Category Archives: Gaming

Gaming Trends & Issues on Modern Media Mix

Pokémon Go: Convinced to Catch ém All?

Pokémon GO was released in July of 2016, on various dates; depending on what country you lived in.  Pokémon GO is a free to play, augmented reality game for both iOS and Android phones.  It has in-app purchases, but these are not required to play the game. Pokémon GO has been downloaded over 500 million times worldwide.  But what made this game so successful?

PokemonThe game is a product of Nintendo and Niantic Inc., a software company based out of California.  Niantic was most commonly known, before Pokémon GO, for “Ingress”,  another mobile game where you travelled in the real world to achieve goals in the game.

Before diving into the marketing aspects for Pokémon GO, there is one more thing to be mentioned. Back in 2014 on April Fools Day, Nintendo teamed up with Google and had a one day prank called the “Pokémon Challenge”.  People could go on Google Maps with their computers or use the app while travelling and catch Pokémon.  This was very well received and is considered the inspiration for Pokémon GO.  I think this was also indirect marketing for their current game, a “if you like this, you’re going to like this” tactic.

The marketing campaign for Pokémon GO was actually quite small.  You could almost be bold enough to say, “It sold itself”.  The campaign kicked off with a single 3-minute trailer in September of 2015 that was posted to the Pokémon YouTube Channel.  This went viral and currently has over 42 million views.  Nothing like this game had ever been done before and the hype led all the way up to its launch date.  Fans were disappointed in a few initial bugs, but Niantic quickly fixed them.

Amazingly enough, the companies Niantic and Nintendo did very little marketing for themselves.  Besides a few other small trailers, they didn’t do much else.  And they didn’t need to, with so many people talking about it on social media.  The real advertising for this game came from many other sources.

Pokémon GO has special areas called PokéStops where you can go to get useful items; these are usually real world landmarks, like a statue or a restaurant.  Pokémon in the game also spawn in specific areas that are always the same.  This is where other companies come in to use Pokémon GO as a way to advertise themselves.

PokemonMany restaurants and cafés use their location to entice “Pokémon Goers” to stop by for a drink or for a bite to eat.  This symbiotic relationship benefits both the establishment and the game itself.  The business gets more money in sales, sometimes with deals for “trainers”, and the game gets free advertisement and might even convince others who don’t play the game to give it a try.

Another way that Pokémon Go got its publicity is law enforcement and subway stations.  This is an indirect type of exposure that often warned trainers to “not catch while driving” or to “stay behind the yellow line”.  This is just more exposure for Nintendo and Niantic, whether the law enforcement and subway stations like it or not.

Most recently, Nintendo and Niantic have released a new video announcing the addition of Generation 2 Pokémon to Pokémon GO.  This is clearly a well-timed strategy on their part.  Everyone has been inside all winter, and now Generation 2 is released right on cue.  This is probably the smartest move of the whole campaign.

Overall, I would say that the marketing campaign was effective, even though what they did was very minimal.  When you slap a big name like Nintendo on anything, it will probably have success.  By releasing this on a platform that almost everyone has access to, and knowing that their target demographic would be young adults who grew up with Pokémon, I’d say that their campaign was “super effective”.  So what do you say?  Do you have it in you to catch ém all?

Mitch Diamond

Double Jump: Xbox and Backwards Compatible Gaming Consoles

Backwards compatibility is a huge thing in the gaming industry. Microsoft knows this, and that is why they start working on it after they get all of the bugs out of the software. They are now talking about doing something that has never been done before, and that is making Original Xbox games compatible with the Xbox One. That is jumping backwards two systems, what I like to call “Double Jump.”

Xbox engineering boss Mike Ybarra says, “We’re not looking at original Xbox games on Xbox One yet. Right now the focus is making more Xbox 360 games work. It would be certainly very challenging. Getting Xbox 360 games to work was incredibly challenging and really a multi-year engineering investment. Going all the way back to the original certainly would challenge the team.”

xboxMicrosoft would be the perfect company to try this. All of the Xbox consoles are basically PC’s with basic software. All of the engineers know this software by heart; this is what they are known for. They have already made the Original Xbox games backwards compatible to the Xbox 360 and the Xbox 360 games to the Xbox One, which they are currently working on now. So they know the software in all three and what they had to do for the “Single jump,” now they just need to combine it somehow and figure it out.

