‘Get Even’ Composer Olivier Derivière Explains Immersion Through Audio

From the title, Get Even sounds like an action-packed revenge game in which players burst onto the scene, guns a-blazing. Instead, this psychological thriller by The Farm 21 and Bandai Namco leaves players questioning reality—set against a 3D audio soundtrack that is generated in real-time. Pioneering this technology is award-winning composer Olivier Derivière (Remember MeAssassin’s Creed VI: Freedom Cry), who joined AListDaily to explain how Get Even draws players into a world within a world . . . but never the same way twice.

“It is an experience that will always surprise players,” said Derivière, who MTV dubbed Game Music’s Eclectic Daredevil. “This is one of the unique aspects of the game—you can’t expect what is next. The second unique aspect is the pacing. It never stops. If you are eager to play something that will never let you wonder what to do next, this game is for you!”

Derivière’s first video game score was for Obscure, a survival horror game by Hydravision Entertainment. While both Obscure and Get Even are frightening in their own ways, the composer sees them as very different experiences.

“You have different types of horror,” he explained. “In Obscure, [the horror element] was mainly suspense and scare jumps. In Get Even, it is much more visceral. Let’s just say that in Obscure, the horror was descriptive [but] in Get Even it’s an inner feeling—something that makes you feel wrong, oppressed [and] insecure. You can’t write music the same way—when you are descriptive, you compose musical scores but when you want to become visceral, it is much more about textures [and] drones.”

Derivière has incorporated a number of environmental sounds into the Get Even score, including a ticking clock. He went on to explain how sounds within the environment will tie into what’s happening on-screen.

“Get Even is a thriller [and] by that I mean it is a game with lots of questions, clues and twists that all have to make sense. The ticking clock is the most iconic part of the audio. A clock represents time, and time is irrevocable, indifferent . . . it could be fate. But in the game, you also have a ticking bomb attached to a girl in the opening scene that will explode [no matter what] happens. And finally, you have time travel—not in a sense that you’re physically going back in time, but you are using a device, ‘the Pandora,’ which allows you to go back in your memories—back in time. [The ticking clock] is not the only sound you will hear but I won’t spoil [it for] you—this game will play with you as much as you will play with it.

“Get Even is not a VR game, although it happens mostly inside a [simulated] VR environment thanks to an [in-game] device named the Pandora. It’s like a helmet. Nowadays lots of gamers are using headphones while playing and we wanted to take advantage of that. So, when you plug in your headphones, you will be completely absorbed by your surroundings. Every light bulb, every room tone, every window . . . anything in the game that emits a sound is dynamically transcribed to your ears by using Auro-3D, a technology that makes your sonic perception much more natural than before.

“Instead of creating an illustrative music that would be totally disconnected from the scenery, I wanted to play with the [environment] sounds. Imagine that anything you hear can be part of my musical score—a steam pipe, a light bulb, a train. Now music is happening in real-time around you. Not in a fashion that [allows you to] pinpoint the musicality of it, but much more in a way that you start feeling the world around you as a living, breathing creature . . . but is it a world? Is it real?”

Bandai Namco has used the game’s soundtrack as a powerful marketing message, putting Derivière front and center alongside Get Even‘s producers. The score will be performed live at the game’s European pre-launch event in London this month. In addition, those who pre-order the game on PSN or Steam will receive the soundtrack as a bonus.

“When I first heard about Get Even, I thought that it would be amazing to have such an experience,” Derivière said. “It was so unique, so fresh and so mesmerizing. It is very difficult to describe this game as it takes a lot from many other games to build its singularity. I really thought it would never come out the way it was originally designed, but look at us today! It is done! Musically speaking, I must say I put a lot of my own life into it. I can’t speak much about it, but this game is not about saving the world or killing zombies. It is about our mistakes and the regrets that come from them. It was a privilege to be part of this production and I hope players will enjoy the ride!”

Get Even releases May 26 for PSN, Xbox One and PC.

How Intel Uses VR To Drive Innovation For The PGA Tour

The Intel Sports Group has teamed up with the PGA Tour to offer new ways for existing fans to experience golf through virtual reality and help attract new fans to the sport. Intel Sports will offer fans four different camera angles at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL from May 11 to 14.

The live VR experience can be viewed on Samsung Gear VR headsets on a global basis through the PGA Tour VR Live app available on the Oculus store. In addition, the 360 video stream will be available exclusively on Twitter and Periscope during all four days of the event.

David Aufhauser, Intel Sports Group managing director, told AListDaily from a big picture perspective that the company is using the latest technology to create a brand new way to experience golf content.

“Golf is a unique sport because of the way the courses work and the integration of data into the experience,” Aufhauser explained. “Being able to transport the viewer so you feel like you’re there and enabling fans to choose their own camera angle is just the beginning. We’ll also have a VR Cast for a produced experience for fans that don’t want to control the experience.”

While Fox Sports and NextVR have brought the US Open to VR headsets the past few years, Aufhauser said what differentiates this Intel Sports VR experience is full stereoscopic 3D viewing.

“We add the whole element of depth through stereoscopic cameras, which mimics the human head and allows you to feel like you’re there on the 17th hole,” Aufhauser said.

