Dell Sees Bright Future For Drone Racing

At the Dell EMC World event in Las Vegas this week, the technology company had an entire area inside The Sands Convention Center dedicated to video games, virtual reality and drone racing. Attendees were able to play Oculus Rift titles like Epic Games’ Robo Recall, HTC Vive games in front of a giant green screen so spectators could see players in the VR experience and PC and VR games connected to an Alienware gaming truck. There was also an entire dome dedicated to DR1 Racing, complete with professional drone pilots on hand to train attendees how to steer the tiny micro series drones through a Gotham City-inspired course filled with skyscrapers.

Joshua Bernstein, vice president of technology for Dell EMC, is the mastermind behind the emerging technology section of the massive Dell EMC World event, which all ties into the CODE program at the giant technology company.

Joshua Bernstein, vice president of technology for Dell EMC
Joshua Bernstein, vice president of technology for Dell EMC

“CODE is a group of passionate engineers that are dedicated to making Dell relevant in the open source community,” Bernstein explained. “We contribute to open source projects that we enjoy and that we find are popular, we support our own projects and we generally create awareness about open source with our customers inside of Dell and around the community.”

In addition to coding, the former Apple engineer, who helped create Siri, spends a lot of time flying drones. He owns 15 quads and understands the thrill of racing a drone of any size through a professional course. So, bringing DR1 Racing into Dell EMC World was a no-brainer.

“I’m a big drone racer myself,” Bernstein said. “What makes drones interesting as a sport and as a hobby is that you can’t just be athletic. I’m not very athletic, but you have to have two key talents. You have to be a good pilot and you have to practice. But the whole sport rose out of the availability of open source software, so you have to be able to consume open source software and be a part of the community in order to be an effective drone racer. You have to utilize social media. You have to read forums. You have to understand open source software. That’s the relevance between CODE and drone racing.”

DR1 Racing is the largest drone racing company in the world today, with a global television distribution network and three tiers of racing. The Micro Series drone racing is currently the most popular, as well as the easiest entry point for new pilots. The Tiny Whoop drones, which fit in the palm of your hand, are both lightweight and versatile, and they cost a fraction of the larger quadcopter drones that are used in the Champions Series.

“I love these Tiny Whoops,” Bernstein said. “I spend more time racing these around the office when I’m there. I’m traveling more than I am flying these days, so being able to take the Tiny Whoop with me on the airplane all over the globe and zip it around airports and hotel rooms is just great.”

Bernstein sees DR1 Racing has the potential to do for drones what Formula 1 did for the auto industry.

“Number one, it’s about brand recognition,” Bernstein explained. “But really, it’s about where all the research and development come into play that support a broader industry. Goldman Sachs said that drones were going to become a $4 billion industry four years from now. If you think about the more commercial aspects of drones in roof surveying, crop surveying, first responders, and all these business-oriented ideas, all of that technology comes out of drone racing and comes out of this community. That’s why it’s going to be a big deal.”

DR1 Racing was the first league to get drone racing on TV through a branded race with Mountain Dew and Dorito’s on Science Channel. The company has also used Twitch to connect with the younger fan base. But now DR1 Racing has built a global distribution network to bring the sport to the masses with partners like Europsport across multiple levels of professional competition.

“The spectator potential is tremendous,” Bernstein said. “Just like how people love NASCAR, love Formula 1 and love that technology, the ability of DR1 to present it in a way that’s consumable to the average viewer is really powerful. It’s one thing to go to a park and watch these drones zip around at 80 miles an hour outside, but to see these drones on movie sets and environments that you identify with and be able to witness it and be able to follow the racing is incredibly powerful. It has to be consumable, and I think DR1 has done a great job of that.”

The Gotham City-inspired set inside the Dell EMC World convention tied into the Dark IT Knight theme of this year’s event. Bernstein said the immediate feedback from the thousands of attendees this annual event attracts from around the globe was overwhelmingly positive.

“Customers I’ve spoken with have told me what a memorable experience this is and how different and unique it is,” Bernstein said. “To be able to provide it here in a consumable way for people to appreciate and be a part of makes it even more emotional when they get to watch it on TV and appreciate it. And unlike Formula 1, where not many of us are going to get to zip around a track in a Formula 1 car and have that experience, drone racing is unique in that anybody can experience it very easily. That’s what makes it powerful as a sport in the future.”

Funcom Delves Into ‘The Secret World’ Relaunch And Free-To-Play Model

The Secret World, Funcom’s supernatural-themed MMORPG, takes players to a realm where anything is possible. They must combat menacing Lovecraft-inspired creatures in an effort to defeat, repel or exploit them. Released in 2012, the game currently uses a “buy-to-play” model, where players make a one-time purchase and can then play without additional costs, but paying subscribers enjoy extra benefits. But that and more will change on June 26, when the game relaunches as The Secret World Legends.

