56 Percent Of Video Plays Are On Mobile; IoT Will Reach $800B In 2017

This week in marketing statistics, consumers can’t stop looking at their phones, long-form video dominates all the screens and consumers reveal what annoys them the most about brands.

Phone FOMO

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine (or remember) a time when we didn’t have smartphones practically attached to our hands. Sixty-three percent of smartphone users operate their devices at least once every 30 minutes, and 22 percent of users now check their phones every five minutes. according to new data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a major driver for checking our phones so often, especially on social media. A study by Qualtrics and venture capital firm Accel found that 42 percent of millennials in North America, the UK and Australia hadn’t lasted five hours without checking their feeds. (Time spent sleeping was excluded from the survey.) Compared to older generations, millennials were less able to refrain from social media. Just over one quarter (26 percent) of Gen X hadn’t gone five hours without social media, while 29 percent of baby boomers said the same.

Baby boomers may not be checking social media as often because they’re reading the news instead. Sixty-seven percent of US consumers ages 65 and older read the news on a mobile device, according to new findings from the Pew Research Center. Among respondents between the ages of 50 and 60, 79 percent get their news via mobile as of March 2017.

Ads And Annoyance

The first quarter of 2017 marked the highest ever first quarter earnings for digital advertising in the US, according to the IAB, reaching $19.6 billion. Things are looking up for digital advertising, with these earnings being the second-highest quarter of all time and the seventh consecutive first quarter to have double-digit, year-over-year growth.

Be careful where your ads appear, though. According to the newly released “How Brands Annoy Fans” survey from the CMO Council, 37 percent said ads that appear next to objectionable content change how they think about the brand when making a purchase decision. In response to such offensive ad placement, 10 percent said they would boycott the brand and nine percent said they would be vocal or complain, raising issue with the brand.

Ad placement is far from the only reason consumers will reject a brand altogether. According to “What Makes People Love the Brands They Love”a new report by Rakuten Marketing Insights, the top reason once-loyal US digital consumers would not return to purchase is multiple, poor experiences with a brand’s staff.

Sometimes ads aren’t as clear as they should be. Mediakix found that 32 of the top 50 celebrities posted some kind of sponsored content in the month of May, and 93 percent failed to meet FTC rules.

Video Goes Long; Gamers Come Together

Over half—56.5 percent—of all video plays were on mobile devices in the first quarter of 2017, according to Ooyala’s 2017 Global Video Index. This figure illustrates an upward trend from 54.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016. So what are people watching? Long-form video—defined as content lasting longer than 20 minutes—surpassed short-form video in the first quarter to dominate all screens. Long-form video accounted for 98 percent of time spent watching on connected TVs, 81 percent on tablets, 63 percent on computers and 55 percent on smartphones.

Video game content is dominating on YouTube. According to Ipsos, 56 percent of YouTube gamers say YouTube is where they connect with their gaming community. In addition, 66 percent of female YouTube gamers watch gaming videos on the platform when they want to hear from people they can relate to.

Internet All The Things

IDC predicts IoT spending will grow 16.7 percent year-over-year in 2017, reaching just over $800 billion. By 2021, global IoT spending is expected to reach nearly $1.4 trillion. According to the firm’s updated spending estimates, this growth will be led by enterprise investments in IoT hardware, software, services and connectivity. In terms of industries, manufacturing and transportation remain the highest spenders, reaching $183 billion and $85 billion, respectively. Utilities comes in a close third with expected spending of $66 billion.

Nescafé Dials Up Experiential Marketing At E3

Laboring through a trade show like E3 that is long on parties and short on sleep can be a tall task.

Nescafé tried to save the day with a daily kick of caffeine over the course of the three-day video games expo this week by setting up a pop-up coffee shop at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The experiential marketing move was designed to engage the E3 community while also showing off the Nescafé Dolce Gusto, a single serve coffee and espresso machine.

“We believe that high-quality coffee at home should be available to everybody. It should be an amazing experience, and we would like consumers to rediscover their coffee experience by discovering Nescafé Dolce Gusto,” Berta Cruz Corominas, marketing director for Nescafé Dolce Gusto, told AListDaily. “We’re a passionate team that wants to share with the world that the coffee standards are now changing, and we believe the E3 event was a great platform for us to broadcast that.”

Cruz Corominas said their strategy was simple—to tap into a total of 68,400 savvy consumers who attended E3 and have them test their cappuccinos, lattes and espressos and product’s technology and design.

