MCV 919 THE STREAMING AND VOD ISSUE
E3 may be over, but once again itâ€™s set the agenda for the next twelve months. Read our in-depth analysis from the show floor. PAGE 12
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The streaming and VOD issue
The E3 report
We analyse the biggest news and announcements from this year’s E3
Multi tasking at Multiplay
Stream of consciousness
From Twitch to We Are Reach, we discuss the evolution of streaming and VOD with the brains behind these booming platforms
Multiplay on its expanding events roster and its growing server business
A not so micro comeback
We talk to Codemasters about Micro Machines’ long-awaited return to its console roots
Page 5 The Editor • Page 6 On the Radar – the next two weeks • Page 9 Opinion from the industry • Page 38 Margin Makers • Page 40 Big releases • Page 44 Sales analysis • Page 46 End Game – community and events June 16 MCV 919 | 03
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Launching Summer 2017!
Call your Exertis Account Manager 01279 822800
“Seeing the MCV banner standing proud on the outside of the LACC is a visual reminder of just how important the show remains to the UK games industry.”
TheEditor The Uber stream This week, I’m in Los Angeles at E3. I’d love to say I’m enjoying the best that the city has to offer – but the reality is that it’s all sleepness nights, excessively bright days (must get some sunglasses) and food grabbed on the hoof. Then there’s the endless queuing, the checking of QR codes and emails at every new door, and the multitude of coloured wristbands that denote access to each and every thing, all while trying to balance seeing stuff in the flesh and actually getting any work done – such as writing this piece for the magazine. In fact, I’m writing this piece while sitting alone in the back of a car that’s speeding through LA – it’s the seventh Uber I’ve taken in the last 24 hours, and while London has Uber as well, in Los Angeles the scale of the service is truly mind-blowing. Tap on your phone, and a car will arrive almost immediately, and this in a city that sprawls almost-endlessly across the landscape. It’s not perfect, if you’re outside the PlayStation press conference with hundreds of other want-to-be ‘riders’, then you’ll have to wait your turn. But to watch hundreds of Uber-powered cars arrive over the space of half-an-hour; to see a whole four-lane highway packed with the ubiquitous Toyota Camry – yes, it’s new to me, too – and as bland as it sounds, is an incredible example of the power of the platform. The games industry has long known about the power of the platform. Well before we had the likes of Uber, Netflix and Airbnb, the industry has nurtured and promoted its own platforms – be it Xbox Live, PSN or Steam. More recently, Twitch, YouTube and more, have become essential platforms for gaming. Not only have the press conferences become more like TV broadcasts, streamed to millions, but there’s also huge numbers of people who are constantly recording or streaming video at E3. Even when there’s nothing going on, you see endless people just walking about speaking into a camera or smartphone. The sheer number of hours recorded must be mind-boggling. This issue, we look into that phenomenon, talking to those behind the streaming and VOD platforms, to see what’s next for these dynamic and ever-growing services. Back to LA, it’s a great town and a great show, one we continue to be honoured to partner with. Seeing the MCV banner standing proud on the outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center [sic] is a visual reminder of just how important the show remains to the UK games industry. With Brexit approaching, such international relations will become more important than ever – and sadly we might need to buy a new banner, too (see page 46). Seth Barton firstname.lastname@example.org
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Arms lands on Switch June 16th Nintendo’s first new major IP for the Switch arrives at retail today, with the platform holder hoping to do for fighting games what Mario Kart and Splatoon did for the racing and shooter genres. Reviews have been extremely positive so far, with many critics praising both its accessibility and hidden depths. With such a strong backing behind it, Arms should be a real knockout at retail.
Develop:Brighton July 11th-13th
Jamchester 2017 June 23rd-25th
The UK’s biggest professional game jam returns to Manchester’s Northern Quarter for its second edition. Sponsored by Google, Unity, Amiqus, Ukie and The Studio, the jam is aimed at professional dev teams, but a small number of tickets are also available for student teams. Each team will have 40 hours to create a game, and a total of eight awards will be up for grabs.
With six different tracks of talks and how-to workshops spread out over the course of three days, Develop:Brighton will be hosting over 2,000 devs next month, including speakers such as John and Brenda Romero, and Tetsuya Mizuguchi. The Develop Awards 2017 will also run alongside the event, where our sister title Develop will be celebrating the very best of UK and European games talent.
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Numskull launches official Crash Bandicoot range June 30th
If the release of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy wasn’t enough of a nostalgia rush, Numskull has partnered with Activision Blizzard to create its official merchandise range, launching alongside the game on June 30th. You can have a sneak peek at the new collection on page 38.
DNA’s VR Arcade comes to London
DNA VR is due to launch London’s first full-scale virtual reality arcade this month. Situated in Islington, the arcade will have a range of Vivebased games and experiences on offer, including Fruit Ninja, Arizona Sunshine, Everest VR and Tilt Brush, as well as its own exclusive title, Alice in Wonderland Stories, that’s suitable for two to six players. A full launch has yet to be announced, but test games are scheduled to take place later this month, with bookings going live shortly.
Insomnia X Resonate
Dreamhack Summer 2017 June 17th-20th
The world’s largest digital festival and LAN party returns to Sweden for three days this weekend. There were over 20,000 connected devices at last year’s summer event, and this year looks set to be even bigger. Visitors will be able to get plenty of eSports action over the weekend, and The Pokémon Company will also be holding the European qualifier for its Pokkén Tournament Championship series at the event as well, where the top four players will win a place at the 2017 World Championships taking place in California this August.
Insomnia is heading to Scotland in partnership with Glasgow’s Resonate festival. The mash-up event is set to be Scotland’s biggest gaming extravaganza to date, and has a huge line-up of attractions, exhibitors and YouTube stars already confirmed to attend.
