Xbox And Bethesda Games E3 Showcase Recap

Last weekend, the international gaming community tuned in to the Xbox and Bethesda Games E3 Showcase, a 90-minute show that unveiled the latest from Xbox Game Studios, Bethesda and the Xbox partners from around the world.

An Xbox logo-turned dial swiveled and the clock counted down during the opening hype piece to kick off Xbox’s entire E3 livestream. Ayzenberg Group, Xbox’s longtime creative partner and social agency of record, produced the animated video that set the tone for the entire show.

“It’s an honor to open the show because there’s so much anticipation and excitement in the air. This year to celebrate Xbox’s 20th anniversary and the year we’ve all been through—our inspiration was to look back over the past 20 years of exciting E3 fan-driven moments to remind everyone of where we’ve been and to be able to look forward to a near-future when we can all be together again to celebrate the love of gaming,” said Gary Goodman, chief creative officer, Ayzenberg Group.

Xbox delivered on that hype, announcing 30 new games, 27 of which will be launching on Xbox Game Pass day one later this year and next. There are 11 new games available today, including Yakuza: Like A Dragon, Arx Fatalis and Fallout, among others.

Back-to-back monthly releases for Xbox Game Pass, a packed holiday line-up and two exclusive Bethesda games coming in 2022 are part of Xbox’s larger commitment to deliver the “most diverse video game line-up in the world,” according to a recap of the E3 showcase on the company’s blog, Xbox Wire.

Xbox’s subscription has become a popular discovery engine since launching in summer 2017. Citing recent research, Xbox reports that members of Xbox Game Pass play 30 percent more genres and 40 percent more games. Additionally, 90 percent of members said they played a game that they wouldn’t have tried without Game Pass plus members spend 50 percent more than non-members.

As Xbox celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, the company is exploring new subscription offerings and developing ways to bring Xbox Game Pass to more screens. For one, it’s working with global TV manufacturers to embed the Xbox experience directly into internet-connected televisions without requiring any extra hardware except a controller.

Some other ways Xbox is making Game Pass more accessible include the creation of new purchasing models like Xbox All Access to enable consumers to buy a console and Game Pass for a low monthly fee; building its own streaming devices for cloud gaming to reach gamers on any television or monitor without the need for a console; and later this year, the addition of cloud gaming directly into the Xbox app on PC and integration with the Xbox console experience.

Ayzenberg Helps Announce Xbox’s Series X Mini Fridge

It’s a safe! It’s a subwoofer! It’s a mini fridge! To close out its Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase at E3, Xbox broke the internet with the announcement of its first-ever Series X Mini Fridge, set to launch this holiday season so fans can “Xbox and Chill.”

The mini fridge made its world premiere in a 60-second video that garnered 1.6 million views within the first 24 hours of posting. That’s 300,000 more views than its 90-minute E3 showcase video featuring upcoming releases from Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda Softworks. The mini fridge video also ranked number 12 on YouTube’s worldwide trends.

Ayzenberg Group—Xbox’s creative partner for the better part of a decade and social agency of record—and its in-house creative and animation teams worked tightly with Xbox to surprise fans with what ultimately became the highest performing asset of the show.

“For Ayzenberg Group, the E3 timeframe is the Super Bowl of marketing events for the game industry. This year, Xbox decided to truly embrace the meme that their Xbox Series X console looked like a fridge and produce an Xbox Mini Fridge. We were approached with less than two weeks to the big show to craft a video that landed this message with a combination of Xbox bravado and a tongue-in-cheek wink to the fans,” Gary Goodman, chief creative officer, Ayzenberg Group, tells AList.

The Mini Fridge, powered by “Xbox velocity cooling architecture,” caused levels of Xbox fandom to grow exponentially, as evidenced by enthusiasts’ comments across Xbox social media channels. The throughline? Xbox is the master of memes.

As Mikel Zugarramurdi Sandoval put it on YouTube: “They don’t just embrace the meme…they became the meme.” Another user, Read Me, said: “I’ve never bought an Xbox, but I NEED this!” The fridge may even become more popular than the console, according to Sprite-Nation: “Ngl, I wanna buy this more than the console.”

Xbox planted the idea for a mini fridge last April during Twitter’s first ‘Brand Bracket’ competition in which 16 brands battled it out to become the best-tweeting brand on the platform. When people voted to see Xbox and Skittles in the championship, Aaron Greenberg, Xbox general manager, Xbox Games marketing, Microsoft, tweeted: “Help @Xbox win this and we’ll put into production this year REAL XBOX SERIES X MINI FRIDGES!”

And so, the Twitterverse delivered. Now, Xbox fans have even more to look forward to as they feverishly await a Series X and Series S restock. In the meantime, Xbox, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, teased thirty titles during its E3 showcase, 27 of which will be included with Xbox Game Pass.

