Worldwide digital game sales reached $8.3 billion across console, mobile and PC in September, up from $7.2 billion in September 2016. SuperData Research has released its monthly digital games report, highlighting the purchasing trends outside of physical copies sold.
The 15 percent growth for digital game sales was driven by a 25 percent jump in console digital revenue, thanks to new releases. This increase in console downloads more than offset a double-digit decline in pay-to-play and a significant drop in social revenue.
Destiny 2 Fulfills Its Destiny
Activision-Blizzard’s Destiny 2 broke the record for the fastest-selling digital console game in a given launch month, SuperData reports. The previous record holder was Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 in November 2015. Destiny 2 debuted at number one for console titles and it will be interesting to see how it impacts PC sales for October having launched on Tuesday.
“Destiny 2 is a hit, but not an unqualified one when compared to the first game,” SuperData senior analyst Carter Rogers told AListDaily. “First-month digital revenue is up substantially over Destiny 1 largely due to a greater share of players buying the game via download instead of disk. However, first-month total player numbers are actually down from Destiny 1, so the game’s marketing has not concretely expanded the audience. What has expanded the addressable audience is the game’s availability on PC, where there has been pent-up anticipation for Destiny since the first game’s launch.”
Established sports franchises FIFA and NBA 2K continue to expand their reach with new releases and show little signs of slowing down, noted the report. FIFA 18 console digital units came in significantly higher than FIFA 17 last September despite a later release date this year, while NBA 2K18 console sales also saw a healthy jump.
PC Battle Royale
League of Legends (LoL)held its top spot on the PC game charts for September, with Fantasy Westward Journey Online II and Dungeon Fighter Online holding their positions at numbers two and three, respectively.
Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) overtook World of Warcraft and Crossfire in revenue during September, continuing its dominance and worldwide impact with PC gamers. Selling around four million units, the popular battle royale game ascended one position from August to number four, pushing Crossfire down to number five.
Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin 2 launched mid-September, but still sold an impressive 660,000 digital units on PC during its launch month. The RPG builds on the success of single player PC games such as Nier: Automata and Horizon Zero Dawn. Divinity: Original Sin 2 debuted at number eight for digital PC game revenue.
Mobile Musical Chairs
The top 10 mobile games for September is comprised of all the same titles from August—with one exception—but the games came in at different ranks.
Fantasy Westward Journey overtook Honour of Kings for the number one spot in September, while Clash Royale pushed its way four spots to number three. Monster Strike rose two spots to number four and Fate/Grand Order went from the bottom at number 10 in August to number five in September.
Pokémon GO, Niantic’s darling, didn’t make the top 10 in September after holding the number five spot in August.
Netmarble Games’ Lineage 2 Revolution jumped onto the global charts at number nine for mobile revenue. The online action role-playing game originally launched in South Korea in December 2016, earning $176 million its first month alone.
Gearing up for a launch in the West, Lineage 2 Revolution has been available for pre-registration since mid-September, and late-night host and comedian Conan O’Brien has been recruited for a major marketing push. O’Brien joined a livestream from Netmarble’s booth during TwitchCon this past weekend.
“We really hope this game will do well in the US and Europe,” Seungwon Lee, chief global officer of Netmarble Games Lee told GamesBeat. “We are being much more aggressive with this launch than we have been before for any other game.”
First-person shooters (FPS), being massive hits on PC and consoles, might seem like a natural fit for VR, but they have proved to be a tough genre for developers to cover. While games such as Robo Recall, Doom VFR, Raw Data and others have significantly moved the genre forward in the VR space, they’re still a step or two away from a truly authentic shooter experience, and that’s because of the way players move their characters around. Very few games use straight movement in VR for fear that it will make users sick, so they usually choose to use a teleporting option instead.
Vancouver-based developer Archiact believes it has the answer to the problem. It has been making games for VR for about four years, with platform experience that range from Google Cardboard to Samsung Gear VR and PlayStation VR, and now it is preparing to move the FPS genre forward with Tuesday’s announcement of Evasion, its first game for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
“Evasion is an intense VR ‘bullet hell’ shooter that focuses on multiplayer,” Archiact senior producer Jennifer Dowding told AListDaily. A bullet hell game is one where players must find ways to survive a hailstorm of gunfire by evading (thus the title) or deflecting bullets while destroying enemies and completing objectives.
Expected to launch in 2018, Evasion also pushes the envelope of VR gameplay by featuring four-player cooperative class-based multiplayer using full-body avatars powered by IKinema motion capture technology, giving players a truer sense of self while in VR. Furthermore, the game lets players drop in and out of games at any time, and missions have randomized elements for high replayability.