If you’d like your product, event or upcoming news to appear in On the Radar, email Katharine on kbyrne@ nbmedia.com
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Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (PS4) Sony Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4) Sony South Park: The Fractured But Whole + Stick of Truth (PS4) Ubisoft Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4) Take-Two Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4) Square Enix June 16 MCV 919 | 07
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Henry Clay - Director, Hype Management
The metrics system
t a launch event during my tenure on the but this request belies a fundamental misunderstanding of Activision PR team, an eager young content best practices when it comes to selecting which influencers creator walked up to me, grabbed my hand and to work with. The metric of subscriber levels is easy to introduced himself by his YouTube channel understand, but it is not always a true indicator of a channel’s name and the number of subscribers he had. Amused at this success. Without more information, no brand can only look rather unusual way of an introduction, I asked him what his to subscriber levels to accurately gauge a channel’s suitability subscribers-to-video-views ratio was. Losing his momentum, for use in an influencer marketing campaign. he fell quiet for a moment and then said he wasn’t sure. By looking at subscriber base alone, brands are ignoring The subscriber count has long been the first indicator of a wealth of information that can inform a much smarter success for YouTubers in the gaming community. A high decision. For example, if you’re considering sponsoring a number can earn respect among peers and unlock interest YouTube channel, the total monthly viewing figures would be from publishers and brands wishing to build relationships a far better metric to use; if you’re looking to deliver a one-off with an engaged fan-base. Smaller YouTubers look up at those promotional video, then the average 14-day video viewing in the upper echelons, longing figure would be more useful. Subscriber levels are not always an In addition, brands for fame of that magnitude. The subscriber level thus serves evaluate these figures indicator of a channel’s success. should as a ranking system, ordering alongside the fee being YouTubers against each other by their subscriber value. requested to calculate an expected value. Overinflated fees There is no doubt that more and more brands are turning based on subscriber counts rarely offer a high value return. to influencer marketing. A recent study by TapInfluence and This is, of course, simplistic, and there are a whole host of Nielsen Catalina Solutions found that influencer marketing other metrics to consider before deciding to work with an delivers 11 times higher ROI than traditional brand influencer. The bottom line is that the bigger picture is always marketing. That’s an enticing figure at a time when brands more complex than you originally anticipated. are struggling to get greater returns for their marketing Turning back to my new acquaintance from the launch budget, and it is easy to see why this metric is often used by event; after a discussion about the value of other metrics, businesses looking to engage with YouTubers for influencer a little calculation revealed that the ratio of his modest marketing purposes. subscriber level to the video views he was generating was However, when I am asked by brands or agencies to put fairly impressive. We kept in touch and I was pleased to forward talent who have a certain subscriber threshold for support him over the years. He developed his channel and influencer relations activity, it sets my alarm bells ringing. made a successful career for himself through hard work, Hype Management is fortunate to represent talent who passion and dedication, doing what he knows and loves best. hit some pretty lofty figures in the subscriber department, Naturally, he is now on the talent roster at Hype Management.
Henry Clay is the founder of Hype Management, an agency representing leading video game-related talent such as YouTubers, event hosts and presenters. He has over 15 years in the entertainment industry working in music, TV, film and video games. He mains Soldier 76 on Overwatch June 16 MCV 919 | 09
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VĂŠronique Lallier - VP European publishing, Hi-Rez Studios
Growing streaming talent
social media to make sure that we meet their expectations. o me, what matters most has always been to make We feel that livestreaming about game updates provides our people happy; it was one the main reasons that audience with the information they are looking for in the drove me to work in the video games industry. As most engaging format possible. a child, I was passionate about video games, and On our channels, we also involve our incredible I really wanted to be involved and to be able to share this community. We support these talents and bring them into experience with players around the world. the limelight. For me, this is one of the key contributions My career choices were logical in this respect. The most we make to our industry. It is extremely important to keep important point for me was to understand what consumers supporting passionate people so they can achieve their want. At Hi-Rez Studios, we operate games as services, dreams, and provide them with the framework and the which means we need to check performance of the service support they need to learn jobs that do not even exist in every second of every day. We are constantly listening to the standard school curriculum. This year we have worked our community in order to shape and improve our games on two key initiatives to help and the overall experience. casters develop and The competitive aspect of Livestreaming about game updates new become more involved with our titles makes it even more Hi-Rez games. We created important to keep focusing on provides our audience with the a competition named The optimising the gameplay. This information they are looking for in Caster, through which we way, we can be sure that the balance remains just right and the most engaging format possible. have been encouraging talents to join us and become active that the games are fun and fair. We have a two-week update members of our team. We have also undertaken to make clean feeds available for our cycle for both Paladins and Smite, and our Twitch channel grassroots eSports matches so that younger talent can have HiRez TV is at the heart of our communication with our a go at casting matches. Our in-house team has coached players. We operate our two channels 24/7. We offer a wide them to help their content get more traction and followers. variety of content there to keep our players up to speed with the changes and ideas we come up with to make our The industry continues to develop at a fast pace and our initiatives aiming to help people involved in specific games better. Every day, my teams in Brighton and Atlanta areas related to livestreams support this growth. We want livestream games, cast matches (grass roots or professional to proactively develop talent instead of realising too late leagues, PC and console) or invite our dev team on the that we have a skills shortage. As a side note, 40 per cent of stream to discuss our upcoming game updates. All of this is done in a live context, and we are constantly listening to my Brighton team started their career in the video games industry either as pro players, streamers or casters. our playersâ€™ feedback, not only on the streams, but also on
VĂŠronique Lallier took her first steps in the industry at Ubisoft France in 1999. She then brought her in-depth expertise in marketing and publishing to premier games companies including Rockstar, NCSoft, Warner Bros and most recently Hi-Rez Studios in her career spanning 15+ years 10 | MCV 919 June 16
