‘Coco’ Marketing Focuses On Music, Family And Tradition

Disney/Pixar’s Coco is now in US theaters, poised to top the Thanksgiving weekend box office as Moana did last year. Together with Disney’s brand partners, marketing for the film focuses on Mexican culture and tradition, a love of music and the importance of family.

Disney stories tend to center around finding one’s place in the world, and Coco is no exception. The film’s main character is a young boy named Miguel who dreams of becoming a famous musician like Ernesto de la Cruz, a deceased Mexican musician and film star. Unfortunately for him, his family has banned all music, so Miguel and his dog Dante travel across the Land of the Dead to find his idol while uncovering the truth about his family’s aversion to music.

Music is at the heart of the film’s story and Miguel’s motivations, so Disney/Pixar teamed up with Cordoba to create custom acoustic guitars inspired by Coco. The guitars are available at Guitar Center and several were given away as a surprise to fans on social media.

“Remember Me,” the film’s theme song, was prominently featured on Dancing With the Stars in October.

The Land of the Dead is as much of a character in Coco as Miguel, if not more so. So, it’s fitting that this colorful world of the afterlife would become the subject of Pixar’s first-ever VR experience.

Coco VR allows up to three people to explore and interact with The Land of the Dead using Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift headsets. The free 20-minute branded adventure has users create their own calaca avatars—skeletons decorated in the traditional Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) style. A photo studio inside the experience lets users take selfies, an art studio displays concept art with behind-the-scenes footage and users can ride a gondola above the city or hang out in a central plaza.

“Going to the theater is a semi-social experience—you watch a film together, but it’s passive,” explains Oculus executive producer Yelena Rachitsky in a company blog post. “In VR, you can actually go on an adventure with a friend. These experiences can create lasting memories, just like going on a trip together.”

Demos of Coco VR were provided at select Dia de Los Muertos festivities, and at participating Disney Stores and movie theaters through November 19. Disney/Pixar even participated in the festivities with a Dia de Los Muertos parade float.

Dia de los Muertos is a yearly Mexican celebration that honors family members who have passed away. Family—both alive and those living as skeletons in the Land of the Dead—play an important role in Coco.

Since Miguel is discovering his heritage, Ancestry teamed up with Disney/Pixar to help two of the Coco filmmakers do the same. The historical records site is offering special discounts in honor of the film’s release through November 23.

Latino-American network Mitú further explored family members and tradition by paying an unexpected visit to a host’s abuelita (little grandmother). The video earned over 2.5 million views over a span of a week.

Mexican food company Herdez hosted a cooking stream on Facebook Live and is offering free tickets to see Coco, as well as a trip for two for a culinary tour in Mexico.

Meanwhile, Airbnb is promoting Coco by suggesting family-friendly trips and experiences in Mexico.

Coco is already the largest single film release in Mexico, thanks to its native themes and a well-timed premiere with Dia de Los Muertos. In the US, the Hispanic population has reached a record 58.6 million in 2017, according to the Census Bureau’s latest estimates. Appealing to the second-largest racial/ethnic group in the US, along with select Spanish dubbed and subtitled engagements, should bode well for Disney/Pixar’s new animated tale.

Coco is expected to bring in between $55 million and $60 million over its first box office weekend in US theaters and will likely overtake Justice League for the number one position.

Schick Hydro Emphasizes Innovation To Connect With ‘The Game Awards’ Audience

Anastasia Tobias, Schick Hydro senior brand manager at Edgewell Personal Care

Since its first appearance at The Game Awards last year, Schick Hydro has been working to connect its non-endemic brand with the gaming audience. Now, Schick is ready to take on the awards show circuit yet again, this time as the official sponsor for the Best Debut Indie Game award, one of over a dozen different categories fans can vote on.

By aligning with the growing indie development scene, the brand aims to connect with the spirit of innovation in the gaming space.

The “passion for innovation” is the crux of Schick Hydro’s partnership with this year’s The Game Awards, Anastasia Tobias, Schick Hydro senior brand manager at Edgewell Personal Care, told AListDaily.

“Innovation is about challenging the status quo to create something that enhances people’s lives,” said Tobias.

Tobias described Schick Hydro as a challenger brand that’s continually evolving, and that’s why it has chosen to spotlight indie games and developers at The Game Awards this year. She said that as a brand that invests in innovation, it’s important for Schick Hydro to support other innovators, too.

As part of the sponsorship, Schick Hydro recently hosted its first 48-hour indie game jam in partnership with Playcrafting. Twenty developers worked to create games inspired by Schick Hydro’s “protect and defend” message, referring to the signature gel strip found on its razor products. Game jam creations will be shown alongside Best Debut Indie Game nominees at the Schick Hydro sponsored arcade experience at the Microsoft Theater when The Game Awards premieres on Dec. 7. Additionally, Schick will be giving away game keys for Best Debut Indie Game nominee titles that include CupheadMr. ShiftySlime Rancher and more.

Tobias said that, as a non-endemic sponsor, it’s important to support developers and gamers that use entertainment to enhance the lives of others through “experiences that cultivate their creativity, encourage their individuality and passion and enable them to continue sharing their craft.”

The Game Awards partnership further proves that non-endemic brands don’t necessarily have to turn to esports to get into the gaming scene. The grooming brand developed a shaving-themed video game that was featured at New York Comic Con in October while the Schick Hydrobot posed for pictures and professional groomsters gave attendees shaves.

