For Brands, #LoveWins


Posted by Community on Friday, June 26, 2015

Epic: VR Is Good, But AR Has A Future

There’s a lot of hype going into the forthcoming wave of virtual reality-based devices, including Sony’s own Project Morpheus and Facebook’s Oculus Rift technology. However, according to Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, the focus should be going elsewhere – augmented reality, or AR for short.

Speaking with GamesIndustry International, Sweeney doesn’t believe that VR is a “fad”, as Warren Spector recently stated, but it will have its limitations. “VR is a 150 million user audience, but it’s not for the whole world. Whereas AR, if you look out a number of years I bet the majority of mankind will have an AR device – it will redefine interaction with computers and replace computer monitors, tablets, televisions and every kind of play technology. I think it’s the next big development in the history of civilization, if you put it in perspective,” Sweeney stated.

So far, some AR demonstrations have left people less than thrilled (the Minecraft for HoloLens demo at E3 being an exception), though the potential is certainly there with the right developers on board. “It’s a ways out, it’s not going to provide the experience for hardcore gamers in the next couple of years whereas VR is doing that right now,” explained Sweeney.

That doesn’t mean that Epic isn’t preparing for a VR future, though. It’s already adapted its Unreal Engine 4-based technology for the Oculus. “Unreal provides all the hooks for the major VR devices. You focus 95 percent of your effort on building a game and the remaining five percent goes into tweaking it for the different configurations,” said Sweeney.

CTO Kim Libreri added his two cents on the matter, talking about experiences. “We have a large community that makes Unreal experiences and games… I liken it to the birth of film, people are just working out what the laws are. I actually think the openness we’re seeing in the industry about what works, what doesn’t work, how to avoid motion sickness, the coolest way to move a player around a space, these things are really great because we all have to learn these things before we can make a great experience. We’re very happy to be part of that,” he said.

There is plenty of excitement behind virtual reality, and for good reason, according to Libreri. “I think creatively, people like new challenges when they’re building stuff – you get into games or any creative [career] because you love it and you want to innovate and have your consumers, your audience experience a new thing. Even though there’s this whole new rule set that has to be established for this next generation of VR games, most designers and developers love this challenge because it levels the playing field. For this first few years of this new medium, you’re not going to have to necessarily make the big AAA Call of Duty style games. I think people will just be very happy to be entertained, as long as they believe in the space or the characters and world that’s presented to them.

“They don’t have to have a very complicated experience because they’re novel and new. On the technical side, we try to help people by supporting the major platforms to make it a little bit easier – but we do have the issue that you’re trying to render very high resolution frames in stereo at a high frame rate. You have to be clever about your content and make sure performance is something you think about, but it’s the creative challenges that are all new; they’re not scary, people love it.”

More of the interview can be found here.

Microsoft Gives Games With Gold A Boost With More Freebies

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since Microsoft initially introduced its Games With Gold program, in which certain game titles are offered free of charge to users who subscribe to Xbox Live Gold. The program has matured quite a bit over the years, offering more blockbuster titles, as well as exclusive first-day releases, such as Pool Nation FX and #IDARB.

Now, the program is expanding even further. According to the Xbox Wire page, starting with next month’s offerings, Xbox Live members will now get double the games on a monthly basis on the Xbox One, instead of just the one default title. Over the past few months, Microsoft has been hinting at such an expansion, offering two titles instead of the usual one, including the likes of the role-playing adventure Massive Chalice and other titles.

The titles will be offered on a monthly basis, but broken out into two-week periods. Up first, free from July 1st to 31st, is the Ubisoft pirating adventure Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Following on July 16th (through August 15th) is the puzzle/platforming adventure So Many Me’s.

The program will also continue on the Xbox 360 with two titles offered every month. July 1-15 will see the availability of PopCap’s puzzle game Plants Vs. Zombies, while the classic sequel Gears of War 3 will be offered from July 16-31.

“It’s been two years and we hope you’ve enjoyed playing all the amazing games as much as we have,” said the company in a statement. “We look forward to many more games to share with the Xbox community.”

Such a move is an effective one by Microsoft, as it not only allows the company to thank its hardcore gaming community, but also bolsters the opportunity to sell more Xbox Live Gold subscriptions. Adding freebie games to a service such as this will certainly serve as a benefit, especially if more AAA-based game titles like Black Flag are involved.

The full details on the Games With Gold program can be found here.

