‘Edith Finch’ Creator Explains How Strange Games Attract A Variety Of Players

In 2012, indie game developer Giant Sparrow made its debut with The Unfinished Swan, a game that begins with a plain white space that transforms into a story about a boy who chases a swan that has escaped a painting. The game also told the story of a lonely king, who is voiced by director, writer and actor Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus), and it went on to win two BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards, one for Game Innovation and the other for Debut Game.

More importantly, it established Giant Sparrow as a developer to keep a close eye on. So, there was certainly a great deal of interest from fans and critics when the developer announced its second game, What Remains of Edith Finch.

Released in April for PlayStation 4 and Steam and for Xbox One in July, Edith Finch is one of the first games published under the Annapurna Interactive label, which was announced in December as a division of Annapurna Pictures (Her, Zero Dark Thirty and Sausage Party). Its goal is to publish and produce “personal, emotional and original games that push the boundaries of interactive content and encourage artists to bring new visions to the medium,” according to an announcement.

Ian Dallas, creative director at Giant Sparrow

Giant Sparrow’s creative director Ian Dallas described Edith Finch to AListDaily as “a collection of short stories about a cursed family.” Players take the role of the title character, Edith Finch, who is the last living member of the family. As players explore the massive house that she grew up in, they find stories of how each family member died contained in each bedroom, with 13 tales in total. With each discovery, players fill out a family tree as they progress, fleshing out a history that spans generations.

Although that might sound a bit morbid, Edith Finch received very high critical acclaim. It currently has a Metacritic score of 88, and GQ praised it with having the single best video game level of 2017 (so far). Dallas said that much of the connection fans feel for the game comes from Edith’s narrative, which is the backbone of the game and provides pacing for an otherwise intense series of stories. He also explained how, even though each story ends in a death, the circumstances around some of them may be ambiguous. It’s up to players to decide for themselves after seeing a version of events of what actually happened.

Dallas was originally inspired to create Edith Finch while scuba diving in Washington State.

“What stayed with me was a feeling of being at the bottom of Puget Sound, underwater, and looking at the bottom sloping away into the darkness seemingly forever. Nature can be simultaneously beautiful and horrifying. So, the kernel of this game came from the sublime horror of nature.”

He then found other inspirations that spoke to this horror, including The Twilight Zone, David Lynch movies and books by H.P. Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman. “[They] have an ominous tone that isn’t necessarily horror, but has a kind of existential feel,” said Dallas. “Human beings confronting a world they can’t understand and having to be OK with that.”

Dallas discovered that some of the best examples of this type of fiction tend to be short stories, which freed Giant Sparrow from a number of design constraints. “In a lot of games, the stories that you tell are constrained being two or 10 hours, which is what people expect from a video game,” said Dallas. “But once we settled on the short story format, we were able to have a lot of fun with that. Some are short and three minutes long. As a player, you never know what’s going to happen, which is in many ways part of making a game about the unknown. We wanted to keep players on their toes. You know that you’re going to die, but the moment-to-moment can become more interesting when you know that there is a final end waiting.”

Although Edith Finch might appear to be a puzzle game, Dallas doesn’t necessarily describe it that way. “It’s about discovering things, but the method of discovery is through snooping around a house,” he said. “For this game, we wanted a sensation of falling down a rabbit hole.”

Whatever genre of game Edith Finch falls under, both players and critics have taken very well to it. Dallas attributes the game’s appeal to how different and unique it is compared to most other games on the market today.

“We don’t have a particular audience that we’re trying to go for, other than people who are interested in things that they’ve never seen before,” said Dallas. “From watching players pick up the game, I think it appeals to those on either end of the [experience] spectrum. There are people who play a ton of games and are looking for something different, and those who don’t play very many games. Often, people end up playing only a few games—not because they’re uninterested—but because they’re bored with the kinds of experiences they usually offer, which are often hard challenges and power fantasies.”

Offering something different was a lesson that Giant Sparrow learned from making The Unfinished Swan. Although it was just one game, it helped fans expect the unexpected from the developer.

“It’s nice when they (fans) aren’t too surprised that this game looks nothing like The Unfinished Swan, but I hope that there’s enough of a thread [to connect them]. Both games are about the unknown and the feeling of awe and wonder.”

The sense of difference also lets the game stand out on Steam and the PlayStation Store. Dallas, discussing what it takes for an indie game to stand out on today’s console market, said, “I would describe it as vastly easier than it appears to be on places like the App Store. I can’t imagine releasing a game now on the App Store, where hundreds of games come out every day. At least on the PlayStation 4, there are not only fewer games, but fewer kinds of games. Consoles, and even Steam, tend to have a smaller range of experiences, but they’ve become homes for longer-form games compared to ones that take about two minutes to play. Annapurna and Sony have been great in helping to get the word out, and as a developer, it’s wonderful not to spend half of my time doing marketing. It’s been great working with them, and for a lot of other developers, a lot of time has to be spent fanning the fires.

