How Consumer Expectations Drive Change For Capital One

Knowing very well that consumers are fleeing the course of walking into physical banking locations, financial giant Capital One is positioning itself to function and feel like a tech company.

Whether being the first company to integrate any sort of financial services with Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, speaking emoji through a SMS text-based intelligent assistant or recruiting the tech talent to make such activations a reality in their newly built, tech-savvy campus, the acceleration of Capital One’s digital transformation is fully in force.

The reason is rather simple: consumer expectations from financial services providers are changing.

The Fortune 500 company has pockets that are $313 billion deep, and in order to keep building on their own accounts, they decided to fundamentally change their operational strategy and mindset of traditional bankers—which is how they focus on verticals like the cloud and artificial intelligence—robo advisors, anyone?—to drive new business just as much as opening a small business account.

Amy Heidersbach, vice president of digital marketing for Capital One, joined AListDaily to share how they are connecting with consumers.

hqdefaultCan you take us through your day-to-day with some of the responsibilities and the strategy that you oversee?

We have an enterprise organization that builds digital products and experiences for all of our customers for what we call our “lines of business.” That includes the Capital One servicing app. It’s an experience that engages with customers, whether they have a credit card, bank account and home or auto loan with us. So that’s what we mean by enterprise. The same is true for our integration with Amazon Alexa, one that we’ll be an early partner for with Cortana. Those aren’t product specific. Those are enterprise experiences that are born digitally, and speak to the customer where they are, and where they might want to interact with Capital One. I run marketing essentially defining value props for those products, and working with my marketing partners across the organization to take those products to market. We also launched our platform externally last year. Developers are now a target for us. I’m also responsible for really reaching out to the developer and partner community to help us co-create those digital experiences.

Are consumers adopting to Capital One’s tech-focused integrations, such as Alexa?

What’s interesting is that people want to know even more than what we initially anticipated. We recently launched a couple of new features, like the “how much did I spend?” feature at the Grace Hopper conference. People are absolutely moving to screen-less experiences—and they are largely voice activated. Consumers have an appetite for getting into the details. They want to know, for example, “how much did I spend at Banana Republic last year?” We’re enabling people to engage in a deeper level since the announcement a year ago by getting more information through voice activation about their accounts. We also have learned that they ask some crazy questions! With the announcement of our gender-neutral chatbot Eno in March, we’re learning some interesting things between the intersection of technology and humans.


Why is it important to leverage new marketing technology in verticals that are not your bread and butter?

In my opinion, as a modern marketer, it’s ultimately the customer that owns the brands. It’s the customer that owns the experiences. If brands really understand that, they actively build moments of interaction, technology and experiences that go where the customer is. I think banks were really great at this for decades—where “customers must come to us,” right? We are the center. We are the hub. They will come to us. In fact—the opposite is true. The customer is the hub of their financial life, and their life in general. We must go where they are, and that’s to their smart phones and new devices that are coming into their homes, or technology that’s being integrated into the platforms for cars, for example. We have a real commitment as a technology company to going where our customers are, and where they want to interact with us. We absolutely want to change banking, and do it in a way that enables the industry to be elevated, and all of the customers to be elevated to change banking for good. We know that that requires things that are atypical in this space. It was first considered a radical idea, but we were the first bank in the US to use an open API platform a year ago. We also give people access to their data. Those are some pretty radical ideas in the banking space, which has mostly been pretty insular and highly regulated. We look very different than the way technology companies operate, but that’s changing very fast.

How are the marketing strategies changing across your industry? What are some new opportunities that you’ve identified?

It’s not one-way communication, it’s definitely two. In the same spirit that we want to put our marketing experiences where customers are, we want our marketing and the conversations to be where they are, too, so that it’s much more organic, authentic and social. Even on-the-ground conversations, like the ones we do with our experiential activations at places like SXSW. We want to create intimate and connected experiences with our guests. The same is true in terms of our point of view around overall marketing. Yes, we have great ad campaigns. But the real marketing comes in the content and the conversations that we provide in a one-on-one environment, largely digitally, but sometimes physically.

Samuel L Jackson Spokesman for recent Capital One Quicksilver Doors Campaigns

In addition to Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Garner, what insights can you share about your other influencers?

We have seen our Net Promoter Scores (NPS) go way up around things like innovation, customer service, approachability and trust. We believe that the people we choose to associate with help embody the spirit in the personality that helps drives those NPS scores and attributions for us. We’ve seen influencer marketing work really well. At SXSW, we had five influencers at the Capital One House at Antone’s through the entire week. We have a really light hand with influencers. We love them because they are authentic voices in their communities. We try to bring them into the fold, just as you would with a friend, and give them insight. Influencer strategy for us is really about choosing the right, like-minded people and giving them as much access and information as we can, and letting them do what they do best. It’s not overly contrived. It’s really natural.

Why is SXSW such a big part of your experiential marketing strategy?

