What Makes Turtle Wax’s ESports Partnership With OpTic Gaming Shine

Turtle Wax isn’t the first company you think of when it comes to eSports, but the non-endemic brand has found a way to drive awareness through OpTic Gaming’s huge fan base. The company used last year’s entry into eSports to experiment with ways to tie OpTic Gaming’s love of cars with Turtle Wax products.

Courtney Lauer, director of marketing for Turtle Wax, told [a]listdaily that the experiment was a resounding success. “Going into this partnership last year, we had some great insights on why we thought it was going to work with OpTic Gaming’s love of cars and passion for driving, but we didn’t know what the results were going to lead to,” Lauer said. “It passed all expectations and was a huge success.”

OpTic Gaming helped Turtle Wax gain over four million impressions across all activities, and the 70-year-old company saw 25 percent organic growth across its Twitter and Instagram accounts from the eSports organization’s fans.

“From a metrics standpoint we saw a ton of success,” explained Lauer. “Being a part of our overall marketing program, we saw positive results in sales as well. It’s a good indication that their fan base is following the team and players believed in the lifestyle OpTic was putting out. It was a great success for us and it’s why we’re in year two of this partnership.” The renewed partnership is again focusing on content-driven storytelling through individual player integrations, plus the brand will join OpTic on the road with fan activations at two key gaming tournaments throughout the year.

Lauer said Turtle Wax is working with the team on a content-centric narrative that organically incorporates the brand into OpTic’s lifestyle around their passion for cars. Individual integrations with team members Ian “Crimsix” Porter and Austin “Pamaj” Pamajewon will showcase different aspects of gamer life.

Professional Call of Duty (CoD) player and avid car enthusiast, Ian “Crimsix” Porter owns a Porsche Cayman GT4. Throughout the year, fans will enjoy watching the progress as Crimsix upgrades and details his ride with the help of Turtle Wax. Lauer said Crimsix will share his passion for performance and automotive know-how via his and OpTic’s social channels.

Last year, Turtle Wax decorated the OpTic Gaming House in Chicago with custom graffiti art to serve as a backdrop for livestreaming and videos. This year, the company is bringing that type of messaging on the road.

The debut of the Turtle Wax footprint will take place at the Major League Gaming (MLG) Dallas tournament for the CoD World League Open March 17 through 19, at the Fort Worth Convention Center. There, the brand will unveil a custom co-branded car wrap on Crimsix’s Porsche at its booth. Fans will be able to pose with the car and receive an animated GIF that can be shared on social media using #TurtleWaxGaming. The brand will also distribute samples of its new 2017 line of products, providing fans the opportunity to use some of the Turtle Wax products featured in OpTic’s content.

Lauer said the car will also be present at the CoD World League Open at MLG Anaheim at the Anaheim Convention Center from June 16 through 18. “We saw a big opportunity to engage one-on-one with fans at MLG events,” Lauer said.

Another part of the partnership focuses on team director, Austin “Pamaj” Pamajewon, who will capture the lifestyle elements of pro gaming through a series of videos from the inside of his BMW. Lauer said Pamaj’s brand of humor and social nature will give viewers a special inside look at Team OpTic and their friends on the road, at the gym or hanging out at home.

“We have a new Power Out (upholstery cleaner) line for 2017, and Pamaj will tell that interior car care story in his clever way,” Lauer said.

Lauer also stated that other elements of the partnership will include social media promotions and giveaways, as well as road trip shoots that show the guys living on-the-go, capturing and sharing content at every turn.

“Throughout the summer, we’ll have different touch points with the team on the road and from their house,” Lauer said.

CD Projekt Red Puts Its Cards On The ESports Table With ‘GWENT’

GWENT: The Witcher Card Game from CD Projekt Red is officially making its way into the eSports arena thanks to a partnership with ESports League (ESL). Based on a card game of the same name playable inside The Witcher 3: Wild HuntGWENT—despite its newcomer status—is already inspiring unofficial tournaments within its community.

“It’s a real privilege to observe how active GWENT players are in the realm of competitive gaming,” said Paweł Burza, community manager at CD Projekt Red in a statement. “Community-powered tournaments like The Passiflora Championship, The Seven Cats Brawl or The Gwentlemen’s Open are a source of inspiration for the entire team, and we definitely want this part of GWENT to grow.”

Registration for GWENT Challenger, the official GWENT: The Witcher Card Game tournament runs from March 16 to 22, with qualifiers beginning on April 8. The tournament will pit the four best players from the GWENT community against professional gamers, Trump (Jeffrey Shih), Lifecoach (Adrian Koy), Noxious (Kacem Khilaji) and ppd (Peter Dager). GWENT Challenger finalists will compete for a total prize pool of $100,000.

The digital collectible card games (CCG) market will generate $1.4 billion in revenue worldwide in 2017, according to estimates by analytics firm, SuperData. The digital CCG genre is most popular in Asia with an audience of 11.6 million, while North America has the largest physical player base at 9.1 million. SuperData predicts that between the ends of 2017 and 2020, worldwide digital CCG revenue will grow by a CAGR of four percent.

GWENT: The Witcher Card Game was created because The Witcher community wanted it,” said Marcin Iwiński, co-founder of CD Projekt Red in a statement. “Now we’re seeing more and more gamers wanting to play [the game] competitively, so here we are with a chance to play against some heavy-hitters, and a prize pool to spice things up . . . I can’t wait to see who wins!”

