‘Alien: Covenant In Utero’ Director On VR As A New Storytelling Platform

Twentieth Century Fox is celebrating Alien Day (April 26, a nod to planet LV-426 from the original film) with a free Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR 360-degree experience called Alien: Covenant In Utero. Fox also has a trailer for the short, which allows fans to experience the birth of an alien Neomorph (a new alien type featured in Covenant) through its human host.

The free experience was created by Fox, FoxNext VR Studio, RSA VR, MPC VR, Mach1 and technology partners AMD and Dell. Fox is using the experience to promote the upcoming Alien: Covenant film from Ridley Scott, which opens in the US May 19. The experience has been regionalized to support 12 languages, which will allow Fox to market the movie globally beginning May 10.

Scott, who also produced The Martian VR Experience for Fox, enlisted director David Karlak to create Alien: Covenant In Utero.

“Ultimately, we treated this project as starting from square one,” Karlak told AListDaily. “The Martian VR Experience was successful in marketing the film by allowing fans to step into the shoes of Mark Watney. We wanted this to feel more cinematic and have it feel like the movie, rather than run it inside a game engine. We used the same assets and artists from the movie for the VR experience.”

As the teams worked on set, the virtual reality unit of MPC (MPC VR) simultaneously developed the immersive experience. Assets for the film were immediately applied to the production of the Alien: Covenant In Utero project. Additionally, the motion capture work for the piece was done at the Technicolor Experience Center (TEC).  Through the development process, MPC utilized both AMD Ryzen and Radeon technologies using Dell Inspiron systems.

Karlak said the idea for this baked 360 experience couldn’t be done practically because the confined space was too small for a stereo camera rig, so he decided to go the computer-generated route.

“As we go through the four stages of growth of the Neomorph inside the womb the creature has created inside the host in 60 seconds, we asked ourselves how to make this as cinematic and as realistic as possible,” Karlak explained. “We used the digital creature and digital environments from the film and laser scanned photography from the sets. We even used the same digital doubles from the film, repurposing these assets we already had and then just adding more details and changing some things around.”

The alien chest-bursting sequence from the original film remains a key piece of cinematic history. Scott tasked Karlak with taking that moment and reconceptualizing it to make it exciting for a new audience.

“I was asked to take it to a different place—that of VR,” Karlak said. “I was fortunate to work with the assets that were created for the film and have Scott as a resource throughout the process as we went into this uncharted realm.”

Karlak had to discover how this creature perceives the world from its perspective. “Up until this time, we’ve always been on the receiving end of the Xenomorph,” Karlak said. “What’s it like to be that creature? Entering the mind of the creature was the first step in making a lot of the aesthetic choices we ultimately went with in this experience.”

Alien has remained a key brand for Fox, even when Scott wasn’t working on the prequels. The creatures have starred in theatrical spin-offs like the Alien vs. Predator franchise, which itself has spanned comics, movies and video games. Alien comics and video games have been released over the years, and now Fox has a brand new Alien: Covenant mixed reality experience (which debuted at CES) and a separate interactive VR experience (directed by Karlak) in the works.

“I’m not involved in the mixed reality Alien, but I’m working on the immersive standalone VR story, although I can’t tell you the title,” Karlak said.

The official press release for The Alien: Covenant VR Experience explains that, like The Martian VR Experience, it will be released across all platforms and be a paid experience. The release also promises “a dread-inducing journey into the depths of the Alien universe. Viewers will discover the true meaning of terror as they navigate through horrifying alien environments and a story where every decision could mean the difference between life and death.”

When it comes to the Alien brand, Karlak said Scott inspired him to become a filmmaker.

“The first time I saw Alien, not only did it terrorize me, but it pulverized me visually,” Karlak said. “It set me on my journey to become a filmmaker. I still go back and watch that film because it’s able to find beauty in violence. That’s what makes the Alien franchise so unique. It checks the boxes of being an amazing horror and an amazing sci-fi film. But it’s also able to find this elegance and beauty in the otherworldly—and that’s to Ridley’s credit. His reverence to high art seeps out of every pore. Early on, I told everyone we need to make this experience as beautiful as it is immersive.”

Karlak also said that everything from the visuals to the sound of the experience takes cues from the original Alien film.

Hulu Has The World Talking With ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Marketing

The Handmaid’s Tale premieres today on Hulu, based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood. The novel—which has yet to go out of print since it premiered in the mid-1980s—has been several plays, a ballet, a movie and a radio serial, and launched to the top of Amazon’s Bestsellers List ahead of the TV adaptation. The emotionally and politically charged show is perfectly timed with public concern for women’s rights and political turmoil, especially within the US. For this reason, the show naturally lends itself as a conversation piece—one that Hulu has kept going across the country ahead of the show’s premiere.

