Disney Introduces Playmation Interactive Tech

Disney is already keeping busy enough in the interactive toy division, having announced a new Disney Infinity game that will feature playsets from various universes, including Star Wars, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Disney/Pixar’s upcoming film Inside Out. However, that isn’t stopping the company from trying something new in the interactive field.

TechCrunch has reported that Disney will be releasing a new product called Playmation later this year, which will combine the usage of figurines based on characters with wearable devices to create interactive adventures, in which kids can use to explore the universes surrounding said characters. So far, two major power players – Marvel and Star Wars, both Disney licenses – will be involved with the project, although more based on other properties could be introduced in the future.

The set will launch with an Avengers starter pack, hitting shelves in October for the retail price of $119.99. It will feature an Iron Man-inspired Repulsor that can be strapped onto a child’s arm, along with two Power Activators and Smart Figures that will interact with the device (for this particular set, Captain America and Iron Skull).

Once activated, the Repulsor device provides audio guidance from Jarvis (Tony Stark’s helpful computer assistant) in terms of how to get into the adventure. No word yet on who’s being considered for the Star Wars set (which doesn’t have a release date, but is likely to arrive in time for the winter debut of The Force Awakens in theaters), but Yoda seems a likely choice.

Playmation utilizes sensors and wireless communication technology that recognizes actions from the wearer of the Repulsor, which in turn enables players to experience actions within the universe by running, jumping and exploring certain areas. There will also be a competitive head-to-head factor with each set, where players can battle it out in epic superhero fashion. Could this mean lightsaber battles in Star Wars Maybe.

“Innovation and creativity are the driving forces behind Disney, and our goal is to inspire children to unleash the power of their imaginations through the stories we tell and the experiences we create. With Playmation, we’re taking the next step in that tradition – bringing the worlds of play, storytelling, and technology together – in a new and very exciting way,” said Leslie Ferraro, president of Disney Consumer Products. “Playmation takes the best the digital world has to offer and uses it to create supercharged, real world play. This is play updated for today’s kids – bringing their imaginations to life as they go on active adventures alongside their favorite characters.”

“The study highlights a major opportunity to meet the needs of both parents and kids with a new way to play,” said Kareem Daniel, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Business Development. “Playmation uses technology to make active, physical play even more fun. It puts kids at the center of our stories in a way we’ve never been able to before.”

This introduces a whole new area for Disney to capitalize on its franchises, while at the same time opening the door for wearable tech to continue moving in to today’s modern marketing arena. Although the equivalent is similar to the classic laser tag game, the interaction with popular characters – through a playset that offers exploration on top of having fun with familiar favorites – should make it a big hit with kids this holiday season.

Other playsets are already in the works for Playmation, including one based on the popular film Frozen, where kids will no doubt be able to play through a winter wonderland. Individual sets, however, haven’t been priced just yet.

The only question is how Disney intends to market Playmation so that it doesn’t get in the way of its Infinity product. Both will feature high-value brands, both have a level of interactivity that offer something unique, and it’s uncertain whether Playmation items will work with Infinity and vice versa – though probably unlikely. That said, Disney will probably have a big multi-million dollar campaign in place that amicably supports both products as they head to retail this holiday season.

In the meantime, interested parties can learn more about the Playmation project in the trailer below.


Now Hiring This Week: June 3rd

[a]listdaily is your source for the hottest job openings for senior management and marketing in games, entertainment and social media. Check here every Wednesday for the latest openings.

Read a case for and against job hopping before you find your next position.

For last week’s [a]list jobs postings, click here. Have a position you’d like to place with us Email us at pr@ayzenberg.com.

Ad Blocking Is On The Rise

Sometimes users just don’t want to look at ads. Having to sit through a 30-second promo to get to a favorite show or removing a full-page banner to check a favorite web page can be annoying to some —and, as a result, they’ve turned to ad-blocking services to help alleviate the problem.

DigiDay recently posted a number of charts that indicate just how popular ad-blocking services have become, and while they’re a saving grace for users, they’re a thorn in the side of companies trying to meet their advertising bottom lines.

This chart, generated by Google, shows just how much usage of ad blockers have increased over the past ten years. They were minimally used in 2005, but these days, searches under the names “ad blocker”, “adblock plus” and “ad block” are used quite extensively. AdBlock plus seems to get the most traffic, but the other two have shown an increase in interest as well.

