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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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 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.”
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.
“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.”
Based in Los Angeles, Space Camp is behind some of the biggest announcements at Facebook’s recent Oculus Connect event. But who is Space Camp?
“As an independent division of [a]network, Space Camp is positioned as a communication arts orchestrator,” says James Kim, VP of account services. “To us, this means we’re focused on driving creative innovation, social engagement and performance for brands such as Oculus Rift.”
“We are showing the world that VR gaming is here, today, and VR as a game-changing computing and social platform is on the horizon,” said David Rielly, creative director at Space Camp.
During Oculus Connect, Mark Zuckerberg announced his mission to bring virtual reality to 1 billion users. Keeping with this mission, Facebook enlisted the group as the Oculus Rift agency of record to help increase the appeal of premium VR as an entertainment format.
“One of the most satisfying and thrilling opportunities was creating a brand campaign that expresses the limitless and ever-evolving offerings of VR,” states Emily Reed, integrated creative director.
“The campaign is built on the mission of ‘Winning with Gamers,’ using advanced attribution modeling and an agile approach to maximizing ROI,” said Vincent Juarez, co-founder of Space Camp. “We’ve developed an inside-out strategy to engage core gamers through a series of immersive experiences that communicate the Oculus VR experience through an integrated digital, video content, influencer and social-centric approach.”
“It’s been humbling to orchestrate strategy, creative, media, data, tech, influencers and social to launch a brand that finally fulfills the long-simmering promise of VR,” said Rielly. “Harnessing that kind of firepower isn’t easy, but when you do it right you’re amplifying the power of your message to the nth degree.”
Co-founders Chris Younger and Vincent Juarez are prioritizing innovation in this arena. “Space Camp is at the forefront of an evolving synthesis of technology and storytelling,” Younger said, “and our clients are eager to push forward together to craft and share stories that just weren’t possible before.”
Long before there were smartphones and apps to entertain kids, there was the Tamagotchi, a digital LCD pet housed inside a colorful keychain. Players took to them in droves, nurturing and raising a multitude of characters before the craze died out in the US by the turn of the century.
But ’90s nostalgia is here in full force, and Bandai America is taking advantage of it by bringing the classic toy back to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
“Tamagotchi launched in the US in May of 1997,” Tara Badie, director of brand management and marketing at Bandai America, told AListDaily with all six of the original Tamagotchi styles on display. “We thought it was a good time to bring it back because it’s the 20th anniversary but also because ’90s nostalgia is a huge hit right now with TV shows, products and things like that.”
The devices use the original Japanese launch styles and patterns, with the insides changed with English programming. To celebrate their return, the Tamagotchi website is going back to its original look and style, using logos and branding from the ’90s.
Similar to how Tamagotchi spread through word-of-mouth in the ’90s, Bandai is using social media to spread news of their return in the same way. The company is also working with social influencers to figure out the best way to spread the word.
“We’re just letting people know that it’s out there,” said Badie. “We think word-of-mouth will reach them, because the millennial generation is all over social media. We will be talking on it on Bandai’s social media channels as well as the Tamagotchi channels and website.”
Tamagotchi will hit store shelves on November 5, with pre-sales starting on Tuesday at key retailers including Amazon, Toys “R” Us and Target. Additionally, GameStop, Best Buy and tween clothing store Justice will be offering Tamagotchi. These stores may appeal to a generation that doesn’t remember the ’90s, but their parents may be shopping with them.
“In today’s world, it’s about getting the product into the hands of fans and letting them play. We know we have a good product, so we’re not nervous about giving them to people. At Bandai, we’re known for our good quality, and people know what the product is and its core features. So, we’re sending it out to various folks and we’ll see how they decide to promote it.”
Although the devices differ in looks, each provides owners the chance to raise the same variety of pets. All five of the original characters return, with the addition of one surprise pet that players will have to figure out how to get. Their adult forms are determined by how owners take care of them and the simple gameplay is comprised feeding the Tamagotchi, cleaning up after it poops and giving it affection to make sure it’s happy.
“These are not the ones where we use the latest technology like the newer ones that have launched in Japan over the last couple of years,” Badie explained. “This keeps it very simple and takes it back to what we all remember 20 years ago.”
