A Guide To E3 2017 Parties

Veterans of E3 are well aware of this—but for you newcomers, let us share a bit of sage advice: It’s party central. To help you navigate this game-y, booze-y, network-y good time, here’s your guide to the E3 parties of 2017.

Note that E3 badges are not required, unless otherwise noted. While not all events specifically say they are restricted to ages 21-and-over, be prepared to show ID if alcohol is served—and please celebrate responsibly.

EA Play Fanfest

Are you a fan? Are you feeling festive? Well, EA has an event with your name all over it. It’s the EA Play Fanfest, and it’s happening the weekend before E3. EA says it will be “one of the biggest pop culture events of the summer,” but you can be the judge of that. It will feature 11 new games across more than 140 demo stations and daily concerts headlined by Nas, DJ Green Lantern and Dave East.

When: Saturday, June 10 from 4 to 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 11 from 12 to 6 p.m.
Monday, June 12 from 12 to 5 p.m.
Where: Hollywood Palladium, 6215 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: Obtain a free ticket online or use those ninja skills you’ve been practicing since you were eight.
Price: Free (sold out)

Vital VR

This unofficial E3 pre-party is a gathering of AR/VR game companies and brand activations. The party features game demos, networking and “spreading positivity” . . . by punching the president in VR.

When: Saturday, June 10 from 7 to 11 p.m.
Where: Fabric Studios LA, 201 San Juan Ave., Venice, CA
Requirements: Register here.
Price: Free


If you’re looking for the latest outer space fashions, this event is not for you. However, if you’d like to preview and perhaps get friendly with the latest gaming computers from Alienware and Dell, you’ve come to the right place. Get your geek chic on with cocktails, munchies and music by DJ Tay James.

When: Monday, June 12 from 8 to 11 p.m.
Where: Undercurrent, 417 East 15th St., Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: RSVP here and/or show up until the fire marshall kicks y’all out.
Price: Free

FaceIt X Monstercat AFK

Esports community FaceIt and music label Monstercat say this party is the “only way to get ready for E3,” although we do recommend putting pants on. Music by NGHTMRE, Slander, Rickyxsan and Gavin Ryan.

When: Monday, June 12 from 8:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Where: Exchange LA, 618 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: 21-and-over with ID, E3 badge required, by invite only—register here to request an invite.
Price: Free

Gay Gaming Professionals (GGP)

GGP’s ninth annual outing promises an evening of cocktails, revelry and live DJ sets from MidLifeCrisis & CAPNSMAK.

When: Monday, June 12 from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Where: Redline Food and Bar, 131 E. 6th St., Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: 21-and-over.
Price: Free

Big Indie Pitch & Big Indie Drinks In Los Angeles With Samsung

Indie developers who sign up can pitch their games to an expert panel for a chance at the Big Pitch Crown and a $5,500 marketing package. Spectators welcome.

When: Tuesday, June 13 from 5 to 11 p.m.
Where: Shoo Shoo, Baby, 717 W 7th St., Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: Games must be registered by June 11 to participate.
Price: Free

8BitLA + Play It Loud! Present Hack The Multiverse 2017

Concerts, drinks, E3 peeps.

When: Tuesday, June 13 from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Where:  The Airliner Nightclub, 2419 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: 18-and-over with E3 Badge.
Price: $10 for 21-and-over before 8 p.m., and $7 afterward; $5 for ages 18-to-20

LA Houdini User Group E3 Party

Pictures show arcade games and it takes place at a brewing company for you wheat water lovers.

When: Tuesday June 13 from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Where: Arts District Brewing Co., 828 Traction Ave., Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: Need to show RSVP at the door.
Price: Free (sold out)

Digital LA Games Mixer

Get drunk and take pictures with video game standees.

When: Tuesday June 13 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: CTRL Collective, 833 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: Show up.
Price: Free with E3 badge; $10 without

AVENUE—A Videogame & Entertainment Networking & Unifying Event

When just drinking won’t do, show up in cosplay and party with video game composers Gerard K. Marino (God Of War I, II, III) and performer Shota Nakama (Final Fantasy XV, Capcom Live).

When: Tuesday June 13 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Where: The Mayan, 1038 S. Hill St., Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: 21-and-over.
Price: General Admission $10; At the door $15

Women In Gaming

Something for the ladies, but men are not excluded from attending. A nearly decade-long tradition hosted by Xbox. Networking and good times over food and drinks.

When: Tuesday, June 13 from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: P.Y.T., 400 South Main St., Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: Don’t be a jerk.
Price: Free


Check out MediaMation’s motion seating and 4D effects esports concept on the E3 show floor, then head down to Hollywood to keep the party going.

When: Wednesday, June 14 from 7 p.m to 12 a.m.
Where: TCL Chinese Theater, 6925 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA
Requirements: Invite only, register here.
Price: Free

Other Happenings . . .

World 8 Art Show

While not technically associated with E3, World 8 is timing this event to “sell the hard-to-find gaming nostalgia to the masses.” The indie game store is celebrating its opening night of a video game tribute art show with a video game cosplay contest.

When: Saturday, June 10 from 7 to 11 p.m.
Where: World 8, 1057 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA
Requirements: Like video games.
Price: Free, no tickets required

Sonic Revolution 2017

Gotta go fast to this celebration of all things Sonic the Hedgehog. Special guests include game developers, writers, voice actors and more.

When: Sunday, June 11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Fiesta Hall, 12703 Philadelphia St., Whittier, CA
Requirements: Attendees under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Price: $15; print out ticket for faster admittance

Jam City CEO Details Strength Of ‘Cookie Jam’ Franchise

Cookie Jam, which has been downloaded over 100 million times globally, remains one of the most popular puzzle games in the world, prompting Jam City to create a franchise from it. The first step was in launching Cookie Jam Blast in May.

