Despite a mobile slowdown, US digital game revenue grew 6.4 percent year-over-year in February across console, PC and mobile, while console digital revenue alone grew 18 percent year-over-year. The worldwide digital games market grew slightly in February, according to SuperData’s latest report, rising four percent year-over-year to $7.83 billion. The analyst firm attributes this growth to a nine percent YoY growth in the mobile segment and eight percent YoY growth in console segments—balanced by shrinking pay-to-play, free-to-play and social segments in February.
Launching February 14, Ubisoft’s For Honor sold more than 700,000 digital units across console and PC, debuting at number seven on SuperData’s top 10 console rankings. EA’s FIFA 17 held the number one spot for console sales in February, and the game’s Ultimate Team console revenue had another month of double-digit growth due to a 15 percent year-over-year rise in monthly active users and an uptick in both conversion and ARPPU, SuperData reported. Digital revenue for FIFA 17 grew double digits in February, when comparing the same month last year for FIFA 16.
Hearthstone, Activision Blizzard’s hit digital collectible card game experienced its worst month on mobile since releasing on both Android and iOS smartphones in 2014. Revenue is down significantly year-over-year and month-over-month, according to the report, which describes the game’s downfall as “killing itself.”
“Recent gameplay decisions have been unpopular with the Hearthstone community,” SuperData observed, “and the result has been a sharp decrease in conversion on mobile. Desktop revenue is also down, but to a lesser extent, perhaps due to the more ‘hardcore’ demographic on PC.”
Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare did much better, leading the way for the most additional content revenue in February thanks to its first DLC release, DLC1: Sabotage. Meanwhile, EA’s Battlefield 1 led the first-person shooter genre in terms of digital units sold, selling more across console and PC in February than Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Titanfall 2 combined.
Priorities are changing, as gamers value additional content and long-term relationships with their favorite titles. More titles are staying relevant long after release, as indicated by Grand Theft Auto V coming in at number three and Call of Duty: Black Ops III coming in at number five for console sales last month.
“As indicated yet again by GameStop’s (GME) recent earnings, the shift to digital and the longer time players are staying with existing titles thanks to DLC releases is having a massive impact on the retailer’s ability to stay relevant when it comes to games,” said SuperData.
Royal Caribbean Cruises, the world’s second largest cruise line, has launched a new website, GoBe.com, catering in direct-to-consumer tours and activities. While the site will offer activities for ports of calls for all cruise lines (not just the three Royal Caribbean owns), the focus is on the $130 billion world travel market, according to Billy Campbell, managing director for GoBe.
Campbell told [a]listdaily that the thriving business and travel tourism activities and guided tour industry, which will reach $170 billion by 2020, doesn’t have a breakout brand today.
“We’re focused on the world traveler,” Campbell said. “The cruise industry accounts for only 4 percent of the travel industry. We did a study and found that places across the globe like Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta, Paris and Madrid are under-served. This space is growing 9 percent to 10 percent a year and there’s no brand awareness.”
Backed by Royal Caribbean, the Grand Cayman Islands travel company has officially launched GoBe.com and will begin rolling out a marketing campaign that connects the site’s brand with travel.
“One of the things we love is the moniker and how we can use that to target different travels through slogans like ‘GoBe adventurous,’ ‘GoBe romantic,’ GoBe a golfer,’ and ‘GoBe a mountain climber.” We can use this in a lot of ways to address people’s interests.”
Campbell said the company has procured 8,000 tours for the site and the goal is to grow exponentially. The plan is to have 16,000 tours by this summer and 30,000 by summer 2018.
The company is currently focusing on day tours in cities like Auckland, New York City and Amsterdam or things you can do while on a layover in places like Istanbul, Paris or Venice. Eventually Campbell said offerings will expand to multiple-day tours.
“In this guided tour market, 80 percent of all bookings are done offline, which creates a huge window of opportunity for GoBe,” Campbell said. “I do think we’re open to working with aggregated travel agency partners. That will be part of our model down the road.”
Campbell said GoBe has hand-selected every tour and experience on the site. With an activity searchable by nearly any traveler’s interest, the website offers easy-to-use search features that allow travelers to search by destination, interest or group requirements. The site has three primary categories of activities: high-value group tours, private excursions and exclusive, completely tailor-made “travel creations” that are found nowhere else online. Additionally, the portal searches cruise schedule itineraries, pricing, and availability for a wide variety of experiential activities, from architecture walking tours and culinary adventures to wildlife exploration and over-the-top bucket-list experiences.
Some examples of tours currently available on the site include a paddling adventure in Port Frederick, Alaska, a tour of Rome by private helicopter with a five-star lunch, a private foodies tour of Shanghai, a tour of Grand Cayman’s sparkling Crystal Caves and a “Viva Lucha Libre” tour of Mexican wrestling, food and cocktails in Guadalajara.
“We’re focusing on people who want local immersion, including people who live in New York City and haven’t seen all of the things there,” Campbell said. We can address all audience segments. We have grandparents going to Venice. We can specialize tour packages to make sure we have really good kids stuff and romantic stuff to cover all of the options.”
Campbell said millennials fit dead to rights for this site. GoBe will also be launching a mobile app to connect with this tech-savvy segment in the near future. And through the soft launch, GoBe has learned it has to adjust its offerings to meet the demands of this customer base.
“Millennials plan things out with much shorter notice,” Campbell said. “Over the next several months we’ll shorten our window for millennials. You can go on the site and get something booked for tomorrow or the next day, but I want to be able to book a tour today.”
