Hyundai’s Marketing Is All About The Future Of Mobility, And Ioniq

Car manufacturers are increasingly shifting marketing messages to align the mission of their companies with the interests of millennials. Sporting a model with the premium bells and whistles is always nice, but consumers are also looking at how a brand can help shape the future of society in addition to making the purchase experience as seamless as possible.

Hyundai is getting in the business of sparking consumer imaginations by showcasing its vision for mobility with a future free from pollution and hazards—made possible by advanced, connected car transportation.

This year they took center stage at CES by demonstrating future tech in autonomous vehicles, connected car technology and robotic exoskeletons as well as advanced technology products spanning from connected home, healthcare and self-driving vehicles.

“We’re looking at the bigger picture beyond just cars, and how the automotive space is changing—very quickly,” Miles Johnson, senior manager of quality, service and technology at Hyundai, told [a]listdaily. “We want to be green. We have to be in the autonomous space. Then, we have to look at that first and last mile. We sell five million cars globally, but we want people to understand that we’re a much broader company. At the heart of Hyundai, we love to manufacture things. We have the capability to manufacture exoskeletons, wearable robots, scooters, and the capability to work with partners like Cisco Systems to build an entire connected car network. What we’re trying to accomplish is letting everyone know that we’re looking at mobility in a big picture. We have the expertise in house to do those types of projects.”

Johnson said the connected car and connected home is a huge part of Hyundai’s company strategy as it is an emerging sector. Earlier this year, Hyundai partnered with Google Assistant for vehicle voice commands that allows their car owners to shout orders to their AI helper like starting their car, transferring an address to their vehicle or locking the doors.

Hyundai also introduced an exoskeleton, which is a wearable robot that helps paraplegics walk. “Imagine you’ve had an accident of some sort, and you can’t use your legs as you’ve been in a wheelchair for 10 years. Hyundai has developed a robot that attaches to your body and allows these people to walk again,” Johnson said. “We also introduced some really far out concepts, like linking your house to your car and making a one-space living room where you hit a button and the car detaches and drives away autonomously, kind of like Minority Report.”


Hyundai’s Ioniq subscription service platform is also a vision of the company’s efforts in mobility—and connecting with digital natives. The stress-free ownership concept is designed to market Hyundai’s Ioniq line of zero-emission, eco-focused vehicles by offering a negotiation-free, single-payment method.

“We want to introduce electric cars to a larger mass and population,” Johnson said. “If we can simplify that process in any way and bundle everything into one price—kind of like your cable bill with internet and phone—it becomes a simple process. And when it comes time for that car to be traded in, you just continue on and get a new car. The idea is to [first] roll out a subscription-based model in California to make it easy for younger people who are used to paying for all services with one bill.”

Johnson said Hyundai, who recorded its seventh consecutive year of record US sales of 775,005 units, an increase of 1.75 percent, needs to market to millennials by having them believe in the brand.

“They have to trust what we’re selling. Trust the brand and be excited about the products. You have to speak to them on their terms, using social media, and things like that. You have to get their trust, and get them engaged,” Johnson said. “Doing things like a wearable robot that’s beyond the scope of a typical automotive company is a perfect example of something that speaks to them, or giving them a different way to buy a car over the internet is another way to reach them. It’s about gaining their trust, but showing them that the company is really out there with a purpose to do other things besides just sell cars.”

Hyundai further honed their message of not being just a car company during the Super Bowl by surprising US troops overseas by virtually reuniting them with their families. “Operation Better” then turned into a documentary-like ad that was filmed and edited during the game and aired as the first spot after the game finished.

For the rest of the year, however, Johnson said their main marketing messaging will revolve around the Ioniq electric, hybrid and plug-in vehicles, as well as the e-commerce platform that will allow consumers to buy it online in a digital showroom.

“That’s our big push—to launch the Ioniq brand into the marketplace to show that we have one platform for one vehicle with three different models, all electric, green, yet versatile and outstanding compact cars,” Johnson said. “In an environment right now where gas prices are so cheap, it’s going to be a challenge, but we have the capabilities to meet that with a unique car.”

‘Rogue One’ Writer Talks About Expanding ‘Star Wars’ Franchise With VR And Video Games

Lucasfilm’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first of the Star Wars standalone films, became the seventh highest-grossing film of all time in the US, earning over $530 million at the domestic box office and another $523 million globally. Walt Disney Studios brings the film home on March 24 with Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere, while the Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On-Demand versions will launch on April 4.

Gary Whitta crafted the story for the film with John Knoll, while the subsequent screenplay was written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. Whitta is a former video game journalist who served as editor-in-chief for PC Gamer and also worked as a story consultant for a long list of games, including Prey, Gears of War, Halo 5: Guardians and season one of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead.