Cookie Jam Blast is the first of many additional mediums that we’re going to be extending this brand to,” Jam City CEO and co-founder Chris DeWolfe told AListDaily. “So, you may see plush toys, food brands, or a TV show—we don’t know. But Cookie Jam Blast is something that we’re really excited about and we think it’s a great game.”

DeWolfe then went into detail about growing the Cookie Jam brand and the company’s strategy for continued success in the future for mobile games based on both original brands and existing IPs.

How would you describe the Cookie Jam brand?

The Cookie Jam brand started three years ago, and I think it’s defined by its deep graphics, a deep story (for a puzzle game), its fun characters, endless levels and the fact that you can pick up and play the game whenever you want.

How has Cookie Jam evolved over the years?

It has gone from being primarily a US-centric type of brand to a great global brand. Over half of our users are playing the game outside of the United States, and it has been translated to over 150 languages. Cookie Jam Blast will also be a great global brand and any follow-up brand will be global too. One of the things that we found is that it appeals very well to different demographics and cultures.

What considerations to into building a global brand?

A lot. There are nuances with the humor of the game, the pricing, the exact translation and the types of promotions that you do with the game. [Also] the partners that you work with in different countries. All those things are very important and quite complicated. We devoted extra time in knowing that anything we put out has got to be meant for a global audience.

How do you balance between all-original games like Cookie Jam and ones based off existing IPs such as Futurama?

We love doing both. Branded franchises like Family Guy and Futurama are fun because you can take awesome storytelling and work with the original storytellers. For example, with Family Guy, we work with the writers at Fuzzy Door to take the television format and translate it authentically to mobile gaming. It’s a lot of fun and has a built-in fan base.

But it’s also valuable to create your own brands so that you can create brand extensions. In the future, we see a day where we’re not only taking our brands and pushing them out to entertainment mediums, but about half of our new games will be based on established brands.

Do existing IPs have the same kind of global appeal as Cookie Jam?

Not necessarily Family Guy. Every game has a different purpose. Family Guy is more of a Western game, and that’s where the television show was more popular. But there are other IPs that we’re working on right now that have very global appeal. For example, we announced a Peanuts game that will come out in a couple of months, which has one of the top global appeals of any brand out there. But our own games developed in such a way where we believe they have global appeal.

What would you say is the relationship between television, movies and mobile gaming these days?

I think that mobile gaming is the fastest growing entertainment medium. It’s actually bigger than the movie business right now. So, if you own a brand or IP, thinking about what you’re going to do with it from a mobile gaming perspective is one of the first thoughts that will come to your mind. It’s a very strategic decision for any IP owner, and we’re fortunate enough to be one of the few mobile gaming companies that does a great job at translating television and movie IPs to the mobile gaming format.

What do you think is the key to standing out in crowded mobile gaming market?

Definitely extra polish and quality. You have to have the best artists, game designers, engineers and story writers in the world. You also have to be more innovative than the next guy. So, when we’re building a game now, we’re thinking about what’s going to be interesting in 2018 and beyond. We’re always taking chances and we think that that is one of the keys to our successes—taking chances, being innovative and having the best people around.

Cookie Jam has been around for a few years. What is the strategy for long-term engagement for mobile games?

Continued engagement is very important to us. Whenever we build a game, we think of it as being evergreen—or a game that can last for many years. The whole key to adding new content—if not every week, then every month with new levels, events, twists and characters. Every time a user turns on one of our games, they’ll get something new and fun that they’ve never seen before. The game is a sort of living and breathing organism that’s always changing, which makes it very different from a movie or traditional console game.

What are your thoughts on subscription models for mobile games?

We love subscription models, and it’s something that we’re experimenting with, but it’s not something that we’ve found a lot of success with yet. If you look at the microtransaction model, it works quite a bit like a transaction model. What I mean by that is that there’s a very predictable revenue stream from microtransactions that come in every month. We’re pretty sure, down to a fine number, about the revenues that will be coming in for the following weeks and months.

Some may perceive mobile games as a kind of disposable experience due to their high uninstall rates. What are your thoughts about that perception and how to overcome it?

That’s a great question because I think that’s the way the mobile game universe used to be. Mobile games got really big, then they crashed and a new game came into vogue. I think a lot of that came from the Facebook days where people were playing games on it. But if you look at the top grossing games on mobile, a few of them have been around for years. So, it takes a certain amount of expertise. You’re working with big data to make sure that your levels and game are tuned to ensure the most fun for users. You’re making sure that you’re constantly updating your content, that you’re focusing on those several games, and that you’re going a mile deep with a handful of games versus 10 or 20 games at a time.

The Current State Of Virtual Reality

VRTL—pronounced “virtual”—is a networking group for the virtual, augmented and mixed reality industries that unites creatives and executives across each of the three respective ecosystems.

The inaugural VRTL Summit, which covered the entertainment and enterprise sectors and focused on content creation tools, cinematic storytelling and gaming, took place at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles earlier this year and brought speakers from all sectors of the industry to cover conversations about content creation tools, cinematic storytelling and gaming.

AListDaily caught up with the show’s founders, Sunny Dhillon, partner at Signia Venture Partners, and Ned Sherman, founder of Digital Media Wire as well as a counselor and director at Manatt Digital, to talk about what brands and marketers need to know about VR.

How are you identifying sectors that are adopting VR?

Sherman: Within the entertainment and media sectors, there are kind of three drivers: cinematic storytelling, VRcades and games. In the enterprise sector it’s really fascinating. Automotive, healthcare and travel and leisure have really been taking off.

How will VR shape the future of cinematic storytelling and entertainment?

Dhillon: I think creators like [visual effects producer and director] Rob Stromberg, who have won Oscars and are now coming into creating VR-first content; companies like 8i, one of my portfolio companies, that are doing volumetric video capture and re-rendering of holograms within real-time experiences—that kind of technology put in the hands of people like Stromberg is a perfect combination of amazing boundary-pushing, never-before-done technology and pre-existing Oscar-winning, Emmy-winning, creative talent. I think that combination is what we’re starting to see now. Paramount’s a great home for that, and we look forward to working, from my venture fund’s perspective, with many of our studio partners to help promote and create some of that content in the future.