Data is also important for the sport of golf, as well as fans watching at home—many of whom are trying to improve their own game.

“VR allows us to integrate, visualize and create new experiences that match data to video,” Aufhauser explained. “Now you have a 360-degree canvas to work with to integrate leaderboard data, traditional broadcast graphics overlay and make use of the landscape when you look up or down to gain additional information.”

The introduction of controllers for the Google Daydream and new Samsung Gear VR is also unlocking more opportunities for mobile VR as Intel Sports looks to the future. Fans will be able to jump around the four camera perspectives without needing to hit a button on the headset.

“Anything that allows for a more natural navigation and engagement with the content is something we embrace,” Aufhauser said.

After this initial activation, Aufhauser said it will be up to the PGA to decide how future events are covered in VR. And part of that decision will be dictated by how fans embrace this technology at TPC Sawgrass.

“We have the technology to cover all 18 holes, but it’s about how you do each green or fairway or tee and optimize each hole for each of these cameras,” Aufhauser said. “We’re starting with some cool targeted experiences and the growth will come from how fans interact with that.”

Aufhauser said the intent is to continue with the PGA on additional Tour stops.

“One of the reasons the PGA is becoming early adopters with these alternate experiences is that they’re playing to a younger crowd and tapping into the up-and-coming golfers that are entering the Tour,” Aufhauser explained. “They also have a very tech-savvy fan base, in general, and VR is important for them.”

Intel is also opening up the VR experience for those who don’t have a headset through a multiplatform distribution plan.

“While the main rich experience is the app for Gear VR, we can also stream live to Twitter 360,” Aufhauser said. “That allows the Tour to get a much broader audience and it’s a stepping stone for that audience into VR.”

The Intel Sports Group is a new brand under the tech giant that’s currently working with the NBA through Voke VR (which Intel acquired in November 2016) and now the PGA Tour.

“Anytime we have more events under our belt with the NBA with 360 technology or the PGA Tour with VR technology, the processes and learnings of working with these leagues get translated,” Aufhauser said. “While one technology is integrated into a broadcast and the other is integrated into an app, the understanding of things like what the fans want and how we work with their production translates to building out a better experience.”

The model at Intel Sports is to allow the NBA and Turner and the PGA Tour and its broadcast partners to build these experiences for their specific audiences, according to Aufhauser.

“Having everyone under one roof in this new business unit is important,” Aufhauser said.

The Current State Of OTT Video Content

As marketers, you may see the term “OTT” quite a bit lately, especially during Digital Newfronts. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, OTT stands for “over-the-top” content—audio, video, and other media content delivered over the internet without the direct involvement of a provider. While internet service is required, this content may be accessed over free Wi-Fi as well and puts the user in control of what he or she watches at what time. Examples of OTT video are YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and AppleTV.

A Growing Audience

The digital video audience will grow 8.2 percent in 2017 according to eMarketer, and PwC predicts that OTT/streaming subscription video on demand revenue will grow to $10.4 billion by 2020.

Today, 78 percent of US consumers subscribe to at least one OTT service, according to PwC. Although most viewers currently add OTT to their pay-TV subscriptions, its disruptive potential is becoming more apparent. In 2014, 91 percent of US consumers said they could see themselves subscribing to cable in the following year but in 2015, that number had fallen to 79 percent.

Seventy-one percent of Gen Z has a Netflix subscription—more than any other generation, according to a report by VisionCritical, while only 45 percent of them watch cable TV on a television. A report by TiVo reveals that 91 percent of millennials pay for at least one subscription streaming service, 73 percent have streaming devices at home.

Revenue “Streaming”

The rise of OTT video services is changing advertising, especially in an age where ad blocking has become more popular. Each Netflix subscriber saves him or herself about 160 hours of commercials per year, according to calculations by Chord Cutting. As viewers migrate from traditional networks to digital alternatives, advertisers will follow—driving broadcast TV advertising’s share of US total TV advertising down from 95 percent in 2014 to 91.6 percent by 2019.

Netflix added 5 million members globally in the first quarter of 2017, bringing its total subscriber base to just shy of 99 million users and exceeding 100 million not long after. That comes on the heels of Netflix’s biggest quarter for new subscribers ever and the company is on track to meet or exceed 2015 eMarketer predictions.

As mobile devices become more sophisticated, OTT video is often viewed on the go. In response, digital ad revenue grew to $72.5 billion in 2016, up 22 percent from the year before. For the first time, mobile ads accounted for more than half of that spending—51 percent. Video advertising grew to to $9.1 billion, social media spending grew more than 50 percent to $16.3 billion and search grew 19 percent to nearly $35 billion.

Take A Closer Look: ‘Now You See Me’ Reappears As Mobile VR Game

It’s been almost a year since Now You See Me 2 (starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Radcliffe) hit the theaters, but the magic of the franchise hasn’t yet faded—as evidenced by the new mobile VR game, Now You See Me: Back to Macau, developed by Sidekick VR. Like many great magic tricks, the game appears to be a relatively straightforward puzzle game where you are challenged to find a series of hidden objects, but things become more complex as you progress through its story.

