‘Total War: Warhammer II’ Expands Trilogy With More Epic Action

Total War: Warhammer shook up strategy gaming when it released in May last year by combining the deep strategic gameplay of the Total War brand with the brutality of the Warhammer fantasy universe. They were two flavors that went perfectly well together, and now the developers are preparing to do it again with a standalone sequel.

Total War: Warhammer II is the second game in a trilogy and it features four new races: Lizardmen, High Elves, Dark Elves and an unannounced race. The game is driven by a new narrative based in Warhammer lore that takes place on a map called The New World, which has four new continents to explore and a magical vortex that threatens to destroy everything. Although the game has some new features, the core game remains intact from the previous installment. Players are tasked with ensuring their race thrives by destroying rival ones.

[Left] Mark Sinclair, game designer. [Right] Andy Hall, lead writer. The Creative Assembly.
AListDaily sat down with The Creative Assembly’s Mark Sinclair, Warhammer II’s game designer, and lead writer Andy Hall to go in-depth the sequel releasing in September. The first thing we asked was why Creative Assembly chose to turn the Total War: Warhammer franchise into a trilogy.

“The Warhammer tabletop game has so much content—with 16 races and about 30 years of lore behind it—so it’s not feasible to fit it all into one game,” answered Sinclair. “So, the first game has a slice of all that, this second game will have another, and the third game will finish it off. At the end of it all, we’ll have a giant campaign map that’s a giant free-for-all.”

Strategy game trilogies aren’t unusual, as demonstrated by games such as Blizzard’s StarCraft II, which was similarly released in three standalone installments. However, years separated each of those games. It’s been just over a year since the first game came out, and Hall revealed why Creative Assembly was working with such a relatively fast schedule.

“We didn’t want to leave it too long because these games—in addition to being standalone—merge together as parts of one giant jigsaw,” Hall explained. “We don’t want to leave it too long for players, and there is a desire from them to get our stuff out as fast as possible.”

With that being the case, we asked why the developers opted to go with a full standalone sequel instead of launching a major expansion to add-on to the first game. Sinclair responded by saying that with so much new content, a sequel simply made logical sense.

Hall added that, “It was always going to be a trilogy, and if you’re a High Elf fan, but don’t care much for the other races, then you can buy this game and be ready to go. You won’t have to buy the first game and then an expansion just to play as High Elves. But if you own both games, they will merge together after our first big patch to form one big map, making for two different modes of play. There’s the bespoke Vortex campaign for Warhammer II, and then there’s going to be a mega campaign, which is what Warhammer players really want. This is the game they’ve always wanted. They want to use their favorite race and take over the world and this allows them to do that.”

The response from fans appears to be strong. “I think it has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Sinclair. “Everyone who has played Warhammer I is very happy with what we’ve produced and the most common comments were, ‘where are the Lizardmen or High Elves?’ Now, I hope we’re pleasing everyone.”

“The clamor for the different races, whether it was for DLC or in a sequel, has been very strong,” said Hall. “It always seems like we give the players something and then they’re ready for the next thing. We’re working really hard to rattle through it all.”

Getting the next big thing also means extra content for the previous game, given the incentives for picking up the game early. Sinclair said, “We announced a pre-order incentive for Warhammer II, so if you pre-order the game or buy it within the first week of launch, you get a free race pack DLC for the first game—which will be our final add-on for that game outside of power and ability updates.”

Dedicated players have already put in hundreds of hours into the first game. When asked if that meant that players were likely to migrate to a sequel, Hall said, “I would hope so. If I were a customer, I’d want to be able to expand my map by over 50 percent and sail my troops over to take over those new lands. That’s very compelling, I think. And Warhammer II players may want to pick up Warhammer I, so it could work both ways.”

Warhammer II and its mega campaign will let players who have invested hundreds of hours into the first game get a completely new experience when the sequel launches. “You can expand in a completely different direction, adding so many more hours of gameplay,” said Sinclair. “It’s mind-blowing how much content there is.”

There won’t be multiplayer crossplay between the two games if players each only own one or the other. “But if you own both games, you can play as all the races between them,” said Sinclair. Additionally, players will only be able to play the new free-for-all mode, where four players battle against each other for supremacy, by owning both games—making for even more incentive to own both.

Warhammer II delves into the ‘stranger’ parts of the Warhammer universe. “We’re getting into some crazy races now,” said Hall. “Besides the Greenskins, most of the races in Warhammer I were pretty much humans. Warhammer II brings some real ‘out there’ races to the table. You have dinosaurs riding dinosaurs and space lasers! Then you’ve got the Elves, who like to fight against themselves, and I think the mysterious fourth race will please a lot of people.”

We asked the two if this strange fantasy setting appealed to the mainstream history-themed Total War game fans. “We’ve definitely got overlap,” said Sinclair. “I think it’s fair to say that some of our hardcore historical fans were skeptical about Warhammer, but I think that even if you don’t like the aesthetic, Warhammer brought magic, giant monsters and flying creatures to the game. So, even if you don’t like orcs and goblins, we got a lot of people intrigued about how that worked in Total War. I’m sure there are people who won’t touch Warhammer and are keenly waiting for the next historical title, but I think the majority of people came over and a lot of them fell in love with it.”