Badie also discussed the appeal of a 20-year-old toy in the app era.
“There are Tamagotchi apps out there, and they’re going to be relaunching next year,” she said. “But part of what this is all about is that it may be a kid’s only pet. It’s a digital pet that you have to take care of. You might have a lot of stuff on your smartphone, but this is something that you can take with you, take care of, and feel like it’s a pet housed inside the device.”
Although Badie admits that toy companies such as Bandai face a great challenge from apps, she believes that having a physical offline device may be a great benefit.
“I think parents would like to get their kids away from screens so that they can sit down and perhaps play it with their parents,” said Badie. “I think that toys use more of your imagination, and sometimes apps don’t allow you to do that. This is like a house for your pet that you’re taking with you, so it’s not as cold as a smartphone app. You’re holding [a Tamagotchi], taking care of it and protecting it from everything that’s going on.”
As for the pre-app generation of kids who weren’t around in the ’90s, Badie believes that Tamagotchi can be something that can be passed down, possibly setting up a new sense of nostalgia down the road in another decade or two.
“Our core focus is on the millennials generation first, but the overall play pattern is core to all ages,” Badie said. “Everyone likes to take care of a pet, and this is a way to have one. We think that millennials will be very excited to have it back and they’ll share it with the younger generation. Some of them have kids or younger siblings and relatives that they can introduce to the Tamagotchi world.”
Badie also explained that the core principles of the Tamagotchi—nurturing and taking care of your pet—is what gives the brand its strength after 20 years.
“When we launched, there wasn’t the world of digital as there is today, and we were the first to launch [this kind of] brand,” said Badie. “The brand hasn’t been as consistent in the US, but they come out with new versions and styles every six months in Japan, keeping up with the height of technology and communication. This one goes back to the simpler times, which was also done in Japan and did very well because people like to have that nostalgia.”
Badie also suggested that going back to the ‘90s is just the first step in heading to the future. While there was an effort to revive the toy in the US several years ago, it didn’t take off. This time, the Tamagotchi’s return won’t be a one-off event, as Bandai plans a bigger brand strategy for the digital pet, where it incorporates more modern technology.
“We’re taking time to ensure that our next version is based off of what the American kids look for in technology because of the competition from apps. We want to make sure that we combine the best of both of our worlds while keeping to the core of what Tamagotchi is all about.”
Middle-earth: Shadow of War has officially launched for consoles and PC, continuing the adventures of Talion and the spirit of the Elf lord Celebrimbor, who possesses his body. Inspired the works of J. R. R. Tolkien (The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings), WB Games’ Middle-earth series takes visual cues from Peter Jackson’s film adaptations but also takes creative liberties with the canon.
Talion may be the main character of the game, but the stars of WB Games’ marketing have been the Orcs. Detailed cosplayers were dispatched to E3, PAX West and New York Comic Con, where they interacted with gamers and even crashed a developer panel about Shadow of War. Live-action Orcs carried the game’s marketing from events to social media and TV.
WB Games teamed up with theCHIVE to produce a series of comedy vignettes about what it would be like to live with an Orc. “A Dork and His Orc Roommate” features theCHIVE gaming editor Jeff Solomon and his new roommate Thrak as they engage in activities from babysitting to getting ready for a date.
“Our approach with this program was to communicate the benefits of Shadow of War’s Nemesis System while appealing to our user base in a creative, entertaining way,” Lauren Stanat, account director at Chive Media Group told AListDaily. The Nemesis System determines friends or foes in the game depending on the player’s actions. “The broad premise is that life is better with an Orc, so we created a social-first program that connected Thrak and our gaming editor as roommates.
“In line with the ‘Not Today, Brian’ spot and [WB Games’] ‘Nothing will be forgotten’ messaging, we see Thrak aiding Jeff in very relatable, everyday situations new roommates go through. Thrak is thankful for Jeff’s friendship, and we see him paying it forward in some very funny ways across the series of vignettes.”
Marketing surrounding Shadow of War has largely focused on the slogan, “Nothing will be forgotten.” This refers to the game’s story, but also the fact that players can carry over decisions they made from the previous title.