AListDaily spoke with Scott Junior, executive producer at Funcom, to delve deeper into what The Secret World Legends has to offer, why Funcom decided to rebrand and relaunch the game, and what the company hopes to achieve with these changes.

Scott Junior, executive producer at Funcom
Scott Junior, executive producer at Funcom

The beta is currently underway, and Junior discussed the goals for the relaunch. “The main goal is to allow new players to experience the acclaimed storytelling and unique quest design of The Secret World in full,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity for us to make some major changes to the gameplay and progression in line with how modern action RPGs have evolved to make the game feel more accessible and intuitive for both newcomers and long-time fans.”

So, apart from the name, how does Legends differ from the original Secret World? “The most immediate difference is that the game is free-to-play for everyone,” said Junior. “There are no pay-gates on well over 100 hours of story-driven content, and all future story content will also be free. In addition, we have updated the control scheme to facilitate more action-oriented combat, revamped the game’s character progression design, and improved the pacing and flow of missions to make the overall adventure more enjoyable to dive into.”

Junior then went into detail about how the relaunch hopes to attract new players to the five-year-old game. “Secret World Legends offers a fresh start for every player, new and old alike,” he said. “We’ve built a fantastic story-driven universe that is a blast to explore, and everything we’re doing now with this dedicated relaunch is about getting out of the player’s way and letting them experience that journey in full. Making the game free-to-play is a critical part of that vision, but so too have been the updates to gameplay, character development and quest progression, making systems that are more natural and satisfying to interact with.”

We asked Junior how existing fans are reacting to the gameplay changes and having the game is going free-to-play. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the interest in the relaunch,” Junior explained. “We had over 40,000 people register for the beta in the first 24 hours, and we’re well over 80,000 already. I think it’s, first and foremost, a testament to the strength of the IP—it’s clear The Secret World and Secret World Legends is still offering something to players that’s hard to find anywhere else, and we’re committed to making that experience more accessible for everyone.

I also think it’s helped that the community has been so vocal over the years about their enthusiasm for this universe, making sure The Secret World stays alive in public memory. We know not every fan is immediately on board with the coming changes, and we want to make it clear that their characters and investments will continue to live on their existing servers. Secret World Legends represents a new path forward for the franchise, and we know that announcing the relaunch was just the first step. We still have a lot of work ahead of us to communicate to new and veteran players what to expect in the future.”

It is the perhaps the longstanding strength of the IP that most stands out about The Secret World, no matter what the title is. Junior revealed the secret behind engaging with players for half a decade and more.

The Secret World offered a very unique setting and story that attracted a fantastic community,” said Junior. “We’ve taken this moment to give the series an honest look at where it stands in today’s gaming landscape and what it still has to offer to fans of shared worlds and action RPGs. We hope that with the improvements we are making in Secret World Legends and the free-to-play engagement model, this world will continue to grow for years to come.”

#NuggsForCarter Means Over $7 Million Earned Media Value For Wendy’s

Wendy’s has earned a reputation for being sassy on social media, but one witty response in April brought far more fame than ever expected. It all started when a 16-year-old named Carter Wilkerson asked the restaurant how many retweets it would take to earn him a year’s supply of free chicken nuggets. When Wendy’s gave him a seemingly impossible number (18 million), the hungry nugget-lover wasn’t deterred—and #NuggsForCarter was born.

The request soon went viral, catching the attention and support from brands like Amazon and Microsoft, as well as celebrities like Aaron Paul and NASCAR’s Leavine Family Racing. It became apparent, as the retweets kept piling in, that Carter might very well beat Ellen DeGeneres’ record for the most re-tweets ever—previously earned for her selfie at the 2014 Academy Awards. In defense of her title, DeGeneres even had Bradley Cooper come on her show for a comedic appeal to fans for additional retweets.

In the end, Carter didn’t break 18 million retweets, but he did end up breaking all Twitter records. And yes, he got his nuggs.

So, just how much did Wendy’s benefit from this viral nugget quest on Twitter? A whole lot of earned media.

“Earned media” is the value of engagements a brand receives across channels as a result of their marketing efforts. To help quantify what the value of those engagements are worth, the Ayzenberg Group established the Ayzenberg Earned Media Value Index (AEMVI) and assigned a quantifiable dollar amount for marketing gains a brand receives from a campaign or individual engagement that includes social media networks and similar digital properties. (Editor’s note: AListDaily is the media arm of the Ayzenberg Group.)

Based on the current EMV for Twitter engagements, analysts calculate that . . .