Why do you think VR and 360-degree video are such rich territory for brands?

Dhillon: From the perspective of advertising, 360 video is perhaps the largest supply of inventory right now that advertising brands can insert product placement and sponsored messaging. I’m actually not a personal fan of 360 video. I think it’s a very shallow use case of what VR can be. I’m a much bigger fan of where things will be two-to-three years from now—which is volumetric video, light-field capture. In other words, holograms. You’ll be able to walk around a specific space, using what we call six degrees of freedom—you’ll be able to integrate live holograms of real people into the virtual world, or into the real world as augmented reality holograms walking thereby alongside you. So I think that actually creates a far more compelling advertising medium due to it being far more immersive. It doesn’t shatter the immersion of the virtual world, or it doesn’t shatter the use case the hologram is there to pertain to. I always considered 360 video more akin to banner ads and pop-ups right now. You learn to just drain those things out, or you’ve got an ad blocker installed on your browser already just to ignore it because it’s noise. I think a real, true, additive—boundary-pushing kind of virtual reality advertisement that’s still in the works. We’ve seen a few of them and they’re pretty cool. And there are a lot of brands putting money to good use. Madison Avenue’s all over it from the agency world. But I think that it’s very experimental right now, it’s very boundary-pushing. It’s not necessarily leading to ROI for conversion to paid sales just yet.

What are the trends, insights and developments you are experiencing and noticing? What can you share? 

Dhillon: Some trends that been made evident are how slow adoption has been categorically. I think there’s been certain pockets of content that have really adopted; early adopters to VR are typically gamers. Gamers are always early adopters to new technology on any consumer platform. So, I think hardcore gamers, early movers in cinematic storytelling and a lot of the infrastructure-type guys—folks who are used to building in Unity on real gaming engines, people who are used to pushing the boundaries in visual effects in the Hollywood sphere—and to be able to import that into a compelling, interactive narrative now. It’s no longer lean forward, lean back—it’s very much back and forth the whole time the way that you would in any kind of conversation. That’s what virtual reality is bringing to the forefront. And I think there’s been some pioneers that we’ve seen, a lot of whom are here with us at VRTL, who are kind of really pushing those boundaries.

VR is so new that there’s not a hard and fast rulebook for creating content yet. What surprising things did you learn that may help other VR creators?

Dhillon: Some of the challenges that creators have faced have been lack of funding. There’s not a lot of money out there right now due to the cyclical and circular reasoning. If somebody invests, if myself, amongst other investors for example, invest in a piece of content, we want to understand what the recruitment period is going to look like. And there’s not a great deal of headsets or big end-user audience that’s materialized yet that would help us recruit that. If it’s, you know, a traditional media monetization model—advertising, subscription, paid download, electronic sell-through, whatever have you—I think that you need a big chunk of people watching this stuff, or watching the trailer to this stuff, who will then convert to paying. To use a gaming analogy, such as a freemium kind of model, you’re going to have only a certain percentage of your overall user base who’s ever going to convert to paying. So I think that the limited size of the end-user audience right now is kind of what is constraining really top-tier content coming into the forefront. I also think VR headsets themselves need to come down considerably in price; they need to be more ergonomically designed and you actually need more traditional-branded IP coming into the forefront here. And I think that’s something that Paramount can hopefully assist with its own IP portfolio.

What is currently the biggest challenge for marketing VR? What is the current state of VR marketing looking like?

Sherman: I think the main challenge is the number of installed headsets that are on the market. I mean, we’re in the low millions right now, so the audience is just not as large as it can be. Also, the quality of headsets needs to improve, you know, dramatically. But the real upside is that the level of retention in VR-immersive experiences is extremely high, and with AR which is, you know, partially immersive, you’re seeing the same things. So the ability to really reach audiences, pull them into this immersive environment and for them to retain the brands and marketing they’re participating in is very high.

How will it impact advertising?

Sherman: Well, I think we’re going to start seeing more brand extensions as opposed to retrofitting existing campaigns—and really, storytelling, and bringing audiences into stories instead of taking existing campaigns and just retrofitting those for VR experiences.

What are you doing as a company to help VR become more palatable?

Dhillon: What we’re doing to help move VR and AR forward is putting our checkbook to work. We’re early-stage investors, we support entrepreneurs, trailblazing entrepreneurs who want to really push the boundary on any new-frontier technology. VR/AR is one of those frontier technologies that we’re very active in right now. We’re one of the most active investors in early-stage VR/AR investing. We continue to scour the landscape for compelling investment opportunities. So I think investment, and more so mentorship, helping tie business development and IP into some of these content production kind of deals, helping on distribution, helping with analytics on who’s watching what, how can you package that up and incorporate advertising and brand placement—things like that.

What needs to happen for the VR industry to really take the next step?

Sherman: Well you know, if the market is poised to reach $100 billion market by 2021, there are three main challenges. One is availability of audiences. Audiences right now are limited by the number of headsets on the market, so we’re really looking at just over a million, two million headsets on the market. Content and the availability of content, there are a lot of people in the creative community working on projects, but still, limited amount of content on the market right now. And finally, consumers getting comfortable with the products and that ease of use which is a technology obstacle being addressed. So those three things are really the challenges that need to be overcome for the growth of the industry.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Apple Promotes Success Stories With TV Program ‘Planet Of The Apps’

Planet of the Apps—Apple’s first original TV program—debuted on Tuesday and the first episode can be viewed for free through iTunes or the official website. Hosted by Zane Lowe, app creators pitch their ideas Shark Tank-style to a panel of four entrepreneur judges—Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Will.i.am and Gary Vaynerchuk. To promote the show, Apple is focusing on the story behind the story and what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Over the course of the 50-minute show, contestants on Planet of the Apps explain their concepts and vie for the attention and financial backing they need. If chosen, these developers will be mentored on how to strengthen their app for a chance at real funding. So Apple picked judges who understand the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, if not app development itself.

