A List Games To Create Live Service Games Within The Ayzenberg Group

A List Games, the game publisher backed by Ayzenberg Group, has announced its plans to start creating evergreen, live service video game franchises and offer developers full-service publishing efforts, funding, mentoring and AAA marketing.

A List’s core team was formed following two decades of experience helping the biggest industry names bring dozens of hit titles to market including Bethesda Softworks, ArenaNet, Blizzard and Electronic Arts. From performance marketing and influencer relations to social media and localization, A List Games offers publishing resources to smaller live service games that are otherwise unobtainable.

“We publish live service games because we love building and inspiring communities. By making sure the community comes first, we can focus when, where and how we use Ayzenberg’s creative might to drive player engagement and retention, strengthening the relationships between players and game developers,” said A List Games senior vice president Steve Fowler.

Fowler, who’s also the founder of AListDaily, has been in the video game industry for over 23 years working on the marketing and publishing side.

Hell is Others and Kingshunt, A List Games’ first two multiplayer games, are tentatively scheduled to launch on PC for Steam in 2022. Hell is Others is a top-down shooter requiring players to survive, harvest and farm in a noirish, Lovecraftian world featuring a blood-fueled economy. Kingshunt is a third-person multiplayer online battle arena where players can summon fierce minions and place powerful towers.

“A List understands gaming audiences, game developers and the need to grow a game in an authentic manner. Their marketing prowess and mentorship give us the confidence that Hell is Others can be a great success,” Strelka chief executive Pietro De Grandi said in a press release.

A List Games’ ultimate goal is to grow communities, raise awareness, create and execute launch campaigns to help partners’ games rise above the crowded market.  The new live service game publisher will leverage Ayzenberg’s 250-person team, which creates for clients such as Amazon Game Studios, Blizzard, CCP, Nexon, Proletariat, Riot and Xbox.

“A List offered us much-needed experience in marketing, community building and using data to improve our game. Their commitment to helping us deliver on our creative vision and help us grow a real community around Kingshunt has been fantastic,” Teemu Jykinen, president and studio head of Vaki Games said.

Interested developers who think their game would benefit from A List Games publishing can learn more on the A List Games website or follow the company on LinkedIn.

TikTok Sensation Khaby Lame Helps Xbox Launch “Simply Next Gen” Campaign With Ayzenberg And ION

Don’t sell to Gen Z, entertain them. Few brands take this advice to heart as much as Xbox. This time, the internet culture connoisseurs at Xbox, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary, have partnered with Ayzenberg and Khabane “Khaby” Lame – one of the world’s most popular TikTok creators, with 120.7 million followers – on a campaign to encourage holiday sales of its Xbox Series S console. 

Launching today, “Simply Next Gen” comes to life via a video in which Senegalese-born Lame—who became a viral sensation for his underproduced, deadpan TikTok reaction videos about finding easier ways to do burdensome things—is shown watching a clip of a tree knocking down an outdoor fort moments after its builder secured its foundation.

A simpler way to build (or demolish) forts as Khaby demonstrates? Simple—turn on your Xbox Series S with the touch of a button and play Fortnite. The campaign will launch on Khaby’s TikTok and will be supported across Xbox’s owned and operated channels.

@xbox

Simple as that. The Xbox Series S is Simply Next Gen @Khabane lame #gaming #simplynextgen

♬ original sound – Xbox

Ayzenberg and Xbox’s decision to partner with Khaby marks a growing trend among brands utilizing influencers to reach a targeted audience. In this case, the “Simply Next Gen” target audience isn’t the typical gaming audience that game influencers tend to reach.

According to Ayzenberg chief creative officer Gary Goodman, the main goal of “Simply Next Gen” is to connect with those who may be new to console gaming and are generally considered casual gamers. Ayzenberg believes that the Xbox Series S is the lowest barrier to entry for those who want to experience true “Next Gen Gaming.”

Five years ago, Khaby wouldn’t have been a part of the campaign equation. Goodman says instead, the agency would be looking at a more traditional entertainment celebrity from film, TV, music, or sports to appeal to this wider audience.

A campaign of that nature would’ve had to have been amplified with a pretty hefty media buy, so much of which would’ve been a shotgun approach to hopefully find the right audience. With Xbox’s “Simply Next Gen” campaign, Ayzenberg sought to communicate to an audience that already knows and values Khaby’s core message.

“As Xbox’s Social Media AOR, we have spent the last eight-plus years honing our integration of Creative, Strategy and Audience so that we are able to bring really targeted ideas like this to our client that we both know how to execute and that we know will perform,” said Goodman.

Though influencers have commanded a larger portion of brands’ marketing budgets in recent years, at this point it’s second nature for Xbox to capitalize on moments like those that Lame is so skilled at creating. For Xbox, being authentic in who they are and how they communicate to their vast, diverse audience is a huge priority, one that requires an influencer whose core message and authenticity align with what a brand is trying to say.

“What’s so exciting about working with influencers is that they have built their own audiences out of the very same tenets – they are being themselves every day and the world tunes in to watch and support them,” Goodman told AList.