Wendy’s earned:

  • $6,720,000 in EMV: 3.5 million retweets on Carter’s Original tweet
  • $449,937.25 in EMV: 257,107 tweets about #NuggsForCarter

Had Carter met his goal of 18 million retweets, that would equal $34,560,000 in earned media value for Wendy’s.

Wendy’s cost:

  • $1,960.05: A $1.79 six-piece pack of nuggets three times a day, if Carter eats them for every meal, every day.
  • $100,000: Donation to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA)

Way to go, Carter! Enjoy your nuggs, you’ve definitely earned them.

‘Star Stable Online’ Goes Riding Free With Spirit

Star Stable Online is a fast-growing multiplayer game that caters to an often overlooked demographic: girls. The average age of its core audience is about nine- to fourteen-years-old, but players include older teens. Many parents encourage their kids to play because they learn to read through the game. They may also find the games freemium model appealing, where the first five levels are free and then players have the option to purchase either a monthly or one-time “lifetime” subscription. Regardless of the reason, the game’s user base is expanding by 400,000 new users each month, despite how it’s a PC-only game.

Taina Malén, global chief marketing officer at Star Stable Entertainment, describes Star Stable simply as “the world’s most fun game for girls,” and fans are getting a special visitor thanks to a partnership with DreamWorks Animation. Spirit, the mustang from the 2002 Oscar-nominated film, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, will be making his way into the game as a horse players can meet and befriend. This partnership coincides with the launch of the animated show, Spirit Riding Free, on Netflix.

Malén sat down with AListDaily to talk about bringing Spirit into Star Stable and how girls just want to have fun.

Taina Malén, chief marketing officer, Star Stable Entertainment
Taina Malén, chief marketing officer, Star Stable Entertainment

What is Star Stable Online about?

It’s an MMORPG game built on a story about girls, with four heroic Soul Riders on the island of Jorvik. It’s an adventure game where you ride on a horse to complete quests and challenges for gear while helping your friends survive—using the powers of the island to keep the bad people who want to come in and drill for oil out.

What led to the development of an online game that appeals mainly to girls?

Marcus Thorell, the game creator and head of the studio, came together with a couple of other programmers. They had produced CD ROM games way back with some other developers built on the same IP. One day, they were surfing the internet and found out that there was still a lot of movement around this IP. There were groups of people building communities, and they started to think about bringing it into an online game.

So, they went to one of the big conferences in San Francisco or LA and participated in a presentation where someone said, “You cannot make games for girls. You cannot make games that are not on mobile.” That’s when they decided that that was exactly what they were going to do.

Are girls an overlooked market when it comes to video games?

Historically, yes. I helped found a company in esports before Star Stable, and what was surprising to me was that there were a lot of girls in gaming and esports, but you didn’t really see them. I feel that, generally, there have been a lot of games for the male audience and we see that males have been visualized in the industry. The industry leans heavily toward male-oriented games with boy characters. But I think that’s changing with mobile games. These days, it’s a natural thing for girls to play games.

What is the key to reaching the girl gamer demographic as Star Stable grows in the US?

Our game has been built by our community, which was there before we were. We helped them to help us build our game. The US is one of our biggest markets, and it has one of our biggest communities. I would also say that it’s one of our most active communities. The game and community drive so much interest and traffic, and the better the game is, the more we grow, no matter what market we talk about.

The US is a busier market, perhaps more so than some of the European countries. There are a lot of entertainment, lots of TV channels, and a lot of other things. Some European countries don’t have half that entertainment.

How does a PC MMORPG built for girls stand out in that kind of crowded market?

I think we stand out using our core business, which is producing a really good MMORPG for this target audience. We’ve stuck to our core and what we know how to do. Obviously, time will be competition for all of us in this market, and any market that has to do with entertainment. We believe that as long as we do what we passionately think is the most fun for this this audience, we will have them. We’ve also produced apps—there’s a Star Stable companion app right now, along with a foal app, where you can raise your own horse that can be moved into the game.

How does the audience discover Star Stable?

We have a lot of organic growth. It’s all about word-of-mouth—things you see on YouTube—especially with a tween audience. We have about 1.2 million pieces of content on YouTube produced by our fans. That sort of thing is very shareable, and the do so between each other. That’s typically how our audience grows. They talk to each other and invite each other to play.

We’ve also done some general advertising online, and we’ve done some TV campaigns. We’ve worked a lot with Nickelodeon throughout both the US and Europe along with Disney.

Spirit ImageHow did the partnership with DreamWorks come together?

We were approached by DreamWorks through our licensing department. They were looking for opportunities in the gaming environment and we looked like the perfect partner to collaborate with. We looked at different ways of collaborating, and discussions eventually grew to including Spirit in our game. We were reluctant to have other IPs in our game. Although we’ve done a few equestrian campaigns with different celebrities who have appeared as in-game characters, this is the furthest we’ve gone in collaborating with another IP.