Entrepreneurial Eyes

First and foremost, Apple is marketing its show’s credibility through its casting. They may not be app developers, but they know a thing or two about what makes a good idea, and how to turn that idea into a reality.

Jessica Alba co-founded eco-friendly retailer The Honest Company while Gwyneth Paltrow is a writer, food critic and founder of lifestyle brand Goop (derived from her initials). Will.i.am is a seven-time Grammy-award-winning entertainer, TV producer and founding shareholder of Beats Electronics. Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur, adviser and angel investor. Even the host Zane Lowe is a Grammy-nominated entertainer and TV presenter.

The official Planet of the Apps social media accounts have been posting spotlights for each of the judges and Lowe that highlight what strengths they bring to the table. On Apple Music, viewers can watch a series of featurettes that talk about each of their views on the subject of entrepreneurship.

He’s all about bringing up the next generation of entrepreneurs. See @GaryVee on #PlanetOfTheApps on @AppleMusic

A post shared by Planet of the Apps (@planetoftheapps) on

Feeding An Ecosystem

Planet of the Apps is Apple’s first step into branded content—helping others by helping itself. The ideas that gain the most traction have a shot at winning $10 million in funding and a top spot on the app store. Excited app developers mean more apps, and more apps mean more shared revenue for Apple.

“I was very interested in the idea that the whole thing could happen end-to-end under the Apple umbrella—that it could be sort of contained within their ecosystem, [and] that there was a real privacy element to it and control,” Paltrow told Entertainment Weekly, “from a supply chain kind of all the way from the beginning to the end, and that there weren’t going to be commercials. So, it was really a way to celebrate content, creativity, entrepreneurship, and I felt there was a lot of kinship between the DNA of the show—which was to find someone great and amplify what they’re doing—to the DNA of Goop.”

Currently, Apple takes a 70/30 split with app developers (70 percent to developers), but recently offered to take lower cuts if apps are sold as a service. Apple will now take a smaller cut of money from app developers if customers stick with their subscriptions for longer than a year, Phil Schiller told The Verge in a pre-WWDC 2016 interview.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors in January that he hopes to double Apple’s services revenue over the next four years, helped in part by selling and distributing content. He highlighted that the developer community has earned a total of $60 billion, as the company has provided new ways for developers to earn revenue.

Mountain Dew Solidifies Esports Investment With Team Dignitas, Splyce and Team SK Gaming

Mountain Dew is upping its esports game, sponsoring a trio of competitive gaming powerhouses, including the Sixers-owned Team Dignitas, Splyce and Team SK Gaming. The soft drink brand will collaborate with these teams and players to connect directly with esports fans through the official Mountain Dew Twitch Channel.

Manos Spanos, global senior marketing director of Mountain Dew, told AListDaily that the brand partnered with these three major esports teams to bring exclusive content and access to its consumers. “Each of these esports powerhouses resonates with gamers across the globe,” Spanos said. “We are excited to see where these partnerships takes us and what’s in store for the future.”

Spanos said the brand has learned a great deal from its esports and gaming activations over the years, particularly how gamers are always looking to step up their game. “We do what we can to support them, whether it’s through one-of-a-kind content or activities like the Mountain Dew League, which provides gamers with the opportunity to turn their passion into a profession,” Spanos said. “We strive to be authentic in every space we play in, and for Mountain Dew, that means providing gamers with no-frills access and relevant content that adds to their experience.”

Mountain Dew first entered the gaming space in 2003 with its Game Fuel line of drinks. The evolution of esports over the past decade has created a separate global gaming audience, but there is a crossover of fans. “Both audiences are equally as passionate and are always looking for unique opportunities to master their craft,” Spanos said. “For us at Mountain Dew, it’s important that we tap into this passion and approach each audience in an authentic way that brings value, which is exactly what we’re doing through our three esports partnerships with Team Dignitas, Splyce and Team SK Gaming.”

Spanos said these new partnerships with Team Dignitas, Splyce and SK Gaming will provide gamers across the globe with exclusive content and access to some of the best gamers and esports celebrities in the world. The brand will be able to tap into these teams, their personalities, and their huge social followings. Outside of putting Mountain Dew on the jerseys, Spanos said these sponsorships open the door to a lot of different possibilities and new territories to explore.

“We’re really excited about the potential,” Spanos said. “It also allows for our continued support of the ever-evolving esports world.”

This news is the latest iteration of the brand’s continued focus on providing casual, amateur and professional gamers with unique experiences, training and opportunities. For example, the Mountain Dew League (MDL)—a professional competitive gaming league designed to help amateur gamers become pros—is back for its second year. The new season will offer more teams, one-of-a-kind content, training sessions and player spotlights, all designed to help players elevate their gaming skills.

Chad Biggs, senior vice president of corporate partnerships and activation at the Philadelphia 76ers told AListDaily that the Sixers have a longstanding partnership with Mountain Dew.

“Mountain Dew is looking to reach the vibrant, young, active millennial esports fan base, and Team Dignitas presents a perfect portal for them,” Biggs said. “The Mountain Dew brand has a reputation for activating in incredibly engaging and authentic ways, and we think the esports fan will really respond to that authentic effort.”

The Sixers are using their NBA marketing team to bring non-endemic brands to esports. “The integration between Mountain Dew and our team will be natural,” Biggs said. “From exposure on our Team Dignitas digital and social platforms geared towards our fans, to exposure within our team houses—Mountain Dew is a natural fit for the gaming space.”

Biggs sees the Philadelphia 76ers creating a credible bridge for traditional sports advertisers into the esports space, which he believes is a testament to the team’s demonstrated expertise and focus on original and organic activation.