Campbell said the company is also exploring Instagram and social media marketing. And it will work with YouTube influencers as well as travel and tourism personalities to connect the GoBe brand with the world.
GoBe does face competition in this arena. Marriott International has invested in tours metasearch platform PlacePass to better connect with its loyalty customers. Last year, Airbnb launched Airbnb Trips. And in 2014, TripAdvisor acquired online tours and activities booking agency Viator.com for $200 million.
Earlier this year, Fast Company named the Drone Racing League as one of the world’s most innovative companies and ranked DRL as this year’s third-most innovative sports company—a sizable feat for a startup that only launched 14 months ago.
With such a high ceiling, brands are now looking to leverage the DRL to reimagine what racing in the 21st century can look like. Insurance company Allianz jumped at the opportunity last month to snag the rights of title sponsor with a five-year, global partnership for DRL’s race circuit reportedly worth more than $10 million.
Allianz, a German global company that has motor racing heritage with sponsorships with such organizations as Formula 1 and business roots with drones, will look to build and market the emerging eSports vertical through a title sponsorship of the six-race circuit.
Billed as the “Allianz World Championship,” DRL will host races at Allianz-branded venues in Miami, New Orleans, Atlanta, Boston, Munich and London. In June, 12 hour-long episodes covering the winner-take-all competition will begin airing on ESPN, Sky, ProSieben and other premier broadcast channels in more than 75 countries.
The announcement is just the latest in a series of moves that has validated DRL’s growing eSports popularity. In November, DRL signed a sponsorship with Bud Lite for a simulator program to find pilots, and in December, they inked a deal with Toy State for co-branded toy drones. Now they have the backing of Allianz, which ranks No. 51 as the worlds’ most valuable brands, according to Interbrand.
What kind of validation are sponsors and TV deals bringing to DRL? What kind of shift in perception have you experienced over the last 12 months?
Nicholas: We’re thrilled to have experienced an unprecedented amount of growth over this past year, solidifying first-person-view racing as a mainstream sport. And, thanks to our partnership with Allianz, DRL is officially on the fast track. To DRL, Allianz is bringing world-renowned brand credibility and a proud history of innovative sports partnerships, including an extensive tradition in auto racing, and an undeniable proof point that the sport of the future has arrived. The scale and long-term nature of the deal shows Allianz’s genuine commitment to advancing the sport and will accelerate the introduction of drone racing to audiences around the world.
Why was Allianz interested in bringing brand credibility to the sport of drone racing by partnering with DRL?
Jean-Marc: The pursuit of innovation and calculated risk taking are the reasons insurance was invented in the first place. Allianz is proud to be partnering with DRL, a true pioneer of digital-driven sports. Allianz has a strong history of partnering with those who are taking the next step and creating innovative sports and entertainment. In addition, drones are already an important part of Allianz’ business. Our specialty aviation insurer, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, offers a variety of drone insurance products for commercial operators, manufacturers, distributors, repairers, flight schools, training facilities and drone service consumers. A partnership with DRL will allow Allianz to connect with consumers of the fast-growing drone industry.
What kind of marketing will we see with the Allianz World Championship series? What’s your game plan?
Jean-Marc: DRL pilots are already flying their racing drones at Allianz internal events, and we will look for opportunities to do so for public-facing initiatives, too. The important part is how DRL and these ambassadors can influence the grassroots movement of drone racing and growth in this larger ecosystem of digital sports. The ambassador stories must bring to life the rapid technology innovations that are happening and help to make that message relatable to fans around the world. In the past, Allianz has done this with FC Bayern, FC Barcelona, MoMA and more. For example, our MoMA partnership centered around making our brand message better understood by working with top Instagrammers to create inspirational social content that resonates with the Instagram community. We’re excited to engage DRL’s global fan base through our partnership. As the title sponsor of the race circuit, Allianz will have the lockup logo displayed on the uniforms of DRL pilots, on the starting podiums and throughout the intricate, 3D courses during the six professional DRL races in the 2017 season. Furthermore, as part of the Allianz World Championship, Allianz will host DRL races each year at official Allianz venues, including Allianz-branded stadiums and corporate facilities.
What has been the biggest challenge in marketing drone racing? What are consumers having a hard time understanding?
Nicholas: The biggest challenge hasn’t been educating consumers on drone racing, but rather living up to our sky-high expectations on what it can be. We’ve spent decades imagining what futuristic sports would look like based on video games, movies and sci-fi fantasies over the past 40 years; there is no new sport with higher expectations than drone racing, which fans immediately connect to Star Wars pod racing and the Tron light cycle—ideas based entirely on computer graphics nearly impossible to recreate in real life. To win over the hearts and minds of the modern viewer and deliver against the set of massive hype, we’ve spent the past year engineering new technology, innovating media production to capture drones racing at 80 miles per hour, and curating visually stunning racing experiences in complex, 3D venues.
Will you look to maximize on your drone racing marketing by naturally heading into traditional eSports, too?
Jean-Marc: When it comes to the new digital sports ecosystem, drone racing was a very natural first move for us. It’s an emerging sport that takes place in the physical world and is influenced by digital at the same time. Awareness levels are growing rapidly around the world thanks to DRL’s extensive broadcast coverage in over 75 countries and, at the same time, drones are already an important part of Allianz’ business. DRL is the leader in creating this new sport of drone racing and making it accessible to the world. And what really won us over was DRL’s openness to Allianz being a true partner and not just a sponsor. We are now looking together how we can use our Allianz assets like the six Allianz named stadiums or our 86 million clients in over 70 countries, our expertise and our global network to make the DRL Allianz World Championship one of the most attractive competitions in the world.