How is Spirit presented in the game?

Spirit appears in different places, so players see him as a teaser at first. Our players are fans, so they know what’s happening every second. If a player spots Spirit, that will be the news of the day on social media. Then, slowly but surely, we’ll move him into the game so that you can make friends with him if you complete certain quests. You’ll never be able to buy him, but you can get him a gift so that he becomes your friend and part of your stable. He differs from all the other horses because he is a free horse. You won’t be able ride on him with a saddle, but you’ll have a blanket. It will be very clear what Spirit is about so that we keep true to the nature of that IP and story.

Will there be cross-promotion between the game and the Netflix show?

We’re not doing a promotion with Netflix, but we will be promoting the show. For example, we’ll be promoting the Spirit horse on our YouTube channel, and in doing so, mention the Netflix series.

Why use a freemium model for Star Stable?

The freemium model is just one of those things that has been there since day one. We launched that way, it worked very well, and we never had reason to reevaluate it. We’re trying out different models in different countries, but we don’t see a reason to change something that works well. When we first decided on this business model, we wanted it to be something that people could feel secure about. You’re not playing for free while getting all different offers to buy this and that. You have to buy things to survive in the game, but you get a weekly allowance and you know what you get when you pay the fee.

What is the strategy for engaging with an audience that may outgrow the game one day?

First of all, our lifetime players are very dedicated. About 80 percent of our users have been playing for more than three years. I wanted to mention that because it’s very unique. These players need to have logged into the game within the past two months to count.

We keep players engaged with the game with weekly updates, which gives them new content, quests and things to do. It’s also very important for us to be very engaged on social media, community channels and customer service. We want our players engaged with us, our content, our personalities, our YouTube videos and so on. It’s like a boy band, in a way. We want to keep that dialogue going, and a lot of passion goes into the work.

Most of all, you have to continue producing a fantastic product for a unique and loving audience. Don’t lose track and keep up the passion. Our culture is very important, as a startup growing into a mid-size company, and we try to keep that spirit up and focus on producing the best game that we can while keeping up the community engagement. Listen to the community and let them be them. You also need to be modern and be aware of how the community behaves.

Nielsen: Mobile Gamers Leveling Off; PS4 Purchase Intention Grows

Nielsen Games has released its annual report on the state of the US video game industry, exploring how Americans consume and feel about gaming in general.

Games 360 2017 states that 64 percent of the US population for people ages 13-and-over are gamers—a slight increase over last year’s count of 63 percent.

Platform Preferences

Despite all the gaming platforms available these days, Nielsen found that consumers favor one type over all others. The percentage of those who play on only one device type (console, mobile/tablet or computer) has risen year-over-year to 46 percent. Of the three device types, 47 percent prefer to play on consoles, compared to computers and mobile/tablets at 27 and 26 percent, respectively.

After several years of sustained growth, playing on mobile and tablet appears to have leveled off, Nielsen observed. Sixty-two percent of console players now play games on mobile or tablet, compared to 66 percent a year ago.

Whether Americans play games or not, a majority of those surveyed for Nielsen Games’ report were aware of the PlayStation 4. From the general population ages 13-and-up, 67 percent said they were aware of the PS4, compared to 77 percent of gamers and 52 percent of non-gamers. Xbox One and Xbox One S were not far behind in brand awareness, with 61 percent (general population), 72 percent (gamers) and 41 percent (non-gamers).

This trend carried over to purchase intention, where more respondents intended to buy a PlayStation 4 (or another one, if already owned) than any other console listed.

Physical Or Digital?

While digital purchases have become far more commonplace in recent years, the choice to buy a physical copy of a game or digital one depends greatly on which platform that gamer prefers. For example, Nielsen found that console gamers prefer physical copies to add to their collections (69 percent compared to 31 percent preferring digital). On the other hand, 75 percent of PC gamers prefer digital downloads compared to 25 percent who prefer physical copies.

The report notes an interesting correlation between these choices—those who prefer digital copies spend more time each week gaming. PC gamers who prefer digital copies of a game spend, on average, 8.1 hours of leisure time per week playing, and like-minded console players spend around 7.1 hours a week compared to 5.5 hours per week (PC gamers who prefer physical copies) and 6.1 hours were week (console gamers who prefer physical copies).

Esports Enthusiasts

Ninety-four percent of esports fans are also gamers, Nielsen observed, noting that 77 percent are male and 23 percent are female. Those who have become a fan of esports within the last year listed “friends and family” as the top reason for the sudden interest, followed by “social media.” For those who have been esports fans four years or longer, “family and friends” is also a big reason, second only to “interest in a specific game that led to esports.”