If Microsoft did this, they would have another thing over Sony in their PlayStation vs. Xbox rivalry. PlayStation devices have such a complicated software that it is nearly impossible to make any of their games compatible with previous systems. The only thing PlayStation has done is created a gaming streaming service called PlayStation Now. The only issue with this is that the service is an extra $19.99 per month or $44.99 for a three-month package. This service only includes PS3 games as of right now, but this is the best thing they can do because of their software.

When Xbox made the Xbox 360 backwards compatible, it went very well and now that they are doing the Xbox One, the sales for the older games have gone up tremendously. When Microsoft announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops 1 was being added to the list of backwards compatible games, the sales for the game on Amazon went up 13,600%. This made it to second in the list of Amazon’s hourly charts right under Doom which was just recently released. Backwards compatibility brings the old games back to the market instead of just sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

Some people might ask, “Why not just remaster the game?” Well for one making a game in the first place is very expensive. In 1999, Crash Team Racing cost the production company $2.4 Million for development; now games cost way more. Destiny in 2012 cost $140 Million, so honestly with today’s technology and expectations from fans, it would not be worth it when they can just copy the software from the old system.

Another reason is that it takes a lot of time and manpower that could be being used for new games. Grand Theft Auto IV took four years to produce. They started in November of 2004, and the game was finally released in 2008, plus that is with about 150 people on the development team.

xboxAll in all, if Microsoft ever does this, people will go crazy. As I mentioned before, this would be the first time that this has ever been done. Microsoft can do it, they know all of the software and have the brains to do it. The old games would come out of hibernation and start making a little money again.

Brett Olson

Fantasy Sports: More is Being Drafted than just Beer

Like many other fantasy sports fans, I too am sick of seeing advertisements for weekly fantasy leagues hosted by sites like DraftKings & FanDuel. However, I’m not annoyed by the volume of these commercials so much as my inability to participate.

Iowa, along with nine other states, have strict laws regarding sports gambling. In the eyes of state legislators, cash payouts for fantasy sport wins are considered gambling, and thus illegal. Many fantasy sport organizations, players, and myself agree that sport gambling laws should not apply to fantasy sports because fantasy sports are much more than just a double down at a blackjack table. This game requires skill to win, not chance.

fantasy sports

Fantasy sports have even caught the attention of the current election cycle, with the Clinton campaign purchasing banner ads that were displayed on the ESPN fantasy football homepage the day before the first evening of debate.

Journalist Andrew Bucholtz argues that a display ad feels more permanent than a video in an article discussing the ad . Screenshotting a video is practically useless because you wouldn’t be able to get a sense of the message the video is trying to convey. But a banner ad such as this conveys the entire message in a still image. In my opinion, ESPN should just #sticktosports.

Let us take a step back for a moment and examine fantasy sports as a whole. The first fantasy sport game took place in “…the latter part of the 1950s, in which each player selected a team of professional golfers and the person with the lowest combined total of strokes at the end of the tournament would win.” Fast forward to 2016, and there over 57 million North Americans playing fantasy football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey.

Fantasy sport players also tend to be “…younger, better educated, [have] higher household incomes and are more likely to have full time employment…” according to studies conducted by the Fantasy Sport Trade Association (FTSA).

If only I could make a little money off of this hobby right? DraftKings alone has paid out over one billion dollars in cash prizes to numerous winners.

fantacy sportsUnlike Iowa, California just recently passed a bill that allows daily fantasy betting to take place. In fact, several of the state’s professional sport teams such as the Clippers, Lakers, Kings and 49ers rallied in support of the bill.