This year marked our third year in Austin as a title sponsor. We’ll be there again all the way through at least 2019. The more we can focus our presence, the better. This year we spent the same amount of money and activated at a bigger level, but we did so at one location, rather than multiple ones like last year. We believe in the notion of an intimate destination. The experiences we bring and create indicate a lot about what we believe in, and what’s going on at Capital One right now. The entire experiences that we bring to Austin each year is about being beta brave. Whether or not you work in technology, or know the technicalities behind launching a product, being beta brave is a spirit and attitude to courageously think differently. We believe people who come to SXSW already have that in their DNA. We want to give them a peek at what we’re doing ourselves from a product, design and marketing standpoint.

How are you creating content to exemplify that?

In the spirit of co-creation and integrated marketing with partners, those are the best stories to tell the story on how the technology works. We like to tell our stories through the lens of our partners, like Amazon, especially from a digital and technology perspective, and help enable ecosystems to build great products and experiences through Capital One. We celebrate the stories of our customers. At some point, it’s about us. But we don’t exist without our customers. If we’re here to change banking for good, then we have to change the goods for consumers.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan


‘Gnog’ Lets You Play Head Games In VR

If you find yourself wishing that you still had that sense of wonder when playing with toys as a child, the developers at KO_OP understand and they have a solution. The independent studio launched Gnog today for the PlayStation 4 console and PlayStation VR (PSVR), and it’s a puzzle game that aims to reignite the curiosity, enthusiasm and imagination of childhood.

Saleem Dabbous, KO_OP co-founder, studio director and producer for Gnog
Saleem Dabbous, KO_OP co-founder, studio director and producer for Gnog

Saleem Dabbous, KO_OP co-founder, studio director and producer for Gnog, described the game to AListDaily. “Gnog is about exploring these magical, monstrous toy heads that have little worlds inside of them,” he said. “You can flip between the face and its inner world, and you’re trying to uncover what the puzzle is and how to solve it. In short, it’s a playful and musical journey that is heavily inspired by kids’ toys such as Polly Pockets or Mighty Max.”

Players are challenged to perform tasks such as fixing a broken spaceship by discovering secrets within these virtual puzzle boxes. Gnog is the first game launching under the Double Fine Presents publishing label that supports virtual reality, although Dabbous explains that you don’t need a headset to play, as it also has a non-VR mode. The brightly colored puzzle game is expected to launch on Steam for PCs and Macs at a later date, followed by an iOS release, but KO_OP has not decided on whether it will support VR platforms besides PSVR.

When asked about what led KO_OP to design a game inspired by Polly Pocket and Mighty Max toys, Dabbous replied, “I don’t know if you grew up with those, but they’re toys that you can open up and they reveal a diorama inside of them. We remember that feeling of opening those toys to find out what was inside of them. You didn’t know what was going to be in there and what kind of world it was going to reveal. That was an incredible feeling that we wanted to recapture in Gnog.

The other thing for us was in thinking about our relationship with toys as kids and how we imagined whole worlds around them. We imagined that our toys were alive, and we wanted to take that feeling of magic and wonder and imbue it into a video game. That’s why all the interactions are very physical and tactile. It’s to remind you of what it’s like to play with toys and imagine them coming to life.”

Dabbous then talked about what led the studio to support virtual reality. “When we tried the game in VR, things went to a whole new perspective,” he explained. “In standard view, the puzzles look cool but very big. In VR, you’re much bigger and the puzzles feel like these out-of-this-world toys floating in front of you, begging you to play and interact. The tactile feel is really ticked up a notch in VR.”

We asked Dabbous if there were any plans for post-launch add-on content for the puzzle game. “We would love to do additional content, but we can’t promise anything yet,” replied Dabbous. “We need to see how the launch goes and see if we have the resources to do more levels. In the process of making the game, we made a lot of levels that didn’t make it into the final version. I would love to have the opportunity to make those a reality one day.”


Dabbous also talked about working with Double Fine Productions and how it helped to promote Gnog. “Working with Double Fine has been incredible on both a personal and business level,” said Dabbous. “People instantly know about Gnog now because they saw it at a Double Fine event, the Day of the Devs event, or otherwise heard about it through Double Fine. It’s been really amazing, and just having their support and backing means we can reach out to people that we couldn’t meet before. That’s been huge for helping us gain visibility for the game.”

Additionally, Sony offered financial support for Gnog’s development, helping to bring more indie developers to the PlayStation 4 and PSVR platforms. “Sony has been incredible to us and very supportive of the project,” said Dabbous “That’s why we’re coming out on PlayStation first. They really believe in the vision of the game, and I think that’s the thing about console versus PC—companies like Sony and Microsoft will put money behind games that they believe in. When you’re a small developer, that’s a huge deal. If it wasn’t for Sony, we never would have been able to realize our game and make it. It’s about that kind of support, and I think that’s why you’re seeing a lot of indies coming to consoles. They’re reaching a new audience they couldn’t access before, but at the same time, these companies are actively bringing people on and courting independent developers to be on their platforms.”

Gnog has been shown at numerous events to help spread awareness. “We’ve been lucky enough to show Gnog at a bunch of events,” said Dabbous. “They range from Double Fine parties, to Sony events, to GDC, E3 and Unity events. We’ve had amazing partners and they’ve gone a long way to help us get the game out there and show it to people. We’re really grateful for that.”

But being an indie developer has its own set of challenges, which must significantly increase once VR is included. We asked Dabbous why KO_OP was willing to take it all on.