Nintendo’s ‘Skylanders’ Team-Up Is A Huge Win

Last week’s Electronics Entertainment Expo produced a number of surprises for fans around the industry, including a few from Nintendo, such as the introduction of a new StarFox game. However, what’s even more surprising is how the publisher is collaborating with Activision to produce a special version of Skylanders SuperChargers for Nintendo systems.

The companies announced this past week that the Wii U, Wii and Nintendo 3DS versions of Skylanders will be compatible with two special figures and vehicles straight from Nintendo’s library of characters – Bowser and Donkey Kong. In fact, those who pre-order the game will get both of these characters, along with their respective vehicles, with the Starter Pack of the game when it becomes available on September 20th. (Better still, the Donkey Kong and Bowser figurines can also double as amiibo figurines for other games, like Super Smash Bros. and others.)

This is a huge win for Nintendo, an exclusive that will no doubt make the Nintendo versions of the game more popular than the ones appearing on other platforms.

“Activision Blizzard has always cherished our collaboration with Nintendo, and we are grateful for decades of partnership. Since we made the first toys-to-life game, some of our most dedicated players have been Nintendo fans around the world. Skylanders is delighted to welcome beloved guest stars Donkey Kong and Bowser into its magical world,” said Activision Blizzard chief executive officer Bobby Kotick, speaking with Business Wire.

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata also praised the team-up, indicating that this unique approach would make the franchise more appealing on Nintendo platforms – even older ones like the Wii.

Both Donkey Kong and Bowser bring their own signature attacks to the game, such as Donkey Kong calling flinging barrels at foes and pounding the ground with his hands, and Bowser turning into a “mega” version of himself, stomping around and breathing fire. He can also call upon loyal Koopas to do his dirty work for him, or stomp on their backs and create powerful projectiles to hit foes.

It appears that Activision is pledging itself to the Wii U again. The company was stagnant last year, with only a new Skylanders game for the system and no sign of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, but this year tells a different story, between this partnership and the forthcoming music sim Guitar Hero Live, which will come to the platform this October. There’s still no word on Call of Duty: Black Ops III, though.

The trailer for SuperChargers is below.


How Twitter Is Helping Brands Win The Moment

A lot of brands like using Twitter when it comes to spreading the world about their products, but some of them are still hesitant, mainly due to concerns that they can’t quite convey their ads as effectively as they’d like. Fortunately, there’s a team for that.

Twitter’s Ross Hoffman, alongside his team, helps plan certain aspects of social media on the site. The team helps lay the groundwork for campaigns that in turn would help these companies “win the moment” with the right catchy message.

It looks like a simple marketing effort, but a lot of work goes into it, according to Hoffman, who recently spoke about it during a visit to Cannes. “Our mission here is to meet with our largest brand and agency partners for the week to talk about the second half of the year and talk about 2016 to get as upstream as possible,” he explained.

Hoffman is leading the drive when it comes to assisting brands to advertise on all of Twitter’s channels, including the short-form Vine video format, live streaming Periscope and autoplay. Niche, a recently formed creative agency that focuses on web celebrities, is also improved to an extent.

It’s all about the brands finding the right message, according to Hoffman. “They understand that they want to be on the platform but having the content strategy is something they look to us for,” he said. Brands usually point out something along the lines of “This is your product. Help us out.” In which Hoffman and his team oblige with a number of strategies.

One example of how a campaign can be effective on Twitter is with Coca-Coca’s recent stint, where personalized messages were sent via virtual bottles to users, as part of its “Share a Coke” campaign. “You see a Promoted Tweet with your name on it and you’re like, ‘Whoa, how does that work ” said Hoffman. It’s mainly through “serendipitous, cool moments for consumers with the brand, at scale.”

And it’s a practice that Facebook and Google are starting to take notice with, and perfect on their own – a job easier said than done considering their different formats.

As for other formats, like Periscope, there’s a lot of potential, as French-based telecom company Orange recently proved per the video below.


‘Terminator Genisys’ Gets New Interactive Game In Theaters

The Terminator has been making quite a few headlines in the social media world lately. First, he appeared in a virtual reality-enabled video put together by YouTube; then he was the subject of a series of GIF videos to advertise his return. Now, with Terminator Genisys ready to hit movie screens in just a few days, he’s coming back with a new interactive game for select theaters.

