Category Archives: Gaming

How Virtual Reality Could Shake Up Retail Experiences

Written by: Eric Fransen
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I have a confession to make. I wasn’t always a believer in virtual reality. I thought it was the latest tech fad, with everyone trying so hard to make it happen.

Gamers are in the middle of the Virtual Reality Rebirth with Playstation VR (formerly Project Morpheus), Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and others. You can’t talk about the future of the gaming industry without discussing virtual reality. Want to ride a virtual rollercoaster? What about a survival horror experience? You got it.

Yet, none of it was speaking to me in a way that caused me to say “THIS is the future…” until I tried the HTC Vive with Steam VR. It was eye-opening to say the least. For the first time in my life, I actually felt like I was completely immersed and present in a virtual world.

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HTC Vive taught me everything I know about digital kitchens.

To try and describe my experience with the Vive would not do it justice. It truly must be experienced to comprehend how realistic it is. In the demo that I tried, I watched as a full-scale whale swam by me on a sunken ship, I painted in 3D space and could walk through my creation, I cooked a meal in a kitchen, and I tried to repair Atlas — a robot from the beloved Portal series. It was incredible. TL;DR I’m a believer.

So how does this come to life in retail?
The possibilities are endless. With flexible VR tech like Google Cardboard and other smartphone-enabled opportunities, retailers can create simple, lightweight experiences designed to be used remotely or to enhance the in-store experience. With more sophisticated tech like the HTC Vive that requires a substantial footprint, there’s an opportunity to create in-store engagements that transport consumers into virtual worlds where they can experience products firsthand.

Here are a few ideas of how this could come to life:

Design: Stores like Bed Bath & Beyond or Home Depot could create an interior design experience where consumers virtually build their dream house using products available in the store. Once the design is complete, they’re provided with a shopping list of the appropriate materials.

Outdoor: Outdoor stores like REI could create experiences that allow consumers to try out the gear in the context of amazing locales like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and even Mount Everest.

Fashion: Stores like Forever 21 and H&M could allow customers to model various clothing items on avatars modeled after their body types. This could extend to unique designs and colorations to be custom-made for the customer.

But why does this matter?
As I’ve touched on in a previous post: personalization (or perceived personalization). Virtual reality offers the ability to completely personalize the experience for each customer. It affords flexibility and immersion in the shopping experience like never before. In many cases, it’s going to be the closest consumers can get to trying out products without actually trying out the product. The possibilities are endless.

How We Used Google Maps APIs to Help Hunt Monsters

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Editor’s note: Tom Edwards, EVP Strategy and Innovation for TMA Digital Engagement, was a guest blogger on the Google Geo Developers blog today, speaking to TMADE’s use of Google Maps APIs in building a website for GameStop to promote the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Congrats to our GameStop team for a successful program and a post on the Google Geo Developers blog!

If you’re going on a monster hunt, it’s a good idea to bring a map. And if you want to build buzz around the release of a new game, you should have the right tool as well—in our case it was Google Maps APIs. We built a website for GameStop to promote the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, an action role-playing game from Warner Brothers and CD Projekt RED. After a visitor logs in to the promotional website, she is dropped into a map of the world and collects clues about where to find monsters. The goal is to be the first person to find each monster and win a prize.

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The game’s launch deadline required us to build the site within a tight timeframe. We chose Google Maps APIs because they provided the tools we needed to build our maps quickly and easily. They also let us focus on the site creative rather than get bogged down with technical issues. We use the Google Maps JavaScript API for the front end, to start the experience and immerse visitors into the virtual world. Then, with the Google Maps Street View Service, we allow users to search for monsters. We took images of the monsters and used overlays to drop them into familiar surroundings.

We use the Street View API to plant the user in a random location somewhere in the world, then visualize their surroundings, including monsters and trails of blood. We set a randomly generated starting point to the map based on five predefined locations. From there we have event listeners in place for ‘mapView: bounds_changed, streetView: visible_changed, streetView: position_changed, streetView: pov_changed, searchBox: places_changed’.