“Schick Hydro is committed to creating unique opportunities to celebrate the shared passion we have with the gaming community—to create and make people’s lives better,” said Tobias. “This community is rooted in diverse self-expression, motivated by a desire to create their own story.”

How The New York Yankees Will Shape Esports

Stratton Sclavos, general partner at Vision Venture Partners

If there are still brands sitting in the outfield wondering whether esports is a legitimate business to explore, the New York Yankees have provided a great reason to swing for the fences. The iconic Major League Baseball team is the latest traditional sports organization to enter into esports by investing in Vision Esports (part of Vision Venture Partners), the umbrella company for Rick Fox’s Echo Fox, Jace Hall’s Twin Galaxies and Vision Entertainment, which creates video content for esports.

Stratton Sclavos, general partner at Vision Venture Partners, told AListDaily that the Yankees bring great credibility to the esports world in general and Vision Esports in particular, thanks to the team’s global brand recognition.

“Their endorsement signals to the world that esports is going mainstream,” Sclavos explained. “We’ve already seen tremendous new interest in Vision Esports and our three portfolio companies since the Yankees’ announcement.”

Sclavos said that the Yankees’ marketing and sponsorship teams have longstanding business relationships with in-demand non-endemic brands, so the introductions and bundling opportunities alone are invaluable.

The Yankees will bring its marketing, sales and partnership experience to help all three companies accelerate their growth and expand their business relationships. The sports franchise and Vision Esports leadership will manage the three esports properties in a manner that’s similar to traditional professional sports properties. Sclavos said this philosophy includes seeking to maximize revenue opportunities for advertising, sponsorships, media and broadcast rights, merchandise and ticket sales, naming rights and original content programming for both broadcast and streaming distribution formats. In addition, the two will collaborate on marketing and sponsorship initiatives across assets.

“The Yankees have a number of business assets that we hope to access through our new relationship,” Sclavos said. “Beyond the obvious brand affiliation, we hope to find ways to work with their sales organization to create new advertising and sponsorship packages that couple their traditional offerings with our esports offerings. We will look for opportunities to utilize their physical venues for live event productions.”

Vision Esports has been designed to service the professional esports ecosystem, which itself has grown to replicate the traditional sports ecosystem through league level governance, official league sponsors, and revenue sharing with teams. There are also team-level sponsors, advertisers, fan base monetization, and player endorsements in addition to broadcast rights licensing for national, local and international distribution of live event programming. Not to mention the creation and distribution of original content programming with media rights licensing.

Sclavos said Echo Fox mirrors a traditional professional sports team organization with rosters, players, fan base monetization, and original content for “local” programming. Echo Fox teams compete in games such as League of Legends, Call of Duty and H1Z1 along with several fighting game titles.

Twin Galaxies mirrors a traditional professional sports league with governance, broadcast rights licensing, official league sponsorships and original content licensing while Vision Entertainment mirrors a traditional entertainment studio focused on development and production of professional esports content, both in scripted an unscripted forms

“Gaming culture is unique, and our management team has decades of experience in video game publishing, technology innovation, original content production for both broadcast and online distribution, and professional sports team ownership and management,” Sclavos said.

One of the early Vision Esports initiatives is the H1Z1 Pro League, which will launch in early 2018 through a partnership with Daybreak Games. Twin Galaxies was on hand at the recent $500,000 H1Z1 Invitational at TwitchCon 2017 to capture video content and begin organizing the league.

“We believe that the H1Z1 Pro League will be the next successful esport league,” Sclavos said. “The battle royale format, where 15 teams all compete against each other every week, is full of drama and ripe for team and player rivalries. We’ve already seen interest from established esports team organizations that is five times our expectations.”

The H1Z1 Pro League will use Twin Galaxies for league rules, team selection, league governance, official league sponsor sales and broadcast rights licensing. Rick Fox was one of the first team owners to commit to H1Z1 as an esport, and Vision Entertainment will handle the production of all 24 weeks of Pro League live events and shoulder both original and player streamed content. Pro gamers are being offered a baseline salary of $50K, a comprehensive Player Bill of Rights, no entry fees for teams joining the league, and revenue sharing between the teams and league and much more.

While H1Z1 faces formidable challenges from similar games and other esports titles, this is one area where the marketing muscle of the Yankees can come into play. H1Z1 has the potential to appeal to both core gamers and a more mainstream audience, so Vision Esports needs to leverage the Yankees marketing muscle to help it take off.

Wild Turkey, Matthew McConaughey Take Up Fight Against Hunger

Wild Turkey and Matthew McConaughey teamed up to spread Thanksgiving cheer to the distillery’s hometown of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The cause marketing activation was to show appreciation to the town, help those in need and promote a fundraising campaign to fight hunger.

With a population of just over 10,500 residents, Lawrenceburg is usually a quiet town—the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbors. So when the doorbell rang on November 4, residents were more than a little surprised to see a movie star standing on their front porches holding a turkey.

McConaughey, master distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell and some 250 volunteers combed the town to hand-deliver fresh turkeys donated by Butterball. Together, they delivered 4,500 turkeys, including 580 to the town’s food pantry and nursing home. Wild Turkey wanted to thank the town for supporting it over the last 100 years, say a personal thank you to those who help out in the community, and aid those who need it most.

Distillery employees had no idea the actor was going to be there until he walked in on the morning of the big giveaway, which also happened to be his birthday. Their reactions, as well as the reactions of Lawrenceburg residents, were filmed to commemorate the event.

