Blizzard Took To Gamescom To Showcase World of Warcraft’s Expansion: Legion

Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is still by far the world’s largest MMORPG, even though subscription numbers have been dropping (WoW has dropped down to 5.6 million players, down from 7.1 million players earlier this year.) The publisher has, of course, been planning something for the world of Azeroth to turn this around, and the news just dropped.

This morning at the massive Gamescom consumer game show in Germany, Blizzard revealed the latest expansion in the series, titled Legion. In it, players will find themselves fighting against the Burning Legion and its horde, as Azeroth falls into dark hands. The trailer for the expansion is below.


Blizzard has implemented a number of new features that they hope will build its audience back up, including a level cap increase to 110 (up from 100), a new Demon Hunter hero class with new characters to play, and the ability to put together grounds in class halls. In addition, new iconic artifact weapons will be on hand, including the Doomhammer and the Ashbringer. Finally, a new continent, the Broken Isles, will also be included.

So far, the responses to Legion‘s announcement have been mostly positive on social networks. Jenna Busch, a writer for the website Legion of Leia, stated on Twitter, “Had to get @GoReadSomething to write this because TOO EXCITED TO TYPE!” Joel Martin, a developer for Robot Entertainment, added, “Oh. My. Lord. This looks amazing. DEMON HUNTER!!! @warcraft’s new expansion: Legion!!!” And Pixel, a video game fan from Australia, noted the following tweet:

It appears that the biggest item for fans is the addition of a Demon Hunter class, although other things, like the level cap increase and the new PvP mode, are huge draws as well. The only question is what the expansion will do for increasing the audience base once it’s released.

Legion doesn’t have a release date, but a beta for it is expected to release later this year.

Facebook Limits Livestreaming To Celebrities… For Now

Live streaming has become a huge phenomenon over the past few years, allowing people of all types to broadcast their activities with ease. Whether it’s showcasing gaming skills on Twitch or exploring their day-to-day lives with Twitter’s Periscope and Meerkat, there are plenty of ways to get caught up with it. Now, Facebook is taking a turn with the debut of a new service, but it’s not for everyone.

Popular Science has reported that the social site has launched Live, a new feature that will allow public figures to livestream their activities to their followers. For now, the service is only limited to a handful of celebrities, deemed as “public figures”.

Talking about the feature on the Facebook blog page, product manager Vadim Lavrusik explained that Live is an evolution of celebrity interactivity, a step above the Facebook Mentions section they normally use. “Live is a new and immersive way for public figures using Mentions to share and talk with their fans on Facebook,” said Lavrusik.

A number of celebrities are taking part, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, tennis player Serena Williams, Ashley Tisdale, Martha Stewart and performer Michael Buble, among others. More public figures are being added, according to the site.

With this feature, these types of folks can easily establish a bigger fan base, as well as interact directly with said fans, and keep any given videos for them to view at any time.

While it’s disappointing to some that Live hasn’t been adapted into a full-on streaming service, it could easily be testing ground for something bigger. After all, Facebook has been dabbling in video integration for the past few months now, with very good results, and this could be the next step in pushing it even further.

Meanwhile, those who fit the “Public Figures” role can stop over at Facebook Mentions and give live video streaming a try.

The Rise Of Interactive Toy Games

Prepare yourselves, parents and retailers – the great interactive toy/game market is about to expand. Big time.

With the holiday season fast approaching, three new games will be entering the market that feature interactivity with real-time portals and toys, enabling kids and adults alike to implement their favorite characters into video games. Activision will (literally) hit the road with its forthcoming Skylanders: Superchargers; WB Games will jump into the market with its character-laden Lego Dimensions; and Disney will once again bring back its Disney Infinity franchise, this time with a Star Wars twist (along with Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out and Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron).

On top of that, Nintendo’s line of interactive Amiibo toys has proven to be a huge financial success as well, with some fetching hundreds of dollars on eBay and various others being introduced over the next few months, including a limited edition Super Mario Maker figurine resembling the 8-bit Mario from the original Super Mario Bros.

Industry consultant Andy Robertson recently took a closer look at this market for VentureBeat, providing his analysis on what companies can expect in terms of results. “Throughout, the dividing lines between toys, video games and outside play are being rewritten,” he explained. “This year’s crop further tweaks the balance between costs and benefits to players, as each jostles for position in an increasingly crowded genre.”

With Skylanders, Robertson noted the helpful backward compatibility with previous toys, along with the value of purchasing vehicles alongside characters. “The vehicles are each articulated and come with matching drivers,” he noted. “Although the figurines don’t fit in the physical vehicles as they do on the screen, by doing away with the need for a circular stand, the toys are instantly more fun to play with.” He also praised that the series would be returning to the Wii platform, even though it’s considered discontinued on the market.