YouTube Explains ESports Partnership With FaceIt

YouTube took a huge step further into eSports today with a multi-year partnership with leading eSports platform FaceIt, creators of the ESports Championship Series (ECS). YouTube will become the exclusive livestreaming home to ECS, which features Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Beginning March 25, gamers can tune into ECS Promotion matches on youtube.com/faceit.

Ryan Wyatt, global head of gaming content at YouTube, told [a]listdaily that FaceIt was an obvious choice when jumping into the eSports space with its biggest investment to date.

“The explosion of growth in CS:GO is fascinating and it’s massive on YouTube today,” Wyatt said. “I like how FaceIt is set up. It’s the biggest eSports product in world, but they have an interesting setup in that we’re able to sell and monetize the content and do more in-depth product integrations and support around CS:GO. Google’s sales force is handling that, and allows FaceIt to focus on great content.”

Wyatt believes YouTube Gaming can help FaceIt attract much bigger non-endemic brands to eSports by streaming this content to its massive gaming audience. “We’re in front of partners and clients because we have a lot of different gaming content that we’re selling, but one area of interest is eSports,” Wyatt said. “We’re not just selling the ads, but we’re interested in creating deeper brand integrations.”

Wyatt added that the work that Riot Games did with Coca-Cola and American Express and what Turner has done with Buffalo Wild Wings and Arby’s has paved the way for bigger brands. ESL also brought Sprite and Gillette on board for its Intel Extreme Masters global tournament.

Wyatt said the reason Google looked at this opportunity as an exclusive multi-year deal was so that they could leverage the Google sales force around the world. “We can help massively change the economics of these deals in by bringing more money to the eSports ecosystem,” Wyatt said. “YouTube has the biggest gaming audience. It’ time to introduce more gamers to eSports. We have a lot of people on YouTube who don’t know what eSports is. We feel we’re well-positioned to expand this audience.”

This deal comes at a time when the future growth of the industry still needs some help when it comes to financial structure and production costs. “ESports leagues are expensive to run and we need to figure out a way to sell these sponsorships in a meaningful way,” Wyatt said. “It’s the perfect time to take eSports to more mainstream brands. It’ll take a village to do that.”

Wyatt believes YouTube has an advantage in the eSports market because of its focus across the entire gaming landscape.

“A lot of people in the gaming space appreciate authenticity, and having relationships with a lot of people in the industry has helped us from a personal perspective,” Wyatt said. “ESports is just a part of that space. We’re taking a holistic approach with gaming from mobile, to VR, to livestreaming and eSports. A lot of content falls in between there. We’ll move through this space in a smart way and make smart investments for teams, players and leagues and the overall community. We’ve been methodical and particular in figuring out how to invest in eSports.”

Thanks to its previous partnership with ESL and its Counter-Strike tournaments, YouTube has become the top destination for the most popular game in eSports today. “There’s such an appetite for CS:GO content; it’s massive,” Wyatt said. “It’s in the top five for us on our platform today. We now have two of the most premium CS:GO eSports platforms on the site and that resonates well with the community. ESL’s CS:GO and FaceIt are the gold standard for league CS:GO content today.”

Wyatt said these two CS:GO platforms are very complimentary and share in one another’s growth, tapping into the huge user base on the platform, which should be a win-win for both companies.

“ESL is a competitor, but there’s a working cadence and respect across the entire eSports landscape,” Wyatt said. “As an industry, we’re seeing companies working together to provide consistent programming every day because it’s in everyone’s best interest to have transparency and ensure the eSports community has engaging content.”

‘Sparc’ Makes Virtual Sports A Reality

CCP, creators of EVE Online, has been a part of the current VR culture since Oculus first started to become a household name. Its first entry into the market, the space combat flight sim EVE Valkyrie, blew people away and showed the breathtaking potential for virtual reality. That was followed by the mobile VR game, Gunjack, which is also set in the EVE universe. Now CCP is ready to take things to the next level by creating an all-new type of VR game—one that isn’t necessarily tied to the EVE universe. That game is Sparc, which was revealed at this year’s Game Developers Conference and is expected to release later this year for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.

Sparc is a virtual reality experience that feels both familiar and new at the same time. It’s inspired by real-world sports such as tennis, racquetball and fencing to create a new kind of competitive experience that’s closer to being a traditional physical sport than a video game. In it, two people enter an enclosed arena and are tasked with hurling orbs in an effort to hit the other player while dodging their opponent’s moves. Players can bounce the orbs off the walls, floor and ceiling or “return” an opponent’s ball by either using a shield to deflect it or knuckle punching it.

Cameron Payne, brand manager for Sparc, told [a]listdaily that the development team regarded the game as a physical sport, just like tennis, and that the hope is players will see it the same way. He was joined by Morgan Godat, executive producer and studio manager at CCP, to talk about how Sparc could help transform VR into a sporting event.

Cameron Payne, brand manager for Sparc, CCP
Cameron Payne, brand manager for Sparc, CCP

How would you describe Sparc?