Goodman’s hope for the campaign is to see the Xbox community and many others create content that follows Lame’s “Simply Next Gen formula” of doing hard things the simpler way using Xbox Series S as well as to inspire people to be turned on to the joys of gaming on the console.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the final creative for this campaign. It was a perfect alignment of both our video creative and social creative teams to bring the right idea, with the right message and the right influencer. Our client Josh Munsee instantly fell in love with this approach and was able to champion it throughout the org. And when things just fall into place like that, and everyone is aligned…you know you’ve got a winner,” added Goodman.


Xbox “Simply Next Gen” Credits:

  • Josh Munsee, Sr. Manager, Xbox Global Marketing
  • Gary Goodman, Ayzenberg Chief Creative Officer
  • Allen Bey,  Ayzenberg Creative Director/Editor
  • Taylor Rhoads, Ayzenberg Creative Director
  • Drew Shafer, Ayzenberg Associate Creative Director
  • Chy Lin, Ayzenberg Account Director
  • Jonathan Clark, Ayzenberg Producer

Mobile Gamers And Fast Food

During the height of the pandemic, several Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) closed or reduced operations and started offering takeout and delivery. Though consumers cooked at home more and spent less on restaurants, including QSRs, the QSR market has rebounded quickly compared to other casual dining restaurants and is well-positioned to succeed in our post-pandemic environment, according to AdColony’s Mobile Trends in QSR report.

Consumers are still cautious of densely populated public spaces, meaning food delivery, prepared food and groceries will continue to outpace in-restaurant dining despite the roll-out of vaccines and safety measures. Despite this, demand for takeout is actually increasing. QSRs can take advantage of this phenomenon now and post-pandemic given their emphasis on hygiene standards and how they’ve utilized technology (i.e., QR codes, online and mobile apps) to make delivery and takeaway seamless.

According to a Buyer’s Edge Platform survey, 36 percent of consumers are hopeful that the tech solutions currently in place, such as contactless ordering and payment, continue post-pandemic. Consumer sentiment has changed in other ways as well, which AdColony breaks down into three new consumer trends in QSR. First, consumers are spending more. The average check size at Starbucks, for example, grew 25 percent in mid-2020 and continues to climb today. Second, consumers are stocking up. Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Domino’s have all observed larger, family-sized or bulk orders. And third, consumers, families in particular, are eating more fast food than they did pre-pandemic.

For its latest report, AdColony studied the food and drink habits of mobile gamers, a cohort that’s growing rapidly in the US. There was a 12 percent increase in the number of people playing mobile games in early 2021, with 80 percent of all mobile users in the US reporting playing mobile games at least once per month and more than 50 percent saying they played weekly or more frequently than that in 2020.

AdColony and GWI conducted a survey of 1,044 mobile gamers and found that 35 percent are eating fast food at least once per week, 22 percent more than once per week and 16 percent at least once every two weeks. Despite the stereotypical image of a mobile-gaming fast-food consumer, 46 percent of those who eat it more than once per week and 53 percent of those who consume it at least once per week are female.

Mobile gamers who consume fast food at least once per week demonstrated disparate preferences in regard to the types of games they play, other forms of entertainment and their online interactions with brands, AdColony found.

Among this cohort, 27 percent use an app that tracks calories; and they’re more likely than mobile gamers who do not eat fast food at least once per week to play word, strategy, casino, arcade and action games. They’re also more likely to visit a movie theater and purchase online content to keep forever.

Mobile gamers who consume fast food at least once per week are more likely than other mobile gamers to visit a brand’s website, use a search engine to research a product or brand from an ad, read reviews about the product or brand from an ad and download the brand’s app. The only similarity that this cohort shares with other mobile gamers is the percentage of them who click on an ad (34 percent).

Over 33 percent of mobile gamers dine out at least once per week while 52 percent do so at least once per month. Among mobile gamers who eat fast food or at restaurants at least monthly, drive-thrus at McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s are the most popular, while dining in is the preferred option only at Five Guys.

Sixty-five percent of mobile gamers reported ordering takeaway food on apps and websites and 54 percent reported using drive-thrus more than they did before April 2020. As for delivery via apps and websites, the top brands are in pizza delivery with Domino’s being the most popular, followed by Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. Roughly half of mobile gamers who increased their frequency of curbside pickup behavior during the pandemic did so more often with Subway (45 percent), Domino’s (32 percent) and Starbucks (32 percent).

AdColony predicts that many of these behaviors will remain through and after the pandemic. Positive user experience and the convenience of apps may even increase some of these trends in the future. Brands seeking to capture some of this growth must showcase the convenience of their curbside pickup app offerings for saving time waiting in lines and having to order on the spot and then waiting for the food to be prepared.

As for general brand awareness, mobile games offer the chance to reach potential customers with new menu items or promotions before they’re even at the drive-thru or open the app to order. Because mobile gamers are proven fast food consumers and use online and app ordering services regularly, in-app advertising can help propel a brand or product to the forefront of their minds efficiently and seamlessly.

Q&A: Ayzenberg EVP/ECD, Clio Awards Jury Chair Scott Cookson

The pandemic canceled the 2020 Clio Awards which means 2021 jurors have double the amount of work to vote on: this year’s entries and last. As they assess remotely, we spoke with Games Jury Chair for the Clio Entertainment Awards and Ayzenberg executive vice president and executive creative director, Scott Cookson. Cookson has been on many juries over the years but this marks his first stint as jury chair. Ahead, the games marketing veteran shares what entertainment marketers should consider when entering, what sets great work apart from award-winning work and how submissions are shaping up so far. 