Regarding Disney Infinity 3.0, Robertson talked about the various developers on board the project (including Sumo Digital and Ninja Theory), tweaking individual parts of the game so they work properly. But the real key The return of the creative Toy Box mode. “While families may find it frustrating that only certain characters can be used in certain playset adventures, they can combine any and all of them in the game creator mode,” he noted. He also noted the helpful availability of a digital version, in case people already own a previous Infinity Base from another edition of the game.

With Lego Dimensions, Robertson noted a bit of challenge between high price and being new to the market, although various popular franchises like Doctor Who and Ghostbusters will draw in fans. He also noted how great it is to play some content without the need for certain figures. “It still has plenty of on-disc content you need toys to access, but you can at least play a portion of each included brand without additional purchases,” he said. Being able to build your own toys via Lego blocks included in the set is a smart move as well.

Finally, with Amiibos, Robertson noted some frustrations with the market over the lacking availability of some figures, but also stated that they’re easy to use with both the Wii U and New Nintendo 3DS systems. In addition, a team-up with Activision for the Nintendo versions of Skylanders: Superchargers is a smart move, as both the special Bowser and Donkey Kong figures for those games can be used either as Skylander or Amiibo purposes. That said, there are still struggles to overcome, mostly with availability.

The full report can be found here.

As far as the boom of the interactive toy/game market, vice president of Skylanders Josh Taub spoke to MCV, explaining “We are thrilled to have created a category that is now $4 billion over the last almost four years – we represent north of $3 billion of that.”

He also noted, “We have a responsibility in quality of gameplay, toy and experience that is unmatched anywhere in the market, and that is why we think our fans stay with us – along with the fact that each year we create original, innovative experiences with new character sets.”

We’ll see where loyalty lies when all four games launch over the course of the next few months…

How ‘Call of Duty’ Could Change The eSports Game

eSports are truly becoming a big deal in 2015, between this week’s The International tournament in Seattle (which boasts an incredible $18 million in prizes) and Microsoft’s just-announced Halo 5: Guardians Championship Series, indicating just how serious the publisher is about its forthcoming sequel.

But Activision has been a player in the eSports game for some time. As noted on the official Call of Duty eSports page, the publisher has proudly supported the format with a number of features, including social sharing of game sessions and yearly tournaments that draw a tremendous audience – as well as viable sponsors and online viewership. Even last year’s Advanced Warfare made a considerable dent on the eSports scene, paving the way for better things to come.

And it doesn’t look like things are going to stop anytime soon. The publisher hosted a live Twitch session this morning from Gamescom, explaining all the vital changes that will be made with its forthcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops III that will cater to the devoted eSports players. That doesn’t mean casual players will be shut out – not by any means. But it shows that the company is getting serious about what its series means to the eSports community – and it could mean bigger things for the next Call of Duty championship, which is sure to come in 2016. (It’s been going three years strong with great success.)

The CODCaster, for instance, will have enhanced features that make both the spectator and shoutcaster modes within easier for players to broadcast to their fans. In addition, a new “Ban and Protect System” is being put into place, enabling players to pick an item to “ban” or “protect” before each match. These tie in with Black Ops III‘s new Specialist abilities, as well as particular items. Specialist items will also be selected through the Specialist Draft system.

While this may sound like gaming jargon to normal ears, eSports fans will no doubt be thrilled with the changes Treyarch (the developer of Black Ops III) and Activision are making to the game, so that they can get more into matches without being “spammed” by particular weapons or perks they find hard to overcome.

So what does this mean It indicates that yet another big player is becoming more invested in the world of eSports. Like Microsoft, Activision takes its franchises quite seriously, and seeing Call of Duty having a continuous presence in the eSports scene is crucial to its success, just as much as the outreach to casual audiences. It’s a game series that’s built for both levels – newcomers can come right in and learn the ropes, while advanced players can make the most of their loadouts and abilities to dominate each match handily.

And that’s what people like to see at the Call of Duty Championships held every year. This year’s tournament, which took place back in March, offered over $1 million in prizes for prospective teams, drawing players from all over the world to compete. It’s serious business – and it certainly pays off for Activision, as each new CoD game sells well into the millions.

We’ll see how Black Ops III shakes up the eSports world when it arrives on November 6th. The trailer is below.


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Brand Content On YouTube Is Booming

Advertising on YouTube can be a real smart move, considering the millions of users that visit Google’s video site on a daily basis. But there’s some thought that needs to be put into that advertising, so that it not only takes advantage of the format, but also has that clever touch that will keep people watching. And, according to Pixability, the top 100 brands are doing just that.