[Payne]: We describe it as a virtual sport, or a vSport. It’s a physical, standing, VR game where people compete and connect online. Thinking of it as a sport pervades everything about the game. When you play, you’re you—you’re not Cyber Knight 3000 playing some future sport. This is a real sport, and just like you’d have a racket for playing tennis, your VR setup is your sports equipment.

This is also the first game from CCP that’s not set in the EVE universe. You can have EVE costume customizations, but the game isn’t set in that universe. This is a sport between real people set in a virtual space.

What inspired the development of Sparc?

[Godat]: In 2014, we started the team in Atlanta and set them loose on the lofty goal of figuring out what comes next in VR. Head tracking wasn’t really a thing at that point, the Oculus Rift DK2 was just coming online, and EVE Valkyrie locked in the experience of sitting down with a headset and controller to fly a ship. We did some experiments with the controller and different types of vehicles, and with each one we said, “this would be a great feature for Valkyrie.”

So, we started developing with the Microsoft Kinect, which let me look down and see a version of my body along with other people in the space with me, and that was brilliant. So, we wanted the game to be your actual space mixed with these virtual objects.

The question then became whether or not we could take a full-body VR experience and apply motion controllers, like those on the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and Oculus Touch. We showed a prototype called Project Arena at EVE Fanfest 2016, and the fans gave us our answer: “fuck, yeah!”

Morgan Godat,
Morgan Godat, executive producer and studio manager at CCP

Will the game use voice communication?

[Godat]: Absolutely. People meeting face-to-face and talking to one another is critical. We want people to show up and have conversations. One of the first things that we do at the start of a match is knuckle up, where people are face-to-face. We’re trying to reinforce the fact that you’re human beings playing against each other, so let’s see some sportsmanlike conduct. There’s a creepy level of humanity to facing somebody else and talking to them. We’re able to express more humanity through this technology than we can through a touchscreen or monitor.

CCP’s core DNA is in getting people together with player-to-player interaction. They do it on a much different, grander scale than what we have in Sparc but that’s fine. EVE Online has been on the market for 15 years and a community has built up in that time. That’s the kind of thing we want for Sparc.

Are there going to be social features?

[Godat]: Yes. When you enter in the courtside space, you see a miniature court in front of you and players shrink down when they hop in. You can then loom over a court and watch a game. We want people to show up and hang out around the outside of the court because it’s a lot of fun to spectate and root for the player you want to win. Then you can queue up for the next match. It’s a social space, where people can meet up, talk, and establish a back-and-forth before getting into the competition.

Will Sparc launch with customization options for creating team uniforms?

[Godat]: If Sparc takes off and people really love it, then we’ll talk about teams. Doubles is a constant question that everybody always asks. But our goal with customization is in balancing out how much control we give to people. You’re going to be interacting with customization in a virtual reality space. It’s empowering to put articles of clothing on in VR and see them in a mirror with your emotions and actions. Even though you can’t customize the shape of these characters, you can change certain parts, like the color and clothing materials. We’re still figuring out how players can interact with that in a way that’s intuitive and makes sense.

Will the game include sponsored branding opportunities for uniforms and the arena?

[Godat]: We’re not going to force anything into it, but there’s no reason why a certain part of the court can’t be sectioned off for sponsors. The NCAA tournament has an emblem in the center of the field. Everything that maps into a sport can map into this court. If someone comes along and says they want the shields branded in a certain way, or have logos on their chests, that’s something we want to enable.


Do you think Sparc may be adopted as an eSport?

[Godat]: ESports are made by the players. It’s the equivalent of saying, “we’re going to make a video and it’s going to go viral.” It sounds cute, but it’s crazy. Players and the people watching are the ones who make something go viral, and they make the eSport. The question is whether there are people who are willing to commit the time and energy into playing this game so that companies outside of CCP are willing to create tournaments. Our goal is to create a sport, and that’s a pretty daunting thing.

What led to the decision separate Sparc from EVE Online?

[Godat]: At some point, even people inside the company are starting to ask, “can we make that not in EVE?” EVE has a well-established visual style to it, and there was never a question of whether or not we should do it. The question was whether it made sense. One of the things about EVE is that you’re playing a character in that universe. The players put on a different persona. In Sparc, you can have your avatar look however you want, but we still want you to think of it as you playing the sport.

What goes into promoting a VR game compared to a traditional one?

[Payne]: The beauty is in mixed reality, because we’re a standing game and not a mobile or seated game with a controller. We found that mixed reality is a very compelling way to quickly communicate what an experience is like. So, we’re going to take that to another level. I also think that communicating and marketing in VR is a cutting-edge field. These are things that CCP is learning how to do just like everybody else. There’s a lot that we’re discovering about what’s different about communicating and marketing VR games compared to regular games.

Dodge For Days

Retailers Are Seeing Green With These St. Patrick’s Day Shopping Trends

Retailers may be feeling the luck of the Irish this weekend, thanks to St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday and a rough political climate that will no doubt offer many an excuse to let their hair down with some green beer and corned beef.

The National Retail Federation estimates that St. Patrick’s Day spending will reach a whopping $5.3 billion this year—the highest in survey history, and up dramatically from last year’s $4.4 billion.

consumer-plans-to-celebrate-st.-patricks-dayAccording to NRF’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, more than 139 million Americans plan to celebrate the Irish holiday this year, and are expected to spend an average of $37.92 per person. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed plan on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, with 88 percent of those celebrants wearing green to kick off the festivities.