As esports becomes more mainstream, 17 percent of respondents say they use ESPN to watch game-related video, compared to 12 percent in 2016.

Analysis: Let’s Break Down The Top Twitter Trends For April

Editor’s note: Robin Boytos is the director of analytics for Ayzenberg Insights. AListDaily is the editorial and publishing arm of the Ayzenberg Group, the parent company of Ayzenberg Insights.

At Ayzenberg Insights, we’re often tasked with understanding the conversations happening on social media. Twitter continues to be a platform where those conversations (within the parameters of 140 characters) tend to spread like wildfire.

We decided to take a look at trending Twitter hashtags and topics, in the US and globally, as they say a lot about the passions of the moment. We’re looking at the platform each month to see what we might glean from conversations, digging into post volume and length of trending.

What surfaces has some implication for brands about maximizing on the currents of conversations happening at any one time. Here’s our take on the trends for this month—stay tuned to see how these trends evolve.

Top 25 US Twitter Trends For April 2017

Unsurprisingly, days of the week were top trending topics. Because they reoccur weekly, they racked up the most hours trending and most tweeted topics for April.

Outside of days of the week—in the US, we’re highly influenced by television shows. Whenever there are big televised events, finales, or reunions of our beloved shows, hashtags go viral. Titles that fell into this category: FeudFX, Scandal, SDLive, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and GirlsHBO.

Other TV shows trended in the US without any major event sparking their virality: Dancing with the Stars, Real Housewives of Atlanta and Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. These shows were able to capture consumer mindshare by leveraging celebrities involved in each of the shows and their real-life drama. We’re passionate about our characters and drama in the US, thus causing debates to get heated online and hashtags to go viral.

US Hashtag Spotlight

The hashtag of most interest to marketers in the US this month was #NationalSiblingsDay. Many brands were able to hop on this trend and experience exponential lift to their engagement metrics. Silly, heartwarming and encouraging, this trend allowed brands like Xbox to receive nearly 1,500 retweets by tying the trend to gamer culture, and Vampire Diaries to capture a relevant moment in their show driving more than 3,000 retweets. Even smaller organizations like the Special Olympics tweeted a heartfelt message that received over 200 retweets, which is well over the channel’s usual engagement.


Top 25 Global Twitter Trends For April 2017

Days of the week also trend on Twitter worldwide in different languages. Futbol is also a consistent favorite outside the US, trending globally on multiple occasions. Cruz Azul, Arsenal, #اوامر_ملكيه, Isco, # صباحات_الهلال, and Felipe Melo fall into this category.

Global Hashtag Spotlight

Hashtag spotlights for global marketers this month include #NationalPetDay, #DiaInternacionalDelBeso, and #bucciovertimechallenge.

#NationalPetDay had an overwhelming amount of self-expression and love, with many accounts posting photos of themselves alongside their furry companions. Several brands jumped on this trend on social media to exponential success. This topic tended to be popular for gaming brands such as Fallout, SmiteWorld of Warcraft and Watch Dogs 2, who used the hashtag to showcase relevant in-game content or fun pieces to tie to gamer culture.

Brands in other verticals such as Blue Cross Blue Shield Association were able to use this hashtag as an opportunity to share health tips and facts related to animals. Even @Twitter capitalized on their own trend with a piece of content themselves that received a significant lift in engagement.

#DiaInternacionalDelBeso, or International Kissing Day, trended in April and all of Latin America took to Twitter to make tongue-in-cheek jokes, political commentary and share pictures of kisses between loved ones. CloseUp Argentina, a toothpaste company, found a clever way to get in on the action and received a nice lift over their usual engagement.

Last but not least, an interesting case study for unexpected viral trends—ESPN anchor John Buccigross capitalized on a longstanding hockey tradition of picking the winning goal-scorer if a playoff game goes to overtime. His Twitter overtime challenge offering simple prizes went viral and made it into our top 25 trending worldwide hashtag lists.


Interested in more? Stay tuned for next month’s top trending hashtags list and subscribe to For more on Ayzenberg Insights, visit

Awesomeness Appoints NFL’s Content Chief As CEO

Veteran television programmer Jordan Levin has been appointed as CEO for the teen-focused media company Awesomeness. Levin most recently was the NFL’s chief content officer.

Steven Fowler has moved on to Blizzard Entertainment as their new vice president of global production for Hearthstone. Fowler formerly worked as the head of marketing for Amazon Game Studios.

Meredith Verdone has been promoted to chief marketing officer of Bank of America. Verdone recently worked as head of enterprise marketing for the corporation.