When the user has initialized Street View, we make a call to our API to see if any monsters are within a defined distance from the LatLng of our monster data set. We continue this test any time the position_changed event is fired until a monster is within range. At that point, we update the class of a div that sits above the map view. Each monster is assigned a specific CSS class, which allows us to easily make tweaks.

Witcher3-5.20.15-B

Google Maps made it easy to combine the real world of Street View with imaginary creatures from the game. Our goal went beyond just our users having fun — we wanted to build a site that would create genuine excitement around the game and give people a taste of monster hunting in the real world.

Extending Virtual Reality at SXSW 2015

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Another year, another SXSW Interactive is in the books. Each year I look to get inspired, reconnect with publishers and 3rd party partners and look for new or incremental innovation that can add value for my clients. This year, one of the areas that caught my attention was the advancement of 3rd party integration and applications tied to virtual reality experiences.

In 2014, one SXSW exhibit in particular received a lot of attention for creating an immersive Virtual Reality Game of Thrones experience courtesy of Oculus Rift. 2015 did have its share of branded experiences tied to Oculus, see Samsung below, but a majority of 3rd parties were focused on showcasing how they create value through integrating VR and mobile devices as they prepare to go to market.

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Samsung – I had the opportunity to experience the Samsung Gear VR headset while at SXSW. The Samsung Gear VR is powered by an Oculus Rift headset that integrates with the Galaxy Note 4. The approach of serving as an extension of an existing device that can scale through various media and applications is the right approach to allow optimal personalization of experiences through devices and media entities that consumers already consume.

The #GalaxyLife VR exhibit was a rich experience that I definitely enjoyed. My tour featured a Mountain Dew branded snowboarding adventure. There are pros and cons to the experience as it was immersive, although the audio was a bit lacking. If you have not tried the core Oculus Rift experience and this was your first foray into VR it is an impressive experience. For the average consumer, consuming media, be it VR cinema, gaming or 360-degree experiences can all be achieved through the Samsung Gear headset.

This type of VR experience is ideal for branded integrations as the experiences are tied to the mobile device and with the right SDK, it is possible to extend immersive content experiences through the Samsung Gear VR.

Photo Mar 15, 1 24 36 PM

Google – One of the more unique takes on a similar premise to the Samsung Gear VR came from Google. Google Cardboard is a simple, inexpensive way to enjoy VR-based experiences through either Android or iPhone devices. When the Google team handed me the device, it was about the size of an iPad Mini. After a few minutes of folding I had an instant VR viewer that I could view media from VRSE or other Google Cardboard supported applications.

As with most things Google, there are Android and Unity SDK’s available to easily integrate Cardboard into existing VR applications to ensure that it is supported. The experience is surprisingly rich and the fact that it is inexpensive and also supports iPhone VR applications is a plus. Google Cardboard is a great tool to introduce younger audiences to enhanced VR experiences. It definitely passed the test with my crew of 12, 10 and 7 years of age. And with the simple design, I am not concerned about how they would handle the device.

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Intel and 3rd Parties – The SXSW Gaming Pavilion featured multiple extensions of the Oculus hardware with various groups working to create new integrations that could bridge the gap between traditional gaming and VR. Intel and CybertronPC showcased one of CybertronPC’s gaming rigs that supported an Oculus experience. This experience drew quite a crowd as onlookers wanted to catch a glimpse of PC gaming + Oculus.

Photo Mar 15, 4 15 35 PM

Another 3rd party that caught my attention was Sixense’s STEM System. This was a Full-Body Presence VR system vs. just an Oculus Visual experience. The system provides motion controls, haptic feedback and additional spatial awareness in the VR experience to create a full-body controlled experience in game. The demo featured a lightsaber duel, think Microsoft Kinect in terms of open-space, body-controlled motion but with a fully immersive Oculus Rift visual experience.