“But ultimately, the games that we make are so bizarre that they should hopefully do a lot of the work themselves in terms of getting players’ attentions. We don’t need to convince people that our shooter is better than somebody else’s shooter. There’s nothing to compare this to, so we just need to get enough people aware of this new, interesting and peculiar thing in the world so that they can pass the message on.”

Pixels And Ink: Marketing Video Games Through Comic Books

Video game publishers have had a friend in the comic book industry for over three decades. From Atari Force to Tomb Raider, that bond continues today by providing fans with deep back stories, promotional tie-ins and even tales based on player experiences.

Video game-themed comic books are more than simple promotional tools. In fact, fans often love a franchise so much that they ask for more ways to enjoy it.

Sega and Amplitude Studios, for example, just released the fourth and final issue in a series of digital comic books called Endless Space 2 Stories. Each issue gives insight into the factions of the Endless Space game universe, as penned by the game’s writers Jeff Spock and Steven Gaskell. Amplitude’s Olivier Moreno provides artwork alongside other comic artists including Max Raynor (Judge Dredd), Denis Medri (Red Hood) and Yoon Seong Park.

“We often get requests for some more material to dive into the Endless Universe outside of the games—something to keep immersing oneself into the lives of heroes and villains, as a hero holding a standard or a fly on the wall,” Amplitude senior community director François Hardy wrote on the Endless Space 2 Steam page. “So, we listened and thought real hard about vignettes that could capture the spirit of each civilization in Endless Space 2. Comics seemed a great material to convey an atmosphere.”

Video games often fail to translate to other mediums—especially film—because each player creates his/her own memories within a franchise. This is particularly true for Eve Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that features 7,800 star systems to explore.

Player stories within the Eve Online universe became such an integral part of the community and game’s lore that developer CCP decided to chronicle them.

“We crowdsourced a number of stories from our players and published a comic book in partnership with Dark Horse Comics (EVE: True Stories) based on them,” Torfi Frans Olafsson, senior director of business development for North America at CCP told AlistDaily, who noted that the process was definitely a challenge.

“I remember when we were doing the comic book with Dark Horse, I was trying to think of an example of where this had been done before to act as a template. I couldn’t find one. There’s no playbook for taking a narrative that’s been shaped by so many people and crafting it into something. At times, we thought we could do it with big data analysis and tracking people like were the NSA or something. But in the end, it just comes down to good storytelling and journalism.”

Sometimes, a character or video game world is bigger than what a player can experience in one playthrough. Expanding on a game’s lore is another way game developers tell stories and enrich gameplay experiences with this additional knowledge. Franchises like Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Tekken, Halo, Gears of War, The Last of Us, Darksiders, Silent Hill, World of Tanks and more have used comics to share back stories, crossovers and bonus content with the players.

Back in 1982, home video game consoles were a new market—so to appeal to young audiences, Atari teamed up with DC Comics and added a little extra. Enter Atari Force, a series of mini comics packaged with game cartridges that illustrated storylines for a number of Atari Games. Since then, other games have leaped onto the pages of comics, including Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid (Valiant) and Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics and soon IDW). Sonic would go on to (fittingly) become the longest-running comic book series based on a video game.

Both industries have come a long way since then, with video games fetching $30.4 billion in the US last year. Thanks in part to blockbuster films, total comics and graphic novel sales to consumers in the US and Canada reached $1.1 billion in 2016, a $55 million increase in sales over 2015.

Video games help drive comic book sales, too. For example, Tomb Raider issue #1 became the top-selling comic book of 1999. Video games and comic books unite fandoms in new and interesting ways by pitting heroes against one another (Injustice: Gods Among Us) or taking superpowers for a test run (Marvel Powers United VR). Batman: Arkham Asylum was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most critically-acclaimed superhero video game in 2015.

We think these two industries will be friends for a long time.

Snapchat Losing Luster Among Influencers; Podcast Users Are On The Rise

Approximately 8.6 percent of US adults downloaded or listened to a podcast in the last 30 days, up from seven percent a year ago. GfK MRI’s “Survey of the American Consumer” explores the behavior of podcast users in the US. The study found that 22 percent read print magazines, 69 percent visited a newspaper website and 68 percent visited a magazine website in the last 30 days.

Snapchat may be losing its charm with influencers. A study of 550 social influencers by Collective Bias found that only one percent of influencers feel Snapchat will be the most important social channel in five years. Almost 70 percent had paused certain social accounts to prioritize others, with 46 percent naming Snapchat as their first choice to cut.

For social influencers, creative freedom is a must when working with a brand. A survey of over 700 social influencers found that 80 percent are deterred from working with brands that control their content too much. The Clever study “Inside the Influencer Mind” also found that nine-out-of-10 influencers must like a brand before accepting its sponsorship.