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Liam Chivers - Director, OP Talent
The influence game
et up five years ago, OP Talent was the first heroes, so the most successful campaigns marry the talent dedicated management company for top YouTube style and brand messaging organically. gaming influencers. We manage a large proportion YouTuber demographics and styles differ vastly, and it is of the UK’s top YouTubers and have been at the essential to ensure the brand matches the talent. Our talents forefront of online brand marketing. Our talents are predominantly serve a male and mixed demographic but we responsible for billions of video views and have millions of are seeing increasing diversification in their audiences. This is followers on social media platforms, making them some of something I believe will increase over the next 12 months. the most influential channels in the world today. It is our job to educate brands and marketing agencies We work extremely closely with our creators to develop of the best ways to construct campaigns around our into directions they want to grow. From chart-topping talents, as well as the best practice to ensure the right fit, music to best-selling books and worldwide live events, messaging and content to suit the channels and what’s best it’s these projects that really for the brand. showcase the popularity of The work we create can our YouTubers and raise the To create a successful influencer vary from some wonderful eyebrows of traditional media. real-life produced content, campaign, brands should work From OP Talent’s inception, to game plays and video the video games industry integrations, which have alongside the talent. was the bedrock of our resulted in more and more initial foray into creating businesses seeing the value sponsorships for YouTubers. At the time, there was a of influencer marketing. I think this is something that will lack of understanding of the impact that key influencers only increase further. could have in helping brands reach their audiences in Due to the sheer size of the platform that gaming enjoys authentic and meaningful ways. Now, years later, we on YouTube, I see many publishers who only run occasional are nearing 1,000 brand projects, a proportion of which campaigns joining the top global brands we work with that are have been with top games publishers, developers and already vested in the space in a much bigger way. peripherals companies. Without question, the games industry is lucky. Not only To create a successful influencer campaign, brands is gaming the biggest genre on YouTube, but it also has the should work alongside the talent. In order to maintain biggest global influencers making gaming-related content. the authenticity that their fans love them for, the creative Likewise, their target market consumes so much of their and messaging have to fit. The talents are a brand in their content on that platform. It’s a powerful coincidence, and own right and must be true to their own identity or risk an opportunity that most businesses acknowledge and are alienating their millions of fans. Fans are there to see their taking very seriously.
Founded in October 2012 by Liam Chivers and acquired by Endemol Shine UK in 2015, OP Talent has pioneered YouTube and online influencer management in the UK. Prior to establishing OP, Liam worked as sales director at Bertelsmann for a decade June 16 MCV 919 | 11
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espite being assailed by various consumercentric shows worldwide in recent years, E3 remains the most important date in the gaming calendar. The exact dates of the show have become a little vaguer this year, with the press conferences now spread across the entire preceding weekend, streaming their message out to millions online. And some of those fans were also present in person, in numbers never permitted before, with 15,000 expo tickets giving them access to everything the industry usually keeps to itself – although at time of writing on Tuesday, it’s too early to judge whether it’s been a successful experiment. So while there is change, the show remains largely familiar, and it continues to be the vital point in the year where you can take a view across the various key players’ strategies for the next 12 months.
Microsoft showed huge strength-in-depth, with numerous exclusives to accompany the unveiling of its powerful new Xbox One X. Ubisoft impressed with a huge range of titles, including a Mario spin-off and a new toys-to-life franchise. EA showed Anthem, which looks to be a serious Destiny competitor, while Sony packed its showcase with finely-crafted, single-player treats. And finally, Nintendo rounded it all off with a promising Switch line-up – and news that Metroid, Pokémon, Kirby and Yoshi are all in the works. To trawl back through every press conference and release is pointless in this age of streaming video, so instead we’ve provided a collection of analysis pieces. These look across both the spectrum of what was announced, and provide more in-depth thoughts on our personal standout titles and reveals. We hope you had a great E3; now let’s have a great year.
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The X Factor is back
After years of being on the back foot, the Xbox One X looks to re-establish the brand’s technical superiority
Pictured below: Phil Spencer unveiled the Xbox One X, which launches on November 7th
CONSOLES are usually creations of compromise. They have to hit a certain price point, not be too large (or too noisy), provide future-proofed technology, and often include a range of other media features. The original Xbox One was simply stretched too thin. It was bulky, relatively underpowered and weighed down by TV features and its Kinect peripheral. With the Xbox One X, Microsoft appears to have made no compromises whatsoever. The new console is practically unrecognisable from the platform it launched back in 2013. All the talk is of pure performance – as it’s pitched squarely at the core gamer – but within a box many times smaller than most gaming PCs. Mid-gen hardware updates have numerous advantages over their predecessors. They aren’t as constrained on release dates, with the PS4 Pro and One X both coming at a time which suits them. They have the benefit of hindsight, correcting issues with the original hardware, both technically and in their marketing strategies. Finally, they can set a price that only need appeal to an enthusiast, as one box doesn’t have to please all. With the launch of the Xbox One X, Microsoft is offering a middle ground between the traditional convenience of console and the power of a PC. With
games running at native 4K, and many at 60fps too, plus potentially more detailed textures, it’s an appreciable technical step-up from the PS4 Pro, and really feels like a no-compromise design, right down to the Ultra HD Blu-ray drive. It’s been a very long time coming, but finally we have console families, rather than singular devices for all. Device families such as these make sense to consumers, providing a choice – and people love choice. PlayStation and Xbox now join businesses as varied as Apple, Rolex and Ford in this respect. And with the two consoles being clearly delineated by their colour, it should be pretty clear to explain which is best for the buyer. The only question remaining is just how many consumers will buy a £450 console to play the same games they can on the one they already own. Microsoft is betting that there’s a die-hard core of gamers who will always pay out for the latest, greatest thing. Whether the Xbox One X also extends the entire ‘One’ generation is yet to be seen, but it’s undoubtedly a powerful and impressive piece of hardware, and a big step forward for the Xbox brand. Or maybe it’s just a return to the norm, as the new device recaptures the original ‘X’ brand and brings back the technical superiority that it was previously associated with.