Small Is The New Big With Terry Crews

Terry Crews is a busy man. You get the feeling that he’s always working on the next iconic character to include in his menagerie of outsized personalities. Or expanding his library, designing new furniture, crafting puppets… nothing seems out of Terry’s realm of genius. It’s hard to see how he finds time to do everything he’s doing, which now includes helming his own studio.

The name of the studio is itself is a reminder to Terry that talking doesn’t always equal doing and that the best ideas are self-evident. Amen & Amen, a double-affirmation meaning ‘so be it’ twice for extra emphasis, says a lot about what motivates Crews.

“Health, wealth and love—that’s my brand. That’s Terry Crews.”

To ring in Terry’s new center for production in Pasadena, California, the Listen In team visited Amen & Amen to take a tour of what the actor & entrepreneur has been up to since the start of the pandemic. 

Terry shares the impact commercials had on him growing up and his personal history with iconic campaigns, what inspires him, which commercials he won’t work on, why Terry is probably the most vulnerable of ‘The Expendables’ and a special look at “the new studio for the new millennium,” Amen & Amen.

About Listen In: Each other week on Listen In, Ayzenberg VP and ECD Matt Bretz, together with a rotating cast of hosts from, interview experts in the field of marketing and advertising to explore uncharted territory together. The goal is to provide the audience with actionable insights, enabling them to excel in their field.

The Growth Of Mobile Games: What’s Next In Creativity And Innovation?

Today the gaming industry is generating more annual revenue than the music and film industries combined. Over the next few years, the number of potential mobile gamers will grow exponentially as Ericsson predicts there will be 1.5 billion 5G smartphones in use by 2024.

During a virtual panel at Digital Media Wire’s annual LA Games Conference, Ayzenberg president Chris Younger spoke with industry leaders from Anzu, Google, Com2us and more about the growth of mobile games and how they’re navigating privacy updates, in-game advertising and community-building efforts beyond the industry’s record-breaking year.

With the arrival of iOS14 and IDFA updates, users must opt-in to share their phone’s serial ID, which will forever alter the way mobile game publishers measure, target and acquire. Apple introduced a proprietary solution, SKAdNetwork, enabling ad measurements to take place. Nevertheless, 47 percent of people said they’re unlikely to consent to sharing their Apple device identifier with apps that seek it.

The stakes for the mobile game industry is particularly high as digital ad spending is set to increase 20 percent this year with mobile ad spending accounting for approximately 75 percent of all digital ad spending.

When asked how Google is approaching the matter, Brandon Cubillas, head of industry for app gaming at Google, said that although it’s been a pain point not being able to track the new pandemic-induced influx of mobile gaming users, he sees the privacy changes as an opportunity to test new methods.

“We’re looking at things like exploring the effectiveness of signed-in users, which is privacy-compliant and doubling down on incrementality tools. The progress we’ve made in integrating Google Analytics via Firebase SKAd partners has opened a new trove of audience data that we’re leaning into to inform creative marketing strategies, game experience strategies, dynamic deals and updates” said Cubillas.

At Zynga, the response has been to invest in in-house resources. The company recently acquired mobile ad and monetization firm Chartboost to buffer against IDFA, noted Gabrielle Heyman, head of global ad sales, Zynga.

“It’s about bringing control in-house and being more in charge of your destiny by being able to control every piece. For Zynga, we’ve acquired a lot of studios, a lot of talent and a lot of users so being able to cross-pollinate all our games to our 170 million monthly uniques and having the ad tech infrastructure to be able to do that has been part of our strategic look forward,” Heyman said.

Kyu Lee, president, Gamevil, Com2us US, said that amid these changes, one of the company’s games, Summoners War, has shifted its focus slightly from user acquisition to brand and creating more content for its 100 million monthly uniques.

“The bigger thing is instead of looking at numbers, it’s been a great opportunity to engage more with the community and listen to what they really want. User voices can have a lot of noise and numbers speak reality, but it’s a good opportunity to look at what we have and what’s important,” said Lee.

Next, the discussion turned to innovation in revenue modeling for in-game advertising. Anzu, co-founded by Itamar Benedy, who’s also the company’s chief executive officer, is approaching this in a novel way as it’s the first company to address in-game advertising in the world of programmatic.

As brands’ perceptions around the mobile gaming industry change, there’s more opportunity for developers and publishers to work with brands to find the right target audience, Benedy noted. Anzu gives developers full control of ad placements, what content they allow and what data to share. After this one-time integration, Anzu can dynamically change the content and set it in a programmatic way, according to Benedy.

Liz Waldeck Pinckert, vice president, business development supply North America and Europe, AdColony, said the company pushes its team to play the games for at least one hour a day to guarantee proper ad placement recommendations.

“We try to become a user within the game. We look at data as well as actually become players ourselves,” Waldeck Pinckert said.

Adding to that, Heyman emphasized the importance of looking past programmatic and creating authentic bespoke ads that match a game’s look and feel.