McConaughey’s appearance was no coincidence. Last year, he joined Wild Turkey as creative director and chief storyteller, working with the brand to write, direct and star in a series of ads. The veteran actor poured himself into the role as he would any other, and his passion shows what happens when a brand and an influencer become more than business partners.

“We have great relationships with a lot of influencers but I think that Matthew is, for us, the influencer that can give us that draw on a global scale,” Melanie Batchelor, vice president for Gruppo Campari, the parent company for Wild Turkey, told AListDaily.

When he’s not on the big screen, McConaughey is also an active philanthropist, aiding such organizations as Autism Speaks, the Red Cross and relief for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Cause related marketing can be an effective way to showcase a brand’s values and put its money where it makes a difference. A recent survey from marketing research firm Toluna found that 46 percent of respondents think cause marketing is a great way to bring attention to national or global issues. Hunger was the top cause respondents thought brands should support.

In addition to its door-to-door poultry delivery, Wild Turkey made a donation of 50,000 Thanksgiving meals to Share Our Strength, a charity that helps feed families in need across the country. The brand has partnered with Share Our Strength and its No Kid Hungry program for a fundraising campaign called “Friendsgiving to End Hunger.”

Those who wish to help can sign up to host their own fundraisers, schedule ongoing contributions or make a one-time payment. Wild Turkey will match all gifts up to $5,000.

Now that’s some good, old-fashioned Southern hospitality.

‘Jigsaw’ VR Ad Case Study Shows Brands How To Play The Game

To market the theatrical release of Jigsaw, Lionsgate partnered with Unity to create the first display ad in VR that when selected, launched an interactive experience. Running the campaign for two weeks, Unity simultaneously ran a case study to measure its emotional impact on users.

When Unity partnered with Lionsgate for the activation, the team knew it couldn’t display the ad just anywhere. But with more than 60 percent of AR/VR content created with Unity, the company had no shortage of apps to consider for the activation, and it ended up finding the two that best served their campaign.

Jigsaw is a mass market horror movie, so we worked with Lionsgate to find apps that made sense for their audience,” Agatha Bochenek, head of mobile and VR/AR advertising sales at Unity Technologies told AListDaily. “Samsung Internet for VR is a mass reach app that tapped into the gen pop audience. Nanite Fulcrum is a comic book app with a younger male, demographic that reached horror movie fans. The apps worked well together.”

From October 23 to November 6, display ads for Jigsaw Virtual Room appeared within the Samsung Internet for VR app and Siraloid’s Nanite Fulcrum. When selected, users were instantly transported into the Saw movie franchise as one of Jigsaw’s intended victims.

Four possible interactions followed, allowing the user to control the story while a two-minute timer ticked down. Although users could opt to do nothing and let the timer run out, 73 percent chose to “play a game” and make a choice on whether they or a stranger would survive. If they chose life, gears were dropped down that needed to be placed on the correct spokes to win their freedom. Over half—56 percent—attempted the puzzle. Solving it allowed users to explore Jigsaw’s room for 30 seconds.

Regardless of the outcome, users were teleported to a room where a 30-second trailer for the film was played. Users could leave at any time, but 70 percent chose to watch the preview in full.

In addition to measuring engagement, Unity teamed up with Isobar’s Marketing Intelligence Practice to see just how scary Jigsaw Virtual Room really was to users. Isobar performed biometric measurement and an emotional response survey of people who experienced the movie trailer in VR and in mobile video.

Heart rates elevated by 24 percent, sweating by 44 percent and muscle activation associated with smiling increased more than three times, according to the findings. These statistics apply to those who completed the entire VR experience and not just the trailer at the end. Unity concludes that the act of being in VR alone doesn’t elicit such emotions, but rather the fully interactive format of the ad.

“When looking at the focus group results by the individual, we saw that people who chose not to interact with the experience still had strong emotional reactions,” said Bochenek, “but only during the interactive portion—not the video trailer in VR. This leads us to believe that giving the user agency and engaging them with a responsive story, even if they ultimately choose not to engage, is where the power of interactive content lies.”

Bochenik says the key to a successful VR ad of this type is to make the user feel like they’re part of the action but warns against making interactions too difficult.

“The story needs to be compelling regardless of interaction,” she noted. “Adding three-to-four interactions in an ad ensures that the experience is effective for all users as they can choose how the story progresses and their individual engagement level. It’s truly personalized advertising.”

Advertising in VR can be challenging—after all, a user isn’t going to tolerate anything that disrupts immersion.

“Deep, immersive VR works and can be done at scale,” said Bochenek, adding that brands shouldn’t assume that VR is inaccessible or niche. “VR is gaining more and more penetration by the day and there will come a point where users are desensitized to the medium, just like they become to everything.

“The time is now to use this medium to create a lifelong relationship with your consumer and it is possible for every brand to engage in this space with positive ROI,” she added. “Additionally, the responsive storytelling techniques that elicit a much stronger emotional response than traditional media are also the format for augmented reality. This means advertisers can run cross-platform VR, AR, and 360 ads that reach hundreds of millions of users making the format even more accessible. I think a lot of marketers know that VR is effective. Now they can see just how effective and hopefully having those stats translates to more of them creating these types of campaigns today.”