How does Creative Assembly engage with its players to maintain enthusiasm for this trilogy? “People play the game and then they kind of look for the next thing,” said Hall. We’ve done some nice free DLC drops, including Bretonnia, which is a whole new race. We’re going to continue in that style. There will obviously be paid DLC so that we can keep the lights on, but we’ll also be dropping free bits of content to keep players engaged and coming back.”

All of us are constantly reading the Total War forums and taking in the feedback,” Sinclair added. “It’s a two-way thing where we’re always talking to them. We also have a veteran group of players who are our beta testers that give us feedback.”

Buffalo Wild Wings And Fox Sports Introduce New Social VR Experience

Buffalo Wild Wings, an active esports participant recently with Turner’s ELeague, has jumped into the virtual reality sports game. The brand is the first to experiment with social VR with Fox Sports and VR company LiveLike, where users will be able to order Buffalo Wild Wings food inside from VR for real-world home delivery—all while watching the game with friends and a fellow community of fans.

Buffalo Wild Wings is sponsoring a virtual suite experience across three CONCACAF Gold Cup matches, which are available free on the Fox Sports VR app. The soccer games kick off July 8 for United States-Panama match and will continue with a still-to-be-determined contest on July 22 or 23 and culminate with the Gold Cup championship on July 26.

Michael Davies, Fox Sports’ senior vice president of field and technical operations, told AListDaily that VR opens up a more immersive and interactive element to the viewing experience.

“One thing that we’re working on with Buffalo Wild Wings is to directly connect the immersive experience with the kind of experience that they would like to convey,” said Davies. “In addition to the normal banners of Buffalo Wild Wings signage, we can also allow some interaction within the virtual suite.  And we are just scratching the surface with VR and the kind of interactivity we can provide within the medium—it makes for a very creative sandbox of possibilities.”

Davies said this sponsorship with Buffalo Wild Wings is the latest in a line of “lean-forward campaigns.” Fox and LiveLike updated and revamped the VR suite for the brand. Social VR also opens up new opportunities for ad sales teams to create more targeted sports integrations. All of the Fox Sports VR activations are available on Samsung Gear VR, Cardboard VR and other mobile devices.

The virtual suite for these soccer games will allow four people to congregate in VR and engage with the brand, as well as take in the action on the pitch. Fans will be able to customize their VR avatar, but in the future more customization options will be added.

When entering the experience, users will be able to select a “social” tab and a “join friends” button that connects to Facebook. At that point, friends who have done the same will pop up on your friends list, creating the opportunity to view the experience in a social environment. Additionally, the experience can automatically select a viewing partner at random, with viewers having the ability to seamlessly switch social VR “on” or “off.”

Davies said this first activation is an experiment, so additional friends could be added to future games for a larger social experience.

“We find that the people who have engaged with us in the past are people that like to be a part of the cutting-edge rollout of these kinds of things, so I would expect that we will change a few things based upon what we learn,” Davies said. “The cool thing is that this experience stands on its own with or without social, but there’s no doubt that this is a seismic event in terms of VR and the possibilities of engaging people with a medium that has been criticized as being insular can open up in this way is truly exciting.”

Users will be able to watch the soccer games from four angles, including one positioned behind each goal and one that puts fans in the stands. Fans can choose from any of these views on the fly, or watch the produced “director’s cut” and allow Fox to switch camera angles for them. Davies said this option has been the most popular with past VR sports broadcasts.

“We understand that people aren’t going to watch the whole game in VR—that’s ok,” Davies said. “We want to supply an experience that they can dip in and dip out of. It’s something different and complementary to the game they’re watching on television.”

Fox Sports is working with CONCACAF to deliver additional 360-degree video content that can be viewed inside the virtual suite.

“Over the last year and a half, we have gotten better and better at shooting it, and CONCACAF has been great to work with—they’ve submitted a lot of the ideas and supplied the access for the kinds of things we are doing,” Davies said.

Introducing a social aspect to sports in VR replicates the experience fans would have watching soccer or other games inside a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant.

“It potentially allows friends who are rooting for the US to get together from across the country to watch together in a whole different way,” Davies said.

Over the last 18 months, Fox Sports has offered more than a dozen major events in VR, including Super Bowl LI, the 2016 and 2017 Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament, the 2017 UEFA Champions League final, the 2016 US Open Championship, the 2016 MLS Cup, the 2016 Bundesliga season opener, the 2016 Daytona 500, the 2016 Big Ten Football Championship and a PBC heavyweight title fight.

“Any sport is a good opportunity for social VR,” Davies said. “But the Gold Cup is particularly exciting due to its international appeal. Sports are tribal—we’re hoping this is a good opportunity to allow people to be with the people that they would otherwise want to be with. In the end—sports are meant to be enjoyed with a group—we hope this ends up being a tool to allow people to do just that.”

Davies hopes to extend social VR to other sports as an offering that can go to any of our VR activations.

“It’s truly exciting what this could mean for social viewing, and this will be the first step in figuring this out,” Davies said.

Insomniac Games Details Working With Superpowered ‘Spider-Man’ Brand

Fans have been in a frenzy for Marvel’s Spider-Man game since it was first announced last year at the PlayStation Experience event. That enthusiasm was sparked by the wall-crawler’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War and is further fueled by the upcoming movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Expectations were raised even further during E3, when Sony premiered the first gameplay trailer. Spider-Man marks the first licensed game from Insomniac Games, which is famous for the Ratchet & Clank franchise, but is also making a name for itself with multiple VR titles such as The Unspoken, along with other independent games.