Shadow of War builds upon the Nemesis System introduced in Shadow of Mordor, allowing players to gain followers from several races of Middle-earth and plan out complex strategies using these to complete missions. Playerscan transfer their top Nemesis and their most loyal follower from Shadow of Mordor into Shadow of War, as well as the mobile companion game.
Live-action TV spot “Not Today, Brian” illustrates the loyalty of followers gained through the Shadow of Mordor Nemesis System. Another version of Thrak the Orc shows his loyalty for a player named Brian, who saved his life on the virtual battlefield long ago.
“Eat It, Jerry” shows the flip side of the Nemesis System—friendship is forever, but so are grudges. Like “Not Today, Brian,” this comedy spot goes back over the years to show why an Orc is determined to harass a Middle-earth: Shadow of War player for the rest of his life.
The game received an added push through the help of social media influencers like Devin Graham and Critical Role. Conan O’Brien tried Shadow of War for his Clueless Gamer segment, taking the opportunity to mock actor-comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who plays an Orc named The Agonizer. The video has been viewed over 1.3 million times.
Brands are finding highly experiential ways to engage with comic book fans, whether through VR, a haunted house or free shaves. Here are some of the biggest experiential brand activations found on or near the New York Comic Con show floor this year.
The HBO hit series about lifelike androids rise up and take over a sophisticated Old West theme park, returns to New York Comic Con, but with real life instead of a VR experience. Westworld is building hype for the 2018 season two premiere by tweeting the location of a pop-up tent every morning during the convention. Users can reserve a spot at the tent to visit Delos, the fictional company that runs the Westworld theme park.
At a nondescript office located near the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, visitors are greeted by hosts who prepare them for a live theater experience using an extensive personality test to determine if they are “black” or “white” hats. They then step into a Westworld saloon with performances tailored to their type. Attendees walked home with real white or black Stetson hats and a new sense of self awareness.
Amazon Prime Video is showcasing two new shows at the convention: The Tick and Lore.
The Tick, which features a big blue superhero and his high-tech moth sidekick Arthur, made a huge impression at San Diego Comic Con over the summer with a 24-foot replica of the hero’s head, complete with moving antennae. But instead of getting on the Tick’s head, New York Comic Con attendees got to visit Dangerboat, an AI-controlled superboat from the show. As guests played with the boat’s controls, registered themselves as superheroes at the computer kiosks, and struck poses at the green screen camera, the boat’s AI—played by an actor controlling a moving camera—interacted with guests by making cheeky observations about them. Attendees can then use Dangerboat’s onboard vending machine to get themselves a can of “Fo-Ham,” a synthetic meat product from the show (there’s no actual meat-like substance inside) and leave with a big blue Tick-branded rain poncho.
At the other end of the convention center is the Museum of Lore, which is essentially a haunted house experience built to promote the upcoming podcast-inspired Amazon anthology series Lore. Guests are taken to three rooms: “Gene’s Bedroom,” “The Unveiled” and “The Beast Inside.” Each tells a different story from Lore while providing shareable photo opportunities.
Amazon Echo And Jack Ryan
Escape rooms are in fashion this year at New York Comic Con, and Amazon is pulling double duty with its Echo Escape Room activation. Groups of people are challenged to escape from a bunker inspired by the upcoming Amazon Prime Video show Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, premiering in 2018.
The spy-thriller escape room created in partnership with Intel includes Amazon Echo and Echo Show devices, which help players operate machinery, solve math problems, change the lights to different colors and place calls to the group’s government handler or Jack Ryan himself.
Saw movies have come to epitomize the escape room theme, and Lionsgate is emphasizing that by promoting its upcoming movie Jigsaw with a VR escape room inside a physical escape room. Developed in partnership with Unity to launch its Virtual Room ad unit, attendees are trapped by Jigsaw and must complete his deadly game to get out alive.
Jigsaw is also partnering with Atom Tickets to host a blood drive. Attendees are invited to donate at mobile New York Blood Center locations in exchange for free tickets to see the Jigsaw premiere. This campaign is being called “All Types Welcome,” which protests discriminatory rules preventing queer men from donating blood. Models representing the blood drive include LGBTQ+ spokespeople Amanda Lepore, Nyakim Gatwech, Mykie and Shaun Ross. The “All Types Welcome” campaign kicked off in New York on Thursday and will expand to 25 cities across the US.