Back to Macau debuted on the Samsung Gear VR on Wednesday, and players can try the first two cases for free with an option to purchase the rest of the game. It is the first hidden object game to come to virtual reality, and Sidekick plans to follow it up with similar games based on Hollywood IPs. Guy Bendov, co-founder and CEO of Sidekick VR, invited AListDaily to take a closer look at the magic of mobile VR to see what we could find.

Guy Bendov, co-founder and CEO of Sidekick VR
Guy Bendov, co-founder and CEO of Sidekick VR

What is Now You See Me: Back To Macau about?

Now You See Me: Back To Macau is a game that’s tied into the two successful movies from Lionsgate, Now You See Me and Now You See Me 2. The game itself is one of the first hidden object games in VR, and we’re very excited about it. Instead of doing some sort of movie tie-in promotion, we’ve created a full hidden object puzzle game that’s part of the Now You See Me universe. We’re launching on Gear VR and will have Google Cardboard and other platforms later, and you’ll be able to download the app to try for free.

You’re playing the role of a new FBI agent who has been tasked with finding the Four Horsemen, who have escaped again. You’ll go through a very deep storyline by uncovering items that will help you solve the mystery. You do that using hidden object mechanics (looking at items for a time or using a controller to select them) in scenarios where there are multiple items that you need to find, and you keep going until you find the one object that lets you continue the story. There’s a progression that starts with three or four items, but it becomes more complex toward the end. We’ve created about 70-100 different items per scene, so you’ll have a slightly different puzzle each time you play.

What’s nice about VR is that you’re able to immerse yourself in those environments instead of having them in a framed window, which is what games have been until now. With a 360-degree environment, you can look around and feel as though you’re part of the scene.

The first movie released in 2013 and its sequel came out last summer. Why launch a game based on the franchise now?

We were very excited about the universe but didn’t want to tie into the promotion of the movie because we want the game to stand out by itself. While some things are influenced by some of the second movie’s scenes, the story itself is separate and allows for the expansion of the universe. A lot of what we’ll do around the creating and marketing content is in expanding that universe rather than repeating a story that’s already been seen. You’ll be familiar with the characters and concepts of this world, but what excites us is using a hidden object game in VR as a platform to tell additional stories using different brands and IPs.

Since the game takes place in the world of Now You See Me, is any magic involved?

We’ve tried to add a few magic tricks, and we’ve integrated the card throwing as a mini-game. We are looking to introduce more magic in VR, which we might be doing in the future.

The Four Horsemen are the stars of the films. Will players get to interact with them in the game?

The characters we introduce are entirely new, and they’re from the FBI and The Eye organization from the magicians. The Four Horsemen and other characters are mentioned, but we’re using new characters to expand the universe.

Why develop a mobile VR game instead of a traditional mobile game or premium VR experience?

Mobile VR creates great accessibility. You can download the game and play on pretty much any smartphone you have. The game itself doesn’t require a lot of processing power, it’s very easy on the eyes, and I think it’s a great introduction to VR overall. In testing, 100 percent of our users commented on the quality of the visuals, the environments and the storylines, which focus on the gameplay rather than trying to be a movie promotion app. You can very quickly immerse yourself—whether it be for twenty minutes or half-an-hour—into the world of Now You See Me.

It’s important to note that with the Cardboard version, you’ll be able to play without a headset. You can enjoy the 360 environments by rotating your phone and looking around.

Will Lionsgate be helping to promote the game, even though it’s not a movie tie-in?

Yes, Lionsgate is very particular about its brands and IPs. We worked hand-in-hand, practically on a weekly basis, to make sure the storylines, characters, environments and music are in line with how they see the world of Now You See Me. We’ll also have Lionsgate’s support during the launch. They’re reaching out to their fan base in showing the game.

How are you getting the word out about the game and how it’s not a movie tie-in?

A lot of our promotion focuses on how it’s a separate storyline that’s expanding the world instead of repeating the first or second movie. We found that Lionsgate has a very strong fan base for all of its movies, and we’re promoting the game as a way for people to continue enjoying the world—that the world doesn’t stop after the second movie is done.

NYSMBTM Screen_1

Why the emphasis on hidden object gameplay?

The hidden object game genre is very successful on multiple platforms, including the Game Boy. Unlike shooters, they are truly family-oriented with worldwide appeal. In VR, it made sense that people would look for these kinds of experiences in addition to shooting zombies and so on. VR is a great platform for telling stories because it immerses players into them as they go in to find objects. To be honest, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more hidden object games come to market.

We’ve very happy and proud to be the first to bring that genre to VR. There’s a wide market on mobile VR that’s looking for something that’s easy on the eyes and not a rollercoaster experience or a flight simulator—experiences that let players enjoy being transported to an environment without having a lot of craziness going on. Hidden object games are perfect for that, and Now You See Me: Back to Macau is the first in a line of stories that we plan to bring to market.

Out of all of Lionsgate’s properties, what drew you to Now You See Me?

We actually sat down and looked at their entire portfolio, and they have an amazing back catalog of movies, and great ones are coming out all the time. We felt that Now You See Me was perfect because we saw the second movie as it was being edited. There are rich environments in every scene and a complex storyline with multiple characters, which made for a very strong base for content. Having the second movie come out fairly quickly after the first one was in line with our strategy for expanding the world.