“Esports fans and players are incredibly savvy and strategically minded. They understand the incredible resources, increased media exposure, marketing and opportunity for improved technology that traditional sports advertisers—especially those who pursue authentic activation, like Mountain Dew—can bring to the space,” Biggs said.

Podcast: ESL Chairman Steven Roberts Explains Esports Marketing Challenges

Esports and competitive gaming commanded $280 million in ad dollars last year through a variety of video, influencer marketing and sponsorships activations from a bevy of big brands. By 2021, that ad spend is estimated to reach $1 billion, per a report released last month by IHS Markit.

Steven Roberts, the executive chairman at ESLone of the largest esports companies in the world that operates branded leagues and tournaments such as the Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One and ESL National Championships, joined AListDaily senior brands editor Manouk Akopyan for its inaugural podcast to explain how marketers can control the current that is esports. Below is the transcription of the entire conversation.

Akopyan: Take us through the elevator pitch of how you introduce ESL to people in the industry.

Roberts: Yeah, I think the key elements about ESL is number one, we’re really the only global company and largest esports company in the world. We have 12 offices, 550 people [working]—we have six studios. We produce 20,000 hours of live esports, which is amazing. We own and operate 15-to-20 of the largest esports events in the world in Poland, Cologne, Shanghai, New York and San Francisco. So truly, these events reach out to the global audience. And one of the key things about ESL is that it was started 15 years ago—when esports and competitive gaming was in its infancy. And it was started by gamers, and sort of for gamers. So the authenticity and credibility that both have, and ESL and the company’s culture itself, takes that authenticity and credibility into the marketplace, and into the community.

Akopyan: And like many people, your career didn’t start in gaming, but you ventured off into it at some point. What is your role at ESL? And kind of take us through your day-to-day and some of the responsibility and verticals you oversee.

Roberts: So as you can see, I’m not a millennial which is quite different. Out of 550 people at ESL, I think I’m the oldest guy—and I’m not that old. But, my role is executive chairman for North America, which means I focus on really the large strategic partnerships. Whether that’s a deal that we did with AEG last year and announced for putting esports into a lot of the venues around the world, or partnering on sales for brands and things like that, to really the media side of the business. My background is in more traditional media, so I’m bringing that element into esports and focusing heavily on how we can tell better stories and get esports to a broader market outside of just Twitch and YouTube and onto more of the traditional platforms.

Akopyan: And with your traditional background [before] at DirectTV, what opportunities are there for the games industry, esports and competitive gaming that traditional media is kind of behind on?

Roberts: Yeah, well, you know, traditional media is in a very dynamic time period in its existence with cord cutting, and cord nevers. I have kids that are teenagers, and they’ll never take out a subscription, I don’t think, for traditional cable or satellite subscription. They consume their content digitally. And so, I think that esports, with its huge following and scale digitally, can create a really interesting bridge between the traditional linear broadcast model and the digital model that the traditional media companies are facing and deal with today. So, I think if we can tell the right stories and put in the right perspective . . . content needs the change. We can’t just do what’s been done, or what’s being done on Twitch and on other digital platforms and put it up on linear TV. It’s not going to work. So we’ve got to broaden the market and attract a broader market for that demographic.

Akopyan: Absolutely. And with that comes competitive gaming as well, which is something of a hot topic of late. For any of the listeners out there who don’t know the difference between esports and competitive gaming, how would you break that down for them?

Roberts: Look I think that’s part of the problem. There’s still a huge amount of education that needs to be done in the marketplace with brands and fans. There’s hundreds of millions of gamers out there that compete on a daily basis in their living rooms, in their dens, with their friends around the world, talking on their headsets. And so competitive gaming is sort of inherent in gaming itself. Taking that to the next level of professional esports, where there’s millions of dollars at stake and big arenas, big lights, celebrities and all of those things is really the two points of where gaming is. And we can’t forget about the core, amateur competitive gaming scene because eventually, some of those players are going to rise up to be pro players.

Akopyan: Yes, and with what you mentioned, we see the headlines and forecasts every day about “millions of fans, and billions of dollars in the next 10 years.” They just seem to be out there every day from different sources and a lot of the revenues being driven by the brands who are also investing in it. And there’s also a lot of non-endemic brands. And my question to you is, being at the epicenter of all this where you seek partnerships from both sides, what is the relevant marketing avenue that brands need to actively pursue today? What is your advice to them to find that access into the industry?

Roberts: I think that’s the big question. And each brand will find its different entry that makes sense for them. But finding one that makes sense and one that is truly authentic to the brand values and to the community is sort of that critical link. And so, the conversation that we have with brands and with networks, very often they start as a media buy because, again, just the sheer scale. No one is going to lose their job over deciding on associating with something that is relatively clean and that gets 100 million views, right? It’s taking that next step where brand managers and executives need to take a little leap of faith with esports. It’s not going away—which it’s not, it’s growing—and take a leap of faith that, if we do this in the right manner, an authentic, credible manner, and take the essence of what that brand means. There are ways that we can really leverage esports in ways that, frankly, can’t be done at the NFL and the NHL and more traditional sports just because of how formal those sports have become. There’s a lot of creativity that can be done, and it’s totally appreciated with esports.

Akopyan: And obviously you’ve worked with brands like Mountain Dew and Tostitos, and there’s a multitude of others aside from ESL whether it be Coca-Cola, Buffalo Wild Wings, Quest Nutrition . . . that list goes on and on as well. I’m curious to know what you think has been the best, or perhaps one of your favorites, something that has really resonated to the point where it should kind of be mirrored and scaled up in a different way?

Roberts: Yeah, I don’t know if it can be mirrored because again, each brand is somewhat different, and I think that activation in a sport, or in esports specifically, should be differentiated in some way. But some of the things that we’ve done, obviously with Intel Extreme Masters being the longest-running esports circuit—it’s the longest running sponsorship they’ve ever had–some of the activations they do in integrating their OEM partners and really illustrating and showing off their technology and how their technology can improve the performance of pro gamers and competitive gamers. So, Intel is one of those key partners in esports that has done it the right way, there’s no doubt. Mountain Dew is similar where they’ve taken a different approach and entered in on the amateur level of esports, in an amateur league called the Mountain Dew League and really created an aspirational aspect of that league to where winners of that amateur league can go and become a pro. So that activation is pretty unique.

