Twitch COO Explains Power Of Community In Esports

Twitch co-founder and chief operating officer Kevin Lin was a keynote speaker at the VIEW conference in Torino, Italy last week. He was among several key video game luminaries, including Bonfire Studios’ Rob Pardo and Oculus’ Rex Bernard Yee. Lin talked about the rise of the streaming platform, as well as the company’s continual evolution post-Amazon acquisition. Immediately following his presentation, Lin spoke with AListDaily about the role esports has played in the streaming giant’s success.

“The genesis of Twitch was StarCraft 2,” Lin explained. “The esports community and a lot of pro players from StarCraft 1 and Brood War transitioned over very fast. We saw these commentators popping up and making YouTube videos about how to get better at the game. We were obsessed with the game and we reached out to the individual players and the individual content creators.”

Lin said his team wanted to not only be able to watch their favorite players play, but also watch them compete. They saw esports as a great display of their skill, and a way for Twitch to reach new audiences that would come back and watch the pros play, engage with them and even play games with them.

Lin said that today, esports accounts for approximately 25 percent of total Twitch traffic. Additionally, one of the company’s key esports partners is Blizzard Entertainment, the same developer that helped inspire the platform.

“We’re working with Blizzard to unlock and test different types of economics,” Lin said. “Cheermotes is a program we launched for the Heroes of the Storm Global Championships, which allows people to submit a new emoticon in the chat for their favorite team. The teams earn revenue from that emoticon being used in chat, and then there’s a global leaderboard that the community spends around HGC to unlock the game items for everybody.”

This concept draws on the power of the community, which is something Lin has watched Valve Software successfully harness with The International Dota 2 tournament.

“We’re also testing things with Twitch Prime around Blizzard esports events,” Lin said. “We figure there are cool, unique items that we can give for free to Prime subscribers as they watch their favorite events or their favorite streamers, so we’re testing a lot of these different economics. Blizzard has been very progressive in their thinking there as well, so that’s what we’re trying to do with them around their esports programs.”

As esports has become more mainstream, bolstered by companies like ESL, Activision Blizzard and ELeague, new sponsorship opportunities have opened up for Twitch and other livestreaming platforms.

“We’ve been in the business now for quite some time, and when it comes to connecting brands with the esports and gaming audience, it’s about combining a good pitch with the education process of, ‘What does it mean to watch video games?’” Lin explained. “Video games, in general, were very stigmatized culturally—particularly in America—for a very long time. It’s now breaking through that, but there are still a lot of folks that run brands who are not of that mindset, so you have to change that mindset. Then it’s about understanding how this gaming demographic engages with content and how they engage with brands. A lot of the work that we do now that’s outside of standard media sales is creating custom campaigns for brands.”

Lin pointed to the Nature Man “Twitch Plays Old Spice” campaign, which replicated the Twitch Plays Pokémon adventure by allowing viewers to control where a real man explored nature. Twitch worked with Old Spice to integrate content creators into the commercials, which gave the brand added authenticity.

“Brands like Mountain Dew and Doritos have come into the space in interesting ways that really embrace what we do,” Lin said. “They’re relearning how to create a genuine message for this audience and they get the benefits of having the community share this content featuring our commentators. A lot of people come and just slap their logo on and get nothing. You can’t do that in our space. The eyeballs are there, but they’re much more discerning as consumers. I think we’ve done a lot to educate brands about that.”

Community is the central component in what makes Twitch work, according to Lin. That’s why the company has continued to learn from its users, even as it faces strong competition from companies like YouTube and Facebook.

“We’ve always had competition, and we like to know what they’re up to and make sure that they’re not seeing something in the market that we’re missing. But we learned very early on that if you talk to your community, and you talk to your creators, they have pretty good ideas on what they need to be successful,” Lin said. “That’s part of the reason why we have TwitchCon; to have them meet more of the team at Twitch and have that direct line of communication so our product managers, our engineers and everyone else in the company understands what it is that our community wants.”

5 Virtual Reality Innovators You Need To Know

Transforming virtual reality from science fiction into a part of everyday consumer life is easier said than done—many have tried, and most have yet to succeed. Now, as the VR industry is poised to reach over $2 billion by the end of this year, the technology so loved by pop culture may actually stick around this time thanks to passionate VR evangelists. Here are just a few of the leaders, influencers and evangelists working to catapult VR into ubiquity.

