Digital Collectible Card Games Bring Major Cash

A new report from SuperData Research indicates that collectible card games are doing more than just entertaining the masses – they’re making huge money.

Titled Digital Collectible Card Games Market 2015, the report indicates that digital CCGs (as they’re called) will earn an all-time high of $1.3 billion in 2015.

The report is the first of its kind since the release of Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft in March 2014 and shows how Blizzard’s (NASDAQ: ATVI) game has transformed the landscape after earning more last year than its three closest competitors combined. In April 2015, the game’s revenue and overall player base jumped after it became available on smartphones in addition to tablets and PCs. The game currently makes around $20 million every month with an active audience of 8 million PC players and 9 million mobile players.

“In the same way that World of WarCraft became the dominant MMO when it was launched, Hearthstone is now the digital card game to beat. Blizzard made a game that is more accessible than long-running CCGs like Magic: The Gathering without sacrificing deep and engaging game play for hardcore fans,” SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen said. “Publishers like EA (NASDAQ: EA) and Bethesda are developing new CCGs as a direct result of Hearthstone’s success, and Wizards of the Coast (NASDAQ: HAS) revamped its Magic video game series as well.”

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Smartphone games on track to become the top-grossing digital CCGs, earning $532 million in 2016E. Smartphone players spend less than their PC and tablet-using counterparts but are the fastest-growing digital CCG audience.
  • Fans of collectible card games on PC are very loyal. As CCGs on PC tend to be more complex than those on mobile, players spend 11 percent more money and keep playing the same game for longer than mobile players.
  • Nearly half of digital card gamers (46 percent) play on more than one major platform. Multi-platform CCG players most commonly play on either a PC or tablet at home and use a smartphone while on the go.
  • The digital CCG adult audience is 80 percent male and average player age is 31. Digital CCGs are one of the most male-dominated video game genres.


While global digital CCG revenue will grow by 5 percent by 2018, overall growth numbers are being held back by the shrinking market for digital card games on Facebook. In addition, several older smartphone-based CCGs have peaked, and their falling revenue is counteracting growing revenue from a new wave of digital CCGs.

“Previously, smartphones were the realm of relatively simple card games like Rage of Bahamut and Marvel: War of Heroes. Highly-complex digital CCGs modeled after tabletop games tended to exclusively target PC and tablet players,” van Dreunen said. “The success of Hearthstone on smartphones shows that the most dedicated CCG players want to play their games on the go too. As digital card gamers grow to expect seamless play across devices, publishers will need to rethink their game designs to account for players’ diverse tastes and different play habits across PCs, smartphones and tablets.”

The full report can be found here.

Ad-Blocking Shifts To Mobile

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While ad spending as a whole is on the rise, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every user will see what the ads in general have to offer. In fact, some have even gone as far as purchasing ad-blocking software — and it’s a number that’s on the rise.

The New York Times reports that many consumers have no trouble downloading the plug-in that enables the blocking of online advertising from their devices. A report put together by Adobe and PageFair suggests that the consequences could be dire for certain companies. The pair estimates that ad-blocking will lead to almost $22 billion in lost advertising revenue for this year alone. Out of those sites most affected by the software, gaming, social network and other tech-enabled pages seem to lead the charge.

It’s scary news for certain companies that look to online advertising to advertise its products, as customers can now avoid them altogether, instead of simply scrolling past them. “What’s causing grave concern for broadcasters and advertisers is video advertising, which is some of their most valuable content, is starting to be blocked,” said Campbell Foster, director of product marketing at Adobe. “That’s a really scary prospect.”

As you can see from the chart above, usage of ad-blocking software has risen dramatically over the years. Almost 200 million people worldwide now use it on a regular basis, with 45 million of them in the United States (15 percent of them in New York and California) and a bigger majority in Europe, around 77 million. Poland is a pretty big part of the picture as well, factoring for nearly a third of the general audience in that country.

One of the bigger companies thriving from ad-block software is Cologne-based Eyeo, which estimates approximately 60 million active users worldwide. That said, the company has provided a way for some advertisers to bypass the blocking software and still advertise to users — for a small price, of course.