In the parking lot across the street from the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, Freeform has one of the most ambitious activations of the convention. The cable channel largely targets young millennial audiences and is promoting four of its shows.
The first, a mermaid-themed show called Siren, is scheduled to launch in 2018. Guests get a tour of mermaid lore as well as a “live” mermaid. Next to this activation is a mock bodega designed to promote Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, a comic book-inspired show slated for 2018. Guests can approach the window and draw tarot cards to win prizes that include t-shirts and black-and-white cookies.
Freeform is also gearing up for the second season of Beyond. The show centers around a man named Holden Matthews, who wakes from a 12-year coma to discover he has supernatural powers. A 360-degree photo booth puts attendees into the iconic forest scene from the show. Shadowhunters, the supernatural-themed show based on the bestselling book series, is also preparing for its second season with a recreation of its Chinese Restaurant locale.
DC is using some of its Wonder Woman movie momentum to promote the November 17 theatrical launch of Justice League. Costumes for Flash, Cyborg, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman were taken from the movie set and put on display at the convention. Additionally, players can challenge each other in Injustice 2 at a nearby kiosk.
But one of the more impressive Justice League experiences on the show floor is the VR game. With it, attendees take the role of one of the five superheroes and use their powers to battle enemies.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
In a gallery experience sponsored by Verizon, Star Wars fans can get up close with props and costumes taken straight from The Last Jedi set, namely in the form of weapons, flight suits, helmets and miscellaneous gear used by the characters.
Campbell’s Soup also has a Star Wars #comiccan activation. Fans can visit an art exhibit withcharacters constructed entirely from limited edition Campbells Star Wars soup cans.
There are many reasons to attend New York Comic Con, and now one of them includes getting a nice, close shave without irritation.
Schick Hydro Lounge visitors can sit back and relax while a professional barber shaves them from the show floor. The Schick Hydro Robot Razor, aka Hydrobot, hangs out nearby for photos.
Attendees with a more competitive streak can take part in the Schick Shave-Off, a custom video game where one can roleplay as a virtual barber. Using Hydro 5 razors as controllers, participants have five minutes to “shave” superhero and alien-inspired facial hair styles, using features like hydrating gel pools along the way. On Friday, fans can watch Wesley “Wes” Johnson, Amra “Flitz” Ricketts and Damien Haas from YouTube’s Smosh Games battle it out in a shave-off. Heroes that provide the closest super shaves walk away with swag and bragging rights, and the top scorers of the day get a chance to win a “Schick Hydro Mystery Box” filled with exclusive items.
It’s been over 40 years since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson first brought the Dungeons & Dragons pen-and-paper, role-playing game into the world, which would go on to influence pop culture, spark controversy and eventually inspire video games. The IP was acquired by Wizards of the Coast in 1997 and it remains a cornerstone of “geek” entertainment around the world, with gameplay sessions broadcast on Twitch.
The game has gone through several rule changes in its extensive history, and despite efforts by dedicated fans, it’s been slow to move past its pen-and-paper roots to enter the digital age. That’s when Curse stepped in.
The gaming-site network partnered with Wizards of the Coast to launch D&D Beyond in July, a website and platform that fully digitizes all the classic role-playing game’s rules, modules and tools. There, players can read the books, socialize, create characters and spells and develop campaigns. Basic features are free, with expanded content available for purchase individually or accessible via subscription.
“D&D Beyond is a Dungeons & Dragons destination, with an official digital toolset for the fifth edition rules and original content focused on telling the story of D&D,” Adam Bradford, Curse’s senior product manager, told AListDaily.
Bradford said that the gaming platform started as an internal passion project when he joined the company last year, and it coincided with the company’s plan to expand from video games into other types of gaming. Being a longtime fan of D&D, Bradford eventually started a campaign in the office and the project took on a life of its own. Curse then approached Wizards of the Coast with a proof of concept and a 30-second trailer, and the publisher, recognizing the demand for digital tools, quickly jumped on board.
“We’ve gotten off to a solid start so far by partnering closely with Wizards of the Coast in broadcasting the message through their official channels and relying on the organic reach of our early adopters,” said Bradford. “Going forward, awareness will spread through the rising popularity of D&D streaming and many of those popular gaming groups using D&D Beyond during their sessions. We also have plans to support organized play with the Adventurer’s League at conventions and events in 2018.”