Clickz recently reported on the data, indicating that more than 184 million people visited the YouTube page (according to Quantcast) with many of them specifically going to the site to watch content from brands. In fact, four of the top ten trending videos on all of YouTube last year were created by brands.

Google’s video channel formed a partnership with Pixability, an ad-buying and video marketing platform, to look over viewership and trends from the top 100 brands. The results are located in the image below, indicating a number of statistics with these brands, including year-over-year changes and other numbers.

Here are some quick facts from the report.

  • The top 100 brands manage to upload a new video every 18.5 minutes, providing a fresh amount of content for users to return to
  • Ten percent of the top 100 brand videos actually last more than ten minutes, telling a story in the process
  • Thursday is the most popular day for video uploads, followed by Tuesday and Wednesday
  • There are ten times more likes than dislikes on brand owned YouTube channels

Clickz sat down with Pixability CTO Andreas Goeldi to get more insight behind these numbers. As far as the most strategic one for video marketers, he explained, “Brands are understanding that they need to play on a high level, both from a quality and entertainment perspective. We’re seeing a significant shift from brands treating YouTube as a dumping ground for commercials, to a destination site for a broad range of branded video content. They understand how consumers use the platform, and recognize the need to guide the viewing experience. They’re getting better at managing the whole channel experience. YouTube deepens a customer’s knowledge of a brand and strengthens the brand relationship in a way that’s not possible on TV, and the cost-benefit of YouTube can be significant.”

As far as what factors most into viewership of this content, Goeldi believes the biggest one is creativity. “Viewership is growing and engagement is up — viewers are actively committing to brands on YouTube,” he explained. “It’s a sign that brands’ YouTube strategies have matured. They’re creating better content, enabling them to effectively reach and retain their audience on YouTube.”

Goeldi also provided tactical advice for creators. “Brands are understanding fully that they need strong content to be found organically on YouTube,” he said. “It’s the second largest search engine, and consumers are actively searching for YouTube-specific content like tutorials and product reviews. As a result, brands have shifted away from uploading TV commercials and discovered the importance of quality content that viewers will be interested in organically. Smart brands understand the need to cover the entire marketing funnel with their YouTube content – from initial awareness, to search, to hooking viewers and guiding them through the brand journey on their channel.”

Critical data plays a part as well. “Subscribership is up by 47 percent year-over-year – consumers don’t just watch videos, they subscribe to brand channels, requesting to stay connected to the brand and be notified when new content is published. Brand-owned channels are receiving 10 times more likes than dislikes. YouTube is a vehicle for brands to build long lasting relationships with their viewers. The engagement metrics are a very promising sign for YouTube’s overall strategy to serve as a destination site,” said Goeldi.

As for the state of growing media investment in ads, Goeldi concluded, “As brands have become more educated on the return on YouTube advertising, we’ve seen investment grow across industries. Industries that have traditionally lagged on YouTube — for example, luxury brands, financial services, and food — have become much more active. We’re seeing high growth rates; they’re catching up. Brands are realizing that YouTube moves the needle, positively impacting brand perception and brand lift. Smart brands understand that a mix of three elements — paid advertising, an active brand channel with a strong content strategy, and creator partnerships — are needed for optimum success, especially when trying to reach a younger audience.”

The full interview can be found here.

Image source

The International Set To Make eSports History

We’ve seen eSports tournaments become more and more popular over the years, with fans flocking both in-person and online to watch their favorite teams compete in games like League of Legends and Hearthstone, among others. Leave it to Valve to host what is the biggest eSports tournament yet, if you look at the prize pool being offered.

The International kicks off this week in Seattle, bringing together the best DotA 2 players from around the world to compete for prizes at the Key Arena in Seattle this week. And not just a mere reward, either – thanks to the DotA 2 community (purchasing exclusive in-game avatars and items), the publisher will offer a whopping $18 million in prizes. That’s the biggest yet for an eSports tournament.

Fans and media gathered for the event in Seattle before it even kicked off, with players arriving to greet them – some even by limousine, according to the official DotA 2 Twitter feed.

Gabe Newell, CEO of Valve, was more than pleased announcing the kick-off of the tournament yesterday, according to GeekWire. He considers the eSports event the “highlight of the year” for the team at Valve, as well as its many fans.

The publisher is going all out for tournament attendees and fans, doing everything from bringing in an orchestra to perform themes from the game to hosting its own live-stream of the event, which can be found here, as well as on Twitch.

What’s more, it’s attracting mainstream media as well. ESPN, which previously hosted the Heroes of the Dorm tournament on television back in April, will be covering the International to some extent (its coverage can be found here), and it should get tremendous social media buzz all week long, between live Periscope broadcasts from fans and various messages across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Casual audiences can also view the action in 400 theaters across the nation. (Ticket information for those showings can be found here.)