Ben Williams, a spokesman for Eyeo, sees no problem with this way of business, stating that the company only permits “acceptable ads” to be viewed, and only ten percent of companies as a whole are allowed to do this. “We’re the only ad-blocker to provide this service,” he stated.

What’s more alarming is that ad-blocking isn’t just for desktop devices — it’s also being used on mobile. Smartphones and tablets alike have more Internet usage than ever before, pushing companies to advertise more to them than by traditional means.

Thus far, mobile ad-blocking isn’t too big of a thing, as both Adobe and PageFair note that it’s being used minimally at best. However, more and more developers are getting on board with creating plug-ins for said devices, with a big “shift to mobile,” according to Sean Blanchfield, chief executive for PageFair. “It will unleash a huge growth spike in people using ad-blockers.”

Internet Of Things Is Already Working For Marketers

The Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices are becoming a bigger part of the marketing picture, with more companies utilizing them to get a better idea of how campaigns work, as well as customer preferences, according to a new report from eMarketer.
In a July 2015 study put together by 2nd Watch, almost six in ten U.S. IT and business executives said they utilize machine data and the Internet of Things devices for digital marketing. That said, it’s still somewhat in the beginning stages, as two-thirds of users are still getting used to the practice.

As you can see from the chart above, there are many factors that benefit from using both data and IoT for marketing purposes. The main one appears to be getting a better understanding of what customers want in terms of preference, although being able to power new campaigns and promotions, as well as improving web and mobile applications, also play a part. All three factor together to get the highest vote on the overall chart.

These efforts seem to be paying off as well, with 43 percent of those polled saying these methods have been greatly successful when it comes to consumer engagement and meeting generation goals. 27 percent of those polled went even further, saying it was “extremely effective,” as indicated by the chart below.

On top of that, the International Data Corporation states that adoption levels are picking up, with IoT-related sales reaching $660 billion last year worldwide, with a forecast leading up to $1.70 trillion by 2020 — not even including traditional electronic devices like desktops and smartphones.

There’s more to the marketing picture beyond that as well. A new report from Marketo breaks down results from 500 high-level marketing executives, looking at three main factors — driving engagement, experience and revenue. Some of the results are compiled here, but we’ve broken them down below.

  • Over 80 percent of all marketers say that their organizations will need to undergo dramatic changes in order to keep up with increased technical and consumer demands 68 percent of marketers feel they are viewed as a cost center today; however that is going to shift dramatically. In fact, in three to five years, 80% of marketers say they will be seen as driving revenue for their companies
  • While roughly a third of all marketers say they own the customer relationship and engagement today, that shifts dramatically in three to five years as nearly 75 percent (!) of marketers say that they will own end-to-end customer engagement
  • Marketers’ #1 investment over the next 12 months is in making a shift to digital marketing and engagement; perhaps not surprisingly, they also say that the top 2 areas of skill development in their organizations are in the areas of Marketing operations/technology and digital engagement.
  • The importance of data and technology to make these shifts can’t be understated with more than 80% of marketers saying they will use data and technology to connect with customers and engage them in a conversation to build advocacy and trust over the next three years.

Newzoo July 2015 PC Game Rankings: F2P Titles Dominate

Free-to-play games are quite addictive, enabling players to get the most out of their game while paying a minimal amount for premium items or other goodies to enhance their players. And they’re certainly picking up in popularity, according to a new report from Newzoo. The full report can be found below.

In July, the Top 20 Core PC Games notably saw the success of F2P titles. The two that saw the biggest gains in July are games that emphasize user experimentation and modification: Valve’s Garry’s Mod and Team Fortress 2. Garry’s Mod climbed four spots to #9, while Team Fortress 2 soared eight places to #10, possibly pushed by a major (“Gun Mettle”) update at the beginning of July. Meanwhile, Trion Worlds’ F2P voxel MMORPG Trove entered the top PC games at #12.

Prosumer Power
The two titles that gained the most positive traction in July were community favorites. Garry’s Mod climbed four spots and Team Fortress 2 gained eight places to #9 and #10 respectively. These titles, both F2P, exemplify what we term the prosumer transformation, with inbuilt design decisions to allow user modification, content sharing, video streaming and (in the case of Team Fortress 2) gamer profit with the sale of user-created items in the Steam Workshop.