AdBlock has also seen more results in its searches as well. The chart above indicates that the service, which is used consistently to stop pop-ups and other obtrusions from getting in the way of browsing sessions, will top 236 million monthly users, according to a report from PageFair. This is a large climb from 144 million last year, and 21 million back in 2010. The AdBlock Plus service generates an average of 2.3 million downloads a week, starting back from 2013.

As far as which sites are most affected by ad blocking, gaming has the number one spot with 55 percent, followed by tech and comics at 35 percent, and entertainment, science and fashion and lifestyle rounding out the list just below 30 percent each. These numbers, reported by Secret Media, are generated based upon certain audiences. Gaming sites, for instance, have young, male and tech-literate visitors that use ad-blocking services regularly.

One would think that the United States would be the biggest nation to use ad-blocking services, but this chart indicates that other countries use them regularly as well. Poland leads the pack with 33.7 percent of all ads blocked, followed by Argentina (33.5 percent), Sweden (33.4 percent), Finland (32.2 percent) and Germany (30.4 percent). The U.S. is on the list, but its usage sits at a lowly 15 percent.

“I personally suspect that in some of these countries, citizens are more concerned about their personal privacy, perhaps for historical reasons,” said PageFair CEO Sean Blanchfield.

While blocking services do make things more convenient for the user, it creates a new challenge for companies to overcome with creation of an effective ad campaign. The bottom line is that they’ll just have to keep trying — pop-up ads just aren’t doing it anymore.

Scott Brinker Explains Massive Marketing Technology Landscape

Massive marketing technology has come a long way over the last few years. And if you don’t believe that statement, you’ll want to hear what Scott Brinker has to say.

The co-founder and CTO of interactive content provider Ion Interactive previously posted an outlook at the general marketing technology landscape, and somehow crammed it all into one detail-oriented chart, which you can find below. There are well over 2,000 companies involved in this post, and that has led to some confusion when it comes to sorting, even with their categorization.

Brinker’s point with the report was to show just how much it’s grown, with so many companies involved, according to VentureBeat. “I didn’t mean to scare the beejeezus out of everything,” he stated, speaking at VentureBeat’s GrowthBeat Summit in Boston this week.

He began scoping out this landscape way back in 2011, when there were only 100 companies. That means thousands jumped into the industry over the last four years, creating an overabundance of involved partners and marketers. Brinker also noted that even a relatively new category of interactive content can see a number of players, with more than 70 companies involved.

Brinker then explained what’s behind this explosion of the Landscape, with more products, media channels and ways to build and adopt software. He also noted that companies received a great deal of funding, with more than $30 billion in investment expected over the next three years.

He believes, though, that “the tech is a distraction,” and that marketing itself is changing “in fundamental ways.”

What started as a “business of communications,” relying on basic copywriting, has built more into a “business of experience,” where marketers address consumers through every step of a “journey,” from considering a purchase to coming back for repeat business. In short, story has become a part of technology.

This is where people within companies need to step up to keep the story going, according to VentureBeat CEO Matt Marshall. This includes a number of items in the code, like software, interaction and configurations to consumer’s needs. “In a digital world,” he noted, “software is your hand and eyes.”

Don’t be surprised if this chart manages to grow even further over the next few years. Brinker’s going to need a bigger page.

GameFly Adds Streaming, Vows To Become ‘Netflix of Games’

Video game streaming is a well-established technology, but making it a viable business has proven even more challenging than getting the tech working. For years, OnLive attempted to capitalize on an audience with its cloud-based gaming, eventually being bought out by Sony to improve its PlayStation Now service. However, GameFly wants a piece of this action, and it’s got a big asset helping it along.

VentureBeat has reported that the company has acquired cloud-streaming company Playcast, which will lead to the creation of an online game platform for games – similar in a digital distribution manner as Netflix’s movie streaming platform.

The company plans to debut the new service later this year exclusively on Amazon Fire TV devices at launch, although it also intends to bring its game streaming to other electronic devices, including smart TV’s.

GameFly has already announced several hit games that will be part of the service, including the Batman: Arkham series (although it didn’t confirm if this month’s Batman: Arkham Knight would be part of it), Darksiders II and DiRT 3, among others. It intends to sell packages that range around $7 in price. Players will be able to stream their game sessions with ease, although there’s no word on what kind of server support is being planned just yet.

While some gamers may not be used to on-demand game services, GameFly director Michael Moritz believes that it will catch on with the avid gaming community. He noted that “consumers have expressed strong interest in streaming games, much as they do with TV and movies.”