While marketing automation business and industry companies accounted for 41 percent of all marketing automation worldwide in 2016, B2C companies are using this technology, too. According to data from agency Bold Digital and marketing tech firm SimilarTech, internet and telecom accounted for nine percent of companies using marketing automation last year. Other B2C industries employing this technology include health (6.7 percent), arts and entertainment (5.6 percent) and shopping (4.8 percent).

Female adult gamers in Britain plan to spend £1.1 billion ($1.4 billion) on video games and their accessories over the next 12 months, according to Barclays Corporate Banking’s “UK Video Gamers Trends Survey.” Women are more likely to consider gaming to be a solitary activity, with only nine percent of female respondents playing games socially compared to men (11 percent). Eighty-seven percent of women prefer gaming on mobile devices to consoles or computers, with the majority of mobile games being single-player titles, compared to 77 percent of men.

“While trends in mobile and virtual reality are well publicized, female gamers have been a substantial driver of growth in the industry over recent years, opening up a part of the market that was previously overlooked,” Sean Duffy, head of technology, media and telecoms at Barclays, said in a statement. “Of all of the platforms we surveyed, mobile is forecast to see the most growth over the next five years. There is a big opportunity for developers to expand the female market with mobile games targeting women.

Overall digital game sales in Australia saw a 20 percent annual growth rate between 2013 and 2016. “Digital Australia 2018” is the seventh study in a series from the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association that started in 2005. This year’s study surveyed 1,234 Australian households and 3,135 individuals. Two-thirds of respondents are playing video games, comprised of 46 percent women and 43 percent over the age of 65.

“We know most Australians play. We know the opportunities that games present, both for Australians and the economy,” Ron Curry, CEO of IGEA told Mumbrella. “It’s time that the government recognizes and treats the Australian video games sector as a legitimate industry.”

As of June 30, there have been 63.3 million PlayStation 4 consoles sold, more than twice the amount of its rival, the Xbox One. Sony’s console continues to dominate in gaming hardware, enjoying its best month ever in June 2017.

A majority (75 percent) of Millennials and Generation Z are willing to share personal information in exchange for a personalized experience, according to a survey by Crowdtwist. “Generation Z vs. Millennials: The Changing Landscape of Loyalty” explores the loyalty program preferences of today’s young consumers. The study also found that despite being digital natives, 57 percent of Generation Z prefer shopping in-store.

Eighty percent of consumers want to use AR or VR to design a room or physical space by browsing virtual or physical showrooms, getting information about furniture and décor, and “seeing” what it looks like, according to a survey by L.E.K. Consulting. The survey of 1,000 early-adopter consumers explored how AR/VR consumers feel about shopping on the platform. Seventy percent are strongly interested in virtual shopping, the study found, where consumers use VR headsets to shop in a virtual store with a friend who isn’t physically present, or with an AI “virtual shopper” similar to Alexa or Siri.

Editor’s Note: This story will be updated daily until Friday, August 4. Have a new report, study or tip? Let us know at editorial@alistdaily.com.

‘Last Day Of June’ Looks To Attract Non-Gamers

Combining artwork inspired by impressionist painters like Monet and featuring the music of the award-winning progressive rock musician and producer Steven Wilson (founder and lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of Porcupine Tree), Last Day of June is an unusual game that’s hoping to reach an unusual audience—people who don’t like video games.

Releasing August 31 for PlayStation 4 and Steam, Last Day of June is being developed by Italian studio Ovosonico in collaboration with writer, director and animator Jess Cope, who worked on Frankenweenie. The game is also directed by Massimo Guarini, who is best known for the over-the-top shooter Shadows of the Damned and the cult favorite Murasaki Baby, where players had to safely lead a little girl through a strange Tim Burton-esque world of emotions.

Mattia Traverso, the lead game designer at Ovosonico

Last Day of June takes players on a different kind of emotional adventure. In it, they’re introduced to a couple named Carl and June.

June loses her life in a car accident and Carl, overcome with grief, obsesses over that day, wondering what he could have done differently. That leads to a story about dealing with the past using Groundhog’s Day-like time travel gameplay, where players alter details in the hopes of saving a loved one.

The game is inspired by Wilson’s song “Drive Home,” and what makes the partnership with the musician especially fitting is the fact that Wilson originally told Ovosonico that he didn’t like games, but then he had a change of heart after being shown an early scene from the game.

Mattia Traverso, the lead game designer at Ovosonico, told AListDaily that Wilson said, “I didn’t know it was possible to make this with video games.” From that moment on, Wilson was on board.

The game was developed as an effort to bring gaming to non-gamers. Traverso explained how it’s normal for people to say that they don’t like video games, but they would probably get funny looks if they were to say that they didn’t like music or movies, given the multitude of genres.

“We were inspired by this,” said Traverso. “Why isn’t there a genre for everyone in video games? We think the problem is that there aren’t enough diverse stories or themes for a broader audience to relate to. There’s nothing wrong with traditional games like Overwatch, but it’s good to have a choice. So, what we tried to do with Last Day of June is base it on a feeling we all have—the feeling of wanting to go back into the past to change something.”