“The consumer reaction is always amazing. We are opening their eyes to a new coffee reality where convenience and high quality meet,” said Cruz Corominas.

Coffee discovery is a key part of the Nestlé-owned brand’s strategy. Nescafé Dolce Gusto is dialing up their marketing with presence in places like malls where consumers can get to know their product a bit better, Cruz Corominas said. They also have a program that brings discovery experiences to offices, communities and gyms. She added that digital is key for them too to establish a close relationship with their customers.

“Our business will keep evolving. Our passionate team operates as a start-up—we’re set up to sell directly to consumers and also take direct feedback from them,” Cruz Corominas concluded. “We are very consumer-centric and we aim to join the consumer where they drink coffee. We listen to their feedback and adjust our strategy and our plans as we go along.”

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

‘Project Cars 2’ Revs Up Esports Focus

Bandai Namco and developer Slightly Mad Studios are showcasing Project Cars 2 at E3 this week. The game companies have big plans for esports, when it comes to expanding the growing popularity of the racing franchise as a competitive game.

Andy Tudor, creative director of  Slightly Mad Studios, told AListDaily that the studio took an “if we build it, they will come” attitude with esports on the original game.

“We knew from our work on Need for Speed Shift that people trying to beat each other’s times by autolog was extremely addictive, so much so that they might even play career mode,” Tudor said. “Players would want to jump back into the game just to beat somebody’s time. So we knew that there was a community out there that was really passionate about racing competitively at a very high level.”

The studio launched Project Cars esports quietly back in 2015, creating a season around community events with partner ESL. Tudor saw this draw a lot of fast racers, some of whom were part of esports teams in other franchises like Hearthstone and League of Legends.

In 2015 for Season 2, sponsors like Nvidia and Logitech came on board and competition was held at events like EGX and Paris Games Week. Teams formed and drivers started wearing jerseys and all of the competition was streamed for the community.

“There’s Logictech, Plantronics and Thrustmaster sponsoring other teams. So it’s a combination of hardware in the gaming space, but then also people from outside like McClaren, which has its own esports team. We’re starting to see more companies getting interested, including Red Bull and Monster Energy,” said Tudor.

Season 3 was recently announced, which will have a live Finals at Gamescom on the ESL One stage. There are also weekly online Cups with ESL and monthly finals around Europe. There’s League Officiale in Spain and the PlayStation Plus League in France.

Tudor said teams from iRacing and Forza have been invited to the season format because it’s where the champions play.

The studio has created a multiclass championship, which features pros with a dedicated prize pool at one level, and then a lower Challenger class with up-and-coming drivers racing on the same circuit at the same time. The idea is for the new talent to be showcased and potentially get picked up by the pro teams.

“The stuff that’s happening in Season 3 is directly going to affect Season 4, where we’ll introduce a competitive racing license accreditation in the game,” Tudor explained. “We now have online championships and a more structured way of creating these tournaments so that the people that win in Season 3 may get automatic qualification into Season 4.”

Season 3 features nine races before going into the Gamescom Final. Tudor said the goal is to help tell the stories of these teams and the rivalries that evolve over the course of the competition.

“Some of these teams are rivals and some players used to play for other teams before getting poached,” Tudor said. “It’s all about storytelling, so we’ve always had the mentality of having longer seasons where we can tell a story and build up the anticipation for the Final.”

As the studio began developing Project Cars 2, Tudor knew that eSports were the biggest thing that was keeping the game revving long after launch. The goal was to put all the features in there that were missing in the first game to bring this to a comparable level with big esports games like CS:GO.

“Online Championships is a brand new game mode that’s going to allow you to structure any series or championship or tournament that you want to put together,” Tudor said. “You invite the drivers in. You put them in specific cars with specific liveries. You put the schedule of the races on there. You set the rules and flags and penalties, and then all the drivers get notified when the first round is happening.”

The new game has a built-in director and broadcaster functionality for streaming. The director is responsible for choosing the camera angle and choosing the overlays on screen for the people at home who are watching, and then the broadcaster is responsible for actually streaming the thing off to Twitch or YouTube gaming or whatever. The broadcaster can also provide commentary as well.

“So just by having two friends you can, in essence, recreate the kind of broadcast-quality level that you see in big esports titles out there in your own home, and this is on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One,” Tudor explained.

