Marriott Brings Virtual Reality To Guest Rooms

Marriott is no stranger to the world of virtual reality. Last year, the company introduced an immersive 4D travel experience, where consumers could be transported to various locations using Oculus Rift headsets. But now Marriott wants to bring this experience even closer to consumers, by offering headsets that can be used from the comfort of their room.

Variety reports that the hotel chain has begun testing out a program in both New York and London that allows customers the opportunity to try out virtual reality from the comfort of their suites, with a new “Vroom Service” program. Except, this time, instead of Oculus, the test is taking place using Samsung Gear VR equipment, supplied by Samsung Electronics.

When ordered, customers can use the headset for a period of 24 hours, using it to roam through three “VR Postcards” set up by Marriott, each providing an immersive 360-degree, 3D view of each location. These include paying a visit to Chile’s Andes mountains, as well as stopping by an ice cream shop in Rwanda and checking out the busy streets of Beijing.

The service “combines storytelling with technology, two things that are important to next-generation travelers,” said Matthew Carroll, vice president of global brand management for Marriott.

Marriott also confirmed that VR Postcards will also be available through the Samsung Milk VR video service, accessible through any given Samsung Gear VR headset, developed in conjunction with Facebook’s Oculus VR division. Using tech put together by Framestore’s Virtual Reality Studio, it really provides a “you are there” approach to customers who want to step into a new world but without paying hundreds of dollars in travel.

The “Vroom Service” provides a new level of hospitality to consumers, one in which presents a new side of media that can be easily adopted. And it’s the latest move by Marriott to make its consumers feel right at home, following an announcement earlier this year that enables Netflix subscribers to log in to their service through the comfort of their room, so they can binge watch their favorite programs, even while on the go.

Snapchat Users Can Find Brand Content Skippable

The Snapchat service has proven to be a boon to certain brands, mainly due to its effective reach to millions of users on a daily basis. However, if these brands aren’t considerate over what kind of ads they put together, they could find themselves in danger of being skipped over.

Digiday reports that a lot of users tend to move on quickly from ads that don’t keep their attention. Although this isn’t the same for all brands across the board — no one else has reported on the site’s advertising trends — but the site does run 10-second ads with the ability to skip over them, indicating that making them ‘skippable’ makes them an important factor when it comes to sales.

As you can see from the chart below, there are four different examples as to when users watched ads. Each time, it appears that the percentage of viewers watching said ads after a certain number of seconds drops almost instantly, in just a matter of two seconds or more. Only around 10 percent seem to watch the ad in its entirety.

“Completion rates for Snapchat vary depending on the creativity of the ad,” said an anonymous partner with Snapchat. “Most brands that try to be native, organic to the platform, have higher completion rates.

Some brands, as a result, are looking for more favorable viewability standards from the company. They haven’t answered, though, as the advertising model, charging for ones that even run for less than a second, remains in place.

Snapchat is aware of such concerns, according to Digiday. “It’s early days,” Snapchat said in an email. “We are very focused on continuing to drive value for advertisers.”

Even with the small amount of time spent with video ads, the platform can still be quite effective.

Kabam Strikes Back With ‘Star Wars: Uprising’

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens just months away from release, and various Star Wars-licensed products hitting store shelves (including Disney Infinity 3.0), it seems like Disney s sci-fi franchise is coming back stronger than ever. And anyone that has a product that ties into it will be benefitting from the results including Kabam, a mobile game company producing what could be its biggest licensed hit to date with Star Wars: Uprising.

As reported by VentureBeat, the mobile publishers teamed up with LucasFilm on the game, as well as various members of the Extended Universe s seasoned veterans to make it more authentic. “It’s extremely exciting. Being the first canon thing that was worked on at all post-Jedi was a huge opportunity,” said Daniel Erickson, the director of Star Wars: Uprising. “The respect and sort of trust that it shows from Lucasfilm that hey, we’re going to let this come out as in a game format, says a lot about what we’re trying to do with it and, obviously, the talent we brought in to do it.”

