Steven Monterastelli Unpacks Xbox’s Holiday Social Media Takeaways

With players spending more time and money on games during lockdowns, Microsoft was poised for success when launching its latest Xbox console. The November debut of Xbox Series X and S helped the tech giant top $5 billion during the December quarter, a 51 percent increase year-over-year. It also saw an 86 percent rise in hardware revenue for the quarter.

During a Socialbakers webinar, Socialbakers head of enterprise solutions Bob Gearing spoke with Ayzenberg associate director, data and insights, Steven Monterastelli, who manages all aspects of social measurement for Xbox, to unpack his team’s learnings from the holiday season.

Microsoft and Sony went head to head for their holiday launches, with the former launching Xbox Series X/S on November 10, and the latter dropping Playstation 5 two days later. Still, Monterastelli says Xbox took a collaborative approach to the launch on social rather than a competitive one, retweeting its post from 2013 that congratulated Sony on launching the Playstation 4.

“We have fans that have both consoles and we need to respect that. We’re not here to say ‘Xbox is better than the competitor.’ Twitter has always been a high paced, real time platform driven by culture and community. Leaning into this and creating content based on shared insights has been key to sustaining mass interest for Xbox,” said Monterastelli.

The Xbox Series X/S launch turned out to be the most successful debut in the brand’s history. In the first 24 hours of launch, more new consoles were sold than any prior generation, with Xbox Series S adding the highest percentage of new players for any Xbox console at launch. During that same period, 70 percent of Series X/S consoles ended up tied to new and existing Xbox Game Pass members.

Part of this success can be attributed to the brand’s strong social presence. With users flocking to games to play, socialize, and connect with others during lockdown, Monterastelli says the pandemic has underscored the importance of understanding the Xbox community.

“People are coming to social because they want to engage with the brands they love. They’re looking for brands to amplify their shared values. Because of the pandemic, there are new feelings and emotions that haven’t been present in prior years. Being aware of that is key to staying credible and authentic. That’s been the insight we’ve gained. We need to be the fans. We need to show the fans that we understand them,” said Monterastelli.

To engage fans accordingly, Monterastelli says customizing content for each social channel has been critical, namely creating a presence on channels that service the community instead of your own brand priority. He and his team applied this thinking to Xbox’s foray into TikTok in September. Its first video, which teased the new Xbox Series S, amassed 1.3 million likes and 33,000 comments. Today, it boasts 1.5 million followers and 11.6 million likes.

“Take time to understand who your target audience is on the platform, but also how the platform itself behaves and why people use it the way that they do.”

For Xbox, engaging with its fans doesn’t start and stop with a picture, video or meme. Monterastelli notes that a consistent dialogue and voice carried out throughout every piece of content helps build meaningful connections with fans. To do so, the Xbox React team is constantly in the trenches looking for opportunities to engage fans and connect with them one to one.

As for content that helps the brand reach its marketing goals, social giveaways are top of mind for Monterastelli, but he cautions against the passive nature of such contests as entrants tend to quickly satisfy the entry requirements, then never think about the giveaway again. At Xbox, getting around this means creating lasting experiences for fans. 

To promote the Series X launch, Xbox partnered with Taco Bell on a giveaway. Fans who purchased any medium or large drink via the Taco Bell app or in-person received a code on the cup for a chance to win a new Xbox Series X bundle. 

Instead of promoting the giveaway with a post that simply asked fans to like or comment, Xbox created a Reels that encouraged its followers to debate on which came first: the cup or the console. The result: 1.3 million views, 113,000 likes and nearly 2,700 comments.

The brand is also famous for its viral memes, which offer players moments of levity.

“The great thing about memes is that you often don’t need to know the origin of the content to understand the insight. When we posted this meme around the K/D ratio, which is regarded as a prestige stat within first-person shooters, we were trying to convey that some fans may not be good at the games, but that we still value them.” 

Game Publishing 101 With Steve Fowler

A List Games‘ Steve Fowler leads a crash course in game publishing in our latest a.University educational sessions. First up, an introduction to the world of game publishing and an overview of what prospective viewers can learn from the series. Class is now in Session.

About A List Games:

When it comes to executing marketing and publishing campaigns, our leverage is 25 years of legacy and expertise in game audience building under our roof. With the Ayzenberg Group’s support, A List Games can tap into the Ayzenberg network to execute world class marketing executions.

We love breaking from convention and adore the unprecedented. We offer scalable publishing solutions and negotiate “win-win” deal terms based on total investment. Got localization and QA handled? Great. Need help with user acquisition and first-party promotion?

Yeah, we can do that.

Led by passionate people with backgrounds in marketing and development at both the developer and publisher level, we have more than three hundred hit game titles in our collective portfolio.