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Return to life
Ubisoft shocked everyone when it announced a new, and very different, toys-to-life franchise ONE the most unexpected announcements of this year’s E3 was undoubtedly Ubisoft’s ambitious new toys-to-life title. At a time when some have described the sector as being doomed, with only Lego Dimensions bucking that trend, it’s a very brave move to be launching a toys-to-life title. But with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, that’s just what Ubisoft is doing. Starlink makes three clever moves. The first is distancing itself from the character-based strategy of practically every other toys-to-life franchise; in Starlink, the core toys are spaceships, which look like fun to play with on their own. Secondly, the ships have interchangeable parts and weapons, so there’s yet more play value in switching out those parts – both in and out of the game. Finally, the ship is mounted on your controller, letting you play with it, while you play the game. The game then brings strongly defined characters, which look to have stepped straight out of a slick animated series. It seems to be aimed, or will at least appeal, to a slightly older demographic than most toysto-life franchises. Mixing space combat and ground
exploration, the gameplay utilises both weapon- and ship-swapping to allow players to gain an advantage against their current opponent. It’s a significant gamble by Ubisoft. The investment costs in creating a toy line as well as a new game franchise will be significant. It’s great news for physical retailers, though, as the toys will be a big driver in the appeal of the game. However, Ubisoft has mentioned that you will be able to buy the title and the elements digitally, presumably for those who just want to play the game and any potential Switch customers. The exact strategy for how the content and toys will be rolled out isn’t available yet. We’d expect the game to come with a ‘starter ship’, with other weapons and ships sold separately, though what in-game content (beyond the ship itself) will come with an additional ship is currently unknown. It’s heartening to see that Ubisoft believes there’s still potential in toys-to-life. Furthermore, its efforts to innovate within the genre shows there are a lot more ideas out there than what we’ve seen to date. We eagerly await its release next year.
Pictured above: Starlink: Battle for Atlas is due to release during fall 2018
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Indie GoneGone Indie games received comparatively little airtime this year, and the titles that did make it on stage looked rather different to normal Pictured above: EA Originals’ latest title, the Hazelightdeveloped A Way Out, will be breaking onto shelves in early 2018
EA’s been marching to its own E3 drum for a couple of years now, but last weekend saw the publisher putting players at the heart of its event like never before. It not only had 300 content creators at its presentation, but also a barrage of YouTube co-hosts and an army of ‘Game Changers’ to showcase 30 minutes of Star Wars Battlefront 2. Even its latest EA Originals title, A Way Out, was a strictly co-op adventure from the team behind Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, showing a marked move away from the smaller, single-player indie titles EA’s championed in the past. Indeed, Zoink Games’ Fe, the first game to be announced as an EA Original last June, was nowhere to be seen, and Jo-Mei Games’ Sea of Solitude, which was added to the Originals roster last December, was similarly absent. A Way Out’s unique take on co-op games wasn’t the only thing that set it apart, however. With its pair of tough male leads, gritty, realistic prison setting and almost triple-A art style, A Way Out seemed to herald a new era for EA’s indie label, suggesting the publisher’s original mission statement – to help bring “first-time” experiences to market and help support “small developers” with funding and
advice – may have begun to shift in order to satisfy a broader audience. Does this mean smaller, quirkier titles like Fe are going to become much rarer beasts on EA’s release schedule? Probably not. After all, EA’s executive vice president Patrick Söderlund said A Way Out was just one of “several new [Originals] titles in development” during its presentation, so it’s possible there are dozens of Fe-like titles waiting in the wings. It does suggest, however, that E3 is no longer the place to talk about them anymore. Indeed, apart from Microsoft’s brief ID@Xbox sizzle reel, indie titles received very little airtime at this year’s show. Even Sony, the usual arbiter of left-field indie darlings, played it surprisingly straight, spending most of its conference on its 2018 blockbusters and leaving its more experimental products for PlayStation VR. Instead, the biggest indie showcase came from The PC Gaming Show, with a new title from Klei Entertainment, Griftlands, being one of its main headliners. Indies are still alive and well, then, but with mainstream audiences now playing a greater role than ever before at E3 – both around the world and at the show itself – it seems the best way to speak to fans has now shifted firmly to a triple-A-style lexicon.
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We look at how Nintendo’s partnership with Ubisoft gives Switch a tactical advantage WE knew it was coming, but somehow Ubisoft still managed to surprise us. No, we’re not talking about Beyond Good and Evil 2 (although let’s just pause for a moment and luxuriate in that tremendous trailer again); we’re talking about Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. We’ll admit, even our resident Nintendo evangelist was sceptical when those internal documents first surfaced online last month. But after seeing the game in action, that potential XCOM 2 DLC purchase on August 29th has now been pushed firmly to the back of our minds. Gameplay aside, though, the fact that Nintendo’s putting the keys to Mario’s castle in the hands of a thirdparty – even hands as capable as Ubisoft’s – before it even gets to stake its own claim on the franchise with Super Mario Odyssey speaks volumes about the platform holder’s current mind-set, both with Switch and its wider business. It’s a move that echoes Nintendo’s smartphone strategy, where the platform holder finally seems comfortable about letting its big-name brands take flight outside its own platforms and development teams. Under certain conditions, we might add, as Shigeru Miyamoto playfully pointed out during Ubisoft’s press conference that he told the team: “Whatever you do, don’t make a jump game or Mario platformer.”