The game, like the recently released Star Wars: Aftermath before it, ties in events that occurred between the original film trilogy and the forthcoming The Force Awakens. Erickson states that the story happens in the places we love in The Empire Strikes Back.

[Uprising and Aftermath] sort of button. “There are things that overlap,” said Erikson. “We had some pretty serious discussions with some of the canon characters and where they were and when they were. Lucasfilm brings everyone together very well. We have a little timeline and pow-wows.”

Erickson knows his Star Wars content well, previously serving as a creative director for Star Wars: The Old Republic from BioWare a game many consider strong in the Star Wars canon.

He insists that a major reason that Star Wars games like Old Republic and Uprising are so loyal to the brand are because of LucasFilm s involvement. They keep a much tighter control than they used to on making sure everything connects to everything else, Erickson said. “All of the original pitch came from us. Lucasflim came back and then said, Are you aware of the following 700 things. And then we started putting the connections together.”

“In the early days, we were not interconnected with other parts of Star Wars lore because those parts had not yet been determined. There was still enough stuff in flux about the new movie, about the new books, etc. As all of the various parts of, let s say, everything surrounding this between [Return of the Jedi] and [The Force Awakens] period became more concrete, we would go and make sure we connected those dots and pulled the web together.”

Erickson also talked about the crucial hires for the game, including writer Alex Freed (formerly with BioWare) and others. “Combined, we’ve got a good decade-plus of hardcore EU experience,” Erickson said. “And on top of that, we’ve got a bunch of people that are a bunch of ex-LucasArts.”

“The experience as a whole is definitely noteworthy. We’ve got a lot of Star Wars experience,” said Erickson. “But it s different, too. Oh, my god, yes. Hugely, hugely,” Erikson said. “This is moving to the major leagues. Sitting down at the table, creating new canon, creating the next chapter of Star Wars is hugely different. The EU stuff is fantastic and really fun to do, but it s not the same thing”.

“Playing in history isn t the same thing as making history.”

The company has gone all out with promotion of the game, including a stop at PAX Prime, where it flew in Lando Calrissian himself, Billy Dee Williams, to discuss it with its many fans.

Star Wars: Uprising releases this Thursday for iOS and Android. Of course, the Force is strong with it.

One Thing You Can Bet Millennials Don’t Like: Being Called Millennials

Even though millennials make up a vital part of today’s work force, they don’t automatically consider themselves millennials.

According to a report from People Press, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that the millennial generation don’t recognize themselves as much. Only 40 percent of adults in the 18-34 age bracket consider themselves part of that generation, while 33 percent consider themselves more of the Generation X market. The rest, it seems falls in the Baby Boomer Market or the Silent Generation.

Some interesting bullet points from the report include:

 

  • 79 percent of those ages 51 to 69 consider themselves part of the Baby-Boomer generation. Among those in the 35 to 50 age bracket, only 58 percent of those consider themselves part of Generation X.
  • Only 18 percent of those between the ages of 70-87 (the Silent Generation) consider themselves part of said Generation. They prefer to think of themselves more as Baby Boomers (34 percent) or the Greatest Generation (also 34 percent).
  • In terms of recognizance of such groups, 89 percent of those surveyed stated they have heard of the Baby-Boom Generation. Meanwhile, only 71 percent have heard of Generation X.
  • 56 percent of those polled have heard of the Millennial generation (staggering considering the size of the group), but only 15 percent of all those surveyed (out of over 3,100 adults) have heard of the Silent Generation.
  • Members of the Silent Generation have considered themselves hard-working (83 percent), responsible (78 percent), patriotic (73 percent), self-reliant (65 percent), moral (64 percent), willing to sacrifice (61 percent) and compassionate (60 percent). As you can see from the chart below, those numbers vary greatly by generation.