According to Dowding, who was joined by Archiact lead game designer Ian Rooke and the studio’s brand manager Chris Ansell, the idea for Evasion came as Archiact was designing a simple two-player VR arcade shooter for the Asian market. After discovering how much fun the bullet hell mechanic was, the company decided to make something ambitious out of it.
“We immediately knew that we wanted to do something much bigger,” Dowding said. “It became a passion for the team to create something that was what the audience was looking for and what we were looking for as gamers.”
Intel selected Evasion as a VR showcase partner, where it’s in good company alongside zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine and Ubisoft’s Star Trek: Bridge Crew. The Intel VR showcase is both a technological and marketing partnership that helps developers grow the VR industry.
“On the marketing side, the goal is to get the game into as many players’ hands as possible,” said Dowding, detailing the partnership. “We’re working with Intel to showcase the game at events, give away codes and do retail activations to get more players into the game. Since this is a co-op shooter, we don’t just want you to play, we want you to play with your friends. We’re working with Intel to see how we can make that happen.”
Before the announcement, Evasion was limited to private showings at events such as VRDC. Now that it’s been officially unveiled, the game will be shown to the public for the first time at the Intel Extreme Masters in November. Attendees will not only have a chance to play, but they’ll watch others move as they play, which will be key to bringing more attention to the game.
“It’s a really exciting game to watch people play,” Dowding explained. “Because there’s a whole-body avatar, you can crouch down behind cover and lean around corners. Those things are very advantageous in the game. The best players will be moving around a lot during the game, so it’s as much fun to watch as it is to play.”
“A lot of VR games have simplistic representations of people’s bodies, and that throws you out of the immersion,” Rooke added. “One of the benefits of having a full body in VR is that when someone is really good, you can tell. It’s really obvious that that’s an amazing player. So, we want to embrace the concept of spectating and finding really good players to champion the game.”
Authentic movement will also help further grow the VR market by giving its players something they demand. In fact, it was the room-scale full-body movement detection that drew Archiact to develop Evasion for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
“A lot of VR gamers are over the hump of teleportation and they want more out of VR shooters,” said Ansell.
“VR gamers want an authentic VR first-person shooter experience, and that’s what we’re looking to provide, but we’re also offering a lot of setting so that players feel comfortable in the game,” said Dowding. “As we’ve been demoing, we found that there is no one path for each person. Every person has unique settings and we want to support as many as we can. We even have a jogging mode, where you have to jog up and down to move, and that helps overcome sickness by providing deeper simulation.”
In addition to movement, Dowding explained that Evasion’s cooperative gameplay is also a standout feature.
“We really love this idea of playing with your friends in squads,” she said, echoing the sentiment that VR needs to become a more social experience. “We found that one of the things that makes VR compelling is having a friend jump in with you to play together and fight alongside each other. That was one of the reasons why we leaned into co-op.”
The trade-off to cooperative play compared to competitive gameplay is that it can never be technically regarded as an esport. The three said that a competitive game may be developed in the future, but right now, the focus is on cooperative play. Rooke added that cooperative play also makes the game more flexible for single-player sessions, when players can’t find anyone to join them.
Given Evasion‘s arcade roots, Archiact is designing the game to better support location-based experiences. A special survival mode, which focuses more on arcade scoring, is in the works. Furthermore, Rooke said that the missions are scalable so that they can be anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes long.
“[Location-based experiences] are the first point of contact that a lot of users will get for VR,” said Dowding. “We want to make something that they can try out for the first time and have a good time before going home and considering buying it home for a bigger experience.
“I hope that we’ll see more VR in arcades and other location-based experiences like theme parks because they are great first points of contact. In Asia, it may be their only point of contact because they have small places. So, being able to use devices in smaller spaces and more access to them will definitely help the technology out.”
Growing Mass Appeal
Dowding also believes that developing for the existing VR market is critical. Giving the VR audience what it wants gets them excited and talking about it, which benefits both marketing and development.
“The VR audience is very passionate, and this is the content they’re looking for,” she said. “The bigger game companies aren’t making the content they’re looking for right now. If we were competing with something like Star Wars: Battlefront with a VR mode, we would never be able to compete with those kinds of AAA marketing budgets. But the VR audience is a little starved for content right now.”
“We kind of see it as our duty to help the industry move forward,” said Rooke. “We understand that it’s expensive and a lot of people don’t have a reason to pick up a VR headset, so we want to help by adding good content to the VR library and give people more reason to jump into VR.”
Rooke also said that for the VR industry to grow, the hardware needs to get cheaper untethered. Games also have to get past the “locomotion hump.”
“A lot of people are afraid of getting sick in VR, so they’re afraid to try it,” he explained. “We think that getting more content out there that has good locomotion will make people realize that it can be done, and that will be a huge step [towards growth].”