“I wish I could tell you the story about me transitioning from one career to another, but fate dealt me this hand,” Whitta said. “I worked as a journalist for many years, and fortunately, I got to work in this business because my other big hobby is movies. I had a very comfortable career in video games and I never really thought about becoming something like a screen writer. But the truth is that I got laid off, so I wanted to try something new. I just started writing screenplays for a year, living on canned soup and noodles before I managed to get some interest in script writing.”

Whitta’s post-apocalyptic screenplay for The Book of Eli was featured in Hollywood’s prestigious “black list” in 2007, which eventually attracted directors Allen and Albert Hughes and actor Denzel Washington. That film was a blockbuster hit, which opened the door to additional screenplays such as M. Knight Shyamalan’s After Earth starring Will Smith. Rogue One is, without a doubt, the biggest film Whitta has worked on to date.

“Some people who know my video game background think that they can identify my scenes in Rogue One,” Whitta said. “There isn’t anything specifically like that, although subconsciously it’s entirely possible.”

For a long time, before Disney acquired the franchise from George Lucas, Star Wars was only available through video games. “The video games, especially Knights of the Old Republic, were great, and that is what helped us get through the time when films were not made,” Whitta said. “It certainly got my Star Wars imagination ticking.”

Whitta’s work in writing video games also came to play when crafting the Rogue One story. “There is a challenge when you write a Telltale game that comes from having to satisfy an interactive audience to hear the story,” Whitta said. “The audience is like another co-writer because they get to make the decisions for the character and they are almost helping to craft the story.”

Whitta also said that ability to make choices is very specific to video games, but creating characters in a story that people care about and making sure that there is enough fun stuff in there and appropriate to the piece is universal whether one’s writing a video game, TV show or movie. But there certainly was a challenge to step back into the original Star Wars universe and craft a compelling story.

“We certainly felt the weight of history on this,” Whitta said. “We were the first to do a standalone film and people weren’t sure what that meant and if they were going to see original Star Wars characters. But at the same time, the fact that we were so closely connected to the original tale, the one that started it all, we did it in such a way that we would tell a story that would change the way that when you go back and watch the first Star Wars film. You would have to look at it in a different way because now you know the events that happened immediately before.”

The other interesting thing about Rogue One is that the audience knows the ending because of Episode IV: A New Hope. Whitta compared this challenge to the scene in Apollo 13 when NASA engineers had to take what was available in the capsule and make something that works out of it.

“We watched the original film and wrote a lot of notes,” Whitta said. “There was a scene in the movie where someone said we have to find a tape, so there had to be a physical tape somewhere in the movie. When Rogue One comes out on Blu-ray we had to make sure when you watch it back-to-back that we don’t shock people with continuity issues.”

Rogue One was also a first to utilize virtual reality designed by ILMxLab to allow filmmakers to explore sets and ships virtually before they were physically built. Whitta worked in the Letterman Digital Arts Center building in San Francisco, which also houses ILMxLab. “(Director) Gareth (Edwards) and I would walk inside the rebel base in virtual reality and he would say things like ‘Can we make this corridor a little bit longer?’ Or ‘can we make sure that this wall can pop off so we can shoot it from the side with the camera?’ And they would say ‘yes.’ So, we walked around the set of the film before it was built, which was incredible.”

Whitta said the tower used in the final fight of the movie wasn’t as tall originally. After checking it out in VR, Edwards asked for it to be raised another 200 feet. And just like that, the VR operator said “hold on” and it rose higher.

Rogue One is also part of Electronic Arts’ Star Wars Battlefront franchise. There’s the X-Wing VR mission, as well as the Scarif DLC.

“I played the original Battlefront around the time when I was working on Scarif (scene) and I remember thinking that there is no way this does not end up in a video game,” Whitta said. “That is not why we did it, but we knew that there was going to be a great space battle.”

Whitta is excited about the potential virtual reality is opening up for storytelling, having played the HTC Vive experience Trials on Tatooine from ILMxLab. “I would like to see them, at some point in the future, opening up VR entirely,” Whitta said. “Time is very limited, but in the future, we will be walking around in Star Wars virtual worlds and starring in our own Star Wars films.”

Disney’s new directive to have all VR, video games, films and television shows to follow the official canon opens up new opportunities. “It is going to be interesting,” Whitta said. “Now everything is under the same roof, every Star Wars film is being made into storytelling. It’s no longer part of the expanded universe where they can do whatever they want. Everything now has to exist economically on the same parameters that are set up by the film.

Beyond that, they are able to do whatever they want. In VR we are getting better at interactive storytelling. The first Star Wars films had more stories. Story is what makes Star Wars great. I don’t want to randomly shoot guys without any context.”

PostIntelligence AI Makes Social Media More Efficient

Social media users are getting a powerful tool with PostIntelligence, an artificial intelligence (AI) app that launched its desktop and Android beta (iOS will follow soon) today. The AI, which currently supports Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, promises to help users become much better at posting engaging content and grow their followers.