As jury chair of the Clio Awards this year, what advice do you have for entertainment marketers looking to enter?

One very important thing to remember about the Clio is that they are awards for creativity. So regardless of how successful or unsuccessful the marketing initiative was, it’s not really relevant to what we’re evaluating.

We’re not looking for the scope, the reach or the success of the campaign. We’re looking for how creative and innovative the ideas were. It really is a celebration of creativity and the people who do that work. So if anyone feels like they’ve done something unique and distinctive and memorable, then I would say absolutely enter the work into the Clios.

We get many people who do case studies and talk about how effective the campaign was, which as a marketer, is ultimately our objective and our job; to sell our clients’ products or services. But that’s not how we judge things in the Clios. Again, we judge solely on originality and creativity.


Other than creativity, what other criteria are considered when judging the creative?

I’ve actually been voting today, so the voting has already started and we’re about halfway through the process right now. There’s some really good stuff. We’re also going through last year given that it was canceled. It’s a lot of work going through two years’ worth of entries.

What they’re looking for is originality and innovation. They don’t actually tell us how to judge. They leave much of the power in our hands to decide what we think creative is, what we think good work is. They don’t give us much guidance other than to focus on the creativity and not on effectiveness, reach or budget. 

The other interesting thing that a lot of people forget or don’t know is that it’s not like there’s always one gold, one silver and one bronze. Some years there may be no awards given in a particular category because we don’t think anything meets the standard, or we can award 15 golds. 

So everything is judged on its own merits. It’s not as much of a competition against the other entries as you’d imagine. So, for example, there can be two trailers in a category and we give them both golds or we give them both silvers or we give one gold and one bronze, or one gets a shortlist and one gets nothing. It’s whatever we think the work deserves based on its own creative execution.


Based on the work you’ve voted on so far, have you noticed a common theme?

The big one is no surprise – no live events and a shift to virtual events. And of course, that makes sense given the pandemic. But creatively, I’m not sure I can say there’s a trend I can identify. Although that said, I think I’ve seen more music-related partnerships than I have in past years.

I’m sure people have tactically decided that they weren’t going to do real-world experiential advertising like IRL events. So there isn’t very much of that type of work. Nevertheless, there are likely more digital and live streaming events—things that are safe and remote.

It’s worth noting here that in the entertainment industry, there can easily be a formulaic approach to things. We’ve all seen trailers and can argue that they seem to feel very similar to one another. We’ve all seen a lot of different key art posters for movies or games. They all seem to share certain commonalities that we are all kind of used to, right? So the work that really kind of breaks or plays with those norms and expectations, and who tries to rise above that baseline; they try and do something different. For me personally, the creative that tends to rank higher is the work that stands out and gets noticed and takes your breath away or is more memorable. 


What role, if any, do you think nostalgia plays in breaking from those norms and nailing the creativity of the work? 

I think it’s going to be situational and it’s going to really depend on the IP. When I look back at, for example, a movie like Han Solo for Star Wars, Star Wars has an incredible amount of nostalgia infused into it. When they did their key art, it really had a nostalgic feel to it that worked really well for them. But when you take a step back, that actually makes sense for Star Wars—you want that kind of nostalgic feeling when it comes to a franchise with older fans. They want those older fans to feel like they’re getting what they remember from when they were kids and they want the kids to have that same experience. It all kind of makes sense.

On the other hand, there are certain games or entertainment properties that don’t need or want a nostalgic play. For example, it might be a brand new IP that doesn’t tie to anything nostalgic whatsoever. So, to answer your question, it does depend really on the IP. I think you have to strategize based on your IP and who it appeals to. Only then can you determine how best to target that specific audience, and nostalgia can be one of those arrows you pull out, but it might not always be the right one depending on what you’re working on.

Culturally, we know that nostalgia is something Gen Z finds appealing and I think it works for plenty of other audiences as well. You can see that manifested in annual gaming titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War or new IPs like Deathloop. And of course, when you market those titles, you’re going to lean into that nostalgia, and that’s going to be a driving creative influence, especially on things like music, design or motion graphics. I feel like nostalgia is a topic I hear come up often in strategy discussions over the last year or so in relation to Gen Z, but every generation has its own relationship to nostalgia.


Is there a piece of work you’ve seen this or last year that just blew you away? 

Yes, definitely. I can’t talk about it too much, so I won’t say the title. But there is a game whose assets I find incredibly compelling and that checks all those boxes I was discussing earlier where it breaks the mold in terms of creativity and innovation. It’s not your typical trailer and it’s very unexpected. 

Frequently when evaluating work and determining how to grade it relative to others, I ask myself whether this is something that I wish I would have made. And if so, would I be proud of it? Would I be showing it to all my friends? Would I be putting it into my portfolio? Am I jealous that I didn’t get to work on it? And this one piece of work definitely checks all of those boxes and has been entered in a lot of things. I think it will do very well. 