“This represents the perfect evolution of GameFly by extending its mission of providing the highest quality video games available to gamers however they want to play,” said GameFly chief executive officer David Hodess.

Even though GameFly is a far more popular service than OnLIve ever was (a recent ad campaign featured L.A. Clippers superstar Blake Griffin hyping game rentals), there’s still the lingering possibility that its game streaming service may not click. Although it has confidence that gamers are “ready” for this service, Sony’s PlayStation Now has had a slow adoption rate for fans upon introduction, mainly due to high rental rates. However, Sony has since remedied the problem with an affordable subscription plan, and introducing more high-profile titles like Puppeteer and Uncharted 3.

If GameFly can keep up on the back-end of playable games and make its service accessible across more devices (including desktop and laptop computers), it might really get somewhere with game streaming.

Apple Updates App Store Game Lists

In the past, the recommendation lists on Apple’s App Store were pretty basic, highlighting new games that have been added to the service, along with popular favorites that have achieved a high number of downloads. However, the company made some interesting changes to the Store that will highlight applications with a better recommendation, from an editorial standpoint.

TechCrunch recently posted a story discussing the changes, which were made quietly last month. In the place of routine “New”, “What’s Hot” and “All iPhone (Free & Paid)” lists are more editorially curated lists, featuring recommendations for casual and devoted players alike.

The “All iPhone (Free & Paid)” removal makes sense, as many developers were abusing the system with listings on their games starting with “AAA” or “AAAAA” so that they’d appear first, according to TechCrunch. With this new change, more useful lists will be available for users to root through, getting right to high-quality and popular apps that are worth checking out.

As for the removal of “New,” since it was based more on download volume instead of alphabetical releases, some apps managed to miss the cut.

Replacing these older categories are “Best New Games” and “All Time Greats,” put together by Apple editors and changed on a weekly basis. Other personally related lists, like “More Games You Might Like” and “Pay Once & Play”, still remain up on the Store.

This could pose a problem for some developers, though. In the past, some developers relied more on algorithmically generated lists highlighting new and trending titles for their games to be found. This way, however, they’ll have their work cut out for them, as they must have quality-based titles to catch up with the competition. Some developers have reported a drop-off in organic downloads with the changes, ranging anywhere from 30 to 90 percent, during the first week after they were made.

Still, this will enable teams to work harder when it comes to creating quality app downloads, instead of “quickie” games simply put into the store to make a fast buck.

For now, the changes only seem to be in effect for the U.S. market, as part of Apple’s continuous efforts to introduce curated content in the App Store. More countries could see these changes in the future, but a timeline hasn’t been given yet.

Considering that the App Store now has 1.4 million apps to choose from – perhaps even more, if updated estimates are revealed at this month’s WWDC event – this new system should easily sort out the clones (we’re looking at you, Flappy Bird rip-off artists) and point out the games worth downloading. Of course, it doesn’t help to check out our weekly Mobile Game Highlights as well…

Nintendo’s Next Console May Use Android

Even though Nintendo is still in a distant spot behind the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in system sales, it’s giving a decent push to the Wii U as of late, behind a forthcoming E3 showcase and the recently released Splatoon, which is performing quite well. However, it’s already begun planning ahead for its next piece of hardware, the much-rumored “NX” console system, which will likely be revealed during 2016’s E3 event.

All Nintendo has said so far is that it’s working on new hardware, and more details would be released in 2016. However, some interesting rumors have emerged, indicating that Nintendo could be taking an interesting turn by basing its new hardware on a version of Google’s Android operating system.

Forbes published a story indicating that Nintendo is heavily considering using a version of Android as the operating system for its new console, based on a report from Japanese newspaper Nikkei. Nintendo, as usual, had no comment on the rumor. Android has already been used for consoles like the OUYA and Amazon’s Fire TV, and more recently Google’s new Android TV initiative is resulting in consoles like the Nvidia Shield. So it’s not a difficult feat technically, but such a move would mark a huge change for Nintendo. The company has always created its own operating systems for its proprietary hardware in the past. That’s an enormous amount of work, and it’s getting increasingly difficult as hardware becomes more sophisticated with a broader feature set. Moving to Android, which is freely available for use by any manufacturer, could have multiple benefits for Nintendo.