Bindu Reddy, CEO at PostIntelligence
Bindu Reddy, CEO at PostIntelligence

PostIntelligence CEO, Bindu Reddy, has a great deal of experience with social networks. She was the former head of product for Google’s social apps, and she launched the anonymous social platform, Candid last year. With Candid, AI was used to moderate hate speech and make sure that posts were relevant to the topics. That’s what helped spark an interest in artificial intelligence and its application toward social media.

“There are aspects to artificial intelligence that are very interesting, especially when it comes to social media,” Reddy told [a]listdaily. “What I mean by that is that—to date—digital assistants like Siri and Alexa let you perform easy tasks, but in an automated fashion. These include things like turning on the lights, which is fairly easy for humans to do. But what fascinates me, and what I’ve been working on, is seeing how AI can help humans do tasks that are difficult. What are the salient things that machines can do that humans can’t? That way, they can be complementary to humans, as opposed to replacing them.”

Reddy also worked on a social media advertising company called MyLikes, which led her to discover a major problem with social media.

“The most difficult thing about social media is that it’s very hard to grow a presence and get engagement, especially for normal users,” she said. “If you want to share things with ten friends, that’s fine, but if you want to have a social media presence and grow your followers by sharing engaging stuff, that’s far more difficult.”

Reddy then worked with social media influencers, who talked about how hard it was to maintain a strong social media presence. That’s where PostIntelligence arose from.

“We’re dubbing this the world’s first AI-based social media assistant,” said Reddy. “It helps you get engagement with great content suggestions and will help predict how your posts will do. In time, it will help you grow your following.”

According to Reddy, the AI assists users by creating “a deep learning model for every person that signs up by looking at all the things that they’ve posted before. The PostIntelligence AI then learns about the kinds of things you like to post about and understands what your audience wants. It then uses this model to make posting recommendations that are likely to have high engagement.”

PostIntelligence BotReddy continued by explaining how PostIntelligence works, saying “for a normal consumer, it helps make Twitter better by helping them to tweet better. One of the things that we realized is that tweeting is difficult for normal individuals. It takes a lot of time and energy to be up-to-date, understand what to tweet about, and then come up with something. This is a supplementary app that sits alongside Facebook or Twitter and helps you figure out what to say and how to engage people. It helps you discover yourself in some ways. It’s not supposed replace your original voice; it makes it better.”

Instead of having to scour the web and Twitter for interesting news and trending stories, PostIntelligence does all the work for you and lists recommendations based on your interests. As proof, Reddy stated that her Twitter engagement levels have already gone up significantly because of the AI. “Part of it is that adding good media makes a tweet more interesting, and the other part is that it keeps users up-to-date with what’s going on,” she said. In fact, the recommendations could become a source for the latest news for many users.

After users select a recommendation for posting, PostIntelligence can also analyze the written message, predicting the level of interest and engagement they might get from audiences based on the wording. It also helps users schedule posts for specific times to help get highest impact, and it supports multiple account management. In just a few minutes, users can set up a series of highly optimized tweets.

Additionally, the AI detects when you’re sharing media, such as animated GIFs, images, emoji and videos, then tells you what type of media does better. However, it cannot yet detect what type of image it is, meaning that PostIntelligence can’t predict whether that picture of Michelle Obama will resonate well with your audience, but Reddy assures us that it’s being worked on. What it can do well is work with links by extracting descriptions and titles from them to figure out what keywords and sources work best.

Reddy also talked about how her work with the social media influencer platform, MyLikes, impacted the development of PostIntelligence’s sponsored recommendations.

PostIntelligence_sponsored“We mostly hooked up social media celebrities—people with 10,000 or more followers—with brands and sponsorships. What we learned over time was that these sponsorship opportunities tend to be from brands like Uber or Airbnb. But when people posted sponsored stuff on Twitter or Facebook, most people reacted negatively. So, what we realized was that instead of having them talk about a brand, it’s better to give them relevant content recommendations, which is something their audiences would enjoy.”

She then went deeper into explaining. “If I were an influencer, it would be very weird for me to suddenly say, ‘go sign up for Airbnb.’ Instead, it would be very relevant if I tweeted a tech article. What we’ve done is partner with around 30 media companies, including Simplemost and Huffington Post, to create content and PostIntelligence recommends what should be shared on your newsfeed. When you share it, you can be paid for it. It’s a sponsored post, but it’s something that’s very relevant.

“This is social advertising done right. It’s not about posting on your feed to tell people to go buy this or download that. It’s about posting something that’s interesting and relevant to your audience, but at the same time, is very valuable to the company that you’re driving traffic to. Brands want to write compelling stories, which people can share and have it potentially go viral on social media, and this is a really good platform for them to amplify that branded content.”

The AI also makes suggestions based on trending topics. For example, if Apple or Airbnb are trending in the news, PostIntelligence will suggest posting about them. Reddy explained that it’s very different from Twitter Trends because it’s specific to your interests. “It’s basically saying that these are the things that you should start conversations about, which is relevant to your audience and to your account,” she said.