Indeed, eSports are becoming bigger and better with each event. Imagine what 2016’s International tournament could hold. Chances are Newell and his team have already begun looking into it.

‘Street Fighter V’ Marketing: Slow And Steady Reveals

We’ve talked previously about Capcom’s Street Fighter V, the next chapter in the company’s ongoing fighting series. In that article, we discussed its potential through a growing roster of returning and new faces alike, along with a unique system where content can be unlocked in game without needing to pay an extra cent for downloadable content – certainly a change of pace from what many have come to expect in the game business.

But the real genius here is how Capcom is slowly but surely getting people excited for the PC/PlayStation 4 fighting game, thanks to paced roster reveals that indicate who’s being added to the game. A few weeks ago, the company announced the debut of Necalli, a powerful warrior with flowing locks of hair and an incredible physique, capable of pounding even the most prominent foe to the ground.

Weeks before that, at E3, Capcom revealed two more veteran fighters for the game, Birdie (from the Street Fighter Alpha series) and Cammy, a fan favorite with a combination of sexy looks and versatile movement. Again, it seems to be all about pacing, where Capcom is building up its roster to get people more excited for the game.

That build continues this week at Gamescom, as the company unveiled another returning favorite, the quick and deadly Vega. Wearing a claw that can do extensive damage either with straightforward stabs or ranged attacks, Vega can also grab enemies and slam them to the ground before they even know what hit them. His debut trailer is below.


‘Halo 5’ Tournament To Offer $1 Million

More money is pouring into eSports tournaments are big bucks right now, such as this week’s The International tournament in Seattle providing DOTA 2 players with the opportunity to snag $18 million in prizes. And, with this morning’s announcement at Gamescom, Microsoft is jumping back into the eSports action as well.

Per a report from Xbox Wire, the publisher behind the forthcoming Halo 5: Guardians has announced that it will once again bring back the Halo Championship Series, which will offer $1 million in prize money — a hefty increase from last year’s $150,000 bounty.

Microsoft demonstrated the eSports potential for Halo 5 today with a quick match-up between two teams, indicating that both the Warzone and Arena maps in the game are ripe for head-to-head match-ups. With this, casual players can get as much into the action as the pros — although, obviously, they fight at a much higher, and very competitive, level.

This is the latest push by a major publisher into the world of eSports, as Activision is also doing the same with its Call of Duty franchise. When it debuts this November, Call of Duty: Black Ops III is expected to get a big push behind its multiplayer as well.

“The bottom line is all game developers everywhere are looking for ways to turn their games into eSports titles,” said Rahul Sood, a former Microsoft executive now working as a chief executive for an eSports betting site, speaking with the New York Times.

As far as Halo 5‘s eSports potential goes, Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries (developers of the game), believes it’s all about the players. “The pros who play eSports are famous. They’re icons who people look up to. These are people that fans aspire to be.”

The tournament hasn’t been dated yet, but considering Halo 5: Guardians arrives on October 27th, it shouldn’t be too far from that date. The official trailer is below.


This is just part of the huge promotional push Microsoft is putting behind Halo 5: Guardians. The company will also release a special limited edition Halo 5 Xbox One bundle for $499, complete with a 1TB hard drive and specially designed controller and system. Controllers featuring Locke and Master Chief designs will also be available for $69 apiece. These will release on October 27th, the same date as the game.


Facebook Introduces Live Event Streams

Considering the popularity of live streaming events on the likes of Twitch, Periscope (legal or otherwise) and other channels, it’s no surprise that Facebook wants to get into the swing of things.

Taking a chapter from Instagram and Twitter’s books, the social site has begun testing a new feature that allows users to join in live events from the convenience of their mobile devices, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

With it, users were able to check in on this past weekend’s Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago through Place Tips, a feature that was introduced earlier this year, enabling Facebook users to access friends’ posts and information about their current location. With it, users can check out not only live video content, but also photos and updates from various bands at the event, including the Cold War Kids and Kaskade, among others.

“This Place Tips Lollapalooza experience is just one of the many ways Facebook is trying to help people get the feel of an event when they’re not there,” said a spokeswoman for the popular social site.

This looks to compete with Snapchat’s Our Story service, as well as Twitter’s forthcoming Project Lightning. With these features, users of those sites will be able to expand experiences from events, formatting pictures and videos to single streams, along with other content. It’s obvious that Facebook wants to keep up with this, especially with its growing audience of users.

However, it plans to make Place Tips work a bit differently, as users won’t just be able to see content curated to the event, but also communications from their friends, in case they happen to be tuning in to Lollapalooza or another related event. The site says the festival was just testing ground for Place Tips, and it will continue to explore with new events and other features in the future.