Bob O’Brien has been promoted to senior marketing manager of Kawasaki Motors.

Cable network Fox News has hired NBC Universal veteran Marianne Gambelli as their new president of advertising sales.

Streaming audio company TuneIn announced the appointment of former CBS executive and cross-platform media veteran Michael Hermalyn to head of partnerships. Hermalyn will drive global brand partnerships and agency relations.

Joanna Massey has been appointed as head of communications, a newly created position, for Conde Nast Entertainment. Massey most recently worked as the senior vice president of corporate communications at Lionsgate.

Joe Kipp, executive chairman of Time Inc., is expected to resign from his role with the company.

Jennifer Dorian has been promoted to executive vice president of Turner Portfolio 360 Brand Strategy.

Netflix has announced the creation of 400 jobs at its new multilingual European customer service hub in Amsterdam to support customers across 11 European countries.

Former AMC Networks veteran Joel Stillerman has been named chief content officer for Hulu to oversee the company’s overall content business and strategy.

Whole Food Markets announced a big shake-up of its board and named a new chief financial officer in Keith Manbeck.

(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, May 12. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at

Job Vacancies 

Director, Digital & Marketing Walgreens Chicago, IL
Senior Director, Small Business Marketing Indeed Austin, TX
Marketing Director Tagkast Chicago, IL
Director of Content Marketing Fusion 360 Salt Lake City, UT
Vice President, Marketing WOOPS! New York, NY
Vice President, Strategy & Brand Management Warner Bros. Burbank, CA
CMO, Mixed Reality GE Waukesha, WI
Vice President, Marketing Esurance San Francisco, CA

Make sure to check back for updates on our Jobs Page.

These Are The Most Popular Esports Around The World

The widespread reach of esports is undeniable, but just how big is it? Newzoo decided to find out—focusing on popular PC titles like League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and Dota 2. The analyst firm discovered that when marketing through esports, not all fans are the same . . . and neither are the players.

Picking Favorites

On a global scale, 191 million consumers will watch esports frequently in 2017, Newzoo reported, with another 194 million tuning in occasionally. Gamers in general boost the numbers to 2.2 billion worldwide across all platforms. Just as a sports fan might prefer football to golf or his/her hometown team to another, esports fans tend to gravitate toward specific games—especially if they play that game, too.

League of Legends has the largest group of exclusive players at 32 percent, compared to CS: GO and Dota 2 at 24 and 13 percent, respectively. Interestingly, these figures are closely matched by exclusive viewers—37 percent (League of Legends), 25 percent (CS: GO) and eight percent (Dota 2). Eight percent of respondents stated they had played or viewed esports content from all three games within the last previous three months.

Across the franchises, League of Legends and CS:GO show the most overlap in viewers. Newzoo attributes the popularity of League of Legends to being a MOBA that is easier to learn and understand than Dota 2.

Armchair Gamers Are Loyal Gamers

Alongside its findings, Newzoo noted that while many consumers no longer have the time or desire to play these popular games themselves, esports creates a type of “lean-back” consumption that keeps fans coming back for more.

“Esports creates a sticky layer around franchises that keeps fans engaged after they stop playing temporarily or for good with the goal of re-engaging fans with the game,” Newzoo said. “Even if there is no re-engagement, the size of this group of consumers justifies the implementation of advertising-driven business models by publishers and organizers.”

Watch Out For Overwatch

Newzoo’s analysis focuses mainly on PC but also includes a comparison with multi-platform games like Overwatch and Hearthstone. The figures are aggregated across 10 Western locations—US, Canada, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden.

In terms of global reach, Overwatch comes in third place in North America and Western Europe. While the game boasts a large player base on both console and PC, a “sizable” group of people watch Overwatch esports exclusively, Newzoo reported.

IEM Gyeonggi’s Overwatch tournament finals attracted close to 100,000 peak concurrent viewers on Twitch and the official Overwatch League announcement has over 19 million views on YouTube. The city-based franchise approach presented by Activision/Blizzard seems to have materialized, Newzoo observed, as it’s rumored that the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins are among the first traditional sports teams to claim a spot in the Overwatch League.

How Critical Force Is Building Out Mobile Esports

Finnish game studio Critical Force designed its iOS and Android mobile first-person shooter game Critical Ops with esports in mind. After amassing 10 million downloads, the company partnered with Korean game development and publishing conglomerate NHN Entertainment last September, which invested $4.3 million in the small independent studio.

Kasperi Kivistö, community manager at Critical Force, told AListDaily that the studio began experimenting with community-level Critical Ops tournaments early last year. Since then the company has focused on building a sustainable grassroots environment while working with partners to increase the players and viewership of competitive Critical Ops.