We get a wide mixture of work—some that while not horrible, are lacking something special, or just too common. And then there are works that leave you with an emotion or that take your breath away or that you can’t stop thinking about and you wish you would have done what they did. Those are the ones that really rise above the rest and become the Grand Clios, which is actually the ultimate prize in all of this. 


Is there an area you believe that marketers fall short in creating good creative? 

Whether it’s lack of time, budget, talent, initiative or bravery, it’s easy in entertainment to play by the rules and follow the cookie-cutter approach to doing just about anything from key art to trailers. The work that really rises above, though, is the work that doesn’t do that. It doesn’t follow the easy way out. It’s the one that really takes time to think about doing something special, risky, unique and memorable. Marketers must remember that these factors are critical to producing work that becomes special and noticeable. And while they don’t have to check off all of them, they usually have to have at least some of them to create a work that stands above the rest. 

On the games jury, we vote on a huge range of work. I’m not a hundred percent positive, but in some of the other categories like in theatrical, they organize by discipline. But the games jury is voting on trailers, brand partnerships, PR, digital and social campaigns. And certainly, not everyone is an expert in all of these things. We all come from different worlds—some from the agency side, some from the client-side. Others may be vice presidents of marketing and touch on everything a little bit. Some people come from a digital agency or specialize in social only. So it’s really interesting to be exposed to that incredible range of work. 

I’ve been on the jury a few times. This is my first time as jury chair, but I’ve been on the jury many times, over my career, going back to when it was the Key Art Award. When the jury finally convenes at the end to discuss the awards, that’s really the fun part. We have these great conversations about the work and debates about what should get what. Typically we’re in a theater watching the works for an entire day. This year will be a little different obviously, with everyone working remotely, and so they’ve created a platform that’ll replicate that in-person feeling we’re used to. We’ll be reviewing hundreds of entries given that this year’s Clio includes 2020’s entries as well. 


Can you share a little about the Clio awards Ayzenberg has won?

I’ve been with the company for two and a half, three years, and since that time there have been two Clios. So when I came, there was a Clio and then there was COVID and now there’s another Clio coming. In that first one, I believe we won five or six Clios—one of them was for one of my favorite trailers that we’ve done, a CG trailer for Deathloop.

And I believe that won silver for best CG trailer, and I think it won for copywriting and (…) for music. There were some other things that won Clios that year as well. I think another piece we did for Assassin’s Creed won. And then there was some social that won as well. So there were a number of Clios that the agency won.

We have a lot of work entered this year as well, probably 10 to 20 entries. Because all jurors must abstain from voting on work from the company in which you work, I won’t be able to vote on any of Ayzenberg’s entries. 

In the first round of judging, it’s essentially the weed-out stage where everyone gets a third of the work and we decide whether it’s in or out. So I haven’t even seen everything yet. I’ve only seen 30% of the entries. We now take all the work that’s in and judge it.


As EVP and ECD, where do you find inspiration?

At this point, I try to find inspiration from the people I work with. I’m really focused on building and managing teams and inspiring creatives to be the best they can be, doing great work and putting them in a position to succeed. I am amazed at the talent that I’m surrounded by and how incredible all these people are, and how passionate they are about the space and their work.

I’m really trying my best to let them realize their creative vision. 

In a way, I started as an editor and that’s a talent that I learned a long time ago, because a lot of times as an editor, you’re sort of inheriting this vision of a writer or a director who maybe wrote a script or shot a movie and they have a passion or a vision that they’re trying to achieve. And as the editor, you’re coming in fresh and helping them shape what they want to do to realize their goals. In a lot of ways, I feel like that’s what I’m doing with all the teams I work with here. In a way, even though it’s not a common path to be an editor that becomes a creative director that then becomes an ECD, for me, it worked out well that way. That path has taught me many skills about how to work with people and how to craft creative and inspire people to get to where they want to go.


What does putting your team in a position to succeed entail? 

It’s not a one-size-fits-all sort of a thing. Nevertheless, I try to manage from a position of accepting that the work and the ideas are not mine, they’re theirs. I try to not have a sense of ownership over it. I also think about what they’re trying to achieve and what they’re trying to say. And then with that perspective, I critique the work in a way that helps them to see the possibilities or the limitations of where they’re at in that particular moment. So it’s really about trying to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they’re trying to do and also knowing what the client’s objectives are and then bridging that gap and getting to a place where those things meet in the most successful way possible.


How have games shaped your trajectory?

I’ve been working in games marketing for almost 20 years. I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and I was working as a trailer editor. I started working in games at that time and joined a company called Ant Farm in 2004. Ant Farm became a leader and innovator in the game trailer space and gameplay capture space, and making trailers that had emotion and told a story, were more narrative-based and not just a sizzle reel of clips to an EDM cue.

One of the first trailers I cut was for a game that was just coming out at the time called Call of Duty and they became a big client of Ant Farm. And we worked with them for over 15 years and did a lot of other huge games as well. I launched Destiny, worked on a lot of Assassin’s Creed games, Far Cry—so a lot of huge IPs over the years. When Ant Farm closed in 2018, I brought the games team from Ant Farm over to Ayzenberg. We’ve been part of this family ever since.