Nonny de la Peña

Nicknamed the “Godmother of VR,” Nonny de la Peña is a journalist, filmmaker and founder of Emblematic Group. Having used a number of traditional storytelling mediums, de la Peña set out to immerse users into a news story—especially sociopolitical situations that they might never experience on their own. In 2012, Emblematic released the first ever VR documentary, Hunger in Los Angeles, in which users witness the true story of a diabetic’s collapse outside a food bank. The documentary, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival, is credited as pioneering “walk-around” VR—that is, allowing a user to move around inside a virtual environment. The prototype VR headset was provided by her intern, Palmer Luckey, who would go on to invent the Oculus Rift.

This year at SXSW, de la Peña exhibited two VR films—After Solitary, a partnership with Frontline that takes users into a solitary confinement cell in a Maine prison, and We Who Remain, exploring the front lines of the war in Sudan.

Today, her company creates VR, AR and mixed reality experiences for journalism, event recreation, fantasy environments and data visualizations.

“I think that these are places that are inaccessible for most people, and so how do we get them to understand these important issues? VR seems to be the best medium that I’ve ever worked in to do that,” de la Peña told Forbes. “If you feel like you are there, then you feel like it can happen to you too.”

Tipatat Chennavasin

While developing in VR, Chennavasin accidentally cured himself of a fear of heights. Since then, he has supported the growth of VR through development and funding. As co-founder of The Venture Reality Fund, Chennavasin has helped support companies like Owlchemy Labs, Spaces and VR advertising company Immersv.

He also was the co-founder and CEO of mobile game startup Big Head Mode, Inc. which he sold to PlayFirst to focus on VR. Chennavasin speaks around the world,  is an advisor for many VR companies and a mentor for VR incubators and accelerators, including Tokyo VR Startups.

Chennavasin will be a keynote speaker at the Houston Immersive Technology Conference (ITC) on November 6.

Helen Situ

During her time at NextVR, Situ helped nurture an active community around VR. Her team was the first to livestream the NBA using VR cameras and she has said that the VR revolution will be televised. Situ has traveled the world, giving business leaders their first VR experiences and helped NextVR grow from a “handful of people in a nearly empty office” to a popular way to view sports and other live events.

Situ makes this list for her consistent passion for VR. Since leaving NextVR earlier this year, Situ has concentrated on her site, Virtual Reality Pop and is working on something new, but definitely VR-related.

Taylor Freeman

Named one of Forbes‘ 30 Under 30, Taylor Freeman is the co-founder and CEO of Upload—a news site that “exists to accelerate the success of the VR/AR industry.” Inspired by the Oculus Rift acquisition and all the possibilities in the VR space, Freeman sold his design agency to back the industry in any way he could.

“That really manifested into [Upload] doing events,” Freeman told Tech.Co. “We’d try to go bigger and show more people VR. We started traveling to Sundance and SXSW and these shows with awesome companies, but no one was writing about it.”

Taylor has focused on education within the space to help further the advancement of VR. Upload has partnered with large corporations and General Assembly to teach people development and design skills needed to build VR and AR technology. In addition to spreading awareness about the VR industry through Upload, Freeman speaks at engagements across the world to help move VR forward through its developers.

Cosmo Scharf

Cosmo Scharf co-founded The Virtual Reality Foundation while still a student at UCLA. The non-profit produces VRLA, the world’s largest virtual reality expo and the Proto Awards, the first award show for VR. A passionate believer in the future of VR, Scharf made headlines last year for giving back a $100,000 Thiel Partnership Grant—citing that Peter Thiel’s political views clashed with his own ideas of what VR should stand for.

This year, Scharf co-founded Mindshow, a start-up building software for creating stories in VR.

“The potential for VR is not just to escape reality, but to improve the reality we live in,” Scharf said. “VR experiences help you rethink the nature of reality, consciousness and how your brain perceives life and the world. You start to look at the world in a different way and more profoundly question how the world works and why things are the way they are. The physical world may be more flexible and fluid then we have been led to think.”

Digital Game Sales For September Reach $8.3B

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 DawnDivinity: 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.”

Vertebrae Expands Immersive Media Offering, Frees AR Ads From Apps

Vince Cacace, Vertebrae founder and CEO

Editor’s note: The original headline of this piece was inaccurate and has been updated to reflect the story. We apologize for the error.