Why do you think the Now You See Me franchise remains so popular and engaging?

The movies were great because of the stories and magic, but I think it was mainly the interaction between the many characters. We tried to keep that type interaction and dialogue in Back to Macau. We tried to make a game that would continue the excitement for the fan base, and I hope we’ve done a great job doing that.

Why Epic Games Is Helping Indie Games Get Funded

While open source tools make indie game development more accessible, that’s pretty much where the easy part stops. Developers must secure considerable funding, often by working on their passion projects outside of a day job and then market as best as they can—hoping and praying that someone notices. Some games make it big, but most don’t—which is why AAA publishers are stepping in to help.

Epic Games (Gears of WarRobo Recall) has teamed up with Xsolla Capital, a $50 million royalty investment fund focused on video games to encourage and fund self-publishing efforts with Unreal Engine 4 (UE4). “Together, Epic Games and Xsolla Capital plan to widen the reach of UE4 games in global markets and propel the developers behind these exciting projects to continued success,” the companies announced in a press release Wednesday.

Unreal Engine 4, an open source game development platform created by Epic Games, is free (with royalties upon game shipment). Epic’s strategic partnership will further encourage developers to use UE4 for their projects while providing additional resources to make those projects a reality—a win/win.

“Since taking Unreal Engine 4 free two years ago, we’ve seen an enormous rise in high-quality titles made by small teams, and Xsolla is able to share in that success by allowing developers to maintain creative control while receiving many of the benefits a traditional publishing arrangement would provide,” Mike Gamble, European territory manager at Epic Games, said in a statement.

“In addition to quickly building and iterating with the tools, indie teams can bring triple-A production values to their games using Unreal Engine 4,” Gamble told AListDaily. “Because we at Epic ship our own games, Unreal developers have a proven path for achieving optimal performance on their target platforms, and this mitigates risk for publishers and partners like Xsolla. As a result, these small teams gain a real competitive advantage in the market. Epic’s model is built around the success of Unreal developers, so we continually seek out the most fun, high-quality indie projects, and we support the teams behind them through numerous programs. This ultimately builds great business opportunities for everyone involved.”

Under the terms of the collaboration, Xsolla Capital will support UE4 developers with financial and marketing resources for the development of their projects in addition to covering the costs of custom Unreal Engine licensing. Xsolla also offers worldwide payment solutions, a 24/7 international customer support team, fraud protection, distribution options, data visualization and more.

“We share a belief that the developer knows how best to make the game they’re envisioning, and how to communicate with their audience, Dmitri Bourkovski, vice president of global business development at Xsolla told AListDaily. “But, a publisher’s input is also valuable in a lot of situations and Xsolla works with both publishers and developers. When developers decide to self-publish, they get access to the same set of tools and services that Xsolla provides for publishers, too.”

While not everyone offers funding, it is certainly in the best interest of game engine providers (Unity, CryEngine, UE4, etc.) to attract new licenses. Self-publishing puts control in the hands of developers, who are then free to stay true to their creative visions. Relying on the assistance of major publishers often means compromise over creativity—a major reason crowdfunding has become an indie developer’s best friend.

Indie developers can now self-publish on major consoles thanks to programs like ID@Xbox and PlayStation Network. You’d think a AAA publisher wouldn’t want to help the little guys as not to create unwanted competition, but the opposite has been true in recent years. Competition on their respective marketplaces creates an ecosystem that thrives and keeps the publishers relevant as trends come and go. Plus, audiences love a good underdog story.

Such was the case with Unravel, the charming indie title that spawned from a partnership between EA and Coldwood Interactive. Following the game’s success, EA Originals—a selective indie partnership program—was unveiled during EA Play last year. Swedish developer, Zoink (Fe) became the first participant, and Joi-Mei Games (Sea of Solitude) made the cut for 2017.

“Making games is hard. It’s a hard business,” said Patrick Söderlund, executive vice president of EA Studios in an official blog post. “These developers have taken on the risk of developing a new IP, and great games deserve to be played. So with EA Originals, we want the profits from these games to go into the hands of the studios making them. We want them to be recognized for their work, so they can keep innovating and creating, and so the players get to play more and more amazing games.”

How Consumer Expectations Drive Change For Capital One

Knowing very well that consumers are fleeing the course of walking into physical banking locations, financial giant Capital One is positioning itself to function and feel like a tech company.

Whether being the first company to integrate any sort of financial services with Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, speaking emoji through a SMS text-based intelligent assistant or recruiting the tech talent to make such activations a reality in their newly built, tech-savvy campus, the acceleration of Capital One’s digital transformation is fully in force.

The reason is rather simple: consumer expectations from financial services providers are changing.

The Fortune 500 company has pockets that are $313 billion deep, and in order to keep building on their own accounts, they decided to fundamentally change their operational strategy and mindset of traditional bankers—which is how they focus on verticals like the cloud and artificial intelligence—robo advisors, anyone?—to drive new business just as much as opening a small business account.

