Virtual reality prototypes have been around for decades, going as far back as 1957. While each idea promised the “wow factor,” none of them took off and eventually went the way of the Nintendo Virtual Boy. Now, it seems VR is not only here to stay, but growing as it finds its place among different sectors.
Despite the hype, mass consumer adoption of VR has been slower than initially predicted but remains on a steady, upward trajectory in terms of revenue, headset shipments and investment.
Virtual Reality Revenues And Projections
Global VR revenues will reach $7.17 billion by the end of this year, according to Greenlight Insights—with more than 65 percent coming from headset sales. The analyst firm predicts that global VR revenues will come close to $75 billion by 2021, with $38 billion in the US alone.
Strapping on a VR headset doesn’t have to be a solitary experience—social VR is a rising trend that turns virtual reality into a destination. SuperData predicts that revenue from social VR such as AltSpaceVR or Facebook Venues will reach $3.1 billion by the year 2020, compared to $6.3 million earned in 2016.
VR Headset Shipments
IDC expects AR and VR shipments to total of 13.7 million units in 2017, reaching 81.2 million by 2021. VR will account for 90 percent of the overall market in 2019, according to the company, dropping to 70 percent by 2021 as AR headsets or glasses gradually appear on the market.
“Consumer-focused AR headsets are still some way off, as most people will first experience AR through the screen on their phone,” said Tom Mainelli, vice president of devices and AR/VR at IDC in a statement. “Now that Apple and Google are both focused on helping developers create AR experiences on their platforms—through ARKit for iOS and ARCore for Android—we can expect to see a flood of new AR apps appearing on smartphones later this year and into next. These developments should eventually lead to consumer-centric AR glasses, but that won’t happen in meaningful volume, at affordable price points, for some time.”
Since the beginning of 2010, investors have disbursed about $4.5 billion via 1,179 venture deals around the world to 707 different VR startups, according to Pitchbook. There is a notable leap in money invested in 2014, the year Facebook acquired Oculus—jumping from $111 million in 2013 to $957 million. Pitchbook notes that more than half of those funds were invested in Magic Leap, a company that has secured over $1 billion in funding to date.
But after tossing their money into the VR machine and waiting to make a fortune, many smaller investors started to get nervous.
“Because the market was so new, many didn’t really know what they were investing in and, therefore, how long it would take to see returns,” observed SuperData VP of research and strategy Stephanie Llamas. “After three years and less than $5 billion in revenue since 2014, this VR thing wasn’t looking so promising anymore.
“Big players have stayed heavily involved, with the likes of Google, HTC, Samsung and now Microsoft very heavily investing in a long-term commitment. The last time we saw this kind of push from so many heavy-hitters was with smart devices,” said Llamas. “Expect this to be the beginning of VR’s next wave of major funding—funding that could finally get us the shovel we need to dig VR out of this trough everyone has been dwelling on so much.”
Forrester Research says that VR isn’t ready for marketers just yet, and a study by Yes Lifestyle Marketing suggests that a lot of marketers aren’t ready, either.
The company found that very few marketers surveyed use VR or AR in their efforts. Out of the 300 marketing professionals surveyed, only eight percent said they currently use VR and seven percent use AR. In addition, 57 percent said that VR does not apply to their organization.
That’s not to say that brands aren’t finding success with the medium. Branded VR content is a growing trend, especially in the film and travel industries. Consumers seem to like it too. In a study testing the effectiveness of marketing in VR, brand recall was at least eight times more effective and resulted in double the intent to share.
Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios, has resigned from his post less than a week after taking a leave of absence in response to allegations of sexual harassment. Albert Cheng will take over his position in the interim as the Netflix competitor seeks a permanent replacement.
Just last week, Amazon announced that it will not continue working on its partner projects with The Weinstein Company after similar accusations against Harvey Weinstein were reported by The New York Times.
Upload’s chief operating officer Anne Ahola Ward has departed the companyjust six weeks after signing on. Ward joined the VR start-up in August after it settled a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit this summer.
“Anne has done an incredible job helping us create new structure in the company, build out a top executive team and lay the foundational principles that will carry us forward into the next stage of our business,” read a statement by the company.
Regina Dugan, head of Facebook’s Building 8 hardware lab, will be departing the company early next year to create projects on her own. Before joining the social media giant 18 months ago, Dugan lead Google’s advanced technology and products team and prior to that served as the director of DARPA.
Storyful has promotedEbonie Newman to chief revenue officer, taking over the company’s global sales divisions.
“Ebonie is a proven leader who built and grew the Storyful business in the Asia Pacific region,” said Storyful CEO Sharb Farjami. “She finds innovative ways to collaborate with partners and deliver solutions that build businesses and generate results.”
Newman joins the global leadership team after two years as executive director of sales in the Asia Pacific region.
Tara Kriese has joined Impossible Foods as its senior vice president of marketing, signing onto the company as it ramps up production in California.
“Tara is a marketing strategist who isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves. She has a wide range of professional experiences, from launching guerilla campaigns to developing sophisticated go-to-market strategies—at both start-ups and major multinationals,” said David Lee, Impossible Foods’ chief operating officer.
Previously, Kriese worked at Thalmic Labs as chief marketing officer, which was named a 2017 Breakthrough Brand by Interbrand during her tenure.
Nissan has announced management changes in its North America division, promotingChristian Meunier to global division vice president of global marketing and sales operations for Infiniti, and Dan Mohnke to senior vice president of sales, marketing and operations for Nissan.