With support from both Apple and Google, augmented reality could become the technology of choice for advertisers and marketers, as demonstrated by the immense popularity of Snapchat Lenses and camera effects on Facebook. However, AR has been limited to dedicated apps and social media platforms, which impacts their overall accessibility. But advertising platform Vertebrae announced a solution that will bring AR to the masses—an ad suite that launches AR experiences directly from users’ mobile web browsers.

“We’ve had display, banner and video ads since the dawn of TV, so we see AR and VR as new mediums that provide unique and differentiated value to advertisers,” Vertebrae founder and CEO Vince Cacace told AListDaily. “They create experiences in new, personalized and contextual ways. With our new AR suite of products, we’ve taken our first step into the world of AR.”

Vertebrae’s previous efforts have largely focused on VR, including the creation of a native VR ad network that reaches nearly three million people a month. That’s in addition to working with publishers such as Forbes, Time and Hearst to develop 360-degree videos for the web and mobile devices. Based on that experience, the company is now it is turning its attention to AR.

“We saw a lot of scale on the web and mobile piece because everybody has a cell phone,” said Cacace. “So, with this AR suite, we tried to figure out what else we could deliver that provides a differentiated user experience but has a lot of scale potential.”

Vertebrae’s AR ad would appear like any other banner or display ad on a website, except that it expands into an AR ad experience right from the browser. These experiences cover multiple formats that include “try on,” where users can put on a pair of virtual sunglasses using their phones—blending the physical and digital worlds and possibly removing the need for a physical product to be present for purchasing decisions. Other experiences include “car ad,” where users can check out the interior of a vehicle or see how it looks in their driveways while changing its colors and walking around it. Entertainment companies may be the most interested in the selfie filters, which are like traditional Snapchat Lenses, but aren’t limited to a specific social platform.

“With the AR ad suite, we’re essentially enabling AR right over the mobile web browser,” Cacace explained. “We think that’s important because previously, for companies to use AR for advertising, they had to do it in an app-based experience. There’s a lot of friction to having an experience like that because you need to make a consumer download an app or point them to a third-party app. What we’re able to do is serve ads over the web, where users just need to allow camera access to have the augmented experience.”

Cacace said that he thinks of it as advertising outside of the walled garden, giving advertisers much more freedom. However, assets can be brought to other platforms such as Facebook or Snapchat if they wish to. He also added that the Vertebrae ads take advantage of existing adtech stacks, so advertisers still get all the data and recording capabilities that they’re accustomed to in addition the new camera and event data.

Although there are some impressive AR apps out right now, chief among them being Pokémon GO, Cacace believes that developers are still figuring out what works in the app space.

“There are some great ‘adverAR’ apps out there, like the ones by Ikea and Porsche,” he said. “But the hard part for an advertiser is getting people to the app. There are a lot of people who have app fatigue and don’t want to download an advertising experience.”

“There are a lot of people who have app fatigue and don’t want to download an advertising experience.” — Vince Cacace, Vertebrae founder and CEO

But that doesn’t mean that these ads will necessarily replace AR apps.

“Apps provide a richer and deeper experience,” Cacace admitted. “In an ad, you have size constraints, depending on how fast you want the experience to load. Therefore, it wouldn’t make sense to bring Ikea’s entire catalogue in. You’d also be missing the advanced interactive capabilities something like ARKit enables. So, there are trade-offs, but we see the scale factor of the web outweighing them because we can still deliver a high-quality experience.”

Cacace believes that instead of replacing apps, Vertebrae could supplement them by driving discovery.

“They could have a smaller version of the app that lives as an ad that drives people to download the app,” he said. “An example of that would be taking one couch from Ikea and letting people place it in their living rooms, then directing them to the app for the full catalogue.”

Vertebrae’s AR suite does not take advantage of advanced AR hardware such as Google Tango, with Cacace stating, “We’re focused on the widest use cases possible, which don’t require things like ARKit or ARCore. Things all happen within the browser, so you don’t need special hardware to view any of the ads.”

However, a big focus for Vertebrae is delivering AR at scale, which seems to be happening quickly. About 50 percent of iPhone users have upgraded to iOS 11, so the technology already captures half of the Apple market. As for Android, the ads will work on version 5.0 of the operating system or better, but because there’s a lot of inventory available with newer devices, Vertebrae has been leaning more toward Android 6.0.