What’s trickier is figuring out how to engage with a broader non-gaming audience. While Traverso indicated that they were looking into advertising in locations that non-gamers would regularly visit, he couldn’t get into detail about specific plans. However, Traverso said that “a lot of it will come from letting Wilson help us share his game. We’re totally fine with just getting gamers through gaming publications, but we want to try to reach different people.”

Reaching a broader audience may be a challenge, but having Massimo Guarini direct the game may help win gamers over. What convinced Guarini to make Last Day of June after Shadows of the Damned and Murasaki Baby? “I’d say it’s an evolution [of his work],” said Traverso. “We’ve gone from shooting, to holding a baby by the hand, to a game about regret. But I think both Murasaki Baby and Last Day of June speak to us as people. We’re investigating what it means to be flawed and human, which I guess sounds a bit pretentious, but we believe in the concept. Both games have a melancholy feel to them, which is becoming a kind of signature for our studio. . . . Ovosonico originally started out making a smaller game, but there’s a lot of love in this. If you play Murasaki Baby, you’ll see that there’s definitely a personal touch to it. This game is us trying to evolve as a studio by making a title that reaches more people but, at the same time, it will be found on PlayStation and Steam. That’s quite a bigger challenge than what we were originally looking for.”

That leads to the bigger question of how non-gaming audiences will become aware of the game, considering how both the PlayStation 4 and Steam are gamer-focused platforms.

“Guarini often says that the future will be one where you can press a button on a TV remote and the game will start,” said Traverso. “PS4 and Steam are actually big barriers for people because they’re kind of complex and there are quite a few steps you need to take before you can play a game. So, that’s definitely a complicated question that we don’t really have an answer for, but I think that as we evolve, consoles will become simpler and people will get more access to them. It’s not a problem that we can solve alone, and we need to collaborate with platforms to address it. But on the other hand, I think the more platforms you reach, the easier it is to get access to an audience.”

80 Percent Of Consumers Support Futuristic Payment Types; Digital Ads Outpace TV

This week in marketing statistics, Google makes customers happy, CEOs speak up and consumers are ready to pay with their faces.

Online Ads Put TV On The Line

Video ad spending on social media comprises almost 30 percent of total social media spending, and expanded text ads get almost 60 percent of search keyword ad impressions, according to Kenshoo. The company’s “Digital Marketing Snapshot: Q2 2017” report found that mobile ad spending was up 51 percent on social media and 45 percent for search ads.

The online advertising market outpaced TV in 2016 by roughly $15 billion, according to the Price Waterhouse (PwC) annual “Entertainment & Media Outlook” report. With a compound annual growth rate of 9.9 percent from 2016 through 2021, online advertising will be a $116 billion market by end of the forecast period. PwC says that would make online advertising more than 50 percent larger than the TV advertising market by 2021.

In the second quarter of 2017, national TV advertising revenue was down 0.8 percent, Standard Media Index reports. The US advertising market grew 3.8 percent, largely due to an 11 percent gain in digital media.

‘Searching’ For Happiness

Fifty-five percent of consumers said Google’s brand inspired happiness, followed by Facebook at 50 percent, according to System 1 Research. Apple was named by 40 percent of respondents as a brand that makes them happy, compared to Twitter (32 percent), Instagram (30 percent) and Snapchat (25 percent).

Nintendo (And Mobile) Power

The Nintendo Switch sold 1.97 million Switch consoles in its second quarter, the company announced. That brings the total sales of the device to 4.7 million units, attributing to revenue growth of 149 percent over the same quarter last year.

On the other side, mobile gaming revenue grew to $12.2 billion in the second quarter—32 percent over the second quarter of 2016—according to Sensor Tower.

Game revenues on iOS grew slightly more than Google Play (34 percent versus 28 percent, respectively). Together, there were 9.2 billion mobile game downloads across iOS and Google Play—up 19 percent from 7.7 billion a year earlier.

Mobile games accounted for about 77 percent of all global revenue on Apple’s App Store for the quarter and approximately 88 percent of spending on Google Play. Spending on mobile games on Google Play grew to $4.5 billion, up 28 percent from $3.5 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Wallets

You put the finishing touches on a report from the back seat of your self-driving car when it pulls up to your favorite drive-through coffee shop. A quick facial scan later, your “usual” is prepared and paid for. Traffic is heavy today, so you’ll have just enough time to watch that new action movie from the comfort of your ride.

That’s not a Philip K. Dick novel—it’s the foreseeable future, according to analysts, and consumers are all for it. In fact, 80 percent of US consumers support “futuristic” payment types and currencies such as facial recognition, retinal scanning and voice control, per a study by Viewpost. A survey of 1,000 US consumers found that 50 percent believe fingerprint technology will be utilized for authentication to pay and receive payments over the next 10 years.

Eighteen percent of respondents can see themselves using voice control to make payments by 2027, and 83 percent said paper checks will be completely eliminated within the next 20 years.

