Marriott Continues #LoveTravels Campaign With Surprise Wedding

The #lovewins movement has gotten a tremendous social push since the Supreme Court passed same-sex marriage into law before this past weekend. And Marriott is doing its part with its ongoing #LoveTravels campaign.

The hotel chain recently release details about the ongoing social campaign partnering with What’s Trending, to encourage travelers to explore their personal passions.

In a special ceremony officiated by TV personality Ross Mathews, George Carrancho and Sean Franklin exchanged vows on a float during the Parade, Marriott hosted a surprise wedding during the Capital Pride Parade in Washington D.C.

“Capital Pride welcomes thousands of visitors each year in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and allies,” said Stacey Milne, VP Portfolio Marketing Strategy + Planning from Marriott International. “With our dedication to Pride and this year’s amazing parade, we can’t think of a better way to express how #LoveTravels than through the wedding vows of honored guests like George and Sean.  Many couples like George and Sean still cannot be married in states they call home; however, we can all celebrate their marriage here in our nation’s capital as the nation awaits the historic Supreme Court decision.  This unique occasion allows us to make their ceremony poignant and meaningful for all Americans and all our visitors.”

“As a public figure and member of the LGBT community, I could not be more proud to partner with Marriott and spread the meaning behind #LoveTravels,” said Ross Mathews.  “This is such a special time for equal rights and there is no better way to celebrate, than by officiating this beautiful couple, in one of the biggest Pride parades in the country.”

“The love that will be in the nation’s capital during Pride will be a testament to the historic change in the nation. Although we reside in New York, we continue to wait to be married in our home state of Texas,” said George and Sean. “We’re overwhelmed that we have been chosen by Marriott to celebrate our union with thousands more along the parade route, and we are thrilled to travel to D.C. for this monumental moment.”

Marriott has also spread the word with its #LoveTravels campaign through a number of social media ambassadors, including Alex Wassabi, Bria and Chrissy and Michael John Buckley, amongst many others.

The campaign has been running full steam since its launch last year, with a number of new ambassadors joining the campaign, and many stories that share the passion of travelers worldwide. #LoveTravels has made 4.2 million potential impressions on Instagram and 23.7 million potential impressions on Twitter, for a grand total of 27.9 million, according to the company. Furthermore, contributing influencers have managed to reach over 2.5 million people across Instagram and Twitter.

No doubt the movement will certainly pick up steam, especially with public push from the recent wedding.

Congrats to the happy couple!

Video Game, Comic Book Events Drawing Big Bucks

While the Electronic Entertainment Expo has come and gone, there are still plenty of events for fans to get excited about in the coming months. The San Diego Comic-Con will take place next week; PAX Prime will open up to its many fans in late August; and other small shows here and there, like Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo and Disney’s D23 event, will have big audiences.

What most folks may not realize, however, is just what kind of fans these events are drawing. VentureBeat recently reported that a study of 2,000 fans by ticketing and event company Eventbrite shows that there’s a great deal of excitement with attendees and “cosplayers,” or fans that like dressing up as their favorite characters at events. In fact, the study results, posted below, indicate some very big numbers, with an economic push that goes well into billions of dollars.

According to the chart above, nearly half of those surveyed go to cons quite frequently, attending at least three events per year (including the much-hyped San Diego Comic-Con). 60 percent attend at least one event that’s not local, while 85 percent of those surveyed are in the 23-56 age group — indicating that playing “dress-up” isn’t just for kids anymore.

Other results from the survey indicate that 72 percent of those that attend these conventions purchase some form of fashion, whether it’s a t-shirt, accessories or other wear tied in with their favorite brands. 78 percent prefer original artwork or prints offered by artists or companies; 66 percent buy collectibles, usually exclusives provided by retailers at these events; and 70 percent go after collectible merchandise, such as toys, figures or props.