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He did, however, give them his blessing “to try and make a Mario game that has never been made before,” and an arm-cannon wielding tactician is possibly one of the only career paths the plumber has yet to explore, already being an accomplished doctor, artist, racing driver and Olympic athlete. Of course, this isn’t the first time Mario’s been handled by a third party. Sega Sports R&D has been at the helm of the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series ever since it debuted in 2007, and numerous Japanese studios such as Camelot, Next Level and even Konami, Square Enix and Bandai Namco have all made their mark on Mario’s various sports outings over the years. To let a Western developer take custodianship of an all-new Mario game, though? That’s something else entirely, and it’s a partnership we can’t wait to see more from as Switch gains further momentum. Loosening the reins like this not only enhances the Mario brand and creates a more diverse line-up of titles for fans, but it also means that familiar red ‘M’ is making more regular appearances on Nintendo’s release schedule – something the Wii U could have benefitted from much earlier in its life cycle. While we wait for Metroid Prime 4 and that brand-new Pokémon game, an odyssey into the Rabbid Kingdom looks like just what Dr. Mario ordered.
Pictured below: Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is coming out soon on August 29th
Stand and deliver
With release dates varying from today to the end of 2018, we look at how and why publishers make us wait Pictured above: Sony mainly focused on games that won’t be out until 2018, while Bethesda had more immediate release dates to announce
E3 press conferences were once littered with titles that wouldn’t see retailers’ shelves for years. But there looks to be a new sense of immediacy spreading across these events and the industry as a whole – and publishers are keen to point this out to consumers. Bethesda was a key example. The company announced numerous new games, expansions, VR remakes, mobile titles and more, but despite having a packed press conference, it signed the whole thing off by saying that everything shown was going to be launched during this calendar year. That’s a whole press conference of content coming in just the next six months. Microsoft was also keen to provide content now rather than later, and a good thing too, after a release schedule that was somewhat lacking last year. We’ve already talked about the line-up elsewhere in these pages, but PRs were keen to emphasise afterwards that everything we saw would be available to buy in the following 12 months. That means there were no teaser trailers in either conference for games that are well beyond the current financial year, and that seems to be a very healthy move for the industry.
This more immediate approach has numerous advantages. Such publishers don’t want to tease their fans with long waits, or distract them with titles that won’t be available for months. It keeps the focus on the here and now, which is sound business sense. By comparison, PlayStation showed numerous 2018 titles, only one of which – God of War – looks to be releasing before the next E3 rolls around. Of course, promoting distant titles might persuade consumers to buy into a certain platform in expectation, and you also have a huge timescale to build pre-orders. So there are upsides to the long-haul strategy, and it looks like Nintendo appreciates this, too, with the company mixing more immediate releases with teasers for numerous titles that are still far from release. We shouldn’t forget either that Sony’s already launched one big first-party title this year in the shape of Horizon Zero Dawn, and with its current hardware lead and deals with Activision on its key titles, it’s not relying on exclusives. That’s not to say it couldn’t have used its press conference to better effect, though, perhaps by promoting content that is closer to making an impact on consumer’s wallets, and Sony’s bottom line.
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Play time or story time? The strategic differences between the key platform holders were at their most stark in years ACADEMIC studies of video games have long pondered the relative merits of gameplay vs story, or ludology vs narratology as it’s often called. While we leave such critical musings to the experts, the debate has rarely been played out in such stark terms across the two primary platform holders’ showcases. The Xbox event mainlined on multiplayer, persistent, co-operative, open-ended, live, emergent, games-as-aservice, shoot stuff online with your mates and get the loot-type titles. Meanwhile, Sony’s showcase centred largely on singleplayer, narrative, beginning-to-end, immersive, scripted, character-driven experiences. It’s potentially unfair to line-up Microsoft’s top titles against Sony’s, as Xbox had more strength-in-depth. But while Microsoft showed Sea of Thieves, Forza Motorsport 7, State of Decay 2 and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Sony had Spider-Man, God Of War, and franchise expansions Uncharted: Lost Legacy and Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds. So given the hardware strategies – putting VR to one side for a moment – are so similar and the target audiences are largely identical, in terms of broad demographics at least, then how has Microsoft and Sony ended up with such different content showings? E3 2017 was the year that Microsoft moved even closer to its PC side. Alongside its high-powered
hardware, the most telling exclusive signing was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – a PC title that has sold hugely, and more importantly engaged Twitch viewers, with more concurrent viewers than any other game – bar the usual MOBA pairing. It’s the perfect match for a strategy that is encouraging online group-play above all else, taking what has been learned from mobile and trying to leverage long-tail profits from the Xbox Live player base, which is arguably more established than Sony’s equivalent, due to the success of Live back on the Xbox 360. This is a play to the hardcore, the ones that put in the big hours and love a single title for months at a time. It also ties in perfectly with Microsoft’s relaunch of its video streaming service, Mixer. Sony, meanwhile, with its larger install base, has seen great returns on huge tentpole titles, such as Uncharted, supported with a set number of big DLC content drops. Arguably, it’s such titles that have built that huge install base to begin with. It’s a more traditional, upfront, model for selling hardware and software, but no less effective for it. And there’s even innovation here, too, with Lost Legacy coming on disc as an ‘expand-alone’ piece of content – effectively a mini Uncharted in its own right. We’re pleased that both companies have found some differentiation. It’s healthy for the industry, and for both platforms, that they find their own spaces to exploit.