“Autonomous vehicles will reshape the global economy,” Forrester teased in its upcoming report of the same name. The firm spoke with representatives within the auto manufacturer, insurance, delivery, security industries and more to research the downstream impact of such technology becoming a reality. Forrester predicts that by 2035, the global economy will be unrecognizably different.

“As luxury car brands shift their messaging from high-performance engines to Ultra HD entertainment systems, advertisers and media companies will compete for a spot in the new vehicle experience,” Forrester said. “Big brands will sponsor rides and destination companies like Disney will seize the opportunity and extend their guest experience to the commute en route to the park.”

Loud And Proud? Or Safe And Silent?

Should CEOs speak out, or remain neutral on hot-button social topics? The answer depends on which generation you talk to, according to a report by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research.

While 47 percent of millennials (ages 18-to-36) believe CEOs have a responsibility to speak up about issues that are important to society, half of that number (28 percent) of Gen X (age 37-to-52) and baby boomers (age 53-to-71) agree. Fifty-six percent of millennial respondents say CEOs have a greater responsibility to take a stance on hot button issues than they used to.

Cashless Payments Signal A Changing Marketplace

The growth of cashless payments is making it easier for consumers to purchase products without having to carry cash. But does mo’ money mean mo’ problems? Here’s how the ease of purchase decisions will change a marketer’s interface with consumers.

Encouraging Impulse Buys

Being able to buy on the fly without reaching for a wallet fits into today’s hustle-and-bustle lifestyle. In Seattle, Amazon is experimenting with a grocery store where customers can stroll in, take what they like, and leave without even pausing at a cash register. Using the Amazon Go app, the store recognizes when a customer has arrived and tracks items taken. When the customer leaves, those items are charged to their accounts. No more waiting in line behind that one lady with a million coupons paying with a check.

Your Phone Is Your Wallet

PwC predicts that by 2019, there will be over a billion global mobile proximity payment users and that 85 percent of transactions will be near field communication (NFC)-based. The total transaction value of mobile proximity payments (both NFC and non-NFC) is expected to grow from $4.77 billion in 2014 to $141.21 billion in 2019.

In 2014, the transaction volume in the global MPP market was valued at $4.6 billion and it is expected to exceed $300 billion by 2020, with a 5-year CAGR of 85.9 percent.

“This growth rate will be driven not only by NFC, which is being used by both the major OS manufacturers—Apple and Google—but also by the spread of contactless infrastructure worldwide,” PwC said.

If consumers are routinely paying with their phones, a rise in beacon-based marketing may follow—providing information on sales and products nearby.

Charge Cards In Charge

Credit card companies, for obvious reasons, are embracing and encouraging cashless transactions across the world. Last year, Mastercard formed a partnership with Coin that will power payments through fitness bands, smartwatches and other wearable devices.

“People do not wake up in the morning and say, ‘I want to make a payment today,’” Sherri Haymond, MasterCard’s senior vice president of digital channels in emerging payments, told AListDaily. “What we’re doing is trying to make the process super seamless like it’s supposed to be, and also enable experiences before and after the payment to enrich the customer’s lives.”

A study by American Express found contactless transactions to be 63 percent faster than cash and 53 percent faster than a traditional card transaction.

Visa announced a new initiative called the Cashless Challenge that encourages small food merchants to move away from cash and toward card and mobile-based payments, according to The Wall Street Journal. Visa will use an application-based process to select 50 small merchants in food services that will receive roughly $10,000 to upgrade their payment infrastructure to accept card and mobile-based payments. In exchange, these merchants must pledge to limit or remove cash payments.

If these companies get their wish and proximity payments take over, efforts will then shift to competing for which card you’re using to pay with on the go.

The Current State Of Facebook

With over two billion users, Facebook is the most popular social network on the planet. CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s platform for connecting with friends has grown from status updates to live spectacles, chatbots and meetings in virtual reality. Fresh off its second quarter earnings report, let’s break down some of the telling numbers.

A Strong Second Quarter

Revenue in the second quarter of 2017 rose to $9.32 billion, a 45 percent increase over the same quarter in 2016. Facebook’s earnings exceeded predictions by Yahoo Finance ($9.2 billion). Facebook’s global ad revenue is expected to total $36.29 billion this year—up 35 percent from 2016—according to eMarketer, making Facebook the largest ad seller after Google.

About 87 percent of total ad sales in the last quarter was attributed to mobile ads, up from 85 percent in the first quarter of this year. Mobile remains a consistent draw for Facebook, with roughly half of its users accessing the site via mobile devices.

Zuckerberg said he expects video to be the main source of Facebook’s growth in the near future, and that the company is investing heavily in monetizing Messenger and WhatsApp.

Video First

Facebook continues its push for video. The company began testing mid-roll ads earlier this year and is preparing advertisers to adopt six-second videos similar to those employed by YouTube. Live broadcasts now make up 20 percent of video on Facebook, according to a post by Fidji Simo, Facebook’s vice president of product. Simo went on to say that the number of broadcasts has grown more than four times over the last year.