 

  • Out of all these figures on the chart, only one factor — idealistic — shows a change in the groups, with millennials (39 percent) showing higher marks than Gen Xers (28 percent), Boomers (31 percent) and Silents (26 percent) in terms of describing themselves as such.
  • While millennials cover a large group in today’s market, only 40 percent of those polled consider themselves as such, while a third of those polled stated they belonged to the Gen X group. Older millennials are a bit different, with 43 percent stating they’re Gen Xers, and 35 percent identified themselves as millennials. Younger (18-26) had unique numbers as well, with 45 percent considering themselves part of this generation.
  • A lot of people born between 1965 and 1980 easily identify themselves as part of Gen X. Only 4 percent of those polled thought they were millennials, while 15 percent consider themselves Boomers. Younger Gen Xers (35 to 42) identified easily with that generation, by 68 percent. Meanwhile, only 48 percent see themselves as part of this current generation, while only 24 percent identify themselves as Boomers.

 

The full report can be found here.

Activision Launching New ‘Destiny’ Content Early

Activision s Destiny has been making waves since its launch on the market last September, selling millions of copies across the board and involving players in a number of group-based events online, mainly put together by the developers at Bungie. Now, with the biggest expansion yet set to launch in just under two weeks, Activision is looking to revive the community even further by releasing some of its content a little bit earlier.

Forbes reports that a patch for the game will launch on September 8, and with it players will be able to get a taste of the latest expansion for the game, The Taken King. All the new Crucible maps from the expansion will be available to try out a week early, and a new weapon balance patch will be put in place, so that players can rebuff their highly leveled assault rifles and other weapons with ease.

In addition, The Tower Gunsmith will also be able to build weapons for players, which can be tested out in the field and pre-ordered when the expansion arrives a week later.

Other tweaks will be introduced with the game s new patch as well, including the debut of a new voice for the cybernetic assistant Ghost, with actor Nolan North replacing Peter Dinklage a move that has some fans grateful, considering his droll delivery.

This try before you buy system is an ideal way for Activision to get fans excited for the new expansion, which will be available as both part of Destiny s new physical game package and as a separate download for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. It s set to sell separately for $39.99.

And this isn t the first time that Activision has offered a taste of a popular franchise before its release. Last month, it ran a beta for the multiplayer portion of its forthcoming sequel Call of Duty: Black Ops III, introducing players to new components of the game, while at the same time delivering the multiplayer experience that they ve come to expect. That game will release in November for $59.99.

The newest trailer for The Taken King can be found below.

Facebook Preps Elaborate Mobile Ads

Facebook has already revealed its lavish plans for its mobile advertising, and it appears that these plans are finally going into motion, according to a report from Re/Code.

The social site has begun running a new content-heavy mobile ad system, where ads are put into place through image carousels and autoplay videos, all into one convenient product.

At first, looks can be deceiving, as the ad comes across as just another Facebook post. However, it soon unfolds into a full-screen ad that works like a mini-version of one of its partners advertising websites. From there, users can scroll through many pages of the ad, checking out video and images to go along with the text. Although there s a link to visit that company s particular site through it, most of the ad content is hosted by Facebook itself.

The video below provides an overview of just how the new ad format will work.

{video link no longer active}

Facebook hinted at this format earlier this year during the Cannes Lions event, but this is the first time it s actually been operating, as that was just a mock-up model. It definitely presents a unique format compared to the usual News Feed posts, and enables brands to show their items in a high-quality setting. It also enables the site to keep most of its traffic enclosed, without going over to another site (except for external link clicking, of course).Right now, only a certain group of partners are testing out the format, including Gatorade, Michael Kors, Mr. Porter and Carrefour Spain, as Facebook intends to roll out this new format gradually. However, if it s accepted enough by its audience, don t be surprised if it starts becoming the norm on the mobile front. It s just a matter of seeing how popular they are and how well they re accepted.