“I completely agree that it’s a huge challenge, especially when you’re doing VR on console,” he replied. “This is our first big commercial game, and VR was an extra challenge for us. But at the end of the day, we really want to make the most incredible game that we can with the resources that we have. When we tried Gnog out in VR, we felt that it would be a shame if we didn’t do it. So, in the pursuit of making the best game we could, we did VR.”

Study: Spending Gap Between Casual And Avid Gamers Is Considerable

It should come as no surprise that avid fans spend more money on something they love compared to those who casually enjoy it from time to time. A new study by Fandom and ComScore explores the spending habits of 5,000 fans ranging from “light” (casual) to “heavy” (avid) in gaming, TV and movies—revealing just how much fandom translates into spending.

Mo’ Games, Mo’ Money

“Heavy” gaming fans—referring to survey participants who typically play more than 15 hours per week—spend an average of $54 a month on video games. This is 3.3 times more likely than “light” gaming fans, who typically play less than six hours per week. Forty-six percent of the heavy gaming fan group often buys video games the week they are released, although the report doesn’t specify which platform (mobile, console or PC) either group of gaming fans prefer.

Fandom concludes that heavy fans not only spend more, but are usually the first among their friends to do so. Half of the respondents who identified as heavy gaming fans agreed with the statement: “I’m usually the first of my friends and family to discover new entertainment.” Likewise, 63 percent of heavy gaming fans enjoy talking about what they’re watching or playing at the time.

That being said, the study found that nearly half (49 percent) of heavy gaming fans consider themselves to be influential, stating: “People turn to me for advice on the latest TV shows, movies or video games.”

Harnessing Avid Gaming Fandom

Seventy percent of these avid gamers claim to highly praise the TV shows, movies or games they are passionate about. While posting on social media or reading up on the latest titles, 28 percent of this demographic says they pay attention to advertisements online. Heavy gaming fans don’t look at just any ads, however—38 percent say they pay more attention to ads that are personalized to them.

Thirty-five percent of heavy gaming fans are more likely to share articles online—2.6 times more than light gaming fans, and 31 percent share videos. However, the report does not mention whether this refers specifically to gaming video content.

Gamers are more active content consumers overall, Fandom reports, showing interest across multiple markets such as travel, finances and vehicles. Of those who participated in this study, 77 percent of heavy gaming fans were male and the average age across the board was 28.

Why GameStop Is Excited About The Potential Of Esports

GameStop is offering its customers the chance to get a taste of esports and competitive gaming with its latest partnership. The video game retailer is teaming up with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the Injustice 2 GameStop Hometown Heroes tournament, which will be used to market the upcoming May 16 launch of the fighting game, developed by Netherrealm Studios.

The tournament will offer an all-new way for amateur players in the United States to participate in an esports program and battle for cash prizes. Operated by ESL, open online qualifier tournaments will begin June 4. Eight Regional Finals tournaments will take place in local GameStop retail locations on August 12, leading up to the finals, held at the GameStop Managers Expo at the Venetian Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 27.

inj2_play_largelogoEric Bright, senior director of merchandising at GameStop, told AListDaily that a lot of the esports competitions around the world today are focused exclusively on professional gamers.

“We’ve learned over the years that we want to provide an opportunity for amateur game players to get involved and compete against each other for incredible prizes, hence the name ‘Hometown Heroes’ for this esports tournament with Warner Bros. and Injustice 2,” Bright said.

Bright said this tournament has been in the works for about a year, as the retailer and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment have been mapping out the competition. “We’ve always had an interest in participating in esports, but we wanted something that our consumers would be able to play, instead of playing against a pro or being intimidated by some of the world class players that are out there,” Bright said.

GameStop is tapping into ESL’s network of pro gamers to help customers prepare for this competition. “We’ve teamed up with two pros that are going to be out there to provide tips to players,” Bright explained. “On the West Coast, we have Michael ‘Michaelangelo’ Lerma and on the East Coast, we have Bryant ‘Kitana Prime’ Benzing. Both of them will be on GameStop’s Facebook page providing tips to players in our Hometown Heroes competition to compete and progress through the tournament structure.”

Bright said that the theme of the pros helping the amateurs compete in Injustice 2 will continue with GameStop PowerUp Rewards customers. GameStop has over 50 million PowerUp Rewards members and those customers will have the opportunity to get personal online training sessions just before the finals with one of these two pro fighting gamers. Lerma and Benzing will use GameStop’s Facebook page to relay details directly to gamers.

GameStop is also communicating directly to its fan base through Facebook Live. Last week, the retailer featured another pair of ESL pro fighting gamers to announce that Darkseid will be a playable character in Injustice 2, and Bright believes Facebook Live will also be used to host the Hometown Heroes Finals from Las Vegas in August.

The idea to tap into the annual GameStop Expo with this tournament came about after an experiment at last year’s Anaheim event, which drew over 2,500 hundred attendees.

“One of the catalysts of how we got to this was hosting a tournament for Ready At Dawn’s Deformers game, which is a GameTrust title that just released,” Bright said. “That event offered fans a first chance to play the game and compete, and it was a huge success.”