Amy Heidersbach, vice president of digital marketing for Capital One, joined AListDaily to share how they are connecting with consumers.

hqdefaultCan you take us through your day-to-day with some of the responsibilities and the strategy that you oversee?

We have an enterprise organization that builds digital products and experiences for all of our customers for what we call our “lines of business.” That includes the Capital One servicing app. It’s an experience that engages with customers, whether they have a credit card, bank account and home or auto loan with us. So that’s what we mean by enterprise. The same is true for our integration with Amazon Alexa, one that we’ll be an early partner for with Cortana. Those aren’t product specific. Those are enterprise experiences that are born digitally, and speak to the customer where they are, and where they might want to interact with Capital One. I run marketing essentially defining value props for those products, and working with my marketing partners across the organization to take those products to market. We also launched our platform externally last year. Developers are now a target for us. I’m also responsible for really reaching out to the developer and partner community to help us co-create those digital experiences.

Are consumers adopting to Capital One’s tech-focused integrations, such as Alexa?

What’s interesting is that people want to know even more than what we initially anticipated. We recently launched a couple of new features, like the “how much did I spend?” feature at the Grace Hopper conference. People are absolutely moving to screen-less experiences—and they are largely voice activated. Consumers have an appetite for getting into the details. They want to know, for example, “how much did I spend at Banana Republic last year?” We’re enabling people to engage in a deeper level since the announcement a year ago by getting more information through voice activation about their accounts. We also have learned that they ask some crazy questions! With the announcement of our gender-neutral chatbot Eno in March, we’re learning some interesting things between the intersection of technology and humans.


Why is it important to leverage new marketing technology in verticals that are not your bread and butter?

In my opinion, as a modern marketer, it’s ultimately the customer that owns the brands. It’s the customer that owns the experiences. If brands really understand that, they actively build moments of interaction, technology and experiences that go where the customer is. I think banks were really great at this for decades—where “customers must come to us,” right? We are the center. We are the hub. They will come to us. In fact—the opposite is true. The customer is the hub of their financial life, and their life in general. We must go where they are, and that’s to their smart phones and new devices that are coming into their homes, or technology that’s being integrated into the platforms for cars, for example. We have a real commitment as a technology company to going where our customers are, and where they want to interact with us. We absolutely want to change banking, and do it in a way that enables the industry to be elevated, and all of the customers to be elevated to change banking for good. We know that that requires things that are atypical in this space. It was first considered a radical idea, but we were the first bank in the US to use an open API platform a year ago. We also give people access to their data. Those are some pretty radical ideas in the banking space, which has mostly been pretty insular and highly regulated. We look very different than the way technology companies operate, but that’s changing very fast.

How are the marketing strategies changing across your industry? What are some new opportunities that you’ve identified?

It’s not one-way communication, it’s definitely two. In the same spirit that we want to put our marketing experiences where customers are, we want our marketing and the conversations to be where they are, too, so that it’s much more organic, authentic and social. Even on-the-ground conversations, like the ones we do with our experiential activations at places like SXSW. We want to create intimate and connected experiences with our guests. The same is true in terms of our point of view around overall marketing. Yes, we have great ad campaigns. But the real marketing comes in the content and the conversations that we provide in a one-on-one environment, largely digitally, but sometimes physically.

Samuel L Jackson Spokesman for recent Capital One Quicksilver Doors Campaigns

In addition to Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Garner, what insights can you share about your other influencers?

We have seen our Net Promoter Scores (NPS) go way up around things like innovation, customer service, approachability and trust. We believe that the people we choose to associate with help embody the spirit in the personality that helps drives those NPS scores and attributions for us. We’ve seen influencer marketing work really well. At SXSW, we had five influencers at the Capital One House at Antone’s through the entire week. We have a really light hand with influencers. We love them because they are authentic voices in their communities. We try to bring them into the fold, just as you would with a friend, and give them insight. Influencer strategy for us is really about choosing the right, like-minded people and giving them as much access and information as we can, and letting them do what they do best. It’s not overly contrived. It’s really natural.

Why is SXSW such a big part of your experiential marketing strategy?

This year marked our third year in Austin as a title sponsor. We’ll be there again all the way through at least 2019. The more we can focus our presence, the better. This year we spent the same amount of money and activated at a bigger level, but we did so at one location, rather than multiple ones like last year. We believe in the notion of an intimate destination. The experiences we bring and create indicate a lot about what we believe in, and what’s going on at Capital One right now. The entire experiences that we bring to Austin each year is about being beta brave. Whether or not you work in technology, or know the technicalities behind launching a product, being beta brave is a spirit and attitude to courageously think differently. We believe people who come to SXSW already have that in their DNA. We want to give them a peek at what we’re doing ourselves from a product, design and marketing standpoint.

How are you creating content to exemplify that?

In the spirit of co-creation and integrated marketing with partners, those are the best stories to tell the story on how the technology works. We like to tell our stories through the lens of our partners, like Amazon, especially from a digital and technology perspective, and help enable ecosystems to build great products and experiences through Capital One. We celebrate the stories of our customers. At some point, it’s about us. But we don’t exist without our customers. If we’re here to change banking for good, then we have to change the goods for consumers.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan


Former NFL Star Shawne Merriman Sets To Make His Mark With Lights Out Brand

Former San Diego Chargers star Shawne Merriman made his impact felt in the NFL with a frenetic energy to get to the backfield to deliver bone-crushing hits.