With the blockbuster movie set to launch in July, the pressure is on for the game studio as it prepares for a 2018 release of the web-slinger’s newest game for the PS4. AListDaily spoke with Bryan Intihar, creative director for Marvel’s Spider-Man at Insomniac Studios to find out what goes into meeting the expectations for the brand.

Insomniac understands that there is an incredible amount of enthusiasm for Spider-Man, and its goal is to deliver a fantastic game to match it. The gameplay trailer that debuted at E3 demonstrated some of the open world gameplay, where players are free to choose their own paths across the world and deal with challenges in creative ways.

AListDaily asked Intihar if trailers for the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming was setting up expectations for the game. “Yeah, but I feel pressure regardless of Homecoming. I think the MCU (Marvel Comics Universe) set up expectations for a Marvel experience before Homecoming. It’s the same thing for Wonder Woman—the bar has been set so high from these comic book movies, TV shows, comics and cartoons that our video game needs to match or exceed it.” Although Intihar stated that he’s blown away with each new Homecoming trailer, each one does crank up the stress levels.

Intihar added that he was inspired by the approach movies and television shows like Netflix’s Daredevil use to get at the heart of what the characters are about. He also stated Insomniac is working closely with Marvel to get the Spider-Man brand right. Although a trailer confirms that Iron Man will be making a cameo in Homecoming, Intihar indicated that there probably won’t be any extra superheroes showing up in the game, stating that “we’re focused on making a great Spider-Man game” and Insomniac wanted to focus on getting this part of the Marvel universe right.

However, the appearance of Miles Morales—who is Spider-Man in the Ultimate Marvel comic book universe and the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series—at the end of the gameplay trailer does go a long way toward growing the overall brand. Having the character show up at the end, comic book enthusiasts a chance to educate those who aren’t familiar with the character, thus growing awareness. Intihar confirmed that Peter’s story will intertwine with Miles’ and he also said that while Insomniac was in discussions with Marvel about including some sort of crossover with the movies or comic books, it looks like the video game will be a self-contained story that feels true to the Marvel world.

That being the case, Insomniac is taking a few liberties with the franchise, particularly with the iconic costume, which has a giant white spider design that’s specific to the game. “We want to respect the traditions of the franchise, but we also wanted to mix things up and the suit is a good example of that coming through,” said Intihar. “Some people love it, some people hate it, but we expected that. Then we saw people cosplaying with it and one guy got a giant tattoo of it, and I said, ‘Oh my god, the game better not suck’ when he showed me. But we didn’t do it for shock value, we did it because it’s part of the story. There is a story behind the suit, and I think it’s really cool and that it’s going to surprise a lot of people.”

Furthermore, Insomniac isn’t looking to bring in any of the iconic Spider-Man comic book moments seen in some of the films, such as choosing to save a train car full of people or his love interest. “We’re influenced by certain situations, but this is an original story and these are original events,” Intihar told AListDaily. “I’m a big Marvel fan, and as cool as it would be to recreate these events, I want to give people a new experience. There are characters and situations that they may know, but the exact boss fights are going to be more original. But that doesn’t mean that when they fight a villain, they won’t see similarities to the comics because there’s tons of lore. But we’re trying to capture the DNA of that [hero and villain] relationship and how they would fight rather than copying it beat by beat.”

When talking to Marvel, Intihar discussed what made a great Spider-Man story. The conclusion was that the best stories came from when Peter Parker’s world collided with Spider-Man’s. A lot of people have asked Intihar why the team at Insomniac chose to feature Mister Negative instead of a more well-known villain for its E3 gameplay trailer. Intihar said that, besides the visual effects from the negatively charged weaponry, “we thought that it would be a great opportunity to see those worlds collide. When he gets up there, he doesn’t see Mister Negative, he see Martin Li because he knows him. Martin runs the FEAST (Food, Emergency Aid, Shelter and Training) shelters and Aunt May works at the FEAST shelters.” Insomniac wanted to push those worlds as close together as possible, but Intihar did note that Mister Negative was one of many villains that will appear in the game.

“We at Insomniac are dedicated to making this the best game we can,” concluded Intihar. “We wanted to do this character justice.”

How Movie Theaters Are Catering To Modern Audiences

Ever since the first television set, the movie theater industry has had to compete with in-home entertainment. Despite digital distractions, domestic theatrical revenue reached $11.37 billion in 2016—a two percent increase over the previous year. Although the industry is adopting to the latest technology, serving alcohol and even encouraging phone use to keep young consumers in their theater seats year after year, they’re still struggling for growth.

Audiences between the ages of 18-and-24 attended an average of 6.5 movies over the course of 2016—more than any other age group, according to the Motion Picture Association. In addition, 79 percent of all frequent moviegoers own at least four different types of key technology products (smartphones, tablets, etc.) compared to 60 percent of the total adult population.

Young consumers keep coming back, but Disney’s executive vice president of theatrical distribution, Dave Hollis isn’t satisfied with the lack of growth.

“Even though we’ve had these gains in overall box office, we can also see that attendance has been more or less flat,” Hollis said during a state of the union presentation at CinemaCon in April. He stressed that while ticket prices have largely masked the problem, attendance simply isn’t growing—most likely due to increased internet usage and home entertainment. “This is disruption personified,” he said.

It’s not just gourmet food that keeps young audiences going to the movies. In an age where films can be binge watched anywhere and home releases are happening in shorter time frames, theaters entice moviegoers with the latest technology they can’t find in their living rooms.