What are some other marketing avenues brands have not tapped into yet?
Nicholas: Partnership opportunities with DRL are endless. From DRL pilot apparel lines to sponsored first-person-view video content and co-branded digital promotions, we’re excited to customize authentic experiences with brands that want to reach and engage millennial men, tech addicts and millions of DRL fans across the world.
Why should sponsors be flocking to enter the drones space? What kind of value are you envisioning?
Jean-Marc: Drone racing is growing at a tremendous pace and we strongly believe that DRL—with their strong broadcast reach—has the most potential to engage fans around the world and expose them to one of the most exciting racing experiences out there.
What needs to happen for drone racing to evolve from its underground roots to truly become a global sport?
Nicholas: It’s already happening. The DRL launched in January 2016 as the only global professional drone racing organization, hosting five professional races in its inaugural season. DRL’s first season reached millions of fans around the world, including more than 30 million broadcast viewers and more than 43 million views of its digital content. This year, we’re expanding our broadcast reach to air DRL in 75 countries across the world and we’ll host races internationally for the first time—bringing the thrill to the Alexandra Palace in London, and a soon-to-be-announced iconic venue in Munich.
How will you further build on your momentum and re-up on your strategy to reach a more mainstream audience?
Nicholas: We’re excited that our title partnership with Allianz will help DRL to continue to reach new viewers and build an even larger global fan base as we introduce new events, and media and brand partners in our 2017 season.
Ten years ago, a music game craze gripped the nation that made plastic instruments a hot commodity. While some titles’ popularity fizzled out like so many bands that hit the big time, Harmonix is still rocking living rooms everywhere thanks to new games, continuous updates and brand partnerships.
The latest collaborations for Rock Band 4 include FXX and Floyd County Productions’ Archer, as well as Bethesda’s Mass Effect. When the Harmonix team learned that Kenny Loggins’ classic 80s song, Danger Zone would be made available as a Rock Band 4 DLC, they just knew that Sterling Archer had to sing it. (For those who have never watched Archer, it’s only like, his favorite song.)
“FXX will be promoting Archer’s Rock Band debut in their newsletter before the upcoming [Season 8] premiere, but our primary goal was to do something unexpected and fun for fans of both franchises, and FXX was totally on board,” Dan Walsh, director of communications at Harmonix told [a]listdaily.
The development team created a special cel-shader just for the character, in order to render him true to his TV show. Sterling Archer is available as a free costume to all Rock Band 4 owners. Players can either play as Archer or make him a member of their band without the need for any additional purchases.
Harmonix has a long history of partnering with video game franchises the development team loves—like Pychonauts, Fallout 4 and Battleborn—creating in-game skins and instruments for players to enjoy. That tradition continues with the addition of special Mass Effect: Andromeda items in the latest DLC update, including a bass that looks like the game’s Normandy starship.
“We’re big fans of Mass Effect and have a great relationship with the folks at EA, so we reached out to see if they would be interested in doing something,” Walsh explained. “All the Mass Effect items turned out great but I especially like the Normandy bass.”
The virtual band experience just got a lot more real, thanks to the launch of Rock Band VR (RBVR)—using the Oculus Rift to transport players onto a virtual stage with band mates, audience members and all. VR games are still somewhat new, and the hardware still pricey—so launching a game like this meant putting a headset on players and letting the game do all the selling.
“I’m a firm believer in the importance of demos for VR and we’ve been doing A lot of them over the past few months,” Walsh said. “We’ve been at PAX Prime, PAX East, GDC, OC3, CES—you name it. Almost everyone was amazed—the in-person experience is so much more powerful than watching video or screenshots. We’ve even had a few people say that they experienced a twinge of stage fright when they put on the headset and saw the virtual crowd looking up, waiting for them to perform. The Rock Band VR team did a great job of drawing from their own personal experience of being in bands and performing to capture what it’s like to be onstage—you really do feel like you’re there. The new gameplay that we designed specifically for VR also adds to the experience. It’s still technically challenging (and difficult to master) but it doesn’t force the player to focus on one fixed point in space, enabling them to look around and appreciate the environment they’re in as they play.”
“Once people play Rock Band VR, they’re usually sold,” Walsh said. “Prior to that point, we faced some interesting challenges due to people’s familiarity with the franchise. A lot of people that have played Rock Band on console tend to have a pretty clear idea of what Rock Band VR will be and it almost always involves classic, five-lane, Rock Band gameplay. To be fair, we had a similar idea when we started development but we quickly realized that classic Rock Band wasn’t especially suited to VR, so we designed all-new gameplay that played to the platform’s strengths. We did include a version of classic mode in the game, but it wasn’t the primary focus.
“From a marketing perspective, this meant that we needed to reteach people how to play Rock Band after they had gotten used to the same iconic gameplay for ten-plus years! Demos were a big part of that process, but we also relied heavily on mixed reality, tutorial videos and developer diaries to explain the reason for the change and to showcase the new gameplay.”