Archiact has been working with Oculus, HTC, Nvidia and Epic Games’ Unreal Engine team to make sure they’re exploiting the best uses for their technology. Ansell said that working closely with partners is the best chance VR teams have at success.
The company also hosts CVR, an annual VR consumer expo that began two years ago in Vancouver. It features prominent members of the VR community—from Microsoft to NASA—further demonstrating the studio’s commitment to growing the VR space.
“If you’re excited about the vision for your game, whether it’s VR or not, then you generally jump out of bed each morning to make it because you want to play it,” said Ansell. “I think that’s where you have to always start. Despite challenges in the VR market cycle, putting our heads down and focusing on what we want to play and what we think gamers want has consistently led to good things. Hopefully, that will continue, and we will work with partners who share the vision.”
There arguably isn’t a hotter hip-hop group right now than platinum award-winning trio Migos.
The Georgia-bred, chart-topping threesome of Quavo, Offset and Takeoff—owners of a bevy of bangers since dropping their debut album two years ago—are one of the few current superstars running the rap game.
With such a powerful and wide-reaching platform, athletic apparel retailer Finish Line has enlisted the rap stars to serve as creative directors and as the faces of the brand’s new marketing campaigns, using them as well as other social influencers to target audiences across the sneaker sphere.
Migos, certified everywhere with no need to print a resumé, is slated to take creative control of distinctive fashion styles and themes for product shoots by directing the on-set vision. The group will also connect with Finish Line’s fan base by curating social content.
“Our partnership will be a reflection of what’s to come for American fashion in the next 10 years,” Quavo told AListDaily. “The fashion industry is a daily revolving door with new trends, releases and collaborations. The benefit of our partnership is that we create and set those trends with our music, fashion and lifestyle. Finish Line has the selection to help choose your voice, and Migos is the voice of the millennials.”
Paul Diehl, senior director of content, social and consumer trends at Finish Line, said the collaboration will serve as a forum for the BET Awards-winning triumvirate to express their creative concepts to an audience that appreciates functionalities—all while boosting the brand’s reach and relevancy.
“We’re looking to continue strengthening the connection between sport, style and music—Finish Line is positioned in the intersection of these ideas,” Diehl told AListDaily. “Migos has a strong pulse on today’s culture and widespread visibility that will help connect consumers to our brand. Working alongside Migos will allow us to explore in more depth where performance, street and style meet.”
Diehl said this partnership is unique to the company because the group won’t be held to one specific brand; they’ll take consumer voices and channel it through the style offerings they select. The young, rich and bougie triad will have creative freedom to pick and style the products that speak to them from every make available. The deal provides much more control than most celebrity ambassadors get with the usual garden variety TV spot or digital activation.
“Our No. 1 goal is to pump energy into the lifestyle and image of the brand,” Offset told AListDaily.
“We intend to create and infuse our brand with Finish Line through our social media influence, curate one-of-a-kind shopping experiences for exclusive releases and meet and greets,” Takeoff told AListDaily.
“Whatever looks they pick will be authentic to who they are and what they would wear daily or for a special event,” Diehl said. “We have a few specific multi-brand product launches planned and we’re excited to surprise our consumers with what’s to come.”
Musicians are increasingly taking on roles as creative directors—just last week, Asics tied its brand to Steve Aoki to inspire a collection of shoes and other apparel. In recent years, Puma has worked with the likes of Rihanna, The Weeknd and Big Sean as creative directors, just as Adidas has with Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. Outside of shoes, Akon is trying to bring virtual reality to the masses as the chief creative officer for Royole, just as will.i.am tried before him with Intel and 3D Systems. Lil Yachty, who previously has partnered with Finish Line for digital experiences, is also the creative designer for Nautica. And just last month, Foot Locker and Timberland teamed up with Nas to launch a Legends Collection.
Migos making its way to Finish Line—which is unlike anything the brand has ever done before—is part of the company progressing its mission and approach to delivering consumer products. In recent months, Finish Line has also updated its app and debuted new store concepts with cutting-edge technology and in-store experiences.
“Migos already connects with our consumers through their music and online presence, so this partnership enhances that connection and allows us to join in on the conversation to understand our consumers on a deeper level,” Diehl said. “We’ve evolved the way we highlight the brands and styles that resonate with our consumers. Everything we do for the Finish Line brand ties back to our mission of providing the most desirable sneakers and latest trends from top brands and responding to our consumers’ expectations.”
Diehl said partnering with Migos complements their social strategy of not pushing specific products. A quick survey of the brand’s hip-hop and sport-infused Instagram page supplements that sentiment. It also helps the brand maintain cultural relevance by having conversations with consumers—all while facing mountainous tasks and marketing challenges plaguing retailers in the shoes, apparel and accessories categories.