There are 72 Dolby Cinema theaters in the United States with partner AMC, complete with laser projection and an advanced 360-degree ring of speakers wrapped around the audience. IMAX has opened a number of VR Experiences across theaters in the US, as well. The attractions offer movie tie-in experiences and video games for audiences headed to the movies.

“In the same way an IMAX movie gets you off your couch and into a multiplex, an IMAX VR Centre needs to be different and better, with premium content that’s highly interactive,” Rob Lister, chief business development officer at IMAX, told AListDaily.

Kids these days may not know who Sid Grauman was, but that doesn’t stop the historic TCL Hollywood Chinese Theater from attracting thousands of tourists each day. Among the hand and foot prints of Marilyn Monroe and the Marx Brothers, you’ll find celebrations of more current hits such as Harry Potter and Twilight. The historic location that hosted so many Hollywood premieres in its golden days now offers an IMAX 3D Laser theater, behind-the-scenes videos on social media and special offers for those to venture inside for a show.

The Chinese Theater also recently partnered with MediaMation MX4D for a “theater-to-arena” esports announcement geared to fully take advantage of the “dark weekdays” of movie theaters. The potentially game-changing model was on full display at E3 earlier this month. Sponsors like Soylent have already formed sponsorships with hopes of leveraging a new audience.

Meeting young consumers on their digital home turf certainly helps sustain ticket sales. Fandango allows social media users to purchase movie tickets through Apple’s iPhone messaging app and partnered with Facebook last year to do the same.

“I think these offerings we are unveiling are an important shift, not just for Fandango, but for Hollywood as a whole,” Paul Yanover, president of Fandango, told The New York Times.

These days, tickets are purchased online, phones are scanned at the theater and hashtags appear on-screen before the previews. Movie theaters post frequently on social media, offer giveaways and serve movie-themed cocktails at the concession stand.

“We’re competing with your home,” Hamid Hashemi, CEO of Florida-based iPic Entertainment, a theater chain that offers cocktails and gourmet food, told the LA Times. “It’s really simple. If there’s a way to watch a movie and improve the experience, why not do it?”

Some day, we may be able to step inside a film itself, Star Trek Holodeck style. In the meantime, theaters will continue to evolve with changing technology and consumer preferences to pursue that ever-elusive growth in ticket sales.

HTC Vive President: “VR Clearly Has A Marketing Problem”

HTC Vive is one of the three major players in the virtual reality marketplace, joining the Facebook-owned Oculus and Sony PlayStation VR as key companies trying to shape the visceral vertical by pouring millions in moolah into funding content creation for a growing consumer base.

The Taiwanese consumer electronics company took another step forward with hopes of growing the VR/AR ecosystem by welcoming 33 new startups to its accelerator program.

According to research firm SuperData, the VR industry will grow to $4.9 billion in 2016. Creating immersive experiences that will garner widespread consumer attraction is primarily the name of the game.

HTC Vive, which differentiates its product with room-scale VR, marked their first anniversary in the marketplace in April by celebrating the launch of the first-ever subscription model for a VR app store.

Developers are celebrating them, too. According to a VR/AR Innovation Report compiled from responses from 600 professionals last week, the HTC Vive is the most popular (56 percent) VR platform to develop for.

Rikard Steiber, president of Viveport at HTC Vive, joined AListDaily to offer some updates on the current state of the industry.

Rikard Steiber, president of HTC Viveport and SVP of VR

On HTC Vive joining forces with Warner Bros. and Steven Spielberg for Ready Player One to create content experiences . . .

VR is very exciting, but it’s also very hard to explain to people around the world. That’s why we’re so excited about our partnership with Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. around the new movie Ready Player One. There are movies that are the defining films for robots, and artificial intelligence, for example. We believe the VR experiences for Ready Player One could be the defining movie that explains VR to everyone. We’re partnering with them to create various kind of content experiences, to make it come alive all the way until the movie’s theatrical release in March 2018. . . . We’re most proud of the content creators and developers. We have over 1,600 [experiences] being developed just this year, and this will be the year we have the triple-A titles. I think Hollywood is really stepping up the game. Most of the big movies and IPs are creating VR experiences today. Ready Player One is going to have more native VR experiences from Hollywood. This is just the beginning of things to come. We’ll see what kind of experiences we’ll create after that.

On launching a $10 million program showing how VR can lead to positive impact and sustainability . . .

With this great technology, you can now democratize access to the experience. So places where only a few could go before, everyone can go now. I think that space is kind of the final frontier, and everyone’s really excited about space. We have one initiative with VR For Impact where we’re using this technology to try and save the planets. We’re working together with the United Nations on their 17 sustainability goals. We recently announced that we’re having our first content project. They’re going to send the world’s first VR camera satellite into space so that we can all join them to see our fragile planet. Hopefully, we’ll take actions to take good care of it.

On the impact VR has on marketing and advertising . . .

VR will have a huge impact on advertising and marketing because it’s the most immersive and experiential media. Brands always want to create experiences. Now consumers can go into VR and really experience the brand and the product in a completely new way. There’s a good opportunity because developers and creators need funding for their projects. It’s a great way for brands to engage, and not to have advertising in your face, but to actually be a part of a creative experience for the consumer. Consumers want to have great experiences from great brands. We’re starting to see brands like Nissan and BMW engage with great IP to basically fund these experiences. When it comes to VR technology, premium content costs a lot of money to create. There will be good opportunities for brands and advertisers to engage, like they did in television in the early days.