Project Cars 2 will also support virtual reality, which Tudor is a big fan of.

“Any live event that we do we will always have VR because we’re absolutely committed to it,” Tudor added. “Therefore it’s pretty much a given that if you see Project Cars at an esports event or live event, VR will play a big part. We have the potential to be the first big VR esport out there.”

Project Cars 2 in VR was featured at the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) World Championship in Katowice, Poland earlier this year. The game is one of several titles Intel is showcasing as a potential esport of the future.

At a recent pre-E3 event in Los Angeles, Bandai Namco featured the VR version of Project Cars 2, including a sit-down motion simulator version that combined a VR headset with an accurate car simulation complete with pedals and a gear shifter, so there’s also that element that could be featured at esports events in the future.

Seeing Green (Badges): Brands React To E3’s New Public Image

E3 2017 is the first in its long history to offer mass amounts of tickets to the general public. While that’s great news for consumers, what does that mean for brands and members of the press, for which E3 has catered exclusively to in the past?

Noobs Welcome

While E3 veterans know that, traditionally, there is a healthy host of photo ops on the show floor, brands really stepped it up this year for the general consumer. Video game brands prepared for the onslaught of new faces with eye-catching and selfie-worthy activations from the “Bethesdaland” amusement park to a Nyko ball pit that players could try controllers in.

“With opening up to the public this year, it’s the perfect opportunity to have something that’s so engaging and interactive,” Nyko exhibitor Surabhi Srivastava told AListDaily. “We wanted to have a slide that goes into the ball pit, but there were a lot of waivers around the design.”

Twitch and T-Mobile teamed up to bring a full-fledged esports arena to nearby L.A. LIVE, where large crowds gathered to watch pros duke it out in the latest fighting games.

“Though the number of esports events held each year around the world continues to grow, we know many fans have only seen an event while watching Twitch,” Salvatore said. “​Because 15,000​ ​consumer passes have been sold to E3​, it​ means ​a lot of fans will have the chance to be part of a live esports event.”

“I think it was definitely a good move for us to open the doors and bring the public in,” Dan Hewitt, vice president of media relations and event management for the Entertainment Software Association (the organizing body of E3) told AListDaily. “The response has been very positive. If you go down to the floor, it’s very accessible. The lines are very manageable. And I think that the response we’re getting from our exhibitors is only positive. The entire world is focused on Los Angeles right now with E3 and video games. That just underscores E3’s dominance as the global event for computer and video games, whether that’s games on consoles, PC or mobile. It’s all on the floor. And there really is a great diversity not only in terms of the number of our attendees but also in terms of the exhibitors that are in the hall.”

Hope You Like Crowds

Of course, one downside to opening its doors to even more people is the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Getting from one side of the convention center to the other in a sea of green consumer badges proved easier said than done, especially for members of the press. While many complained over social media, others delighted in watching that excitement come over newcomers’ faces at their first E3.

Overall, marketers seem thrilled to gain direct access to a flood of excited gamers.

“With fans paying their way to come in, they’re the core gamers. We’re looking at it that way from a branding and marketing perspective,” Mac Marshall, ‎senior director of brand, PR and communications for Turtle Beach told AListDaily.

Hospitality Brands And Tourism Boards Partner On The Road To Success

In an industry where the destination is only part of a travel plan, global leaders have found a powerful friend in local tourism boards. With summer just around the corner, Americans are starting to dream of their next getaway. Thanks in part to younger, experience-driven consumers, the US travel market is estimated to reach $381 billion by the end of 2017, according to Deloitte.

Airbnb recently teamed up with the entire country of Sweden to promote travel to the region. By law, the the land is free and accessible to all, so the country laid out a welcome mat to the world using the popular online marketplace.

“This partnership is a first of its kind collaboration between a tourism board and Airbnb,” James McClure, Airbnb’s general manager for Northern Europe told The Drum. “It is designed to promote Sweden as a destination through the power of the Airbnb community. We see Visit Sweden as our long term partner and are happy to join forces in promoting Sweden as a destination.”

While Sweden’s partnership was a first for Airbnb, the practice is anything but new to traditional travel brands. Expedia, for example, has made many such partnerships including Hawaii Tourism Authority and the San Antonio Tourist Board.