“During Christian’s tenure overseeing the Nissan brand in the US and Canada, our team has set records in volume and share, taking advantage of strong growth in our world-class truck, SUV and crossover lineup,” said David Muñoz, Nissan’s chief performance officer.
Additionally, Steve Lambert, vice president of information systems, will retire at the end of November after 25 years with the company.
Balmain has appointedTxampi Diz to the role of chief marketing officer, the company’s first. The hire marks a brand effort to restructure its senior management team and bring in outsider voices.
Diz joins the fashion brand after spending 15 years at KCD Paris.
Kristen Campolattaro has joined online fashion retailer Eloquii as their vice president of brand marketing and customer insights, a newly created position.
“As Eloquii continues to champion the plus-size fast-fashion market with its dedication to customer feedback and providing trend-driven options, Campolattaro’s global marketing expertise and profound comprehension of the wants and needs of the consumer will continue to accelerate the brand’s engagement and overall growth,” read a Eloquii press release. “Campolattaro will pull from her expansive knowledge and experience in brand building to bring a data-driven approach to a creative industry.”
Previously, Campolattaro served at Universal Kids & Sprout, a division of NBCUniversal, as vice president of brand strategy and consumer marketing.
NBCUniversal International Studio president Michael Edelstein announced his plans to leave the company after his contract is up at the end of 2017.
“As anyone who has worked in international knows, 1.5 million miles, hundreds of nights in hotel rooms and constantly changing time zones begins to lose its charm,” Edelstein stated in an internal memo. “With a great senior management team in place, it is now time for me to take a break and create some space to ponder the future.”
Edelstein had led NBCUniversal International since June 2010, producing shows such as Downton Abbey and winning 18 Emmy awards over the past seven years.
Carey Krug has joined David Yurman as the jeweler’s latest chief marketing officer.
“Carey possesses unrivaled experience in the luxury retail category, as well as a deep awareness of a growing brand’s needs on a global and regional level,” said David Yurman. “I am confident that her talents and vast understanding of the quickly evolving marketplace for luxury goods will be invaluable for our growth strategy for today and into the future.”
Krug previously worked at Polo Ralph Lauren as its senior vice president of global marketing, where she oversaw partnerships with the Olympics and the US Open.
Twentieth Century Fox Film has promotedJulie Rieger to chief data strategist and head of media, a newly created position. She will oversee the marketing group’s efforts to take advantage of consumer data to deliver new insights.
“Julie has been a visionary in building and implementing the studio’s robust moviegoer database,” said Stacey Snider, CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Film. “In doing so, she has not only separated us from our competition, but also bridged the gap between studios and consumers, empowering TCFF to truly become a consumer-centric business.”
Before the promotion, Rieger served as executive vice president of media and marketing planning. Prior to joining Fox Film in 2008, Rieger worked at Zenith, leading its West Coast operations.
Rural Media Group has namedAlexander “Sandy” Brown as their chief operating officer.
“RMG’s operations in Nashville will also benefit daily with Sandy’s leadership, as will our efforts to now expand all our interests digitally on an international basis,” said Patrick Gottsch, president of Rural Media Group.
Previously, Brown worked at One World Sports as president and CEO, and prior to that was president of sports at Univision.
(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, October 20. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Smartphones have not changed over the last 10 years. Lixin Cheng, CEO of ZTE Mobile Devices, shared this sentiment during Tuesday’s unveiling event for the Axon M mobile device.
“Overall, innovation has stalled,” said Cheng. “Over the years, wireless speed has increased, and now you can only tell the difference between devices by the name on the back versus what it is capable of.”
In his opening presentation, Cheng identified a group of consumers he called “mobile revolutionaries,” which are the consumers who don’t just use technology, but are empowered by it. He went on to say that we have all become revolutionaries, but have become frustrated by the limitations of mobile devices, despite how they have become the “primary device and the nerve center” of everything they do. Consumers are tired of having to pay more for new smartphones that are nearly identical to the ones that they already have, he said.
ZTE’s stated goals to identify the pain points of its users and innovate with new technologies to meet them.
“To us, it’s more than just providing a smartphone. It’s providing a smartphone that will make their lives easier and happier,” Cheng said.
While discussing how mobile users are demanding a device that will help them do more, Cheng pointed to a study conducted by CSE & Vantedge in 2017, which found that 68 percent of users switch between multiple apps to meet their needs. However, smartphones have reached their limits when it comes to screen size, as six inches is the largest size that can fit comfortably in one hand. Therefore, many have taken to carry multiple devices to complement their phones, such as tablets and laptops.
Cheng then introduced the ZTE Axon M, a first-of-its-kind mobile device that has two screens that can be folded back-to-back, as something that “will completely transform your smartphone experience.”
When closed, the Axon M looks like any other all-glass smartphone. But the device can be opened to support a variety of configurations. The screens work independently of each other; content can be extended across it, turning the phone into a small tablet. Furthermore, it can be used in tent mode with screen mirroring turned on, making it the ideal device for playing games like chess face-to-face.
During the product demonstration, the Axon M’s capabilities include managing email on one screen and a calendar on the other. Or consumers could watch a video on one screen while going through social media on the other. The new Android smartphone will be available this holiday season in the US exclusively through AT&T with a worldwide launch to follow shortly after.
“Axon M is a category-defining smartphone that will give you an unrivaled experience and unlimited potential because of the dual-screen technology,” Waiman Lam, vice president of product marketing at ZTE USA, told AListDaily at the unveiling event. “This phone is very special because there’s nothing like it out there . . . Our targets of engagement are young professionals who are on-the-go and need to multitask. Also, fun-seekers who are into gaming, since they can use the big screen for a tablet-like experience. Everyday moms and dads, too, who have to do many chores or might want something like a big map when driving.