“We are hoping that the analytics will help you find out what your profile looks like,” Reddy continued. “This will also be useful to brands and people who manage multiple accounts. We’re starting with individuals, and we’re hoping that, in the future, brands engage in this. It’s much better than the tools that they currently use to manage multiple accounts. This is not just an ability for you to post or schedule stuff, it’s also the ability to help you get better at what you’re doing.”

PostIntelligence_homePerhaps the biggest challenge for a social media AI assistant is discerning genuine interest from sarcasm, irony and humor.

“This is something that I get asked about a lot,” Reddy said. “The answer is not easy, but it’s very difficult to convey humor and sarcasm in general when you’re online. You could do it if you’re on a livestream or video, but just using words is more difficult.”

People who know you might know when you’re joking, but there are plenty of others who would not. By analyzing language and detecting things like double negatives, the AI will try to figure sophisticated human communication. “Are we at the stage where it gets that right all the time? No, we are not,” said Reddy. “Almost all the stuff that you’re seeing today, and the buzz about AI, is about baby steps. People are excited by these baby steps.”

Many experts believe that AI may someday fully understand human communication, but there are just as many skeptics who say that tone and body language will be extremely difficult for a machine to interpret. In either case, it looks like interpreting meaning and intent will still be a human job, and Reddy is content with that.

“To me, it’s about how AI can help and complement you with doing your job as opposed to having it replace you,” said Reddy. “PostIntelligence is not meant to take away your voice. We want you to continue saying what you want to say. I don’t know that, as humans, we want AI to replace us. As it is, PostIntelligence gets me the data I want and it’s still me commenting on the link or topic.”

The Top 25 Game Companies Of 2016 By Revenue

There’s big money to be made in the video game industry—just ask the top 25 public companies by game revenue in 2016, who generated a combined $70.4 billion. This was a year-over-year increase of 17 percent, according to analyst firm, Newzoo. A large part of that revenue can be attributed to the top 10 public video game companies, earning $53.7 billion and growing 24 percent over 2015.

While a majority of revenue growth was organic and accounted for by companies that are already market leaders, some of the growth resulted from acquisitions such as Activision Blizzard and King. According to data compiled by Newzoo, the top 10 companies alone made up 54 percent of the total global games market last year, illustrating ongoing consolidation in the industry.

Tencent, the world’s largest company by game revenues, generated $10.2 billion and represented an impressive 10 percent share of the global market in 2016. The company acquired game developer, Supercell last summer, known for its popular Clash of Clans franchise. Adding Supercell’s revenues bumped Tencent’s total to $12.5 billion for 2016, or 13 percent of the total global games market. Sony and Activision Blizzard were the second and third biggest public game companies last year with revenues of $7.8 billion and $6.6 billion, respectively.


Of the top 25 companies, Newzoo observed the highest increase from Ubisoft at 57 percent, and the highest decrease by Warner Brothers, which saw a 27 percent drop in revenue over the previous year. Netease was the fastest-growing competitor among the top 25 companies, with a 50 percent year-over-year revenue increase—something Newzoo attributes to “stellar” mobile performance in China.

“Its best performing mobile title, Onmyoji, has been in the top grossing charts since its release in September of last year, and is proving worthy competition for Tencent’s King of Glory,” Newzoo noted.


Newzoo’s Top 25 Public Companies By Game Revenue Are:

  1. Tencent
  2. Sony
  3. Activision Blizzard
  4. Microsoft
  5. Apple
  6. EA
  7. Netease
  8. Google
  9. Bandai Namco
  10. Nintendo
  11. Square Enix
  12. Warner Brothers
  13. Ubisoft
  14. Take Two Interactive
  15. Nexon
  16. Mixi
  17. Konami
  18. GungHo Entertainment
  19. Disney
  20. DeNA
  21. Sega
  22. NCSoft
  23. Facebook
  24. Zynga
  25. COLOPL

Nintendo remained one of the top 10 companies, but was the only one that high on the list whose revenues declined. The company experienced a six percent year-over-year drop to $1.8 billion in 2016, despite the success of Pokémon GO. The company receives little direct revenue from the popular augmented reality game, although it did boost sales of other titles in the Pokémon series and drove Nintendo 3DS sales. The much-hyped Super Mario Run grossed around $50 million in its first few months.

Inside The Reinvention Of Quick Service Restaurants

You may have noticed, in your hungry quests, that a lot of quick service restaurants have changed their look and brand message lately. While it’s not unusual to update a logo now and again, several top food chains are adapting in force to fit the changing expectations of today’s consumers. Healthy options, friendly service and attractive restaurants are now just as important as satisfying a late-night craving for nachos, and expectations are high.