For strategic leadership, our brain trust hails from Xbox, EA, Blizzard, Riot Games and FoxNext. We also have strong relationships in place throughout the industry, including development services companies capable of Q&A, Localization, Customer Service, Monetization and Production.

Get in touch:

Samsung And Twitch Rivals Ink Mobile Gaming Deal

Samsung and Twitch just inked a mobile gaming deal around Twitch Rivals North America, the esports competition made for Twitch streamers.

As part of the year-long partnership, Samsung Galaxy will host mobile gaming challenges and events, starting with a live Twitch Rivals broadcast on January 13.

The next activation in the pipeline is a Twitch Rivals Mobile Challenge, a mobile gaming series of crossover events for Twitch users featuring top streamers and mobile game franchises.

In addition, companies will host ‘Mobile Mondays’, a tournament series with cash prizes and other benefits for Galaxy and Twitch users.

Later this year, Twitch Rivals and Samsung will debut ‘Mobile Gaming Heroes’, who will create original content, host exclusive streams and participate in select events.

The news follows Twitch’s record-breaking month of December, when it saw 1.7 billion hours watched, according to a new report from StreamElements and Comparatively, Facebook Gaming ended 2020 with 388 million hours watched. Though that’s way less than Twitch, it’s worth noting that Facebook Gaming’s yearly watch time ballooned by 166 percent–from 1.35 billion hours in 2019 to 3.59 billion hours in 2020, as per StreamElements and

Like Samsung, Verizon is also betting big on esports. In August, it announced a sponsorship deal that makes it the official 5G and 4G LTE network partner of Twitch Rivals, which in 2020 alone hosted over 100 events. In a press release, Verizon wrote, “Together, Verizon and Twitch will collaborate on media and broadcast integrations in Twitch Rivals streams, activations at Twitch events, and innovate together using the power of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network, 5G built for gamers.”

Pokémon Go Hosts Twitter Contest For Its Virtual Kanto Tour

In honor of the Pokémon franchise’s 25th anniversary and Pokémon Go’s fifth anniversary, Pokémon Go is running a Twitter contest that gives players a chance at becoming one of the new featured trainer characters in the game during its virtual Kanto Tour set for February 20.

Between now and January 11 on Twitter, fans can apply to be a featured trainer during the Pokémon Go Tour: Kanto by posting a screenshot of their trainer profile that includes their name and displays their avatar’s outfit, a list of three Pokémon that would comprise their team and the hashtag #PokemonGOTourContest.

Niantic suggests that players give their entry a theme, as a panel of experts will judge contest entries based on the creativity of their outfits, general theme and Pokémon team composition. Eight winners will be selected and contacted on January 18 via direct message on Twitter.

The trainers selected for the game will appear as characters on the in-game map. Pokémon Go app players will then be able to battle these trainers and the corresponding Pokémon team at PokéStops during the event, regardless of whether they have a ticket for the Kanto event.

During the virtual tour, priced at $12 per ticket, players can work to collect all 150 Pokémon in one day, with a chance to earn rewards during their journey through ‘Special Research.’

Stuck in lockdowns, consumers have spent more time and money on video games than ever before during the pandemic. But unlike most couch-friendly games that saw usage skyrocket in 2020, Pokémon Go is one that requires socializing in real-life places like a park—an issue that proved “existential” to the game. As a result, Niantic canceled community events and implemented remote raids that it plans to keep permanently, according to The Verge.

Mtn Dew Game Fuel Launches Online Direct-To-Consumer Store To Engage Gamers

Mtn Dew Game Fuel has launched an online “direct-to-gamer” site where fans can shop the entire Game Fuel beverage portfolio and sign up for its ‘Victory Pass Rewards’ program for a chance to win gaming prizes and unlock exclusive digital content.

Mtn Dew Game Fuel is giving those who sign up for Victory Pass on the Game Fuel site a chance to win a PlayStation 5 console and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War with the purchase of any Game Fuel case. The sweepstakes is running from now until January 31, 2021.

With a Victory Pass, the more fans buy, the more rewards they can rack up across 20 different levels. Levels one to five offer Game Fuel digital packs, oversized mouse pads and water bottles. Additionally, from now until March 16, 2021, those who sign up for the program will receive free shipping.

With each purchase, Mtn Dew Game Fuel is also including a limited-edition can inspired by streamer superstar Dr DisRespect—one of the 19 YouTube and Twitch game streamers showcased under the ‘Partners’ tab on the website, including Courage, Yassuo, Nothing and Simp.