Although some pen-and-paper purists might not take to the idea of using digital tools, the platform has worked to significantly increase engagement with the classic franchise and bring on new players.
“Our early data indicates engagement has increased,” said Bradford. “D&D Beyond is a major boon for new players, and new players are coming to D&D in surprisingly high numbers. It’s there to ease them into the game.”
Bradford also said that players now understand the value of using D&D Beyond at the table to enhance the gameplay experience and make gameplay management easier. The digital tools help prevent the disruptive practice of having to stop the game to check a rule so that players can dedicate themselves to telling immersive stories.
Although D&D Beyond is still a relatively new platform, Bradford says that plans are already underway to expand it.
“We have an extensive roadmap of features, beginning with character builder improvements, a mobile app, additional homebrew options and moving to Twitch stream integration, encounter/ monster building and combat tracking further down the road,” he said. “There are literally thousands of things that we plan to work on to improve the value of the toolset over time.”
Bradford also explained the ongoing attraction of pen-and-paper games when there are so many fantasy-themed video games available, some directly tied to Dungeons & Dragons.
“I love video games, and my first role-playing game experience was The Legend of Zelda when I was five,” said Bradford. “That said, no matter how ‘open’ a video game claims to be, you’ll still eventually hit the edge of the map or feel limited in some other way . . . The most compelling thing about Dungeons & Dragons for me is enjoying structured make-believe with friends. Technology is at its best when it enhances human interaction, not when it overshadows it. If digital tools can make that better without removing that interaction, they succeed. Striking that balance is a priority for D&D Beyond going forward.”
Dungeons & Dragons has been around for 43 years, and Bradford shared his thoughts about how the franchise continues to engage players to perhaps keep it around for 40 more.
“Dungeons & Dragons succeeds because it taps into our innate need as humans to tell stories,” said Bradford. “We all want to be part of a story—great movies, books and other entertainment can take us alongside a story, but rarely do we actually feel like a part of it. D&D is a game where we become the main characters in an epic story, and it’s hard to beat that.
There are plenty of games and media platforms that hope to make audiences feel different emotions, but new start-up company Tripp is using VR to take the concept to a whole new level.
Tripp is focused on creating transformative digital experiences, with the first being a VR product that will combine visual and audio elements with simple meditation-like game elements to change the way a person feels. Users may use Tripp to relax after a long day at work, calm down after a difficult conversation or take it in the other direction by getting pumped before a workout or special event.
The platform, which announced $4 million in Series A funding from venture capital firm Mayfield, is expected to launch in 2018 and will evolve to suit users’ needs, helping them to live more happy and effective lives.
“Essentially, we’re trying to go after a ‘flow state,’ and we’ve been doing this with video games for a long time,” gaming industry veteran Nanea Reeves, CEO and co-founder of Tripp, told AListDaily. “This is why some people find video games addictive, but we’re being more calculated about those interactions and stimulations—we’re using VR for stimulation rather than simulation. When you take all those elements and combine them with the immersion of VR, you can produce different responses.”
Playing With Emotions
Researchers have been exploring VR as a means of treating PTSD, rehabilitating substance abuse, managing pain and improving cognitive functions. Although Tripp makes no medicinal claims—it’s an entertainment experience—the data it collects about how VR impacts the mind could benefit these fields of research.
“It’s less of a game and more of an experience,” said Reeves. “We want everyone to be able to jump into a Tripp. Our challenge as a team is ‘can we get you to want to do it again?’ That’s our big focus for our launch product.”
The idea for Tripp dates back the early days of Oculus, when the headset was still in development. Reeves was an investor in the technology through her friendship with former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, who she worked with at the cloud gaming service Gaikai (which was subsequently bought by Sony to power its PlayStation Now service). To test the headset, Reeves and her friends made a VR solitaire game that took place in a haunted house, and that sparked a major interest in VR development.
“While we were testing out games, we started to notice that we felt like we were being taken away from our lives in a very positive way—it was refreshing,” said Reeves. “That got us looking at the effects of VR on the brain.”