This marks the first time GameStop is combining its online presence with physical retail using a tournament structure. It is also the first time the GameStop Expo will occur over a weekend, which is expected to attract a large fan base.

“The GameStop Expo is one of the largest collections of the entertainment software, hardware and collectible companies all coming together for consumers,” Bright said. “We open our doors and let our customers experience it. It’s unique in retail.”


Back in October 2015, GameStop partnered with Nintendo to host a Super Smash Bros. 3DS National Open Tournament across 15 stores in the US, with the finals taking place at the Nintendo World store in New York City.

“Things have evolved since that Nintendo tournament,” Bright said. “Now we can take advantage of players playing online via dashboards and then bring people together as we host eight regional tournaments around the country. Once they qualify from the online competition, from there the top four players in each region will play inside of GameStop stores before moving to the GameStop Expo.”

Injustice 2 also gives GameStop and the esports ecosystem another fighting game on console to help grow that audience.

“There’s a lot of demand for gamers who want to compete in esports through a console,” Bright said. “This is a great way for us to partner with Warner Bros. and bring in our customer base that’s interested in such an opportunity. There’s huge potential here.”

Bright said this tournament also ties into the GameStop brand, which focuses on giving power to the players. It’s something that every customer who walks through the retailer’s doors can participate in and compete for cash and prizes.

“There’s definitely appeal to open up special opportunities for our customers to allow them to experience video games in a whole new way,” Bright added. “Look for us to explore more things like this to excite customers overall. We’re excited about the potential with esports.”

More Consumers Prefer To Watch TV On Computers Than TV

This week, TV sets get lonely, Nintendo gets hopeful and consumers want options for loyalty-based communication.

TV Ads And Assumptions

Do advertisers project their own lifestyles and media consumption onto consumers? Apparently so, the Video Advertising Bureau found. The company’s report—Do We Have Consensusfound that advertisers believe 32 percent of viewers watch content on live or recorded TV, while Nielsen’s figures for viewers 18-years-old and over show that 82 percent are engaged in TV viewing. Likewise, advertisers who participated in the study believed that adults spend two hours or less viewing TV daily when the actual figure is four hours and 35 minutes.

When consumers do watch TV, they prefer to do so on a computer, according to an Accenture survey of 26,000 internet users around the world. The percentage of consumers who prefer watching TV shows on television sets plummeted by 55 percent over the past year, from 52 percent to 23 percent. Thirteen percent said they prefer watching TV shows on their smartphones, compared with 10 percent last year.

When it comes to pre-roll ads, viewers pay attention to a higher proportion of ads on connected TV (CTV) and CTV ads deliver higher brand metrics. A new report by YuMe studied ad effectiveness by comparing the actual time a viewer’s eyes were tracked watching an ad against the total time the ad was viewable for CTV, desktop and mobile campaigns. Tracking showed 89 percent of a CTV pre-roll ad is viewed, compared to 81 percent on mobile and 78 percent on desktop.

The State Of Ad Spend

Advertisers spent a record-breaking $72.5 billion last year and 51 percent of that was on mobile, according to IAB. Mobile experienced a 77 percent increase from $20.7 billion the previous year, hitting $36.6 billion in 2016. Video revenue more than doubled to nearly $4.2 million—up 145 percent year-over-year. Digital video hit a record $9.1 billion in 2016, a 53 percent year-over-year rise from $5.9 billion in 2015.

A recent survey conducted by AdsNative found that 92.3 percent of those polled (7,500 web and mobile publishers) saw native ad revenue increase in the last year. Of those surveyed, 69.2 percent are getting the most revenue from direct sales, 84.6 percent do outstream video and 68.9 percent are monitoring ad blockers but haven’t been greatly affected by them yet.

Loyalty Requires Options

Last year, mobile marketing company 3Cinteractive surveyed US internet users to see how they preferred to receive loyalty-related communications from brands. Participants were asked to choose one channel. In 2016, nearly half of US internet users surveyed said they preferred to receive loyalty-related communications via SMS and roughly one quarter said they preferred email. A year later, only 21 percent of respondents wanted texts from loyalty programs.

Given more options in its 2017 poll, 10 percent selected virtual assistants and 18 percent wanted communication via wallet.

Gaming Growth

Nintendo expects its new Switch console to more than double annual operating profit and end the eight-year sales decline, according to a news briefing on Thursday. “We are hoping to change the tide of our business with the Switch,” Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said.

Nintendo estimated profit to grow 2.2-fold to 65 billion yen ($584 million) in the year through March 2018, with sales jumping 53.3 percent.

Digital revenue grew by 15 percent in March across all platforms in the US, according to SuperData. Total US digital revenue came in at $1.46 billion, up from $1.27 billion in the same month last year. Console digital grew 17 percent thanks to new releases Mass Effect: Andromeda, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Nier: Automata.

Free-to-play and mobile grew 12 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Worldwide, the digital video games market grew seven percent in March to a new high of $8 billion.