On the marketing challenges of VR . . .

VR clearly has a marketing problem because it’s a very experiential medium. It’s like The Matrix with Neo and Morpheus—you have to take the pill and run down the rabbit hole to experience the matrix. You cannot explain the Matrix. That’s why it’s so important for us to make VR accessible to everyone in places like retail stores and VRcades so that anyone can try it and understand its potential. For us to market VR and work with the industry, our strategy is essentially to let others speak for us, let the developers show their content, let them show their experiences. When we’re at shows, we want to show off the developers. We want to show all the awesome stuff they’re doing. We want to show how you can create things in VR, how you can basically be social in VR or how you can build your business in VR.

On the current consumer adoption rate of VR . . .

It’s mainly gaming and entertainment consumers who are the early adopters. But we’re seeing a lot of interest from schools and education sectors, from creatives to designing arts. I think that consumers are very curious. I think that most people now have heard about VR, but clearly everyone hasn’t tried it. They may have tried some simple 360-degree videos. But I do believe with all of the experiences in VRcades, retail and shopping malls, most people will have tried it by the end of this year. Hopefully then they’ll think it was such a great experience that they’ll get one for their house. In the not too distant future, VR will be like the internet. It will just be there. It’ll be like a utility; we won’t even think about it. It will be natural to go somewhere or learn something in VR. When we build our car, we won’t do it on a web page. We’ll do it in VR—it will be very natural. It will take a little bit of time for people to get used to the idea and to build these experiences. But the interesting thing with VR is it is not about the future—it’s here today.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Nintendo VP Discusses Switch Console’s Marketing Message

Many of the 15,000 consumers that packed E3 last week spent hours standing in line to play Nintendo’s Super Mario Odyssey. The game was a unanimous best of show winner across a variety of mainstream and gaming sites. Additionally, it’s just one in a strong line-up of Nintendo Switch titles that has propelled the console on a successful trajectory of over 1.2 million units sold in the US and over one million sold in Japan. In fact, Nintendo is having trouble keeping up with demand for the system and has recently increased its manufacturing output to try to keep up.

AListDaily sat down with Doug Bowser, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nintendo of America, to discuss the Japanese company’s turnaround since launching the Switch.

Doug Bowser, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nintendo of America

What are your thoughts about the role of E3, now that the public is attending?

Nintendo fully supports E3 and the ESA and we have a strong presence here. E3 is still, in our opinion, the number one video game show in the world because it’s the first time everyone in the industry gets to premier all their content as we look to 2017 and beyond. E3 is constantly evolving with the choices that EA has made, and the choice we made this year to bring 15,000 consumers in. We’re learning from it, but it is an extremely important milestone within the video game calendar year.

Nintendo has been leading the way by directly addressing to its consumers via Nintendo Direct and Nintendo Spotlight livestreams. How has that opened things up from a marketing perspective?

One thing that has changed with our presence at E3 is we don’t do a big stage show anymore. We stopped doing that five years ago. We’ve used Spotlight videos, which is as affective a way to communicate to the masses. And then we focus our energy on the floor and let people come engage in the content and create an open environment with as many kiosks as possible for people to engage in. We also ran Treehouse for most of the day, which is a great direct streaming opportunity to everyone that’s not here on the floor. It provides a chance to get much deeper into the content.

What role does esports or competitive gaming play for Nintendo?

In our mind, the definition of esports is pretty broad. It can go from one end of the spectrum—which I would call underwriting sponsorships, team support, etc.—to the other end of the spectrum, which is just fun, competitive multiplayer gaming. I would say we’re really trying to promote fun, competitive multiplayer gaming. We’ve obviously had a few tournaments at E3 with ARMS, Splatoon 2 and Pokkén Tournament DX going on. And we’ve been involved in esports competitions in the past with Smash Bros. at E3 and Comic-Con. Two years ago, we had the Nintendo World Championships at E3. But that’s not to indicate that we’re planning to get into esports as many people are defining it. It’s just that we want to be able to promote some great games that we think have an ability to be fun and competitive and that you can play on the couch with your friends and family—and/or they could be introduced to other esports venues potentially down the road.

Do you think E3 has offered a way to test the waters for new esports titles?

Exactly, ARMS is brand new and that tournament was a great way to show its depth because, quite honestly, it is a very deep game with a lot of strategy involved with the way you can structure your fighter.

How does esports impact Nintendo developers as they create new titles like ARMS or Splatoon 2?

I don’t know that we designed the games with an esports end-game in mind. It’s more that we know that players like these type of fun, competitive games, and we’re looking for different ways to design games that meet that need or desire, so you see that. To your point, in Splatoon, it’s a very different way to have a combat turf war. ARMS introduces more of a fighting mechanic, but it’s fun, it’s competitive. Then Pokkén Tournament DX has an orientation more like a Smash Bros. in terms of its gameplay style. So, it’s more that we want to create a variety of different competitive games.

Last year, some people were counting Nintendo out after the Wii U, but the Switch is clearly an early hit. What went right this time?