The Business Insider reports that Paramount has announced a special interactive game that will allow players to keep up with on-screen actions at select IMAX locations at AMC theaters. With it, audience members who sit down can join a secure Wi-Fi network (without the need to load a secondary app) and join in a team-based game, where they must fight off against waves of incoming Terminators.

Players will be assigned to one of four teams fighting against the killer robots, based on settings from the Genisys film. From there, these players can point their phones at the movie screen while clicking a button to shoot and kill Terminator cyborgs. In short, it turns your mobile device into a temporary light gun, similar to what the NES did with the Zapper and Duck Hunt. (But obviously on a much larger scale – and with Terminators.) The page that users will load appears as follows.

The game only lasts three minutes — and stops when the movie starts — but it provides a fun activity while waiting for it to start. In addition, the winning team for each showing at participating theaters will walk away with a collectible Terminator Genisys poster

Only five locations — York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Dallas — will take part in the game, but with enough success, future projects could come to more movie screens.

“For the first time ever, moviegoers can engage with each other in an interactive, digital setting from their own theater seats,” said Megan Wahtera, Senior Vice President of Interactive Marketing, Paramount Pictures in a press release. “This unique opportunity is a great way to bring rich online experiences to the big screen to celebrate the release of ‘Terminator Genisys.'”

For those that can’t take part in the big-screen fun, there’s also a mobile game, Terminator Genisys: Revolution. It is available for download now on iOS and Android {link no longer active}.

Genisys releases in theaters July 1st. The movie trailer is below.



Mattel’s Barbie Takes On Video Blogging

It’s hard to believe that Mattel’s Barbie doll has been around for well over 50 years. What’s even harder to believe is that she hasn’t taken up “vlogging” – or video blogging – until just recently.

But that’s just what happened to the iconic female doll, who recently posted her first video blog over on her official YouTube page. According to The Daily Dot, the video, which has already seen more than 100,000 views, features the popular doll talking about things going on in her virtual life, from the comfort of her bedroom.

“My friends and I just really love sharing new ideas. New music, favorite movies, videos, tips on personal style,” Barbie says in the clip, talking about why she wanted to give “vlogging” a try.

If her video, posted below, looks familiar, that’s because it emulates a style similar to other popular “vloggers,” including Bethany Mota and Meg DeAngelis.

With creating the video, Mattel made sure it covered the “vlogging” basics, as Barbie basically discusses “fun facts about me,” similar to Mota’s “5 Random Facts About Me” {link no longer active} clip posted back in 2010.

This marks the latest move by the popular doll into social media, following opening up an Instagram account that has attracted quite the audience, with over 828,000 followers and counting. As you might expect, the account consists of a number of photos featuring Barbie performing day-to-day activities.

With the “vlogging” page, however, Barbie is able to exhibit more of a personality that fans can relate to, while at the same time giving a nod to fellow “vloggers” who have found similar success in their art form.

Whether Mattel can retain this consistency with future videos has yet to be seen, but considering the popularity of this first entry, Barbie could have quite a “vlogging” future ahead of her.


Instant Articles Could Become Facebook’s Next Big Feature

The Facebook social site is already brimming with posts from users, talking about everything they run into on a daily basis. However, it’s soon going to fill up with stories from various news outlets, according to a post from the Wall Street Journal.

The site reports that various publishers are preparing to fill up Facebook’s Instant Articles section over the next few days with a variety of stories. The New York Times has already stated that it will publish about 30 articles on a daily basis through Facebook’s news feed, and the Atlantic will follow suit with pieces of its own content. NBC News is reportedly on board as well, with 30 to 40 articles set to run through the news stream. All these outlets are doing now is waiting for Facebook to give it the green light.

“We’re excited for the next phase,” said Bob Cohn, president and chief operating officer for The Atlantic. “At the outset, we’ll be putting most of our content into the feed and will closely monitor the effect. We are ready to change how much we make available.”

BuzzFeed, a site that gets big numbers with its various “click-through” articles, could be participating as well, according to chief executive Jonah Peretti.

However, Facebook will be pacing this out so it doesn’t overwhelm users, as it intends to make the articles visible only to select groups of readers, to see what kind of reaction it gauges in its news feed.

With the program, those who publish articles through Instant Articles (instead of providing links back to their own pages) believe that doing so will pick up the exposure of said content through the service, without interfering on the user’s main feed. This will also be the case for those who use the site on mobile devices, with improved load time.

On the business end of this deal, publishers will be able to keep 100 percent of revenue brought in from the ads being sold, or 70 percent if Facebook lends a hand in selling the ad.