Speaking about the results, Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture author Rob Salkowitz noted that event planners should be aware of these trends. He also pointed out that 48.9 percent of those surveyed were female, followed by 48.7 percent male — which indicates that events such as these are a huge draw for both sexes. (2.4 percent, meanwhile, were classified as “non-binary/other”).

Women show the highest interest with comic and genre-based media, with a 59 percent lead. Men, meanwhile, show more interest in general comics and graphic novels, leading by 64 percent. A lot of them are single as well, as the survey indicates that 50 percent of singles at these events are men, while 47 percent are women. (This might indicate why nerd “date night” panels at these events are picking up in popularity).

So where does the “billions of dollars” figure come into play? Through purchases. 59 percent of those surveyed indicate that they spend anywhere from $100 to $500 at these events, and that doesn’t include purchases for tickets, food or parking.

That’s not to say that everyone’s big spending, though. Only around 20 percent of those surveyed indicate that they purchase celebrity autographs at conventions, instead wishing to spend money on items like original art or toys. That’s not to say stars aren’t big draws, however — Hall H, the most popular hall at Comic-Con, consistently has a line of people waiting to get in. This year’s showcase will be no exception, featuring everything from Warner Bros.’ comic book TV shows to a panel devoted to the forthcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

More information on the survey results can be found here. And for those attending Comic-Con that wish to get more input from Salkowitz, he’ll be hosting a Future of Fan Culture panel at the event, taking place Sunday, July 12, at 3:30 p.m.

Mark Cuban Invests In eSports Company Unikrn’s Global Expansion

The competitive side of eSports has shown impressive growth over the past few years, with a number of publishers paying attention to big-name tournaments, and competitions coming to other mediums, including television.

One company that’s heavily invested in eSports is Unikrn, a company that has launched a new eSports platform alongside Tabcorp that’s set to tap into the audience of over ten million gamers across 100 countries. We previously spoke with the company’s CEO and co-founder, Rahul Sood, in this interview, but today, it’s upped the stakes with the announcement of new investors coming aboard.

Unikrn has announced that it has raised an additional $7 million through a number of high-profile investors, bringing its overall funding to over $10 million. Binary Capital is one of the key investors in the group, led by Jonathan Teo and Justin Caldbeck, along with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Advancit Capital, Freelands Group, 500 Startups, Indicator Ventures, Tabcorp and others.

Through this investment, Unikrn will continue its push into the popular eSports industry. A number of big-name tournaments have drawn massive audiences both in person and online, including the 2014 finals of the League of Legends World Championship, which drew 27 million people.

Binary Capital is the big name here, as that company has invested in a number of other socially based channels, including Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, along with others. “Working with Jonathan and his team has been an experience to say the least.  They have helped us pivot at the beginning, and they always refer to us as ‘we’ even before they pulled the trigger.  They’re an incredible partner with vast consumer branding and eSports experience, ” said Rahul Sood, CEO and co-founder, Unikrn.  “And, with the help of our other amazing investors, our vision of bringing safe and legal wagering on eSports to consumers around the world is now well within our grasp.”

“Millions of people watch competitive gaming globally, we believe the industry has hit an inflection point and this is just the tip of the iceberg for where this new sport can go,” said Jonathan Teo, Binary Capital.  “We fully believe in the Unikrn executive team, what they are building, and their vision of how they want to heighten people’s engagement with eSports across all mediums.”

“Hundreds of companies every year try to get me to invest, whether on Shark Tank or off camera. However, I only put my money and my name on the companies that I feel will be successful, truly advance an industry and have a leadership team that I respect.  Unikrn fits all these requirements,” said Mark Cuban. “The rapid growth of eSports has created an entire new category of competition and I am proud to partner with Rahul Sood and his team to help bring eSports to an even greater audience. As a sports fanatic and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, I’m excited to be involved with a new sport just as it’s poised for huge growth.”

Unikrn will have a continued investment in eSports, seeing how its growth isn’t about to slow down anytime soon. In a couple of months, Valve will be hosting its DOTA 2-driven International tournament in Seattle, with millions of dollars being offered as a grand prize.