Rock Band 4 and its expansion, Rock Band Rivals are available now for PS4 and Xbox One. Rock Band VR is available now for PC for use with the Oculus Rift. At SXSW, Harmonix and Hasbro unveiled a new title called DropMix, a music-themed mobile game with collectible cards.
March 28 marks the official one-year anniversary of the Oculus Rift launch—the first premium VR headset for the consumer market. Its major competitor, the HTC Vive, hit the market a week later on April 5 while console players had to wait until October 13 before they could step into virtual worlds with PlayStation VR headsets.
One of the things all three headsets have in common is the game EVE: Valkyrie, a space flight dogfighting simulator that blew audiences away with its fast-paced gameplay. In it, pilots could engage in combat amid gigantic capital ships, making Valkyrie a clear and early demonstration of the potential VR has as an entertainment medium. As such, it was bundled together for free with pre-order sales of the Rift and has been a featured launch game for all the premium headsets.
EVE Online developer, CCP has been a longtime and enthusiastic supporter of virtual reality. It began development on Valkyrie before Oculus VR was purchased by Facebook. The developer also created the arcade shooter, Gunjack—also based in the EVE universe—and its sequel for the Samsung Gear VR mobile device before bringing them to premium headsets and Google Daydream. This year, the company’s Atlanta studio is out to create an all-new sport using virtual reality with Sparc, and it seems clear that CCP is just getting started.
CCP CEO, Hilmar Veigar Pétursson and Ryan Geddes, the company’s senior brand director, sit down to talk with [a]listdaily about how Valkyrie has grown and how the company is gearing up to further pioneer the VR space as it enters its second year.
How has EVE: Valkyrie grown since its launch last year?
[Geddes]: It’s been a crazy ride. When we launched in March 2016, there was no such thing as a VR market. We were literally making up the rules as we went along. We probably still are. Since we launched alongside the Oculus Rift as a pre-order bundle on March 28, we’ve expanded onto two more platforms—PlayStation VR and HTC Vive/Steam—and grew a dedicated community of VR enthusiasts. To me, they are the real story. There is a passionate, excited and discerning group of people out there pushing gaming into a whole new world. CCP wouldn’t be succeeding in VR without them, and we have a responsibility to keep blowing their minds. Not literally. We don’t have that technology. Yet.
What is the key to keeping players engaged with EVE: Valkyrie for over a year?
[Geddes]: As much as possible, we try to keep our pilots at the center of the conversation. We are a competitive multiplayer game, and that comes with a certain set of expectations and challenges. What do our pilots want and need from this experience? Where are the moments of joy or frustration? It’s always a balance, but we try to address those things as much as possible and move the experience forward for them. To date, we’ve released four major updates to the game, bringing in new maps, new modes and new features. Our last update, Wormholes, was specifically designed to give our community a whole new way to fly. It’s firmly rooted in the core competitive dogfighting our pilots love, but it twists the gameplay in strange and unpredictable ways. With Wormholes, we’re never completely sure how things will unfold—and that’s where weird, cool things start to happen.
EVE: Valkyrie has an average session length of 60 minutes (which is very favorable in comparison to multiplayer games like Battlefield at 90 minutes) and a solid core community of players. Some of those people are playing for an average of eight hours per day for weeks on end. We think EVE: Valkyrie demonstrates that VR multiplayer games can have the same lasting appeal as other multiplayer games, provided you back up your initial offering with substantial post-launch support.
How were you able to connect all three premium VR platforms into one multiplayer experience?
[Geddes]: Cross-platform VR play was our goal from the very beginning of development. We believed in the medium, and we knew it would never be confined to a single platform. That’s why we were the first in the world to pioneer cross-platform multiplayer in VR for EVE: Valkyrie, which was released as part of our Joint Strike update on October 7, 2016. Now, all EVE: Valkyrie pilots fly together and die together regardless of whether they’re using a PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Simply saying ‘this is what VR platform X gives us, how can we make a game out of it?’ wasn’t good enough for us. Our attitude was, ‘we need to make this happen. How can we get that out of the platform?’ It has been great for our community, and we think it was the right decision.
With the launch of Oculus Touch, do you think that EVE: Valkyrie could someday be updated to somehow support motion controls?
[Geddes]: At CCP, we are huge believers in motion controls, full-body VR, and room-scale experiences. We have tackled those technologies head-on with our newest VR product, Sparc. That project grew out of an intentional R&D effort to dive into the deep end of the VR pool while first-wave products like EVE: Valkyrie and Gunjack came to market.
With EVE: Valkyrie specifically, the question around motion controls has always been, ‘Would this make our game better?’ Valkyrie is about stepping into the cockpit of a heavily armed ship and basically living out Top Gun in space, minus the beach volleyball scene (for now). It was designed as a seated experience that gets you as close as possible to that knife-edge adrenaline rush of dogfighting. We’ve experimented a lot with adding motion controls to that mix, but so far, we haven’t had that moment where everyone takes the headset off, puts the motion controllers down, looks at one another and says, “That was f***ing cool.” If we don’t have that moment, then our pilots probably won’t either. So, it’s still something we think about, but nothing we have planned right now.
What are some of the things CCP has learned about bringing games to the VR market and promoting them?
[Geddes]: We knew we were making a great VR game, but virtual reality is an early adopter market right now. To thrive in that world, we partnered closely with companies who believe in VR as much as we do and understand the value of bringing great games to their burgeoning communities as early and successfully as possible. We were pleasantly surprised at the volume of EVE: Valkyrie sales that we saw at retail. Partnering with Sony to publish EVE: Valkyrie on PlayStation VR on disc turned out to be one of the smartest things we did. And teaming up with Oculus to include EVE: Valkyrie in the Rift pre-order bundle helped set us up for long-term success.