Cacace also discussed the topic of location tracking in AR experiences to drive users to destinations, similar to Pokémon GO.

“Theoretically, an advertiser could put a marker or tracker to cue part of an experience,” he said. “We can also have interactions based on real-world objects. The other thing that we’re doing with location seeing effectiveness, like whether they walk into a store after seeing an AR ad.”

Hulu And ESL Discuss Hosting Four Esports TV Shows

Hulu is the latest Hollywood company to cater to esports fans. The digital network has partnered with ESL to produce four new esports series comprised of about 15 hours of content, including the video game talk show, Player v. Player; an Immortals CS:GO docu-series, Bootcamp; a weekly show focusing on a key esports topic, Defining Moments; and an hour-long recap show that follows big tournaments, ESL Replay.

Nik Adams, senior vice president of global media rights and distribution at ESL, told AListDaily that both Hulu’s and ESL’s audiences are digitally savvy and range younger than the age demographics of linear television, making Hulu the perfect platform for esports content.

According to Nielsen’s latest study, The Esports Playbook, esports fans already spend 3.5 hours per week watching digital or streaming content through services such as Hulu, so by creating esports content exclusively for this platform, Adams said ESL is bringing familiar material to a service that these esports fans are already watching.

Justin Rutsky, senior content acquisition manager at Hulu, told AListDaily that the company partnered with ESL because they understand the audience and what connects with them, and have a wealth of data to support it.

“As a digital-first platform, we are well positioned to introduce our subs to premium esports programming, which is truly digital-first content,” Rutsky said. “As the industry continues to grow, we believe esports fans are more likely to be watching content online or on SVOD platforms more than traditional linear networks.”

Rutsky said esports content provides a significant overlap with Hulu’s young male (18-34) audience, which comprises a strong share of its subscription base and watches adult-animation, comedy, superhero shows and anime on the platform.

“We hope to introduce new fans to esports with these shows by making it easier to access on Hulu, and show existing esports fans something they haven’t seen before, but will truly enjoy,” Rutsky explained.

With more non-endemic brands entering the esports ecosystem on a regular basis, including Coca-Cola, Buffalo Wild Wings, Geico, Nissan and Axe, new platforms like Turner’s ELeague and Disney XD’s esports block will offer more exposure to a traditional television audience.

“As esports become more mainstream on platforms like Hulu, non-endemic brands are more likely to feel comfortable with various forms of esports content and consider sponsorship,” Rutsky said.

Earlier this year, ESL signed deals with Twitter, Facebook and Disney. Adams said this latest deal with Hulu will continue to broaden the base of esports fans with new ways of developing original content that appeals to a more mass audience in an entirely new way.

“As the world’s biggest esports company, ESL knows the ins-and-outs of the esports landscape, from streaming to putting on the largest esports tournaments in the world,” Adams explained. “ESL is a natural fit for developing original content since we already have the infrastructure in place.”

ESL is producing all four of the original shows at its Burbank, California studio in close coordination with Hulu.

“Similar to that of traditional sports storytelling, ESL’s content includes behind-the-scenes esports storytelling, like getting to know key players, hearing opinions and perspectives of industry figures, and re-living memorable esports footprint moments,” Adams said. “Through a fly-on-the-wall, authentic viewing experience, the audience will uncover and deep dive into the journey and lives of the players beyond the competition itself, just as traditional sports would explore.”

Adams said ESL is looking to create content that appeals to a more mass audience with its shows. Player V. Player will focus on core esports fans, while ESL Replay and Bootcamp will provide storytelling geared more towards anyone who is interested in anything about esports. Defining Moments offers a middle ground for those wanting to learn more about the esports industry and its history.    

All four shows will premiere on Hulu this fall.

Salesforce Explains Approach To Data, AI And Retail Marketing

Salesforce is continuing its company quest to deepen its roots in data and artificial intelligence by unveiling a new data center that provides marketers real-time insights into shoppers’ buying behavior and preferences during the busy holiday shopping season.

From trending online sales to consumer shopping preferences, trending social conversations and more, the San Francisco-based cloud computing company is looking to leverage its data hub and provide retailers with key insights to potentially increase revenues during the shopping season.

“We’re seeing shoppers today interact with retailers across multiple channels, including mobile, online, in-store and voice,” Shelley Bransten, senior vice president for Salesforce’s retail industry solutions, joined AListDaily. “With so many different touchpoints, retail marketers find it difficult to reach shoppers with the right content at the right time.”