Speaking exclusively with [a]listdaily, Sood stated, “We never would have guessed 6 months ago that we’d be sitting here today. The looks on some people’s faces when we told them that there are as many fans of eSports as there are the NHL was always entertaining. Unikrn raised 10 million dollars in total, we formed an exclusive partnership with one of the largest and most respected publicly traded betting companies in the world, we hired an amazing team, built an MVP, and launched in multiple countries. We get calls from VCs almost every day, and we’re backed by some of the brightest investors and business people on the planet. Imagine what the world will say when they see Mark Cuban backed an eSports company. It’s time for us to show the world what eSports is all about, and we only just started 7 months ago.”

As far as the company’s growth is concerned, Sood added, “We will be investing heavily in product development, we’re also hiring a head of marketing — looking for a growth hacker type to lead our marketing efforts. Of course we’ll also be spending some money on marketing, but we know that our investors will help us carry our story and amplify it globally.”

Those interested in Unikrn’s coverage of eSports can learn more about it here. It’s certainly going places.

Merge VR’s Andrew Trickett On Mixing Augmented and Virtual Reality

The challenge for VR and AR companies this year is, according to Merge VR co-founder Andrew Trickett, is getting the device on someone’s face.

“We have to put it out there into the public where they can try it out,” he said. “What we’re finding is when we have people try it out, they instantly want to buy one.”

Watch our interview with Trickett below where he talks about how Merge VR has been creatively mixing AR and VR:


Binge Viewing Is Going Up According To Study

Binge watching. It’s more popular than it’s ever been, especially with so many TV series at a viewer’s fingertips. Netflix has taken this practice in stride, offering seasons of original shows like Marvel’s Daredevil and Orange Is the New Black all at once, making it easy for fans to sit back and watch 13 hours of programming in one shot.

However, binge watching is picking up more than some people may expect. A new report from TiVo Research indicates that while consumers are excited about the concept, they also feel a bit sad, with 52 percent of those surveyed experiencing down time once they come to the end of a TV show, according to MediaPost. Losing sleep can also play a factor, as 31 percent of those surveyed have “lost sleep to binging,” as some people can’t get enough of their favorite show.

It sounds like the findings are negative, but, in truth, binge watching has become quite popular. Overall, “binging is booming,” according to TiVo, with 92 percent of respondents in a March poll indicating they’ve taken part in finishing a show to its completion.

So why the popularity TiVo states there’s more to binge watching than just the repeat programming that appears on networks over the summer. Having a full season on hand through Netflix, Hulu and Amazon is a big plus, with Netflix leading the charge with 66 percent of those polled taking part in its video-on-demand service.

And to balance out the somewhat negative numbers above, TiVo indicated that negative perception of binge watching has dropped, going down to 30 percent compared to 53 percent from two years ago. (That’s mainly due to a lot more quality programming being offered – Marvel’s Daredevil, for instance, has been a massive hit with critics and audiences alike, despite its mature themes. A second season is in the works for next year)

Some folks won’t be even bother to watch a show until they have the time to watch a season in its entirety, according to TiVo’s findings. 32 percent of those surveyed deliberately wait until the time is right, showing a slight increase from last year. In addition, 61 percent watch three or more episodes of the same show in one day, just to catch up from a previous viewing.

The findings also show that 45 percent admitted binging because they learn about the show after episodes have already aired, putting them in catch-up mode; and 40 percent state that shows are better when watching on a back-to-back basis, instead of building up anticipation waiting for the next airing.

So those of you who think you’re the only one sitting through every season of House of Cards…you’re certainly not alone.

More details on the findings can be found here.

Disney Aligning Its Two Consumer Electronics Divisions

Disney has certainly been keeping busy combining physical devices and electronic game play, between announcements involving its new Playmation Interactive Tech and the latest release in its Disney Infinity line-up, which will have a primary focus on Star Wars. But now, it appears that the companies behind these two projects, Disney Consumer Products and Disney Interactive, are about to work together a lot more closely.