Xbox One X Partners With Brands For ‘Drop Zone’ Augmented Reality Game

Larry Hryb, Xbox Live’s Major Nelson and director of Xbox programming at Microsoft

The Xbox One X has hit store shelves, and Microsoft is intensifying its efforts to make gamers aware of its premium console.

Xbox One X’s latest promotion has become a literal walk—or jog—in the park due to the augmented reality activation Drop Zone. Doritos and Mountain Dew have teamed up with Microsoft Xbox to host events at Randal’s Island in New York, Whittier Narrows in Los Angeles and Lincoln Park in Chicago to mark the launch of the new gaming system. The events are part of the larger “Xbox One X Every 60 Seconds,” campaign, which started in September and will continue until the first week of January.

The press was given a live preview of Drop Zone in New York’s Central Park this week as actor and comedian Joel McHale hosted the event by giving a play-by-play commentary with passers by looking on.

Larry Hryb, Microsoft’s director of Xbox programming, better known as Xbox Live’s Major Nelson, was also on-hand to engage with gamers before the event opened to the public.

“We worked with Doritos way back with the launch of the original Xbox, so this is a natural extension,” Hryb told AListDaily.

With “Every 60 Seconds,” redeeming codes found inside Doritos bags or bottles of Mountain Dew enter fans into a contest to win an Xbox One X every minute throughout each day. Each code also earns points that can be used as currency in ongoing auctions to pick up Xbox One X bundles or big ticket items such as the Forza Motorsports 7 console bundle paired with a trip to the Porsche Experience Center.

Drop Zone is designed for attendees to download an AR app that enters them into 30-minute competitions where players use their smartphones to track down and capture virtual Xbox One logo markers found within the real-world. Then they must protect it from being stolen from other players by moving around and using special power-ups. Players that successfully hang on to these markers by the time the clock runs out wins a free Xbox One X.

Dew and Doritos, both PepsiCo brands, similarly hosted the “Every Two Minutes” campaign for the launch of the original Xbox One in 2013. According to Hryb, awareness of the Drop Zone events is being spread primarily through word-of-mouth, particularly through the “Every 60 Seconds” contest itself and social media channels across all three brands.

Microsoft launched the Xbox One S one year ago, which supports 4K streaming entertainment, but not 4K gaming, at a lower cost. Hryb is confident that consumers, especially the gaming audience, will understand that the Xbox One X is a premium console while those who want a more economical system can pick up the Xbox One S. He said that the most important point for audiences to understand this holiday season is that all Xbox One games, which currently include over 1,300 titles, will work on any console in the Xbox One family—with many enhanced to take advantage of the Xbox One X’s capabilities.

The approach worked with the Xbox One S, which has been selling quite well despite releasing in the middle of the console generation’s traditional five-to-seven-year cycle.

“There’s a certain segment of gamers who want to have the latest and greatest all the time, but what we hear universally is that they love the fact that their games are going to work regardless of which Xbox One they buy,” said Hryb.

Hryb described the Xbox One X’s target audience as those that “love power,” and “want to play great games and have them look the best they can on a console.” But that description isn’t necessarily limited to hardcore gamers or even those who either already have or are planning to get 4K HDR TVs. The premium console’s graphics will look sharp on regular HDTVs, and the extra enhancements await gamers should they choose to upgrade.

To help people better understand the benefits of 4K HDR graphics, Microsoft released an app called Insects, which allows users to turn features on and off and compare them. Beyond that, Hryb reiterated that Microsoft is relying heavily on its extensive library of games to attract gamers of all types to the Xbox One X.

While hardcore players may be drawn to enhanced games such as Star Wars Battlefront II, Call of Duty: WWII, and Assassin’s Creed Origins, casual gamers can look to family-friendly titles like Disneyland Adventures and Pixar Rush.

Hryb has been in direct dialogue to gamers since 2003, and he is continually active on Twitter, YouTube and Xbox Live. He stated that the best way to engage is by having honest conversations with them.

“All they want to do is talk about games,” said Hryb. “They want great games and they want to talk to people about great games. [It’s about] being involved in that conversation and being honest.”

Having authentic conversations is especially important in the digital era, and Hryb stated that Microsoft wants to “go where the gamers are,” whether it’s on Reddit, Twitter or even a different gaming platform. He indicated that it was that kind of approach that prompted the launch of the Play Anywhere initiative last year, where buying select Xbox One titles also includes the Windows 10 PC version for free from the digital Microsoft Store.

Microsoft’s efforts to bridge its Xbox One and PC gaming communities may one day extend further, since the tech giant made moves to prominently enter the virtual, augmented and mixed reality verticals in October by acquiring the AltSpaceVR social platform and announcing multiple partnerships with hardware makers to develop inexpensive mixed reality headsets.

Interest in AR may have helped inspire Drop Zone, but the mixed reality initiative is currently limited to the Windows 10 platform.

Grubhub Gamifies To Engage College Students On Snapchat

As gaming becomes ubiquitous across all age demographics, more companies are finding ways to blend social media, advertising and video games together. Grubhub is the latest brand to get into the game with its free retro puzzle game, Food’s Here. Developer TreSensa has created two different puzzle games aimed at different demographics. In addition to the game targeting general consumers, which is playable across Grubhub’s desktop and mobile website, there’s also a Snapchat version targeting college students.

“We created a version of the game that targets college students and lives via Snap ad,” Mallorie Rosenbluth, Grubhub’s senior manager of social media, told AListDaily. “The Snapchat version of the game features familiar and approachable characters for college students—a member of a sorority, a student studying in the library and someone tailgating.”