Healthy Choices

The most obvious shift within today’s food industry is the desire for healthy food choices—in fact, the very term, “fast food” has been associated with unhealthy eating.

Back in the day, we were more than happy to order a greasy cheeseburger that may or may not be beef served in a styrofoam box. Now, our “totally beef, we promise” burger is lovingly wrapped within a paper container by 100-percent-organic teenagers. Don’t think of it as fast food . . . it’s “quick service.”

Of course, no one has been more affected by public health scrutiny than McDonald’s, who has discontinued its “Super Size” option while adding salads, fruit and smaller portions to the menu in an attempt to promote a more wholesome image.

Chipotle, haunted by an E. coli outbreak in 2015, has been hard at work advertising fresh ingredients and quality. While the restaurant has struggled in recent years to maintain revenue, the chain still ranked No. 1 for quick-service Mexican restaurants in a 2017 study by Market Force. Chipotle is also making a covert effort to teach children about healthy eating through an unbranded animated show called RAD Lands, available on iTunes and will become available to schools in the near future. Aimed at children between the ages of seven and 10, the show features a group called The Cultivators—a group trying to save the galaxy’s plants and animals.

The desire for healthy food choices is negatively affecting brand value across the quick service restaurant table—McDonald’s brand value is down nine percent, Subway one percent, Taco Bell 10 percent, Domino’s 16 percent, Pizza Hut 22 percent and KFC 27 percent, according to the latest report by Brand Finance.

When it comes to attracting young spenders, restaurants are walking a line between price and healthy options. A study by VisionCritical found that 73 percent of Gen Z look for prices and promotions more than any other feature, followed by nutritional content at 67 percent.

McDonald’s teamed up with Weight Watchers to promote healthy eating through moderation.

Brand Image

A number of restaurants have recently updated their logos from Taco Bell to El Pollo Loco and Yoshinoya—much in the way that a new hair cut or color can help ring in a new attitude or image for the wearer. In addition to health concerns, quick service restaurants want the public to know that they care—about the environment, its employees, animal welfare and community.

McDonald’s stopped using foam cups to serve coffee and together with over 160 other companies, have pledged to provide only cage-free eggs by the year 2025. Contributing to charity is nothing new for brands like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, but more restaurants are taking action in their communities.

El Pollo Loco recently launched its “Road to Authenticity” campaign that highlights the chain’s roots in the Los Angeles culture. The restaurant commissioned a mural by renowned Latino artist Jorge Gutierrez for their Alvarado Street location in Echo Park.

Minimum wage has been a hot debate, especially among employees in the quick service restaurant industry. McDonald’s invested in higher wages and customer service training for its corporate-owned locations in 2015 in an attempt to boost morale on both sides of the cash register. According to CEO Steve Easterbrook, customer satisfaction scores were up six percent in the first quarter of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015.

Jack in the Box uses humor like its "JackiLeaks" campaign to appeal to millennials.
Jack in the Box uses humor like its “JackiLeaks” campaign to appeal to millennials.

Food Of The Future

Automation—both for convenience and cost savings—is a rising trend among the quick service food industry, with consumers able to place orders from their mobile devices or kiosks. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Panera and several others have introduced self-serve kiosks over the last year.

While ordering food as easily as sending a text is neat, restaurants are embracing other technology to attract young consumers and show the world that they’ve “still got it.” McDonald’s introduced Happy Meals that fold into VR headsets, for example, and Chick-fil-A recently launched a VR experience starring its famous cows.

If only the fittest survive, restaurants formally calling themselves “fast food” have to work twice as hard to earn consumer trust in a world of changing values, expectations and interests.

The Rogue Initiative Is Using VR To Launch Larger Entertainment Properties

The Rogue Initiative has teamed up with director Ilya Rozhkov to launch a new intellectual property. Rozhkov has filmed the first 360-degree short film in the Identity Experience franchise called Agent Emerson, which stars Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass) as the secret agent and Tony Denison (Major Crimes) as The General.

Rozhkov isn’t revealing much about the 360-degree short, which will launch this summer across all VR platforms. But the universe is a James Bond-inspired world of secret agents with lots of action. The first-person perspective story puts players in the role of CIA Operative, David Emerson, who awakens to find himself part of an experimental government program where subjects are under complete remote control by The General. He must fight to retake charge of his own actions and escape the high-security facility with the aid of Alex Emerson.

“We put the audience in Emerson’s eyes and just like the audience, he does not control his own body,” Rozhkov told [a]listdaily. “So, this is the immediate point where the audience relates to the character.”

Getting this unique perspective took some outside-of-the-box thinking. Galaxy Vision created a proprietary stereoscopic VR camera rig custom-engineered for this series called the “IC-Cam” (Identity Capture Camera), which sits on an actor’s head and provides a first-person point-of-view.