“In today’s continuously evolving digital landscape, finding ways to reach and meaningfully engage with potential travelers is becoming more complex,” Wendy Olson Killion, global senior director at Expedia Media Solutions told AListDaily. “Travel is a considered a time-consuming purchase, and with the wide range of travel information and tools available online, consumers are increasingly spending more time with travel content. To help break through the complex landscape, tourism bureaus are looking for fresh and innovative digital tactics that will reach consumers and drive meaningful engagement, and often times, that includes collaborative partnerships with travel and hospitality brands.”

Hilton, too, partners with destinations to create a unique experience for consumers who visit any of its 5,000 locations worldwide.

“Relationships with tourism bureaus are symbiotic,” Bruce Gudenberg, executive director of industry relations at Hilton told AlistDaily. “By working together we can help each other provide group, business and leisure clients a great experience. We align with select destination marketing organizations at all levels from the individual property level to global sales. This allows us both to gain a deeper understanding of what guests are looking for when traveling to that location and cater to those needs.”

Hilton’s 5,000 hotels are found across the globe in 103 countries, so the company works hand-in-hand with local tourism authorities to ensure an authentic representation.

“It wouldn’t be possible for us to have the same amount of in-depth knowledge about each destination that tourism boards do,” Gudenberg added. “We deeply value these partnerships and actively work with them to leverage their deep destination expertise.”

Expedia agrees that the relationship between hospitality and tourism is a natural and fulfilling one.

“Our partnerships are mutually beneficial for both us and the tourism bureaus, and we look forward to continuing to develop these partnerships around the world,” said Olson Killian.

How E3 Has Turned Into A Cross-Town Games Spectacle

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) turns 22 years old this year, and it’s celebrating with a first by giving the public access for the biggest gaming event of the year.

This year, over 68,400 attendees (15,000 of them from the general public), 293 exhibitors and over 2,000 products worked its way through the turnstiles of the Los Angeles Convention Center to see the latest and greatest in games and hardware, which started Tuesday when LA mayor Eric Garcetti kicked off the event with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

However, not all publishers and brands are playing in the proverbial sandbox. More companies are kicking the tires on one-to-one activations around the city. Some are avoiding the E3 pomp and circumstance altogether. Others are leveraging it as part of an integrated, multi-location strategy. Their approach remains focused, yet simple—it taps into fan FOMO and gives consumers a chance to completely immerse themselves with a brand, thus creating even more loyalty and advocacy.

Industry titan Electronic Arts unofficially kicked off E3 with its own event for the second consecutive year. EA Play, which took place at the Hollywood Palladium from Saturday through Monday, invited thousands of fervent EA followers for their own fan fest.

“Last year we went out on a limb to do something a little different with a view to change the way you interact with products before they launch,” EA CEO Andrew Wilson said during a press conference. “We wanted to do something that put the games in your hands earlier and it showed us how much further we could go . . . playing, creating and sharing with the rest of the world. We built [EA Play] this way for a very simple reason—we want more of you to experience this moment.”

Attendees were able to tour the pop-up space and be the first to try their hand at EA’s newest lineup of games, including Star Wars Battlefront II, FIFA 18, Madden NFL 18, NBA Live 18, Need for Speed, The Sims 4 and Battlefield 1: In The Name of the Tsar.

For those not in Los Angeles, EA recruited over 300 video game influencers and content creators to challenge the brand and share the stories with their own communities. The opening night festivities culminated with a one-hour performance with hip-hop artists Nas and Dave East.

EA was back at their Redwood City, California headquarters before E3 officially kicked off—they were not one of the “participating companies” for the expo—but that wasn’t the case for Bethesda Softworks and game megaliths like Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and Ubisoft, who paired their pre-E3 press announcements with prime presence on the convention floors.

Bethesda bypassed a sans-E3 strategy by complementing their carnival-like efforts with a cavernous space at E3, too. They hosted a private playground dubbed “Bethesdaland” on Sunday, minutes away from downtown LA. Their press conference, led by Pete Hines, Bethesda’s global vice president of PR and marketing, doubled as a concert featuring a performance by electro-pop duo The Chainsmokers.

Games news and marketing activations were breaking all over Tinseltown.

On Sunday, Chinese games conglomerate Tencent took over The Avalon in Hollywood to announce their content deal with Discovery Channel and the making of the forthcoming documentary Games Vision. However, the world’s largest player in today’s gaming landscape swiftly left the city before E3 even started.