The holiday is most popular among individuals 18-to-24 years old, the survey found, with 77 percent celebrating. NRF notes those ages 25-to-34 will be the biggest spenders at an average $46.55.

A little more than half (52 percent) of celebrants will purchase food, followed by beverages at 41 percent. Nearly a third (28 percent) said they were planning to purchase apparel or accessories for the celebrations, with 22 percent buying decorations and 14 percent buying candy.

“St. Patrick’s Day is a time for consumers of all ages to have fun and celebrate all things Irish whether it is attending a parade, cooking an Irish meal, or meeting friends at a bar or restaurant,” said Pam Goodfellow, the principal analyst for Prosper Insights & Analytics. “While more Americans are planning to celebrate the shamrock-filled day, expect millennials to take the lead among the festivities.”

Grocery stores will benefit from holiday shoppers, with 39 percent planning to make purchases there. Twenty-nine percent will visit discount stores, the survey revealed, with 21 percent headed to bars and restaurants, and 18 percent visiting department stores.

If you’re planning on chowing down on corned beef and cabbage this weekend, you’re in good company. According to the US Census Bureau, $133 million worth of cabbage was imported to the US in 2015, so we can only imagine how much was shipped ahead of this record-breaking holiday.

How SXSW Experiential Brand Marketing Is Still Thriving

SXSW has evolved into one of the world’s most preeminent interactive activation playgrounds celebrating technology, marketing, music and film and endless open bars in greater Austin.

If you’re a Mad Men-like marketer who has interests of pushing a brand message further—not to mention the limits of the human body during a 10-day party masked as a conference—then you must descend to the Lone Star State every March for a slate of events and programming that will inspire ideation in your respective discipline.

Fittingly, the current political climate was a pressing topic at panels, too. Even former vice president Joe Biden came to town for the conference and delivered a tearful speech.

“Keep Austin Weird” is the slogan of the city, and no two companies did that shockingly better than Hulu and Bravo.

To garner attention for their new upcoming show Stripped, cable TV network Bravo unveiled 60 models dressed in nude fabric in an activation that spread from the Austin Convention Center to jam-packed Sixth Street. Rain or shine, the flash mobs of models moved across downtown—some days with men covering their waistlines with just a pizza box, and women covering their frames with trash bags. The shock marketing stopped people to ask “What’s going on?” only to follow it up with some snap shots for social. Mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, Hulu’s activation was a wee bit creepier—albeit somewhat political. To promote their new show The Handmaids Tale, the on demand subscription video service shelled out a swarm of mysterious-looking women dressed like handmaids to further portray the symbolism behind the series. Clad in red garb, women silently strolled the streets and randomly conducted communal congregations. Offering no explanation to their appearance, they handed out cards that read “Don’t let the bastards get you down” to anyone who would approach them. Although it was silent, Hulu’s message certainly still made a splash in the city.

With so many people being present from the film industry, or just movie buffs in general, SXSW is the opportune time to promote a show.

An activation that screamed “fan appreciation” more than “be sure to check us out!” was AMC taking over a parking lot for a pop-up Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant in anticipation of season three of Better Call Saul. Show stars Bob Odenkirk and Giancarlo Esposito also made an appearance for an autograph session. The only underwhelming part of the restaurant was that there was no chicken—only some samples of Gus Fring’s curly fries. The kitchen was closed to the public, so we really didn’t know what else was cooking back there.

Others shows with outdoor activations were Starz with a King Kong-sized bison for American Gods, and TNT with a giant wave-riding pool for Animal Kingdom.


If you’re a marketer ever interested in putting on a SXSW showcase yourself, be sure to factor in for abnormal weather that locally ranges from sweltering heat, to non-stop rain. It could really alter foot traffic.

Conveniently tucked away in the dry yet frenzied confines of an ACC ballroom was The Mummy Zero Gravity VR Experience, an activation that transported attendees to the movie’s set alongside Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis as they performed a stunt in Zero-G four miles above sea level.

Also in the business of promoting a show, but this time from an experiential brand house was National Geographic, who is fully getting ready to launch Genius, a series that explores the life of Albert Einstein.

With SXSW timed perfectly with Pi Day on March 14, they celebrated Einstein’s birthday with a week-long session of programming with “Further Base Camp,” which featured an AR activation, a robotic portrait of Einstein’s chalkboard and an interactive photo gallery.

“We wanted to engage viewers globally with this brand-defining, first fully-scripted series that will tell the dramatic, inspiring and untold story about the life of Albert Einstein,” Jill Cress, chief marketing officer at National Geographic, told [a]listdaily. “We hope to launch our new tagline ‘Further’ as the consumer-facing expression of the brand and inspire people to fall in love with our renewed, forward-thinking brand and build on the insight that your heart will take you further than your mind ever will.”

In addition to National Geographic, large tech and media companies like Dell, IBM Watson, Panasonic, Sony, Intel, FacebookYouTube, Pinterest, Mashable, Comcast, Dropbox, Adidas, Levi’s, Gatorade, Giorgio ArmaniOtterbox and Naked Juice borrowed local Austin staples as their headquarters for the week to create conversations with consumers through a variety of experiences.