No game has done more to help define what AAA means in VR for both PC and console than EVE: Valkyrie. That’s not a boast on our part—more to say that we’ve allowed ourselves the development time needed for a AAA experience. We solved the issue of simulation sickness early enough to push the boundaries of our gameplay, putting it through multiple iterations while incorporating player feedback from public playtests. We also hit a level of graphical fidelity that set us apart from other VR launch titles. So, when it came to marketing and promoting the game, we focused not so much on trying to sell the VR technology itself—we left that to the platforms. Instead, we told our story of quality, authenticity, and immersion directly to the VR consumer. That might not be the right approach for every VR title, but it was part of our strategy from the very beginning.
Do you think technological upgrades, such as new video cards and more powerful consoles (PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio) help boost interest and awareness in VR?
[Geddes]: Those advancements will definitely play a role. The addition of serious VR support and strategy by console leaders like Sony and Microsoft are important signals to consumers that this ‘VR thing’ is very real and here to stay. Everyone in the VR industry is pushing hard right now to make VR hardware more accessible and affordable. So, I think really it’s about setting up a healthy ecosystem: engines, graphics, consoles, head-mounted displays (HMDs) and streaming tech. But, of course, none of that will matter unless we are unlocking amazing experiences for customers that are only possible in virtual reality. That’s our role, and it’s one we will continue to do with EVE: Valkyrie.
How do you think the first year of VR has gone?
[Pétursson]: It’s definitely been an eventful year. We released three different games (Gunjack, EVE: Valkyrie and Gunjack 2) on every major VR platform, so we were really busy. Gunjack has gone on to sell over 500,000 units so far and has gotten tremendous customer reviews. We had a great bundle deal with EVE: Valkyrie and I think that ended up being seen as a “killer-app” for high-end VR—certainly the player engagement metrics are extremely robust. Plus, we worked closely with Google on Gunjack 2 for Daydream, so I’d say we’ve exceeded our own expectations with regards to our games and their critical and commercial success. We were prepared for the hardware to take longer than many people expected to reach a viable installed base. We’re in this for the long haul, so in that respect the first year has been really successful for us.
What do you think is in store for VR in the coming year and how is CCP planning for it?
[Pétursson]: I think this will be a tough year for VR. We are coming out of the hype cycle and now people will spend some time trying to tear it down and say, “I told you so.” All the naysayers have plenty of ammunition, so they’ll get their time in the sun. But we remain bullish about the long-term prospect of VR and think this year will be about broadening the base while building out the games and software catalog. We’ve already seen Oculus lower their price, and there’s a robust lineup of games coming out this year. We’re busy prepping for the release of Sparc from our Atlanta studio (for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR), and we continue to release new, free content for EVE: Valkyrie. We also have a few top-secret things going on as well.
What are CCP’s goals when it comes to VR technology?
[Pétursson]: We have many different goals. In the short term, it’s all about being on the cutting edge and helping to drive the VR revolution. We firmly believe that VR has a big role to play in gaming and technology in general. Long term, we are thinking big about what VR and AR mean for society and how we fit into that, but it’s hard to know exactly what that looks like this early. It would be like asking someone to predict where smartphones would have ended up back in 2007, right after the first iPhone debuted. It even might be like asking someone to predict the iPhone back when we only had car phones. Either way, we are prepared.
From department stores to fast food and social media, here are some of this week’s biggest job moves.
Macy’s has named Jeff Gennette as the company’s new CEO. He takes over the role from Terry J. Lundgren, who will continue as executive chairman. In an official statement, Lundgren said: “Jeff will be a terrific CEO for Macy’s, Inc. He has a deep knowledge of this company, coupled with the vision and determination to continue Macy’s transformation for the next generation.”
CMO Mary Beth West announced that she is leaving JC Penney after two years with the department store. The company is currently searching for her replacement.
Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary, Andy Puzder announced that he was stepping down as CEO of CKE Restaurants, parent company of Carl’s Jr./Hardees. Jason Marker will be taking on the post in April. Puzder withdrew his name from consideration as Labor Secretary in February amid controversy, but claims that the nomination had nothing to do with his decision to step down as CEO, stating that he wanted to retire before his four-year contract ended.
Coca-Cola’s CMO, Marcos de Quinto, is leaving the soft drink giant as the company overhauls its marketing leadership structure under its new CEO. The company is consolidating its marketing, consumer and commercial leadership strategy into one combined function who will report to James Quincey. Quincey is currently Coca-Cola’s COO, but will assume the role of CEO on May 1.
Brinker International Inc. has appointed Steve Provost as chief marketing and innovation officer of Chili’s Grill & Bar. Provost will be responsible for consumer insights, culinary innovation and the marketing teams for the restaurant chain.
Dave Watson has been named as the new CEO and president of Comcast Cable, and Neil Smit as vice chairman of the Comcast Corporation.
Snap Inc. has brought on former Apple exec, Donna Ogier, to run the platform’s Discover section. While it is currently unclear what her role entails, it most likely involves helping Snap deal with its publishing partners.
Video streaming platform, Twitch hired Michael Aragon as its new SVP of content. Although he has no background in game, Aragon hopes to “nurture the communities that have expanded [Twitch’s] boundaries beyond gaming.”