Akopyan: And you recently were featured as a speaker at our alist summit, and you kind of go through the car wash of the industry esports summits of today where it’s like there seems to be . . .

Roberts: There’s a lot of them.

Akopyan: There are a lot of them, yes. And I actually saw you a couple of weeks ago at one as well. What is the focus of the topics of conversations that you’re having? What is the one question that consistently and constantly keeps coming up that you feel like you’re answering? What is that big million-dollar question everyone wants to know?

Roberts: Yeah. It amazes me still, you know. You see the scale of some of these events that we do, and others do, where there’s 100,000-plus people that come to our event in Poland, or 100 million views on the internet that we get over a weekend. And so, there’s such scale out there and there’s such consumption of this with a very key demographic being mostly male millennials. But on the brand side, there’s still so much education that we continue to seem to do, which is great because brands are engaged enough now where it’s on their radar, and they need the facts, they need the data. And the No. 1 question is something that you asked before: “how do they enter? Where do they enter? Do they enter on amateur level? Do they enter on a pro level? Do they enter on an online league?” People still have difficulty understanding that all of this content being produced and these competitions are not necessarily being held in an arena. You know, we have these big arena events, but those are once a month, a couple every months. All of this other content is done online. And so, for people to wrap their arms and head around that, all these people are consuming this content of matches and watching people play video games online is still and education process. And tapping into that scale is hugely powerful—but it has to be done in the right place.

Akopyan: Obviously with marketers around the world, they’re in that position because they have a good pulse of the industry. Do you feel like they also need to trust the gaming side and kind of embrace that hand-holding process where it’s like “let us lead you to the promised land?”

Roberts: Yeah, and we work with a lot of brands in that capacity. And it takes time; it’s a new industry. And even though we’ve been around for 15 years, it’s a new industry. There’s a lot of entrance into the industry because of the same numbers that they hear about and everyone hears about on a daily basis. And one of the things that we certainly go out and tell our partners and brands that are looking into the space is “you’ve got to be careful because there are a lot of entrants coming in just to try to make it big—and quickly.” It’s not going to happen, and you don’t want to put your brand in that position. You want to go in with certainty when you’re first entering esports, in a place where there is trust, there’s credibility, there’s authenticity to remove and mitigate any of those risks.

Akopyan: And you’ve been in the industry now for how many years?

Roberts: In gaming and esports? For over a year.

Akopyan: So, you’re speaking like the sage fox out of the group right now where you kind of feel the pain points, you know the obstacles that you have to be overcome. What are the lessons that you’ve learned throughout this navigation over the last 12 months? And are you happy with the career move personally?

Roberts: I’ve been involved in esports back when we thought esports—10-to-12 years ago—was going to be really where it was today. It just took a lot longer. So at DirectTV we actually started a professional league called Championship Gaming Series (CGS), and we learned a lot out of that—that, frankly, esports learned CGS and some of the mistakes and some of the wins that we had 10-to-12 years ago. So, very often we look back to those times on what can work, and what can’t work. It’s a different time period now that everyone has the bandwidth to watch, and there’s Twitch and there’s YouTube, things that we didn’t have back then. But the industry over the past 12 months since I’ve been in it, 18 months actually, the growth has been meteoric, which is great. [Companies] like Turner getting in with ELeague—I do believe there’s a tide that raises all boats. I do think that over the next 12-to-24 months we’re going to see some of these players that jumped in really fast—they probably won’t be around in 12-to-24 months. So I think, looking into the future, I see the esports that are there today and doing well, I think they get stronger, they get better, they get better brands involved. I think the demographics get broader, I think more women come in and I think we start telling different types of stories to get outside of just that core gamer.

Akopyan: And before you go, since esports is all about predictions, I need two predictions: one predicting potential doom and gloom and one that is joyous bloom. There’s both sides of the coin. What are two things that you think?

Roberts: That’s a good question. So I think . . . look on the negative side, and I think people see it—it’s the fragmentation in esports. It’s still a pretty fragmented ecosystem, from different IP holders, to the teams, to the team owners. So, I think that fragmentation has to consolidate at some point, I don’t necessarily think it’s going to happen in the next weeks, or months. It’s going to take time. But, if that fragmentation continues or gets worse, I think that will be detrimental in the long term to esports and the growth. So that’s the negative side. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I see all of the moves of the professional leagues coming in and the team owners that are changing. I think that in the long run that’s going to help that fragmentation coalesce a little bit. In the bright spots, look, I think the whole industry is sort of a bright spot. I think that it’s going to continue growing in different ways. My hope is that there’s more games, different types of games that get to the scale. So I think that would be really healthy, that we can find a way to harness all of these other games. We work across 65 games, so as an aggregate, it’s huge. But there’s only a few right now that we can fill a stadium with. I’m looking forward to us and others coming and making sure that there’s other games that can help fill the stadiums.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

‘The Mummy’ Rises With The Help Of Experiential Marketing

The Mummy is being resurrected once again by Universal Studios and the new film opens in the US on Friday. This monster reboot starring Tom Cruise has already scored the biggest opening day of all time in South Korea with $6.6 million and is expected to do well domestically thanks to Cruise’s star power, the beginning of Universal’s Dark Universe and a marketing campaign big enough for an Egyptian princess.

In addition to the usual talk show circuit and trailer reveals, Universal is promoting The Mummy with a pop-up VR experience, a special Mummy Day in Hollywood, gigantic props, behind the scenes and celebrating the rich history of Universal monster movies.

NBA stars John Wall, Isaiah Thomas and DeAndre Jordan were featured in a special movie trailer, which was posted on each of their social media accounts to help promote the film during the NBA Playoffs.