Large groups of women in striking red and white garments have appeared across the country at events to silently promote the series, handing out cards that say, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” These handmaidens were seen at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 23 and prior to that at SXSW, New York City and many other locations. The cast and crew discussed The Handmaid’s Tale themes at length during the Tribeca Film Festival, setting the stage for a deadly serious, provocative TV experience.

The show follows Offred, an oppressed woman in a dystopian near-future in which women’s rights have been stripped. Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is the handmaid assigned to an elite Commander and his wife, and as such is subject to the strictest rules and constant scrutiny—living in constant fear of execution. Offred, so named because her master is named Fred, can remember the “time before” when she was married with a daughter and had her own name, but all she can safely do now is follow the rules of Gilead in hope that she can someday live free.

Audiences can take a 360-degree tour of Offred’s modest room on YouTube to get a sense of a handmaid’s drab life.

Fans were able to follow a livestream of the series’ red carpet premiere on Snapchat, and the official Twitter account has been abuzz with behind-the-scenes looks, interviews and teasers.

For writers, Hulu is hosting a contest on Wattpad in which 500-word short stories inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale will get a chance to be included in an anthology by Margaret Atwood.

A partnership with fashion collective, Vaquera has resulted in looks such as a red jacket emblazoned with “Maiden.” In June, the brand will host an experiential performance in New York, at an as-yet-undisclosed location, featuring the pieces from the collection.

The first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale premiered April 26 with subsequent episodes added on a weekly basis. In Canada, the series will be broadcast by Bravo, beginning with the first two episodes premiering on April 30.

Genvid Looks To Revitalize Video Game Livestreams

Imagine watching an Unreal Tournament match and seeing a logo for Mountain Dew on the side of a crate, on a wall or on the back of a player’s outfit. Then imagine being able to click on it and other placements to interact with the live broadcast and give a sponsored cheer, drop health, or influence the match in some other way. You don’t need to imagine it, because Genvid is already making that interaction a reality across livestreaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Beam and more.

Speaking with AListDaily, Jacob Navok, CEO at Genvid Technologies, described the technology as “a toolkit for game developer broadcasts to create interactive streams—and I don’t mean interactive from the perspective of Twitch Plays Pokémon. I mean, you can literally click, tap, touch and interact with what you’re watching. You’re able to touch a YouTube Live stream and it will recognize what you’re clicking on and what the information is in real-time.”

Genvid SDK Media Kit Screenshot 4 2017

The technology overlays branding locally as part of the in-browser experience, so its viewing data can be tracked. A child watching might see a soda ad, while an adult would see one for beer, and someone in Japan could see something else.

Genvid’s plugin allows game developers to include these interactions from within the game without having any of the players see them. With the technology, developers can do three key things: deploy multiple camera positions in the video stream; make the stream interactive with clickable objects and players; and lastly, understand the viewers’ needs.

“For example,” said Navok, “if we detect that the chat is talking about or cheering for a specific player, we can have the camera focus on them. Alternatively, if we detect that viewers don’t like a specific player, the game creators can choose to have that player killed by the audience like in a Roman coliseum.”

Novak went on to discuss how Genvid could greatly benefit game developers, publishers, viewers and brand sponsors by livening up livestreams.

Jacob Navok, CEO at Genvid Technologies
Jacob Navok, CEO at Genvid Technologies

Is Genvid meant only for game developers, or can other livestream creators make use of it?

We started on a key theory on where the game industry is going, which is that game creators will begin to own and operate premium streams. In my opinion, judging from what we’ve seen in the last year, that’s what esports is—it’s the creation of streams by certain entities, whether they be the game developers or otherwise, for the purpose of generating viewership that is then monetized. The deal that Riot did with BAMTech is indicative of how they want to own and operate streams, and the acquisition of MLG by Activision is indicative of that too. Smaller developers are doing this as well. So, we’re starting to see deep and rich involvement from game creators into the production of streams, which (up until a few years ago, with the exception of Valve and Riot) were mostly left to Twitch streamers.

So, we wanted to begin with a toolkit that was usable by game developers, which allowed them to differentiate their streams and also took advantage of the fact that they were the creators. They have a lot more access than whatever is in a retail build. In the future, I think individual streamers could use this tech, and it could take a couple of different directions. Game broadcasters like MLG and ESL are going to have game builds that use our tech for streamers to operate. I think if we partnered with a larger streaming platform, we would allow for individuals to stream from their computer.

Who do brands talk to if they want to become involved with esports using this technology? Genvid, game developers or broadcasting platforms?