Well, we’re pleased with the results so far. There clearly is a demand for the product and we think it’s a combination of factors. First of all, it’s the uniqueness of the platform itself in that it’s a home console that you can pull out and take on the go and play in a variety of different styles. Then there’s the ability to play in different modes with different controllers and with different numbers of players. When you get to the portable nature of it with Tabletop Mode, you can stack a number of Switches around the table so everyone can compete against each other with different perspectives either on one device, or each on their own respective devices. That unique playing proposition is what’s been driving the demand to this point, and then it’s about great content. It started with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was attaching pretty much one-to-one to every unit sold, and then it continues on with the titles we’ve launched since then like Mario Kart 8. So, it’s that combination of unique hardware proposition with some great games that people are looking forward to playing

EA has a separate team working on a special FIFA soccer game for Switch. How is the early success of Switch getting third party publishers interested?

Back in February, we announced we had 70 developers or publishers building 100 games. Since that time, each of those numbers has more than doubled, and it runs the gamut from indies all the way to major publishers. At the E3 press conferences, with the exception of Sony, everyone mentioned Nintendo Switch. Even our friends at Microsoft talked about some of the cross-play opportunities. That’s an indication of support, and we thank them and we look forward to it.

What’s the marketing messaging for Nintendo now?

Well, it’s about a couple of things. It’s definitely Super Mario Odyssey, which was the main focus of the floor and will be a large game for us coming out on October 27. But our booth had Splatoon 2, ARMS, Pokkén Tournament DX, Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. We had FIFA set up to show folks the different game styles for in-home or an on the go. We had a nice variety of titles we wanted to show because it’s not just about Super Mario Odyssey. But that will be a large one. We want to communicate to folks that we’ve got this steady cadence of titles, both first party and third party, coming throughout the rest of the year and beyond.

Apple’s Latest Marketing Strategy Targets The Gaming Market

Despite some efforts from developers, Apple isn’t exactly known for being a game platform—at least not on desktop or AppleTV. But on mobile devices, the world’s most valuable portfolio is embracing its active (and high spending) audience of gamers with a new App Store design, subscription services and an expansion into AR/VR.

Playing To The Crowd

Gaming is the most popular category on the App Store, according to the company, and with the latest update, Apple makes it easier to find something to play. With a dedicated home just for games, the new App Store layout features recommendations for new releases and updates, videos, top game charts and “hand-picked” collections.

Apple has good reason to keep mobile gamers happy—iOS users spend twice as much on mobile games than on Android, according to a study by AppsFlyer. The average purchase of gaming apps is at $12.77 for iOS versus $6.19 for Android. Mobile gaming is the largest sector in interactive entertainment and consumers spent a whopping $41 billion on mobile games last year.

“Apple is currently the clear leader in mobile gaming with a forecasted total earnings of $28 billion in 2017E,” Superdata CEO Joost Van Dreunen told AlistDaily. “However, over the years, Android has been catching up and is expected to total $20 billion this year. Given this circumstance, it is clear that Apple has to start clearly differentiating itself.”

Sign Me Up

Rolled out last fall, Apple is encouraging developers to adopt its new subscription model by offering them 85 percent of the revenue for all users who stay subscribed for longer than a year.

“[IOS] subscriptions benefit developers from a revenue standpoint given a higher revenue share with the app stores, potential promotion of customer loyalty and revenue predictability,” Terence Fung, Storm8 chief strategy officer told AlistDaily. “For 2017, I expect developers to launch games with fresh game mechanics and/or episodic content that’s highly valued by consumers and are much better tailored for subscriptions. By the end of 2017, there will be a new top 50 grossing game that garners more than 50 percent of its revenue from subscriptions.”

Gaming Into The Future

AR/VR has become a major focus for Apple, as demonstrated during the company’s 2017 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 17). Powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) technology, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) showcased its HTC Vive real-time cinematic demo which ran on Macs for the first time. Director Peter Jackson’s company, Wingnut AR, also took the stage to give a preview of what AR gaming could look like using an iPad Pro and a tabletop.

On stage at WWDC, Nick Whiting, technical director of VR and AR at Epic Games, said that Niantic helped pave the way for Apple’s move into AR with Pokémon GO.

Pokémon GO brought the whole idea into the mainstream, so you don’t have to convince people to buy a device,” Whiting said. “The barrier to entry is zero. A social experience can only work when a critical mass of people you know in real life have a frictionless entry point, and that’s the case with iPhone and not the case with any other platform in the world.”

Apple caught the attention of developers and gamers alike by partnering with Nintendo last year for both mobile devices and the Apple Watch.

“Already we saw a timed platform exclusive release with Super Mario Run last year, which had the markings of a test to see how much Apple should invest in original content,” Van Dreunen continued. “So far, Apple TV hasn’t done much as a gaming console, and despite a growing inventory of games on its App Store, its laptops and iMacs are by no means considered ‘gaming computers.’ It is likely that Apple will regard augmented reality as the next frontier where it can set itself up for a first-mover advantage. Since WWDC 17, the company has been on a road tour to recruit content creators, which suggests that we might have a few interesting years ahead of us.”

“Business models, marketing mechanics, and organizational structures required to run apps/games as a service have been pioneered through Apple’s mobile devices,” Newzoo CEO Peter Warman told AlistDaily. “During this process, hardware revenues have always been the main focus of Apple. Now that unit sales are dropping due to a longer lifetime of smartphones and tablets, Apple will need to revisit who they are and what else they can offer to consumers.

“Naturally this includes more peripherals, for example, voice control devices and VR headsets, but will it play a more significant role in (interactive) content? With gaming fast becoming the world’s favorite pastime, it’s only natural to put “game enthusiasts” at a central position in any interactive media strategy that Apple develops. Apple can play a more active role in providing consumers with the tools to create communities, content, and their own business.”