The Mummy Zero Gravity Stunt VR Experience

Actor Cruise performs his own stunts and insists that his co-stars do the same. Such was the case with The Mummy, which promises its fair share of explosions and danger. The most notable example from the film is a scene in which Nick Morton (Cruise) and Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) are tossed around a plane that is falling out of the sky. The scene was shot in a reduced gravity aircraft, meaning that it plummeted toward the earth at very real breakneck speeds, inducing a brief loss of gravity.

Fans can experience a 360-degree behind-the-scenes look at the making of this scene thanks to The Mummy Zero Gravity Stunt VR Experience. The pop-up experience combines headsets, haptic feedback and a gyroscopic chair courtesy of Positron Voyager VR platform seats. It first appeared at SXSW, then in New York at the Rockefeller Center and in Los Angeles for a free engagement.

Cruise narrates the VR experience, providing insight with each sequence, and states at the beginning that it was his idea to have the scene shot inside a falling plane for more realistic effects and a greater edge-of-their-seat experience for moviegoers.

The Mummy Day

On May 20, Universal hosted The Mummy Day in Hollywood with director Alex Kurtzman and the film’s stars. The real star of the show, however, was a 75-foot, seven-ton sarcophagus. Fans were able to see the movie stars up close, obtain autographs, souvenirs and witness the sarcophagus’ unveiling. The giant replica of Princess Ahmanet’s tomb is the largest vertical display to be unveiled at the historic Hollywood and Highland venue. It took eight weeks and 160 hours to construct; 18 wide-load tractor trailers moved all of the elements into place.

In addition to all of the excitement, visitors were also treated to The Mummy Zero Gravity Stunt VR Experience and The Mummy Escape Game, a 10-player live-action experience in which guests are recruited as security guards to solve interactive puzzles to save mankind.

Part Of A Bigger Picture

What has many fans excited is not just The Mummy, but what it represents. It’s the inaugural picture in a new franchise called Dark Universe, in which all the rebooted Universal monsters are intertwined in the same universe. (Think The Avengers, only evil.)

Russell Crowe appears in The Mummy as Dr. Jekyll, and other stars have been announced for future films in the series—Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) as The Invisible Man, and Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men) as Frankenstein’s Monster.

The next film will be Bride of Frankenstein, scheduled for release in April 2018 and will be directed by Academy Award-winner Bill Condon (Beauty and the Beast).

Stats Back Transparency In Digital Advertising

Consumers appreciate a brand’s digital honesty now more than ever.

A recent study by Label Insight found that 94 percent of consumers are likely to be loyal to a transparent brand, and 73 percent say they would pay more for a product that offers complete transparency.

US influencers benefit from transparency—and not just because they avoid FTC penalties. An influencer’s audiences sees them as a friend, and often considers new partnerships as good news.

Vincent Juarez, principal of the Influencer Orchestration Network (ION) explains this phenomenon. “Michelle Phan was thrilled about working with Marvel and TinyCo as the voice of Jessica Jones in the Avengers Academy app,” said Juarez. “She knew her fans would be happy for her. Part of her disclosure was right in the video as she spoke about her excitement about doing the voiceover work.”

A study by Altimeter Group showed that out of the 1,753 influencers surveyed, 71 percent say their followers remain engaged due to the influencer’s authenticity.

On the other hand, a lack of transparency can leave influencer audiences feeling deceived. The Fyre Festival took place just weeks after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued over 90 letters to Instagram influencers to “clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands.” When the festival failed to deliver (to put it mildly), not only did fans feel betrayed by those who endorsed the event, but those influencers are now named in a number of law suits seeking $100 million in damages.

Transparency isn’t just a problem in the US—in the UK, 12 percent of marketers had no idea about CAP influencer rules, according to a study by Takumi. Of the 500 public relations and marketing professionals surveyed, 34.7 percent who were familiar with the rules actively choose not to adhere to it due to a lack of understanding or a reluctance to be transparent about paid-for content.

Some 30 percent of consumers say they now have little or no trust in brand information they see on Facebook—up from 20 percent in 2014—per Censuswide. In addition, 38 percent of consumers would lose trust in a brand if content wasn’t genuine. 

Trust is everything.

Interactive Mixed Reality Could Change The Way We Watch Television

The Future Group, a technology company based in Oslo, Norway, wants to revolutionize television using a newly created platform called Frontier, which enables interactive mixed reality (IMR) content. In short, IMR overlays digital content onto real world objects, turning blank props into canons, green screens into scenic backdrops, and enabling Hollywood-quality special effects in real-time.

Frontier uses Unreal Engine 4 to let shows create virtual environments for contestants to play in as though they were in real world video games. Audiences can also participate in the show from home using mobile devices to win their own prizes, and the platform is already being put to the test with the Norwegian game show, Lost in Time—developed in partnership with FremantleMedia, which creates, produces and distributes shows such as American Gods, The Young Pope, and The X Factor.

“Simply stated, Frontier is a highly scalable 3D visual effects solution,” Bård Anders Kasin, CEO and co-founder of The Future Group, told AListDaily.

Kasin formerly worked as a technical director at Warner Bros. on movies such as The Matrix Trilogy and he has done advanced research and development in augmented reality and high-end digital cinematography. He goes in-depth about Frontier and how it could shape entertainment in the coming years, as The Future Group looks to incorporate IMR into game shows, worldwide sporting events, esports and more.

Bård Anders Kasin, CEO and co-founder of The Future Group

In practical terms, what is Frontier and how can it be used to create a unique television experience?

The Future Group has modified Epic Games’ Unreal game engine to create Frontier, a new platform for creating, managing and sharing interactive mixed reality content. Frontier is distributed and sold internationally by our partner, Ross Video.