Jukin Media expanded by hiring GoPro’s former head of content licensing, Brendon Mulvihill, and Zach Alter, former Vice President of Sales at SheKnows Media. Mulvihill is now Jukin’s SVP and Global Head of Licensing and leads the company’s licensing business. Meanwhile, Alter assumes the role of vice president and head of sales and will be in char go sales and branded entertainment for Jukin’s portfolio, which include the social video properties: FailArmy, People Are Awesome, The Pet Collective and JukinVideo.
Time Inc. announced that Staci Hallmon-Bazzani has been promoted to VP and brand sales director of Essence.
The virtual reality production company Mandt VR has hired Brian Cavallaro as the company’s new chief creative officer. In addition to this role, Cavallaro will also serve as director of development and vice president of production for Mandt Bros. Production. Cavallaro is a veteran producer and director, with credits dating back to 2004.
Atlanta-based Church’s Chicken appointed Hector Munoz as its new global chief marketing officer. In this role, Munoz has a long list of responsibilities, which include: new product development, calendar planning, consumer insights, advertising, multi-cultural marketing, brand equity, positioning, media buying and planning, packaging, field and promotional marketing, social and media relations and guest engagement and strategic direction on promotional and product innovation.
Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates announced the appointment of Kevin Thompson as chief marketing officer. In this role, he will be spearheading the global media program for the organization.
Bob Rupczynski announced that he is departing Mondelez International as its vice president and global head of media, data and digital after being with the confection company for four months.
Robert Iger‘s appointment as Disney CEO has been extended to 2019, giving the entertainment giant more time to find a replacement.
Brian Fargo, CEO of InXile Entertainment (which most recently launched Torment: Tides of Numenera), announced that he will retire after Wasteland 3 releases in 2019, making the end of a 38-year career in the video game industry.
This week’s roundup of the newest job openings and vacancies.
No film has so perfectly captured the mind-numbing drudgery of Corporate America than the 1999 classic, Office Space. Now, Mike Judge’s oh-so-quotable film about a group of disgruntled employees has been adapted into a mobile game to help real-life slacking employees get even less done.
Office Space: Idle Profits takes players to the cubicles of Initech—the soul-sucking corporation from the film—to seek revenge along with Peter, Samir and Michael Bolton. Installing a virus in the company’s mainframe will siphon pennies from each department to make you all rich, but players will have to (sort of) work for it. As with other “idle” games by Kongregate, players will need to repeatedly tap their screen to accomplish goals and can do so faster with the help of optional in-game purchases.
Those sick of TPS reports and middle management can enjoy such adventures as visiting Milton and his red stapler in the basement and beating the ever-living crap out of a fax machine. Oh, and what would Initech be without everyone’s favorite boss, Lumberg?
“We’re excited to return audiences to the cubicles of Initech,” said Rick Phillips, EVP of Fox Interactive in a statement. “The charm and wit of the film are just as relevant in today’s environment as it was when originally released in 1999, and we’re thrilled to be able to capture its eccentric cast of characters including Lumbergh, Michael Bolton, and Milton in a quirky and hilarious mobile game.”
Kongregate, a subsidary of GameStop, previously partnered with Fox Interactive for a collectible card game called Animation Throwdown: The Quest for Cards—a battle game featuring characters from Fox animated series like Family Guy, American Dad, Bob’s Burgers and King of the Hill. GameStop recently reported a drop in income thanks to the rising popularity and convenience of digital downloads, but remains optimistic.
“We’re so pleased to be continuing our partnership with Fox,” said Emily Greer, president and co-founder of Kongregate in a statement. “With Office Space: Idle Profits, I believe we’ve found the perfect blend between gameplay and IP integration. We’ll see if fans of the film agree!”
Office Space: Idle Profits is coming soon to iPhone, iPad, and Android, although an official release date has yet to be announced.
Logitech G has launched its $130 pro mechanical gaming keyboard, a product specifically designed for eSports players and hardcore gamers with strategic input by pro gamers from League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Like many hardware and accessories companies, Logitech G sponsors multiple eSports teams, including Cloud9 and Team SoloMid.
“Logitech has a huge commitment to eSports,” Mark Starrett, product manager for gaming keyboards at Logitech G, told [a]listdaily. “We see our team sponsorships as valuable from a visibility standpoint, but also as an important tool for us to develop product. These teams have their own practice room here at our office to do boot camps and we work with them when they’re here.”
Starrett said Logitech G has done heat mapping and measured the forces as players used prototypes of its latest pro gaming mouse, which launched late last year.
“We work with pro gamers as an integral part of the development of these products,” Starrett explained. “We want them to play to win in competition. We focus hard on these products. The pro mouse was a big success; it’s super light and has great sensors. We focused on the next part of the problem with this keyboard.”
That problem is that in competition, pro gamers competing in PC games like League of Legends, CS:GO and Dota 2 get three feet of space to play. That doesn’t give players much room to move around the mouse with a full-sized keyboard.
“When we talked to Cloud9 and Team SoloMid, they asked us to create a pro gaming keyboard,” Starrett said.
Andy “Smoothie” Ta of Cloud9 said the keyboard is a vital instrument to winning competitions. “You should feel like it’s a natural extension when you’re playing,” he added.
Starrett said pro gamers are typically on the road for 150 days a year, which led to several elements of the new keyboard. In addition to being smaller, the keyboard also has a detachable Micro-USB connector.