“We wanted to do storytelling and take advantage of the narrative virtue that virtual reality provides,” Rozhkov said. “And once the story was written we started asking ourselves how we were going to shoot it. A lot of people thought it would be impossible to shoot it the way we wanted to because there were so many bodies in the field of view and a lot of movement, so we had to make our own camera.”

The 360-degree shoot, which spanned six days of filming Louisiana and Los Angeles, drew inspiration from video games.

“Our department is really inspired by video games,” Rozhkov said. “Agent Emerson provides a variety of story experiences and physical experiences, and one section of the story is very reminiscent of a first-person shooter. One of the big inspirations was the Call of Duty franchise. We analyzed a lot of motion and animation in those video games.”

Rozhkov said the developers at Activision, some of which are now at The Rogue Initiative, spent a lot of time answering questions like: where does a gun go in a first-person shooter for best framing and still look real? He said that expertise helped with this VR project.

Agent Emerson introduces a central hub that will connect to additional VR stories. The second story will expand the 360-degree action from a 12-minute story to 20 minutes.

“The existence of this hub is part of the bigger story,” Rozhkov said. “I don’t want to reveal too much yet because there are different things planned and I don’t want to spoil them for you. But this is the first one and the setup is going to explain everything so that when the next one comes around people will understand what’s going on. Information will be revealed—and each story might seem independent from each other—but in the end, they all together come to form a perfect picture.”

Rozhkov compared the VR series to a traditional analog TV show, where you have the character and the setup that continues but each story is unique to itself. “There is a beginning, middle and end to each story, but the overlapping theme carries on to the next one,” Rozhkov said. “It will be obvious as you go on, but part of the adventure is discovering what that is.”

The Rogue Initiative is taking a transmedia approach with this new IP. Given that 360-degree content still generates a lot of buzz, especially with the millennial audience, content creators can launch something new in VR and then expand from there.

Agent Emerson is just one character in this universe, and there are other stories that can be told across various mediums as well,” Rozhkov said. “In addition to the VR stories, we’re working to possibly expand this into a TV series and maybe a video game series that can keep on going. Agent Emerson is purely the pilot to set up the Identity Experience.”

What Keeps ‘Cities: Skylines’ Running

With Cities: Skylines, players have the tools and freedom to create the metropolis of their dreams, whether it’s one that hums like a finely tuned machine or one that puts more emphasis on aesthetics than function. What helps the game stand out from other city builders is its extensive modding community, which creates and shares game additions that range from new buildings to literally rewriting some of the rules.

Developed by the Finnish studio, Colossal Order, the simulation game remains as one of Paradox Interactive’s top-selling titles. Earlier this month, the game hit its second anniversary and the publisher announced that it had sold 3.5 million copies worldwide. They celebrated the milestone by giving all its players a special set of in-game buildings inspired by Chinese architecture.

“From the first day Cities: Skylines was released, it’s been breaking records,” said Fredrik Wester, CEO of Paradox Interactive, in a statement. “The game had our biggest launch in history at the time, selling 250,000 copies in its first 24 hours, and the community has only gotten bigger and more devoted over the last two years.”

Now the city builder is ready to grow even further with a new expansion called Mass Transit. As its title implies, the premium expansion focuses on public transportation, which Colossal Order is very familiar with, having released a mass transit simulator called Cities in Motion in the past. The developers wanted to get back to its roots with its latest expansion, and transportation is huge part both a city’s infrastructure and the city building experience.

Mariina Hallikainen, CEO at Colossal Order, sat down to speak with [a]listdaily about the upcoming expansion, releasing premium content for a game that’s famous for its mod content, and engaging with its active community.

Mariina Hallikainen, CEO at Colossal Order
Mariina Hallikainen, CEO at Colossal Order

What inspired the new expansion and what does it include?

Cities: Skylines – Mass Transit was very much inspired by our Cities in Motion games, which was all about mass transit. As an expansion, it’s all about creating good public transportation, as it is a big part of any city. It brings four different types of transportation: ferries, blimps, elevated monorails and cable cars.

Cities is very connected with its mod community. How do you develop a game expansion with modders in mind?

We, as developers, always have a certain vision for the game and we need to maintain a certain amount of control over that vision. We love talking with our community and taking their feedback, but we also must stay true to ourselves. It’s really a collaboration between the modders, us and the community.

For example, ferries is something that people have been asking for, and we agree that the game needs that transportation option. In that case, it’s very easy to work that in. Of course, sometimes we disagree with the community, but I think that’s a healthy conversation that needs to be had. I think that as long as we keep talking to each other we’ll be fine. [It’s about] taking the feedback and being honest with them. If we don’t like something that they suggest I say it honestly: this is not going to happen. We’re not going to do it. Then there will be a little bit of griping, and hopefully we’re able to move on to the next suggestion.

With so many free mod options available, how does the Cities audience generally take to having to buy premium expansions?

We want to make expansions that are worthwhile. I think mods enhance the game in amazing ways. The things that the modders do—they go all out. We have over 100,000 items on the Steam Workshop, so there’s a lot of variety.