Consolidated net sales for Finish Line, which runs across 950 branded locations in the US, were $469.4 million, a decrease of 3.3 percent over the prior year period, according to an earnings report released in September. Comparable store sales also decreased 4.5 percent, while their Macy’s department stores sales increased 5.6 percent.
“Our influencers are important because they’re also our consumers. They serve as an extension of our consumers because they live and breathe the brands we partner with and the products that we sell,” Diehl said. “We work hard to ensure we’re on the same page as our consumers. We’re always improving our speed, our messaging and our product offering to give them what they want, when they want and how they want it. The industry constantly changes. Making sure we’re on the cutting edge of today’s latest trends is crucial.”
Esports marketing isn’t just for energy drinks. As tens of thousands of gamers descended upon DreamHack Denver, several brands—endemic and non-endemic alike—took the opportunity to connect with a young and engaged fan base.
AListDaily caught up with some of the top brands at DreamHack Denver to talk about how they approach the gaming demographic and stand out in a saturated marketplace.
Circle is a social money transfer app that recently began its journey into esports marketing. DreamHack Denver may have been Circle’s first major sponsorship for esports, but the team there includes video game industry veterans and esports enthusiasts.
Josh Hawkins, vice president of marketing for Circle, warns brands against marketing to gamers without first doing their homework.
“The esports and gaming community is multidimensional, very tightly knit and has a very low tolerance for bullshit,” said Hawkins. “Advice for marketers getting into the space? Do your time. Immerse yourself in the community, deliver real value and be real.”
When you think of gaming, you might not think of mattresses, or even about getting much sleep. But since DreamHack is a three-day, round-the-clock event, having a mattress company as a sponsor made sleeping on-site a welcome option. In addition to a booth at the DreamHack Denver expo, Leesa created a Sleep Zone where special ticket holders could reserve a bed for the weekend.
Lily Hecht-Leavitt, head of partnerships at Leesa Sleep told AListDaily that the brand’s price, digital presence and ease of set-up made a positive impression on the gaming community.
“We started out on the Giant Bomb podcast and that’s how we first learned that we resonated with the gaming community,” said Hecht-Leavitt. The company has partnered with sites like GeekDad and Hardware Canuks, as well as other gaming and tech enthusiasts across social media.
When you’re a brand that could potentially appeal to multiple demographics, using the same campaigns across the board just won’t do.
“Everything we use is catered to a specific audience,” said Hecht-Leavitt. “Use the language. We say things like ‘recharge’ or ‘respawn’ on a Leesa mattress. You want to make sure that the imagery you’re using is right. Even the font and the positioning [are important]. You also want to keep [brand messages] short and to the point—something catchy. If you can combine all that together, you can create something great. Also, have some kind of offer. Promo codes allow us to track web traffic to see the ROI.”
Sceptre has manufactured TVs and computer monitors for over 30 years and drove right into esports marketing as the brand sponsors Azio Esports, who came in second for League of Legends in DreamHack Denver’s BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) tournament.
Alan Liu, web and gaming director for Sceptre, told AListDaily that DreamHack Denver was Sceptre’s fifth gaming event so far.
“Esports is ramping up like crazy,” said Liu. “We wanted to see how we could apply our affordability and quality to the typical gamer. We recently came up with a few lines of curved monitors and we fashioned them with lights, nice panels, etc. and we’re slashing the prices to appeal to the college gamer who can’t afford those top-of-the-line monitors.”
Sceptre offered $200 off a 32-inch curved monitor, bringing the price down to $199.99 during the show, and 4K UHD TVs for as low as $289. While low prices are often a strong selling point, Liu explained that gamers care about the quality more.
“It’s all about the specs,” he said. “With esports, everyone’s watching the pros and the top streamers. It’s kind of like traditional sports—when they see a pro player or streamer and their gear, they’re going to want to be just like them. By appealing to that mentality, you’ll be able to attract many more gamers—from casual to pros.”
Gaming peripheral brand HyperX positioned its large booth next to the DreamHack entrance for all to see as they arrived. Attendees were able to test out the latest products, including keyboards, headphones and the newly released computer glasses.
Annie Gerard, global strategic marketing manager for HyperX told AListDaily that it’s not enough to be an endemic brand when speaking to gamers.
“In terms of our marketing, we really try to be authentic,” said Gerard. “The gaming community sees through your marketing PR spiel, so if you’re not really part of their lifestyle speaking their lingo, they’re going to walk away. One of the ways that we do that is by passionately supporting the communities out there from teams to streamers and cosplayers—we really try to connect with them to offer exclusive content or bring them to the shows, allow them to meet fans and celebrities.”