“Our game studios actually love it because it’s non-cannibalistic revenue and it’s not competing against an ad unit that could be sold for performance or brand. The whole thing about gaming is winning, like your serotonin is being boosted and you’re getting stoked to win something. So the key for brands is to play a part of that elation and to give something better than you might get just for playing the game on its own, like have it be extra,” said Heyman.

On the topic of esports, Lee touched on Com2us’ efforts to increase user engagement with their newest title, Summoners War: Lost Centuria. For example, he said they added a TV button to the right corner that enables people to view other players as well as bet on game outcomes. Though they’re not streaming the content yet, Lee noted they’re going to launch esports tournaments soon.

When asked about viewing esports as a way to retain existing users versus a way to find new users, Lee said:

“What we learned is our game is so hardcore that the first time users watching the game don’t understand what’s going on. We want it to be both, but the reality is that it’s more user-focused.”

The subject of how to innovate around the owned and earned community rounded out the panel.

“You’re selling yourself short if you’re only integrating community features within your game. The full value can only be realized when you’re maintaining that environment outside of the game. That opportunity goes hand in hand with data about your users and incentivizing folks to create more user-generated content,” said Cubillas.

Click here to watch ‘The Growth of Mobile Games: What’s Next in Creativity & Innovation?’

Honesty Is The Best Policy, Even In Advertising

The world has changed radically. And no, we’re not talking about COVID-19.

With everything now discoverable, measurable and available in realtime, verifying the truthfulness of claims through independent data, social media and experts is now a given. Which means that after decades of ambiguity around the truth, the chickens are home to roost for advertisers.

Steve Fowler, SVP of A List Games, shares insights from his two-plus decades in the video game industry. With a past including the marketing of the original Halo, Fowler has witnessed broad shifts in game advertising, social communication and the mapping of consumer journeys.

Fowler dives into a discussion around honesty in advertising (as he says, “transparency is the best communication tool”) while also discussing the transformed relationship between players and game developers, pre-digital distribution, the history of games as products and the landscape-leveling impact of digital distribution. 

Other topics discussed include automating retention-based marketing, AR/VR’s impact on community enhancement and more.

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:

About Listen In: Each week on Listen In, Ayzenberg VP and ECD Matt Bretz and a rotating cast of hosts from Ayzenberg will interview experts in the field of marketing and advertising to explore uncharted territory together. The goal is to provide the audience with actionable insights, enabling them to excel in their field.

Visa Elevates Danielle Jin To Head Of Marketing, Asia Pacific

This week in leadership updates, Visa promotes Danielle Jin to head of marketing for APAC, McDonald’s Canada names Alyssa Buetikofer CMO, Confluent hires Stephanie Buscemi as CMO, IBM’s NewCo taps Maria Bartolome Winans for CMO, Voss names Rachel Chambers SVP of marketing and more.

Visa Promotes Danielle Jin To Head Of Marketing, APAC 

Visa has elevated Danielle Jin, chief marketing officer of Visa Greater China, to head of marketing for the Asia Pacific region.

Prior to Visa, Jin worked at PepsiCo for over five years as senior marketing director, then vice president of marketing and category for Greater China beverages.

Jin’s appointment comes after Frederique Covington Corbett, Visa SVP, head of marketing and cross border, APAC, relocated to California and took on the role of SVP of global brand strategy and planning.

McDonald’s Canada Names Alyssa Buetikofer Chief Marketing Officer

McDonald’s Canada has appointed longtime marketing executive Alyssa Buetikofer as CMO.

Buetikofer has spent the last 15 years at McDonald’s in various leadership roles, the most recent being senior director, brand content and engagement.

Buetikofer succeeds Antoinette Benoit, who departed in February after six years as McDonald’s Canada CMO.

Confluent Appoints Stephanie Buscemi Chief Marketing Officer

Confluent has hired Stephanie Buscemi as its new CMO.

Previously, Buscemi worked at Salesforce for nearly seven years, most recently as EVP and CMO.

IBM’s NewCo Taps Maria Bartolome Winans As Chief Marketing Officer

NewCo, an independent company that was created following the separation of IBM’s Managed Infrastructure Services business, has named Maria Bartolome Winans CMO.

Winans’ career at IBM spans 30 years, with her most recent role as CMO for IMB Americas.

Voss Hires Rachel Chambers As Senior Vice President, Marketing

Voss has announced the appointment of Rachel Chambers to SVP, marketing.

Chambers joins Voss from Perfetti Van Melle, where she was VP of marketing, US and Canada, leading the Airheads, Mentos and Fruit-tella brands.

Republic Records Hires Ben Facey As Executive Vice President, Global Marketing And Digital Strategy

Republic Records has appointed Ben Facey as EVP of global marketing and digital strategy.

Previously, Facey was the head of international marketing and media for Universal Music Australia.

Overstock Names Elizabeth Solomon Chief Marketing Officer

Overstock has named Elizabeth Solomon as CMO.

Solomon joins Overstock from Amazon, where she served as the head of marketing for its global private brands portfolios.

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.