For us, it’s important that we can add features that modders can’t easily do. [Also], not all of our players use mods. We always have to remember that the modding community is very active and open, but they are not the majority of players. So, it’s about finding a balance between the different audiences and trying to cater to all of them. The important thing about the paid expansion is that we know it’s not necessary for everyone. So, we want to do our best to bring in new and interesting content that will appeal to a large portion of our audience.

How do you balance between releasing free updates and premium content?

Free updates are features that we believe enhance the base game in such a way that it would be unfair for us to charge for them. We want to keep working on the game to make the experience good for existing players who have the base game, and those who want to buy more content may get the expansions. For example, the road enhancement tools were something that we wanted all the players to have, so we definitely weren’t going to put that behind a paywall.

How do you engage with players who aren’t part of the modding community?

We have an amazing subreddit. I think there are over 100,000 subscribers on the Cities: Skylines subreddit and it’s very active. There are so many people creating beautiful cities and sharing screenshots and videos. There’s a lot of feedback to be seen over there, so I try to be very active there. Then we have the Paradox forums where we have an amazing community. We feel that we need to be active through social feeds: Twitter, Facebook and so on, to make sure that we find different kinds of audiences. The modding community can be the loudest and most active, but we want to stay in touch with players who aren’t necessarily engaging with that part of the game.


What goes into the perfect city building game?

I think the perfect city building game has the flexibility for players to make their dreams cities. It lets their players use their creativity. I think that we’re almost working on a platform for the players to express themselves with. Of course, there also needs to be functioning systems that makes sense for the player. It’s a combination of those systems, freedom and flexibility.

Cities: Skylines remains one of Paradox Interactive’s top games. What do you think attracts so many people to city building games when there are so many explosive action games around?

I think city builders in general have a very wide range of people who like to play them. There are gamers who just who want to take time off from everything blowing up and just relaxing with a city builder to create something. But I think there is also an audience that doesn’t play other kinds of games. They are just engaging with simulation games because they feel that they can express themselves and solve problems without the fast pace that other genres offer. It’s an interesting crowd, to say the least, because there are so many different types of players. To see the different things that people do with Cities: Skylines—some just want to build a beautiful city, while there are other people who want to make sure the city is functioning in a perfect way without caring about the looks of it.

What would your perfect city be like?

One that makes a lot of money [laughs]. I’m a CEO, after all. So basically, that’s all I care about.

Are VR Buyers Satisfied With Their Purchase?

You might say that virtual reality is in its awkward teenager phase—showing great potential in terms of looks and performance, but still having a lot of growing up to do. VR may not be the stuff of science fiction legend yet, but a new study shows that VR consumers are not only satisfied with their purchases—they’re impressed.

According to the study by research firm Magid, 89 percent of VR purchasers indicated they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the product, with a majority naming the latter. In fact, 81 percent of those who purchased VR devices indicate a willingness to recommend to friends or family. While satisfaction was high across all device types, mobile VR headsets that work with any smartphone offered the most gratification at 67 percent.

Participants who bought a VR headset designed for a specific smartphone not only see their purchase as a “very good” value, but 66 percent find them “very easy to use.” Magid reports that a majority of consumers across all device types cited their VR headset as being a “very good” value, with the greatest percentage—60 percent—being among those who purchased a VR headset designed for a specific smartphone.

“As far as recent purchasers are concerned, VR devices are being rated very highly against the ‘holy trinity of value’ for money, ease of use and of exceeding expectations,” Mike Bloxham, senior vice president of national television and video at Magid, said in a statement “This combination is exactly what drives positive word of mouth which is so important for the growth of emerging tech-related markets.”

Eighty-five percent of VR purchasers believed their device was a good value, while 90 percent rated their device as “easy” or “very easy” to use. Sixty-one percent reported that their VR device performed better than they expected.

VR Image


No device is going to be a great value if you can’t use it, and that’s where VR content comes in. Viewing of non-gaming video content such as short videos and TV experiences on VR were reported at a higher rate (72 percent) than video games (63 percent). Music and virtual travel were also among the top VR experiences at a combined 51 percent, according to the company.

“VR isn’t just for gamers anymore,” said Debby Ruth, senior vice president of global media and entertainment at Magid. “Games are always going to be important to VR, but this interest in other types of VR experiences, especially music and travel, signals opportunity and potential for broader consumer engagement.”

Mobile VR is obviously a hit with consumers, many of whom are more than happy to rush out and buy the latest smart phone model. But what about VR headsets? We asked Magid if consumers may some day rush out to get a new model every year, or if they will be long-term investments.