Lam said a lot of consideration went into making sure consumers can use the phone in normal scenarios for the entire day.
“We’re very confident that we’ve been able to achieve that,” he said.
ZTE prides itself on innovation, but the Axon M doesn’t necessarily support AR or VR technology like Google Daydream. However, Lam pointed to related devices that do.
“The Axon 7 is like a high-class sedan and the Axon M is like a luxury SUV,” said Lam, comparing to the Axon family of devices to car types.
Lam said that the unveiling event was just the start in getting the word out about the Axon M to consumers this holiday season.
“Obviously, we live in a digital world where everybody is online with social media,” he said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of programs to try to make people aware of this new device, which allows them to do so much more than an average smartphone. We’re going to use digital channels to advertise the product in addition to some creative offline ways to reach consumers.”
He also echoed the presentation’s message by stating that the smartphone is probably the most important device of them all, and ZTE’s goal with the Axon M is to make it better and more efficient. The brand’s biggest focus is on innovation. It illustrates that by pointing out how it had one of the first devices to use eye scanning to unlock phones, how the Axon 7 has dual front-facing speakers for high fidelity sound, and now the Axon M, which enables better multitasking with dual screens.
ZTE takes pride in being ranked by the World Intellectual Property Organization as the most innovative company last year in terms of patent applications worldwide across all industries, and among the top three in the past seven years.
“I think our innovation speaks for itself with the products that we launch,” Lam said.
As ZTE looks to popularize the next mobile hardware platform, it’s working with developers to optimize apps for it.
“We’re asking developers to sign up, and we’re also going to have events with developers,” said Lam.
However, the company isn’t looking to create Axon M-exclusive apps.
“The idea is that we don’t want to develop a brand new app just for this phone, but developers should be able to adapt apps for it,” Lam said. “It’s a new hardware platform, so there’s more opportunity for developers to make apps that are suitable for it and other phones that are a single screen.”
Athletic apparel brand Asics is reframing its brand narrative to become a player in the health and wellness categories by unveiling “I Move Me,” its biggest marketing shakeup in over 25 years. The pivot comes paired with the partnership of Steve Aoki by making the music producer the face and voice of its new direction for fitness-minded consumers.
The celebrity DJ will help reshape the diversity of products and people the sport performance company wants to employ by overseeing the Capsule Collection, a line of shoes, shorts, shirts, accessories and other athletic wear.
To create a daily dialogue with a new generation, Aoki will bring a contemporary look designed to reintroduce younger consumers to the iconic Japanese brand.
Aoki, who is of Japanese descent, revealed a digital spot on the Asics channel that uses his sounds, synths and spinning gravitas of the song “Kolony” to emphasize the power of movement.
“Whenever I get involved with partnerships, the first thing that I want to do is bring my creative energy to the table,” Aoki told AListDaily in an interview. “I want to do what I’m good at by putting some of that Aoki DNA to the brand. What’s so good working with Asics is that they want that too. They want to hear what I have to say. The minute after we agreed to do this, I already had 10 ideas. I told them, ‘I’m coming prepared with a lot of what I can offer.’”
Aoki is no stranger to building brands—his father founded teppan chain Benihana, and earlier this year, he launched his own fashion line Dim Mak Collection at New York Fashion Week. The electro-entrepreneur, who’ll be the first non-athlete spokesperson for Asics, said his intention is to bring vibrant colors and a fashion-forward Aoki-like energy to a company mostly known for its running shoes.
“I like to build bridges and I have that common thread between all of the lifestyle, music and fashion worlds that I love so dearly and am involved in—[I’m] bringing it all together,” said Aoki. “I first want to bring it into the community and our world, and build the culture by saying, ‘This is what we wear when we work out.’ The great part about me traveling around the world and working out wherever I go is that I am constantly influenced by all of the interesting people from different cultures that I meet. I get to combine that spirit. It’s a constant journey, and now I get to bring all of that to Asics.”
The two-time Grammy-nominated producer is also a fitness fanatic—he even has an Aoki-branded boot camp. He’s also a sneakerhead with over a 400-pair, $100,000 collection. One of the main reasons he wanted to help lead marketing efforts inspiring people to get moving was because he’d be able to have his own line of kicks, too.
“I want to create a strong and defining collection,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s what I wear. I represent what I wear on stage. I need shoes that are athletic and have a fashion-forward aesthetic. It’s going to be something unique for both Asics and me.”
To further discuss the brand’s new identity and strategy through “I Move Me,” AListDaily also interviewed Sarah Bishop, vice president of marketing for Asics.
Considering the climate of sports brands and where the industry is currently headed, why was now a critical time for Asics to rebrand with a new marketing message?
This is really a pivotal moment for the Asics brand as we understand today’s marketplace, changing consumer behaviors and consumption habits. We’ve been working hard over the last year to modernize and evolve ourselves from not just being a footwear manufacturer, but to more of a well-rounded health and wellness brand. We’ve been refining who we are, and what we stand for. We’re embracing our brand heritage. We’re hoping to reintroduce the Asics brand to both our core audience, who we’ve always focused on, but also appeal to a broader new consumer through fitness. Having a marketing campaign and platform where we can celebrate products and make people aware from a design, fashion and functionality perspective is really what gets me excited.
How are you going to reintroduce the Asics brand?