There have been a lot of brand attention coming to us. We’ve been speaking with not just agencies, but with brands themselves. All of them are looking for the next big thing that will differentiate them, but they’re also looking for something that’s better than the standard video ad roll. Ideally, in the future, we would have the game publishers and creators working with brands directly without us a middleman. But, for the time being—because everything is so new—we’re bringing brands to our customers and enabling it.

How does Genvid compare to brand placement in a broadcast?

The difference between this and what you see in a broadcast is the clickability and interactivity. I can’t click on an ad that’s occurring inside of a video stream. Here, I can. From a brand perspective, that’s amazing. We don’t just want to take this as an opportunity to do arenas. The larger vision for the company is to enable fully interactive capabilities where everybody is a participant in a larger world.

For example, you could broadcast a game with a million viewers watching through consoles, mobile phones and PCs. Everyone can choose the level of engagement they want—do they want to play, set traps or give health? Here, the clickability of the brand is very important, because viewers can click on things happening on the map and they get points for it. With points, they can do interactions and engagements. This would be a new monetary stream for the developer and a new form of creative play for the players.

How does Genvid maintain a sense of authenticity for brands?

I think what’s most important is to discover whether the game works for your brand or not. For example, I don’t think putting advertisements in the middle of outer space within a game like Fractured Space works, no matter what the brand is. When we consider what brands we’re connecting with the developers we’re working with, we always think about whether the game has something visually appropriate to match the context.

Will broadcasters have total control or will viewers be able to choose which players they want to keep track of?

There was a big thread last year in the League of Legends Reddit where users said they wanted to watch the LCS from the perspective of the teams they followed, not necessarily from the broadcaster’s camera. The way we’ve been thinking about it has been very similar. We want to enable game creators to create a camera for every player and every team, as well as all the interesting perspectives, allowing the viewer to swap between them.

Genvid also supports VR broadcasts. Is that interaction for 2D livestreams or from within a virtual reality experience?

We’re starting with 2D because that’s the most urgent requirement. VR game creators want more people to learn about and play their games, so we focused on that. A lot of them understand that most people don’t own headsets yet, and if they want the ecosystem to grow, they have to get all those people interested.

The headset experience is a terrible one to watch, and it might make you feel sick, so developers wanted to use us to show additional perspectives. For a racing game, instead of watching from the helmet, you could watch it from the side like a real race. But very quickly, we realized that we wanted people in the headset to get cheers, so we helped with that. From there, we had VR developers asking if we could stream it back into the headset as video, which we can. We’ve got a VR developer exploring that option right now.

Can Genvid benefit a live in-stadium experience?

People in stadiums want to see what is being broadcast on monitors, but they also want to swap between different angles, follow what they want using their phones, and do the cheering in person. They want to see the action through their phones and tablets, but get all the excitement from the people around them. Frankly, I think this technology is applicable for traditional sports and general media properties.

Newzoo: Smartphone Users Will Reach 3.6 Billion By 2020

Smartphone usage continues to grow, Samsung is leading the pack and consumers will spend a whole lot of money on games in 2017.

There were 2.8 billion smartphones in use last year, according to Newzoo’s latest report, and that number will climb to 3.6 billion by 2020. The Global Mobile Market Report forecasts 2.6 billion people in the world with a smartphone in 2017, with China and India alone accounting for more than one billion users. Not surprisingly, China has the most smartphone users, with 717 million consumers actively using a smartphone in 2017, followed by India, the US, Brazil and Russia, according to Newzoo’s findings.

India, which surpassed the US for smartphone users last year, will grow to 300 million smartphone users by the end of 2017, while the number in the US will only grow to 226 million. The world’s highest smartphone penetration can be found in the Middle East, where more than 75 percent of the population has a smartphone in countries such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Healthy App-etite

Loading a smartphone up with apps is most of the fun, and consumers will spend a total of $56.4 billion this year doing just that— with games accounting for 82 percent. Total revenues from non-gaming categories are poised to increase from $10.2 billion in 2017 to $20.0 billion in 2020. As the number of smartphone users increases, so will global app store revenues, which are poised to grow to $85.0 billion in 2020. While more mature markets of North America and Europe will continue to grow at a lower but stable rate, most of this predicted growth will come from Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

Asia-Pacific accounts for 56 percent of app store revenues this year, bringing in $31.8 billion. China is the biggest single market within Asia-Pacific, generating $16.4 billion in consumer spend on apps (including third-party app stores). North America and Europe are considerably smaller in terms of revenues, with $10.6 billion and $8.5 billion in revenues, respectively.