Why Apple’s Dedicated Gaming Twitter Account Matters

For years, Apple and developers have made billions of dollars from games in the App Store, although Apple has not done much in terms of promotion to make this happen. However, it appears that s on the verge of changing, especially with the rumors that the company is about to become more devoted in the games business.

VentureBeat reports that Apple has launched a new devoted Twitter account (under the name @AppStoreGames) with the primary purpose of sharing new information about games with its consumers, including new releases that join the store, as well as deals on popular titles. The posts are put together by Apple s App Store editors, the same team responsible for choosing the Featured Apps that are highlighted on the store itself.

Although there haven t been too many tweets on the account just yet, it has made some interesting references, including shared promotions with certain mobile developers, as well as a nod to the classic Legend of Zelda series.

While this bodes well for consumers buying games for their mobile devices in Apple s App Store, there could be bigger tie-ins with the account as well. The company has scheduled an event next week, where rumors say it could be introducing a new Apple TV that finally allows an App Store, which means Apple TV will become a game-playing console — with potentially thousands of developers racing to add games for the device.

Considering that mobile gaming currently sits at a whopping $30 billion in annual revenue, it would be no surprise that Apple wants to get further into the market, offering console-like experiences through the convenience of a small device, complete with Bluetooth controller support. The Twitter account is an indication that Apple is taking gaming more seriously, which is quite reasonable considering games account for more than 80 percent of the $10 billion in revenue the App Store brought in during 2014. That amount is only rising this year, and perhaps by a considerable amount if the new Apple TV adds games to its capabilities.

We ll have to wait until next week to see what Apple s big picture on gaming is. For now, definitely give the @AppStoreGames account a follow. It looks like it ll definitely dial in with the right crowd.

The #ForceFriday Is Strong With Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ Toys

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens set to debut in less than four months (and no doubt take some box office records upon its release), Disney is already feeling the Force, as it were, with the return of the popular space franchise. Tomorrow, a new force will arise with the arrival of various toys based on Force Awakens, as part of an event that’s being named “Force Friday”.

As reported by USA Today, various toys based on the film will arrive on store shelves tonight at midnight, with millions of fans picking up everything from action figures to Sphero’s custom BB-8 droid to other knick-knacks – including the return of the Millennium Falcon spaceship, which hasn’t been in production since the old Kenner days.

Steve Sansweet, an avid Star Wars collector and author who works as Lucasfilm’s fan relations advisor, stated, “There’s a synergistic history between the toys and the movies. If you go back to the very beginning, and that memory is still there in a lot of people, it was the start of merchandising of motion pictures.”

The main location to be — at least, according to Sansweet, is Toys ‘R’ Us in Times Square, New York City, where a massive midnight launch will take place, featuring action figures and more. Other retailers are taking part as well, selling everything from Lego kits to a custom pilot jacket (worn by Finn in the film) that’s being sold at the Disney Store.

Back when the original Star Wars film, A New Hope, launched way back in 1977, licensing for toys was far different, as they weren’t released at the same time as the film. And how people played with them was, too. “There was no home video,” said Sansweet. “So it was really the only way, by taking your action figures and vehicles and things like that, for kids to really re-create scenes from Star Wars.”

LucasFilm had plenty to say about the “Force Friday” event. “Star Wars toys have always played an important role in how our fans interact with the saga,” said LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy. The new products, she assured, “will continue that tradition.”

The “Force Friday” event has certainly been gaining huge buzz online. Last week, a massive YouTube event took place, where the new toys were unveiled for the first time. (A portion of that livestream can be found below.) On top of that, the #ForceFriday hashtag has a serious amount of traction on Twitter, where fans and companies alike are discussing the forthcoming toys — including the “life-size” model of the BB-8 droid being introduced. (It’ll set consumers back $150.)

Meanwhile, the wait for the actual movie continues, as The Force Awakens isn’t set to hit theaters until December 18th. Still, at least people have something to play with in the meantime.