Cheap Block Magic
New at #8, Re-Logic’s Terraria encompasses what’s currently hot in the games industry. First, it’s an indie title created by a very small team that is vocal with its passionate community. Secondly, it features a 2D procedurally generated voxel environment similar to Minecraft. Thirdly, it’s cheap, a fraction of the price of most major studio titles. With almost 90,000 positive reviews on Steam and a legion of devoted fans and Twitch streamers, Terraria epitomizes the trends Newzoo and Overwolf have pointed out over the past year.

Massively Blocky
Trion Worlds’ Trove (new at #12) is a voxel MMORPG set in a massive universe of online worlds with a similar gameplay to Minecraft. Featuring everything MMOs are expected to contain, from dungeons and loot to building homes and crafting, it marries RPG tropes to the creative flexibility of voxel world building and wraps it into an irresistible F2P package.

F2P MMO Success
The MMORPG scene is in a state of flux. Despite its one spot gain in July, World of Warcraft reported its subscriber numbers fell to 7.1 million at the end of Q1 this year, the largest drop in the title’s history. The success of NCSoft’s B2P Guild Wars 2 (#7) and the change from subscription to F2P (and subsequent success) of EA’s Star Wars:

The Old Republic (#16) are strong evidence for the end of the subscription model as the default for an MMO launch. With the transition of Bethesda Softworks’  The Elder Scrolls Online to B2P and Jagex’s Runescape offering a F2P option, both titles have attracted greater interest and are new to the July rankings at #19 and #20 respectively. Wargaming’s F2P World of Warships, created by the same team behind World of Tanks, is also new at #17. The single outlier is CCP’s subscription-based EVE Online, a new arrival at #18, though there are rumors in the gaming community that the title will inevitably transition into some form of F2P.

MOBA Instability
In June, Heroes of the Storm rose significantly in our rankings. However, analysis showed that a substantial amount of these players were also League of Legends players likely trying out Heroes of the Storm. One month later, the data indicates that a share of these players has stopped playing Heroes of the Storm, causing Heroes of the Storm to drop six ranks to #15. Valve’s Dota 2 fell three spots to #11 despite The International fast approaching and with a prize pool now exceeding $18 million. It will interesting to see how Heroes of the Storm and Dota 2 place in August.

Top 3 Still Stable
The top three games were stable in July, with League of Legends (Riot), Minecraft (Mojang) and CounterStrikeGlobal Offensive (Valve) holding onto #1, #2 and #3 respectively. World of Warcraft (Blizzard) rose to #4, displacing World of Tanks to #5. With the announcement of its “Legion” expansion at Gamescom last week, it will be interesting to see if World of Warcraft can climb further up the rankings in August. Blizzard’s HearthstoneHeroes of Warcraft also gained one spot to #6 in July, displacing NCSoft’s Guild Wars 2 to #7.

PC Games Market Monitor
In line with our monthly Top 20 Core PC Games Rankings, we have developed a brand new service in collaboration with Overwolf. The PC Games Market Monitor provides a monthly overview of the performance, crossover and churn for the Top 20 PC/MMO games, and covers more than 40 countries across Europe, North America and Latin America. The data is derived from Overwolf’s userbase of close to 10 million PC gaming enthusiasts. Subscribers will receive a monthly report and dataset featuring the Top 20 PC games by unique players, game sessions and average session time. For a PC title of choice, the data will show crossover engagement and churn. Month-on-month changes are quantified for each game in every country of choice, revealing, for instance, the impact of marketing campaigns or (eSports) events.

More information can be found here.

Mobile Amplifies Digital Video Ad Annoyances

A new report from eMarketer indicates that digital video ad spending will go through the roof this year, reaching $7.77 billion (a 33.8 percent increase over the previous year). On top of that, mobile video ad spend will also rise 70.4 percent to reach $2.62 billion by year’s end. But those numbers are just the beginning — by 2019, we’ll see an increase to $14.38 for digital video ad dollars in general, and $6.86 billion on mobile.