Esports marketing from the brand includes the sponsorship of a number of teams, including Cloud9 and Team Liquid, both of which were competing—and won—in Denver. Despite their esports fame, HyperX advises brands against catering to just one segment of gaming, citing their slogan, “We’re All Gamers.”
Hamburger Helper launched its pasta-in-a-box in 1971 and has been a familiar addition to the family dinner table ever since. The brand’s mascot, Lefty the “helping hand,” made quite a stir on social media when a Twitter user contemplated the cartoon glove’s anatomy.
The ensuing lighthearted debate—and speculative drawings—ranged from the comical to the downright disturbing. Hamburger Helper finally chimed in from the brand’s official Twitter account two days later. The Twitter exchange earned the General Mills-brand some welcome attention, timed perfectly with Helper’s fourtieth anniversary and Halloween.
To calculate how much marketing General Mills would’ve had to invest to receive similar marketing results, we calculated the earned media value from posts about Hamburger Helper from October 14 to 21.
“Earned media” is the value of engagements a brand receives across channels as a result of their marketing efforts. To help quantify what the value of those engagements is worth, Ayzenberg Group established the Ayzenberg Earned Media Value Index (AEMVI) and assigned a quantifiable dollar amount for marketing gains a brand receives from a campaign or individual engagement that includes social media networks and similar digital properties. (Editor’s note: AListDaily is the publishing arm of Ayzenberg Group. To read the updated AEMVI report reflecting the rapid changes in social, click here.)
Over the span of one week, the original post by Twitter user @soongrowtired was retweeted over 51,000 times and received more than 128,000 times. The official response from Hamburger Helper was retweeted over 15,000 times and liked more than 44,000 times, especially when news outlets picked up the story.
This isn’t the first time Lefty got a little sassy on Twitter. For the past several years, the brand has built a reputation for making witty comments. On April Fool’s Day last year, Hamburger Helper dropped a rap album called “Watch the Stove,” a riff on “Watch the Throne” by Jay-Z and Kanye West.
“Doing anything with millennials is always like walking a tightrope,” Liana Miller, a marketing communications planner at General Mills, told Forbes when speaking about the rap album’s success. “Is this going to be cool, or is this going to be something that they’ll totally roast us for? That was something that was on all of our minds during the entire process, up until the morning we released it. This is either going to go really well or really bad.”
Lefty’s skeleton debate arrived just weeks after Hamburger Helper brutally roasted a Twitter user for making a sexist comment.
Hamburger Helper joins brands like Wendy’s and Moon Pie who use humor and self-awareness instead of sterile PR messages. Brands are joining the conversation when it comes to its competitors, fans and even the haters. As Hamburger Helper said, “All my haters salty. I’m too seasoned for ’em.”
Not all sarcastic tweets have a fiery ending, however. When a user tried to recreate the success of Wendy’s #NuggsForCarter incident, Hamburger Helper mocked her spelling. Then actually mailed her a ton of food, no retweets required.
What’s next for the helpful hand? Figuring out how Lefty would wear pants.
Mastercard debuted a new augmented reality shopping experience that incorporates Masterpass and Identity Check Mobile with iris authentication. The tech was developed with Qualcomm Technologies and Osterhout Design Group and is being demoed at the Las Vegas Money 20/20 conference through the Saks Fifth Avenue brand.
Mastercard’s new AR experience has been designed to work with ODG’s new R9 smartglasses, allowing shoppers to view digital representations of products before they commit to a purchase, learn more about what they’re buying, see additional options not available in the physical location and get instant recommendations or other information relevant to their unique experience.
When done shopping, users can pay for items using Masterpass, which will first authenticate the user’s iris using Qualcomm Technologies’ iris authentication. The shopper then selects a card from their Masterpass-enabled wallet and completes the purchase by selecting the Masterpass button on the screen. Items can be taken home from the store or shipped, depending on availability.
Sherri Haymond, executive vice president of digital partnerships at Mastercard, told AListDaily that this new technology taps into the radical shifts that the world of commerce is undergoing.
“ODG’s smartglasses offer a hands-free, heads-up and body position independent form factor that gives users a richer, more immersive experience in AR,” Haymond said. “This allows people to more fully engage with the world around them, on the go. This technology allows retail brands to engage with their customers in new ways—driving sales and bringing foot traffic back in store. It unlocks new ways for brands to reach and engage with consumers—to differentiate their brand, build loyalty and drive sales.”
Ralph Osterhout, founder and CEO for ODG, said just as individual brands have shifted a significant and growing portion of their media spend from traditional TV into mobile and digital advertising, AR smartglasses offer brands a new platform to reach consumers, in an even more contextual real-time way.