Device And Conquer

With a market share of 31 percent, Samsung was the global leader for smartphones in 2016, just ahead of Apple which held a 25 percent share. However, Apple was the world’s leading tablet brand with a market share of almost 64 percent, or 166 million active tablets at the end of 2016. The Apple iPad Air and Air 2 were the most popular tablet devices, accounting for almost one in five active tablets globally.

When it comes to manufacturers, these two brands don’t leave much room for competitors. Together, Apple and Samsung accounted for almost 90 percent of the global tablet market.

War Can Be Fun And Games In This Week’s Game Promotions

This week, two games make their debut after long waits, micro-influencers lead the way and community feedback is king.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3

With an announcement in 2014 and a release date that was pushed out, fans of this series have been waiting a long time for its third installment. Since the game’s reveal, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 has been surrounded by hype among its dedicated fan base—especially since this is the first installment to have a AAA production scale. Rather than invest in major advertising campaigns and demo tours alone, CI Games has invested in its greatest resource—its fans—through development updates and implementing feedback before the game was released.

While fans had to wait to play the game for themselves, CI Games has been generous with extended gameplay footage as far back as 2015. In addition, the team has offered demos and presentations at a number of gatherings such as PSX and TwitchCon, rewarding players with special gifts both inside and outside of the game.

Beta testing further allowed players to get their hands on the game before its release, and although subsequent feedback resulted in a delays, a finished game is always more favorable than a hastily-released one. Fans of the series were comforted to know that the game’s creative director is Paul B. Robinson, a military veteran who also has a 20-year career in game development. In addition, the lead narrative designer is Jess Lebow, who has worked on franchises like League of Legends, Guild Wars and Far Cry.

Of course, gamers want to know how Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 plays and so to help show rather than tell, CI Games teamed up with a number of micro-influencers on YouTube and Twitch.

Those who pre-ordered the game received a free DLC Season Pass complete with expansions, maps, vehicles and more. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 went gold before it launched, illustrating both the value of this offer and the passion of its fans.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III

A whopping seven years after the release of Dawn of War II, Relic Entertainment’s real-time strategy game returns April 27. Taking a darker turn than previous installments, the development team enlisted composer, Paul Leonard-Morgan (Dredd) to score a driving, electronic soundtrack—much different than the series’ usual cinematic themes, but setting the tone for brutal combat.

As part of a beloved franchise originating in tabletop gamingWarhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III received its very own exclusive figurines ready to collect, paint and play. Relic shared fan-painted figures on its social channels to celebrate its community’s creative passion for the series and giving away

For those who delve into a game’s lore as much as its carnage, an official novel has been published in addition to a four-part graphic novel series, and a second novel is scheduled to release this November. Relic also announced that the game will receive collectible Steam trading cards for players to enjoy.

Open beta is a time to try the game first-hand and offer feedback to the developers, but Relic took the process a step further with livestreams and giveaways on Twitch. Relic also teamed with micro-influencers to promote the game and show off its shiny gameplay, not mention unboxing videos.

Even before the game launched, Relic was showing off its esports potential with the help of ESL. The Dawn of War III Open Beta Europe Cup kicked off April 23 with over 100 gamers taking part.



Gatorade Is Fueling Athletic Performance, And Marketing, With Innovation

“Sometimes I dream, that he is me . . . ”

That’s the line that begins Gatorade’s brand-defining commercial “Be Like Mike,” one of the most iconic ads and brand jingles of all time. It was a spot ideated in three days and dedicated to basketball great Michael Jordan, a newly signed spokesman at the time.

That was back in 1991. Before the brand signed Jordan, they used Vinnie Johnson, a solid NBA veteran, but a player who was lightyears away when it came to the marketing caliber of His Airness.

As Gatorade marketed a brand message and taught the world about electrolytes in the height of Jordan’s six-championship run, their brand equity boomed for the better, too. The sports drink pioneer’s fate would change for decades to come.


Now Gatorade, an idea born in the lab that launched an entire category, sits comfortably on the Mount Rushmore of brands consumers identify most with athletes and sports.

Although affiliated with the NBA since the mid-1980s, their hoops stronghold gripped tighter from the sideline-branded towels, jugs, drinks and podium props during pressers to rebranding the NBA’s D-League to the Gatorade League, or “G-League,” starting next season. The feat is momentous because it’s the first time a US professional sports league has an entitlement sponsor.

Gatorade’s A-list coup of brand ambassadors throughout the years—and the weekly drenching of coaches—surely support their strategy and amplify their ubiquitous logo. But their pivot back to their roots of innovation, specifically by returning to its science-based origins and experimenting with cutting-edge tech platforms, is where the PepsiCo-owned brand is being positioned.