Total US Games Industry Sales Reach September Record Of $4.4 Billion

According to The NPD Group’s September US games industry sales report, consumer spending on video game hardware, content and accessories reached a September record of $4.4 billion, a 3 percent increase when compared to a year ago. Year-to-date (YTD) consumer spending reached $42.3 billion, a 12 percent increase when compared to the same period in 2020.

Starting with hardware, NPD found that September sales surged 49 percent year-over-year (YoY) to $412 million while YTD hardware spending also gained 49 percent when compared to the same period a year ago, totaling $3.4 billion.

September’s best-selling hardware platform in both units and dollars was PlayStation 5. In dollars, PlayStation 5 is also the best-selling hardware platform of 2021 YTD, while Nintendo Switch leads in units.

This month marks the end of Nintendo Switch’s 33-month streak as the market’s leading platform in hardware unit sales. The last month that a platform other than Nintendo Switch dominated the market in unit sales—PlayStation 4—was November 2018.

The full-game dollar sales September spotlight is on Madden NFL 22, the best-selling game of the month and the second best-selling game of 2021 YTD. The game was the best-selling game in September on both PlayStation and Xbox.

Tales of Arise set a new launch month dollar sales record for any Tales Of franchise release, coming in as the fourth best-selling game of September according to NPD.

Life is Strange: True Colors, which launched in September, was the 10th best-selling game and generated the highest launch month dollar sales for any Life is Strange title to date.

WarioWare: Get It Together, which also debuted in September, landed the 15th spot for the overall best-selling game of the month, while also ranking second on Nintendo Switch. In addition, it achieved the highest launch month sales for a WarioWare franchise release since WarioWare Smooth Moves debuted on Nintendo Wii in January 2007.

Moving on to mobile spending, data for which was provided by Sensor Tower, the NPD reports the market exceeded $2 billion in consumer spending in eight of the nine months of 2021 to date including September. The average monthly mobile gaming spending is about 28 percent higher than that experienced in the first nine months of 2020.

September’s strong mobile games performance in the US was in part due to the second highest-earning title, MiHoYo’s Genshin Impact, which celebrated its one-year launch anniversary with spending up nearly 120 percent month over month.

Among the top-performing mobile titles in the US by consumer spending in September were: Candy Crush Saga, Genshin Impact, Roblox, Coin Master, Garena Free Fire, Pokemon GO, Homescapes, Clash of Clans, Bingo Blitz and Candy Crush Soda Saga.

When compared to a year ago, September spending on video game accessories dropped 12 percent to $171 million. YTD accessory sales reached $1.8 billion, a 9 percent increase YoY.

Once again, the Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Coordinator was the best-selling accessory of September, while the PS5 DualSense Wireless Controller White remains the top-selling accessory of 2021 YTD.

The NPD Group’s total video game sales figure reflects total content spend on video games, including full-game, downloadable content, microtransactions and subscription consumer spending across console, cloud, mobile, portable, PC and VR platforms. For its assessment of the broader consumer spend on the industry, the NPD utilizes its monthly point-of-sale tracking services and consumer data from other NPD trackers, monitors and reports.

Game Consoles Are Occupying More Time In Consumers’ Lives

Today’s consoles provide a different kind of value to consumers. Beyond gaming, they offer an online network to communicate with friends and form relationships, an arena for a spectator sport with fervent followers and a device to stream TV, movies and music.

Confirming that sentiment is a new report from Hub Entertainment Research, “Game Consoles 2021: Respawned and Leveled Up,” which found that game consoles are occupying more time in the lives of many consumers as spend, usage and ownership have all experienced an increase since the pandemic started.

While 36 percent of respondents said they play console games about the same amount as in 2019 (33 percent), 51 percent of console gamers told Hub that they play every day—up from 39 percent two years ago.

Forty-two percent of console gamers who play at least once a week told Hub that they’re playing their consoles more this year than last vs. only 32 percent who said the same thing in 2019.

Game sessions are about 20 percent longer this year. In 2021 weekly console gamers estimate their average session is about 110 minutes, up from about 90 minutes in 2019, according to Hub.

Ownership of multiple game consoles is up too. The share of all players ages 13 to 74 who play console games is about the same in 2021 as in 2019—36 percent vs. 33 percent—however, the density of ownership is considerably higher. Hub found that in 2019, just a quarter of console gamers owned both a PlayStation and an Xbox but in 2020, more than a third of respondents said they own both.

In addition to owning more consoles, gamers are also spending more on games. 53 percent of console gamers said they spent more on gaming this year than last vs. slightly more than a third who said the same thing in 2019.

Thirty-nine percent of weekly console gamers said they buy digital copies of console games at least a few times per month—up from 25 percent in 2019. Another 38 percent regularly download downloadable content or expansion packs for games they already own—up from 22 percent two years ago.

As engagement grows, so does the impact of in-game advertising. Hub’s data show that 70 percent of regular console gamers play titles with branded in-game content—up from 61 percent in 2019. Among those exposed to in-game advertising, 44 percent said they prefer in-game ads to regular commercials and 72 percent said that branded downloadable content makes the game more fun to play.

Lastly, the role gaming has played in helping consumers maintain relationships during COVID can’t be overlooked. More respondents mentioned communication or connection with friends as a reason for gaming than in 2019. Plus, 45 percent of weekly console gamers told Hub they have at least one in-game friend that they’ve never met in real life.