Rosenbluth said the brand is using Snapchat’s Geofilters and Shared Space Filters on campus to broadly target thousands of campuses, or specifically address a student population at one particular location or event.

“Beyond traditional advertising that other social channels allow us to utilize, Snapchat offers media that is designed with millennials and Gen Z in mind,” Rosenbluth explained. “Filters and lenses allow for co-storytelling and for our brand to be a part of the user’s story. Our filters aren’t complete without the user’s image, nor without them sharing the image and filter. Food’s Here is an experience that requires active engagement versus passive viewing—a truly exciting opportunity for Grubhub.”

In developing the game with TreSensa for Snapchat, Grubhub wanted to ensure that the creative design was familiar for its target Snapchat audience of college students. Rosenbluth also wanted the game to be immediately intriguing to users, as it would be featured as a Snap Ad and require the user to swipe up to play.

The concept of the game is to unscramble the road, which is divided into puzzle pieces, by tapping the screen. The goal is to help the Grubhub driver navigate to deliver food to the customer. There are three levels of progressively more challenging puzzles.

“For the general Grubhub user, we designed Food’s Here to feature different characters, inspired by the everyday consumer,” Rosenbluth said. “For example, you’ll see a mom in her early 30s, a man ordering to his office, a younger, single female and more. We used our demographics data to find relatable experiences for the typical Grubhub consumer.”

Rosenbluth said Food’s Here allows Grubhub to reach a captive audience—both in the mobile version that lives in premium games, as well as Snapchat.

“We’re able to see the number of engagements, how many people are opting to swipe up into the experience, the amount of time users are spending in the game and social sharing,” she added. “In addition, we’re also able to measure bottom line metrics, as users are prompted to download the Grubhub app and they’ll receive a promotional code if they’re first-time diners.”

Snapchat and the mobile version of Food’s Here allows the company to measure the true engagement of a user, according to Rosenbluth.

“When the user is playing Food’s Here, we have their full attention and are able to capture a variety of metrics around the user’s engagement,” Rosenbluth said. “Having our game live on premium playables and Snapchat allows for us to narrow our targeting and have a fully captive audience.”

Prior to this campaign, Grubhub has traditionally focused on out-of-home and TV advertising to reach consumers.

‘Evasion’ Uses Full-Body Motion To Push VR Games Forward

Jennifer Dowding, senior producer at Archiact

First-person shooters (FPS), being massive hits on PC and consoles, might seem like a natural fit for VR, but they have proved to be a tough genre for developers to cover. While games such as Robo Recall, Doom VFR, Raw Data and others have significantly moved the genre forward in the VR space, they’re still a step or two away from a truly authentic shooter experience, and that’s because of the way players move their characters around. Very few games use straight movement in VR for fear that it will make users sick, so they usually choose to use a teleporting option instead.

Vancouver-based developer Archiact believes it has the answer to the problem. It has been making games for VR for about four years, with platform experience that range from Google Cardboard to Samsung Gear VR and PlayStation VR, and now it is preparing to move the FPS genre forward with Tuesday’s announcement of Evasion, its first game for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Evasion is an intense VR ‘bullet hell’ shooter that focuses on multiplayer,” Archiact senior producer Jennifer Dowding told AListDaily. A bullet hell game is one where players must find ways to survive a hailstorm of gunfire by evading (thus the title) or deflecting bullets while destroying enemies and completing objectives.

Expected to launch in 2018, Evasion also pushes the envelope of VR gameplay by featuring four-player cooperative class-based multiplayer using full-body avatars powered by IKinema motion capture technology, giving players a truer sense of self while in VR. Furthermore, the game lets players drop in and out of games at any time, and missions have randomized elements for high replayability.

According to Dowding, who was joined by Archiact lead game designer Ian Rooke and the studio’s brand manager Chris Ansell, the idea for Evasion came as Archiact was designing a simple two-player VR arcade shooter for the Asian market.  After discovering how much fun the bullet hell mechanic was, the company decided to make something ambitious out of it.

“We immediately knew that we wanted to do something much bigger,” Dowding said. “It became a passion for the team to create something that was what the audience was looking for and what we were looking for as gamers.”

Showcasing VR

Intel selected Evasion as a VR showcase partner, where it’s in good company alongside zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine and Ubisoft’s Star Trek: Bridge Crew. The Intel VR showcase is both a technological and marketing partnership that helps developers grow the VR industry.

“On the marketing side, the goal is to get the game into as many players’ hands as possible,” said Dowding, detailing the partnership. “We’re working with Intel to showcase the game at events, give away codes and do retail activations to get more players into the game. Since this is a co-op shooter, we don’t just want you to play, we want you to play with your friends. We’re working with Intel to see how we can make that happen.”

Ian Rooke, lead game designer at Archiact

Before the announcement, Evasion was limited to private showings at events such as VRDC. Now that it’s been officially unveiled, the game will be shown to the public for the first time at the Intel Extreme Masters in November. Attendees will not only have a chance to play, but they’ll watch others move as they play, which will be key to bringing more attention to the game.

“It’s a really exciting game to watch people play,” Dowding explained. “Because there’s a whole-body avatar, you can crouch down behind cover and lean around corners. Those things are very advantageous in the game. The best players will be moving around a lot during the game, so it’s as much fun to watch as it is to play.”