Kenny Mitchell, Gatorade’s senior director of consumer engagement, oversees the brand’s integrated marketing efforts, including advertising, branded content, digital, social media and public relations. Mitchell, who previously oversaw brand and consumer marketing for NASCAR, joined AListDaily to share how the sports drink brand is ushering in a new era by developing messages for the future of sports fuel and hydration.

You recently wrapped up a second consecutive year at SXSW. What is the impetus of your experiential marketing?

For events like SXSW, we like to give consumers an inside look at our innovation. Our “Fuel Lab” [a real facility in Barrington, Illinois] activation in 2016 showcased our GX platform, which focused on athlete customization and personalization. When we came back this year, we wanted to advance the narrative. So we partnered with Sports Illustrated and forward-thinking companies like virtual reality company STRIVR to look at what the future of the NFL Combine can look like through athlete evaluation. When consumers leave our experiential spaces, we hope that they take away that Gatorade is an innovative company, all while learning something new about themselves, and their bodies.

Kenny Mitchell, Gatorade’s senior director of consumer engagement.

How is Gatorade connecting with consumers through tech and innovation?

As a brand that was literally born in a laboratory at the University of Florida, innovation and technology is something that’s in our veins. We’re looking at how we can leverage technology to help inform our product and service team. The work that we do at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute is really focused on exercise, physiology and using the latest in scientific advancement to help drive performance. That’s one way we’re going to market in a meaningful way. The other is actually how we connect to consumers, and tell them our brand stories. And we do that through all of the traditional marketing channels to help inform consumers about our agenda.

What is the best go-to market strategy that you’ve experienced?

Our marketing strategy at its core is to connect with consumers, which are competitive athletes, and help ensure that we’re educating them so that they understand our product and brand. We also want to inspire and motivate with our storytelling. Whether you grew up in the Michael Jordan-Gatorade era or right now, we’re always looking at the best ways to drive that connection. We do that through creative and emotional relevance. Of course, we do that through whatever medium best makes sense for the specific idea. But it all boils down to connecting with athletes and helping fuel their performance through inspiration and education.

What are some new verticals and platforms you’re testing with your marketing?

We’ve done programs with virtual-and-augmented reality, Snapchat, AI, bots and machine learning. We’re doing a lot in the mobile space with AR, whether it be through existing platforms and mediums or unique things [like the Serena Williams Snapchat game] we build bespoke. We are always continually looking at new tools and capabilities to tell our brand story. Twenty years ago, it was TV, print, radio and out-of-home advertising—that’s all you had. We still leverage print and TV in a meaningful way. Right now, there are a variety of programs to get our message across. For us, it’s about finding the athletes, and they are everywhere. Music is a good example. If you’re working out, then you’re likely listening to music. So we can also market through that. We just have to make sure we’re doing it in a meaningful way.

Baseball star Bryce Harper is one of the many star faces of Gatorade.

You have a top-notch roster of athletes from all of the major sports to endorse the Gatorade brand. How are you marketing from a more micro level?

We are constantly looking at that and reevaluating. What I’d say is that in the sports space, the most material influencer is actually the folks that work most closely with the athletes. Influencers in our world are trainers, nutritionists, dietitians and strength and conditioning coaches. They’re the ones who recommend our products. Those folks are the hardcore influencers for us. We work very closely with them in the locker rooms to help make sure they are getting the best products, services and education from our brand. Then when it comes to storytelling and inspiration, that’s when we tab the likes of Bryce Harper, Dwyane Wade and Usain Bolt. What you won’t find in the sports world are a ton of aspirational influencers that you would find in humor, fashion or beauty and make-up. In the sports space, if you’re young, you’re going to love the athletes that you’re watching. You’re likely not going to look for an influencer who is good at baseball and is on YouTube. So, we have influencers. They’re just the different kind.

How are you reinventing the message behind the brand?

Our “Burn It to Earn It” campaign in September highlighted the fact that our product is for athletes. It actually was a bit of a bold statement to say “this product is only intended for people who are working hard.” It was a bold message to say “this isn’t for you” if you’re not sweating. After all, Gatorade is formulated to help fuel athletes who are working hard so they can perform at their absolute best. If you’re not one of those guys, this isn’t a product for you.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Arkane Studios Explains What ‘Prey’ Means

Part first-person action game, part psychological and survival horror, Prey puts players aboard the Talos I space station, which has been overrun by aggressive aliens. Not only are these aliens dangerous, but they possess a variety of abilities that range from mimicking inanimate objects to releasing psychic blasts. Players must make their way through the station, surviving however they can, while unraveling the mystery behind what’s going on. To help, they’ll be able to craft gadgets and weapons while acquiring some powers of their own using neural mods.