I’m excited to kick off this whole idea behind ‘I Move Me’ and look forward to connecting with our consumers on a much more emotional basis. That was the tone we considered first and foremost as we were putting together this marketing plan. Asics has been around for nearly 70 years, but there are consumers who have not been exposed to the brand. We’re really trying to deliver a fresh look and a perspective that resonates with both current and future generations—one that’s a lot more in line with where we see the fitness industry trajectory. This campaign is about reaching a new generation of fitness lovers who believe in the power of movement, as well as the notion that as individuals express themselves, society becomes more rich and unified. A lot of what we’re doing to reintroduce the brand through this campaign is making sure that we are not just looking at the traditional channels that Asics has focused on in the past, but also expanding our reach, and looking at creating content that features people who previously have felt very untraditional for Asics.
What are you doing different in order to separate Asics from the competition?
We’re trying carve out a space that is ownable for us as an athletic brand, but still stay true to who we are. Asics stands for the old Latin phrase, anima sana in corpore sano—a sound mind in a sound body—and we’re so excited to show the world a reimagined interpretation of that mantra. So, while other athletic brands in our space do amazing work, we feel they focus a lot on external motivations and results—being the best, being No. 1 in the field, replicating or breaking records—and, proudly, we’re not about that as a brand. For us, rather than glorifying competition and that desire to be better than another person, we really have always empathized the importance of taking care of both the mind and body in order to be the best version of ourselves from the inside out. So that’s what we’re bringing to life and hoping it resonates with both our core and new consumer.
What’s going to be the overall marketing strategy you’re implementing?
One of the biggest focuses for me is making sure that we’re speaking to the consumer where the consumer lives, plays, works and understanding that the consumer we’re trying to go after is millennial and Gen Z. That means that we need to be playing a big role in the digital space. We launched primarily on digital and social channels, making sure that every touchpoint that we currently have for the brand with consumers was telling an integrated and consistent message. We’re focusing a lot more on digital channels to make sure that we’re leveraging the amazing content that we have in a way that speaks to consumers where they are.
Why was Steve Aoki the best fit as the face and voice for the new brand direction?
I’ve worked with athletes and influencers throughout my career, and it felt like there was never the right person at the right time than Steve to join the Asics family. He really personifies the individuality, emotion and perpetual movement that’s at the core of the campaign. He performs close to 300 shows each year—he’s always on the go. All of that, combined with the fact that he is a proud Japanese-American, which aligns nicely with our Japanese heritage, was what really made him the ideal standard-bearer for us.
Steve Aoki is an influencer with global reach. Are you tapping into other voices as well to amplify your message?
You can expect some amazing content outside of the hero video. We also have fantastic pieces that highlight three-time Olympian Lolo Jones and four-time US world champion wrestler and 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Jordan Burroughs. They really take you inside of their space. They will tell consumers what movement means to them. You’ll see that across nine pieces of content that will roll out between the launch till the end of the year. It will get consumers immersed in the world of the people in our hero spot. We’re active on all of the main social channels and have some unique surprises and engagement opportunities with our activations that we’re looking into toward the end of the year.
What consumer trends will you be monitoring throughout this new journey?
It’s not necessarily new, but athleisure has been on the trend radar for years now. We’re really seeing that consumers are no longer just wearing athletic footwear and apparel in a point of sweat, but they’re wearing it for a variety of different reasons. That makes versatility and comfort of products really key. The way younger consumers interact with brands is ever-changing. They’re much more skeptical of being sold to, so I think that there’s more of a need for us to be able to speak to them in a way that’s authentic and aligns with passion points that they have that naturally exist, like music. Because of all those reasons, I think that our new marketing will be a great new way to be able to speak to them authentically.
You previously were a brand manager at Coca-Cola. What is one learning you will apply from your previous post onto your current position?
One of the biggest learnings from Coca-Cola is the importance of making sure that we were able to connect with consumers emotionally. One of the amazing things about the Coca-Cola Company is that they’re able to forge a strong, emotional connection with consumers that spans generations. I think that there is something very powerful in that, that I’m looking to bring that to Asics. ‘I Move Me’ is definitely an evolution of where we’ve been from a marketing perspective, yet still stays true to who we are as a brand and allows us to connect with consumers in a way that’s much more emotional than just functional.
Facebook has always been a natural platform for big brands and large sports leagues to connect directly with consumers. The social-media giant has also become a mainstay for the burgeoning esports ecosystem, most recently partnering with Hi-Rez Studios and the World Esports Association for the Paladins Premiere League, which will stream exclusively on Facebook.
Guy Cross, head of games partnerships for North America at Facebook, told AListDaily that companies trying to grow their businesses have been looking to Facebook to help market and build their brands and fan bases.
“With esports, there’s a really interesting intersect where we have over 800 million people playing Facebook-connected games each month,” Cross said. “The fact is, gamers are using Facebook in some way, and companies are trying to grow their businesses across our family of products.”
Cross said the key is that Facebook is a digital community platform and people connect to each other either through or around games.
“That’s what we’re built on, and hopefully we can deliver that sort of community connection around esports,” Cross said. “And it’s not just professional players connecting with fans, but fans connecting to each other around the player, around the team, around the game and around the genre.”
Facebook is making a sizable investment in the long-form video experience on Facebook. Cross said that since it’s a new platform, there is no lock of the top six esports on Facebook yet, and that opens up an opportunity for various players in the game to claim that position. For example, Team Dignitas and Immortals are some of the early esports organizations to utilize Facebook to broaden their fan reach.
“We saw it happen once with casual gaming, where Zynga was a start-up and small companies like Playfish and Playdom grew massive communities on Facebook,” Cross said. “That happened about 10 years ago, when we were just entering the games space. We have a long relationship with game companies now, and we’re being very thoughtful about how to build out a platform for the gaming community at large. Esports is going to be a huge component of that. It won’t be the only component, but it will be a big one.”