According to a connected shopper report conducted by Salesforce in September, the most-used channels for research include website (74 percent), email (43 percent), social media (38 percent) and mobile apps (36 percent).

By using relevant martech, retail marketers have visibility into the entire shopper’s journey, including the web, mobile, social and store, allowing them to tailor their communication based on these interactions, Bransten said.

“Retailers can transform how they connect with their customers at every step along their buyer journey—from discovery, engagement and transaction to advertising, analytics, community and service,” she said.

Bransten went on to describe to AListDaily the different ways data and AI will disrupt the retail industry.

Shelley Bransten, SVP for Salesforce’s retail industry solutions

How will data transform business solutions and save the future of brick and mortar?

Consumers are more knowledgeable than ever before. Armed with the ability to research products online and through social channels, shoppers can often appear more informed than the store associate. Additionally, associates aren’t aware of the shoppers’ product knowledge when they enter the store or their purchase history. As a result, brand loyalists are often treated like first-time customers each time they walk through the door. Millennials are 1.8 times more likely to say that store associates need the ability to use mobile devices to reference automated product recommendations based on a shopper’s profile information. With the power of data and AI, store associates can use near-field communications technologies to identify when a shopper is near the store. From there, the associate can access the customer’s profile and see that she had added two specific blouses to her shopping cart earlier in the week, for example. Thanks to this background information gathered from web data, the store associate could then pull the blouses in the customer’s size and—using AI capabilities—even recommend a complementary necklace or pair of heels based on what other shoppers who bought the same dress purchased to go with the outfit. This type of VIP treatment merges both the in-store and online experience and creates brand and store loyalists.

What are the foremost challenges retailers are facing today?

As shoppers turn to multiple devices and numerous channels throughout their shopping journey, they’re creating trillions of customer interactions. Our connect shopper report says that 63 percent of people feel like retailers don’t truly know who they are. Retailers are struggling to keep pace with these various touchpoints. For them, it has become a real challenge to meet shoppers’ rising expectations that all their interactions with a brand will be coordinated into a single, unified experience. The underlying root of this challenge stems from a retailer’s disparate and duplicative systems, which causes customer data to be scattered across many systems and creates siloed customer touchpoints. Retailers are also having to deal with complex backend integrations, which are brittle because of how many systems are involved. Because retailers must sift through so many different sources of truth, they’re struggling to deliver a seamless experience throughout the shopping journey that shoppers have come to expect.

How are marketers leveraging data to withstand Amazon’s grip on retail?

Retail marketers are using data to fuel personalized experiences across channels for consumers, helping retail marketers create hyper-local targeting, personalized product recommendations and engagement opportunities at scale. For example, Room & Board, a modern furniture company, is using data to personalize its product recommendations through Salesforce Einstein, allowing the brand to engage with customers individually and create a curated one-to-one relationship with each shopper. Since implementing it, data-powered product recommendations have helped Room & Board boost sales and achieve a 150 percent higher conversation rate.

What is the one big shake-up retail marketing needs today?

Many retailer marketers understand the importance of AI in automating processes and driving predictive engagement with consumers. Our fourth annual state of marketing report (Editor’s note: A more recent report from Salesforce, available here, reflects the current landscape as of November 2022) found that 57 percent of marketers that use AI say ‘it’s absolutely or very essential in helping their company create one-to-one marketing across every touchpoint.’ While AI adoption is happening among retail marketers, it’s slow overall and many question the investment. However, as consumers continue to demand a personalized, seamless and delightful shopping experience across all channels and devices, AI will become more and more important in predicting messages and content and delivering relevant experiences.

Why is AI a transformative technology and necessary for retail marketers to stay ahead of the curve in retail’s new paradigm?

It’s already changing how retailers are uncovering information and engaging with consumers. For example, consumers are now posting photos of their favorite products across countless social media channels, but many retail marketers have yet to crack the code on how to use this information to their advantage. With AI, retailers can automatically analyze images that shoppers post on social media channels like Twitter to better understand their preferences and tailor marketing campaigns based on this data. 

Why should marketers be increasingly leveraging data to capitalize on a shoppers’ buying behavior and preferences?