Hub Entertainment Research’s findings are based on an online survey conducted among 2,601 US consumers ages 13 to 74, including parents of kids under age 13, in late August and early September 2021.

Tapjoy: 73% Of Millennials Shop On Mobile 1-4x Per Week

Millennials are approaching their prime purchasing years and are expected to spend over $1 trillion annually moving forward. Tapjoy tapped into these consumers for its annual Modern Mobile Gamer 2021: Millennials Edition, surveying 5,028 millennials on the MobileVoice by Tapjoy network in Q1 through Q3 2021. Respondents opted in to participate in the survey in exchange for in-game rewards or premium content. 

According to Tapjoy’s findings, millennials use their smartphones for everything, but predominantly for gaming and shopping—70 percent play mobile games daily and 73 percent shop on mobile up to four times per week. But to truly understand this group’s engagement with mobile, one must first understand their background. 

The youngest millennials were born in 1996 and the oldest in 1981, with about half of the millennials on the Tapjoy network being parents. This cohort’s upbringing has been marked by consistent periods of strife—from 9/11 to the war on terror to multiple recessions to the pandemic. And while their baby boomer parents grew up in times of professional and economic prosperity, many millennials face growing college debt, stagnant wages, inflation and excessive home prices.

Like Gen Z and unlike baby boomers, millennials are tech-savvy, socially aware, active on social media and almost always have their mobile phones on them. One of their defining features is that economic struggles affect almost every facet of their lives – from whether to buy a home to how many children to have to how they engage with brands and ads. For insights into millennials’ behavior toward mobile gaming, mobile shopping and mobile ad engagement, see Tapjoy’s findings below.


Mobile Gaming

Mobile is millennials’ gaming platform of choice. Tapjoy’s research shows that 86 percent of millennials use smartphones for gaming while only 37 percent game on console or handheld and only 27 percent game on PC. Additionally, roughly 75 percent report playing mobile games on any given day.

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the amount of mobile gameplay as 73 percent of respondents said they played more mobile games, 59 percent downloaded new gaming apps and 42 percent experimented with new gaming genres. Consequently, millennials are now more receptive to mobile games than they were before the pandemic.

Despite the fact that millennials are relatively easily drawn into the free-to-play ecosystem, they are almost just as likely to play mobile games based on humorous or creative advertising.

Mobile Shopping

Mobile is the go-to shopping platform for millennials, with 80 percent saying that they make mobile purchases “often,” according to Tapjoy. Among their top mobile purchases are streaming services (74 percent), to-go food and restaurant delivery (66 percent), clothing (55 percent) and beauty products (46 percent). As with mobile gaming, mobile shopping also increased during the pandemic—a phenomenon showing no signs of slowing down.

Values

Having grown up with political, social, economic and environmental front-and-center, millennials tend to hold their values in high regard, prioritizing them in every aspect of their lives including which brands they support. Close to half of millennials said that a company’s values, from sustainability, diversity and employee treatment, factor into whether they accept a new job and which brand they buy from.

Ad Engagement

Being extraordinarily receptive to ads with a value exchange, 55 percent of millennials engage with rewarded mobile game ads more than other ad types and 63 percent reported enjoying engaging with rewarded ads via offerwalls—more than any other age group Tapjoy surveyed. To engage millennials with ads, the ad must get to the point quickly, be non-intrusive and humor should play some part in grabbing their attention, found Tapjoy.

Brand Engagement

In order to seize the attention of the millennial audience, brands must convey social awareness, be active on social media, and be engaging with short videos, memes and social posts. Forty-one percent of respondents reported following brands with funny and engaging content while 55 percent do so if the brand treats employees well.

Family Dynamics

As previously mentioned, economic issues have impacted how millennials engage with their families and whether they choose to start one of their own. Tapjoy’s data mirrors other studies showing that millennials are delaying having children. Of those surveyed in Tapjoy’s study, only half are parents—compared to 72 percent of Generation X. Similarly, millennials are substantially less likely to be married compared to older generations. Nevertheless, 74 percent have one or two children, and 27 percent have three or more children. 

Education and Career

Compared to other generations, millennials are remarkably educated, especially when it comes to holding advanced degrees. Unfortunately, this hasn’t guaranteed them financial freedom. Older millennials reached adulthood during the dot-com bubble and Twin Tower attacks and subsequent recession. Other millennials graduated college amid the Great Recession or its aftermath. As a whole, millennials are more likely to be unemployed than Gen X and deem fair treatment and a work-life balance equally as important as the income they earn.

General App Habits

Overall, not all millennials can be grouped together in the context of general app habits. Older millennials, for example, open their social media apps when they wake up in the morning and before they fall asleep at night, according to Tapjoy. They’re particularly attached to social media and use it as a tool to socialize, network, remain informed and research new products to purchase. 

In addition, 71 percent use the Facebook app, 62 percent use mobile gaming apps, 62 percent use Instagram, 37 percent use TikTok and 31 percent use Twitter. During the pandemic, 64 percent spent more time on mobile.

Amazon Prime Video Celebrates ‘Now Screaming’ With QR Code-Enabled Pop-Up In L.A.

