NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises recently named Monica Gil to the newly created role of executive vice president of corporate affairs. In this position, she will oversee the company’s corporate communications, government relations and community relations efforts. Additionally, she will manage high-priority initiatives across all Telemundo Enterprises business units.

Rosemary Mercedes has been promoted to executive vice president and chief communications officer of Univision Communications. Having already served as the company’s interim head of corporate communications, Mercedes will help define the overall communications strategy for the company, which includes the Univision Spanish-language broadcast network, Fusion cable network and a group of digital sites under the Gizmodo Media unit.

Karina Kogan has joined Turner Broadcasting’s TBS and TNT as SVP of digital media and products. In this position, Kogan will oversee TBS and TNT’s Atlanta-based digital team and the Los Angeles-based content-marketing team, in addition to collaborating with the networks’ innovation team and counterparts across Turner to build digital products across platforms.

Twenty-First Century Fox has brought on Liba Wenig Rubenstein as its SVP of social impact. Rubenstein formerly worked at Tumblr, where she oversaw pro-social commitments and programming initiatives.

Otter Media, the digital-video venture started by the Chernin Group and AT&T, has appointed Billy Parks the of executive VP of creative and content strategy. While in this role, Parks will oversee creative and production for AT&T Hello Lab, a collaboration between AT&T and Fullscreen Media’s Strategic Content Group that connects digital influencers to fans through original content, live experiences, merchandise, albums and more.

Supermarket chain, Tesco, has hired Alessandra Bellini as its as chief customer officer. She begins on March 1 and fills the marketing role left open by Robin Terrell after his resignation last year amid an accounting scandal.

The UK government recently announced that the former deputy governor of the Bank of England, David Clementi, will be the next chairman of the state-owned network, the BBC. Clementi will take up this role beginning April 1.

Brian Selander announced that he is stepping down as EVP at Whistle Sports (an ESPN for non-linear programming) after having served the company for four years. He will be moving to venture capital firm SeventySix Capital as entrepreneur in residence.

The Tribeca Film Institute, a non-profit arm of the company that runs the Tribeca Film Festival, has promoted Amy Hobby to the role of executive director while former staffer David Earls returns to serve as managing director. Hobby will lead the organization that oversees a variety of nonprofit initiatives, including Tribeca All Access artist development program and filmmaker labs in regions including Latin America, Europe and Asia.

UK-based game publisher, Team17, is putting the £16.5 million ($20.2 million) investment it received from a private equity firm last September to good use by making a series of new hires. Justin Berenbaum, formerly from 505 Games, joins as head of publishing and business development for Asia and the Americas. Matt Benson has been hired as the company’s new business development manager. The company has also hired several additional developers.

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Loving VR, Skipping Ads And Other Must-Read Marketing Stats

This week, Nintendo finally released details on its Switch console and marketers received a whole lot of new statistics. Let’s take a look at how long millennials watch YouTube ads, how the VR industry is doing and what skills are ranked the most important to marketers.


Square Enix has announced that combined shipment and digital sales for Final Fantasy XV topped six million units. While this doesn’t mean all units have been sold to consumers, it’s a good insight into retailer demand for the popular franchise. The publisher initially shipped five million units upon the game’s launch in November.

Meanwhile, Rocket League now has over 25 million players, Psyonix reported, with over a billion matches played since first launching in July 2015.


VR Looks Ahead

Thanks to the emergence of VR headsets into the consumer market, a new report by Research and Markets, “Global Gaming Simulators Market 2017-2021,” forecasts the global gaming simulators market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17 percent between 2017 and 2021. According to the report, one of the major drivers for this market is gaming simulators integrated with VR headsets.

“VR creates an immersive environment for the gamer and enhances the gaming experience,” the report explains. “It allows gamers to be completely involved in the game without getting distracted. VR headsets can act as a substitute for expensive LED screens. The increasing integration of gaming simulators with VR headsets will drive the growth of the gaming simulator market. With the growing penetration of VR headsets, consumers have become more aware of the functionality and usability of the headsets. Therefore, consumers will be more comfortable using VR headsets for gaming.”