This shows that video ads have a way of staying fresh in people’s minds. However, that doesn’t always mean it’s for the better, as some videos have a tendency to annoy.

A poll by AOL asked users between the ages of 13 to 54 who watch video on a mobile device at least one a month about ad recall. Out of those polled, eight out of ten remember digital video placements in each option, with 84 percent recalling them on tablets, 83 percent on smartphones and 82 percent on PC’s.

However, it’s not always for the better. There are complaints about these video ads, and some of them can be hard to miss. For instance, a majority of those polled indicated that they were tired of seeing the same ads over and over again (a problem that consistently happens on YouTube, since certain partners are highlighted for each day). Following close behind is the complaint that too many ads play during most videos, such as Hulu. Finally, the length of ads for some videos can run too long, with some users complaining about how long it really takes to drive the message home about a product.

This seems like a wake-up call to advertisers who rely on video ads to meet their marketing quota, in the hopes that they make ads that seem to reach out more to consumers, rather than bother them. Granted, the set-up of some networks can be to blame as well, as some channels like ABC and NBC rely on multiple commercials to run before online programs, so they can meet a similar quota to television airings.

It’s doubtful that too many changes will be made, but here’s hoping we see more online ads that make a difference, rather than leaving those wanting to change the virtual channel.

Mobile-First And Desktop-First: A Tale Of Two ‘Mobile’ Audiences

When it comes to display ads, sometimes it can be about location, location, location. A new report from eMarketer backs this up, stating that mobile display ads have seen better viewability than those on desktop devices.

The report, based on measurable impressions served worldwide by Sizmek last year, how that HTM5 standard banner viewability was stronger on mobile, by 79.3 percent on average, compared to 48.4 percent on desktop. Meanwhile, rates showed higher on mobile for HTML5 rich media and Flash standard banners, by 70 percent, compared to 50 percent over on desktop. The accompanying chart breaks this down more specifically.

As you can see, desktop still has an advantage when it comes to flash rich media, leading by over double over on mobile. But that’s a small victory in an otherwise mobile-dominant chart.

When purchased directly through publishers or via programmatic means, display ads saw better traffic overall on mobile. Viewability rates for these ads were 74.1 percent on mobile, compared to 54.4 percent on desktop. In addition, programmatic placements saw an average viewability of 81.4 percent, with desktop falling way behind at 39.7 percent.

eMarketer indicates that US digital ad spending will reach an enormous $58.61 billion this year, with mobile accounting for just under half of that total at $28.72 billion. However, by 2019, mobile will overtake the market, by nearly three-quarters.

Another report from Social Times shows that a lot more cross-device conversions are taking place, with 40 percent of online adults starting an activity on one device, only to shift over to another to finish it. This includes viewing movies, amongst other projects.

A Facebook analysis indicates that out of the people who showed interest in a mobile ad before converting, over 32 percent converted to desktop within less than a month’s time.

Other stats were revealed for those who converted within 28 days of viewing an ad in the campaign:

  • 75 percent of those first expose to the ad on mobile converted on desktop vs. 25 percent who converted on mobile
  • 95 percent of those first exposed to the ad on desktop converted on desktop vs. five percent who converted on mobile

More information on that report can be found here.

Lionsgate & Starbreeze Partner With WEVR On ‘John Wick’ VR Game

Virtual reality platform WEVR may not be as well-mentioned as more popular competitors as Sony’s Project Morpheus and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, but it’s certainly going places with a couple of new deals.

First up, HTC, a company already hard at work on its own Vive virtual reality headset, has opted to build its VR ecosystem with a nearly $10 million investment in WEVR, equating to a 15 percent stake in the company, according to TechCrunch. In return, HTC expects to see more content from the company for Vive, in the hopes of attracting a bigger potential audience.

This will also enable WEVR to offer more projects on an independent front, as its OnWEVR grant program awards various producers anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on what they’re working on.

This could also be beneficial on the HTC front, as the company has been struggling to keep up in business with its smartphone line.

HTC isn’t the only big name to be teaming up with WEVR. Lionsgate and Starbreeze have partnered with the virtual reality innovator to create a virtual reality game based on its hit action film John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves.