Activations ranged from immersive experiences to Plain Jane freebies to panel discussions, and of course, plenty of beer and nosh. The casual SXSW atmospheres serve as a forum to either be educated, or relax and hob nob with fellow attendees and cultivate relationships to further business for the remainder of the year.

Mazda, Capital One, Monster and Pandora served as title sponsors for SXSW, and they each had unique experiences ranging from music to tech. Esurance, McDonald’s and Bud Light also were title sponsors, but they did not blow attendees away with large scale experiences as they have as recent as last year.

Amy Heidersbach, vice president of marketing for Capital One’s digital division, told [a]listdaily that their branded house at Antone’s was a marketing reflection of what the company believes in.

“The whole experience that we brought to Austin is about being beta brave,” she said. “Whether or not we work in technology, it’s the spirit, attitude and courage of thinking differently, which is what the people of SXSW already have. We wanted to give them a peek of how we’re being beta brave as well.”

Russel Wagner, Mazda’s vice president of marketing, told [a]listdaily that sponsoring SXSW for the last three years has been a no brainer to them.

“When we look at who our target audience is of highly educated, affluent people who are definitely looking to be on the cutting edge of film, music and technology. SXSW serves to be a logical partnership for us,” Wagner said. “The results in engagement on social and on-site activations have far exceeded what we’ve set out to do.”

Mazda invited attendees to explore the brand’s design and engineering spirit, and its technology at the Mazda Studio at Empire. Their presence with a complimentary ride service was felt even more than ever this year as the city was devoid of Uber and Lyft. Mazda also had a music showcase on an intimate outdoor stage featuring acts like Rick Ross.

Susan Panico, vice president of sales marketing at Pandora, told [a]listdaily that the main message Pandora is promoting at SXSW is that #MusicIsLife.

“With the thousands of people that come through our space over the music days, specifically, they really look at Pandora for being that connective tissue that helps bring them new and emerging artists, and expose them to music that they didn’t know, but it turns out being music that they will love,” Panico said. “That’s what our personalized music discovery service is all about. There’s a balance of not only having the live music, but also partnering with advertising partners to bring in activations into our space to ensure there are engaging experiences that people want to share on social. The way that we show up at SXSW is giving people experiences and wonderful music memories.”

Rapper T.I. blew the lid off the Pandora house Tuesday on the same night as Wu Tang Clan, Wale, Thievery Corporation and Erykah Badu did for Events DC, who earlier in the week became the first local, city and state convention and tourism board to sponsor eSports. Events DC arguably had the most anticipated show of the festival as they packed the 2,750-person Austin City Limits venue to the brim before Wu tore the place down.

Before the climactic show, the WeDC House hosted 23 ambassadors that represented the District and furthered the ultimate goal at SXSW of expanding the city’s technology sector, promoting DC’s innovative startup community and fostering new partnerships among the local and national business communities.

Another city to join the experiential madhouse in promoting its region as a hot bed filled with career opportunities and rich culture and community was Atlanta with its ChooseATL branded house, where musicians like Ludacris, Jermaine Dupri and Rich Homie Quan took turns either speaking, spinning or singing at Maggie Mae’s on Sixth Street.

Kate Atwood, executive director of ChooseATL, said: “We crafted a three-day SXSW experience that promises to ignite new ideas, create business opportunities and increase the world’s sense of connectivity to our vibrant region and people.”

Countries that also brought their unique flair and heritage to Austin included The Great Britain House, Be Brasil, Casa Argentina, German Haus, Japan Factory and French House.

However, for the first time in recent memory, SXSW programming seemed to be the focal point over large-scale, expensive activations and experiences, as well as a slew of start-ups hitting the scene.

With major FOMO occurring at all times, there definitely is no shortage of experiential options both intimate and grand to explore at SXSW.

It just requires fireman-like instincts for skipping the smoke and finding the flames.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

How Game Developers Build Communities Through Modding

Modifying or “modding” a video game has become a popular pastime for many gamers over the last few decades—skillfully taking an existing game and changing it into something new. These changes can be as simple as altering a character’s appearance to completely swapping out the assets to create a whole new game altogether. Some of today’s most popular games started as mods, chief among them being Counter-Strike and Dota, and both were acquired by Valve and turned into extremely successful standalone games. Modding keeps a game fluid and relevant, so it’s no wonder that many developers have harnessed this creative community to their advantage.

Rockstar is still rockin’ it with Grand Theft Auto V due to a never-ending realm of possibilities in the game’s open world but also due to creative mods from its fans. These mods range from homemade missions to absurd characters and vehicles—as fun to watch as they are to play. Rockstar will periodically host live gameplay sessions, highlighting fan creations in GTA V as experienced by popular YouTube personalities.

Minecraft is another highly popular game for mods, creating custom worlds and adventures for themselves or the enjoyment of millions of subscribers. Like GTA V, these mods create endless entertainment possibilities for players and those who stream online—helping to sell over 121 million copies. The game is used in classrooms, teaches problem-solving skills and is even being used for eSports, thanks to organizations like Super League Gaming.

Epic Games has a long history of supporting game mods by offers tools through its Unreal Engine (UE) to modify several games like Unreal Tournament and Studio Wildcard’s ARK: Survival Evolved. The company even offers UE4 tutorials to help players learn to mod its games.