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We are inching closer to mass consumer availability and I have been impressed how much has been developed within a single year. I still have my doubts as to whether or not Facebook’s Oculus Rift based experiences as they exist today will appeal to the mainstream consumer. We are still at the nascent stage of the technology and I do believe that augmented, virtual reality and digital overlays will become a part of our lives as some point in the next 10 years – it just may not be a bulky headset, it may be something as simple as a bionic contact lens.

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I definitely enjoyed playing with the new hardware and look forward to what the future may bring at SXSW 2016.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Prediction: Perceived Personalization

Written by: Eric Fransen
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It was sometime between my first battle with an Uruk captain and overthrowing my first war chief that I realized something was special about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. While the gameplay itself was fantastic, it was something in particular about the game’s enemies that struck me. Each Uruk had a unique name, appearance, and set of weaknesses, strengths and fears. Each Uruk had its own personality that was only present in my game. If I fell in battle to one, he made sure to let me know the next time I saw him — in alarmingly specific detail.

This is all thanks to Monolith’s Nemesis System. What the Nemesis System has managed to accomplish is something extraordinary — and noticeably lacking in many other of its AAA game brethren: perceived personalization. It wasn’t a matter of going after these Uruks because the game said I had to — I went after them because I wanted to. For sweet, sweet vengeance. It was no longer purely a game mechanic. It was personal. It was as if I KNEW the Uruk and he existed purely to antagonize me and make my life more difficult. All of this made it that much more satisfying by the time I was able to exact my revenge by parting his head with his shoulders.

So what does this all have to do with digital marketing? Everything.

You see, Monolith has stumbled onto something utterly brilliant. Mechanics that go a long way in making you, the consumer, feel like you’re having a completely unique experience. At its core, the Nemesis system is essentially a bank of possible names, attributes, personalities and sound bytes that combine to form randomly created characters. But it’s how it all comes together to form a cohesive experience that’s where it really shines.

You could apply this same logic to attributes in product design, custom web experiences, or experiential events. If you feel like you’re the first and/or only person to experience something, how much better of an experience is that compared to a one-size-fits-all approach? By creating something truly unique, you’re creating social currency and empowering your consumers to speak on your behalf.

But why perceived personalization? Isn’t it just personalization? Yes and no. Yes, the experience is unique and personalized to me, the end user. But where I see the differentiation is the fact that it’s unique without any additional input from either the development side OR the user side. It’s a highly sophisticated automated system that makes me FEEL like it’s built specifically for me. That’s the magic. And something I believe we are going to start seeing even more in 2015.

Headlines & Stuff

Written by: Christy Wise
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Here are some cool things we read about this past week:

Ello – the Anti Facebook
You may have already heard about Ello, the ad-free, invite-only, independent social network that has gone viral over the past week. The site has gained a reputation as being the ‘anti Facebook.’  Several reports have linked the rise of Ello to a recent firestorm caused by Facebook’s real name policy (Ello lets users use any name they choose).  The site is a cross between Twitter and Tumblr – users can post status updates, photos and GIFs, and comment on their friends’ posts.  Ello is receiving anywhere between 4,000 and 30,000 requests an hour for access to the site.  As noted by our own Tom Edwards here, one of the more attractive features of Ello is that the site promises not to sell your data to third parties. Could this be the next big thing? Or just a passing fad?

Twitter is Working on Its Own Native Polling Tool
Twitter is working on a new set of interactive Cards that would allow people to run polls natively across its social network. One key advantage of this offer is the ability for users to interact without being redirected away from Twitter, which would likely improve engagement rates with any polls.

Amazon Adds Twitter Product Tweets to Wish List
Amazon introduced #AmazonWishList this week, allowing customers to add items to their Amazon Wish List without leaving Twitter. Users can reply to any tweet that contains an Amazon product link with #AmazonWishList to add the product to their wish list.

Pinterest Lets Brands Target Ads to Existing Customers
Pinterest is working on a way for advertisers to target people in a brand’s customer database – like the consumers on an email subscription list – with ads on the site. The company is also building a measurement tool so that marketers can credit their ads on Pinterest with the purchase people make on a brand’s e-commerce site.