Shoppers are turning to more channels than ever to inform their purchases. For retailers, it’s never been more important to leverage data to hone in on what shoppers are interested in and inform personalized, targeted marketing campaigns to drive engagement. By putting the right data into action, retail marketers can understand what their customer data means and learn from it by incorporating curated messages into their marketing strategies to create a seamless shopper experience.

The Growth Of VR In Charts: Revenue, Shipments And Investment

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.”

VR Investment

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.”

VR Marketing

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.

Augmented And Virtual Reality: The Who’s Who Of Companies In 2017

The augmented and virtual reality market is growing—and with it, possibilities across a multitude of industries from video games to car manufacturers to fashion. In this virtual reality infographic, we take a look at the who’s who of the growing market.

Attracting New Audiences

A February report by Forrester Research concludes that “critical-mass consumer adoption of high-end VR headsets is five years away, but 360-degree videos will flourish on low-to-mid-end VR devices in the meantime.”

While 360-degree video isn’t technically virtual reality, it is an accessible gateway into the technology. In addition to their VR efforts, brands like The New York Times and Discovery Communications produce content that allows users to explore real-world environments for news and education.

Video is another way consumers are trying VR, and Netflix VR is the most widely used app among consumers, according to Magid. The analytics firm found that VR purchase intent has plateaued, and developers are looking for new ways to attract consumer interest.

Rikard Steiber, president of Viveport at HTC Vive knows these challenges first-hand.

“VR clearly has a marketing problem because it’s a very experiential medium,” Steiber told AListDaily. “It’s like The Matrix with Neo and Morpheus—you have to take the pill and run down the rabbit hole to experience the matrix. You cannot explain the Matrix. That’s why it’s so important for us to make VR accessible to everyone in places like retail stores and VRcades so that anyone can try it and understand its potential.”

Despite these hurdles, analysts see growth in the virtual reality market. Juniper Research predicts that hardware revenues from VR headsets, peripherals and 360-degree cameras will reach over $50 billion by 2021, up tenfold from an estimated $5 billion in sales last year.

Many Apps, Many Uses

According to a study from Ericsson ConsumerLab, shopping was the top reason worldwide smartphone users were interested in VR, with “seeing items in real size and form when shopping online” cited by 64 percent of respondents. Ikea created its own VR app that allows consumers to explore a virtual kitchen and even shrink themselves to see what it looks like from a child’s point of view.

Branded VR experiences are inviting consumers to step inside the worlds of film and TV, food, fashion and even alcoholic beverages.

The video game industry, backed by software giants like Unity and Unreal, are helping pave the way for VR adoption through interactive entertainment. SuperData Research predicts that the total market for virtual, augmented and mixed reality gaming will reach $8.8 billion globally by 2020. The non-gaming market for this technology is estimated to far exceed that of gaming by the tune of $31 billion.

According to the 2017 Nielsen Esports Playbook, just five percent of esports fans own a VR device, citing price point as a barrier to entry.

“Views about how virtual reality can and will be integrated into esports remain divided,” Nielsen Esports says in the report, “and the notion that VR is at a tipping point is underlined by the fact that 69 percent of esports fans across [the US, UK, France and Germany], when asked how likely they are to own a virtual reality device in the next 12 months, are undecided (probably will, might or might not, probably will not).”

Should Esports Be In The Olympics? Experts And Fans Weigh In

Earlier this year, the International Esports Federation (IeSF) applied to have esports recognized as a an official sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)—the first step to having video games added to the Olympic Games in 2024. IeSF’s move on behalf of competitive gaming has many asking, “Should esports be in the Olympics?”

Nielsen Esports found that while 53 percent of esports enthusiasts surveyed across the US, UK, France and Germany consider esports to be an actual sport, only 28 percent think it should be in the Olympics.

Playing Nice

Esports has already been accepted as an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in China—an event officially recognized by IOC. But even if esports are accepted as part of the 2024 Olympics, don’t expect to see Call of Duty or CS: GO.

“We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence and peace among people,” International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach told the South China Morning Post. “This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.”

Ken Hershman, executive chairman and commissioner of the World Esports Association (WESA), disagrees.

“The games themselves, even the first-person shooter games, are much more about strategy and skill than they are about violence,” Hershman told AListDaily. “There are other sports that have been a part of the rich Olympic tradition that are far more violent, such as boxing and judo, where there is actual physical contact.