Game Informer recently reported that Disney is combining these two divisions into one unit, under the name Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media – or DCPI for short. Through the union, Disney indicated that they will work together to better align the technology development ongoing in both divisions, while keeping focus on the projects at hand. So Disney Infinity will still play like Disney Infinity, while the new Playmation project will involve players in a different way.

Jimmy Pitaro and Leslie Ferraro, two members of the Disney Consumer Products division, will head up the team, while retaining their titles as presidents of both companies. With the group, the focus will be on “cutting edge technology and immersive products.” Other responsibilities will include traditional retail product development, licensing for consumer products, social game publishing, and, of course, everything Infinity.

Disney Interactive saw a boost in operating income from last year’s Disney Infinity, which focused on the Marvel Universe, by 86 percent. That said, there were still losses in the second quarter when it came to revenues, down 12 percent. Meanwhile, general consumer products saw an increase in revenue by 10 percent, with operating income picking up by 32 percent, mainly due to licensed products in both the Frozen and Avengers toy lines.

With this team-up, both Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars and Playmation will see heavy pushes moving into the fall season, although they’ll obviously be sold much differently since they’re both unique products that offer something new to the market. We’ll see how they fare once September rolls around.

The Next Mobile Game Star? Demi Lovato

There’s big money to be made in the mobile market, especially if a company finds the right tie-in with a big-name celebrity. Glu Mobile, for instance, has been raking in millions of dollars from its promotional tie-in with Kim Kardashian, with her Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game; and it’ll soon be doing so again with singer Katy Perry, who will be getting her own mobile game soon, also through Glu.

Now, add one more sensation to the mobile mix. Billboard recently reported that singer Demi Lovato has signed up with mobile game developer Pocket Gems to star in a new mobile game, one that follows the “choose your own adventure” style of play as users make decisions to create their own music careers.

Set to be released this summer, the yet-unnamed game will run on Pocket Gems’ Episode platform, and will be available for both iOS and Android platforms.

Considering the popularity of Kardashian’s project, as well as the hype building for Perry’s, it should be no surprise that another AAA superstar will soon be joining the mobile world, according to Pocket Gems’ Jameel Khalfan. “If you incorporate an artist with Demi, it becomes more real,” Khalfan tells Billboard. “You get to see things that have helped her along the way. We wanted to come up with a compelling story our users will love. They’re all aware of her story.”

Pocket Gems pays close attention to its userbase, including female players, in terms of what kind of content they’re looking for, and Lovato easily fit this bill, according to Khalfan. Through a discussion with the CAA (Lovato’s agency), they discovered that she was interested in jumping on board the project.

Lovato also has heavy involvement in the game’s development, providing a great deal of authenticity with crafted dialogue, as well as clothes and outfits for her digital avatar. Her dog Buddy will also be featured in the game, as well as a number of her original recordings, which will be involved “in a few different ways,” according to Khalfan.

Considering the imminent success that Hollywood produced, Pocket Gems and Lovato could certainly be onto something.

Inside Mobile Advertising’s Potential

VentureBeat recently posted a report with a flow chart that breaks down how one typical mobile ad event can break down in terms of effectiveness. It starts with how a mobile user first visits a site or opens an app, then goes through a number of steps, including ad exchange, bidding for a real-time auction for ad space, user interaction, and, eventually, moving on to the next thing, although the user remains unaware in terms of just what’s going on with the deliver of said ad. According to the chart, we’re talking multiple transactions that occur within milliseconds.

According to VentureBeat, 2.1 billion mobile users downloaded over 350 billion apps over the last year, spending around 76 percent more time on their device than in previous years. That said, despite all this attention, the industry still isn’t spending enough on ads. Numbers reported by Mary Meeker indicate that they spend around $25 billion — and that just isn’t enough.