The social network is placing a heavy emphasis on gaming video content, particularly the competitive world of esports. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) developer Bluehole has partnered with Facebook to host a weekly, three-hour livestream show. The Bluehole team will showcase exclusive in-game content on the show and feature both community members and top online creators.

Meet The Faces

Seventy-nine percent of online Americans now use Facebook, according to 2016 figures from Pew Research Center. On a total population basis (accounting for Americans who do not use the internet at all), that means that 68 percent of all US adults are Facebook users, while 28 percent use Instagram.

These users not only use the site but check it often—76 percent of Americans who use Facebook said they visit the site on a daily basis, up from 70 percent in 2015.

American women are more active on the social network, Pew found—83 percent versus males at 75 percent. The largest demographic of Americans on the platform are women ages 18-to-39.

Facebook isn’t too concerned with gender, however, adapting to current views by adding 50 different gender options in the US, and 71 in the UK.

Young consumers are still very active on the social network, despite rumors to the contrary. Over half (53 percent) of millennials say Facebook is where they’re most likely to share content, according to BI Intelligence’s 2017 Digital Trust survey.

A recent study by Fluent found that 48 percent of Gen Z participants log into Facebook several times a day.

Marvel Brand Finds Super Strength In Gaming

Marvel’s comic book universe continues to reach new audiences through film, television and lately—a whole lot of video games. With a growing lineup of interactive titles, Marvel is flexing its brand-recognition muscles to build strength and reputation in the $1.9 billion gaming industry.

As expected, Marvel was a huge presence at San Diego Comic-Con this year armed with trailers, posters and panels for its upcoming films and TV shows. What might not have been expected was an equally huge Marvel Games activation. The comic book giant was on hand with games like Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 and Marvel Powers United VR, which allows players to assume the role (and powers) of superheroes.

While it’s not uncommon to for a franchise to venture into video games, it normally involves a movie tie-in or one-time mobile spin-off. However, Marvel isn’t venturing into video games—it’s smashing head-first into it like The Juggernaut.

Titles launched and launching this year include Guardians of the Galaxy: A Telltale Series and Marvel Heroes Omega (Open Beta) along with Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2. Meanwhile, Marvel Powers United VR and Marvel’s Spider-Man are both scheduled to launch in 2018.

But wait, there’s more. The Disney-owned powerhouse of over 8,000 characters isn’t stopping there.

FoxNext Games and its newly acquired Aftershock Studios have announced an all-new mobile game based on the Marvel Universe. The unnamed project revealed on Thursday is an action-RPG that will have fans “battling players from around the world.” This new mobile title will be Aftershock’s second announced game since separating from Kabam—the first being a mobile MMO based on Avatar.

Aftershock Studios was created after Netmarble acquired Kabam’s Vancouver studio in June. Kabam is no stranger to the Marvel Universe, having developed Marvel Contest of Champions, which fetched over $1 million in its first seven months when it launched in 2014.

Marvel is releasing games across platforms from console to VR, but mobile is an especially lucrative market worth exploring. The mobile segment accounted for nearly half (45 percent) of all interactive entertainment revenue in 2016, according to analyst firm SuperData. For Marvel, it seems, each game is paired with the platform that will best tell its story.

In January, Marvel announced that it teamed up with two Square Enix-owned studios—Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider) and Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex) for a game based on The Avengers. The project is “a perfect example of how Marvel is making games a key part of the landscape for storytelling alongside comics, television and film,” Jay Ong, senior VP of games and innovation for Marvel Entertainment, told Variety.

More details on The Avengers Project will be announced in 2018.

Bringing The ‘EVE Online’ Universe To The Real World

The massively multiplayer role-playing game EVE Online, and its developer CCP, have long had a unique (and sometimes complicated) relationship with the real world. The sci-fi space exploration, combat and economics game has been studied by real world economists; its artwork is featured at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA); and the game recently launched an ambitious undertaking called Project Discovery, where players can help scientists from the University of Reykjavik and the University of Geneva identify possible exoplanets in the far reaches of space.

Those projects only tell half the story, as EVE Online has also reached into entertainment in addition to art and science. For example, it has an in-house music band called The Permaband, which released two free music tracks on the game Rock Band for players to enjoy. Furthermore, there are art, history and comic books based on the EVE universe, with the most recent being The Frigates of EVE.

Torfi Frans Olafsson, senior director of business development for North America at CCP

Speaking with AListDaily, Torfi Frans Olafsson, senior director of business development for North America at CCP, described Frigates as a “super-nerdy detailed lore book about what happens inside the EVE spaceships.” It is also co-authored by Charles White—best known in EVE Online circles as the “Space Pope” due to the character he plays at fan events—who actually works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The book is a prime example of how the game and its community are intricately woven together, and how the stories of EVE are the stories of its players. It’s something that CCP keeps in mind as it expands its world through transmedia partnerships to grow interest in EVE beyond the player base.