“E3 is always about sharing new trends and technologies and how brands are designing new and high-quality games. It gives us a chance to work with new titles and ideas while reworking our own strategy for our communities,” Mars Hou, vice general manager of marketing for Tencent Interactive Entertainment, told AListDaily. “Although Tencent as a brand does not have presence there, our games do, and Tencent executives are there to meet with other companies to carry on discussions.”

Brands like Atari, LucidSound and Evil Controllers, among countless others, skipped the show floors altogether for more intimate gatherings at adjacent locations like the nearby JW Marriott.

Dan Hewitt, vice president of media relations and event management for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the organizing body of E3, said brands and exhibitors outside of the ones they host are leveraging the dates around E3 to stage their own events.

“If it wasn’t for E3 being in Los Angeles this week they wouldn’t be having those events,” Hewitt said. “We certainly welcome them to the show. But if they decide that they want to have their own events then that is certainly something that they can do. Those are additives to the overall E3 experience. It’s not up to us to make a determination about what is the right or wrong way to market because each company has their own individual goals and metrics for success.”

Games publisher Devolver Games has been avoiding the halls of E3 for years by hosting a competing indie picnic. They rent out an entire parking lot near the Convention Center and promote their games with a separate industry gathering. With the expo open to the public this year, they had grandiose plans to appeal to their wide audience by renting a bigger space and expand the production with a “mega-booth.” But they had to pull the plug and uninvite the public portion of their guest list because their permits were denied.

Devolver had secured leases on both private- and city-owned lots that were right next to each other. The city-owned lot was previously occupied by the ESA in years past, who parked 18-wheelers as a “blockade” of the renegade operation, according to Mike Wilson, co-founder of Devolver.

Wilson says that after the ESA realized that they forgot to secure the city-owned space this year, as had been common, the ESA allegedly pulled strings with city officials, and the city denied Devolver’s permits. Instead of using the extra space they had secured for the fan-facing event, now Devolver could only park cars there. Wilson says that although they’re a small company who can’t afford exhibitor space at E3, they were seen as a “threat” by the ESA.

“We don’t want to go away quietly and act like nothing ever happened,” Wilson told AListDaily. “It might completely [create problems] for us next year, but in principle, it’s important enough to tell the truth about what happened. It sucks to be bullied.”

Hewitt denied that the ESA played any part in Devolver’s permits being cancelled.

“I think there might be a one-sided grudge match going on,” Hewitt said. “I have nothing bad to say about Devolver, or anything. I can tell you specifically that the ESA put no pressure and pulled no strings. We spent zero energy or focus on that. I think that Devolver thinks that we did. Our focus and our energy is on the 290-plus exhibitors and the 68,000 attendees that we have inside the buildings of E3. We don’t have the time or the energy to go and make life difficult for Devolver. We’d love to have them in the event, and that’s their decision that they don’t want to be.”

Meanwhile, across the street from the Convention Center, Twitch and T-Mobile joined allegiances for a three-day outdoor esports arena, and the ESA and veteran games journalist Geoff Keighley produced the E3 Coliseum at LA Live, a two-day long event that connected fans with celebrities through a variety of panels.

“We wanted to provide a showcase for people in other entertainment industries like music, film and television to talk about their love of video games and the intersection between video games and their industries,” Hewitt said. “It’s another opportunity for consumers and our attendees to connect. So that was the genesis for the E3 Coliseum.”

One of the discussions that took place there was “World Builders,” a keynote with comedian Chris Hardwick that covered building worlds across entertainment mediums, with a focus on video games. Hardwick was joined by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who revealed details on the forthcoming release of Space Odyssey, a real-time strategy gaming experience of space exploration and colonization made in partnership with Space Media Ventures.

“The idea behind the whole Space Odyssey franchise is that it continues to expand, just like the universe, in complementary ways,” Mark Murphy, partner and creative director for Space Media Ventures told AListDaily. “Neil is very hands-on. Conceptually, we’ll come up with ideas. The experience is impactful both on the gaming side, but exceptionally relevant on the science side.”

As E3 experiments with public access this year, the show’s model continues to shape and take mold in new formats. The games dust will settle soon after the week ends, and the ESA will unpack sentiment both from the perspective of the public, and brands that participated.

“It definitely was a good move for us to open the doors and bring the consumers in. The response has been very positive,” Hewitt said. “Every single E3 is different than the previous one. And it’s because we literally start from zero and look at every aspect of the event to ensure that we’re still hitting our marks for our attendees and our exhibitors. If you’re wondering ‘what is E3 going to look like in 2018,’ I can tell you that it’s going to be a remarkable event full of high energy and high investment.”