This other chart, included in the report, indicates the percent of time spent in media compared to money spent within advertising — and some of the contrast differences are worth nothing. Print has an incredible amount of difference, with only four percent time spent compared to 18 percent spending. Meanwhile, other numbers are just about even, with radio reporting 11 percent across the board, followed by TV with a small difference between 37 percent time spent and 41 percent spending, and Internet only showing a one percent difference.

The real shocker, though, is mobile. 24 percent of overall time is spent on media using mobile devices, yet companies only spend about eight percent of funding on advertisements — and they’re missing out as a result.

“The mobile ad ecosystem is like a giant Plinko game,” said John Koetsier, the author of the report and VB Insight head of research. “Advertisers toss in $100 at the top, and after going through data management platforms, ad agencies, networks, and supply-side platforms, they’re lucky if $60 actually gets spent on true placement of their ads.”

Meanwhile, the supply side of the industry is getting more support, and, as a result, brands may see more confidence with investing in ads. “There are something like 1,000 ad networks, adding to the immense complexity of this space, so the biggest opportunity for vendors is to consolidate the stack — ad network, data, supply aggregation, demand aggregation, attribution, and fraud detection — so that advertisers just have to deal with fewer vendors,” Koetsier said.

VentureBeat has a more extensive report on the project, which can be found here.

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Nintendo: Despite What’s Coming, It’s Not A Transitional Year

Nintendo has a lot happening these days. It’s about to make its long-awaited foray into mobile with some help from DeNA; it’s working on a new NX platform that could be announced as soon as next year, with Android support; and it’s got a full slate of titles coming over the next few months for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. That said, the company is still keeping the norm when it comes to business, as indicated by Nintendo of America’s executive vice president of sales, Scott Moffitt, who recently spoke with GamesIndustry International.

“I wouldn’t view it as a transitional year at all for us,” he said. “At least, I don’t think of it that way. We’re bringing a plethora of great games to the market this year. We have 14 games we’re launching between now and the end of the year, eight of them on Wii U and six of them on 3DS. They’re great, bold, imaginative, transformational games… Our company is always moving on many different dimensions, but E3 is probably not the place to talk about a theme park experience, it’s not a mobile game show. So a lot of those things are really better talked about and discussed at other times of the year. We focus on games, games, games. We make great games and we want to showcase those here and allow fans to play them.”

The company’s feedback from its E3 presentation was mixed, with anticipation of some games being incredibly high (like Yoshi’s Woolly World and StarFox Zero), and some games leaving a slightly bitter taste in gamers’ mouths (such as the redesigned Metroid Prime: Federation Force). “It’s always a balancing act. You want fans to be enthusiastic about what’s coming, but the focus is on what’s going to be here-and-now,” said Moffitt. “We have meetings with retailers where all they care about is, ‘What am I going to be selling in my store this coming holiday ‘ They don’t really care about a game that’s going to be three years down the road. Those buyers may be on different desks; they’ll be buying deodorant by then. That’s an important constituency here at the show, as well as game fans and media.”

As for the controversy surrounding Force, Moffitt said that Nintendo isn’t turning an ear away from its audience. “We love our fans. They’re the most passionate, vocal group of fans I’ve ever seen, and we listen carefully to their opinions,” Moffitt said. “We respect their opinions and their right to share those opinions with us. We try to make the best decisions we can with them in mind, but also with our content in mind, with our franchises in mind. A lot goes into the decision of which games to produce and which games not to produce. I don’t pretend to know how all those decisions are made, but we certainly appreciate our fans’ enthusiasm for the Metroid franchise. It’s a franchise I love as well, and I hope they will find other games in the 14 we’ve announced at this E3 that they can play in the meantime while we all wait for the game we’d like to come out in the Metroid franchise.”