“Team representatives said daily fantasy leagues have helped make professional sports more interactive and interesting to fans” according to an article written by the LA Times.

The support by professional sport organizations for bills such as these should not be misconstrued as an opportunity to rig games. Audience engagement is an absolute must for modern media companies to survive today. With ratings continually dropping for ESPN’s most popular program, Sunday Night Football, one could only imagine what ratings for less popular programs look like.

Sports executives are beginning to run out of ways to drive audience engagement and repeat consumption. Fantasy sports certainly will not be a saving grace, but could certainly keep the door open long enough for the next era of live sports consumption to be ushered in. I’ll keep a spare forty dollars in my wallet when Iowa decides to change its mind.

Cal Gruening

Gaming Your Emotions: Life is Strange and the Graphic Adventure Genre

I have always been far more intrigued by emotional appeal and the effects of good storytelling than by explosions, violence, or action. Perhaps that is why I was never a big gamer growing up. Now, before you eviscerate me in the comments, I am FULLY aware that games are much more than the three things I listed above, but what I am saying is this: in entertainment, I was looking for emotional appeal, and I got that mostly from movies.

All of that changed this past August, however, when I played a game called Life is Strange.

Life is Strange is an episodic Graphic Adventure game by a small production company called Dontnod Entertainment. The game revolves around a high school senior named Maxine (Max) Caulfield, who suddenly discovers she has the ability to ‘rewind’ time and alter the events of the past. The vast majority of the game is spent making decisions for Max which will ultimately affect events that occur later in the game (a staple of the Graphic Adventure genre).

I won’t go into the details of the story from there (you should play it for yourself!), but suffice it to say, I was hooked. I played the entire 14-hour story, all five episodes, in about three days. I never game that way. I was a recluse, sealed away in my dark basement with cans of 7Up piled around me, wearing PJs and headphones and only leaving to eat and (occasionally) socialize. But my time as a hermit got me thinking: why did this particular game affect me so much? And did it have the same effect on others?

I had to investigate.

life-is-strange

After finishing the game and wiping literal tears from my eyes (seriously, it’s great, play it), I took to Google to see if other people shared my experience. The results, it turned out, were astonishing. Of course, not everyone shared my experience, but it seemed like quite a few people, more than one might think, were deeply and truly affected by this game.

But, as amazing as Life is Strange is, why is it not the explosive hit that so many lesser other titles are? Shouldn’t everyone want to play this incredible, life-altering game?

The issue lies in the type of game that Life is Strange is. Graphic Adventure games lack much of what the general public wants from video games: they are lengthy, they lack action, they are dialogue and cut-scene driven, and they tend to tug at the heart strings more than the adrenal glands. They are, in many ways, video games’ answer to weird, arthouse cinema (which, incidentally, happens to be my favorite kind of cinema…). But is that a model that can still be profitable?

For the developers, yes. For the gaming industry as a whole? Of course not.

According to an article published on mcv.com, Life is Strange sold more than 1.2 million copies worldwide. This is a fantastic achievement for a little-known indie game from an even lesser known developer. But that achievement can seem minimal when compared to the successes of genre-giant Telltale Games, whose Graphic Adventure adaptations of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and The Wolf Among Us have enjoyed massive critical acclaim and financial gains.

the walking dead promo art

But there is always another perspective. Yes, Telltale achieved a huge victory with The Walking Dead, their most successful game, selling around 8.5 million copies and bringing in more than $40 million. However, the newest Call of Duty game sold 21 million copies and brought in $840 million. So while The Walking Dead was a huge victory for Telltale, it barely ranked in the greater gaming industry. That is not necessarily a bad thing, however. As long as these games keep making money for their developers, we will keep seeing them.

What it does mean, though, is that these games aren’t going to be the huge hits we want them to be quite yet. Graphic Adventures are amazing, and people should play them, but they haven’t quite reached ‘water-cooler conversation’ status. We have a tendency to believe that, when something is really good, people should just naturally flock to that thing (we can call that the Netflix phenomena). But that’s not how pop-culture works. You need staying power, you need big money behind you, and you need a solid reputation. Telltales’ reputation is solid, yes, but it’s being shaken more and more as Telltale wades into the mainstream.