“A lot of VR games have simplistic representations of people’s bodies, and that throws you out of the immersion,” Rooke added. “One of the benefits of having a full body in VR is that when someone is really good, you can tell. It’s really obvious that that’s an amazing player. So, we want to embrace the concept of spectating and finding really good players to champion the game.”

Authentic movement will also help further grow the VR market by giving its players something they demand. In fact, it was the room-scale full-body movement detection that drew Archiact to develop Evasion for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

“A lot of VR gamers are over the hump of teleportation and they want more out of VR shooters,” said Ansell.

“VR gamers want an authentic VR first-person shooter experience, and that’s what we’re looking to provide, but we’re also offering a lot of setting so that players feel comfortable in the game,” said Dowding. “As we’ve been demoing, we found that there is no one path for each person. Every person has unique settings and we want to support as many as we can. We even have a jogging mode, where you have to jog up and down to move, and that helps overcome sickness by providing deeper simulation.”

In addition to movement, Dowding explained that Evasion’s cooperative gameplay is also a standout feature.

“We really love this idea of playing with your friends in squads,” she said, echoing the sentiment that VR needs to become a more social experience. “We found that one of the things that makes VR compelling is having a friend jump in with you to play together and fight alongside each other. That was one of the reasons why we leaned into co-op.”

The trade-off to cooperative play compared to competitive gameplay is that it can never be technically regarded as an esport. The three said that a competitive game may be developed in the future, but right now, the focus is on cooperative play. Rooke added that cooperative play also makes the game more flexible for single-player sessions, when players can’t find anyone to join them.

On Location

Given Evasion‘s arcade roots, Archiact is designing the game to better support location-based experiences. A special survival mode, which focuses more on arcade scoring, is in the works. Furthermore, Rooke said that the missions are scalable so that they can be anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes long.

“[Location-based experiences] are the first point of contact that a lot of users will get for VR,” said Dowding. “We want to make something that they can try out for the first time and have a good time before going home and considering buying it home for a bigger experience.

“I hope that we’ll see more VR in arcades and other location-based experiences like theme parks because they are great first points of contact. In Asia, it may be their only point of contact because they have small places. So, being able to use devices in smaller spaces and more access to them will definitely help the technology out.”

Growing Mass Appeal

Dowding also believes that developing for the existing VR market is critical. Giving the VR audience what it wants gets them excited and talking about it, which benefits both marketing and development.

Chris Ansell, brand manager at Archiact

“The VR audience is very passionate, and this is the content they’re looking for,” she said. “The bigger game companies aren’t making the content they’re looking for right now. If we were competing with something like Star Wars: Battlefront with a VR mode, we would never be able to compete with those kinds of AAA marketing budgets. But the VR audience is a little starved for content right now.”

“We kind of see it as our duty to help the industry move forward,” said Rooke. “We understand that it’s expensive and a lot of people don’t have a reason to pick up a VR headset, so we want to help by adding good content to the VR library and give people more reason to jump into VR.”

Rooke also said that for the VR industry to grow, the hardware needs to get cheaper untethered. Games also have to get past the “locomotion hump.”

“A lot of people are afraid of getting sick in VR, so they’re afraid to try it,” he explained. “We think that getting more content out there that has good locomotion will make people realize that it can be done, and that will be a huge step [towards growth].”

Archiact has been working with Oculus, HTC, Nvidia and Epic Games’ Unreal Engine team to make sure they’re exploiting the best uses for their technology. Ansell said that working closely with partners is the best chance VR teams have at success.

The company also hosts CVR, an annual VR consumer expo that began two years ago in Vancouver. It features prominent members of the VR community—from Microsoft to NASA—further demonstrating the studio’s commitment to growing the VR space.

“If you’re excited about the vision for your game, whether it’s VR or not, then you generally jump out of bed each morning to make it because you want to play it,” said Ansell. “I think that’s where you have to always start. Despite challenges in the VR market cycle, putting our heads down and focusing on what we want to play and what we think gamers want has consistently led to good things. Hopefully, that will continue, and we will work with partners who share the vision.”

‘H1Z1’ Ditches ‘King Of The Kill’ Branding As Pro Esports League Forms

Eric Correll, director of brand and IP development, Daybreak Games

The H1Z1 brand has gone through many changes recently. Last year, developer Daybreak Games announced that it would be split into two distinct games, one being the single-player zombie title H1Z1: Just Survive (subsequently renamed to Just Survive) and the other called H1Z1: King of the Kill—a battle-royale game where players compete against each other to be the last one standing.

The multiplayer game has been featured on CW. The televised tournament was such a success that it inspired a partnership between Daybreak and Twin Galaxies to create a new esports league expected to launch in 2018.

On Thursday, H1Z1 announced yet another change—the game is rebranding by dropping King of the Kill from its title and going back to just H1Z1.

“We thought it made a lot of sense, given how most of our players call it H1Z1 or informally as H1,” Eric Correll, director of brand and IP Development at Daybreak Games, told AListDaily. “It reflects the brand—plus it’s a really cool, short name that rolls off the tongue. With branding, I find that keeping it short and succinct is gold. Also, King of the Kill posed some challenges globally with the word ‘kill,’ so dropping that is in our best interest.”

Making The H1Z1 Brand New Again

As part of the rebranding effort, Daybreak is revising its logo and key art so that it better represents the game, which Correll says is one of the first standalone battle royale games to hit the video game scene.