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

It’s Not Just Screens: A Look At E3’s Coolest Activations


Sandwiched between the big-screened, live esports broadcasts and hours-long lines of gamers waiting to play, a few vendors engaged the new flow of E3 visitors with activations that were less digital blitz and more physical.

Nyko Technologies invited attendees to play games while testing new controllers from the comfort of a large, branded ball pit, an activation the company had wanted to execute for years. “With opening up to the public this year, it’s the perfect opportunity to have something that’s so engaging and interactive,” said Nyko exhibitor Surabhi Srivastava. “We wanted to have a slide that goes into the ball pit, but there were a lot of waivers around the design.”

Fans who played the “Super Mario Odyssey” demo walked away with Cappy, Mario’s new co-star.

Sonic Mania brought people into the game with a trampoline, a large ring hovering from above, and a green screen. Those who fit the criteria to play get on the apparatus (18+, under 250 pounds, not pregnant) and dared to do the #SonicRingJump entered a sweepstakes to win $1,000, and walked away with a four-second video.

Enormous, detailed displays were in no short supply, with large character replicas acting as guardians to the game lines—most notably, Super Mario Odyssey‘s Mario and Cappy, his new manipulative accomplice, and several large dragons, including the beast at Monster Hunter World.

For a transformative experience, the physical installation showcasing PS4’s Yakuza 6: Game of Life, was a standout, bringing attendees through Tokyo’s red-light district.

Returning to the perimeter this year, a lone watcher from Horizon Zero Dawn investigated crowds at the entrance.

Most other brands centered their showcase around the experience of the games. Many players were rewarded with specialty swag; Mario players walked off with a Cappy visor, Sonic players got posters, and others reaped the reward of not having to wait in line anymore.

Plantronics Targets ‘Competitive Gamers’ With Dolby Atmos Headphones

Plantronics has partnered with Dolby Laboratories to deliver Dolby Atmos audio technology across its RIG 400LX ($100) RIG 600LX ($130) and wireless RIG 800LX ($150) headphones this September. These headsets will come bundled with codes that will let gamers activate Dolby Atmos for Headphones at no additional cost on their Xbox One, Xbox One X or Windows 10 PC.

Plantronics is debuting its new RIG headphones at E3 2017, including at the Xbox Showcase and the Xbox FanFest.

Dolby worked with Blizzard Entertainment to integrate Dolby Atmos into its Overwatch game, which has become a growing esport. Dolby is working with other developers to support Atmos across many Xbox One, Xbox One X and Windows 10 PC games that will make their debut at E3 this week.

Dolby Atmos provides gamers with advanced spatial precision by changing the way developers treat in-game sound. Instead of pushing flattened audio through 2-D stereo channels, Dolby Atmos gives gamers the full positional data of their surroundings by treating audio as individual objects that realistically move around them. With Plantronics RIG gaming headsets featuring Dolby Atmos for Headphones, gamers can hear audio cues coming from the front, back, above and below.

Spencer Hooks, director of gaming at Dolby Laboratories, told AListDaily that with Dolby Atmos for Headphones, the company is focused on delivering the creative intent of game developers in the most immersive way possible.

“In esports, that immersion is a key part of the competitive environment, and Dolby Atmos can help deliver the critical information a gamer needs to win,” Hooks said. “For example, hearing that a sniper is on the roof of a building rather than just in the building could aid in making split-second decisions.”

Plantronics Global Marketing Director Corey Rosemond told AListDaily that this technology will be marketed across esports leagues and to esports teams.

“If a game is Atmos-enabled, the developers can build maps with an added height dimension so players can hear overhead from left to right,” Rosemond said. “You can now detect and hear those footsteps overhead, which is something we’ll promote to the esports community, because that make a difference in competitive play.”

Hooks said the technology works with Dolby Atmos games and movies but also enhances 5.1 and 7.1 surround games and movies.

Rosemond said that Plantronics is targeting “competitive gamers and practical premium consumers that want to win their matches and have the highest performance.”

“Our audience ranges from the solo player competing at his home all the way to the top esports professionals playing for millions of dollars,” Rosemond said. “We’re adding the greatest amount of quality and value-add for our customers with Dolby Atmos.”