Pictured below: Sony focused on single-player narrative experiences this E3, while Microsoft mainlined multiplayer co-op titles
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Stream of consciousness Marie Dealessandri talks to Devolver Digital, DingIt and Twitch about how streaming and VOD can be used as effective marketing tools to promote your brand
T Pictured: Twitch’s Steve Ford
he battle for the streaming market has been raging for years now. According to recent data from Streamlabs, Twitch is still by far the most dominant platform in terms of monthly active streamers, but the competition has never been fiercer. YouTube Live, for instance, has shown more growth than its established rival over the last six months despite having only a fraction of its active users. Likewise, after the recent merger of Hitbox and Azubu, Smashcast has a ready-made monthly active user base of 20m at its disposal. Then there’s Microsoft’s Mixer, recently rebranded from Beam, whose near real-time interaction make it one of the fastest and most responsive platforms
out there. While it’s safe to say that Twitch will likely remain No.1 for the foreseeable future, it may not stay that way much longer. Indeed, despite Twitch’s dominance, streaming is more diverse than ever, with more platforms available to players every day, and, more importantly, to publishers and developers. This rapidly evolving landscape has led to new opportunities for the publishers in particular, as the industry at large now understands the value of streaming as a marketing tool. And the more platforms that emerge, the more powerful that tool becomes. Recent developments at Twitch mirror this evolution, with publishers and developers now able to sell their
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games directly on the platform. Devolver Digital is one of them: “Devolver already sells games like Enter the Gungeon and Strafe via Twitch,” a spokesperson for Devolver Digital who goes by the name Rich Knuckles tells MCV. “It’s an incredible way for people that are enjoying a stream to pick up the game being played, and support that streamer directly.” Partnered streamers receive five per cent of the sale if the game they’re playing is purchased from their streaming page, while developers receive 70 per cent. This shows just how powerful streaming can be in marketing a game, and Devolver knows it. “Streaming is now the most important way people interact with games outside of actually playing themselves,” Knuckles continues. “As a marketing tool, it’s an incredible way to connect directly with your community, provide ongoing updates of games in development, and a real shared experience for everyone.” Not everyone shares this open approach to streaming, however, with publisher-developer Atlus threatening to take legal action against Persona 5 streamers back in April. At the time, it argued it didn’t “want the experience to be spoiled for people who haven’t played the game,” but the company soon softened its approach after it “saw numerous reactive news articles go up, opinion videos post, and received many emails asking to change [its] Persona 5 streaming/video policy.” With streaming now forming an integral part of a game’s life cycle post-launch, those looking to avoid Atlus’ mistakes should start thinking about making it an integral part of a game’s marketing campaign. “Live streaming is growing in importance as part of the overall picture of video,” Twitch’s VP sales Europe Steve Ford says. “Brands realise that this is where their audience are the most engaged, where the value exchange between the streamer and viewer is at its most authentic – and if brands get it right, this is where they can really find traction.” Publishers can use streaming in various ways: direct advertising, influencer-based campaigns or by hosting their own channel, like Devolver. According to Twitch, however, the most successful campaigns are those which use a number of different approaches: “The best use of Twitch by a publisher [is] when all of these [strategies] are coordinated with the help of various Twitch teams,” Ford says. Knuckles concurs: “We take a few approaches, including streaming on our own channel, Devolver Public Access. Our group of wonderful misfits play interesting games we publish and those we find that we think are nifty. It’s important to us that cool, weird or just plain obscure games get out there, and this is a way to share it with our tight-knit community. We are also
friends with quite a few content creators and make sure they get to play our games. If they want to play them for their audience, that’s awesome for everyone.” But the unpredictable nature of streaming still worries some companies, says Ford: “Some brands are still hesitant. And we look at this as an opportunity to partner with them and help them with their approach to place messaging around live streaming.” He continues: “It’s also important to note that Twitch offers best-in-class moderation tools and support, including AutoMod, a tool that employs machine learning and natural language processing to identify and block inappropriate content from appearing in chat. As a result, campaigns that leverage assistance from Twitch are known for delivering a positive experience for both the brand and the viewers.” BRUTAL HONESTY Brands’ hesitation to engage with live streaming because of its unpredictable nature is one of the reasons why DingIt.tv’s chose to focus on video on-demand (VOD).
Pictured: DingIt’s Adam Simmons
Pictured below: Enter the Gungeon is just one Devolverpublished title that’s available to buy through Twitch
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“While there are a lot of benefits with live video, there are naturally more risks from technical problems and inappropriate content, but also the way live viewership can be a bit unpredictable – especially with sudden peaks,” says Adam Simmons, VP content and marketing at Level Up Media, DingIt’s parent company. “Different approaches for live or VOD streaming advertising each have pros and cons. There have been some great content-based campaigns that have delivered for brands, such as the tournament series DingIt ran with Kinguin, whereas the targeting and flexibility of direct advertising can offer advantages for other publishers. The key is understanding the strengths of different formats, how they complement each other and then building a strategy. “Live [video] has some great benefits for user engagement and audience interaction. On the flip side, it is difficult to control the quality of content, especially from a brand safety point of view. We chose to focus on premium VOD as we see a big growth area here, especially when trying to reach a broader audience who may not want to commit to watching hours of live streaming. VOD tends to have more stable viewership, whereas live video can have large spikes in traffic that can be difficult to predict.”