Like I said, none of this even remotely spells doom for Telltale or any other Graphic Adventure developer, but perhaps we should reign in our expectations just a tad.

So enjoy your trips to Arcadia Bay, fight your way through the hordes of Walkers, and brace yourself (winter is coming). After all, maybe we shouldn’t be so anxious for these games to explode into popularity. Graphic Adventure games are, after all, about you. Your experience, your adventures, and your emotions.

What you decide to do with that experience after the game is over, is entirely up to you.

Carrsan T. Morrissey

It’s the Only Game in Town: MLB Monopoly on PlayStation

PlayStation’s exclusive release of MLB: The Show 16 continues to stir the pot and pens of disgruntled Xbox gamers, pushing many so far as to jump online and start signing petitions at the online petitioning site, Change.org. Xboxers by the hundreds have posted, begged and pleaded their case for a baseball game to rival MLB: The Show, on the XBOX USERVOICE, the device’s feedback site. The disappointment for some can be felt from coast to coast.

mlb the show 16“Some of us have been begging for a true MLB game for years and fallen on deaf ears,” a Twitter user wrote to Xbox Head Phil Spencer in March. The executive dismissed the idea that Microsoft hasn’t heard these suggestions and claimed that a third-party game would be something Microsoft would support.

Here’s the big beef: For those without access to a PS3 or 4 they can’t play MLB: The Show 16, developed by Sony San Diego and published by Sony Computer Entertainment America. Sony has a monopoly.

But who wouldn’t want a virtual version of America’s favorite pastime? Classic stadiums, the addition of new legends hype the nostalgia prone gamer. I understand why non-PS3 and 4 owners are miffed.

Sony’s PlayStation MLB: The Show is the most popular baseball video game to ever hit the shelves. The launch date for this whopper 11th edition of the MLB: The Show franchise was on March 29, 2016. No statistics were released for Xbox’s RBI third party game, but MLB 16: The Show hit a homerun in sales compared to 2015 sales. Check out the sales numbers thanks to VGchartz.com.

mlb the show sales

Sony has hit a dinger in branding, advertising, licensing, trademarking and partnering with MLB to promote a game that is so great it nearly sells itself. Sony advertises MLB: The Show across all platforms, from T.V. commercials to online advertisements. MLB: The Show is packaged and promoted in various bundles (GameStop Bundle) or individually, enhancing total unit sales.

mlb crybabyStop being crybabies all you without a PS3 or 4! It’s not like Sony misled you. Sony has been quiet and happy with their MLB: The Show series. It’s the Xbox creators who haven’t stepped up. Sony has been more than upfront by noting, Only on PlayStation on all packaging. Xbox has come to the realization that MLB: The Show is only going to be provided on PlayStation gaming devices.

Xbox has made it clear that their answer to PlayStation’s MLB: The Show is RBI. Xbox has gone on to notice that baseball games are “not hits”. Xbox has partnered with HB Studios to create their version of America’s favorite pastime sport, and I mean past time…the graphics look like the Stretch Armstrong action figures! Check out the difference in the trailers between Xbox’s RBI and PlayStation’s MLB 16:

XBox third-party game: RBI vs. PlayStation MLB 16: The Show

Anyone who develops a product should be able to sell it to whomever they want, whenever they want and for whatever price they want. A strong product design, pitched at a loyal demographic group, will always keep gamers and customers coming back for more.

Now, back to my Monopoly reference. A quick definition check of the word monopoly gives us the following: the exclusive possession or control of something; a company or group that has such control; the market condition that exists when there is only one seller. BINGO, Sony PlayStation and MLB: The Show—thanks for continuing to hit home runs!

So my fellow players and gamers, get off the bench and splurge for a PS3 or PS4 so you too can get in on the action with MLB: The Show 16. Keep in mind, baseball is one of the few clock-less sports. And that’s how I like my gaming.