A digital hub for Mtn Dew Game Fuel fans marks PepsiCo’s larger pandemic-driven effort to ramp up online direct-to-consumer and engage players in the growing video game industry. In Q3, PepsiCo said its ecommerce business almost doubled, and that Mtn Dew Zero Sugar, Gatorade Zero and Bubly combined have exceeded $1 billion in sales this year. That growth is likely due in part to two new DTC websites PepsiCo launched in May— and

Partnering with popular streamers gives Mtn Dew Game Fuel the potential to reach millions of gamers across generations as lockdowns led to a sharp increase in time and money spent on video games and livestreams. Research from the NPD Group shows that today, 79 percent of US consumers play video games, or 246 million people—an increase of 34 million people since 2018—with average playtime at 15 hours per week. In Q3, viewers watched 4.74 billion hours of content on Twitch, 1.68 billion hours on YouTube Gaming and 1.04 billion hours on Facebook, according to a report from Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet.

The Game Awards Sees More Than 83 Million Livestreams Globally

The Game Awards’ 2020 show hit a new global record, with more than 83 million livestreams, an 84 percent increase from last year’s 45.2 million livestreams.

The Awards aired across more than 40 digital video networks, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook Live, GameSpot, IGN, TikTok Live and Steam. Worldwide, the program aired on more than a dozen networks in China, six networks in India and some in Japan, Russia, South East Asia, South Korea and Brazil.

Fans were able to engage with the Awards through six Instagram augmented reality experiences around Game of the Year nominees, which they could share across Stories and Reels. Giving fans more ways to interact was the Game Festival, a digital consumer event that showcased over a dozen new gameplay demos to fans, distributed via Steam on PC, Xbox console and Nvidia’s GeForce Now.

In addition, 9,000 creators co-streamed the show on Twitch, where live viewership reached over 2.63 million viewers, more than double last year.

On YouTube, live viewership more than doubled, with the official livestream seeing an 84 percent year-over-year increase in peak concurrent viewers.

Conversations about the program were up 31 percent on Twitter YoY, while unique authors were up 65 percent—making it the most-talked about Game Awards to date. The show also trended number one worldwide on Twitter, with 12 of the 29 worldwide trends being about the show. Additionally, a Branded Like helped the show see usage of #TheGameAwards surge 107 percent YoY.

According to Stream Hatchet, live hours watched grew over 129 percent across Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Gaming.

Fans not only tuned in—they also made their voices heard when it came to voting. The show saw 18.3 million authenticated votes across the Game Awards’ website and on Bilibili in China for a 20 percent increase YoY in total fan votes.

All this to say that the video game industry is thriving as the pandemic persists. According to the NPD Group, consumers spent $11.2 billion on video games in Q3, a 24 percent increase YoY. During that same period, video game sales reached $10.04 billion, with significant gains observed in mobile and subscription spending, full-game downloads for consoles and portables and video game accessories.

Ayzenberg And Microsoft Score Two Gold Wins In The Promax Games Awards

Ayzenberg’s work led to two wins for Microsoft in this year’s Promax Games Awards, including gold for Best Key Art for Gears 5 and gold for Best Promotional Trailer: Mobile for Minecraft Earth.

“We’re very proud to be Microsoft’s ongoing partner for work on the Gears franchise and all things Minecraft, and are so pleased to see this content recognized,” said Gary Goodman, Ayzenberg chief creative officer.

Ayzenberg created a live-action trailer for the launch of Minecraft Earth, an augmented reality (AR) mobile sandbox game that immerses users in a block-filled world where they can collect items and go on adventures with up to 40 people in a single real-world location. Xbox released the game in November 2019 and saw 1.4 million downloads in the following week across the App Store and Google Play.

In creating the key art for Gears of War 5, which launched in September of last year, the agency was tasked with devising a combined static and motion visual identity system that foreshadowed a new chapter in the evolution of the Gears of War universe. Additionally, Ayzenberg revamped the title to a succinct “Gears 5.”

The agency also contributed to Microsoft’s gold win for Best Marketing Campaign of the Year for Gears 5 “Bound by Blood.” For the campaign, Ayzenberg created the key art, ran a social activation called Fractured and supported the overall initiative as Microsoft’s social agency of record. Ultimately, Fractured achieved over 50 million daily profile impressions and 1.3 million daily profile visits, breaking channel records and leading to a win in the 12th annual Shorty Awards.

At last year’s Promax Games Awards, Ayzenberg was part of a Microsoft win on the launch of Forza Horizon 4, for which the agency created the key art and social.

Pringles Debuts Full Body Version Of Its Mascot After A Request From John Oliver Went Viral

For the first time ever, Pringles unveiled a full-body version of its mustached brand mascot Julius Pringles, or Mr. P, after a request from HBO’s Last Week Tonight host John Oliver went viral.