Olafsson likens CCP’s approach to its IP to licensed Lego products, where the company presents them as one thing, but users and communities reshape them into something else. He emphasizes the importance of giving players tools to generate their own narratives, stating that the creativity is just as important as the lore that inspires it.

For perspective, some of the most prominent stories to come out of EVE include a mercenary group that spent real years infiltrating the ranks of an in-game organization to destroy all its ships and wealth from within. It wasn’t anything personal, just business. That’s on top of the multitude of wars and conflicts, one of which started because someone accidentally clicked on the wrong button.

However, it’s important to note that players’ stories are not the same as fan fiction. Although Olafsson believes fan fiction is an important factor, he believes that it looks inward toward fan communities. CCP’s goal is to amplify EVE Online’s stories to bring them out to the world.

Olafsson then went into detail about how CCP learned to capitalize on an IP with a narrative that the company doesn’t necessarily control.

What are some of the transmedia opportunities has CCP taken advantage of with EVE Online?

Like with many IPs, we generated the backstory and other aspects as a means to explain why you would want to fly ships into space. Now it has become a world and universe of its own in which millions of people thrive and it has its own collective history. Capitalizing on that, we’ve made some strides with the IP, with the first being simple things like novels set in the universe. But as the game progressed, we discovered that the thing both our players and the audience outside the game connected with was the true narrative—the stories of our players’ activities. The fantastic heists, the corporate espionage, and the great wars where tens of thousands of people went to war for months and even years. That has been a very strong focus of our IP development.

For example, we worked with Andrew Groen to publish a history book on the EVE empires (Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online), which sold very well on Kickstarter. We crowdsourced a number of stories from our players and published a comic book in partnership with Dark Horse Comics (EVE: True Stories) based on them. We’re also pushing out books with ship cutaways (The Frigates of EVE Online). We have also been working for a number of years on a television series that’s inspired and based on true stories. That series is in development, so we haven’t seen it on screen yet, but we’ve been approached by various media companies that are interested in telling stories that actually happened 20,000 years in the future.

Do you think the television series would be animated or live-action?

The way we’re looking at it is live-action. But like I said, it’s still in development. We’ve partnered with great people on it including Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free, and we’ve been exploring options while talking to potential studios. For some of the more established companies, the idea of creating a science fiction story that’s true is weird and they can’t fully grasp the concept. Perhaps they still think of games as single-player experiences and can’t appreciate the community and the value of a story that’s been crafted through the efforts and actions hundreds of thousands of people. But some of them certainly get it.

Does relying on true stories limit the amount of content you can create? Do you eventually plan on creating fictional stories based in the EVE universe?

That was actually the original idea. When we were planning the game, we didn’t account for the community. We thought of it more as a one-way street, where we were like gods who dictated what the world was and what happened in it. But over the course of 14 years, what happened midway was that the players stole the narrative. Their actions became more interesting than our own stories and there was an incident that involved actual activism and rioting within the game.

Players gained command of where the game was headed through the Council of Stellar Management (a democratically player-elected body), through the alliances, and infiltration into our ranks by becoming game designers and senior figures within the company. We as the original developers have, in a way, lost control of the narrative and had to yield to the great democratic body of the players. Today, we are more of custodians of the EVE Online universe than we are the gods of it. That’s a strange thing to come to terms with because we had to rewire our heads as that transition was happening. It was like maturing a relationship where we accepted our limitations and saw the power in each other.

How does CCP present content for transmedia partnerships when new stories are being created in real-time within the game, some spanning years?

We’re learning as we go along. I remember when we were doing the comic book with Dark Horse, I was trying to think of an example of where this had been done before to act as a template. I couldn’t find one. There’s no playbook for taking a narrative that’s been shaped by so many people and crafting it into something. At times, we thought we could do it with big data analysis and tracking people like we were the NSA or something. But in the end, it just comes down to good storytelling and journalism.

Andrew Groen spent a year interviewing close to 100 EVE players and recorded the history of EVE’s empires from 2003-2009, and now I think he’s working on a sequel. It needs a human touch. When you’re managing history or covering any major event, there is always a narrative perspective. There’s no way to be objective about it. You need a human to craft a story from all these disparate events and people. That is the only way to capture it, and often it’s best to bring in an outsider to analyze and record those stories. We at CCP are often too close to it to see the value in some events, or we may perceive something to be very important but is actually not so.

What is the target audience for these stories? Are they mainly for the fans or do they speak to sci-fi fans in general?

I think you can consider them concentric circles with EVE players being at the core of it. We are serving them by celebrating their history, but when we’ve looked at the press coverage of EVE over the past decade, the stories that have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the BBC and Forbes have always been about our players. There have never been stories about our made-up universe. We found that there’s a great audience that’s interested in this world, even if they’re never going to play the game. That was also a pivot we made, realizing that this wasn’t just an acquisition tool for our product. This was a gateway into a universe, and we should find ways to amplify and monetize that interest without necessarily connecting it to game players.