Team Dignitas CEO Jonathan Kemp previously told AListDaily that the company added Facebook livestreaming to the mix because advertisers already were familiar with that platform.
“When you have a company like Johnson & Johnson spending a big portion of their marketing on Facebook already, it might not be a big stretch to explore esports,” said Cross. “From an advertiser’s standpoint, there’s a lower barrier to entry.”
“When you have a company like Johnson & Johnson spending a big portion of their marketing on Facebook already, it might not be a big stretch to explore esports.” — Guy Cross, head of games partnerships for North America at Facebook
Cross believes that type of global diversity is important for brands that want to engage with different audiences and connect with all types of gamers from PC to console and mobile–Facebook’s ability to connect with people’s identity serves as a boon for the social platform.
“This idea that there’s an authentic identity tied to Facebook is something that we’re exploring,” Cross said. “What does that bring to the equation and how does that manifest for not just players, but the community experience of watching together? What does that mean for brands? I don’t think we’re in a place right now where we want to share any results, but behavior is different on Facebook than it is on other platforms where real identity isn’t part of the equation.”
Facebook is also integrated into multiple gaming communities across PC, mobile and console so that it understands the gaming audience a bit better on how and what they play. The company then uses that information to connect them to experiences. Facebook also has evolved from a platform where casual games used to spam friends’ lists into a place where everyone from game developers to esports teams are conversing and livestreaming with communities.
Cross said that means brands no longer have to advertise to a generic age bracket. Instead, marketers both endemic (and non) are refining their strategies to serve the right ad or brand experience, in the context of games.
Facebook’s investment in gaming and esports comes as the company is under increased pressure with regard to micro-targeted advertising in the wake of the Russian election interference. The company is adding new manual checks for ads involving “politics, religion, ethnicity or social issues” before they go live.
With this in mind, Cross described one hypothetical way all of the collected data could be used by brands in the future to connect directly with gamers. He pointed to the healer character Mercy in Blizzard Entertainment’s game Overwatch.
“I like to play a lot of healing and support roles in games, so if a brand steps in and offers me a first aid kit that’s something I could actually use,” Cross said. “I’m also a real outdoors guy, so if I was targeted with advertisements for a kickass soft-sided first aid kit that fits in your adventure pack, that’s something I’d find interesting and might buy. This is where I think this data play gets really interesting.”
Twelve years ago, when massively multiplayer online (MMO) games were growing to their peak popularity, Funcom was one of the big names in the industry with the success of the sci-fi game Anarchy Online. But in 2008, the 680-person company worked on the high-profile MMO game Age of Conan, which had a disappointing reception at launch.
That marked the beginning of a decline that was partially staved off by the release of games such as The Secret World in 2012, which was relaunched earlier this year as The Secret World Legends.
It turns out The Secret World wasn’t the only part of Funcom to be remade. A decade of hardship helped reshape the company. In August, the considerably leaner company decided to show that change to the world by announcing a rebranding, complete with a new logo. Instead of tying its fate to single big-budget projects, the now profitable company is working on multiple smaller scale games. The Park, a horror game that released in 2015, may have been an early indication of this change—being a short, single-player experience instead of a giant MMO.
Funcom is currently developing Conan Exiles, an open-world survival game set in the Conan lore, which is currently in Early Access with an expected launch in 2018.
Funcom CEO Rui Casais sat down with AListDaily to discuss the changes that have come to the 24-year-old company, what the rebrand means and how it is marching steadily to the future.
What convinced Funcom that it was time to rebrand itself?
The old Funcom branding and logo was established in 2005 when the company went public, and it was meant to reflect a relatively large organization focused on triple-A MMO titles like Age of Conan. It has been 12 years, and we are now a smaller and more nimble group of people—reinventing what the company is and focusing on different types of games. While we internally know this quite well, the outside world was still seeing the old Funcom. New branding doesn’t change a company, but we were essentially in a situation where the company had gone through major changes and we had redefined ourselves in every way, but we were still wearing the same old uniform. This rebranding is a small but important step in making sure our external image matches who we are internally.
How would you describe the Funcom brand now?
The new Funcom brand is close to the gamers and the people who work here. Our priorities have changed and so has the approach we’re taking to making games. We’ve gone from being a 500- to 600-person company working for five-to-seven years on a single big-bet project, to being a considerably more agile studio with 120 developers working on more than one game at a time. We want the Funcom brand to be synonymous with exciting ideas and new concepts. We’ve been called many things, but boring isn’t one of them. We’ve always had a reputation for taking creative risks and creating games with unique personality and soul.
What does the new logo represent for the company?
The new logo represents both our history and our future. We’ve been through many battles and our flag isn’t pristine anymore, but we still charge into battle with energy and passion. Players can’t expect to feel indifferent towards the games we make. We’ve earned our battle scars through over 24 years of highs and lows making games. Today, we are ambitious, determined and moving forward.
Is it easier to promote numerous smaller scale games compared to large, single projects?
It’s hard to quantify how easy or hard it is to promote something. There is heavy competition in all segments these days. For smaller scale games, you have to rely more on virality factors as the marketing budgets are smaller, so I would say it’s harder to break through the noise for smaller games due to that.
How do existing games such as Secret World Legends fit into Funcom’s strategy?