During the show, which has pivoted to YouTube segments since the pandemic, Oliver joked, “There is a lot that we don’t know about the Pringles guy. In fact, the only thing we do know is his head looks like a hard-boiled egg disguised as Tom Selleck.”

Oliver said the show would donate $10,000 to Feeding America if Pringles showed the world what Mr. P’s body looks like, but on one condition: that Pringles doesn’t spend any of the money on the brand “because it’s a garbage snack.” In just four days, the video amassed over 4 million views.

Viewers took to Twitter to share amusing caricatures of what they thought the rest of Mr. P might look like. Oliver shared these depictions in a video update in which he implores Pringles to give the people what they want, saying:

“My point here is, I know so much useless information about Pringles. But not the one thing that I really want to know, which is: What is Julius Pringles working with from the neck down?”

Two days later, Pringles debuted a casually dressed Mr. P, who welcomes fans into his holiday-ready home in this 14-second video:

The tweet garnered nearly 10,000 likes, 2,000 retweets and 800 comments. Neither Oliver or the show have reacted yet to the news.

Pringles’ banter with Oliver is a prime example of how brands can benefit from marketing opportunities spurred by organic social media moments. Another notable example of this involved user @420doggface208, who rose to internet fame after he posted a TikTok video of him skateboarding to work while drinking a bottle of Ocean Spray cranberry juice and lip-syncing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” The video has racked up more than 72 million views and led to 15 billion brand impressions. In addition, in the week after the video was posted, “Dreams” was streamed 8.47 million times in the US alone.

KFC Mini-Movie To Premiere On Lifetime For The Holidays

During a year full of unlikely events, unlikely partnerships are bound to emerge. One said collaboration resulted in Kentucky Fried Chicken’s latest campaign—a branded Lifetime Original 15-minute mini-movie starring Mario Lopez as longtime KFC mascot, Colonel Sanders, which aims to distract consumers “from all things 2020.”

A Recipe for Seduction is a romantic mystery set to premiere on Lifetime on December 13 as an addition to Lifetime’s “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime” movie slate. In conjunction, KFC is running an UberEats special that gives customers who order $20 or more via or the mobile app six free extra crispy tenders.

The mini flick marks KFC’s first-ever custom mid-form content and will be available to watch throughout the holiday season on Lifetime’s website, apps and video-on-demand platforms.

Love and fried chicken are at the heart of the plot, which involves a young heiress who must contend with attention from a suitor chosen by her mother. When a young chef—Lopez, who plays the lead role in Lifetime’s newly released Feliz NaviDad movie—with a secret fried chicken recipe appears, the mother’s devious plans are revealed.

KFC’s move to reach consumers sheltering in place follows the return of its limited edition fried chicken-scented firelogs. The 11 Herbs & Spices Firelog by Enviro-Log, available to buy in Walmart stores and on, sold out two years in a row. For the first time this year KFC started selling the firelogs in Canada.

At the end of Q3, KFC’s parent company, Yum Brands, reported an eight percent growth in revenue and a net income of $283 million, up from $255 million a year earlier. However, its same-store sales declined for KFC and Pizza Hut as demand lagged in their international markets. KFC’s global same-store sales fell four percent while its US same-store sales saw nine percent growth.

Video Game Industry Ad Spend Is Up 80 Percent Year-Over-Year

The video game industry spent over $45 million in ad spend during the first two weeks in November, an 80 percent increase year-over-year, according to MediaRadar’s latest research.

The surge coincides with the new Xbox Series X and PlayStation PS5, which were released on November 10 and November 19, respectively.

Leading up to the launch of PS5, Sony spent over $15 million on advertising the console—more than triple what Microsoft spent to advertise Xbox Series X.

The launch of the new consoles inspired growth among other gaming brands and sections. For example, despite not releasing a new console, Nintendo’s ad spend from November 2 to 15 was 138 percent higher than the two weeks prior.

During that same time, the release of Call of Duty Cold War and Assassins Creed Valhalla resulted in a 76 percent increase YoY in ad spend from video game titles.

Game retailers ramped up ad spend by 28 percent YoY and mobile app games saw ad spend increase 23 percent YoY.

The game industry’s ambitious spending comes as video game players play for longer hours and across more devices. According to NPD Group’s Q3 report, consumers spent $11.2 billion on video gaming in Q3, a 24 percent increase YoY. During the same period, sales of video game content reached $10.04 billion, up 24 percent YoY.

At the end of November, NPD found that four of every five US consumers reported playing a video game in the past six months. Nontraditional gamers in particular have taken a liking to video games during the pandemic. According to NPD, time spent gaming for those between the ages of 45 and 54 increased 59 percent while dollar spend increased 76 percent. Gamers ages 55 to 64 increased time and money spent by 48 percent and 73 percent, respectively.