“We have heard from many marketing agencies and brands who are interested in developing unique memorable consumer experiences at events with our AR smartglasses as a first step in familiarizing themselves with the platform and its capabilities,” Osterhout told AListDaily. “We expect these activities to grow rapidly in the coming years. Retailers are starting to show interest in installing an experience like this Saks demonstration as early as 2018.”
According to an April Salsify study, 77 percent of shoppers use a mobile device while shopping in stores to research availability and pricing.
“Many high-end retailers like Bonobos, Paul Evans, Marc Jacobs and Restoration Hardware are rethinking inventory strategies to reduce footprint and cut costs—moving to a ‘boutique-showroom’ approach, stocking fewer items in store and offering a broader selection through online,” Haymond explained. “The AR smartglasses experience allows the shopper to organically merge the benefits of retail and online shopping together, giving them access to further inventory that may not be available in store while maintaining that richer in-store experience.”
There is also a growing trend among shoppers of buying “outfits” rather than items, which has allowed upstarts like StitchFix, TrunkClub, Wantable and MM.LaFleur to flourish. Haymond said this new technology allows shoppers to create outfits with personalized recommendations pushed directly to them via iris scanning on the glasses.
In the wake of the hacks on Target, Home Depot and Neiman Marcus, retailers are struggling to protect their cash-register systems from malware looking to hack shoppers’ credit card information. Haymond said this experience makes payment and delivery more secure and seamless for both retailers and shoppers.
Given ODG’s limited consumer reach today, the burgeoning AR market across Apple and Google devices opens up more immediate opportunities for Mastercard.
“Mastercard sees additional opportunities to leverage AR and seamless payments to enhance the consumer experience in areas like home services,” Haymond said. “Imagine a home-decorating experience, for example, where you can design a room in your home and then close the loop on the entire process by enabling transactions right on the device.”
Haymond believes AR and AI will open new opportunities for both consumers and retailers, including the creation of a new world of real-time impulsive online shopping, allowing brands and retailers to even more accurately tailor offers and messages to consumers contextually.
Cold open: slow zoom on a solemn man, backed by a group of darkness-shrouded figures and backlit by a pair of spotlights, staring into the camera behind a mic stand in a smoky room. “We’re a company that’s so successful, that everywhere you go,” he sings, “you see the scratchy, hairy fastener, and you say ‘hey, that’s velcro!'” It’s a simple cause that’s gathered these lawyers to put on a “We Are The World”-esque benefit performance: they say, “don’t say velcro.”
VELCRO® Brand’s legal team put out the rousing power ballad to clarify things about their product—it’s “VELCRO® Brand straps” if they make it, and “hook and loop fasteners” if anyone else does. Using “velcro” as an adjective or verb is similarly forbidden.
They acknowledge the absurdity in the ad itself, but it addresses a very real fear for the company. In the second verse, they sing, “We know this seems ridiculous, this is a first-world situation . . . and we’re asking you not to say a name we’ve spent 60-plus years to build, but if you keep calling these ‘velcro shoes,’ our trademark will get killed!”
There’s solid precedent for brand names being genericized: “flip phone,” “aspirin” and “teleprompter” all used to be trademarked terms, but were legally declared generic and unenforceable due to becoming the common name for the product itself. Velcro’s music video pleas on behalf of other brands at risk of losing their identities, begging viewers not to say “Band-Aid,” “Clorox” or “Rollerblade,” either.
Velcro isn’t the first brand to get finicky about public use of their trademark—LEGO is notoriously picky about spelling (it’s “Lego bricks,” not “Legos”).
While brand safety has been on the minds of many marketers in recent months, having a brand to keep safe is a privilege that Velcro is trying desperately to protect. So remember this holiday season: don’t say velcro.
Circle Pay is a free social payment app that allows users to send money like a text message. The Boston startup got its start as a bitcoin wallet, but it now focuses on US dollars, UK pound sterling and euros, and it recently founded a separate company called Circle China.
Hoping to connect with young, digital native consumers, Circle was an official sponsor of DreamHack Denver—the company’s first major commercial partnership in the space.
Josh Hawkins, vice president of marketing for Circle, joined AListDaily at DreamHack to discuss the company’s esports marketing strategy.
“The esports sector has really blown up over the few years and it has achieved a very attractive scale for marketers,” said Hawkins. “Surrounding gaming gatherings, pop-up tournaments, and community events, there is an enormous volume of peer-to-peer payments. Use cases span collecting entry fees for tournaments, to groups making payments for venues, to tipping on livestreams. It’s a natural fit for a social payment app like Circle Pay.”
Those attending DreamHack Denver could win $100 by downloading the app and sending $25. Four winners were selected each day of the event. The Circle logo was also prominently displayed on the DreamHack Denver website and around the expo floor.