Devolver’s Knuckles agrees that the volatile nature of streaming is both a strength and a weakness from a marketing point of view: “The live stream audience is certainly more engaged and want more than just to see video of a game in action. They actively ask questions, talk amongst themselves, and can be brutally – but importantly – honest about what you put out there,” he says. “It’s all unpredictable. People are going to react how they react and we can’t really control that. Our hope is we get the work of our developers out there to both people that follow us, and bring in new folks that might have never considered one of our games before.” If the gaming community can be brutally honest about the content that’s being delivered to them, it’s equally important for the brands making use of streaming platforms to be honest as well, says Ford. “The key message here is that an advertising partner has to be authentic,” he explains. “If the message isn’t authentic, then the audience will know immediately. Twitch offers a managed service to brands that want to explore the opportunities live streaming has to offer, but need help in their ideation and execution. When it’s done right, engagement, measurable brand uplift and a positive emotional connection are the rewards.”
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Knuckles concurs: “It’s been our experience that you need a schedule to keep your community engaged but leave some room for impromptu fun, because games should always be something loose and spontaneous.” THE KNIGHTS AND JESTERS Streaming and VOD aren’t just tools for publishers to promote their games, however, as these platforms have also begun to attract non-endemic brands whose target audiences fall into the gaming community bracket. “Every day more non-endemic brands are looking to position themselves around live gaming content,” Ford confirms. “In the UK, we reached a tipping point around halfway through 2016 when we started to generate more revenue from our non-endemic partners.” This shift occurred as more live streaming platforms were made available to the public, which gave nonendemic brands a wealth of options. In the end, that largely benefitted the top dogs, such as Twitch, but also VOD platforms like DingIt. “With many options available for brands within live video, it can often be overwhelming,” Simmons explains. “Non-endemic brands are already on a steep learning curve with the gaming audience and how to utilise it effectively. At DingIt, we look to complement the live
“An advertising partner has to be authentic. If they’re not, then the audience will know immediately.” content our creators make on other platforms with bite-sized VOD, which offers different opportunities for brands. As more non-endemic brands come into the space, these options and flexibility offer great opportunities to meet specific objectives.” In the end, it’s the community that drive the marketing opportunities and not the other way around, Ford adds: “At Twitch, we have continued to embrace various forms of emerging content, but these are surfaced by our community rather than advertisers. We believe that if we get this right, then we will automatically build the right audiences for a range of advertisers.” Audiences are evolving as well, with the rise of eSports extending the gaming community beyond traditional mainstream players. This has the potential to attract more brands, both inside and outside the industry. However, it may be some time before non-endemic
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Pictured: League of Legends shoutcasters commentating at the 2017 NA LCS Summer Split in Los Angeles
brands begin engaging with eSports, as Ford tells us that games publishers are still the primary drivers for marketing campaigns using this type of content. “Most eSports league content carries with it the same natural competitive separation that traditional sports have,” Ford says. “That said, publishers are always looking to add large content streamers to the portfolio of influencers playing their game, and many times current and former eSports athletes fit that mould. It is not uncommon to see retired eSports athletes playing newer games in the same genre from what they played originally as a strategy to drive awareness and trial of those new titles.” Much like Twitch embraced both emerging and eSports content, DingIt aims to appeal to the gaming community at large as well, creating a wealth of opportunities for all sorts of marketing campaigns. “Our aim is provide different destinations for different communities within gaming,” Simmons explains. “With DingIt.tv as our flagship site, we are focused on gaming enthusiasts and eSports. Our
“Competitive play offers opportunities for brands, but it only attracts some of the total gaming audience.”
soon-to-launch site, TheGamer.tv, will be focused on mainstream gaming. While there are millions of eSports fans, they still only make up a small section of overall gamers, and we see a lot of opportunity by catering to the wider gaming community. “Especially when we’re talking to non-endemic brands, there’s still some misunderstanding around eSports. Competitive play offers some great opportunities for brands, but it only attracts some of the total gaming audience. There’s a case to try and cater for all gamers on a single site, but we believe the route is to cater to different communities with their own destinations and that’s what we hope to do with DingIt, TheGamer and GoGamer. Each site will focus on different gaming communities and that opens the option for different brands and games to align with the site that fits them best.” Ultimately, the fact that streaming and VOD platforms are finally embracing the wider gaming community is great news for brands wishing to utilise them as marketing tools. They don’t need to target superstar streamers, either, as focusing on everyday gamers can be an equally rewarding, says Ford: “If you are engaging to your audience, you can make a living on Twitch. The appeal of Twitch is no different than medieval times, when you had the knights and the jesters. The knights are the skilled players and the jesters are the entertainers, with the avenues to success open to them equally on Twitch.”