“Most of the competitions take place in North America and Europe, and it makes sense for us to focus especially on these regions,” Kivistö said. “Nonetheless we have active communities in other regions as well, and we want to offer them a chance to compete too.”

Critical Ops

Critical Force has been slowly and steadily increasing the prize money in these tournaments. Currently, the biggest online tournaments have a prize pool of 2,000, but Kivistö said the company will increase this amount in the future.

“This year we’re further establishing our roots as the competitive mobile FPS space,” Kivistö said. “Tournaments this year will be mostly online and organized by companies like Valiance and ESL. We’re also looking to organize a couple of live events to do some tests and prepare for the big push next year.”

That push will come with lessons learned from these internal and partner tournaments, as well as the larger esports and mobile esports ecosystems.

“When we first began experimenting with tournaments a year ago, we pretty much did what felt best for our game at that moment,” Kivistö explained. “Since then we’ve gotten a lot of tips and thoughts from other developers, as well as organizations that have entered the Critical Ops competitive scene.”

While formats for esports tournaments are somewhat universal, Critical Force prefers to focus on simplicity when choosing bracket types for its tournaments.

“From a general level, we follow both esports as well as traditional sports to help us create memorable stories around events and teams, and through that, develop a sustainable ecosystem for competition,” Kivistö said.

Critical Force has the original creator of Counter-Strike, Minh “Gooseman” Le, on its board of advisors and he has been helping the team with esports.

Counter-Strike was one of the first competitive FPS games on PC and has set what we consider the standard for competitive FPS gameplay,” Kivistö said. “The action in Counter-Strike is tactical and realistic, and our aim is to provide a similar experience on mobile devices.”

That connection with Counter-Strike, and the newer Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, has attracted some CS:GO gamers to the competitive Critical Ops community. In addition, the tournament organizers and their staff have experience playing CS:GO.

To date, Critical Ops has over 15 million downloads and 500,000 daily active users playing the game.

That community has bypassed Twitch in favor of Mobcrush. Critical Force does a weekly community stream on Mobcrush and on Facebook. Kivistö said tournament organizers use Mobcrush and they’ve recently started streaming on YouTube with success.

“Although we’ve not expanded to Twitch yet, it doesn’t mean we won’t be there,” Kivistö said. “We’re looking to grow our presence on Twitch in the future. We’re currently working on a content creator program to support people spreading the word about our game. Instead of doing paid promotions through influencers, we try to focus on growing our own.”

With the game still in soft launch, Critical Force is developing crucial features to support the nascent esports community. In addition to the online tournaments and a few live events, collegiate esports is something the company is focusing on, especially in the US. The first Critical Ops college events will debut later this year.

Even at this early stage, a few professional teams have already ventured to Critical Ops. The biggest teams include Team Phoenix, Hammers eSports and GankStars. Kivistö said as this competitive scene grows, the studio hopes to attract other professional gaming organizations.

Next year will be the opportunity for brands and sponsors interested in reaching Critical Ops gamers.

“Currently we’re building our competitive scene, but tournament organizers and some teams have already partnered up with their own sponsors,” Kivistö said. “It’s clear there’s a lot of interest in this game from sponsors.”

That could be because mobile as a platform is cheap and easily accessible. Mobile also is a key way esports fans consume live events and other content. This opens the door to brand new competitors in the esports space.

“Everybody has a mobile device and you don’t need an expensive gaming PC to compete in a high tier,” Kivistö said. “The small size of the devices also allows instant LAN parties with your friends.”

Look for Critical Ops to entice CS:GO fans and compete with other mobile esports titles like Hearthstone and Vainglory next year.

Smashcast CEO Details New Brand And ESports Livestreaming Strategy

Livestreaming companies Hitbox and Azubu, once competitors, have merged into a single platform. The companies have relaunched with a new brand, Smashcast, which is being billed as the world’s largest independent esports broadcaster outside Asia based on an active user peak of around 20 million in 2016. The company has officially gone live with hundreds of gaming enthusiast broadcasters and millions of active viewers at, which is the new recipient of all traffic from Hitbox and Azubu. A new Smashcast app is available for free download in the App Store and on Google Play.

Smashcast has also opened a new video content production studio in Vienna, Austria to create esports and competitive gaming content in-house. The company is creating content in 4K and in 360-degrees for virtual reality platforms.

Mike McGarvey, CEO of Smashcast, said that while advertising represents 70 percent of revenue for the company, with subscriptions and donations making up 15 percent, the plan is to use new products in affiliate marketing, interactive sponsor-based advertising, virtual goods sales, sponsorships and in-game betting to close the gap in ARPU between the nascent esports market and other, more traditional, professional sporting businesses around the world.