ReKTGlobal Plans To Bridge The Gap Between Esports And Traditional Sports

Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into esports and competitive gaming from large game publishers and big brands, the global landscape is very much still the wild west on the business side of things.

After spending time as a co-owner of Team EnVyUs, Amish Shah, founding partner of venture capitalist firm SierraMaya360m, knows this first-hand.

“Here you have all these sponsors writing six-or-seven figure checks and no one has it figured out on the business side,” Shah told AListDaily. “We found the esports market is devoid of senior management-type people who bring best practices to the marketplace, and we’re uniquely suited to do that with our management team.”

That was the inspiration for ReKTGlobal, Inc., a startup that launched last September and has raised $2 million to date, mostly through sports and entertainment investors. The company is focused on a number of business opportunities, including connecting esports teams with traditional sports teams and venues across multiple sports through ReKTVenues.

“The big vision is that every city is going to have an esports venue—that’s happening now, and that every professional sports team has an esports strategy,” Shah said.

ReKTGlobal co-founder and CEO David Bialek, who spent 25 years in traditional sports marketing, said the company is already working with professional teams and entertainment spaces across the country.

“We’re taking the unused days in these venues and transforming them into esports experiences, or more broadly, gaming experiences or viewing parties,” Bialek said. “This will allow traditional sports teams and venues to tap into the elusive millennial male. There’s a symbiotic relationship with this initiative.”

Bialek noted that the NBA, NFL and FIFA have been proactive with numerous pro sports teams’ owners already investing in esports teams, but no one has cracked the code on how to have a model that works for the venues.

“ReKTGlobal’s venue model offers a customizable approach to finding offerings and solutions for both pro sports and non-sports venues,” Bialek added.

Shah said traditional sports owners realize they’re losing millennial fans to esports. Plus, there are hundreds of nights that sports venues go dark. By connecting esports with traditional sports venues, teams can develop relationships with millennials through competitive gaming.

Another area the company is focusing on is ReKTLive, which Bialek said will focus on live festivals and events.

“We’ll be announcing a joint venture with a preeminent experiential festival operator in the US, where we’re creating a gaming and VR experience that we can drop into existing festivals to attract millennials and entice existing customers to stay longer, and eat and drink more,” Bialek said. “We’re also going to be creating stand-alone gaming festivals that will quickly be pervasive throughout the country.”

ReKTGlobal is also targeting university and jobs verticals by focusing on esports devotees and those interested in either working in the space, or getting scholarships within the collegiate market.

Rounding out the executive team is Kevin Knocke, vice president of esports, who brings experience from working in the games industry at companies like IGN, Blizzard Entertainment and Ubisoft. Knocke said his knowledge of the esports business will help traditional sports and entertainment companies better understand how to connect with fans.

“ReKTGlobal was the first company I saw to take a profitable, long-term-minded approach to the esports industry, and the first to truly understand what it takes from a professional sports perspective to leverage high value brands and locations,” Knocke said.

Shah said new deals will be announced in the coming months, but ReKTGlobal is already working with teams, tournament providers and Twitch-like, esports-centric platforms of the world.

“We have creative things going on with esports teams and pro teams,” Shah said. “These new ventures are designed to help bridge the gap between the multi-billion-dollar business of traditional sports and the burgeoning business of esports and competitive gaming.”

The Current State Of Mobile Gaming

Mobile gaming—from the most casual candy crusher to the obsessed champion—is a platform that spans gender, age, genre and lifestyle. About 1.9 billion people play mobile games, according to rewarded ad provider Tapjoy. Last year, mobile games brought in $40.6 billion worldwide—more than any other interactive entertainment medium. Let’s see who’s playing.

Meet The Players

Who plays mobile games? If you think it’s mostly teenagers, you’d be wrong. According to Tapjoy’s report The Changing Face of Mobile Gamers: What Brands Need to Know, the largest age group is made up of consumers 55 and over at 23 percent, followed by consumers ages 25-to-34 (21 percent) and 35-to-44 (19 percent). Teens 13-to-17 make up just 8.05 percent of mobile gamers, while those 18-to-24 are slightly higher at 13.56 percent.

Women represent the majority of mobile gamers, making up 63 percent of the total player base. Despite this revelation, 72 percent of the women surveyed said that they do not consider themselves a “gamer” even though 59 percent of women said they play games at least 10 times per week.

The vast majority of gamers (69 percent) said they play at least three-to-five times per day, while 71 percent of respondents play for an hour or more every day, and 21 percent play for more than three hours a day.

Global Mobile

China has climbed to the No. 1 spot for iOS mobile game revenue, surpassing the US and Japan as of the second quarter of 2016. According to App Annie, China’s sudden domination is attributed to the explosive popularity of multiplayer collaborative games in the region. Although the rise of the Chinese market to global leader was impressive compared to the last two years, it’s not exactly surprising.

Together, China, the US and Japan are responsible for approximately 75 percent of gaming revenue on the iOS platform, with gaming as the single largest revenue driver. China alone nearly doubled the iOS App Store games revenue it had just a year earlier in second quarter of 2015.

What They’re Playing

Puzzle games are by far the most popular category, Tapjoy found, played by 59 percent of respondents, followed by strategy (38 percent), trivia (33 percent) and casino/card games (27 percent). Among the least popular games were player-versus-player (15 ) and sports (11 percent). The shooting category was least popular among mobile gamers at just eight percent.