“We have a number of esports enthusiasts at Circle and have employees that come from the game publishing industry,” said Hawkins. “We’ve been fortunate to have connections in the community, and early on we spent time with grassroots organizers of regional tournaments and events across New England. Since then, we’ve been branching out, sponsoring organizations on college campuses like Harvard University’s Esports Club, and even newer venues for esports like Wizard World.”
Hawkins explained that gaming isn’t the only way Circle hopes to attract new users.
“A significant part of our go-to-market strategy has been focused on activating digital natives, millennials and Gen Z consumers,” he said. “These segments have a very basic expectation that sending and receiving money should be the same as texting, sharing photos and posting videos—instant, free and global. Apps like Venmo and Square Cash don’t provide this—you have to wait days to get your money out or pay fees to cash out instantly. They also don’t work internationally or across currencies. These are key demands among millennials and points of differentiation for Circle.
“We’ve engaged influencers in the past including domain experts on millennial money issues and trends, various artists on Instagram, [as well as] some work with Vine producers. We’re only just beginning to explore influencer marketing within the esports community and have active conversations going with pro teams and agencies in the space.”
Circle has raised $136 million in funding, backed by some of the earliest investors behind Facebook and Snapchat and financial institutions like Goldman Sachs. The app does not charge any fees for its services and doesn’t plan on charging them in the future.
“We don’t believe that consumers should be charged a toll to move money across the internet,” said Hawkins. “Blockchain tech, digital currencies, machine learning and AI are helping to rapidly commoditize services offered by banks and remittance providers. In our view, charging fees to use money isn’t a viable long-term business model.
“Circle is focused on providing a free public utility for the exchange of value. To offer consumers free instant global payments requires us to maintain liquidity in fiat currencies and crypto assets, where we have an active trading desk. This generates revenue for the company. In the future, we also plan to provide value-added services related to retail investing, which will bring monetization opportunities.”
As the highly anticipated Marvel movies continue to grow and draw in huge audiences, so do its related games—especially Kabam’s mobile fighting game Marvel Contest of Champions, which is now approaching its third year of operation.
The game continues its strength through regular engagement with users, particularly at events such as the New York Comic Con (NYCC), where Kabam was situated next to the Marvel booth on the show floor and hosted three gaming tournaments where attendees were able to take on a new boss each day. Kabam used the event as an opportunity to announce that Morningstar, a character created specifically for Marvel Contest of Champions, would be added to the game as its newest character. Attendees got a first look at Morningstar a week before her official release, along with the vampire hunter character Blade, who will be joining the game around Halloween.
Players that got through the pre-qualifier challenge moved up to the qualifier to try to beat the boss and get on the leaderboard. Then the top three players from each day went head-to-head on the Marvel show floor to compete for prizes that ranged from iPads to in-game currency and champions. The tournament culminated in the grand final competition held on the third day, where a trophy was given out in addition to other prizes.
“It’s a much bigger competition than we had last year,” Luke Takeuchi, senior producer at Kabam for Marvel Contest of Champions, told AListDaily, describing how the developer varied each day to encourage attendees to return for unique experiences. Kabam began spreading hype for the competition weeks prior to NYCC through its social media channels, and the enthusiasm was amplified by excitement for the upcoming movie Thor: Ragnarok.
“Marvel has been growing like crazy this year,” said Takeuchi. “We’re just about to hit our third-year anniversary, and we’ve had a pretty crazy year in terms of feature updates and new characters. We release new characters every two weeks and we released our Halloween build, which features all the champions we showed off at New York Comic Con.”
Takeuchi then went into detail about how Contest of Champions leverages the film releases.
“We had a lot of great films this year,” Takeuchi explained. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was huge for us, and Thor: Ragnarok is the next beat. We did some stuff for Spider-Man: Homecoming as well. We have a good partnership with Marvel, so we get access to some of that content early to see who the major characters are going to be and what will be some of the major story beats.”
Kabam incorporates characters and showcases top champions in line with theatrical releases. For example, it introduced Yondu and Nebula when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out in April. Similarly, Kabam released its version of Spider-Man along with the villain Vulture to coincide with the launch of Homecoming.
“We’re not giving too much away for Thor: Ragnarok yet, but obviously Hela will be one of our main champion releases,” said Takeuchi. “It’s always about the champions and the story. We release champions and ongoing quests along with new features and content.”
Takeuchi also said that building characters that please both comic book fans and moviegoers is a balance, because the developer also has to consider how the characters will fit into its fighting game system.
“In terms of meeting those expectations, visuals are No. 1,” said Takeuchi. “When we’re picking champions, we make sure to pick the version that fits the iconic image most people have. When it comes to theatrical characters, we work very closely with Marvel so that we have a one-to-one reference, so we’re building it as close to the theatrical release as possible. The same goes for their abilities and how they move. We have a dedicated character team that syncs up every character.”