“We were the first to take a commercial chance on the genre, and we’re proud of that,” said Correll. “So, as we continue to articulate our brand of battle royale, it makes sense to look at the individual identity of the game and revisit it, connecting it back to what it’s all about—which is competitive, fast-paced and action-packed at its core. The new branding truly reflects that—the branding always needs to reflect the experience of the game.”

He also explained that since the split last year, there is little connection between it and its single-player counterpart.

H1Z1 is its own game and so is Just Survive, and because we split them, we view them as separate products,” he said. “The survival game offers its own experience and H1Z1 is a battle royale game.”

Daybreak will be showing off the fully rebranded game at TwitchCon, where it will host three separate tournaments. The All-Stars tournament will have $200,000 prize pool and will feature some of the game’s most engaging livestreamers from around the world. Meanwhile, The Legends tournament, with its $250,000 prize pool, will include the world’s best H1Z1 players. Finally, the Challengers Invitational is a competition between TwitchCon attendees and Road to TwitchCon contest winners, who will all battle for a $50,000 prize pool.

“This is the third time we’ve been there since the inaugural one, and we’re going to be bigger and better than ever with three different tournaments across the three days in our own H1Z1 Arena,” said Correll. “We timed the game’s rebrand to lead up to TwitchCon, where you’ll see all the new visual ID so people can start to ingest the brand’s new look and feel.

But even though H1Z1 may enjoy the status of being the first standalone battle royale game, it certainly isn’t the only one. Games such as Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, designed by Brendan “Playerunknown” Greene (who helped create H1Z1), has skyrocketed in popularity. Furthermore, Fortnite got in on the action by launching its own battle royale mode.

“I think it’s great,” said Correll. “We were one of the first to identify it as its own genre, and we’re proud of being the first to take a commercial chance on it. It’s great that there are other competitors out there to help validate the genre as we continue to focus on our brand and put our mark on battle royale.”

Correll also said that the strength of the H1Z1 comes from Daybreak’s commitment to the game.

“We’ve been refining the game, listening to our community and understanding what make H1Z1 so much fun to play,” he said. “We’ve seen continued growth and we are consistently at the top of the Steam charts of concurrent daily users. I think that our brand of battle royale, with the fast-pace and competitive gameplay, has made its mark and we’re now working to crystallize that vision of H1Z1 to players. As the genre grows, we want to tap into the H1Z1 brand to let them know what we offer—this is our type of battle royale.”

Growing Battle Royale Through Esports

Being broadcast on CW and being featured during all three TwitchCons has certainly helped H1Z1 stand out from the growing number of battle-royale games. Daybreak has also hosted elite competition series at Dreamhack events, but what may get the most attention is the H1Z1 Pro League.

Anthony Castoro, general manager of H1Z1 and PlanetSide, Daybreak Games

Anthony Castoro, general manager of H1Z1 and PlanetSide at Daybreak Games, detailed the joint venture with Twin Galaxies, an organization that tracks video game world records and conducts gaming promotions.

“Our focus is to make sure that we create a new kind of league that can be independent and economically viable for both players and owners,” Castoro told AListDaily.

He said that having hosted a number of battle royale competitions, H1Z1 turned out to be a natural fit for the esports scene. As the game grew in popularity, members of Twin Galaxies played the game and became big fans. That’s how the relationship between the two began, but the Pro League didn’t start until the CW broadcast.

“We talked about what was wrong with esports, what we could fix for players and why H1Z1 has a natural groundswell of support,” said Castoro. “As the game and pro scene evolved, we did the CW H1Z1: Fight for the Crown event together and that broadcast—the second esports tournament to show on the CW—did so well that we continued the conversation and eventually worked out a deal where we formed this joint venture and announced the Pro League.”

Although there won’t be any early H1Z1 Pro League tournaments hosted at TwitchCon this year, Castoro said that Daybreak would be meeting with potential teams, owners and players at the event to give details about the formation of the Pro League.

“The biggest goal for us is to have more viewers than players, like any other successful professional league,” Castoro explained. “Our goal is to make an experience that’s just as much fun to watch as it is to play. Although we have millions of people who play H1Z1 now, our goal is to have tens of millions of viewers enjoy the league and define what success can look like—where players can make a living with our game, and fans can be as versed in battle royale as they are in basketball.”

“Our goal is to have tens of millions of viewers enjoy the league and define what success can look like—where players can make a living with our game, and fans can be as versed in battle royale as they are in basketball.” — Anthony Castoro, general manager of H1Z1 and PlanetSide at Daybreak Games.

To further grow H1Z1 as an esport, Daybreak will need to reach beyond the core fan base. Castoro said that doing that will involve traditional marketing tactics, with the focus of putting the game in front of people to see. Another part of its promotion is through celebrities, athletes and influencers.

“We have some major personalities from the MMA scene and all kinds of different sports and entertainment,” said Castoro. “As people watch TwitchCon and hear about who is doing what, that will be a big part of it. I think you’ll see Daybreak partnering with Twin Galaxies to bring some interesting public figures, personalities and public figures into the game to make sure they’re aware.”

Castoro emphasized that H1Z1 is a watchable game, and that it doesn’t take long for new viewers to understand what’s going on and enjoy it.

“It’s natively viewable, so a big part is just getting it in front of people so that they know that it’s out there and they can talk about it,” said Castoro. “With our broadcast on CW, we might have even beaten the NHL game that was happening on the same night. So, we know we can get in front of a large audience and that’s why we’re investing in this business.”