“To win, nothing else matters, and nothing else will do.” – Sanford “Sandy” Koufax, 1935, American baseball left-handed pitcher.

Don’t have a PS3 or 4, why so? Feel that you’ve been let down by Xbox? If so, why?

Marshal Lamb

Thwip to the PS4: Sony Nets an Exclusive for Their Console

Here comes Spiderman! “Only on the PS4,” says the gaming news website Polygon. So…yeah…

Why would Marvel allow a Spiderman game to be only available on the PlayStation 4 gaming console? This should come across as an outrage to everyone who owns an Xbox. Which yeah, it is.

Spiderman PS4

So, I decided to research why the new Spiderman game is PS4 exclusive, and the history Marvel and Sony have together. Spiderman PS4 was created as a AAA game with Sony, Marvel, and Insomniac Games all playing a part.

There are not many details about the game right now. GameSpot has reported that this game will not be tied to the movie Spiderman: Homecoming, but will be a completely stand-alone game with an older, experienced Peter Parker.

Marvel doesn’t want to stop just with Spiderman. They want to create an entire gaming universe. According to VentureBeat, the seeds for a video-gaming Marvel universe have been planted. Marvel seems to be connecting through mobile games and micro-transactions.

Basically, premium in-game currency will be the same for all Marvel games. This however does not really impact me because I don’t play mobile games. This could lead to more exclusive deals with Sony and Marvel for the PS4. Sure, the PS4 is not a mobile device, but this could lead to more PS4 only games.

According to CinemaBlend, the studios worked out a deal that will have each respective studio receiving the profits from the movies they make with Spider-Man.

So Marvel doesn’t have to share profits with Sony for Civil War or The Avengers. At the same time, Sony will benefit completely from the profits made by the solo Spider-Man movies, which appear to be being made under the Sony umbrella.

In essence, the two studios have agreed on a system that allows them to share Spider-Man, and each use them to their own ends. So, Sony and Marvel realized that sharing is caring.

Personally, I have a really good feeling about the new Spiderman game and movie. This could provide Marvel to gain an upper hand on the PS4 network compared to D.C. Comics. Who knows?

Marvel could completely dominate the gaming universe depending on how well the games do. More posts will be coming soon about the new Spiderman PS4 game. Hopefully we’ll get a sneak peek at the new game. Please have a really cool Green Goblin!

Feel free to comment below. What do you think about Marvel and Sony working together? Are you excited for the new PS4 game?

Kyle Konigsmark

2016 NAB PREVIEW: Very Real Virtual Reality

With the 2016 installment of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show looming on the horizon, filmmakers, photographers, journalists and scores of other media professionals (approximately 100,000 of them) will converge to the Las Vegas Convention Center for five days to discuss and showcase all things media.

One reason in particular why those that are “in-the-know” in the media industry pay close attention to NAB is because it will give them a good idea of what the future of the media landscape will look like. For example, remember when drones came into the public spotlight two years ago? They were the buzz and hum of NAB the year before.

So that begs the question, where will the attention be directed this year? What is the hot new thing?

Two words: Virtual Reality.

While VR isn’t a completely new concept in the media world, the steadily declining price tag and commercial availability of VR software and hardware is. While companies like Samsung and Oculus paved the way for commercially available VR headsets, HTC will quickly be making waves with their recent release of their own VR setup, dubbed the “Vive”. Vive works with your computer and Valve’s online gaming community hub known as Steam to bring endless VR possibilities right into your home.

HTC Virtual RealityAs expected, there will be several sessions at NAB 2016 covering Virtual Reality, ranging from “Establishing Your Brand Presence in Virtual Reality” presented by Selvz to “Being There – Virtual Reality News and Documentaries”. The “Virtual and Augmented Reality Pavilion” will be an entire section of the NAB show floor dedicated to all things VR and its current industry leaders.