Dolby has switched to a new model for this latest audio technology, which is software-based on Windows 10 and Xbox platforms. Consumers will need to upgrade for a $14.99 activation code. But Plantronics is including that code for free with its LX series of headsets.

“E3 and will be a key driver for where we’re going this fall,” Rosemond said. “We’re doing extensive cross-marketing with Dolby around this initiative. Dolby Atmos will be positioned very well with Xbox One and Project Scorpio. It will be part of the overall messaging starting on Sunday.”

Plantronics headsets will be promoted and featured with Xbox One and possibly with Project Scorpio at E3.

“No other headset is leveraging Atmos in this way,” Rosemond said.

In partnership with Dolby and Microsoft, Plantronics is working with a number of retail partners globally to bring the Atmos messaging to retail. There, consumers will be able to test the headsets and hear the difference.

“We’ll do traditional online marketing, but we’ll work with some influencers in the marketplace to get some engagement going to see where there’s interest with users and scale up the passion we’re getting,” Rosemond said. “The influencers we’ve spoken with are excited about this as the next generation of audio in gaming. We’ll use them to get the message out to the wider audience.”

Once a user has the Atmos license on PC or Xbox, it’s theirs in perpetuity. Thanks to the competitive edge this technology provides to Plantronics headsets, Rosemond sees a much broader audience than just early adopters.

“E3 is where the rubber is going to hit the road with a lot of this messaging,” Rosemond said. “We’re going to amp up the marketing in Gamescom in Cologne for our European friends and then in the fall, we’ll circle back to Australia and New Zealand with a big planned event in September or October. Plantronics is the number one headset brand in that region.”

E3 2017 Places A Strong Emphasis On Gaming Communities

E3 is all about the games, and publishers really want their audiences to enjoy experiences together—whether that be as a player or spectator. Fueled by a packed convention center of gamers, a strong message of community can be seen throughout announcements and activations at the show.

“At Xbox, we’ve always believed in the power of games to unite us all,” Xbox president Phil Spencer said during the Microsoft E3 press conference. “Today, communities of gamers not only play together, they create together and watch together. A whole new genre of games is emerging, designed for both the player and the community.”

Playing Together

Gaming communities create bonds over the shared love of a particular title, and E3 gave players plenty to be excited about. Strong multiplayer titles were on display from Star Wars: Battlefront II to a new expansion for Battlefield 1. Skull and Bones, an upcoming pirate sim from Ubisoft features a “learning environment” that reacts to player actions and was designed to support teams of players working together or in competition. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will be an Xbox One exclusive later this year after selling more than two million copies in Steam Early Access.

EA had its sports franchises, FIFA 18 and Madden 18 on full display during EA Play, offering players the chance to play together before the titles hit stores later this year.

Not a gamer? Not a problem. During its live broadcast, Sony highlighted a new PlayLink collection that uses smartphones instead of controllers and is meant to be played as a group. One such game is Hidden Agenda by Until Dawn developer Supermassive Games. The title allows each player to vote with their phones on choices made by the characters in-game. Players may also receive a hidden agenda that affects their decisions and how they collaborate with others.

Creating Together

Since players first figured out how to access the code, they have been modding their favorite games to change the look, feel and environment. Today, modding is supported not only by players but the games’ developers as well.

During its press conference, Bethesda announced an upcoming marketplace called Creation Club that will offer modifications such as armor, weapons and enhancements for Fallout 4 and Skyrim.

ARK: Survival Evolved also announced its first sponsored mod called Ragnarok, which adds fantasy creatures and environments to the game. The game’s developer, Wildcard Studios, announced the sponsored mod program in February, which pays selected creators to develop featured mods.

Mods create new ways to enjoy an existing franchise, which incidentally makes it even more interesting for spectators to watch.

Watching Together

Gaming has largely become a spectator sport—game video content is on track to generate $4.6 billion in revenue this year through advertising and direct spending. Gaming communities band together to watch their favorite streamers play and comment on the latest titles or classics that never go out of style.

Microsoft placed special emphasis on its Twitch-like Mixer livestream platform at E3, offering free content for anyone who linked their Xbox accounts to Mixer by June 16.

Twitch and T-Mobile brought their very own esports arena to nearby L.A. Live, where fans could watch pros compete and vote for their favorite players over social media. Twitch also has a large presence on the E3 show floor, broadcasting live throughout the day with popular Twitch partners and even showing the exclusive world premiere of Green Day’s Revolution Radio music video.