Before tallying 45.5 career sacks—39.5 of which came during a three-year Pro Bowl stretch to kick off his career—the nine-year veteran pass-rusher earned the nickname “Lights Out” for his hell-raising hits when he was a sophomore in high school.

Now the former Chargers and Bills linebacker has turned that nickname into an apparel brand. The soon-to-be 33-year-old has partnered with Bellator MMA for a line of workout clothing, and he’s now taking the brand into NASCAR. Merriman is also the owner of a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West car, adorned with the Lights Out logo, driven by Jesse Iwuji.

Merriman has been a racing fan since he was a kid growing up, and watching the sport on TV. Since being the grand marshal for the NASCAR Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in California in 2008, he’s become friends with famous NASCAR drivers like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. And now, he hopes that Iwuji, who is African-American, will work his way up the NASCAR series ladder and connect with new fans—both racing and Lights Out.

Shawne Merriman

“Bringing diversity into any sport is really going to open up the eyes of people who wouldn’t necessarily have any other direct involvement with it,” Merriman told AListDaily.

Merriman said especially in his home state of Virginia and the nearby areas of Atlanta, the cities and the communities that identify with NASCAR know what a great sport it is.

“But there’s a large audience that can’t identify with the sport because they’ve never been a part of it and have never attended a race,” Merriman said. “And hopefully these diversity programs will bridge the gap and get people exploring what racing is all about, what Lights Out is all about.”

This year Merriman is launching a line of NASCAR licensed Lights Out clothing aimed at the African-American consumer.

“I hope the Lights Out brand is able to help bridge the gap and connect the dots with new people in NASCAR,” Merriman said. “Hopefully, these clothes symbolize something greater than just putting on a T-shirt.”

Connecting with kids early could be a way for NASCAR to grow its audience. The sport has struggled of late to fill the stands at race tracks.

“Imagine if a 12-year-old Shawne Merriman gets a chance to go to a NASCAR race and sees the excitement of what goes on there?” Merriman wondered.

Merriman said the Lights Out NASCAR line will be sold across a large amount of different retail outlets, as well as online.


“We’re going out there with the racing theme and what I hope that this line symbolizes is the excitement of the sport being spread across a different demographic,” Merriman said. “And that kind of excitement is what I hope connects with new fans. We have a bunch of community outreach programs lined up that I hope will have positive results for the people in the community and the cities.”

NASCAR is the second sport Merriman has embraced with his brand. The former NFL sackmaster actually used MMA to prepare his body for the grind of the gridiron when he was an active player until 2012. Merriman never played a full season and four of his campaigns lasted no longer than five games.

Last September, he signed a deal with Bellator MMA, a combat sports promotion that rivals UFC and airs on Spike TV. All fighters wear Lights Out clothing while training and during fights, which gives the brand wide exposure to MMA fans.

“One thing I’ve really concentrated on since I retired is building my Lights Out brand,” Merriman said. “We signed a partnership with Bellator MMA about nine months ago and the Lights Out brand is featured on the top of the cage and in the ring. The fighters walk in and out with the Lights Out T-shirts. It takes a lot of work because you want people to really identify with the brand and what the brand stands for. If you do it within a certain sport with the right team of guys who are really vocal, that’s what the brand is about.”

Merriman became interested in clothing design as a student-athlete at the University of Maryland. He also worked with Nike to help the brand design athletic clothing.

“The one thing about Lights Out is I don’t want to put the brand in a box and have anyone say it’s ‘this kind’ of a brand,” Merriman said. “I was a Nike athlete my entire career and I got a chance to see a great brand being built. I was always heavily involved and hands-on for what I was doing. And over the course of time I picked up a huge amount of information, and it’s helped me get to this point with Lights Out. And every day I’m still learning, which is great.”

With Bellator and NASCAR now under the brand, Merriman has lofty aspirations for the future of the Lights Out brand.

“Five years from now I want Lights Out to be out there with the other big sports brands out there, and since we’re constantly growing every single day, I expect it to get there,” Merriman said.

Acura Doubles Down On Vertical Video

Acura is shifting its gears in creating multi-platform marketing collateral by rolling out a new mobile-first campaign created entirely by using vertical video.

The star of the vibrant “What A Ride” campaign, shot entirely with vertical cameras and edited with lightning-fast precision, is the car manufacturer’s TLX performance luxury sedan. Acura’s creative approach to mobile comes as a result of catering to evolving consumer consumption habits toward content on digital platforms.

The psychedelic videos, shot under the serenades of hip-hop artist Kid Ink’s song “The Movement,” translates across horizontal formats like television by relying on triptych story arcs by simply dividing the screen into three. Acura hopes that their entirely new sporty and aggressive messaging method establishes a voice that resonates with consumers and differentiates their brand—especially by broadening the appeal of the TLX to younger buyers.

Filming in the visually dynamic format with social media creative techniques offers immersive opportunities such as Tapad’s mobile vertical video, Facebook canvas and carousel ad units, and Snapchat’s Snap Ads web view ad opportunity where users can actually learn more about and engage with the TLX.