McGarvey talks about the company’s new brand and directives as it takes on mainstays like Twitch and YouTube Gaming in the competitive esports business.

Why did you decide to launch a new brand after growing audiences through Hitbox and Azubu?

It made the most sense to combine the resources of both companies into a singular, more focused entity. Esports is an industry that features a couple well-heeled competitors, particularly Twitch and YouTube Gaming, so having any amount of increased scale and efficiency can make a material difference.

What went into naming this new brand and how does it compare with the previous two platforms?

We ultimately felt that the Smashcast name best represented the direction in which we wanted to go in the worlds of competitive gaming and esports. By getting laser-focused on the broadcaster-to-viewer interaction loop, we might best carve out our unique place in this burgeoning industry. To us, it’s all about generating smash hits, as determined by our viewers in-stream, whether that hit content be generated at our new production studio or through our talented broadcast partners.

What role will esports play with

There remains a strong cultural tradition with Smashcast that has carried over from the former Hitbox and Azubu market positions. The difference, however slight it may appear at the outset, is that Azubu was hyper-focused on competing against Twitch and YouTube Gaming in esports while Hitbox was more interested in supporting the emergent tastes and interests of its varied global game communities. Hitbox showcased a wider breadth of category participation in competitive gaming vs. being solely focused on esports tournaments and teams. As a result, we’re now pursuing several unique opportunities, perhaps tangential to esports, that we’ll be announcing in the coming months.

How will you be marketing this platform to esports fans?

The vast majority of our multi-million user growth has been driven organically via our community apparatus and targeted content offerings. In the short term, we’ll primarily be focused on growing that channel, in contrast to paid ones, to test the efficacy of our recent investment in content development.

Are there specific leagues or teams you’re working with out of the gate?

We’re speaking with all the major players, leagues and teams in the industry across all territories. We have such a strong base of users in Europe, Eastern Europe, and across Latin America, that we’re looking for specific opportunities that leverage our community advantage in those regions.

What opportunities does this audience open up for sponsors?

We discovered that Hitbox’s deep commitment to community over the years has engendered a tremendous amount of goodwill that often results in engagement levels, on key titles and tournaments—up to 10x what one might expect on Twitch. With such a tight demographic composition of male millennials, we see a huge opportunity for sponsors to open up their reach to previously untested global regions.

What are some of the ways you’re learning from traditional sports through new marketing initiatives for these sponsors?

It’s no secret that esports has a ways to go in terms of catching up to the reach and distribution power of traditional sports industries which, from a foundational standpoint, are more adept at propagating multi-channel-based sponsorships, merchandizing and in-experience purchases. Our intent, from a monetization vantage point, is to first stimulate and build upon a hyper-engaged community—the selling into which is more likely to produce tangible results for our sponsors. So, ensuring that the right sponsorship is matched to the right event is a critical component of our strategy to build resonating community environments where sponsorships can flourish.

What’s your plan for in-house produced content in LA and Vienna and how that will drive viewership?

We’re investing first in a new content production studio in Vienna, which is just now coming online. With our strategy of focusing on unique and emerging opportunities, we felt the Vienna location would best serve our multi-language, multi-region approach to esports. Plans for a Los Angeles facility are in the works, but it’s not specifically our focus in the near term. We believe that the ability to better control the quality output to the Smashcast platform will result in higher engagement and retention metrics and, ultimately, increased rates of new viewer acquisition.

What do you see 360-degree content opening up for sponsors moving forward and how are you addressing that content on your platform?

We’re in the early stages of experimenting with 360 experiences in and around competitive gaming. We feel 360 has strong promise, particularly as it regards live tournament and event streaming, but not likely to be a key focus for us in the short-term. At the same time, Hitbox has always been a pioneer in the VR and 360 broadcasting space, so it remains an ongoing component of discussions with our sponsor partners.

What do you feel differentiates Smashcast from Twitch?

Ultimately, Twitch has become a large-market, large-audience broadcaster with a feature-set that caters to mass viewership. We see ourselves as being community and region-driven, where our focus is on building more intimate and engaging connections between great broadcasters and their viewers. In a sense, one might see bigger numbers at the moment on Twitch but often less engaged users. In some ways, it’s like the difference between braving the crowds, traffic etc. to see a Top 40 act in an arena environment vs. seeing your favorite local band in an intimate, more accessible setting.

How do you hope to attract fans away from Twitch, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube Gaming?

We’ll continue to focus on tightly knit communities around the world, while at the same time, growing those communities in innovative, low cost ways. We believe Twitch viewers will use the Smashcast platform to find unique and highly tailored content that is attractive to their particular interests at any given time. This might be analogous to fans of live music mixing up the types of shows they see based on their tastes and preferences at any given time.