“This goes back to when Epic Games first introduced the editor and modding tools to the community,” Stacey Conley, community manager for Unreal Tournament told [a]listdaily. “Some people were able to grasp the concepts around using the editor, but many had the desire to create but did not understand the tools. Unreal Editor communities started popping up and people started asking questions. The more knowledgeable members starting creating tutorials and sharing assets. The community thrived! Some of the people creating and using the community tutorials now work for Epic. They benefited from the tutorials in a big way and they want to be sure that people using Unreal Engine and our game modding tools have the same benefit. It’s a labor of love. The modding community has always been known for its goodwill and generosity. On top of that, we’re now seeing a number of mod editors built on Unreal Engine 4 being released on the Epic Games launcher. We’ve been building and releasing learning resources for UE4 for more than three years now, and new communities of modders are able to grow their skills from the large pool of tutorials and documentation that’s out there.”

Modding has made Epic “much more community-oriented on the development side,” Conley explained, saying that they take particular care to help their players succeed in their creative goals. After all, she said, modding offers players “the world.”

“You not only shape the game that you want to play, but you can change the visual style, add new weapons, and even make a whole new game,” Conley said. “There is no limit to what you can do. Modding also offers a sense of community to those who love games, and are interested in how they are made, learning by using actual development tools like Unreal Engine 4. Teams form, and some go on to create their own games. Some of the most successful games out there started as mods for other games. Rocket League, for example, came out of popular Unreal Tournament mods!”

“We are in the unique position of not only having gamers following us, we also have modders and licensees watching our streams for information,” she explained. “This cross-pollination lends itself well to streaming and our Unreal Engine stream is watched by people at both ends of the spectrum. People will watch our game streams to see a new feature in our games. The modders who watched will jump to an Engine stream to see how it was done. In turn, they will be guided to someone streaming workflow or even stream themselves. We also host streams of creatives, gamers and modders on our channels. We’re very happy to see more and more developers streaming their work and sharing their knowledge.”

ESL Founder Discusses The Path To Successful ESports Spectacles

Ralf Reichert saw a future in competitive gaming back in 2000, long before eSports became a global phenomenon. The CEO of ESL, the largest eSports company in the world today, was in Katowice, Poland for the fifth straight year earlier this month. He’s watched as Katowice grew from an Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tour stop experiment into the largest attended eSports event in the world for four consecutive years. Katowice has been home to the IEM Finals, where the top teams in League of Legends, StarCraft II and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are crowned. This year, over 173,000 people attended the event at Spodek arena and the Katowice International Congress Centre, which was built to support IEM. An additional 46 million tuned in to watch the competition.

With a contract to remain in Katowice through 2019, Reichert talks to [a]listdaily about the potential of replicating the success of this eSports competition and accompanying IEM Expo in other cities, in this exclusive interview.

How challenging is it to pull off an IEM event with a partner city like Katowice, especially given this year’s two-weekend schedule?

It’s a logistically monumental thing to do. About 1,100 people were working for us over two weekends and more than 4,000 flights have been booked for this event. So, it’s just a big thing. It’s probably as big as—from an organizational standpoint—as the Super Bowl, although I don’t know the exact numbers. It’s very different from the past expectations—that an eSports event is just a small thing. This is a global scale event, on a global scale logistics level, being organized with a draw of more than 100,000 people. You can’t find a hotel room within a 30-mile radius.

How do you envision this model from Katowice being replicated on another IEM tour stop or across another ESL brand in the future?

Our goal is obviously to replicate what we built in Katowice. It took us five years to get where we are, so the first one was much smaller. Other major events we’re doing in the US specifically is New York. We did this now for the third year, and we were sold out in a much smaller arena, but we sold around 8,500 tickets. So, it’s on its way there. It’s probably taking a little bit longer just because of the population around the city. If you look within 250 kilometers around Katowice, more than 50 million people live there. So the spread is actually extremely high in terms of accessibility. In New York, there’s a little bit more than 30 million people living in the same distance. So it’s logically a little bit harder, and much harder in places such as Cologne, where we managed to sell out with 14,000 people last year. That’s already one step further. We believe that with consistency, we can grow other events in terms of the model with the experience around it. Achieving the same level is a different question because Katowice became a European phenomenon where everyone wants to be, but we at least want to get close. And we believe that is possible.

What does the IEM Expo, which is a separate event, add to the attendance numbers?

The experience around it would start with the expo, which goes through the additional tournaments across other games. Then it goes over to where the YouTubers meet up, which then has cosplay contests and many different activities, comparable to a trade fair meets a festival. This is absolutely what we need to work on and improve for the other events, but that takes time as well. It’s not as easy as shouting and everyone comes. It’s really a give and take of the value you create, and then the bigger draw it gets, the more on-site activity you can do. Those on-site activities make it a better experience, which then draws more people.

What are some of the challenges that need to be overcome in areas like Brazil and Manila, where the infrastructure for big eSports events isn’t necessarily there yet?

That is just a question of iteration, honestly. We don’t plan to do Manila and Brazil this year, but we’re pretty sure that we want to try it next year again. The biggest lag there is technical infrastructure. That is the number one thing. We took a lot of learning from last year.

That’s when the internet went out during the tournament, right?