Twitter Tempts Studios with Targeted Ads
Twitter wants to help Hollywood studios reach moviegoers at precisely the right moments. With a soon-to-debut service, studios will be able to serve ads to Twitter users who have followed the accounts of specific movies, as well as users who have tweeted about particular movies in the past.

Global Social Media

Russia Orders Facebook, Twitter, and Google to Register as Social Networks — or be Blocked
Russia’s communications regulator has ordered Facebook, Twitter, and Google to join a register of social networks or face being blocked in Russia. By registering as “organizers of information distribution,” companies agree to store data about their users’ communications on servers in Russia, or pay a fine of 50,000 Russian rubles ($13,000). Companies that fail to register within 15 days of a second order from the regulator can be blocked in Russia.

Noteworthy Campaigns

Will Ferrell’s Video Game Battle to be Live-Broadcasted on Twitch for Charity
Will Ferrell’s SuperMegaBlastMax Gamer Challenge, hosted on Indiegogo, will allow one lucky winner and guest the chance to travel to San Francisco to play Will Ferrell for two hours on October 26. It will be hosted online on video game streaming platform Twitch. The winner will also get other contest-related gear, as well as a tour of Twitch’s headquarters.  In order to quality for the drawing to play Will Ferrell, you have to donate $10. All proceeds go to the nonprofit charities Cancer for College and Donate Games. With a goal of $375,000, the campaign is currently just over of $100,000 and has 12 days left.  If donors give more than $10 they can receive additional prizes, like exclusive sunscreen, t-shirts, hoodies, and a custom skateboard. Higher donation amounts also get more entries toward the grand prize.

The Marketing Arm Digital – September 2014 Newsletter

Written by: Larry Weintraub
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We published our monthly newsletter! Check it out below, and to see it in all its glory with working links, click HERE.

Sept-Newsletter.2014

Headlines & Stuff

Written by: Christy Wise
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Here are some cool things we read about this past week:

Pinterest this week launched its first global business tool in 31 languages that analyzes pinning behavior in profiles and boards. The platform will allow users to search and find specific metrics on profiles, common interests, impressions, highest-performing pins generating social actions, and more. The company’s analytics team worked with “sets” of translators to support local users worldwide.

 

Instagram has launched a new mobile video app featuring tools like tracking shots and time-lapse shooting. The new Hyperlapse app features stabilization technology for creating smooth time-lapse videos, even while in motion.

 

Amazon is taking direct aim at YouTube as the e-commerce giant acquires video-streaming service Twitch for $970 million in cash. YouTube had reportedly been in talks to buy Twitch, whose ad-supported service lets people stream live video of their video game play.

 

Advertisers can now target their Facebook ads based on how strong someone’s phone signal is when they visit the social network. That means advertisers can limit data-heavy ads like video to people with 4G connections and run light-bandwidth text ads for those on 2G connections.  In other Facebook ad news – the company recently expanded event ads to mobile and desktop newsfeed.

 

Twitter recently rolled out an updated analytics dashboard to marketers and verified users. It is now making these same analytics available to all users.  The dashboard lets users see how many impressions each tweet has received, the number of favorites, how many times users have clicked on their profiles, and the number of retweet and @replies.  In other Twitter news, the company has launched a training program for agencies called Flight School, which aims to familiarize marketers and advertisers with the service and help them keep abreast of new features.

 

Global Social Media

Nearly 86%  of Australian mobile customers plan to engage in mobile commerce in the next 12 months, an increase of 11%  over 2013. The rapid growth in smartphone adoption in Australia is creating a new wave of consumer behavior that is changing the mobile landscape. The average Australian mobile user consumes 6.7 hours of media per day, with mobile almost surpassing television in terms of time spent.  Around 55% of mobile web customers now use mobile as either their primary or exclusive means of going online, an increase from 40% in 2013.  Also noteworthy – around 55% of mobile users in Australia are now as comfortable with mobile advertising as they are with television or online advertising.