“When you look at a VR device right now and you think about where they are going to be in the future in terms of form and function, the real comparison is to mobile phones where you needed two hands for operation,” Ruth told [a]listdaily. “At this stage, there is no way you can accurately anticipate the pace of development that is to come. Certainly, the idea of upgrading equipment year after year, will be based on many variables—such as price, perceived modifications and improvements, the possible tie of that equipment to some type of ‘plan’ such as in a data plan with phones. But as with phones, we can say with certainty, that devices will bear little resemblance to the early stage equipment we see today.”

Art Or Game? Double Fine On Marketing David O’Reilly’s ‘Everything’

A new game has just launched for the PlayStation 4, but it’s not like anything players have seen before. Everything, a game by artist David O’Reilly, is an adventure in being . . . well, anything. Every object in the game, from the sun to tiny water molecules, are self-aware and the player can freely move about and experience life from each point of view. It’s more of an experience than a game, although its infinite possibilities and self-aware objects (which play automatically with or without you) will no doubt make for some very interesting livestreams.

“You can look at something through a microscope and see it in a certain way, you can look at it with the naked eye and see it a certain way and you can look at it through a telescope and see it another way. Now which level of magnification is the correct one? Well, obviously, they’re all correct, they’re just different points of view.”

That’s a quote from late British American philosopher, Alan Watts. Everything users have the option of listening to recordings of Watts, such as this quote, as they play or watch the world unfold and change.

Everything is published under the Double Fine Presents label in partnership with David O’Reilly. His previous works include animation and design for Adult Swim, the film, Her and a number of personal projects, including a mountain simulation game. As beautiful as his work is, O’Reilly’s creations don’t fit the usual mold for video game development, gameplay or marketing—but Double Fine wouldn’t have it any other way.

“David is a true artist with a strong grasp on his unique vision,” Greg Rice, VP of business development at Double Fine Productions told [a]listdaily. “We try to let him take the lead when talking about the game because it’s fascinating to hear him speak about his work. He creates the most beautiful and moving supporting materials, like his 10-minute gameplay film that is a beautiful work of art in its own right, which was selected for the Berlin and San Francisco Film Festivals, as well as others.”

Everything was the first video game to be selected for the Berlin film festival in its entire history. O’Reilly’s creation isn’t a typical game, so Double Fine didn’t employ typical marketing efforts.

“The game has the potential to speak to a wide variety of people from gamers looking for new and unique experiences to children and non-gamers fascinated by its view of nature and the universe,” Rice explained. “We’ve tried to let that encourage us to show the game in places and ways that games aren’t usually shown. The film festivals are a good example of that, but we recently also had Everything on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which was a really cool way to highlight the game and trigger really interesting conversation about it.”

“Everyone has different things they’re drawn to in games, and one of the things that excites us most is new ideas,” Rice said. “We’re a relatively new industry that has yet to explore so much of what games can be, so we want to encourage developers to break convention and try new things. With the amount of great games coming out these days it really helps when you’re able to stand out from the pack as something wholly fresh.”

Everything is available now for PS4 and will launch on PC and Mac on April 21.

Immersive Ads: What’s Next For VR Marketing

Virtual reality is where cell phones were about 10 years ago—a lot of potential, an increasing number of consumers investing in them and a whole lot of room to grow. With an increasing amount of VR content becoming available and mobile VR becoming more accessible, brands are ever-so-cautiously dipping their marketing toes in the hype pool.

While VR creates opportunities for brands to reach an immersed audience, only about eight percent of marketers are testing it out. Overall, consumers seem to be on board with the idea, according to a study by YuMe, with 66 percent of who have tried VR believe it creates a positive view of brands. 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.

In a separate study testing the effectiveness of marketing in VR, brand recall was at least 8 times more effective across all brands with immersive VR as well as double the intent to share. Augmented or mixed reality is a popular choice for consumers dreaming of a virtual future. According to a study from Ericsson ConsumerLab, shopping was the top reason worldwide smartphone users were interested in VR, with “seeing items in real size and form when shopping online” cited by 64 percent of respondents.

This Coke ad by Adobe isr a 2D VR viewing experience with interactive elements.
This Coke ad by Adobe isr a 2D VR viewing experience with interactive elements.

Adobe is currently experimenting with VR advertising and presented a few prototypes at the 2017 Mobile World Congress. The ads appear in a simulated movie theater experience, with content playing on a virtual, 2D screen (similar to content made available by Netflix, HBO and Hulu). While immersive ads may become the TV commercials of the future, branded content has become a strong activation for the film and TV industries.

Wesley Snipes will star in a standalone VR short film to complement The Recall and Kong: Skull Island has its own, immersive VR experience for fans. Last month, FXX released a virtual hangout with “the gang” of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia to film Mac’s latest “Project Badass.” (Hint: it doesn’t end well.)

As VR, especially on mobile devices, becomes more accessible and the technology continues to evolve, so will opportunities for brands to advertise on the platform. Juniper Research predicts that hardware revenues from VR headsets, peripherals and 360-degree cameras will reach over $50 billion by 2021, up tenfold from an estimated $5 billion in sales in 2016.