We love our older games like Anarchy Online—which we still operate after 16 years—and we try to do all we can to keep them energized. Secret World Legends is an example of that, where we felt like there were many players out there that would enjoy The Secret World, so we took the time to adapt and modernize the game and relaunch it as Secret World Legends. Existing games are an important part of the company’s revenues and we will continue operating them as long as viable, hopefully for many long years to come.
PRESS RELEASE: Secret World Legends Concludes Its Epic Tokyo Storyline In Massive New Update | https://t.co/IBKqFpM4wA
What did you learn from launching The Park that you’re using to promote Conan Exiles?
The Park was our first non-MMO game in many years. It was also our first Unreal Engine 4 game and our first ‘new-generation’ console game. [Additionally], it was the first game where we actively pursued opportunities for YouTube and Twitch coverage. We leveraged that experience on both production and PR and marketing directly for Conan Exiles. The approach to promoting games in 2017 is obviously significantly different from when we did with Age of Conan ten years ago. It’s not just the fact that influencers are another avenue for promotion and visibility, but the way in which gamers discover new games have changed significantly, and if you’re not visible in those channels you’re missing out on a lot of people finding out about your game. Of course, the advent of influencers has also caused a shift in how many people consume their game experiences, and that’s particularly true for games like The Park—a one- to two-hour long-linear adventure, and millions of people ended up experiencing the story. Not because they played it themselves, but because they watched their favorite influencer play it from start to finish.
What is Funcom’s strategy when it comes to standing out in the PC and console gaming space?
We always punch a bit above our weight, and we always aim to push the boundaries. We’re in the strange middle market between indie and triple-A, where we end up competing with both types of games for attention—although in very different ways. So, we try to make sure the players understand what we’re trying to do and that we’re not that big. It’s tough, but we hope to continue to succeed through a combination of using strong IPs, pushing the boundaries on game mechanics and content, and making sure we utilize PR and marketing in the best way possible to build awareness for what we’re creating.
What do you want people to imagine when they hear about a new game from Funcom?
Ideally, I want people to be curious and to think, ‘Oh, I want to see what those guys did this time around.’ We will make different games in different settings, but we will strive for innovation within familiarity. We will strive for catching people’s attention in this busy and fast-changing space while still retaining the gameplay they are comfortable with. One of the things we often hear is that you can say what you will about Funcom games, but they always do something different. We’re excited about that, and we want our games to shake things up. We just need to get much better at making sure they are both innovative and polished, and that’s what we’re putting all our efforts into now as we wrap up the Early Access phase for Conan Exiles and prepare it for full launch.
Based in Los Angeles, Space Camp is behind some of the biggest announcements at Facebook’s recent Oculus Connect event. But who is Space Camp?
“As an independent division of [a]network, Space Camp is positioned as a communication arts orchestrator,” says James Kim, VP of account services. “To us, this means we’re focused on driving creative innovation, social engagement and performance for brands such as Oculus Rift.”
“We are showing the world that VR gaming is here, today, and VR as a game-changing computing and social platform is on the horizon,” said David Rielly, creative director at Space Camp.
During Oculus Connect, Mark Zuckerberg announced his mission to bring virtual reality to 1 billion users. Keeping with this mission, Facebook enlisted the group as the Oculus Rift agency of record to help increase the appeal of premium VR as an entertainment format.
“One of the most satisfying and thrilling opportunities was creating a brand campaign that expresses the limitless and ever-evolving offerings of VR,” states Emily Reed, integrated creative director.
“The campaign is built on the mission of ‘Winning with Gamers,’ using advanced attribution modeling and an agile approach to maximizing ROI,” said Vincent Juarez, co-founder of Space Camp. “We’ve developed an inside-out strategy to engage core gamers through a series of immersive experiences that communicate the Oculus VR experience through an integrated digital, video content, influencer and social-centric approach.”
“It’s been humbling to orchestrate strategy, creative, media, data, tech, influencers and social to launch a brand that finally fulfills the long-simmering promise of VR,” said Rielly. “Harnessing that kind of firepower isn’t easy, but when you do it right you’re amplifying the power of your message to the nth degree.”
Co-founders Chris Younger and Vincent Juarez are prioritizing innovation in this arena. “Space Camp is at the forefront of an evolving synthesis of technology and storytelling,” Younger said, “and our clients are eager to push forward together to craft and share stories that just weren’t possible before.”
There’s a reason Gran Turismo Sport calls itself a racing simulator instead of a video game. It’s fitting, then, that the game’s marketing would be a mix of real cars, real drivers and even offer a real motorsport license to those who qualify. Gran Turismo celebrates its 20th year anniversary with new features, new tech and a renewed focus on competition.
Manufacturer, Nation Or Pride
Gran Turismo is focusing less on collecting cars and returning to its competitive roots—giving players something bigger to race for, as evidenced by the game’s trailer released during E3 this year.
Sony and Gran Turismo developer Polyphony have emphasized the game’s esports component, with GT Sport FIA Championship preseason starting November 4. For the first time, two Gran Turismo esports tournaments will be officially sanctioned by Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA)—the governing body of motorsport and road safety.
The Nations Cup will give top players the chance to represent their country of origin and the Manufacturer Fan Cup, his or her favorite auto manufacturer.
Over the years, there has been a growing crossover between esports and traditional athletes. Four graduates of Nissan’s GT Academy have gone on to become professional motorsport racers, beginning with Ricardo Sanchez.
The annual academy pits the best Gran Turismo players in the world against one another for the chance to become a real-life driver. Sanchez, along with three other GT Academy graduates-turned-pro drivers, shared their stories in video features to inspire other gamers to compete.