Noteworthy Campaigns

Leveraging Instagram “likes” for dollars,  Nordstrom and Target have launched Like2Buy platforms that look like Instagram and act like Instagram, but link photos directly to product pages on the retailer’s site to initiate a purchase. Instagram has 200 million engaged users who share roughly 60 million photos daily. Curalate, the company that built Like2Buy, and other social platforms are trying to comb through this data to present brands with social engagement metrics that can be interpreted into real-life sales leads.

Headlines & Stuff

Written by: Christy Wise
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Here are some cool things we read about this past week:

YouTube in Talks to Purchase Game-Streaming Network Twitch for $1 Billion
YouTube could be purchasing Twitch, the largest video game live-streaming network for $1 billion. According to sources, the deal will be an all-cash transaction. Twitch averages 45mm unique monthly viewers with a million gamers broadcasting their own content. Twitch has become fully integrated with XboxOne and Playstation 4 consoles, allowing players to stream and watch content from their televisions.

LinkedIn Now Shows How Your Profile Ranks in Your Network
LinkedIn announced this week that is expanding on the Who’s Viewed Your Profile section with a new feature that shows how your profile ranks compared to others at your company and to everyone you’re connected with on the social network. The ranking is based on the number of times your profile has been viewed during the previous 30 days.

Facebook Adds Audio Matching to Get You Posting More About TV
Facebook announced a new feature  this week that uses a phone’s microphone to identify a show or movie airing on one of 160 TV channels. Then, if users wish, it pre-populates a post with the name of the movie or TV show, identifying TV shows’ specific season and episode so friends can avoid spoilers. The service can also identify songs and start a post with the title of the song plus a 30-second snippet.

Pinterest Unveils New Tech to Become More Measurable For Brands
Now open for business with new ad offerings, Pinterest has taken the long-awaited step towards making itself more measurable to brands. The social network is finally opening up its business insights API, letting a small group of developers who build software for marketers tap into intelligence about how pins are performing across its network of 30 billion. Now brands on Pinterest can learn which of their products are most popular across the network, what type of images are being shared and liked the most, and which pins are driving the most traffic and sales via services like Percolate and Spredfast that they may use to manage their social presences on other social networks.

Facebook is Reportedly Preparing to Take on SnapChat with a New Messaging App
Facebook is planning an effort to take on Snapchat with the upcoming launch of ‘Slingshot,’ a new a standalone app apart from Facebook Messenger. Slingshot is also said to be different form Snapchat in that users tap or hold a friend’s profile picture to send a photo or short video clip, which can be viewed only once.

Global Social Media

Facebook Adds Video Ads Internationally
Facebook is expanding its new video ads beyond the U.S. to countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany and the UK. The international launch comes two months after Facebook introduced the 15-second video ads that play automatically in user feeds with the sound muted until clicked on.

Noteworthy Campaigns

AMC’s New Drama Premieres on Tumblr – 2 Weeks Before TV
AMC released the premiere episode of its newest drama, Halt and Catch Fire on Tumblr, AMC.com and video on demand this week, two weeks before the show makes its broadcast debut. It’s not uncommon for TV shows to debut digitally before they appear on broadcast cable, but this is notable because its the first ever TV series premiere on Tumblr. This is also the first time AMC has premiered a show on a social media platform. AMC sees synergy between Tumblr and the show, which depicts  renegade computer programmers working out of Texas in the early 1980’s. AMC will also be launching a branded network Tumblr page that will be integrated into AMC.com.

Next Gen & Twitch.TV

Written by: Tom Edwards
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With last weeks launch of the PS4 selling more than a million in the first 24 hours as well as the launch of the Xbox One this week we are being ushered into the next generation of consoles with a bang! Having pre-ordered an Xbox One months ago I am ready to make the transition.

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Ready to carry over my gamerscore to the new platform!