The report, from Global News Wire, indicates that the game will be a first-person shooter game, placing players in the shoes of Wick as he takes on various enemies, through an immersive virtual reality experience. The game will be centered on the Continental Hotel, a location that’s prominently used in the first film.

The game will be available this month as part of an HTC Vive World Tour that’s working its way through the United States and Europe. It will be a “teaser” experience, with the full game expected to be released for VR headsets sometime in early 2016.

“We’re thrilled to partner with the best of the best in VR and game development with Starbreeze, WEVR and Grab, who are collaborating with the movie’s producers to ensure an exciting, immersive and authentic virtual experience,” said Lionsgate President of Interactive Ventures & Games Peter Levin. “John Wick is the perfect cross-platform property to extend into the fast-growing gaming world, and we believe that a cutting edge VR game will deepen fan engagement and accelerate John Wick’s evolution into one of our next big action franchises.”

“Lionsgate is a leader in producing and delivering the kind of provocative, original and engaging storytelling that you need to launch an exhilarating and marketable game,” said Starbreeze CEO Bo Andersson Klint. “The John Wick characters and universe really resonated with our Payday fans last year when we first incorporated them into our game, so we’re thrilled to partner with the studio and the John Wick creative team to create a new standalone game enhanced by the state of the art in virtual reality.”

“Lionsgate has been a great partner on John Wick because the studio not only believes in traditional storytelling but also recognizes the value of extending its movies beyond the screen and involving fans in new ways to explore the characters and stories,” said producer and Thunder Road Pictures CEO Iwanyk. “Working with accomplished gaming companies like Starbreeze, WEVR and Grab is a terrific opportunity to bring the world of John Wick into an exciting new dimension.”

The game will tie in with the forthcoming release of John Wick 2, which should debut sometime later next year. Reeves has already confirmed he will return for the role.

Zynga Wins Big With Mobile Slots Games

Zynga’s latest quarterly earnings report beat expectations, largely due to the outstanding success of its slots games. The company has narrowed its losses considerably since last year as it continues to transform itself into a mobile-centric gaming company.

According to a report from VentureBeat, the company’s reported second-quarter and bookings have seen an increase, with an increase of 274 percent on slots games like Hit It Rich! Slots and Wizard of Oz Slots. Other games like Empires & Allies and FarmVille: Harvest Swap have seen positive attention as well.

Zynga’s numbers have improved since Mark Pincus resumed his role as chief executive earlier this year. There’s still a ways to go before profitability, and sunsetting some of its web games led to an audience drop-off of 23 percent from the previous year. On the positive side, ad revenues were up by 15 percent for the quarter, and the company now derives two-thirds of its revenue from mobile games, up 30 percent from last year. The company reported a non-GAAP net loss of $7.6 million, or one cent a share, on bookings of $174 million. Analysts had expected a non-GAAP net loss of 2 cents a share on bookings of $157 million. There’s still a way to go before returning to the profit side of the ledger.

Still, Pincus, speaking with GamesBeat, remained positive. “We think we can have success executing in other categories, too,” he said. “We re-entered the action-strategy category with Empires & Allies. It’s off to a strong start. It’s a proven team with a terrific engine that they are continuing to tune. They’re launching updates like leagues. We think that is a terrific category that we can make more social and accessible. We can bring a unique ‘special sauce’ to it.”

Web games did see a 15% drop off from the previous quarter as well, including Words With Friends and a Looney Tunes-licensed endless runner game. But, again, Pincus pointed out the plus side. “The story that hasn’t come out enough is our advertising team has been a great growth engine. Our ad business is up 44 percent in the year, and it grew 15 percent in the quarter. It is now a quarter of all bookings. The ad margins are higher because you don’t have payment fees to the platforms. We are bullish on the mobile ad business.”

As far as specific numbers go, Pincus added, “Bing [Gordon, a Zynga board member] reminds me [that] stock price is a trailing indicator of success, not a leading indicator. Profits are a victory lap we get after we deliver results, not before. We want to have empowered entrepreneurs inside our company. Half the battle is to get out of the way, point to the right hill and get out of the way. It’s less about my confidence in my ability to get us there and more about the team. If we create the conditions for success for our teams, empower them, arm them, and point them at the right hill, they are going to do the rest.”