Last year, Polyphony announced the ability for players to earn a real FIA license that allows them to participate in real racing events. To become eligible for the license, players must complete the racing etiquette mode, achieve silver or better results in all the campaign mode events and then maintain or exceed a certain level of driver class and sportsmanship points.
For The Love Of Cars
Gran Turismo may be more competitive, but it’s still very much about the cars. Striving for realism, the title has been used as a creative outlet for auto manufacturers. Brands like BMW, Aston Martin and Mercedes have partnered with Gran Turismo to feature “vision” cars—driveable concepts that you won’t find anywhere else. One vision car from Mercedes even made it into the upcoming Justice League movie, to be driven by Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).
Auto manufacturers are reaching young, engaged audiences through video games. Porsche unveiled the 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS during Microsoft’s E3 press conference in June. The new vehicle appears in both Gran Turismo Sport and Forza Motorsport 7.
Gran Turismo Sport honors its partners with Brand Central—a new portal for purchasing cars and learning the history of each auto manufacturer. The new feature was designed to aid in discovering brands in the real world and includes “premium movies” made by each of these companies.
“Instead of the car dealership from past games, Brand Central is a place where boys discover cars for the first time,” Polyphony founder Kazunori Yamauchi told AListDaily. “When I was in my second year of junior high, I walked into a BMW dealer to pick up a catalog and my heart was racing. We want to recreate that experience of discovering cars for the first time.”
Players in Taiwan not only can discover cars but actually buy one in this $46,000 PS4 Pro bundle. The bundle includes a PlayStation 4 Pro, PSVR headset with Move controllers and PlayStation camera, a 12-month subscription to PlayStation Plus, Bravia 4K HDR television, Thrustmaster T-GT steering wheel and pedal set for the game, an APIGA AP1 racing chair set up and yes—an actual 2018 Mazda MX-5.
Available exclusively for PlayStation 4, Gran Turismo Sport was voted one of the most anticipated games of the holiday season and its demo attracted over a million players.
Facebook brought brands yet another way to engage their followers with video on the platform by officially launching Watch in the US last month.
A quick survey for Watch already reveals a smorgasbord of original TV-like content native to the network, designed to satiate a voracious consumer appetite for video.
Watch, which feels like Facebook’s self-funded version positioned to compete with titans like YouTube and Netflix, is personalized to help its billion-user base discover new shows. It’s organized around what friends and communities are watching on mobile, desktop, TV and apps. Viewers can even comment in real time as they’re watching any given program.
By creating consumer affinity to watch video for longer periods of time—a reality show centered around Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, anyone?—Facebook is also helping marketers monetize mid-roll ads, and giving content creators a split-ad revenue incentive.
“Watching video on Facebook has the incredible power to connect people, spark conversation and foster community,” wrote Daniel Danker, Facebook’s director of product. “On Facebook, videos are discovered through friends and bring communities together. As more and more people enjoy this experience, we’ve learned that people like the serendipity of discovering videos in News Feed, but they also want a dedicated place they can go to watch videos . . . Watch is a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans and earn money for their work. We think a wide variety of Facebook shows can be successful.”
Whether the publisher-centric format has a long-term shelf life still remains to be seen. According to a report from social video analytics company Delmondo, Watch videos are being viewed for an average of 23 seconds, compared to 16.7 seconds that Facebook reported for video viewing on its News Feed.
Facebook’s ambitions of being a Hollywood-like tour de force is fully in effect, as evidenced by their potential $1 billion investment into original content through the end of next year. The likes of the NFL, NBA, Billboard, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Thrillist, A&E, Wired, Vox, Comedy Central, Funny or Die, Mashable, Tastmade, IGN and GameSpot are already flooding the Watch feeds with feature videos.
Since the seeding of the ecosystem has officially started, AListDaily interviewed executives from two of the companies that are bringing their budgets and marketing to social video.
National Geographic, for one, is exclusively debuting three social-first original series for their Facebook audience because the social media giant provided them a unique distribution outlet that also complemented their new premium content strategy.
“Watch is the first to transition long-form content into the social landscape,” JP Polo, director of social and digital video content for National Geographic, told AListDaily. “We’re excited to tell stories that fit the long form, and are still snackable and captivating. Watch brings followers of specific shows together. Once you have niche communities, the opportunity for marketers is limitless. Our social and digital teams understand that social media is a powerful tool for video—a powerful tool for conversation and ultimately a powerful tool for change.”
“Watch is unique in that it gives us the world’s largest social platform and a unique way to reach not only our current audience but also Facebook’s audience,” Polo said. “It also gives individuality to each series we produce. The show page is unique in that it allows each show’s followers a place to call home. Show pages create communities and a place to engage with show content, and the advertisers who partner with that content. We’re creating content that encompasses our unique editorial voice so our advertisers can feel confident that they’re sponsoring content that is both brand safe and leaves the audience wondering. We want to produce inspiring stories that excite both our advertisers and our fans.”
Polo said that over the years, social and digital platforms got a reputation for being the place where low-quality video would live and possibly shine. He and the Nat Geo team saw it differently and took advantage of their vast library of quality footage and produced engaging and educational material, all while remaining true to their core content mission. The next natural step was to start producing digitally-and-socially native original series and content that tapped into their science, exploration and storytelling ethos.
“While there is no doubt that social platforms could drive traffic and help companies build their audiences, no real effort was put behind producing content specifically tailored for social platforms,” he said. “We’re not a celebrity-driven company—we’re a mission-driven company. When you analyze and understand that, you realize that the reason we have a massive social following is because people across the planet truly and passionately believe in what we do.”