Raphael Colantonio, creative director at Arkane Studios
Raphael Colantonio, creative director at Arkane Studios

That’s a lot to take in, and even Raphael Colantonio, creative director for Prey at Arkane Studios, admitted, “From a distance, it’s a complicated game because there are so many aspects to it. It’s richer than just being a first-person shooter. The simplest way I would describe it is that it’s mix of an FPS and RPG, with a strong simulation layer underneath that allows you to replay in different ways. As for the plot, you play as Morgan Yu, and you are the subject of experiments where things have gone wrong. You find yourself on a space station infested by aliens and you have to escape.”

Talking with AListDaily from a demo event in New York City, Colantonio explained how Prey compared to games such as BioShock or the more recently released Resident Evil 7. He said, “I think it’s more like BioShock than Resident Evil. We have some horror elements, but that’s not what the game is trying to do. It’s not trying to be a survival horror game—it’s more like a plain survival game where you have to escape this place. We’re not trying to creep you out with gore and horrific moments. Although there are horrific moments, the goal is to put you in a simulation where you get to explore this place and find the best way to survive.”

Although Prey is a wonderfully short and fitting title, it comes with quite a bit of baggage. An unrelated game with a very long development history (marked with multiple delays, cancellations and restarts) released in 2006, published by 2K Games. Years afterward, the license transferred to ZeniMax Media, and its subsidiary, Bethesda Softworks announced the development of a sequel in 2011, which was subsequently canceled. So, it came to a surprise to many longtime gamers when the new Prey was announced at E3 last year, and there was much speculation as to what it was about. We asked Colantonio if he thought the title created expectations for the game when it was first revealed.

“It’s hard for me to answer that precisely,” said Colantonio. “I think there has been a lot of confusion about Prey. In 1995, 3D Realms announced the development of Prey and this game never shipped. Then the Prey from Human Head [published by 2K Games] came out. Then they (Human Head Studios and Bethesda Softworks) announced another game (Prey 2), which had nothing to do with the first one and that didn’t happen. So, it’s been ten years since the last time a game called Prey released.”

Colantonio then explained what the title meant to Arkane Studios. “For us, it’s more like a theme that fit well with our game. I think that happens a lot in the movie industry, where you have ten movies with the same name but people don’t get so hung up on it. But I definitely think it will be a surprising game for a lot of people. I just hope that they’ll look at it with an open mind and won’t try to make connections with some other game that never shipped. It’s a new game and it’s its own thing.”

The problem that most horror games face is that players can only be afraid for so long. So what will be keeping players engaged with Prey throughout the entire experience? “I agree with that,” said Colantonio. “That’s why we usually say that we’re not a horror game, because horror games can be summarized with a monster in the closet analogy. For us, it’s more about the mystery behind the story and having players wanting to find answers. When a player finally finds the answer to a question, we start with another mystery, so they always want to know more. The horror is more of an aside than the goal, and I think that’s what keeps people engaged.”

As to whether Arkane Studios plans to extend the experience with DLC, Colantonio said, “Yes, absolutely. We don’t have any plans to announce yet, but we are working on a variety of things—including updates—to keep the game going.”

Colantonio then discussed maintaining a sense of mystery with the game when livestreaming is so popular and could potentially spoil the story. “That’s the world we live in,” said Colantonio. “I think some players will want to know as much as they can before they touch the game and some others will protect themselves from any kind of spoilers. As long as both are happy, it’s cool with us. The game tailors itself to how you want to play and the experience you want to have. So, even if you’ve seen someone else play, your experience will still matter and be different.”

Prey’s multiple endings and open-ended gameplay, with its variety of powers and different paths to discover, also engages players by encouraging replays. “It’s impossible to see all the alien powers in one playthrough,” said Colantonio. “So, you would have to play again and get different powers. Also, at some point, the story branches and you have choose between doing one thing or another thing. They’re mutually exclusive, so you can’t do both. So, replaying is a way to see what happens if you make a different choice. There are also a few other mutually exclusive quests that have nothing to do with the ending.”

A demo for Prey, which covers the opening hour, releases on April 27, giving players a taste of what is to come when the game releases on May 5. Colantonio sums up why gamers should be interested in surviving the halls of Talos I.

“They (players) should pick up Prey because they are going to go through a very engaging experience that will be their own,” explained Colantonio. “They can talk to their friends about it, but no two players will have exactly the same experience. Players will get to make up their own strategies, and the game will respond to what they do like in a simulation. That’s a very powerful, immersive media for people.”