On top of that, the company continues to make certain changes to its staff, recently adding former head of EA Mobile Frank Gibeau to the team of its board of directors.

As for what’s next, Zynga has plenty of games on the horizon, including Dawn of Titans and CSR Racing 2, as well as a slots game based on the popular Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – another tie-in with Warner Bros. following The Wizard of Oz.

More information on the report can be found here.

‘Angry Birds 2’ Has More Than 20 Million Downloads Its First Week

Developers at Rovio have been expanding the Angry Birds franchise for years, with new releases featuring the original effort Stella and the promotional tie-in with Angry Birds: Transformers. There hasn’t been a sequel, though — but that’s changed in a big way this week.

A report from GamesIndustry International indicates that the just-released Angry Birds 2 for iOS and Android {links no longer active} set some impressive numbers, as the game has been downloaded 20 million times in its first week alone. As a result, it’s managed to become the most downloaded app in over 100 territories worldwide, proving that, yes, the Birds can still be dominant.

“When we were developing and testing Angry Birds 2, we had good reason to believe we were on to a good thing, but the enormous groundswell of enthusiasm for the game from loyal fans and casual newcomers alike has been humbling,” said Rovio creative director Patrick Liu. “It took the first Angry Birds game more than nine months to reach this many players, and we thank all our fans for growing the flock so quickly!”

Thus far, the game is ranking 37th in the grossing charts in the US and the UK, based on a new free-to-play structure that has yet to fully catch on. Regardless, complaints about this system have been minimal, and players have really been enjoying the more lively art style that comes with the game.

Over 1.4 billion birds have been launched thus far, clearing away 300 million levels.

Rovio did address its struggles last year, especially on the consumer side. “On the consumer product side, 2014 was not a satisfactory year,” said CEO Pekka Rantala. “However, the upcoming Angry Birds feature film (coming in 2016) is getting very positive reactions from major retail and license partners as well as from consumer focus groups. This will have a positive impact on licensing in the coming years. In the next few months, we expect major announcements of partnerships in the licensing space.” (A partnership with Lego certainly doesn’t hurt either.)

Here’s hoping that the Birds keep on the straight and narrow heading into next year.

A Closer Look At Instagram’s Brand Engagement

Earlier this week, we posted a story on how Instagram is set to make a fortune on display ads, with an estimated $595 million for this year alone, rising up to $2.81 billion in the next couple of years. However, a new report from eMarketer digs a little deeper into this story, regarding how there’s major engagement between both paid ads and organic marketing.

According to eMarketer‘s numbers, brand engagement on Instagram has easily expanded over other social networks, with Instagram increasing by 108 percent compared to Twitter (32 percent) and Facebook (27 percent). And on the organic side of things, Instagram users have the ability to see every post from their accounts, depending on how often they log in. As a result, there’s instantly higher engagement, instead of hit-and-miss ads that appear in news feeds, and can easily be scrolled past.

One example of this engagement is retailer Dot & Bo, who has both Facebook and Instagram accounts. Allyson Campa, the company’s vice president of marketing, explained that it has a similar number of “likes” across both pages — although it has under 9,000 followers on Instagram and over 620,000 on Facebook.

They aren’t the only success story. A Mini USA spokesperson also reported that more than 20 percent of its followers typically see posts through its account, at a higher rate than on Facebook.

Ad engagement has also seen an increase on Instagram, as the company noted that advertisers in Canada have seen a brand lift from 14 to 45 points — not too shabby.

“if you think about ad recall on the platform, it’s nearly three times what you would see across the industry, generally speaking,” said Jim Square, Instagram’s director of market operations.

Now it’s just a matter of seeing if Instagram can live up to its prediction numbers. This will mainly come with ad rollout, as well as pitches that come from marketers. So far, the company appears to be taking it slow, so that it doesn’t irritate users with a flood of advertisements, instead going for a more organic approach.

We’ll see how it pays off over the next few months.