Yes. That happened, and there are ways to overcome it, but we want to plan well so that as these problems occur we’re prepared. But we’ll definitely go back to these places. We’re not only coming back to these places, but we’re going to three new places this year with Resorts World Genting (in Malaysia), The Verizon Theater in Dallas and Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg.

Manila is ESL One, where the model is to stay and come back the next year. Brazil specifically was ESL Pro League, which is more of a traveling thing like the Super Bowl. So, we’re moving that to Dallas and later this year, we’ll be going to Sydney with IEM.

Team NRG owner Andy Miller said that the new Sacramento Kings stadium was designed for eSports. What role do you see modern or retrofitted arenas playing in the growth of eSports?

For a stadium, it goes back to value and convenience. I’m pretty sure no one really knows yet how an eSports stadium should look like. A football stadium had a couple of hundred years to iterate the right model. So, it’s super interesting to see these things—super interesting for us to do something there—but I’m pretty sure we’re at the very start of that journey and that an eSports stadium in 10 years will look very different.

What he’s referring to is that it’s not solely built for eSports, right? This is a multi-purpose stadium, which has specific features built for eSports. That’s obviously an advantage that people will figure out who are great at building these arenas and improving them, how to make them even more eSports-friendly in that it will hopefully lead to more eSports events, and therefore for more content and bigger crowds.

What impact do you feel the recent Twitter livestreaming deal will have on your eSports events moving forward given the popularity of social media with eSports fans?

We expect it to be big and super successful. ESports has been growing fantastically on Twitch reaching more than 100 million people a month. For the next phase, and to reach the growth everyone is looking at and expecting, you need to go where the people are. We do believe that we can reach a new audience and attract a new audience there. We just piloted it this weekend, so it’s super fresh, but the feedback has been great so far.

Traditional sports leagues like MLB and the NBA have long seasons, but there are off seasons. ESports seems to be going all the time. Is there any fear of over saturating the ecosystem with any particular game?

It’s a very good question. There are not data points really that oversaturation is a problem. Specifically, looking at Counter-Strike, where there have been multiple tournaments going on at the same time, the viewership has been growing in four or five months now even though the amount of content hasn’t been lowered. One of the reasons traditional sports has these long off seasons, and actually this minimal amount of content compared to eSports, is because physically you can’t play more matches. If you look at the research around it, a basketball player can’t go beyond the limits of physical prowess of what they can do. And because eSports is not that physical—it’s mentally stressful—it seems like that barrier of how many tournament matches players can play is much higher. Saying that though, a lot of teams have cut back on the events they attend and the number of leagues they play in so that they can focus more. I do feel that there’s going to be a natural consolidation, where the best products and the biggest prizes will actually win, and therefore that will solve itself to some extent.

Snapchat Is Building Its Content Chops For TV Ad Dollars

Ah, Snapchat—the home of silly filters, disappearing messages and . . . TV? Well, that’s the plan, anyway. Snap, Inc. is vying for television advertising dollars by hosting original content from educational programming to reality TV. The social platform/camera company began soliciting content from Hollywood last year and hasn’t done too shabby in terms of partners to date, as brands scramble to appeal to Snap’s millennial demographic.

The latest deal is with Vice Media for an original dating show called Hungry Hearts with Action Bronson. The eight-episode series will debut later this year, starring rapper and former chef (you guessed it), Action Bronson as he sends couples on dates he has planned, then gives play-by-play updates as to how these dates are going.

Just a few weeks ago, Snap, Inc. partnered with Discovery Communications for an unnamed exclusive project, as well as shows based on popular IPs like Shark Week and Mythbusters. Other partners include NBCUniversal, BBC Worldwide, Turner and A+E Networks. Viacom recently launched two new global Discover channels on Snapchat—MTV and Comedy Central. Viacom also struck a multi-year revenue share agreement with Snap, Inc. that allows the company to sell ads within Discover and pitch the app’s Live Story promos to brands.

“We’re the largest broadcaster to the millennial and centennial generation, and Snapchat is, on mobile, the number one broadcaster to the millennial generation,” Viacom head of sales, Jeff Lewis told Adweek. “When you put that platform and content with it, it’s great for storytelling, targeting [and] measurement.”

For many marketers, however, ROI measurement is not one of Snapchat’s strong suits. In fact, it came in almost last—second only to AOL—in terms of return on investment, according to a series of studies published by RBC Capital Markets in partnership with Ad Age. Snapchat received 3.43 out of eight points, according to the survey, which included 1,600 marketers. Ad dollars are instead being spent on competitors who have copied Snapchat features, like Instagram.

Snap, Inc. is definitely on to something by setting itself apart from competitors and making influence marketing more accessible through Snapchat Spectacles. While the platform remains an effective and informal way to reach a young demographic, the company has quite a way to go in terms of providing valuable metrics to keep marketers—and creators—happy.

Deep Silver CEO Details The Benefits Of Having A Hybrid Business

Founded in 1994, the German-based Koch Media created a thriving publishing business with partners long before it started its own Deep Silver brand. It is the European entity of the two brands, focused on the distribution of games and films. The company does a great deal of partner business, distributing games (mostly as retail discs) produced by renowned publishers such as Square Enix, Sega, Bethesda Softworks, Codemasters and more across certain territories. The physical retail market is still a thriving one, particularly in parts of Europe, where many countries have bandwidth caps on home internet usage.