It’s true that consumers are not only familiar with VR headsets, but 83 percent of consumers said they have a positive attitude toward VR, up from 72 percent last year. According to a new study by ReportLinker, the number of consumers who said they are very familiar with virtual reality almost doubled between September of last year and January. The study by ReportLinker comprised a survey of 700 US adults in January 2017 and the same survey of 600 adults in September 2016. One quarter (25 percent) of consumers said they have tried VR after the holidays, up from just 5 percent in September.

Sixty percent of consumers who have tried VR believe it creates a positive view of brands, according to a new study by YuMe. The report entitled, “Seeing Is Believing” revealed that 86 percent of consumers have heard of immersive technology like VR, AR and 360-degree video, while 29 percent of consumers have tried it. Sixty percent of those surveyed believe VR can help create engaging experiences, while 53 percent believe the same of 360-degree video.

Research by Tractica, meanwhile, shows that VR content will overtake VR hardware for revenue generation in 2018. According to the market intelligence firm, revenues generated via the sale of head-mounted displays are expected to have almost doubled by 2020, while VR content is expected to grow six-fold to reach $14 million US by 2020.


Looking Smart

Twenty-six percent of US broadband households now own a smart home device, up from 19 percent at the end of 2015, according to a report by Parks Associates. Another report by the same firm reveals that 60 percent of smart watch owners and 48 percent of fitness tracker owners subscribe to a paid streaming audio or music service such as Apple Music, Spotify or Pandora One. The study finds that consumers with wearable technologies are more likely to subscribe to streaming music services, while 69 percent of non-owners have no subscription at all. Among all US broadband households, 33 percent have a paid streaming music subscription, up from 26 percent in mid 2015.

Data Monsters

Is data analysis more important than social media skills? Seventy-two percent of marketers say yes, according to a new report by ad tech provider, Blue Venn. The report, “Customer Data: The Monster Under the Bed?,” incorporates research from 200 US and UK marketers and reveals that 27 percent rely on IT departments for data analysis. Behind data analysis, 65 percent of marketers consider social media to be a vital skill to have, followed by web development (31 percent), graphic design (23 percent) and search engine optimization (13 percent).


Social Is Life

If you can’t go more than a few minutes without checking your favorite social media site, you’re not alone. Sixty-nine percent of US adults are now social media users, according to the latest data from Pew Research Center. The research found that 86 percent of those ages 18-through-29 use social media, but that number drops with increase in age. Eighty percent of those ages 30-through-49 use sites like Facebook or Instagram, followed by 64 percent for ages 50-through-64 and 34 percent for those 65-and-older.

Brands go where the consumers are, and companies spent 65 percent more on advertising on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest in 2016 than in 2015, according to a new report by social ad provider 4C. Instagram experienced the most growth in the past six months according to the findings, attracting 138 percent more sponsored posts.

Millennials: Disney . . . “Yes.” Ads . . . “No.”

Disney ranked the most intimate brand among millennials, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2017 Report, followed by Amazon and Netflix.

“Disney resonates with this age group because they grew up with the brand. It has kept up with their changing interests and now includes popular franchises like Star Wars and Marvel. Disney is also a mainstay for young families,” stated Mario Natarelli, MBLM’s managing partner in a press release. “Interestingly, five out of the top 10 brands for millennials are in the media and entertainment industry, which we believe reflects the prevailing mood of escapism and the need for respite.”

While the magical world of Disney appeals to today’s millennial audience, they aren’t too keen on YouTube ads, it turns out. A study by online survey platform LaunchLeap found that 59 percent of millennial internet users watch ads only until they can skip it. Despite a majority of respondents displaying a desire to skip the ads, only 11 percent were blocking YouTube ads via an ad blocker. Surprisingly, 29 percent of US millennials reported watching YouTube ads all the way through.