Ahead of Halloween—on which US spend is expected to reach an all-time high of $10.14 billion this year—Amazon Prime Video has created a dedicated streaming page called ‘Now Screaming’ and a complementary costume pop-up shop in Los Angeles.

The landing page features all the horror content titles already live on the platform and as a tie-in, the company is holding court in West Hollywood via a pop-up called ‘The House of Horrors.’ Open for the entirety of October, the space is currently being promoted by Prime video creators, the company’s influencer partners, including Emma Norton, Duke Depp and Madi Monroe. Collectively, they boast more than 45 million followers on TikTok.

Amazon is taking full advantage of the slow but steady return to in-person activations. According to Los Angeles Times data, 75.9 percent of Los Angeles County residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 67.1 percent of residents of all ages have received at least one shot and 59.7 percent are fully vaccinated. Still, the tech giant is playing it safe. While the House of Horror pop-up includes a custom shopping element, in Amazon fashion it’ll enable a swift shopping experience—visitors can scan QR codes to shop the store’s costume displays and have them delivered to their doorstep. 

Amazon Original shows that inspired the pop-up’s costume selections include The Voyeurs, Black As Night, Madres and I Know What You Did Last Summer. And no Halloween pop-up would be complete without an Instagrambable moment, which is why Amazon has installed a candy kiosk, a selfie mirror and a photo booth, which according to the press release “will create their own chilling movie still.”

Though still in the beginning stages, the streaming wars continue to heat up. With the plethora of premium subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming options available for consumers to choose from, Prime Video is finding new ways to engage its audience, for example with the pop-up and the Gen-Z influencers it chose to promote it. In May, Amazon made history when it became the first all-digital streamer to acquire exclusive rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football. In addition, though long broadcast on CBS, the 2022 Academy of Country Music Awards will be exclusively livestreamed on Amazon Prime Video. 

Whatever else Amazon has up its sleeve, it must roll out quickly because according to a Whip Media survey conducted among 4,000 US viewers about their perception of SVOD services, only 6 percent of respondents listed Prime Video as their first choice while 41 percent listed Netflix as their top choice, followed by Hulu (21 percent), HBO Max (13 percent) and Disney+ (9 percent).

Among the movies being streamed on Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Now Screaming’: 30 Days of Night, Ju-On, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, Jennifer’s Body and The Fog (1980).

The House of Horrors pop-up is located at 8551 Melrose Avenue and will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Trick-or-treaters can expect a special activation from October 14 to October 16 to celebrate the debut of I Know What You Did Last Summer with OPI, as well over the Halloween weekend.

Game Publishing Costs: What Every Developer Needs To Know

Editor’s note: This article has been updated as of September 2nd, 2021 to correct Ben Walsh’s title and role at A List Games.

As the Senior Director of Business and Product Development at A List Games, I’m the individual responsible for finding talented developers to work with. I then evaluate those developers and their games before I conduct my due diligence on their teams. After championing those projects, those games then go through ALG’s greenlight process. Once greenlit, I shepherd the developers through the development process, ensuring that they’re able to create the best game possible within the budget and timeline.

I’ve been with A List Games since November 2020 and began my role as the Director of Development. In May 2021, I adopted the business aspect of my job and have been enjoying the challenges ever since. 

Prior to A List Games, I founded and grew an independent studio of 20 individuals—Pure Bang Games. After having engaged with game development and publishing in one form or another for over two decades, I’ve recognized several issues related to the costs associated with publishing. As a follow-up to my colleague Steve Fowler’s game marketing guide, I’m sharing the costs developers and publishers should budget for and why neglecting certain costs could spell disaster for a project. 

Publishers, whether on the boutique side or the AAA side, have a set of services that they provide—nothing more, nothing less. A List Games, on the other hand, is a bespoke publisher that tailors what they do to their partners’ needs. This dynamic allows for developers to do what they do best and leave everything else, including any issues or holes in the process, to the A List Games team. Developers looking to be featured are advised to start building relationships before the development process. Luckily, A List Games has the network to make that a possibility.


Development

The first cost publishers should take into consideration is the cost of development. Simply put, this equates to the initial outlay necessary to pay developers, which typically comes in the form of an advance on royalties. To developers, it’s like a contractual work-for-hire arrangement with the promise of upside on the backend in the form of rev share.

When building out budgets, one crucial area of development costs that many developers fail to note is overhead—computers, software, rent and other requirements associated with staying in business. 

Developers should also decide whether the game is going to have an early access or soft launch period. If so, the budget must include a liveops budget. It’s typical to plan for three to six months of continued development in a liveops scenario. 

There are instances where people underestimate how long it takes to polish a game. The issue with this is that the most difficult part of developing a game comes at the last 20 percent. While most believe that figuring out the game, implementing the core functionality and other up-front tasks are the most difficult, it’s actually after all of these are in place that you have to ask, “Is it fun and how can we make it more fun?” For this reason, I always suggest developers add 20 percent to their schedules.


Internal Costs

Of all internal costs, labor costs the most.  From business development and labor to quality assurance and project management, production is the true traffic controller. Depending on the scale of the project, there might be social producers, executive producers or a director of production that manages the entire production department. Regardless of the number of producers, production is often unseen and undervalued. 