At the same time, Deep Silver is the company’s publishing brand, famous for releasing games such as the Saints Row series, Dead Island and Homefront. Agents of Mayhem, which is being developed by the Saints Row creators, is expected to launch later this year. Additionally, the publisher licenses products from partners and publishes them under the Deep Silver brand globally. For example, the upcoming role-playing game (RPG) Kingdom Come: Deliverance is one of its key titles for 2017 alongside many others.

“We have grown from humble beginnings 23 years ago, to a company that currently employs more than 800 people,” Klemens Kundratitz, CEO and co-founder of Koch Media and Deep Silver, told [a]listdaily. “About half of our staff is in development and the other half is in publishing. That shows you that our strategy is built on three pillars. One is the development of our own Deep Silver products and publishing them globally. Second is the partner business, where we adopt different roles for different partners in different parts of the world, depending on their requirements. The third pillar, which is the smallest, is the film business that we conduct in certain European territories. Overall, for an independent globally operated company, we believe that the combination of development and publishing with a very substantial partner business is the right strategy for growth.”

Kundratitz then discussed how the company’s strategy of publishing both partner games and internally developed ones has kept the company stable and growing for over 20 years.

Klemens Kundratitz, Koch Media and Deep Silver co-founder and CEO
Klemens Kundratitz, Koch Media and Deep Silver co-founder and CEO

What convinced the company to create two separate brand names?

We believe that, in order to be relevant to our global partners, it is good to have a broad portfolio of products. The difficulty for many publishers these days is that they have two or three games per year. That is independent of the size of the publisher. Very big companies have two or three products a year along with medium or small ones.

There are these large gaps between games, and in order to be effective as a sales or marketing organization, it’s good to have a continuous flow of products. Relevance can be achieved by mixing our own products with partner products. This is a gap in the market that we have detected and now we are a clear leader. Certainly, we are the number one publishing partner in Europe. Being partnered with so many companies is a testament to our leadership as a company, which is able to solve the problem global publishers have with gaps between their big releases.

How does publishing and promoting a game in Europe compare to the US?

You have to see that Europe is not just one country—we are dealing with many languages and cultures. To be effective in Europe, you have to have a local presence in the key markets.

This is why we operate with nine regional publishing offices in all of Europe. Not only do we need to localize all assets and messaging, we also have to culturally adapt our messaging and publishing to the individual European cultural region. You really have to go the long route and be present. That’s why we have a large footprint with both the sales and marketing and PR side to get the maximum impact.

What has contributed to the success of the partner business?

We’ve been doing the partner business for 20 years now, and it’s very stable. We’ve built ourselves a name for being a very diligent operator that’s trustworthy and able to work under the direction of the primary IP holder. Not every company is built around that. We take on different sets of responsibilities. We are quite unique with what we’re doing.

This is migrating from a hybrid business, dominated by physical, to eventually being one dominated by digital, but there will still be a strong physical part of it. Koch Media in Europe acts as a consolidator for the physical business. It becomes attractive for publishers, as they focus their own resources toward the digital side, to have a reliable partner to manage the substantial physical business.

Are digital and physical game releases two different worlds?

It is clearly one game, and so it’s one success. If you’re successful in one side of the business, you are usually successful in the other. There are pros and cons to buying a product digitally or physically. Some of the players like to buy digitally because it’s convenient, but there is also another very large part of our player base that likes to go into the store to pick up a product with the option to trade it in later. It’s a hybrid business that we operate in as an industry, and it’s going to be that way for the next ten years, I’m sure.

Although they operate separately, does success with publishing partner games help to strengthen the Deep Silver brand?

Yes, I think the two things help each other because we are one of the top five vendors in most of the European territories. Each of our products in the lineup will benefit our relevance in the market. That is the case for both partner products and our own products. Also, by being connected to these leading publishers, we are learning a lot from them and they from us for the best ways to bring products to market. Combining those two elements of the business is beneficial for both our own and partner products.

How would you describe the Deep Silver brand?

Deep Silver is, first and foremost, a label which is focused on games for gamers. We do not engage in casual or non-gamer activities. We look for quality products that have a worldwide audience rather than just a local audience. As you can see, we are quite at home in the action open world shooter genre, but also RPGs, which we consider to be at the core of Deep Silver.

We also handle products from partners under the Deep Silver brand. For example, Atlus chose us as its publisher in Europe and outside the Americas both digitally and physically. Persona 5 is a product we are about to launch in Europe, simultaneously with the US launch. That’s launching under the Deep Silver brand, but it is very clear that this is purely a publishing arrangement, while Saints Row is our own IP.

Has partner publishing allowed Deep Silver to take risks with developing new IP such as Agents of Mayhem?

Agents of Mayhem is a major project for us, in so far as we’re talking about a new AAA game IP. It’s first and foremost a Volition game with all the elements you expect from the studio. [It features] the over-the-top action, tone and ludicrous type of gameplay we know from Saints Row, but applied in a new way in a new IP. That’s a very bold and ambitious project, and we’re doing it because we believe that gamers are sick of sequels. We as a publisher have to be mindful of people wanting something fresh, new and exciting. Doing that requires a new IP. We have the full weight of the company behind the project, and I can tell you it’s going to be a very exciting launch this year.