Given H1Z1’s success on broadcast TV, which was the inspiration for the Pro League in the first place, Castoro revealed how Daybreak, Twin Galaxies and Vision Venture Partners (formed by former NBA star Rick Fox) were talking to partners about televising the tournaments in addition to broadcasting on digital platforms.

“We’re in active conversations with a variety of carriers on all formats,” said Castoro. “Our goal is to bring the experience to as many viewers as possible. You might expect that we’d be talking to CW, but we’re also talking to other broadcast providers for television and other formats. That’s another reason we partnered with Twin Galaxies and Vision Venture Partners. They bring some additional capabilities and pro scene experience to the table. They’re heavily connected in the areas of business development . . . We’re very excited to continue pioneering this space and the Pro League is another big step. Daybreak is committed to H1Z1 and its success.”

ZTE Wants ‘Mobile Revolutionaries’ To Use Axon M

Smartphones have not changed over the last 10 years. Lixin Cheng, CEO of ZTE Mobile Devices, shared this sentiment during Tuesday’s unveiling event for the Axon M mobile device.

“Overall, innovation has stalled,” said Cheng. “Over the years, wireless speed has increased, and now you can only tell the difference between devices by the name on the back versus what it is capable of.”

In his opening presentation, Cheng identified a group of consumers he called “mobile revolutionaries,” which are the consumers who don’t just use technology, but are empowered by it. He went on to say that we have all become revolutionaries, but have become frustrated by the limitations of mobile devices, despite how they have become the “primary device and the nerve center” of everything they do. Consumers are tired of having to pay more for new smartphones that are nearly identical to the ones that they already have, he said.

ZTE’s stated goals to identify the pain points of its users and innovate with new technologies to meet them.

“To us, it’s more than just providing a smartphone. It’s providing a smartphone that will make their lives easier and happier,” Cheng said.

While discussing how mobile users are demanding a device that will help them do more, Cheng pointed to a study conducted by CSE & Vantedge in 2017, which found that 68 percent of users switch between multiple apps to meet their needs. However, smartphones have reached their limits when it comes to screen size, as six inches is the largest size that can fit comfortably in one hand. Therefore, many have taken to carry multiple devices to complement their phones, such as tablets and laptops.

Cheng then introduced the ZTE Axon M, a first-of-its-kind mobile device that has two screens that can be folded back-to-back, as something that “will completely transform your smartphone experience.”

When closed, the Axon M looks like any other all-glass smartphone. But the device can be opened to support a variety of configurations. The screens work independently of each other; content can be extended across it, turning the phone into a small tablet. Furthermore, it can be used in tent mode with screen mirroring turned on, making it the ideal device for playing games like chess face-to-face.

During the product demonstration, the Axon M’s capabilities include managing email on one screen and a calendar on the other. Or consumers could watch a video on one screen while going through social media on the other. The new Android smartphone will be available this holiday season in the US exclusively through AT&T with a worldwide launch to follow shortly after.

Waiman Lam, VP of product marketing, ZTE USA

“Axon M is a category-defining smartphone that will give you an unrivaled experience and unlimited potential because of the dual-screen technology,” Waiman Lam, vice president of product marketing at ZTE USA, told AListDaily at the unveiling event. “This phone is very special because there’s nothing like it out there . . . Our targets of engagement are young professionals who are on-the-go and need to multitask. Also, fun-seekers who are into gaming, since they can use the big screen for a tablet-like experience. Everyday moms and dads, too, who have to do many chores or might want something like a big map when driving.

Lam said a lot of consideration went into making sure consumers can use the phone in normal scenarios for the entire day.

“We’re very confident that we’ve been able to achieve that,” he said.

ZTE prides itself on innovation, but the Axon M doesn’t necessarily support AR or VR technology like Google Daydream. However, Lam pointed to related devices that do.

“The Axon 7 is like a high-class sedan and the Axon M is like a luxury SUV,” said Lam, comparing to the Axon family of devices to car types.

Lam said that the unveiling event was just the start in getting the word out about the Axon M to consumers this holiday season.

“Obviously, we live in a digital world where everybody is online with social media,” he said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of programs to try to make people aware of this new device, which allows them to do so much more than an average smartphone. We’re going to use digital channels to advertise the product in addition to some creative offline ways to reach consumers.”

He also echoed the presentation’s message by stating that the smartphone is probably the most important device of them all, and ZTE’s goal with the Axon M is to make it better and more efficient. The brand’s biggest focus is on innovation. It illustrates that by pointing out how it had one of the first devices to use eye scanning to unlock phones, how the Axon 7 has dual front-facing speakers for high fidelity sound, and now the Axon M, which enables better multitasking with dual screens.

ZTE takes pride in being ranked by the World Intellectual Property Organization as the most innovative company last year in terms of patent applications worldwide across all industries, and among the top three in the past seven years.

“I think our innovation speaks for itself with the products that we launch,” Lam said.

As ZTE looks to popularize the next mobile hardware platform, it’s working with developers to optimize apps for it.

“We’re asking developers to sign up, and we’re also going to have events with developers,” said Lam.

However, the company isn’t looking to create Axon M-exclusive apps.

“The idea is that we don’t want to develop a brand new app just for this phone, but developers should be able to adapt apps for it,” Lam said. “It’s a new hardware platform, so there’s more opportunity for developers to make apps that are suitable for it and other phones that are a single screen.”