Phones Over Tablets

When asked which devices they use to play mobile digital games, 78 percent of US respondents identified smartphones versus a tablet (59 percent) or laptop (47 percent), according to a study by PayPal and SuperData. In fact, the smartphone is the most popular gaming platform in nine out of the 10 countries surveyed.

Combined, mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets is the largest segment of the video game industry this year, accounting for 42 percent of the total global market with $35.3 billion. The segment also has the most gamers, Newzoo reports, with 2.1 billion. Mobile is expected to hold its titles as the largest gaming segment, growing with a CAGR (2016 to 2020) of 13.9 percent to claim 50 percent of the market by 2020.

Okay With Ads

In addition to becoming the largest segment of gamers in the world, US mobile gamers in particular are accustomed to ad-supported business models and microtransactions. The Modern Mobile Gamer: Advertising Preferences Revealed by Tapjoy explores the ways in which US consumers interact with mobile advertising within a gaming app. Out of the 2,615 survey participants, 21 percent said they preferred free, ad-supported games while 14 percent preferred a paid business model without ads. Similarly, a recent study by NPD revealed that a majority of mobile game users prefer to earn in-game currency over paying real money.

More than half of US consumers — 51 percent — said they are willing to watch at least four videos per day in exchange for rewards. Thirty-seven percent said they’d watch six or more videos per day, Tapjoy found.

Rewarded ads that yield in-game offers in exchange for watching or interacting with an ad were preferred by 69 percent of consumers in a Forrester Consulting study. Respondents said it’s critical that ads don’t disrupt their use of the app, and 67 percent indicated they wanted to be offered a reward, such as premium content or virtual currency in exchange for engaging with an ad.

Amazon Game Studios Takes Esports Competition To The High Seas

Amazon Game Studios is taking esports to where it’s never been before. In a partnership with the Royal Dutch Navy, Red Bull Esports and AMD, pro teams Echo Fox and Rogue will go head-to-head to play Breakaway—a squad-based brawler where players take the roles of mythic heroes to compete against each other—aboard a naval battleship at sea. All of the high-seas action can be seen on the Red Bull Esports Twitch channel on Monday, June 26 at 3 p.m. ET.

The Battle on the High Seas event was announced last week via an official Breakaway blog post with a live action trailer that demonstrates some of the fast paced gameplay onboard the Royal Dutch Navy battleship. To win, teams must either take control of a golden orb (called a Relic) and bring it to the opponent’s base to score, or completely eliminate the opposing team’s players. Matches are limited to four minutes to keep the action going and the intensity high, which is magnified with the exhibition game’s exciting real-life setting. Viewers can also look forward to prizes, with Rogue running a sweepstake to give away four AMD Ryzen processors and 2,000 Breakaway alpha keys to promote the event.

Talking with AListDaily, David Silverman, head of marketing at Amazon Game Studios Orange County, explained how this partnership to bring esports aboard a battleship came together.

“It all started with the Royal Dutch Navy—they were looking for ways to incorporate competitive gaming into Sail Den Helder, an annual gathering of the largest tall ships in the world,” said Silverman. “After hearing a TEDx talk from our head of esports, Jonathan Pan, they approached him with this awesome opportunity.”

Silverman then talked about how Red Bull became involved. “Red Bull’s approach to esports, specifically their focus on community tournaments and the way they let players—rather than their own brand—take center stage in their marketing, really resonated with us. They liked our approach to competitive gaming too, so we decided to work together, starting with a Breakaway playtest at their Santa Monica studios. We started working with Echo Fox and Rogue around the same time.”

As for AMD and Razer, Silverman said, “we’ve worked closely with AMD since we unveiled Breakaway. They are passionate about gaming and we love working with them. Razer helped sponsor our USC vs. UCLA exhibition match a few months back, and was also great to work with. We’re thrilled to see all these pieces come together for Battle on the High Seas.”

When asked what inspired this event, Silverman replied, “It sounded like an incredibly cool opportunity, and we thought it was something our community would think was a lot of fun.” The tournament will be played inside of the battleship so that the heavy North Sea winds won’t interfere with the competition, and the casters will be on the second deck.

We also asked Silverman how the battleship will be featured in the event and whether sailors from the Dutch Royal Navy will be involved.

“The Battle on the High Seas is happening during Sail Den Helder, and the ship we’ll be in, The Holland, will lead 150+ ships when we all sail out to sea to conclude the event,” said Silverman. “Four sailors will participate in the undercard match, and the Navy is also providing two drone operators to help film the event.”

So, what makes Breakaway the ideal game for an esports competition on the high seas? “Breakaway is a team battle sport that focuses on sport and intensity,” Silverman explained. “The competitive nature of Breakaway has attracted a lot of teams who are looking for something that has a similar skill gap to the games they currently play, but resolves in just a couple minutes.

“In addition to the fast gameplay, we built Breakaway to be just as fun to watch as it is to play. We’ve been hosting weekly broadcasts on Twitch since we announced the game at TwitchCon last year, and for the launch of our June alpha, we thought this event would be a great way to kick things off for our European players who now have dedicated EU servers online. Hopefully, this is the start of bringing high-intensity competition to cool and unique venues. If this goes well, maybe there will be a Breakaway Battle in the Skies or Breakaway Battle in Space!”