As the glue that holds everything together, production is the department that reviews milestones, reviews and approves builds, interfaces with accounting, communicates with all other departments and ensures that marketing and development are on the same schedule. It also conducts game evaluations, ensures quality control and communicates with first parties like Microsoft, Sony or Steam.

One other area of internal costs worth mentioning is the quality assurance (QA) team. For companies with a pipeline of games, the QA department can be fully utilized around the clock. Without a consistent pipeline of games, those in the QA department become functionality testers, which gives the developers another group of people testing their game. This ends up becoming an added cost for publishers.

In this scenario, the QA team conducts functionality tests, though sometimes their task can comprise narrative testing to ensure that elements of gameplay and the story are consistent with and true to the brand.

Another area of internal costs is product management – a hybrid role between project manager and designer. The product manager is typically focused on KPIs, specifically, revenue. Many companies I’ve worked with skimp on this cost given that it’s relatively new and thus there aren’t many people who are experienced with it. The pool of people who have even five years of experience managing a liveops game is still relatively small.

So, a product manager who can look at the game in the beginning and offer design guidance, coming back to nudge it in the right direction toward the end, is key. 

Due diligence and evaluations are two indispensable internal costs that are sometimes overlooked. At times, a publisher may sign a deal with the studio head without ever having spoken to anyone else at the studio. The issue with this is that one can ever be too careful. Every publisher must be aware of and confident in the team behind the studio head. For this purpose, a due diligence team is imperative. Despite the cost, risk mitigation can’t be stressed enough.

Another internal cost that companies tend to neglect that they shouldn’t is usability and focus testing. Early usability testing is advised, even if the testers are “ninjas,” i.e., family members, friends or individuals not necessarily associated with game development. Having these testers play the game while the developer watches them take notes is invaluable. Receiving their comments to make improvements to the user experience is important once the game is in open beta. This cost could fall into the third-party cost category unless the usability testers are in-house.

The last internal costs worth mentioning are legal costs and business development, which include first-party relations and licensing.


Third-Party Costs

Depending on whether a developer is doing retail or going on console, age rating requirements may be necessary and potentially varied for different regions. For example, what would be rated for a 10-year-old in the US may not pass in Australia or the UK. China is a perfect example of how geopolitics plays into age ratings. China has rules against certain types of games such as gacha games, and aspects such as zombies and the display of blood of any color. Consequently, maintaining an awareness of which regions a game will be sold is necessary for efficiency and avoiding legal issues down the line.

It should be noted that age ratings are only important if you plan on doing retail or console, given that mobile and PC don’t require age ratings in the same way. The trick with Age ratings is that they’re concerned with what is on the disc, not just what the player sees in the game. There have been instances where moderators or hackers made changes to anatomically correct characters to remove their clothing, effectively going against the age rating of the game. Developers must keep a close eye on these sorts of occurrences.

One third-party cost that companies can’t fail to consider is customer service: who is handling the returns, who is engaging with angry customers, who is answering questions about how to do something in a game? Most companies don’t consider customer service in their plans or take it seriously until there is an influx of returns or negative reviews. Addressing this before it happens is advised, and it’s a role that can be outsourced or internalized. Typically, if the game is very successful, the developer should outsource customer service to a call center.


The Bottom Line

There are several costs within the three categories of publishing a game I outlined above. While no one cost is indicative of the success or failure of a given game, there are some that must be prioritized and internalized. To anyone publishing a game or in the process of doing so, remember to maintain an unwavering focus on the gamer’s experience, as that is the light at the end of the tunnel. To get there, adhere to best practices, don’t skimp on anything mentioned above, give your production department the authority and resources they need to get the job done and your project will have the best chance at success.

Highlighting The Human Element In Marketing Through Audio With HubSpot’s Alanah Joseph

Alanah Joseph is the Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot, responsible for marketing and operations of the HubSpot podcast network. 

In this episode, Alanah and I discuss her role in driving brand awareness and increasing listenership for its shows and the long-term strategy behind launching a podcast network.  

“Just as product requirements have grown and changed over time, so have people’s content needs. Alanah and HubSpot believe podcasts will fill that role and that companies and brands will seek out audio for inspiration and solutions to business problems.

Listen as Alanah explains the strategy behind a podcast network and how it elevates content creation to ultimately help customers become better software users and better business practitioners overall.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Leveraging other creators to help spread your message
  • Creating opportunities for growth via collaboration
  • Highlighting the human element in marketing 

Key Highlights:

  • [01:20] Alanah is ambidextrous
  • [03:00] How Alanah ended up managing the HubSpot podcast network
  • [05:11] Transitioning from written content to audio
  • [07:28] HubSpot’s long-term content strategy
  • [09:25] The vision behind the network
  • [11:11] Working with content creators and podcast hosts
  • [14:24] What Alanah has learned about workflow and content creation
  • [19:20] What (and who) has made Alanah who she is today
  • [20:53] Alanah’s advice for her younger self 
  • [21:57] A topic Alanah thinks marketers should be learning more about
  • [24:23] The brand and organizations Alanah follows
  • [27:11] The biggest threat and opportunity for marketers 

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Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.