Is it strange to be telling true stories about fictional game personas?

It is remarkably not strange. I think we’re fine with making that separation and distinction. One interesting area that applies to both gaming an internet culture, in general, is that the role of alter egos and anonymity has changed in the past few years. Fifteen or twenty years ago, it was more common for people to remain utterly anonymous and hidden behind an alias. But with social media and livestreaming, the person and character are both famous. The best example of that is Charles White, Space Pope, who has hundreds of thousands of online friends. Both his real-life and character personas are famous, and he mixes the two. He doesn’t hide behind his alter ego.

Do you see CCP creating its own media division someday?

It depends on specialization. As a company, we’ve gone through several iterations of defining ourselves. The sweet spot that we’ve landed at right now is focusing on what we are good at and partnering with those who are better at things we don’t know how to do. Building linear content is a craft that has evolved for over 100 years, and there are simply people who are way better at it than us. Our expertise is in generating computer games and generating online communities—we pride ourselves on doing that. There’s an inherent risk of losing focus [when you try to expand], so we’re partnering with experts as we venture into different spaces.

A Ride Along Razer’s Experiential Summer Tour

Razer is tapping into a communal spirit and adding to its experiential marketing mix this year by hitting the road for a summer-long tour.

The festival-like vibe they’re creating is designed to bring hands-on experiences to consumers for their portfolio of gaming products and virtual reality technology.

Billed as the “2017 Razer Experience Tour,” the one-to-one activation shifts from consuming entertainment to creating it.

It started in May and runs until September, and is organized around music, gaming, action sports and other consumer interests, allowing attendees to immerse themselves in the brand, and potentially create newfound excitement for the inventory line.

“Our products are very much premium, and we put an incredible amount of time, attention and effort into developing respective categories with detail,” Travis Furst, Razer’s global product marketing manager, told AListDaily. “That said, Razer is something consumers need to experience first-hand in order to appreciate it. That’s why the summer tour marketing move is a such a great idea for us because it puts the products in the hands of the audience we’re marketing to.”

Teenagers demo Razer products on Razer tour

Razer is operating with a direct-to-consumer retail strategy while staying focused online, Furst said. It kicked off Memorial Day Weekend at the Soundset Music Festival in Minnesota, and stops on the trip have already included E3, San Diego Comic-Con International, Dew Tour, Rooster Teeth’s RTX and the Free Press Summer Festival.

“We look at the markets, of course, and there are a number of different aspects. In the case of our first stop in Minnesota, for example, we activated a lot of collaborations with musicians and artists,” Furst said. “We have a close partnership with the independent hip hop record label Rhymesayers Entertainment, who was front and center at the Soundset Music Festival. That relationship made it a great spot for us to kick off with.”

The tour is touching events that might need specific badges and credentials, but in the case of E3 last month, in addition to the Razer booth on the showroom floor, Razer paired its space inside the hall with a standalone experience outside of the Convention Center.

“If you look at the types of music festivals and events we’re attending—like San Diego Comic-Con and Wizard World Comic Con—they are very similar in its kind. But we’re still targeting gamers, and we are very focused on that. You’ll notice that we’re very heavy on the west coast, and that plan is strategic because of logistics in routing. Most of the events we’re doing are festivals where people are hanging out and having a good time. There’s still plenty of gamers there, but they’ve got their friends there, too. We make a variety of products but it’s a good way to introduce the brand to new users as well.”

As the calendar turns to August, the lifestyle brand for gamers will be shifting its strategy toward college campuses. The calendar month will be highlighted with a stop in Dallas for QuakeCon.

Razer will be evaluating the success of the summer tour from a social standpoint, Furst says, particularly with one activation that allows consumers to create custom Razer Blade “X-Rays” using green-screen technology. Fans then get to choose from a menu of gaming heroes to share their inner gaming character on social. Other experiences include consumers composing electronic tracks with Razer computers and software.

Before Razer reaches each particular market, their social and community teams send a series of regional posts and email blasts. They’re also working with influencers and a number of partners like Intel, Bandai Namco, Slightly Mad Studios and Video Project Bars as part of an integrated marketing campaign.

Razer’s booth is abounding with deals, too, like pairing promotions for people who attend by including $200 off Razer laptops or $100 sim cards. The 20 interactive demo stations are complemented with contests as well, like how the fastest time trial in Project Cars 2 winner will get a $600 Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card.

“Last year, we took a very aggressive pricing strategy and were competitive, and less expensive, with the likes of the Dell XPS 13 and MacBook Air. Now, a huge part of this tour is to just get the products in the field,” Furst says. “We’re really looking at how many people Razer booth promotors are reaching to help touch, feel and experience our product. We’re always exploring new opportunities. It’s really what our fans are looking for, and we want to make sure we deliver.”