Top Grossing Titles For March 2017 By Category (Globally):


  1. League of Legends
  2. Crossfire
  3. Dungeon Fighter Online
  4. New Westward Journey Online II
  5. World of Tanks
  6. World of Warcraft
  7. Counter Strike: Global Offensive
  8. Overwatch
  9. Lineage I
  10. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands


  1. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands
  2. FIFA 17
  3. Battlefield 1
  4. Horizon Zero Dawn
  5. Grand Theft Auto V
  6. Call of Duty: infinite Warfare
  7. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  8. Destiny
  9. Mass Effect: Andromeda
  10. ARK: Survival Evolved


  1. Clash Royale
  2. Monster Strike
  3. Mobile Strike
  4. Game of War: Fire Age
  5. Clash of Clans
  6. Fate/Grand Order
  7. Honour of Kings
  8. Pokémon GO
  9. Fantasy Westward Journey
  10. Lineage 2 Revolution

Why HTC Viveport Lets You Subscribe To VR

While millions of VR headsets are in the hands of consumers, there’s fragmentation between mobile VR, PlayStation VR, and PC VR adoption, even though many VR titles are platform agnostic. Growth in the VR market has been less than many analysts first predicted, and we’ve yet to see a “killer app” emerge as the market continues to expand. However, we’ve seen some early successes, such as the Survios game Raw Data which has generated more than $1 million, and Owlchemy’s Job Simulator which has generated more than $3 million in revenue. At the same time, hardware sales have been close a million units for PlayStation VR, and analysts estimate less than a million for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive combined (with Vive a clear leader), while Samsung’s Gear VR has around 5 million units installed.

We’re still far from a large-scale VR market that can generate billions in software revenues, but HTC Vive is working on a variety of ways to get to that point. The one-year anniversary of HTC Vive showed a market that’s small but growing. To further accelerate that growth, HTC introduced the the Viveport Subscription service.

HTC Vive launched Viveport Subscription on April 5, celebrating the first anniversary of the HTC Vive by introducing the first-ever subscription model for a VR app store. Viveport Subscription customers pay $6.99 a month and choose five titles from an ever-growing library of curated content. Users get unlimited access to those apps and they can rotate out their selection every month. All apps in the subscription service are also available for sale, letting customers try an app before they decide to buy. Viveport Subscription includes a one month free trial offer for all new users.

“We’re surprised every day by what our fans and developers have brought to VIVE in its first year,” said Daniel O’ Brien, GM US, HTC Vive. “We’re astounded by the impact that VR is making in the home and in the enterprise, and we want to celebrate Vive’s first birthday by giving a bit back to our fans and by introducing Vive to more people.”

Rahul Sandil, VP of marketing, HTC Vive
Rahul Sandil, VP of marketing, HTC Vive

Rahul Sandil, vice president of marketing at HTC Vive, sat down with AListDaily for a wide-ranging talk about Vive and where VR is going from here.

The first issue that Sandil wanted to establish was HTC Vive’s goal as it expanded the VR market. “What helps us build more trust with developers and consumers? We weigh both those things together,” said Sandil. “We believe the subscription is a great way to do this for developers and consumers. For developers, it’s a whole new business model—they can bring their content and get access to the Vive and Viveport audience. It’s another way to monetize apps for them. One of the missions of Viveport is to give developers the most ways to monetize their content.”

Sandil then described the Viveport Subscription model. “Consumers pay a low monthly price, in the US that’s $6.99, and consumers can pick five apps every month, and once the month is over they can swap those out for five new ones, or keep any the want to keep playing,” Sandil explained. “We believe it’s a great opportunity for consumers to try before you buy.” Sandil noted that the average price of a VR app is somewhere between $10 and $15, and thus paying around half of that average for access to five apps is a great deal. It’s also an easy, low-risk way for people to try out more apps to find ones they might want to buy.

“The VR ecosystem is still very young and growing. We are coming up on almost 300 apps on Viveport, of which half of them are free and the other half are paid,” Sandil said. “In Viveport Global, which includes China, we have already crossed 650 apps, probably half are free and half are paid.”

With an increasing number of apps, it’s becoming ever more difficult for customers to find the apps they’d prefer. The Viveport Subscription aims to solve that problem. “This is a great way for customers to try the selection,” said Sandil. ” We believe that one of the best ways to grow the VR ecosystem is to have a great selection, and at the same time we want to make it easy for customers to try things and get to try different kinds of VR experiences.”

HTC Vive is concerned about providing a good value not only for consumers, but for developers as well. “It’s not based on usage for developer monetization,” Sandil explained. “We’ve tried to make it simple and fair, both for well known devs and new apps. If you get picked in a month, you will get paid.”

There are a lot of exciting prospects for the VR market in the year ahead. “There will be a lot more innovation on the hardware side—making it untethered, making the hardware more ubiquitous,” Sandil said. “We just launched a deluxe audio strap, better form-fitting, making the experience more comfortable. There will be more comfort, more ways to track your presence in virtual reality.”

But major growth isn’t going to come just from hardware innovation. “We’ve just scratched the surface on content,” Sandil said. “Today, there are over 1,600 apps on Steam and Vive, but I think we’re just getting started. There’s going to be a real multiplication effect on content happening this year. I think this is also going to be the year we’re going to see a lot more AAA content, larger production budgets on VR content. We’ve announced a partnership with Warner for Ready Player One, we’ve got plans to create multiple pieces of content to support that. There’s going to be some really big things happening on the content side.”