Pizza Hut Works With Toby “Tobuscus” Turner On ‘Legends of Gaming’ Series

With competitive gaming and eSports at an all-time high right now, it seems everyone is hopping on board including more promotional partners.

Adweek reports that digital content network Endemol Beyond USA has partnered up with the Pizza Hut pizza chain for a new web series called Legends of Gaming. The series, based on a U.K. series under the same name, will focus primarily on eSports and competitive gaming, and will launch alongside the company’s new gaming digital channel Smasher. Toby “Tobuscus” Turner will host the show.

“My channel is about my own lack of video gaming talent and showcasing my lack of abilities,” said Turner, speaking with Adweek in a joking manner. “This is a chance for me to make fun of other people’s lack of abilities.”

The show will focus on four teams of two gamers each, who will be coached by legends within the eSports industry, including Fatal1ty, Perfect Legends, HotShot!GG, Hafu and others. The games will vary, including competitions in FIFA 16, Counter-Strike: Global Terrorism, and Doom 3: BFG Edition. (The gamers collectively boast 43 million subscribers and more than 6.5 billion viewers across their YouTube pages, Adweek noted.) And, of course, with Pizza Hut being a primary partner, look for its branding during the show as well, including logos on the set itself.

The video below shows a teaser of what players should expect from the show, which will last 37 episodes and feature player profiles and blooper reels for fans to enjoy. It’s just part of Endemol’s total of 147 different videos for Legends of Gaming.

“We picked games that we knew each of our pro gamers would excel at,” said Turner. “It was a game in each realm that the experts specialized in.”

Considering the original U.K. show managed to garner 32 million views during its run, it’s possible Endemol could be on a huge success here if done the right way, of course.

While it may seem like a debut for Pizza Hut in the video game world, that’s certainly not the case. A few years ago, the chain hired pro gamer David “Walshy” Walsh to help promote its application for the Xbox 360, working in conjunction with the Kinect motion device. Obviously, Legends of Gaming is a huge step up from that even if you can’t order pizza directly from it.

 

Mobile Apps Struggle To Keep Users Engaged

While the abundance of apps on the Apple App Store and Google Play indicate a great deal of variety and content to choose from, that doesn’t mean that all of them manage to stick around for the long-term.

According to a recent report from Re/Code (based on numbers provided by Adobe), mobile apps manage to achieve about half their lifetime usage overall in just the first six months. After that, some of them just have a tendency of fading out of the spotlight — and staying out of it. Roughly a quarter of all available apps are opened just one time, per the report.

“As if getting a mobile app developed and installed isn’t hard enough, keeping users engaged with it may be the biggest challenge of all,” Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst for Adobe Digital Index, explained. “It’s a very crowded space and brands are vying for consumers that are becoming increasingly more selective.”

Some marketers have even gone to the point to put together retarget ads that attempt to get mobile users to revisit apps they may have already installed, instead of advertising new ones. Techniques including notifications and tapping hardware-features (like the fingerprint reader on the iPhone 5 models) assist with long-term usage.

As you can see from this chart, games aren’t the only ones affected from long-term waning. Apps based around media, finance and shopping also take a dive after just a few months, provided they don’t have features for users to come back to.

Adobe also reported the following items from its report:

Smartphones account for 82 percent of app launches, as compared to 17 percent from tablets; a year ago, smartphones made up 78 percent of mobile app launches.

Smartphones account for a quarter of visits to U.S. shopping websites, but only nine percent of total revenue. Tablets, meanwhile, account for 11 percent of revenue and 11 percent of visits.

Chrome had been narrowing the gap on mobile Safari in terms of browser share until the Sept. 2014 iPhone 6 launch. Apple’s market share has been widening ever since. Combined, the two browsers account for 95 percent of mobile share, with BlackBerry, Firefox, Opera and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer fighting for table scraps.

More information on the report can be found here.