It’s impossible to completely rely on a movie release schedule to feature new characters and content, so Kabam falls back on Marvel’s vast collection of superheroes and villains during the off months. Sometimes that means that they can ride the wave of enthusiasm from a movie a bit longer. For example, Kabam released The Hood and Dormammu in February as a kind of continuation of the Doctor Strange movie storyline.
“We work our schedule around the major theatrical releases every year, but when it comes to non-theatrical characters, it comes down to fan favorites,” said Takeuchi. “After Spider-Man: Homecoming, we did Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. We’re coming up on three years, so we’re trying to round out that roster. We’re keeping an eye on Reddit and all our social media channels and forums to see which champions they want to see—which champions are still in demand.”
Kabam also releases a new quest at the start of each month, tying its story and characters to movies whenever possible. Takeuchi explained that regular updates have kept players engaged for the past three years and it may be the key to keeping the game growing years into the future.
“It’s about staying current and making sure there’s always stuff for users to do,” Takeuchi said, explaining how Marvel Contest of Champions remains a top mobile game among a sea of competition. “We’re always looking at what areas we’re deficient in—always making sure there’s enough content, characters, major features and game modes—expanding the game and building it over time. We’re hitting our third-year anniversary, but we have plans reaching out to the next few years to ensure that we’re current and keeping users engaged with new content.”
DreamHack Denver (DHD) introduced professional esports to the Mile High City over the weekend, bringing with it some of the world’s top CS:GO, Quake, Halo, Hearthstone, Super Smash Brothers players and more. This is the first time DreamHack has come to Denver and it is estimated to have attracted between 20,000-25,000 visitors.
Michael Van Driel, chief product officer and director of esports for DreamHack, joined AListDaily at the event to discuss the marketing implications of esports.
“We want to be in places where we don’t already see big gaming events and where we think there’s a community that can attach itself to us,” Van Driel said. “When we looked around, it seemed like Denver was a good city for that.”
After more than two decades in Europe, DreamHack brought the world’s largest LAN party to the US last year, which forced the team to think a little differently.
“Compared to other markets, it feels like Americans are constantly being bombarded by so much stuff going on,” said Van Driel. “We had a successful first year in Austin because it was the first ever, [but] I think we took it a little bit for granted how much Americans are bombarded with a million things happening. Keeping [DreamHack] in people’s mind takes a lot more effort than in Europe, it feels like.”
DreamHack sponsors include giants like Twitch and Monster Energy, but the Denver event also attracted newcomers like the Leesa mattress company and money transfer brand, Circle.
“Monster is probably our biggest partner,” said Van Driel. “They’re actually one of the companies that I would give credit to for helping us expand to the States. They started sponsoring us about four years ago, and our friends there kept saying, ‘you have to come to the States’ so they’re one of our biggest backers. They’ve helped make this all possible.
“Circle is actually a new partner. I think for a lot of the brands, there aren’t too many gaming events in Denver and Colorado, so it was good for them that we’re here, whereas a lot of other areas might have been saturated with other gaming events.”
As esports become more mainstream, marketers are attracted to the young, engaged demographic.
“The [marketing] interest is growing more and more, especially from the non-traditional brands,” said Van Driel. “We have a mattress company here exhibiting and looking to reach gamers. More of these brands are really waking up to how big the esports community is. The esports fan has a high disposable income—it’s a great demographic. These are cord-cutters [the brands] aren’t reaching on TV, so there has been more interest from sponsors. It doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s still gradual growth, I would say. BMW and Mercedes are both active in the space, so I think the trend will definitely continue.”
Because of the global nature of DreamHack, not all advertising works in all regions, Van Driel explained.
“We certainly draw lines around certain industries. If you think about advertising alcohol, we need to think about the implications of that. In Germany, our event is 18+ because of laws around violence and video games, so we actually have to age-gate the event and then if the legal drinking age is 18 there, well, that’s not really a problem. Gambling is another big one. A lot of our audience is young kids, so we wouldn’t want to advertise cigarettes, for example. For the most part, we try to keep family-friendly brands and those with a similar code of ethics.”
For brands interested in marketing to the esports fan, Van Driel offered some advice.
“Take your time, do your research, and don’t go too big too fast—but definitely do it. It’s a huge audience, it’s a lot of value. Also, I would say to do it in an authentic way because esports fans can smell bullshit a mile away. It’s really important to engage with them in an authentic way and not just be obnoxious about the advertising. It’s really important to add value to an esports fan’s experience. What we do wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors and I think, for the most part, esports fans have a very positive perception of our sponsors.”
Thank you for your continued support and readership.
-The AList Team
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