Improvements in hardware and more VR software will help expand the market, of course, but Sandil believes the real opportunity lies in business model innovation. “Most importantly is the business models, we’re starting our year two with subscriptions but we believe arcades are going to be that force multiplier, it’s going to bring in audiences who have always been interested in VR but haven’t experienced it yet,” Sandil stated. “I would say there will be a minimum of 10x multiple of people experiencing virtual reality.”

Viveport Subscription

How Glu Mobile Hit A Home Run With Newest Baseball Game

Earlier this year, Glu Mobile announced that it had signed a multi-year deal with the MLB, Chicago Cubs star player Kris Bryant (who was named the National League Most Valuable Player after the Cubs won the World Series last year), and other facets of the MLB. The partnership allows Glu to make MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 one of the most realistic mobile baseball games around by including 30 teams along with current players and select former players. Bryant is being featured as the game’s cover athlete for the second year in a row.

Jerome Collin, Glu Mobile’s VP of sports and racing games, talked with AListDaily about what the MLB licensing deal brings to the attention Bryant continues to bring to the franchise.

MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 is easily the most realistic baseball experience on mobile,” said Collin, describing the game. “Its one-touch controls are easy to use, which makes it a breeze to jump right into a game. Its quick session lengths make it perfect for playing on mobile whenever you have a little extra time to kill.”

Collin continued by saying, “At its core, MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 lets you assemble your own team of real-world players. You get your favorite players and top MLB stars to challenge your friends, and you can build and level up your guys to top leaderboards against the best-of-the-best. For the first time this year, with our MLB partnership, the game lets the users pick their real-life favorite team and then use their authentic logos and uniforms. Users have access to all current players as well as select Legend players so they can bring their fantasy team to life.”

When asked how the licensing deal helps the game stand out from other sports titles on mobile, Collin replied, “Having all of the MLB, MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association), and MLBPAA (Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association) licenses certainly sets us apart, and the game really brings the world of Major League Baseball to life.

“We’ve done it in a way that’s extremely realistic,” Collin went on to explain. “For example, there’s a robust stats component—about 40-to-50 different stats on every player that users can look up, including all the advanced SABRmetric stats that baseball fans love! Our deep internal gameplay model ensures that pretty much all these stats turn out similar to how a player’s stats would in real-life for every player. It’s important to us that strategic elements of baseball are all in play and work exactly as they do in real life, and that’s felt throughout the game.”

The licensing deal allows the game to include authentic uniforms, and Collin discussed how it and the graphics worked to make MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 a realistic sports game. “Having the MLB license and also the great new graphics makes it visually true-to-life,” he said. “We have day and night games, dynamic shadows, all-new animations—including cool dives and celebrations—and other features that surprise users. Then add in the logos of all 30 teams, the league marks, and the uniforms. Users just don’t expect that level of visual realism in a mobile game. Our ultimate goal is to provide users with the most believable experience on mobile, both visually and in gameplay, and make them feel like they’re part of the game with the fantasy team of their dreams.”

Collin then talked Kris Bryant’s continued involvement with the mobile game franchise. “We have a great relationship with Kris Bryant, and we’re really excited to have him return as the featured player for MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017,” said Collin. “We’ve worked closely with him to create a fun and engaging commercial to promote the game.”

Having the Chicago Cubs win the World Series must bring extra attention to the game. “In 2016, with the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series in over 100 years, there was a lot of excitement and attention around baseball and the Cubs,” said Collin. “Of course, Kris Bryant helped lead the Cubs to victory, and was also named the National League MVP. So, having his name attached to MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 definitely creates some commotion. He’s a great guy and a talented player, and I think the whole world is excited for what the 2017 season has in store for Kris and the Cubs team.”

Liberty Mutual Is Gamifying Safe Driving

Liberty Mutual is driving their brand strategy forward by merging marketing with safe driving and gamification through the HighwayHero app, a free experience that allows consumers to earn discounts—and bragging rights—by unlocking badges such as “safest driver.”

One thing is clear from the get go, however—you’re never supposed to actually use the app when operating a vehicle.

The century-year-old brand is identifying new ways to leverage technology to add additional value for customers. HighwayHero is a telematics-based app that allows the Boston-based brand to cater with personally tailored advice, information and even policies.

According to Accenture Strategy, 80 percent of insurance consumers are looking for personalized offers, messages, pricing and recommendations from their auto, home or life insurance providers.

Some of the other avenues of personalization that Liberty Mutual has been working on this year include an Open Developer Portal that combines public data with insurance knowledge, helping to inform future apps and products. They also expanded in the telematics category with customized safe driving programs with a “pay as you drive” insurance called ByMile. Also getting the gamification treatment is RightTrack, their customer discount program that compares driving behaviors.

Nicholas Grant, senior director at Liberty Mutual, joined AListDaily, to explain how they plan on fostering positive relationships with consumers through new experiences.

Nicholas Grant, senior director at Liberty Mutual
Nicholas Grant, senior director at Liberty Mutual

Why is a gamified experience now a part of Liberty Mutual’s business strategy?