Vincent “Biofrost” Wang of Team SoloMid said pros are on the move a lot, so a having a removable cord makes it easier to pack.
“These keyboards get tossed into bags and see a lot of wear and tear,” Starrett said. “The keyboard is reinforced with a steel back plate, adding stability and rigidity for gameplay.” With a short-throw actuation point of 1.5 mm, the keyboard’s Romer-G switches register key presses up to 25 percent faster than standard mechanical switches and are designed for performance.
“If you’re playing CS:GO you’re two ticks behind when you do something on a different keyboard; two frames go by and your competitor before your button press registers with the on-screen action,” Starrett said. “Our engineering team worked on this to provide a much faster response time.”
“That fraction of a second could end up being the difference between winning or losing the game,” Ta said.
Peter “ptr” Gurney of Team NRG said since he started playing CS:GO three years ago he’s used the same gear. When he picked up the new Logitech G keyboard, he could feel the difference in response time.
Cloud9 used the new keyboard at DreamHack Vegas this year. “This is a great keyboard because it’s small, durable, and tenkeyless,” said Jake “Stewie2K” Yip of Cloud9. “This allows me to have more space on my table. The Romer-G switches are nice and quiet, and they’re super comfortable to type on.”
Using optional Logitech Gaming Software (LGS), players can select and personalize each individual key light from more than 16.8 million colors, and save a lighting pattern to onboard memory so it’s available for use in competition.
“When these guys play, they plug into any PC that’s there,” Starrett said. “They like to represent their team or use their country colors and save these patterns to internal memory and then have that run on stage.”
They keyboard also has a “Game Mode” button at the top, which shuts off Windows keys so players don’t accidentally drop out of play. Players can also use Logitech’s software to lock out keys.
Of course, all of these elements that help the pros perform better when money is on the line, also will enable PC gamers improve their own game—whether they’re playing for fun or aspire to make a career in gaming one day.
Fox’s irreverent animated TV comedy, Family Guy is starting its 15th season this year, and it seems like fans have an unending thirst for the adventures of Peter Griffin, his family, and his friends. Fortunately, Jam City gave fans another way to enjoy the show with the launch of Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff for mobile devices in 2014.
But surely, there’s more, right? Of course there is. Jam City is serving up another round by officially announcing Family Guy: Another Freakin’ Mobile Game, which will bring an all-new experience for fans as Peter works to save Quahog one drink at a time. Developed in partnership with Fox and Fuzzy Door, the free-to-play match-3 puzzle game launches in the summer, but players can pre-register today on Google Play or the game’s official website.
Jam City co-founder and president, Josh Yguado, spoke with [a]listdaily about some of the new adventures Another Freakin’ Mobile Game will bring and how it maintains the authentic, in-your-face humor of the show.
What is Family Guy: Another Freakin’ Mobile Game about?
The backstory is that Peter has been kicked out of the clan and he has come up with a harebrained scheme to start a booze truck—traveling the world to deliver booze to his friends.
How does this game differ from The Quest for Stuff?
The Quest for Stuff was a builder game with a lot of storytelling. We took a little bit of a different tack here, where it’s more of a puzzle- and progression-based title. But it also has a ton of story, jokes and dialogue. In fact, we worked with Fuzzy Door, the original writers on the show. So, it’s a great mix of story, humor, puzzle and progression.
What led Jam City to develop a new Family Guy game?
The first thing is, we absolutely love the brand. We love the rebellious, in-your-face dialogue and positioning of the show. A lot of mobile games right now are very sweet, straightforward, and vanilla. So, we wanted to take this opportunity to create a mobile game that’s much more in-your-face, loud, takes risks and is pretty crude and adult-oriented. It’s taking a risk, but we’re trying to do something very different than what you’re seeing in the market currently.
Do you think Quest for Stuff players will end up moving over to playing the new game, or will they play both at the same time?
By all means, I think Family Guy fans are going to want to play both of them. It’s very different gameplay and completely different stories. If you love the characters, you can have twice as much fun playing both!
To be clear, these two games are not duplicative at all. They’re not sequels. You’ll see that it’s a completely different experience than the original Family Guy game. You’re going to get very different things from Another Freakin’ Mobile Game.
Will there be cross-promotion between the two games?
There will be some. I think there are a lot of big Family Guy fans playing Quest for Stuff, and we’re absolutely going to let them know that there is another fantastic title available. We’re not going to force users to go to the other game or obstruct their progression in any way—but that’s one of the places where there are the most core Family Guy fans, and it would be silly not the cross-promote to them.
How will you be getting the word out about Another Freakin’ Mobile Game?
First of all, there’s a lot of grassroots interest in this game. It’s been several years since the last big Family Guy title came out, and I think fans are excited for something new.
Also, I think the fact that we’re working with the original writers and animators on the Family Guy show has gotten the core fans especially excited. Frankly, I think that if you’re a core fan, you’re doing whatever you can to find out more about Family Guy. People are already talking about and blogging about it, and there’s a lot of buzz about the game. It seems to be happening naturally, so we’re trying to get ahead of it right now by talking to the media—folks who have a megaphone to the marketplace—to let other folks know about it. Eventually, we’ll also do advertising, including television spots to air on Fox along with the show.
How are you working with Fox and Fuzzy Door to maintain the style and humor of the show?