SteelSeries Discusses The Genius Of Esports Partnerships

SteelSeries has launched a new line of PC gaming accessories branded with esports team Evil Geniuses, including the Arctis headset with a custom-designed headband, and the Evil Geniuses limited editions of the M500 Keyboard with Cherry MX Red keys, a custom-tuned Rival 300 and a QcK+ mousepad.

Jacob Bolvig, director of activations and esports at SteelSeries, talks to AListDaily about the genius of marketing to esports fans through global team branding in this exclusive interview.

Why did you decide to partner with Evil Geniuses on this new line of products?

Evil Geniuses is a force of an esports organization and has been a partner of ours for a very long time. We collaborate with all of their teams from Dota 2 to Halo on marketing initiatives but also on product feedback. We wanted to bring fans a full suite of the peripherals that these professional players are not only using, but winning with.

In many esports partnerships, it’s simply a company handing a team their products. Why did you decide to go this other route?

Many esport sponsorships are purely that: financial and product support to teams without those players really impacting the products that are coming to market or (even more embarrassing) those players not wanting to or able to use those products. With the massive attention esports has garnered along with brands wanting to jump on board, we are approaching our work with teams differently. While financial and product support are the obvious parts in a sponsorship, we call them partnerships because we work closely with the team managers, coaches and players in products, marketing and—in this case—a limited edition professional line that the players are actually using.

How did they help with the R&D and fine-tuning of these three peripherals?

From the beginning of this partnership with Evil Geniuses, we always sent early sample units to players for testing, tweaking and feedback. We take their input into development to make sure they can rely on them and use them during intensive training. Apex M500, Rival 300, and Qck+ are our esport products that have been tested and approved by Evil Geniuses.

What does adding the Evil Geniuses brand to SteelSeries products add to the brand you’ve already established over the years?

We believe it just enhances our position as an endemic brand inside this massive esports world. We want to see this interest and excitement continue. We’ve been fans and players long before SteelSeries began, so to be able to find partners that can help elevate the success of competitive gaming even further is a key component to our brands strategy.

How will Evil Geniuses help market this new line of products?

The team has an amazing social media following—we’re expecting that’ll be a huge component. They have also released this promotional video. On top of that, the best advertising the team can do for us is to rep the gear at tournaments worldwide.

How will SteelSeries be marketing these products through esports events and to esports fans?

We’ll play up the drums on social media through our own global channels to make sure all EG fans know that they can get the best gear out there while sporting their favorite team colors. Besides that, we know and rely on the impact of our brand ambassadors in Evil Geniuses.

The PC gaming peripherals market is extremely competitive. What do you feel differentiates the SteelSeries brand from others out there?

We believe that it’s the product. From product molds to final product on shelf, we believe that what we’re designing and building is really the best possible and best among the competition. We are the brand that drives the peripherals industry forward. We don’t jump on bandwagons or add product features to outdo another brand. We have been labeled an underdog because we compete with brands that have larger budgets, but we are the force. We make choices on hardware and features with the players always on our mind—and while that is a challenge as a business, it’s what has continued to help drive SteelSeries forward with product lines like Arctis that shake the industry with a fresh perspective on gaming audio.

We also have a close bond with the community through sponsorships, which keeps us completely in tune with what different gamers are demanding. An example that expands even beyond working alongside esport teams is pioneering how brands partner with streamers and content creators. We call it our SteelSeries Influencer Program, and while it’s a group of 100+ gamers who stream, create and evangelize gaming and its culture, they are very much an extension of our brand. They test products, they keep us deeply connected to different communities and are a piece of our business that we approach differently and better than other brands.

What have you seen in terms of what works with messaging to the esports fan base? 

The esport fan base is probably some of the most critical tech enthusiasts you will find. They can smell when something is pure marketing spin versus having true value behind the message. We learned this very early in our 16-year journey. We also believe what works is what all consumer brands strive to achieve, offering products that have value, using best-in-class materials and answering problems that consumers may not even have known they had. We bring that to every product we build with these players and for this audience. The OG fan base of esports expects to experience the best when the word esport is attached to it and we don’t take that lightly. In our mind, esport and tournament-grade means high quality, consistency and comfort, and players should expect that whether they are competing online or like Evil Geniuses at the Kiev Majors or The International.

The Show Must Go On: TV Marketing Through Tie-In Games

What do TV audiences do when the show is over? Brands are keeping fans engaged through tie-in video games.

Fans of The Walking Dead who also play the official mobile game, No Man’s Land, can unlock weekly content that directly ties into the seventh season. In a real-time partnership between developer Next Games and AMC, fans will be able to unlock exclusive weekly content in the game that features new playable characters as they appear on the show bonus themes, special cuts and behind-the-scenes videos.