“I don’t believe that the genre of the game should be the litmus test.” Hershman said. “The deciding factor should instead depend on what games are most popular and what games will attract the largest audiences. Nevertheless, this is of course a sensitive topic that must be respected for the sensibilities of the audience and broadcasters, as well as the Olympic spirit.”

Bach’s statement condemning violent games may be good news for Nintendo, whose non-violent Splatoon is already making colorful waves in the esports arena. The publisher did not respond to requests for comment.

Going For The Gold

Analysts agree that adding esports to the Olympic Games would help attract a younger audience—and all the advertiser dollars to go with them. Traditional sports clubs, athletes and brands are using esports to help reach male millennials, who watch as much esports as baseball.

Competitive gaming may actually be more beneficial to the Olympics than to the esports industry, especially if the most popular games are not included.

“To become the sports-cultural phenomenon that it can be, competitive gaming doesn’t need to be part of the Olympics any more than chess or skateboarding,” Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research told AListDaily. “Being in the Olympics is a ‘nice to have’ and would certainly go a long way toward unlocking more sponsorship money. The downside of such an inclusion, however, would be a complete sanitization of esports for the sake of advertiser interests.

“Few sponsors are excited about being associated with shooter games, for obvious reasons,” said van Dreunen. “This limits the part of esports that can really participate and runs the risk of becoming irrelevant to the exact audience segment that the IOC would seek to attract by including it in the first place.”

Mike Vorhaus, an executive of Magid Associates, also noted that competitive gaming is doing just fine on its own.

“I think someday, when the Olympics does start to include esports, they’re going to find that it helps them to reach out to the younger generation and being more relevant,” Vorhaus told AListDaily. “I don’t think esports needs the Olympics to be important.”

Here Are The Most-Anticipated Video Games Of The Holiday Season

Presents, turkey and Call of Duty—the holidays are a time for family, comfort food and giving thanks, but they also play host to some of the biggest video game releases of the year. Nielsen Game Rank surveyed nearly 6,000 active gamers ages seven to 54 to find out which upcoming titles have them the most excited. Nielsen then used the data to list the top 14 most-anticipated video games of the holiday season, based on titles that ranked 75 percent or above from respondents. For this analysis, the survey included all titles releasing October 1-December 31, 2017.

Franchise Favorites

New installments to beloved franchises are garnering the most excitement.

Activision’s Call of Duty: WWII tops the holiday wish list for games releasing across different platforms with a rate of 99 percent—“extremely high anticipation.” After a romp through the battlefields of World War II, gamers are eagerly awaiting a trip to ancient Egypt, a la Assassin’s Creed: Origins. The franchise took a year off from releasing a main storyline in the action/adventure franchise, which seems to have gotten Ubisoft fans ready for more sneaky, stabby fun with an anticipation rate of 95 percent.

Not far behind for multi-platform releases are Star Wars: Battlefront II and WWE 2K18 with anticipation rates of 90 and 80 percent, respectively.

Nintendo is hoping for another record-breaking holiday release for the 3DS with Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon. According to Nielsen’s findings, players who want to “catch them all” are slightly more excited about the Ultra Moon version, at 99 percent anticipation versus Ultra Sun at 97 percent.

Racing To Buy

Xbox One and PlayStation 4 both have their own racing game exclusives, and both are tied for most-anticipated video games on their respective platforms. At 85 percent each, Forza Motorsport 7 on Xbox One and Gran Turismo Sport on PS4 currently have the same levels of overall anticipation from their respective fans.

Gamers raced out to snag up their copies of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild earlier this year, so Nintendo will count on Super Mario Odyssey to keep the Switch momentum going into the holiday season. With an anticipation rate of 96 percent, the game seems ready to toss its hat into the ring—or onto a T-Rex, as the case may be.

Nostalgia Galore

Updated versions of old favorites are using nostalgia to influence how gamers feel about new releases, especially on PC. This is especially the case for Microsoft’s Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, the classic strategy game with a 92 percent anticipation rate.

Titles getting the VR treatment are also turning PC gamer heads, such as Bethesda’s Fallout 4 VR (79 percent anticipation) and Rock Star’s L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files at 75 percent.

Nintendo 3DS is getting a healthy dose of nostalgia as well, with a compilation of fan-favorite mini-games from Mario Party. Mario Party: The Top 100 is anticipated at 93 percent by fans, and a remake of Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions, which allows players to experience the game from the perspective of enemy characters is anticipated at 96 percent.