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One consistent element across both consoles is the integration of Twitch.TV into the experience. For the PS4 it is directly tied to the share button on the controller. What is Twitch.TV? Why does the average user spend 90 minutes on the site daily? And why as a brand would I care about extending my reach to this audience?

PS4

I was recently briefed by the Twitch.TV team and here is a brief overview before getting into how to leverage their community. Twitch.TV is a live video platform and community for gamers with more than 44 million unique viewers per month. Twitch.TV connects gamers globally by allowing them to broadcast, watch, and chat from everywhere they play.

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In addition to 44 million unique viewers per month, the Twitch.TV community is highly engaged with the average user watching an hour and a half of live stream content per day. Twitch is available as a mobile app that supports both iOS & Android and as I mentioned above will be integrated into both of the next generation consoles.

Twitch-Mobile

For brands interested in publishing, Twitch has a partner program with over 4,000 members and is build on an ad revenue share model with top content producers such as Machinima, Electronic Arts, Mojang, Major League Gaming.

For brands interested in reaching this audience there are three primary ways to engage & activate the Twitch.TV community.

1) Publishing – The Twitch.TV platform is predicated on live streaming content and the option exists to create a branded Twitch channel. This option represents the largest barrier of entry as the best practices for a channel call for unique & relevant content in addition to a broadcast programming guide and would require resources and time to build an audience, create compelling content & invest in media to further drive discovery of the content. Note that this is a Live Streaming platform so content curation is not an option.

Machinima

2) Advertising – Twitch offers multiple advertising opportunities in the form of traditional video (pre-roll) and display, event based advertising. custom event programming. This is the more traditional method of reaching the Twitch.TV community. When I spoke recently with the Twitch team there is a strong desire to create unique & compelling programs that can drive value for for brands beyond simply advertising.

Advertise on Twitch — Twitch Media Group - Ad Types

3) Custom Programs – The Twitch.TV team is very motivated to partner with brands to create unique and compelling programs. This can come in the form of “never been done” types of executions that incorporate both online & offline elements.

Twitch Media Group

With 44 million uniques and a 90 minute dwell time there is definite value to Twitch.TV as a media platform and the ability to create custom programs in partnership with Twitch.TV opens up unique possibilities to connect beyond traditional ad types. Be sure to keep an eye on the monthly uniques as I am projecting growth with the direct integration with the next gen consoles.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Stats of the Week

Written by: Digitally Approved
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Every week we compile lots of interesting stats here at Fanscape. Here are some we thought we’d share with you from this past week:

Women Playing More Video Games

According to a report released this week by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA):

  • 45% of the entire game playing population are women
    • and they comprise 46% of the most frequent video game purchasers.
  • Women 18 and older make up 31% of the video game-playing population
    • while boys 17 and under represent only 19% of today’s gamers.
  • 58% of Americans play video games and there are, on average, two gamers in each game-playing household.

A complimentary report from Magid Advisors states:

  • 70% of women between the ages of 12 and 24 play video games.
  • 61% of women between the ages of 45 and 64 also play games,
    • compared to 57% of men in the same age group.
  • 45% percent of smartphone owners play games on their phones regularly
  • 69% of tablet owners play games on their tablet regularly.
    • The spike in mobile gaming has sent the market for paid smartphone downloads up 122% year-to year and paid tablet downloads up 105% year-to-year.
  • Close to 70% of all Americans play some kind of game either on the Web or on their smartphones, computers, tablets and consoles.

Source for above stats from USA TODAY article.

Just for Fun

On this day in history: June 14

  • 1834 – Isaac Fischer Jr. patented sandpaper.
  • 1900 – Hawaii became a U.S. territory.
  • 1943 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that schoolchildren could not be made to salute the U.S. flag if doing so conflicted with their religious beliefs.
  • 1961 – Boy George from Culture Club born.
  • 1965 – Paul McCartney recorded “Yesterday.”
  • 1987 – The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title by defeating the defending Boston Celtics.
  • 1988 – Kevin McHale (aka Artie from Glee) born.

Source: On This Day