Ed Beadle, Acura’s senior manager of integrated marketing, joined AListDaily to detail how their refreshed approach is designed to improve drive consideration.

Why did you decide to go with a nimbler and modular approach with your creative assets?

Modular video is a consumer-first insight. Providing content that fits the space as well as the interests of the consumer is critical for a positive interaction. For the 2018 TLX, Acura is launching an innovative mobile-first campaign utilizing vertical video along with provocative word pairings to illustrate the vehicle’s—and the brand’s—multifaceted and dynamic nature. Rather than capture content meant to work on a horizontal medium like TV and then struggle to crop and adjust for vertical environments, the entire campaign is shot with vertical cameras to create content and creative assets that aren’t compromised when translated to mobile. Essentially, the Acura brand took social content development techniques, and applied them to the entire campaign.

What insights and data led you to this new mobile-first, vertical video approach with “What A Ride?”

More and more people are consuming content via a hand-held device, and we realized that in order to break through, we needed to show up where our consumers are today. In taking a mobile-first approach, we’re prioritizing mobile as a medium, thinking about the way our images and content translates here first, rather than making a secondary consideration.

How is your marketing budget shifting to constantly tweak brand strategy based on consumer habits?


In recent years, Acura has made more of a conscious effort to shift budget toward cross-platform digital opportunities that allow for campaigns to naturally optimize based on the media consumption habits of key consumers and prospects. Additionally, Acura will continue to take an assertive approach to maximize digital investment in mobile to reach consumers throughout their day and develop “always on strategies” in key areas such as video and social CRM targeting to keep the Acura brand continuously top of mind.

Are there any new marketing platforms you plan on testing?

Acura continues to experiment with new technologies and ad platforms that allow for both key audiences to engage with the brand in new and exciting ways, and enable Acura to precisely target new audiences.

How is Acura positioning itself as a challenger brand?

Acura was born a challenger brand, rooted in performance, with precision crafted performance as the brand’s key promise to customers. About 18 months ago, we made a decision to focus on precision crafted performance as our new brand direction and promise, as Acura is a brand built on youthful energy and authentic, original values, challenging the status quo—with performance and precision craftsmanship infused into all aspects of our products. Precision crafted performance is an obsession with finding a better way, an original approach to technology and design that creates a new driving experience, and this philosophy has been applied to Acura marketing—in the youthful, independent spirit of the ads, which speaks to how the Acura brand is always challenging convention.


Why is Acura still waiting for NSX’s halo effect? How can you do a better job of marketing your super car?  

NSX as a brand halo is making an impact and continues to extend the Acura performance message image to our products, and it elevates our performance message with customers. You may have seen NSX in our “Point of View” spot, the 2016 Super Bowl spot, the “MDX Wow” campaign, and you’ll see NSX in our newest campaign, for the 2018 TLX. By leveraging the NSX supercar within Acura communications, brand indicators have strengthened. We also notice that Acura advertising scores higher when NSX is shown, even if shown briefly. NSX is also helping drive attention and engagement for the brand among the luxury market. There has been increased consideration actions among those who visit the NSX page on our site. Connection for consumers with the NSX also helps increase Acura’s social value as a whole, and has increased messaging scores for Acura models.

What is your overall digital strategy in marketing to millennials for them to understand who you are as a brand?

Our strategy is to provide the right message through the right channel at the right time. We use audience targeting and tailor our creative specifically to work on the various mobile and social channels where millennials live their lives. This lets Acura be a more organic part of their experience online—rather than bombarding them with traditional ad tactics.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan


‘Gnog’ Lets You Play Head Games In VR

If you find yourself wishing that you still had that sense of wonder when playing with toys as a child, the developers at KO_OP understand and they have a solution. The independent studio launched Gnog today for the PlayStation 4 console and PlayStation VR (PSVR), and it’s a puzzle game that aims to reignite the curiosity, enthusiasm and imagination of childhood.

Saleem Dabbous, KO_OP co-founder, studio director and producer for Gnog
Saleem Dabbous, KO_OP co-founder, studio director and producer for Gnog

Saleem Dabbous, KO_OP co-founder, studio director and producer for Gnog, described the game to AListDaily. “Gnog is about exploring these magical, monstrous toy heads that have little worlds inside of them,” he said. “You can flip between the face and its inner world, and you’re trying to uncover what the puzzle is and how to solve it. In short, it’s a playful and musical journey that is heavily inspired by kids’ toys such as Polly Pockets or Mighty Max.”

Players are challenged to perform tasks such as fixing a broken spaceship by discovering secrets within these virtual puzzle boxes. Gnog is the first game launching under the Double Fine Presents publishing label that supports virtual reality, although Dabbous explains that you don’t need a headset to play, as it also has a non-VR mode. The brightly colored puzzle game is expected to launch on Steam for PCs and Macs at a later date, followed by an iOS release, but KO_OP has not decided on whether it will support VR platforms besides PSVR.