Polo said once a brand has a loyal social following, the key is to continue to engage and evolve content at the rapid pace that social and digital platforms require—all while making sure not to veer away from what brought consumers to your brand in the first place.
We’re Wired That Way, for one, which tells various stories behind humans, won one of the three programming allocations for Watch because Nat Geo tapped into their user insights for Facebook to better understand demographics. Which Extreme Animal Am I? and Safari Live rounds out their current content lineup. Polo said their Facebook user insights lead them to realize that their diverse Facebook pages are not all built the same.
“If you become data-obsessed, then your videos will quickly deteriorate and lose their appeal,” he said, adding that they don’t use data to drive video production decisions, but rather, use it to inform decisions. “In social and digital platforms, data is important, but it’s also ephemeral, so basing everything on the data of last month can have devastating effects on the long run.”
Polo said Nat Geo will continue to explore and push further, because that is what’s made them who they are as a brand.
“While other companies were reactionary to social and digital platforms, Nat Geo embraced it from the get go,” Polo said. “Social-and-digital storytelling has become our primary way to tell stories. These platforms, combined with our first-class storytelling and access, allow people across the planet to not only experience the world from another perspective but to actively find ways to be part of the changes and projects we need in order to protect this planet. Humans need to adapt to a changing planet in order to survive. Legacy media entities need to do the same in order to survive the changing industry landscape.”
Chef Robin and editor Sara battle it out over a "millennial pink" lemonade pie. With no recipe and very little time to allow this dessert to set, the two struggle over whether to focus on taste or presentation.
Another media powerhouse diving into Watch is Time Inc. with the new series Homemade vs. the Internet.
Regina Buckley, SVP of digital business development and business operations at Time Inc., told AListDaily their programming on Watch reinforces their commitment to providing premium and engaging video content to consumers on all platforms, and underscores the ways the company entertains consumers across the distributed web.
“Over the years, we’ve come to know our Facebook consumer pretty well—and we knew that our viewers love to watch food content from some of our brands’ success in this space. The video effort on Facebook goes beyond the Watch tab specifically and is also about the communities that are being created around shows consumers love,” said Buckley. “Watch will help create a community of dedicated viewers who will ultimately create a unique audience for advertisers to connect with, in a different environment and in a different way than existed before on Facebook.”
Watch complements Time Inc.’s overall video strategy—which has tripled in total video views over the same period last year—because Buckley said they’re reaching consumers on every platform they want to be reached.
Time Inc. was one of the first brands to begin delivering unique content as publishers for Snapchat Discover, hoping to continue to attract advertisers and marketers looking to magnetize millennials. Time Inc. also recently launched two social video brands—Well Done and The Pretty—which have driven nearly 500 million combined views since March.
“As a multiplatform content company, we continue to experiment with new platforms and deliver the best content to our consumers when they want it, and where they want it,” Buckley said. “Our iconic brands are known and trusted among our audiences, which allows us to create immersive and engaging content for new platforms like Facebook’s Watch as well as on our own existing platforms. Video is an important part of Time Inc.’s revenue today, and critical to its growth into tomorrow.”
The new game South Park: The Fractured But Whole continues the saga of a kid surviving the strange and satirical world of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s hit TV show.
The special episode “Franchise Prequel” aired ahead of the game’s release to serve as a prologue to Fractured But Whole.
A sequel to South Park: The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole parodies the world of comic book movie franchises and the formulas thereof, and the story picks up right where the last video game left off. To learn the story thus far, those who pre-ordered The Fractured But Whole received a free digital copy of The Stick of Truth for free through Uplay, PlayStation Network or Steam.
As with the TV show on which it’s based, The Fractured But Whole parodies real-life events, pop culture and celebrities. Trailers revealed comical jabs at Kanye West, Aquaman, racism, evil clowns, priests and more, creating hype around the game’s release through purposeful controversy.
Various editions of the game offer perks such as character figurines, lithographic prints, a Towlie game companion and unlockable costumes. The Amazon-exclusive Remote Control Coon Mobile bundle contains an app-controlled Control Coon Mobile—Cartman’s big wheel—South Park: The Fractured But Whole Gold Edition game with SteelBook and Season Pass subscription.
Ubisoft is separately selling collectible items like figurines and a “fart pillow” that makes fart noises when someone sits on it.
Ubisoft’s latest tale of kids getting into all sorts of mayhem features a game mechanic in which farting is used to do just about anything. From fighting to moving around, cutting the cheese is an important aspect of gameplay. To “complement” the demo experience at last year’s Gamescom, players were fitted with the Nosulus Rift—a device that blows fart smells into the wearer’s nose.
Even the game’s title is a jab at pop culture, as superheroes are pit against one another in films left and right. In The Fractured But Whole, Cartman proposes a film franchise based on their role-playing characters, but it splinters the group of children into two opposing factions, each wanting a franchise of their own.
The official South Park account capitalized on this rivalry on Twitter by asking fans to pick a side.
Ubisoft teamed up with YouTube channel The Yogscast to create the comedy superhero origin story “Incredible Bulk” in which Martyn Littlewood takes his love of explosives too far. The team hosted a Twitter giveaway as followers created superheroes for the chance to win a digital copy of The Fractured But Whole and a box of merchandise.
Other influencer marketing campaigns included streams with Funhaus Team, Mini Ladd and the contest “I Am The Fart,” which challenged gaseous users to submit their most epic backdoor audio to have it featured in the game. A trailer for the online competition parodies The Voice, in which three celebrity judges react and provide feedback for the flatulence flying in the air.
Thank you for your continued support and readership.
-The AList Team
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