In a couple of ways. We’re working very closely with them. As I mentioned, the original writers of the show are very much in the middle of this development. They love the game and they’ve been involved in writing all the dialogue and working on storylines. There’s a very close connection there.
We’re also working closely with the animators. There’s a very particular style and rules around how the characters can be animated, and what’s authentic to the show. Our number one priority is to make this game 100 percent true to the television show. Everything has been approved and has been worked on by the show’s animators.
What did you learn from releasing The Quest for Stuff about the discovery and promotion of mobile games, and how does it apply to the new title?
I’d say that you’ve got to be authentic to the show. If you try to promote it in a way that is like generic, typical, mobile game app advertising, the Family Guy fans will not react well. We want to do advertising that’s a little quirky, a little off-the-wall, and authentic to what’s in the game from day one, I think you’re going to see some very fun advertising campaigns and media events that are very much true to the brand.
Will there be any cross-promotional events with the show that go beyond commercials?
There are aspects of the game that link back directly to particular episodes. Later on, we’re also going to be announcing some fun collaborations, but I don’t have any details to announce right now.
Family Guy is entering its 15th season. What do you think has kept fans engaged with it for so long?
I think the core concept is amazing. There’s nothing like it on television, so when it launched, it was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. To this day, there’s nothing like it. So, that core originality—there’s nowhere else to get it. I think that’s what makes the show special, and it’s also just a high-quality, humorous show. To me, animated or not, it’s one of the funniest shows on television. That consistent quality has gotten them to where they are today.
The Quest for Stuff launched three years ago. What’s the key to keeping players engaged with a mobile game for that long?
One of the most important things about Quest for Stuff—and frankly, all of our games at Jam City—is that when we put the game out, our work has just begun. We release new content, new events, new characters and new storylines every month. That’s what keeps the game fresh. All of our games are more like television shows than films, in that you can always expect something new showing up week after week. That’s what keeps games successful over years. These are evergreen franchises.
This week, we find out how millennial parents use YouTube, how promoted posts are viewed on Instagram and just how much customers love their PSVR.
Native digital display ad spend in the US will grow 36 percent this year to reach $22 billion, according to the latest forecast by eMarketer. At that level, native will make up 53 percent of all display ad spending in the states.
That’s a lot of moolah for marketers to spend—and they better do so quickly because the average tenure for a chief marketing officer of leading US consumer brands has experienced a 13 percent decrease over the last two years. According to the 13th annual CMO tenure study by consulting firm Spencer Stuart, 48 percent of CMOs have been in the role for two years or less, consistent with 2015. However, there was a decline in the number of CMOs who have been in the role for three or more years—34 percent in 2016 versus 41 percent in 2015 and 49 percent in 2014.
Millennial Moms And Dads
Young consumers aren’t fond of ads, according to the latest Deloitte Digital Democracy Survey. Eighty percent of all study participants will skip digital TV or video commercials, but 46 percent of consumers said they pay more attention to an ad they can skip versus an ad they cannot. Gen Z consumers value online recommendations on social media (27 percent) over TV ads (18 percent) when making buying decisions.
The study found that 45 percent of millennials use ad-blocking software, with 89 percent indicating that the primary reason is to avoid advertising altogether. In addition, 40 percent of these respondents noted the use of ad-blocking software on their smartphones, with over 70 percent of millennials and Gen Z viewers finding mobile ads to be “irrelevant.”
Even without ad-blocking software, millennials—especially parents—are particular as to what they want to see in a marketing campaign. Google recently conducted research with Flamingo and Ipsos Connect to see how this demographic really operates. Eighty-six percent of millennial dads, for example, turn to YouTube for key parenting topics like preparing meals or assembling a product. Sixty-five percent of millennial parents said that they watch YouTube with their children to share pieces of their own childhood with the next generation.
Promoted posts on Instagram have varied results, but those ages 65-to-74 are most likely to search for products after seeing them, according to a report by Influence.co. While millennials and Gen Z make up the largest group of Instagram users, the older demographic is far more receptive to promoted efforts.
According to a survey conducted by ClickZ Intelligence, 40 percent of advertisers said they plan to increase their spending on Instagram. In fact, advertisers are allocating more money to paid social in 2017, particularly on Facebook. Close to two-thirds plan to increase their investment to the social platform, according to December 2016 data, and another 40 percent said they plan to increase it on LinkedIn.
Everyone wants to be influential, and more and more brands are investing in creative partnerships. Forty-one percent of marketers said they have seen more success in influencer campaigns than in more traditional advertising efforts, according to Bloglovin’ research shared withMarketing Dive. Despite its popularity, only 32 percent said they are using influence marketing on Snapchat, but one-third of surveyed marketers reported using at least three social platforms per campaign.
Gamers are pretty darn pleased with the PSVR. Three months after the headset’s release, over 1,000 consumers have reviewed the product on Amazon and Best Buy’s US consumer websites. The product boasts an average score of 4.6 out of 5, according to a report by Strategy Analytics called “PlayStation VR: Customer Sentiment Analysis.“
“The exceptional reception the PSVR bodes well for Sony in the console wars, and for its publisher and developer partners who have committed significant resources on what many people saw as an uncertain technology,” said David MacQueen, executive director of the virtual reality ecosystem research program at Strategy Analytics. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that consumers seem to have fallen in love with it, since ‘love’ is mentioned nearly 200 times, and an unprecedented 73 percent of the reviews gave the device 5 stars out of 5.”
Thank you for your continued support and readership.
-The AList Team
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