However, Reeves recounted how it was at a casual gathering with Liz Lee, the former star of My Life as Liz on MTV, and her friends that the idea really started to come together. After playing with the VR equipment, Lee said, “Thank you for giving me an experience that’s as close to ecstasy without actually having to take it.”
Coincidentally, Tripp’s chief technology officer Andreja Djokovic studied neuroscience and pharmacology in college before deciding to become a game developer, so things seemed to align perfectly for the new company. But having come from the mobile gaming space, the entrepreneurs didn’t want to make casual VR games or do traditional experiences in virtual spaces. Instead, they wanted to stand out by doing something native to VR.
“As entrepreneurs, we’ve built a lot of foundational mobile games that were marketed in the US and worldwide, even in the early days of flip phones,” said Reeves. “It doesn’t matter what game you create—whether it’s on a flip phone or deeply immersive in VR—if it doesn’t have that very simple dynamic of being fun, you can really overdevelop it. It’s that little element that we’re taking out and we’re applying it to the very accessible interactivity we’ve integrated into Tripp.”
The company plans to debut Tripp in early 2018 with pop-up lounges at events, which should get people excited for the spring product launch. It will also provide the company with useful data leading up to the holiday season. Although the first Tripp experience will have elements of meditation, it won’t involve users staring at candles or quietly clearing their minds of distracting thoughts.
“With our experience, meditation is the beginning part of the journey,” Reeves explained. “We use meditation in a unique way, and the beginning of the journey gets you into a state of receptivity. Then the environment starts to transform in a way that’s calculated to stimulate the response or feeling that you’ve selected. The transformation is unique—we’re not trying to replicate anything that exists in the real world—it’s about using VR as a native application to do something that can only be done in VR. I expect that we will see mixed reality devices show up within the next ten years that can bring immersion into real-world environments more easily than VR headset do now. [But] for us, it’s less about VR and more about how we need that deep immersion.”
Reeves also explained how Tripp will keep users coming back for more.
“It has a music layer, a very specific sound layer, some personalization that makes your experience very different from mine, and you get a different trip every time,” she said. “As a standalone product, I think that it will be something that people will want to engage in regularly just to see what the next trip will be like. We will also have some interesting community aspects, and we will continue to layer in and evolve the product over time.”
Getting A Feel For The VR Marketplace
The Tripp experience is being built using the Unity Engine, which has worked well for the startup, and the development platform has also provided useful market data.
“We have a very realistic view of the VR market install base,” said Reeves. “For us, it’s less about that. If we can focus on the benefits of this service, making sure it does what we think we can get to.”
That data is crucial, as analysts and even those in the VR and gaming industries say that consumers are currently in the “gap of disappointment and disillusionment” for the technology. Reeves said that the key to navigating this era of VR is through preservation of capital and staying within means.
“I’m very grateful to Mayfield for giving us enough money to survive for much longer than we were originally asking for,” said Reeves. “With that goal in mind, we want make sure we have enough capital to get to market or have something that we can measure. That’s our main focus—we’re going to stay lean and mean as a team and stay laser-focused on our charter. Once we have something that we feel is marketable, it’s conceivable that by just focusing on the benefits of the service, we can start to create our own revenue streams by going direct to consumers with our experiences. We’ve been approached by a number of opportunities that go beyond the app store ecosystem, and I also think that our data will have some value. I think that if we can create an experience that changes the way that you feel, it will have a life of its own beyond the current two million monthly active users in VR.”
“I think that if we can create an experience that changes the way that you feel, it will have a life of its own beyond the current two million monthly active users in VR.” — Nanea Reeves, CEO and co-founder of Tripp
Tripp will be coming to multiple platforms, including mobile VR, and although there is are no plans to support AR at this time, it could adopt the technology later. Reeves also said that she believes that mobile VR, with its ubiquity, will ramp up in 2019.
“When we met with [Mayfield partner] Tim Chang, he got it right away,” said Reeves. “He actually said, ‘I’ve been waiting for someone to come in and do this pitch.’ We knew that he was our person to help us craft this early journey because you need someone who believes in you enough to do something so bold. I was very humbled by the support that he brought to this. I feel that this is the most exciting company I’ve ever been involved with, and I’ve been involved with a lot of great companies.”
Thank you for your continued support and readership.
-The AList Team
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