For The Walking Dead: Road to Survival tie-in mobile game, Scopely put influencers in the game to amplify promotion. Partnering with superfans PockySweets from Japan and MatPat (The Film Theorists) from the US, Scopely and Skybound gained the benefit of tens of millions of YouTube fans worldwide in addition to their own.

“A successful branded game needs to innovate in design and features to reach beyond the core and attract new fans,” Jamie Berger, VP of Marketing at Scopely told AListDaily. “If you are a fan of the comics and download Road to Survival because it’s a Walking Dead game that’s great. If you then join an in-game faction and recruit a friend of yours who may only be a casual fan of the IP then you are able to create sustainable growth within the existing audience.”

Netflix has fans on the run with an 8-bit arcade in which players can assume the role of one of four characters from popular Netflix shows like Stranger ThingsOrange Is The New BlackMarco Polo or Narcos. The game, playable online, challenges users to navigate their respective character through environments related to theirs, jumping to avoid enemies and collecting items like frozen waffles (Stranger Things) or roosters (Orange Is The New Black).

recent study by Deep Focus found that 84 percent of Gen Z respondents browse an internet-connected device while watching TV. In fact, those ages 18-to-24 spend nearly 19.5 hours on apps or the internet through a smartphone each week.

Game of Thrones: A Telltale Series took place between seasons three and five, and Prison Break: Conspiracy was a prequel to the award-winning show.

Tie-in games open new marketing avenues and enhance the viewing experience, bridging gaps between seasons while attracting new fans, especially when friends invite them to play.

Stream On: How Twitch Is Branching Out Beyond Gaming

Twitch may be known for gaming, but it has evolved into a massive community that extends into a vast array of other interests. The Amazon-owned streaming platform has just kicked off Science Week with a 13-episode marathon of the original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, hosted by Carl Sagan. In addition to the classic TV program, Twitch is conducting a series of interviews with personalities from the science community to celebrate Science Week, Earth Day and March for Science. March for Science rallied tens of thousands of scientists and concerned citizens across an estimated 600 simultaneous locations on April 22.

Among those taking part in the event are Ann Druyan (Cosmos: A Personal Voyage and Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey), Ariane Cornell (Blue Origin), Matthew Buffington (NASA spokesperson), Scott Manley (astronomer and sci-fi gamer), Pamela Gay (CosmoQuest), Kishore Hari (Satellite City Coordinator, March for Science), Phil Plait (Bad Astronomy blog), Fraser Cain (Universe Today) and more to be announced.

“Carl [Sagan] wanted to tear down the walls that exclude most of us from the scientific experience, so that we could take the awesome revelations of science to heart,” said Ann Druyan, co-creator of Cosmos in a statement. “The power of the original Cosmos series, with its enduring appeal to every generation since, is evidence of how much we hunger to feel our connection to the universe. Truly excited to share Cosmos now with the vast Twitch community.”

The company has livestreamed everything in recent years from poker, to Julia Childs, to Bob Ross and the Pokémon animated series. Twitch’s Power Rangers marathon resulted in 12.9 million channel views alone. Twitch also launched its own music library, and has helped companies like Netflix promote Stranger Things and HBO market Game of Thrones directly to its active community. So what’s next for the streaming giant?

“While we do have a fairly regular pipeline of programmatic TV on our platform—such as the recent marathons of Power Rangers, Amazon Pilots, and now Cosmos—it’s too soon to say where it might evolve from here,” Twitch PR director, Chase told AListDaily. “In terms of original content, our Twitch Studios team is interested in telling stories about our community, which includes their recent mini-documentary Ironsights, but they are still testing the waters.”

Indeed, Twitch has evolved beyond gaming, but that passion remains at the heart of everything the company does.

“Twitch is the celebration of our love for games,” Kevin Lin, co-founder and COO of Twitch told AListDaily. “But games only define one piece of who we are. Over time, a lot of streamers were also artists and musicians, and IRL became a thing because creators wanted to be able to talk about life philosophies and shoot the breeze. As you see people get together at TwitchCon and people meeting together for the first time or viewers and broadcaster relationships, Twitch is about sharing commonalities.”

Twitch earns 37 percent of Gaming Video Content (GVC) revenue despite only having 16 percent of the viewers, according to SuperData. In addition, 51 percent of Twitch revenue comes from direct spending, versus 31 percent for the industry overall. Amazon recently launched the ability to purchase digital PC games directly from Twitch streams, making the platform even more attractive for developers, streamers and marketers alike.