We want to demonstrate our suite of safe driving discount programs and the technologies that power them. The HighwayHero app has an element of gamification that gives customers discounts based on how well they drive based on a 14-day trial period. What we measure is things like hard braking, hard acceleration, late-night driving, as well as mileage. Then we wrap that up into a score and a customer has a chance to save up to 25 percent.

What have you learned? How are you driving conversion?

What we found is that it’s more of a test drive program that allows customers who are not yet with us to see if they like it. During the program, we’ve learned from our vast experience in driving-based programs. We amped up the gamification to allow information that is able to be collected from smart phones to provide customers coaching, driver feedback and overall, how to be a better driver. One of the other elements we’ve understood for potential customers, versus customers who come in the door, is having amped up, gamified and engaging experiences. That’s important. So what we’ve done is taken a lot of inspiration from mobile gaming apps to make it more compelling, like achievements and unlocking badges. We built in things like leaderboards, where you can compare yourself to people in your city and state; you can invite friends and compete with them, too. Ultimately we want to create an experience where there’s a little bit of competition, and a little bit of drive to be a better, safer driver, and as a result, you might earn a better discount off your insurance.

How are you going to be marketing this?

This particular app is an opportunity for us to gain new customers by providing a fun experience and value proposition by saving money on your car insurance. The million-dollar discussion now is “how do you expand the reach?” We started with 16 states and are adding more states as we go by the end of the year. A few different things that we looked at doing is standard active marketing to boost the awareness of the program so that more and more customers participate. But how do you show the fun of the app? We want to encourage a vast group of customers to participate at the same time and earn prizes and benefits along the way. What we ultimately want to do is make customers happy, and make them better drivers.

What’s the best kind of marketing that works best for insurance customers?

Insurance companies are very active in the TV advertising space. Everyone is saying “switch and save with us.” You see a lot of commercials out there with well-known brands. The way that we think we’re differentiated in this way is that not only can you switch your insurance to Liberty Mutual and save, now you can save more with a gamified discount-based experience that rewards you for safe driving. The customer takes control of their own premium, and that’s not something our competitors are doing. It’s something different. It’s not the standard “call us up and get a discount.” Hopefully it breaks through and excites customers in a way that is not currently happening today.

How are you going to be leveraging the data that you collect?

One of the things we’ve learned is that if you can help a customer save more, that’s a winning formula. We’re using data in actionable ways. We’re also incorporating our learnings by building in things like emoticons in our core apps. . . . People only want to pay for things that they are going to use. Technology is changing the way we do business. We use information about driving through a bunch of different technologies—like mobile phones and Bluetooth—directly from the vehicle. It allows us to provide new value propositions for the customer and create entirely new products. Our industry is being disrupted by technology. Our goal is to be at the forefront of technology and stay on the cutting edge of product offerings, so that we’re the ones providing the value and fun experiences before others do. That way consumers stay with us.

What platforms do you plan on experimenting with to further drive your message along?

Connected car and connected home are big areas of focus for us so that we can differentiate ourselves for consumers. When we’re able to use technology to provide incremental value to customers, whether you have safety sensors in your home, or information coming from connected vehicles, tailoring our products, and providing new ones to understand those pieces is going to be critical.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Newzoo: Smartphone Users Will Reach 3.6 Billion By 2020

Smartphone usage continues to grow, Samsung is leading the pack and consumers will spend a whole lot of money on games in 2017.

There were 2.8 billion smartphones in use last year, according to Newzoo’s latest report, and that number will climb to 3.6 billion by 2020. The Global Mobile Market Report forecasts 2.6 billion people in the world with a smartphone in 2017, with China and India alone accounting for more than one billion users. Not surprisingly, China has the most smartphone users, with 717 million consumers actively using a smartphone in 2017, followed by India, the US, Brazil and Russia, according to Newzoo’s findings.

India, which surpassed the US for smartphone users last year, will grow to 300 million smartphone users by the end of 2017, while the number in the US will only grow to 226 million. The world’s highest smartphone penetration can be found in the Middle East, where more than 75 percent of the population has a smartphone in countries such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Healthy App-etite

Loading a smartphone up with apps is most of the fun, and consumers will spend a total of $56.4 billion this year doing just that— with games accounting for 82 percent. Total revenues from non-gaming categories are poised to increase from $10.2 billion in 2017 to $20.0 billion in 2020. As the number of smartphone users increases, so will global app store revenues, which are poised to grow to $85.0 billion in 2020. While more mature markets of North America and Europe will continue to grow at a lower but stable rate, most of this predicted growth will come from Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

Asia-Pacific accounts for 56 percent of app store revenues this year, bringing in $31.8 billion. China is the biggest single market within Asia-Pacific, generating $16.4 billion in consumer spend on apps (including third-party app stores). North America and Europe are considerably smaller in terms of revenues, with $10.6 billion and $8.5 billion in revenues, respectively.

Device And Conquer

With a market share of 31 percent, Samsung was the global leader for smartphones in 2016, just ahead of Apple which held a 25 percent share. However, Apple was the world’s leading tablet brand with a market share of almost 64 percent, or 166 million active tablets at the end of 2016. The Apple iPad Air and Air 2 were the most popular tablet devices, accounting for almost one in five active tablets globally.