With adoption of Android, Forbes’ Dave Their believes that developers would return to make games for Nintendo again – a move that would be a huge boost for Nintendo considering the overwhelming abandonment of Wii U hardware by third-party developers. While Android-based consoles haven’t performed well in the past – OUYA is having such struggles that it’s looking for an independent partner to invest in it – Nintendo could easily change that, given its previous strength in the console market. With Nintendo’s recent deal to bring many of its popular properties to mobile devices (with the help of its partnership with DeNA), there would already be a base of Nintendo games on Android. More importantly, perhaps, using Android at the core of the NX hardware would make it far easier for developers to create games for the hardware.

Mashable recently posted an opinion piece provided more details on how that might work. Said author Adam Rosenberg, “it’s more expensive to develop cross-platform games for Nintendo’s console as s result of that hardware divide. PlayStation and Xbox are both based on the present standards in personal computing, but the Wii U is not. That’s why Nintendo’s robust library of first-party games isn’t complemented by familiar favorites like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed.”

“A switch to Android isn’t without its benefits for Nintendo, however. It’s a much more online-connected platform than anything the company’s ever released, for starters. There’s already a (long overdue) unified account system coming, allowing users to carry one profile across an entire family of Nintendo devices. And an Android-powered machine could be the first step for that,” he continued.

Rosenberg brought up more popular examples of popular Android-based games on the Nvidia Shield, such as Borderlands the Pre-Sequel and The Talos Principle – properties that Nintendo is sorely lacking on the third-party front. “Android is the headline name here, but the real news lies between the lines of this rumor: a hardware shift is necessary,” he concluded. “Google’s OS depends on the same ARM architecture that PlayStation and Xbox do, so PowerPC – the real obstacle for the Wii U in this hardware generation – has to disappear.”

Clearly, one of Nintendo’s biggest problems with its current hardware has been the slow pace of new releases, both from Nintendo itself and from third-party developers. For the NX hardware to succeed, Nintendo will have to make more games appear more quickly. Moving to Android could convince many developers to give Nintendo another shot, as it would be far easier to develop for than previous Nintendo hardware. Of course, much would depend on exactly what form the NX hardware takes, its features and pricing, and the degree to which Nintendo decides to enable and support third-party development in general. Android by itself isn’t a magic wand, but if true this is certainly a step in the right direction for Nintendo.

We’ll see what surfaces for Nintendo come next year. In the meantime, its line-up at E3 2015, consisting of StarFox, Mario Maker and other titles, should be quite impressive. And we might just get a glimpse of its mobile line-up as well…

One Billion More People Will Connect To The Internet By 2019

With the growth of Internet of Things (IoT), wearable tech and other online accessible devices, there’s no question that online accessibility has come a long way. And according to a couple of new reports, it’s going to get even bigger.

First up is a report from Cisco’s visual networking index, as originally posted via Re/Code. The report indicates that one billion more people will be connected to the Internet over the span of five years, which in turn could create a global digital middle class.

According to the chart above, by 2019, there will be a significant increase in Internet users, devices and connections, and faster broadband speeds than ever before. In fact, broadband could be moving twice as fast within this span, and, as a result, video viewing could pick up from 67 percent of overall traffic to 80 percent.

Connected devices will also be on the rise, varying in a number of areas, such as health, energy and use of devices in home. This means even more Internet of Things-related devices selling in stores, and becoming more widely accepted with audiences.

And as for Internet usage, it’s growing at a staggering rate. This year alone has seen improvements in gaming, Internet video and web/data numbers, but by 2019, they’ll go even further, with video leading the charge and gaming taking up a bigger chunk, by nearly double its original size in 2014. No doubt eSports competitions and online friendly games will play a big part of that, since gamers like their competition.

However, even though Cisco’s report indicates that things are on the up-and-up, global Internet usage still couldn’t be any more different. A recent report from Statista shows that the “digital divide” is still pretty big, with some countries reporting much lower numbers than others.

This chart, for instance, shows that Europe is the leader in overall Internet usage, with 77 percent of its individuals using it this year. Closely behind at 66 percent is the Americas, including the United States. Meanwhile, Asia and the Pacific are down to 36.9 percent, while Africa is at the bottom with 20.7 percent.

These numbers are likely to change, however, and show growth in all regions. It’s just a matter of how the devices are introduced, if the new broadband speeds are affordable, and how much of a convenience it can be to people, no matter what they prefer doing. We’ll see how things fare in 2019…

Image source

Lego Takes On ‘Minecraft’ With Its Own Worlds

Minecraft is easily one of the biggest games out there, with millions of players partaking in its blocky world on a daily basis and over 100 million copies downloaded. It’s become the most popular title for videos on YouTube, and Microsoft was so confident in the franchise, it purchased MInecraft developer Mojang for a whopping $2.5 billion.