Why Nvidia Is Bringing Cloud Gaming To PCs And Macs

GeForce Now is a Netflix-style cloud gaming service that streams video games to systems with the highest possible quality graphics. It started as an exclusive service to the Nvidia Shield TV media streaming and gaming set-top-box, but it was recently announced that a version would be making its way to PCs and Macs. The key difference is that the PC/Mac version allows its users to install games purchased from digital storefronts such as Steam, Origin, Uplay, and others on a virtual desktop with 1 TB of storage. Users can also choose which video card they would like to purchase time for—a mid-range GeForce GTX 1060 or the high-end GeForce GTX 1080.

With this service, PC gamers may no longer need to choose between upgrading their hardware or buying new games. Additionally, the service may potentially make games more portable by allowing gamers to log in from anywhere using almost any type of computer, including non-gaming notebooks, to play.

Phil Eisler, Nvidia
Phil Eisler, general manager for GeForce Now Cloud Gaming, Nvidia

Nvidia’s general manager for GeForce Now Cloud Gaming, Phil Eisler, recently spoke to [a]listdaily about the new service and what it could mean for the PC gaming audience.

When asked what convinced Nvidia to bring the GeForce Now service to PCs and Macs, Eisler said, “There are over 1 billion users in the world who are gamers with inadequate hardware to play the latest and greatest games. We want to turn any PC or Mac into a high-performance GeForce gaming machine. GeForce Now users can get a virtual GeForce GTX 1080 or 1060 gaming PC in the cloud.”

As for getting the word out about the service, Eisler explained that “we kicked it off at CES and will keep working from there. If you try it, you will love it. Gamers can try for themselves with the Early Access program beginning in Q2. You can visit the GeForce Now homepage to join the waitlist.”

The PC/Mac GeForce Now service was announced at the same time as a new version of the Nvidia Shield TV, which supports its own version of GeForce Now. When asked whether there would be overlap between the two, Eisler said: “If you want to use both services, then you will need to register for each separately.”

He then went into greater detail by stating, “GeForce Now for Shield provides a Netflix-style game streaming experience. Members get instant, and unlimited, access to a game library that includes more than 100 PC games from all genres, and premium titles can also be purchased in the GeForce Now store.”

For comparison, Eisler added, “GeForce Now for Mac and PC provides you with instant, on-demand access to your own virtual GeForce GTX gaming PC in the cloud. You can use this machine to play games you own, or purchase new ones, on popular digital game stores like Steam, Uplay, Origin and The service provides a simple way to enjoy the latest games, with amazing visual quality, on machines that otherwise would not be able to run them. You can purchase 20 hours of on-demand playtime on a GeForce GTX 1060-class PC, or ten hours of playtime on a GeForce GTX 1080-based PC, for $25. You will receive eight hours of free playtime on a GeForce GTX 1060 PC, or four hours on a GeForce GTX 1080 PC, when you register for service.”

Eisler said that the GeForce Now service won’t support GeForce Experience when it launches in Early Access later this year. The GeForce Experience software gives PC gamers a host of features, including easy livestreaming, in-game video capture, sharing moments on Facebook, and performance optimization. However, Eisler did state that players will be able to stream games played on GeForce Now using software locally installed on their computers.

Other features, like whether or not GeForce Now for PC and Mac supports 4K HDR game streaming, or if the service can stream virtual reality games, remain to be seen, and Nvidia has no comment at this time.

Early Access for the GeForce Now service begins later this year, and Nvidia has already begun taking sign-ups on its homepage on a first come, first served basis.