My group of NAB’ers consisting of myself, Daniel Hampe and Devin Harschnek are all quite eager to get hands-on with this material. Kaleidoscope, a large online community of VR content creators, will be hosting a Virtual Reality Showcase featuring “…groundbreaking virtual reality films and immersive experiences which hail from North America, Europe, South America and beyond.” Sphericam, a camera company from Dover, DE, will be featuring a 360-degree video camera tailor made for VR that is capable of recording 4k resolution at 60fps. These are only two of the many Virtual Reality exhibits and sessions we will be attending this year at NAB.

Join us on our three-day trip to Las Vegas by following us on Twitter! @ us questions or anything you’d like us to cover during our trip.

@devin24_7

@dj50_cal

@unimedialeader

-Cal Gruening, Devin Harschnek, Daniel Hampe

The Tony Hawk Franchise Fizzles Out

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is a skateboarding video game series credited with having the most successful skating video game of all time, both critically and commercially. That particular game is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, released in 2000.

Tony Hawk Pro SkateSo where did an innovative gaming franchise go wrong? Why was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 released with barely a blip on the radar? I will share my two cents on this, along with other voices of the internet.

If anything, the development team behind this series should be celebrating the game’s history and hyping that aspect as much as they can. Instead, the release of THPS5 felt like a feeble attempt at the last hoorah of a has-been game series that tried to reinvent itself too many times, and ultimately failed to recreate the successful gameplay and excitement of its initial titles.

The promotion of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 started with a clip on instagram five months before release. The clip shows a real-life parody of the skater selection screen of the early Tony Hawk titles, where the player can change the skateboard and style of the clothes for their skater. The clip started some buzz on the rumor of a future game. Later, five separate trailers were released (Launch, Skaters, Skaters 2, THPS, Behind the Scenes), along with a spot with Conan O’Brien and Lil Wayne.

But once the gameplay was seen, it received mixed reviews. People new to the franchise may have been interested, while the general consensus of the hardcore fans was similar to Dave Roth’s sentiments below.

Dave Roth QuoteAs a fan of the series for 16 years now, I reserved my judgement until I could actually get my hands on a copy of the game to play and see for myself. Sadly, I was disappointed. It did not live up to the nostalgia of the great games from my youth. While the new game did bring some cool features, like the online skatepark, multiplayer online sandbox, format gameplay, and downloadable user created skateparks, the game was glitchy, full of bugs, and had almost zero replay value. While the game was intended to be more approachable and easy to pick up and play, it felt oversimplified, with ridiculous physics that exaggerated the arcade style they claimed to be shooting for.

You don’t have to look too far to find a theme among the reviews of the game’s quality. On Metacritic it received 31/100, with a 1.5 out of 5 star user rating. On IGN, it received 3.5/10. There are rumors from YouTube and reddit that suggest the game was rushed to cash in on one more title before Activision’s contract ended at the end of 2015. This would explain the game’s poor quality and reception from fans.

It’s easy to sell a great product, which THPS5 had the potential to be. Great products sell themselves. It is far more difficult to sell a product that is not great and has disengaged fans. Tony Hawk fans felt that the new game seemed to be catering to a new younger crowd with an easier rating and cartoon-like graphics. Unfortunately, that is what THPS5 actually was. Activision assigned THPS5 and the two previous games, Tony Hawk Ride and Tony Hawk Shred, to game developer Robomodo. Robomodo attempted to bridge the success of the originals in the series with the new gaming technology of today, but they created a mutt that didn’t get very far.

Tony Hawk Pro SkaterThe promotion for THPS1 included demo discs which fans could play months before release and voice their opinion to Activision for feedback. This engaging strategy was highly successful in the past. Had the promotion campaign for THPS5 attempted to engage its audience more proactively like this, I would likely be writing about that success, instead of one that failed to build hype and engage its fans.

With this last iteration of the series, it is rumored that THPS may be done for good, and that may be a good thing. Despite the sour taste left from THPS5, the first titles of that franchise will forever be remembered, in my mind and the minds of many, as the best skateboarding video games in history.

Devin Harschnek