But what does this mean for the competition Well, with the right boost, it could find an equal, if not greater, success, depending on the concept – and considering how much people like building with Legos, it seems like a proper fit for a Minecraft wannabe.

Per VentureBeat, WB Games has announced that it has launched Lego Worlds, a wide-open building adventure where players can create structures, worlds and characters using various Lego pieces. The game just made its debut on Steam Early Access, and is available for players to try for $14.99.

Like Minecraft, Lego Worlds enables users to use their imagination to put things together, using many building blocks from various Lego properties as well as the ability to create your own custom character and select from various accessories. In addition, the developers at TT Games are looking to add even more features to the final game, including the ability to play with friends in multiplayer, and the creation of randomly generated underground cave networks.

However, Lego Worlds is unique in its approach. Instead of focusing on battles with Creepers in Minecraft, the idea is based upon creating incredible worlds to explore. It’s like taking a virtual Lego stash and building something for all to see – very similar to the real toys themselves. However, that’s not to say that enemies won’t be included, as Skeletons and other random foes may show up.

Said TT Games about the release, “The current plan for Lego Worlds is to be in Early Access through 2015, at which point we hope to have our full list of features in place. We’ll evaluate a release candidate in early 2016, but we won’t consider the game complete and ready for release until we believe our community feels we have delivered a great game.”

WB Games has been betting quite a bit on Lego franchises as of late, with Lego Jurassic World {link no longer active}, based on the film series of the same name, debuting later this month, not to mention the interactive toy/game series Lego Dimensions making its way to stores later this year, featuring a number of popular franchises like Batman, Back To the Future and The Simpsons, among others.

Whether Lego Worlds will be a success in the long run has yet to be seen, but if anyone can literally build its franchise to greatness, it’s TT Games and WB Games.

The trailer for Lego Worlds can be found below.


NBC Tries New Streaming Plan With ‘Aquarius’

For a number of years, NBC has been all about being a broadcast channel, showing programming on television first before adding it online for viewers to catch up on after. With its latest series, however, it appears that the company is trying something new – and it could happen with other shows as well.

The show Aquarius, featuring X-Files alum David Duchovny, will be making its premiere on the channel tonight, but immediately after, instead of just the initial show being available to view online, the entire season will be posted, so “binge” viewers that can’t wait to see what happens can jump ahead. NBC will deliver the remaining episodes for broadcast over the next few weeks, for those who prefer tradition.

This latest business model by the company is being made in an effort to keep up with the growing popularity of on-demand services like Netflix and Hulu, which has thrived with a number of original offerings like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. But is it a business model that can work in the long-term “Maybe,” according to an opinion piece over at Variety.

“In all likelihood, scheduling a two-hour premiere episode right under distributing the subsequent 11 episodes on NBC.com and other places is going to prompt the segment of the audience that loves the series most to peel off for the binge opportunity and not return to the linear window for the traditional weekly rollout of future episodes,” said co-editor in chief Andrew Wallenstein in his editorial. “Maybe Hannibal would have been a better show to try this strategy with because of the cannibalization NBC is probably going to induce to Aquarius‘ linear viewership.”

NBC has struck deals with a number of advertisers to try out the new format, as, according to the article, “advertisers can get paid for a measurable amount of eyeballs regardless of where they watch, which means the linear ratings loss that VOD could divert may be okay.

“But the devil will be in the details of the deal NBC has struck with those advertisers for the Aquarius arrangement (the network declined to comment on the particulars). The CPMs that NBC is charging them to reach advertisers on both platforms may not be equal, which will pinch the network if linear loses too much to VOD.”

Aquarius, at the very least, is being a test for the format, and new shows (or more popular favorites, such as Grimm) could see a similar format if it’s successful. The question, though, is how to measure that success, as NBC has stated that it doesn’t know if it will be sharing binge data from the show just yet, according to Vulture.

Still, there are benefits to those who take the online route, as explained in an interview with Aquarius creator John McNamara, through Indiewire. He explained that there are “two versions of every episode,” stating that “the version you’ll see on NBC is sexual. The version you’ll see on iTunes is NC-17.” However, he didn’t disclose when these release plans would take shape outside of VOD.

While the fate of Aquarius‘ business plan is questionable, fans shouldn’t hesitate to tune in to the premiere anyway, as the show could easily be on the same level of addiction as Hannibal and Grimm. Learn more about the series on its official page here.