When asked about what led KO_OP to design a game inspired by Polly Pocket and Mighty Max toys, Dabbous replied, “I don’t know if you grew up with those, but they’re toys that you can open up and they reveal a diorama inside of them. We remember that feeling of opening those toys to find out what was inside of them. You didn’t know what was going to be in there and what kind of world it was going to reveal. That was an incredible feeling that we wanted to recapture in Gnog.

The other thing for us was in thinking about our relationship with toys as kids and how we imagined whole worlds around them. We imagined that our toys were alive, and we wanted to take that feeling of magic and wonder and imbue it into a video game. That’s why all the interactions are very physical and tactile. It’s to remind you of what it’s like to play with toys and imagine them coming to life.”

Dabbous then talked about what led the studio to support virtual reality. “When we tried the game in VR, things went to a whole new perspective,” he explained. “In standard view, the puzzles look cool but very big. In VR, you’re much bigger and the puzzles feel like these out-of-this-world toys floating in front of you, begging you to play and interact. The tactile feel is really ticked up a notch in VR.”

We asked Dabbous if there were any plans for post-launch add-on content for the puzzle game. “We would love to do additional content, but we can’t promise anything yet,” replied Dabbous. “We need to see how the launch goes and see if we have the resources to do more levels. In the process of making the game, we made a lot of levels that didn’t make it into the final version. I would love to have the opportunity to make those a reality one day.”


Dabbous also talked about working with Double Fine Productions and how it helped to promote Gnog. “Working with Double Fine has been incredible on both a personal and business level,” said Dabbous. “People instantly know about Gnog now because they saw it at a Double Fine event, the Day of the Devs event, or otherwise heard about it through Double Fine. It’s been really amazing, and just having their support and backing means we can reach out to people that we couldn’t meet before. That’s been huge for helping us gain visibility for the game.”

Additionally, Sony offered financial support for Gnog’s development, helping to bring more indie developers to the PlayStation 4 and PSVR platforms. “Sony has been incredible to us and very supportive of the project,” said Dabbous “That’s why we’re coming out on PlayStation first. They really believe in the vision of the game, and I think that’s the thing about console versus PC—companies like Sony and Microsoft will put money behind games that they believe in. When you’re a small developer, that’s a huge deal. If it wasn’t for Sony, we never would have been able to realize our game and make it. It’s about that kind of support, and I think that’s why you’re seeing a lot of indies coming to consoles. They’re reaching a new audience they couldn’t access before, but at the same time, these companies are actively bringing people on and courting independent developers to be on their platforms.”

Gnog has been shown at numerous events to help spread awareness. “We’ve been lucky enough to show Gnog at a bunch of events,” said Dabbous. “They range from Double Fine parties, to Sony events, to GDC, E3 and Unity events. We’ve had amazing partners and they’ve gone a long way to help us get the game out there and show it to people. We’re really grateful for that.”

But being an indie developer has its own set of challenges, which must significantly increase once VR is included. We asked Dabbous why KO_OP was willing to take it all on.

“I completely agree that it’s a huge challenge, especially when you’re doing VR on console,” he replied. “This is our first big commercial game, and VR was an extra challenge for us. But at the end of the day, we really want to make the most incredible game that we can with the resources that we have. When we tried Gnog out in VR, we felt that it would be a shame if we didn’t do it. So, in the pursuit of making the best game we could, we did VR.”

Study: Spending Gap Between Casual And Avid Gamers Is Considerable

It should come as no surprise that avid fans spend more money on something they love compared to those who casually enjoy it from time to time. A new study by Fandom and ComScore explores the spending habits of 5,000 fans ranging from “light” (casual) to “heavy” (avid) in gaming, TV and movies—revealing just how much fandom translates into spending.

Mo’ Games, Mo’ Money

“Heavy” gaming fans—referring to survey participants who typically play more than 15 hours per week—spend an average of $54 a month on video games. This is 3.3 times more likely than “light” gaming fans, who typically play less than six hours per week. Forty-six percent of the heavy gaming fan group often buys video games the week they are released, although the report doesn’t specify which platform (mobile, console or PC) either group of gaming fans prefer.

Fandom concludes that heavy fans not only spend more, but are usually the first among their friends to do so. Half of the respondents who identified as heavy gaming fans agreed with the statement: “I’m usually the first of my friends and family to discover new entertainment.” Likewise, 63 percent of heavy gaming fans enjoy talking about what they’re watching or playing at the time.

That being said, the study found that nearly half (49 percent) of heavy gaming fans consider themselves to be influential, stating: “People turn to me for advice on the latest TV shows, movies or video games.”

Harnessing Avid Gaming Fandom

Seventy percent of these avid gamers claim to highly praise the TV shows, movies or games they are passionate about. While posting on social media or reading up on the latest titles, 28 percent of this demographic says they pay attention to advertisements online. Heavy gaming fans don’t look at just any ads, however—38 percent say they pay more attention to ads that are personalized to them.

Thirty-five percent of heavy gaming fans are more likely to share articles online—2.6 times more than light gaming fans, and 31 percent share videos. However, the report does not mention whether this refers specifically to gaming video content.

Gamers are more active content consumers overall, Fandom reports, showing interest across multiple markets such as travel, finances and vehicles. Of those who participated in this study, 77 percent of heavy gaming fans were male and the average age across the board was 28.