When it comes to manufacturers, these two brands don’t leave much room for competitors. Together, Apple and Samsung accounted for almost 90 percent of the global tablet market.

Arkane Studios Explains What ‘Prey’ Means

Part first-person action game, part psychological and survival horror, Prey puts players aboard the Talos I space station, which has been overrun by aggressive aliens. Not only are these aliens dangerous, but they possess a variety of abilities that range from mimicking inanimate objects to releasing psychic blasts. Players must make their way through the station, surviving however they can, while unraveling the mystery behind what’s going on. To help, they’ll be able to craft gadgets and weapons while acquiring some powers of their own using neural mods.

Raphael Colantonio, creative director at Arkane Studios
Raphael Colantonio, creative director at Arkane Studios

That’s a lot to take in, and even Raphael Colantonio, creative director for Prey at Arkane Studios, admitted, “From a distance, it’s a complicated game because there are so many aspects to it. It’s richer than just being a first-person shooter. The simplest way I would describe it is that it’s mix of an FPS and RPG, with a strong simulation layer underneath that allows you to replay in different ways. As for the plot, you play as Morgan Yu, and you are the subject of experiments where things have gone wrong. You find yourself on a space station infested by aliens and you have to escape.”

Talking with AListDaily from a demo event in New York City, Colantonio explained how Prey compared to games such as BioShock or the more recently released Resident Evil 7. He said, “I think it’s more like BioShock than Resident Evil. We have some horror elements, but that’s not what the game is trying to do. It’s not trying to be a survival horror game—it’s more like a plain survival game where you have to escape this place. We’re not trying to creep you out with gore and horrific moments. Although there are horrific moments, the goal is to put you in a simulation where you get to explore this place and find the best way to survive.”

Although Prey is a wonderfully short and fitting title, it comes with quite a bit of baggage. An unrelated game with a very long development history (marked with multiple delays, cancellations and restarts) released in 2006, published by 2K Games. Years afterward, the license transferred to ZeniMax Media, and its subsidiary, Bethesda Softworks announced the development of a sequel in 2011, which was subsequently canceled. So, it came to a surprise to many longtime gamers when the new Prey was announced at E3 last year, and there was much speculation as to what it was about. We asked Colantonio if he thought the title created expectations for the game when it was first revealed.

“It’s hard for me to answer that precisely,” said Colantonio. “I think there has been a lot of confusion about Prey. In 1995, 3D Realms announced the development of Prey and this game never shipped. Then the Prey from Human Head [published by 2K Games] came out. Then they (Human Head Studios and Bethesda Softworks) announced another game (Prey 2), which had nothing to do with the first one and that didn’t happen. So, it’s been ten years since the last time a game called Prey released.”

Colantonio then explained what the title meant to Arkane Studios. “For us, it’s more like a theme that fit well with our game. I think that happens a lot in the movie industry, where you have ten movies with the same name but people don’t get so hung up on it. But I definitely think it will be a surprising game for a lot of people. I just hope that they’ll look at it with an open mind and won’t try to make connections with some other game that never shipped. It’s a new game and it’s its own thing.”

The problem that most horror games face is that players can only be afraid for so long. So what will be keeping players engaged with Prey throughout the entire experience? “I agree with that,” said Colantonio. “That’s why we usually say that we’re not a horror game, because horror games can be summarized with a monster in the closet analogy. For us, it’s more about the mystery behind the story and having players wanting to find answers. When a player finally finds the answer to a question, we start with another mystery, so they always want to know more. The horror is more of an aside than the goal, and I think that’s what keeps people engaged.”

As to whether Arkane Studios plans to extend the experience with DLC, Colantonio said, “Yes, absolutely. We don’t have any plans to announce yet, but we are working on a variety of things—including updates—to keep the game going.”

Colantonio then discussed maintaining a sense of mystery with the game when livestreaming is so popular and could potentially spoil the story. “That’s the world we live in,” said Colantonio. “I think some players will want to know as much as they can before they touch the game and some others will protect themselves from any kind of spoilers. As long as both are happy, it’s cool with us. The game tailors itself to how you want to play and the experience you want to have. So, even if you’ve seen someone else play, your experience will still matter and be different.”

Prey’s multiple endings and open-ended gameplay, with its variety of powers and different paths to discover, also engages players by encouraging replays. “It’s impossible to see all the alien powers in one playthrough,” said Colantonio. “So, you would have to play again and get different powers. Also, at some point, the story branches and you have choose between doing one thing or another thing. They’re mutually exclusive, so you can’t do both. So, replaying is a way to see what happens if you make a different choice. There are also a few other mutually exclusive quests that have nothing to do with the ending.”

A demo for Prey, which covers the opening hour, releases on April 27, giving players a taste of what is to come when the game releases on May 5. Colantonio sums up why gamers should be interested in surviving the halls of Talos I.

“They (players) should pick up Prey because they are going to go through a very engaging experience that will be their own,” explained Colantonio. “They can talk to their friends about it, but no two players will have exactly the same experience. Players will get to make up their own strategies, and the game will respond to what they do like in a simulation. That’s a very powerful, immersive media for people.”