With Frontier, any TV studio production can instantly create live photo-realistic effects and virtual sets that are seamlessly integrated with anything or anyone from the real world, creating true IMR content. This merging of the virtual world and the real world opens a new door that transitions the viewer from passive watching to active participation.

What is Lost in Time and what separates it from other game shows?

Lost in Time is the world’s first IMR game show, and it enables the viewers at home to compete on their mobile phone or tablet to complete the same challenges—and win the same prizes—as the contestants on TV. In each episode, three contestants travel to different time eras to solve challenges of logic, shooting, driving and obstacles. They collect money for the team and time for themselves—time that they can use to gain an advantage during the final, where the winner takes all! This show places real people in a virtual world and brings the audience along to compete there.

Where is Lost in Time being shown?

Lost in Time is currently being broadcast in Norway and will expand to multiple markets. We’ve learned so much from the release here in Norway, and it’s great to see that the interactivity really works. On average, 25 percent of the people who watch the show also play along on their phone. This shows us that people are looking for new ways to experience TV, and Lost in Time really offers them that possibility. “Playing TV” clearly has an appeal.

What is The Future Group’s long-term goal with Frontier?

Our goal is for The Future Group to create multiple IMR experiences, and to create tools that will allow others to do the same. With Frontier, there’s no longer any limit to what TV contestants can do or what setting the action can take place in. If you want them to race on Mars or ride on a dragon, you can do so! Lost in Time is obviously the first such format, and we have some other pioneering IMR projects in the pipeline.

Will Frontier be made available for YouTube content creators?

Yes, we’re exploring how to work with YouTube content creators and we’ve had some very interesting talks so far. Streaming will be very important for us and we can’t wait to bring the magic of IMR experiences to the web.

Can we look forward to IMR-enabled live shows?

The IMR platform is to be used for live shows in the future. The current game experience for the people at home allows them to play along with the broadcast.

What made you decide to base the technology on Unreal Engine 4?

Unreal Engine 4’s tremendous capabilities enable us to create spectacular visuals for large-scale TV screens, and all the way down to smartphones or tablets. It also allows us to create amazing experiences by directly connecting real people and objects to a virtual environment.

How do you hope Frontier will shape the way television is made?

We want to enable content providers to create the next generation of entertainment experiences. The way we see it, the future of TV—both linear and streaming—is interactive and will travel across a multitude of devices such as TV, tablets, VR goggles etc. Lost in Time is the first format that lets viewers at home truly take part in the same world as the contestants on TV and we can’t wait to push this much further in the years to come. We look forward to other content creators exploring a new world without limits on the imagination when they develop new formats to engage and excite people.

Apple’s Virtual And Augmented Reality Technologies Will Help Brands

Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) technology was the driving force behind two key demonstrations at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) showcased its HTC Vive real-time cinematic demo featuring Darth Vader on the Star Wars lava planet Mustafur, which ran on Macs for the first time and featured Unreal Engine in VR mode. Additionally, Peter Jackson’s company, Wingnut AR, took the stage to give a preview of what augmented reality (AR) gaming could look like using an iPad Pro and a tabletop to bring a sci-fi war to life.

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, told AListDaily that Apple’s move into AR with its ARKit brings the technology to hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users right away. In fact, Epic’s UE4 technology supports ARKit now, allowing game developers to start creating new types of games today.

“You don’t need to wait if you have access to Apple dev system; just go to UnrealEngine.com and get started,” Sweeney said. “It’s here, it’s now, it’s ready.”

This is good news for brands, as Disney’s ILMxLab showcased with Star Wars. UE4 is being used to not only make Star Wars movies and power Disney’s Star Wars theme parks, but it’s also the tech behind ILMxLab’s virtual reality experiences and augmented reality demos.

“AR could blur the distinction between what you see in a movie and what you see in the real world when it comes to everything from marketing surrounding the movie to games and other interactive experiences,” Sweeney said. “This technology will ultimately create a new type of experience that’s in some ways similar to a movie and in some ways similar to a game, but not analogous to anything.”

Sweeney noted that 20 years ago, digital convergence completely failed in trying to put movie games on CD-ROM, but augmented reality ushers in a new mass market platform to capitalize on across film, television and brand characters.

“Now we have all the technology for convergence to succeed and a vision to create something that combines a weekly TV show with the integration of real life, which combines fictional characters and allows social interaction all linked together in some sort of new global experience,” Sweeney said. “Something big is coming and people will recognize it as different from movies just as movies and games are different from pinball or radio.”

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

Pokemon 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.”

ILMxLab previously released a UE4-developed Magic Leap demo that brought R2-D2 and C-3PO into the living room. “When you see R2-D2 or C-3PO in AR, you can bring those characters into your world,” Whiting said. “It feels magical. It allows companies to connect these characters with people in a more personal way.”

The process of developing games and other experiences will be straightforward, according to Sweeney. “Engines exist in the industry because we solve the hard tech problems and allow the developers to focus on creating the game and be able to build things more productively,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney also said that developers can creatively use the entire world as a starting level to build on top of. “You can build AR game objects without having to worry about backgrounds or locomotion because people can walk around with their legs and the device will track it, verses VR where you have to build everything out and deal with the challenge of locomotion,” he explained.

Whiting noted that social interaction with real people is much easier in AR, since developers can build a shared reality game outdoors in a real environment. “You’re interacting with the world through the social connections of the device and real world people, creating a shared virtual experience,” Whiting said. “The accessibility of AR is extremely broad. My mom might use a map app in AR. It’s what the smartphone was to cell phones. AR is an exciting new platform.”

Brands have been early to explore VR, even though the initial audience has been small. Apple’s entry into VR will give Mac owners access to this content. Sweeney believes the VR audience could be doubled or tripled thanks to Apple’s entry. On the AR side, since there are hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads globally today, early brands that dive into AR will have a very large audience to target with experiences that are sure to be shared.

While gaming will be a key early focus for AR, Sweeney sees this technology evolving across all industries and opening up new opportunities for everyone from content creators to brands.