YouTube Gaming was out in force on the E3 show floor, hosting livestreams and interviews with Geoff Keighley, Rooster Teeth, YouTube creators and video game developers throughout each day.

Of course, the biggest celebration of gaming communities at E3 is E3, itself—opening its doors to the public for the first time. Over 15,000 consumers passes were purchased for the biggest gaming event of the year, offering brands the opportunity to reach gamers on a personal level.

Sega Celebrates 25th Anniversary Of Sonic Brand With Two Games At E3

Sega is showcasing a pair of brand new games at E3 featuring the company’s mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic Forces is a 3D platform game created by Sonic Team that will ship this fall across Windows 10, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Sonic Mania is the first new side-scrolling game in the franchise in some time. Developed by Headcannon and Pagoda West Games, it ships across Windows 10, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on August 15.

Takashi Iizuka, vice president of product development for Sega of America, told AListDaily that the Sonic brand has been able to continue its momentum for a quarter century because of the support Sega gets from its fans.

“It’s really positive to hear all the comments from the fans, but from a developer’s standpoint that feedback has helped keep Sonic relevant all this time,” Iizuka said. “Our teams are constantly looking for new ways to innovate and do new things with the hardware, with the technology, and with the gameplay experience for each of these 25 years. It’s constantly being challenged and bringing something new to the Sonic gameplay, iterating on old gameplay to make it even better that has kept Sonic relevant all these years.”

Even after Sega officially exited the console video game business in Iizuka, Sonic has flourished across platforms. The advent of mobile gaming has played a big role in introducing the blue Sega mascot to new generations of fans.

“A lot of people have mobile devices worldwide, which is a much larger audience than we have with consoles,” Iizuka said. “So having a mobile game out there like Sonic Dash, which has over 200 million downloads worldwide, is really good for us because we get to show our character to people who don’t have consoles and would never have played a Sonic the Hedgehog game. They’re now able to play our game, associate with our characters, and really have a good time.”

Sega was also one of the early game companies to capitalize on merchandising, as well as television shows, to increase Sonic’s brand awareness and reach throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s and through to the current age.

Iizuka said all of the licensed and merchandising content, the TV show, comic books, and other business is now controlled through the new Sonic pillar in Los Angeles that he’s a part of.

“Being able to look at all of our content and really approve and give guidance on things helps support the brand,” Iizuka explained. “And it’s that authenticity that helps support the Sonic character.”

With a new game launching at the end of summer and a second debuting in time for Christmas, Iizuka said Sega is finding ways to have everything tie-in together, whether it’s a licensed product, whether it’s a YouTube video or some social media content.

“We’re finding ways of engaging the fans with the world that they experience in our video games and give them additional content or additional items that they can purchase to further extend the fun times that they have played our games,” Iizuka said.

Just as Kellogg’s has used retro Nintendo games to market to parents who grew up playing Super Mario Bros. games, Sega is also tapping into nostalgia with its newest Sonic games.

“We realize Sonic Mania is a very nostalgic game for a lot of people and we want to make sure we’re marketing to that crowd,” Iizuka said. “Similarly for Sonic Forces we realize that this may be not so much of a hardcore gamers’ game, but rather it appeals to a broad spectrum of all gamers on all platforms. We’re making sure we market to them so that they understand that this content is out there.”

After partnering with its one-time rival Nintendo for several Sonic exclusives, these two new games will be available across all platforms, including Windows 10.

“We realize that going multiplatform means you get to target more people across a variety of platforms, but it’s really going even beyond that,” Iizuka explained. “We have the Asian territories, the Americas and the European market that already has a lot of consoles, but because we’re including PC in our lineup we now get to reach out and go to other countries where the console market doesn’t really exist all that much. Now we can introduce Sonic the Hedgehog to this audience.”

After a pre-E3 event last month in Los Angeles, Sega’s two new Sonic games have been garnering critical accolades. The 2D game brings all the challenges of the classic Sega Genesis franchise with characters like Sonic, Tails and Knuckles complete with the same graphical style. Sonic Forces features a modern Sonic with completely three-dimensional stages and a classic Sonic for side-scrolling stages that have a modern-day 3D feel. And for the first time in the franchise, players can create their own custom hero and take on Dr. Eggman and his army of bosses and henchmen using special gadgets like a grappling hook and flamethrower.