Nintendo Tapped Into Its “Entertainment DNA” For Switch Console

Nintendo has finally unveiled key details about its new console dubbed the Switch. Nearly three months after the console’s reveal, consumers finally know price point, launch date and certain specifications that will help drive purchasing decisions this year. In addition to the unit itself, livestream viewers were treated with previews of several new games being developed for or ported to the console, including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildFIFA 17 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

For a suggested retail price of $299.99 US, the Switch will launch simultaneously in the US, UK, Japan, Canada, Hong Kong and other territories on March 3, 2017. At that time, a dedicated online service will be available for multiplayer, along with a dedicated app for smart devices that will offer additional features. The service will be free until the fall, at which time it will become a paid subscription similar to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold. The Switch will be available for pre-order beginning January 21, and unlike previous consoles, will not feature region locking for its games.

Switch desktop mode

With the Wii, Nintendo changed the way the general public viewed video games from stereotypes of teenage boys on the couch to entire families playing together. The Switch continues this message by building on the success of previous consoles and combining popular methods of gameplay into one unit. Shinya Takahashi, director and managing executive officer for Nintendo’s entertainment, branding and development division outlined all the company’s innovations to date, from including two controllers and additional buttons to touch screen and motion control.

“Nintendo Switch has inherited all of Nintendo’s entertainment DNA and we have packed each and every one of these features into the system,” said Takahashi. “Nintendo is constantly pursuing new forms of entertainment to bring more fun and more smiles to the world and the new entertainment we will present in 2017 is Nintendo Switch.”

The new Joy-Con controllers do more than simply track movements—they each provide “HD rumble,” giving precise feedback to whoever is holding it. Whereas controllers were limited to generalized vibrations in the past, the Joy-Con demonstration implied that players would be able to detect the smallest of changes, such as ice cubes being dropped into a glass. The controllers also feature an infrared sensor that can tell distances and the difference between shapes—adding new possibilities to future game and user interface design.

Launch games such as 1-2 Switch and Arms emphasize how Nintendo is promoting the console as a system for parties, similar to how family gatherings helped bring the Wii to success. The Switch’s portability and included Joy-Con controllers make it perfect for having fun at get-togethers.

Switch with dock

Indeed, the company is known for doing its own thing and taking digital entertainment to another level, but the risk of trying new things is not without its pitfalls.

“To many, the Switch is Nintendo’s long-awaited answer to recent challenges,” commented SuperData CEO, Joost van Druenen. “Especially the investment community, which has been highly critical of the performance of Nintendo’s last console, the Wii U, which sold around 15 million units. The device failed to replicate the blockbuster success of the Wii, which sold more than 100 million units. This, in combination with Nintendo’s late entry into the $40B mobile gaming market, has raised the level of criticism among investors and industry observers, even when consumers remained loyal.”

The Japanese giant isn’t one to give up, however, and if the Switch proves anything, it’s that Nintendo is poised to take on the future of gaming—whatever that may be. Capitalizing on the popularity of mobile games, Nintendo’s foray into the arena has thus far been a success. “Super Mario Run, released almost a month ago, has been downloaded by an estimated 96 million people worldwide, earning $43M to date,” van Druenen observed, “and Pokémon GO (released in the summer of 2016) has so far earned $894M since launch (up to and including December 2016). The two titles are largely regarded as evidence of Nintendo’s continued relevance and the strength of its brands.”

Speaking of brand strength, Nintendo hopes to increase sales by launching The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the same day as the Switch. With over 50 companies developing over 80 games for the unit, time will tell if strong titles will be enough to bolster support for Nintendo’s hybrid console. In the meantime, the Switch will go on tour across the US and Europe so consumers can try it out for themselves.

As demonstrated in the Switch reveal video, Nintendo is taking a serious look at the world of eSports. “The prominent featuring of its multiplayer game, Splatoon, in the context of competitive gaming suggests that Nintendo is looking to also capitalize on recently emerged categories like eSports,” van Druenen observed. “In 2016, eSports was valued at $892 million, with 135 million regularly watching competitive gaming tournaments. Splatoon has so far sold around 5 million units worldwide (both digital and physical sales).”