Moffitt is also aware of the high demand for the company’s amiibo toys, since most of them sell out quickly, leaving some users high and dry when it comes to collecting their favorites. “We’re aware of the frustration game fans have had, and I’m empathetic with how difficult it’s been to find some of the amiibo,” Moffitt said. “We would love to be able to make enough for everyone that wants an amiibo to be able to buy it. And we are making them in greater and greater quantities. Every wave we release, we’re trying to do a better job estimating the demand and producing enough to satisfy it.”

He also assured that amiibo figures will be better provided, especially later in the year, when Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival makes its debut for the Wii U. “It’s really our third platform,” Moffitt said of amiibo. “Certainly, creating great games is what we’re best at. But it’s added an important new dimension to gameplay that our developers have really embraced. It’s still not our core franchise, not our core business, but it’s a nice third platform that allows us to innovate and bring new ideas to satisfy creativity in our developers, but also allow our game fans a new kind of gaming experience. But I wouldn’t say it’s our core platform.”

The amiibo figures are just a small part of an ever-expansive interactive toy/game market, one that will reach a peak this year with such entrants as Skylanders Superchargers, Lego Dimensions and Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars. “Certainly as new entrants come in, it tends to grow a business to a point, and then it gets over-crowded,” Moffitt said. “But what we’re seeing with amiibo is we’ve expanded the big demographics of the typical toys-to-life consumer to be older, and that’s a good thing for the whole toys-to-life category. The second thing we’re seeing is retailers are continuing to expand the space that’s dedicated to toys-to-life. That’s all good for the category, and I think it will continue to have a good holiday. The thing I would point out to your readers is that the Wii U is the platform of choice for toys-to-life gaming. It’s the only place you can play all of the platforms. That’s exciting and I think we want to continue to be the destination for toys-to-life gaming.”

Finally, Moffitt discussed the value of software, which remains a key point with Nintendo’s business. “Our developers work hard on games,” Moffitt said. “It’s expensive to develop games, and the value of software needs to be respected and kept high. It’s a concern with everything we do, all the way through to creating hardware bundles for the holidays. It’s a factor in all of those decisions. It’s very important for us to keep the value of software high.”

Twitch Increases E3’s Marketing Impact

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, which took place earlier this month in Los Angeles, was a tremendous success for a lot of game companies. However, it was also big for the streaming channel Twitch, which provided a lot of live coverage from the event over its three day span. We previously reported that it drew big numbers, with up to 700,000 to 800,000 concurrent viewers for the pre-show press conferences alone.

However, since then, the company has released more official results from its coverage, per the included infographic below.

According to the data provided, over 21 million unique viewers tuned in to the event in one form or another, with up to 840,000 concurrent viewers at given points in their broadcasts. This is 16 times more than the actual attendees for the E3 event, which reached more than 50,000.

In addition, nearly 12 million hours of content from the show was watched overall, either live or through rebroadcasts. According to Twitch, that’s the amount of time for a person to travel to Pluto and back, an estimated 72 times.

Twitch broadcast 41 hours of live E3 content, including eight press conferences and 85 gaming segments. Out of those segments, 11 were exclusive to Twitch, giving people a reason to tune in. Twitch has turned into an enormous marketing booster for E3 and for the exhibiting companies, amplifying their messages and engaging millions more consumers than previous media coverage of the event.

Partners to the Twitch program around the world also benefitted from E3 coverage. Co-streaming support was at an all-time high during the show, with just over 1,800 unique channels participating with rebroadcasts in German, French and Dutch. They made up 35 percent of total E3 viewership overall, indicating that the show has a popular following overseas, just as much as it does in the U.S. gaming community.

Finally, as a participating partner in Twitch’s coverage, Humble Bundle offered a special “E3 Digital Ticket” program, enabling users to not only watch programming, but also obtain exclusive goodies, including games and other items. The partnership turned out to be a huge success, as more than 174,000 bundles were sold, raising $390,000 for charity.

Even with the competition from YouTube with its recently announced Gaming channel, Twitch had no problem dominating E3. And with other big video game events around the corner — including PAX Prime in August and Gamescom later in the year — there’s no stopping its momentum.

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