As far as focus, The Atlantic will work alongside AMC to promote its upcoming sci-fi TV show Humans, which premieres this Sunday, alongside its Instant Article posts, according to Mr. Cohn. Meanwhile, the New York Times doesn’t have a corporate partner, instead focusing on innovation and strategy with its articles, according to editor Kinsey Wilson. “We believe we can command a rate similar to what we get for an ad on our own site.”

Newsrooms have become more reliant on getting the “word out” through social sites these days, and the Instant Articles feature could be quite a step for them. However, it all depends on how well it plays out – and if it has any effect on day-to-day use for the site, on both desktop and mobile devices.

We’ll see how the news plays out soon enough.

Facebook Messenger Could Soon Outpace Its Main App

The popularity of Facebook Messenger on mobile devices is through the roof – and it could soon very well eclipse the social site that launched it.

Variety reports that the social site is now enabling users in various countries to sign up for Messenger without first setting up an account on the main Facebook site. This includes consumers in the United States, as well as Canada, Peru and Venezuela. As a result, this could help Messenger eventually gain even more users than those on the main Facebook app itself.

Even though sign-up doesn’t require a Facebook account in these countries (needing only a name and a working phone number), it still encourages users to use their Facebook account for Messenger, as indicated by this blog post. With this, users will have better ways to find contacts, as well as access Messenger features on desktop and laptop devices, without having a secondary user list.

Messaging has really gone to great strides, following Facebook’s $19 billion investment in messaging service WhatsApp last year, which led to the launch of the Messenger app just last year.

Since its launch, Messenger has spread like wildfire, breaking away from the main Facebook application and becoming the most popular free app on Google Play. It’s also quite popular in the App Store as well, with continuous top ten placement. With over 700 million users and counting on a monthly basis (according to numbers provided by CEO Mark Zuckerberg), it’s easy to see why.

Messenger still has a catch-up game ahead of it when it comes to Facebook’s main audience. That site still has 1.4 billion active users on a monthly basis, just half of where Messenger sites. However, it’s shown quite a bit of growth, going from 500 million users in November to 600 million this past March. At that pace, it could catch up to Facebook by sometime next year – and with this new sign-up feature, maybe even quicker.

For Facebook, it seems that the message is certainly clear.

How Brands Are Tapping Into The Power Of The GIF

Vine and Instagram videos are certainly popular, but one format that’s seen quite a boost on both Twitter and Facebook is the GIF, or the Graphic Interchange Format. With this, users are able to loop small pieces of video together in a consistently running loop.

It’s a unique format, and sets up clever responses in the social media world. However, it appears that it could also be a new venue for companies to take advantage of, provided they have the right approach to making a GIF work.

Adweek recently reported that a lot more companies are taking advantage of such a format, attracting new consumers with fun, short video clips that entice them to try out their products.

For instance, with DiGornio Pizza’s clip above, a “pizza-utopia” is created, with continuously zooming pictures of the company’s pepperoni pizza product. It’s certainly bound to make a few people hungry.

“We are starting to see this behavior where people are using content and culture to communicate – they’re not just using words anymore,” said Adam Leibsohn, chief operating officer for Giphy. “When they’re doing that, there’s an opportunity for that culture to come from a brand.”

Both Giphy and Tumblr have begun pushing branded content via marketers through GIF-related posts, while agencies are working on creating better production studios and possibilities for advertisements in house.

Paramount Pictures is another company taking advantage of GIF’s, working with Giphy to create promotional clips based on its forthcoming Terminator Genisys film. This is the second time that it’s worked on the media front for advertising for the film, following a fun tie-in with YouTube’s studio in Los Angeles. The video clip can be found below.

“In terms of the animated GIF, we pay close attention to what content works on which platforms, so it’s not as simple as throwing a 30 or 15 second spot up or even a quick video edit,” said Megan Wahtera, senior vice president of interactive marketing for Paramount.

Through The Studio at Giphy — a specialized team that puts together GIFs and other video projects for clients — more companies have begun picking up, utilizing the format more for social media purposes. “We’re building really basic elements of communication,” said Leibsohn. “It’s like an alphabet — if you have all the letters, you can make all the words.”

More GIF business is pouring in as well. “We’ve got projects that are breaking almost every week at this point,” Leibsohn continued. “We had to actually expand the studio, staff up and make the process faster to be able to produce more content.

Examples of these GIFs can be found here.