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As Twitchâ€™s game sales go live, creative agency We Are Reach talks to Katharine Byrne about the advantages of video on-demand, and how YouTube still has the biggest audience for companies looking to build their brand
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Pictured left: We Are Reach’s Rob Pearson, Nathan Ditum and David Jackson
hen Twitch announced in March it was going to sell games and give creators and developers the chance to earn a cut of each sale, the industry wasn’t sure what to make of it – though a potential competitor for Steam looked to be a major positive. While the platform said it wanted to “better serve [its] passionate community” and help them “make a living doing what they love,” others were less keen on the idea, saying it had the potential to turn streamers into little more than biased salespeople. For the Bath-based agency We Are Reach, such matters were of little concern. Indeed, the company hadn’t even been formed at that point, with its three co-directors Nathan Ditum, Rob Pearson and David Jackson still working under The Yogscast’s banner in Bristol making Sony’s official YouTube channel PlayStation Access. Now, having stepped out on their own, Twitch and its streaming platform rivals are now very much at the forefront of the team’s thoughts. “In a way, [game sales are] a logical next step,” Ditum tells MCV. “Big YouTube channels have been talking for years about their ability to showcase games to help raise awareness and sales. This creates a mechanism to track that influence and to reward content creators and the platform they’re working on.” Nevertheless, Ditum says that game sales in and of themselves aren’t a particular concern to his new agency. “We’re definitely looking to do more streaming, but our position is different to most content creators because we’re working with clients to build communities and showcase their brand,” he explains. “So tips and subscriptions on Twitch, say, aren’t as important to us as how Twitch – or Facebook or even Twitter – helps us to reach the audience that our client is after.” And those audiences, according to Ditum, are still largely to be found on platforms such as YouTube. “The streaming industry is growing and doing some very interesting things and I think the position compared to on-demand is where it’s been for a while – great revenue opportunities for personalities that really connect with their audience, even though those audiences might be smaller than, say, YouTube,” he comments. “But YouTube moves so quickly – both in terms of audience taste and the response of creators – that anything is possible. On the one hand, I think the foundation of
gaming’s popularity on both Twitch and YouTube is that people like to watch other people playing games and having fun. “On the other hand, Pewdiepie has basically been deconstructing that very format for maybe a couple of years now, and he’s the biggest YouTuber on the planet. Things always evolve.” Right now, though, YouTube holds the upper hand when it comes to format variety, says Ditum: “I think that’s one of the reasons games have found such a happy home on YouTube. There are loads of different ways of playing and showcasing games – even ‘Let’s Play’ is a catch-all that houses an incredible variety of approaches – and I think that’s helped fans of all different tastes and dispositions to find communities and content they can feel a part of.” As for where streaming and on-demand platforms will go in the future, however, Ditum says anything is possible: “I have no idea. Honestly, my children consume media in a way I couldn’t have guessed even five years ago. To have companies as diverse as Google, Amazon, Facebook and even Netflix competing for the attention of players and consumers, with the move to digital retail and the unknown potential of VR hovering in the background, all I can say is that it won’t be what any of us are expecting.” For the time being, We Are Reach’s primary concern is still the continuation of Sony’s PlayStation Access channel, but Ditum says he’s surprised more publishers haven’t jumped on the same idea. “I think they should have their own shows, and I think they should call us about making them,” he says. “It’s a really interesting area – making a channel for a client like PlayStation is very different to running a channel for an editorial site, which is again very different from a standalone YouTuber or influencer. “We’ve learned a huge amount since switching from a weekly ten-minute show to YouTube, and I understand that aligning the needs of a specific campaign or brand image with the kind of content that does well on Twitch and YouTube can be difficult. But it can be done, and it’s an amazing way to speak to your audience. “We’re really lucky to work with PlayStation. The key is being able to make content that feels natural and fun, that makes it obvious to our audience that we like games and feel the same way about them as they do. The confidence and support from PlayStation has made that possible.”
“The key is being able to make content that feels natural and fun.”
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TWITCH GOES IRL
The third annual TwitchCon will take place in October this year. Seth Barton talks to Twitch about the opportunities the show offers for any business in the games industry
T Pictured above: Event director of TwitchCon Krystal Herring
witch is a big deal, we all know that, and it’s getting bigger still. The service is increasingly looking to spread its reach beyond its staple Let’s Play and eSports streams, having introduced the IRL (in real life) category late last year. However, the biggest realworld manifestation of the service remains TwitchCon, which returns for its third outing on October 20th at a new location – Long Beach, California. We talk to Krystal Herring, the event director of TwitchCon, about what’s new this year, and why your business should consider attending or exhibiting at the event. What’s new for TwitchCon in 2017? This year, our focus is on the content creator experience, while still celebrating all parts of the Twitch ecosystem. Attendees will have the opportunity to choose from more than 100 sessions, many of which will be designed to help content creators refine their craft, or they can visit the show floor to engage with the exhibitors. The line-up is still being developed and will be announced over time. Some of the things we will be bringing back include Inclusivity City, an area designed to promote diversity and inclusivity, and our talent show. We will also be putting a bigger focus on emerging content since Twitch can continue to expand beyond gaming. How does the event synergise with the platform? From the very beginning, TwitchCon was designed to celebrate the culture and community of Twitch’s creators, viewers, and industry partners. It wasn’t about taking other gaming convention formats and slapping a Twitch logo on it. Instead, everything we did had to be relevant to our community, whether it was a panel, an exhibitor, a stage show, or even our parties, where the performers,
like deadmau5, Darude, Steve Aoki, and T-Pain, all had Twitch channels. TwitchCon is the Twitch platform in real life. Twitch is where people and groups representing a huge variety of interests and passions gather to watch, stream, and socialise together. From fighting games to food, speedrunning to Sonic cosplay, charity drives to creative artists, and talk shows to Tekken – they all have devoted communities. And every creator and viewer has a unique story that they bring to the party. Imagine if we brought all of those groups and stories into one place to celebrate all that makes us unique, and also happens to bring us together. A place that every niche on Twitch could call their own. That’s what Twitch is. That’s what TwitchCon should be. The convention centre will be transformed into a deep dive into the people, stories, and groups that call Twitch ‘home’. Why should a company consider exhibiting at the show? Twitch has established itself as key destination for influencing purchasing decisions with actual data to back it up. With tens of thousands of attendees expected, a majority of which will most likely be content creators, this is the premiere event to bond with a community that is already playing a critical role in their businesses. In addition, the motivated army of influencers in attendance engages heavily with the exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees to create a massive swell of content and viewership on Twitch, providing a unique opportunity for our exhibiting partners to amplify their message in a more organic way. What exhibitors do you have at present? We are just starting to book, but keep an eye out for announcements closer to the show date. Based on conversations we have had, every major brand important to the Twitch community will make an effort to be there.
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Are you still looking for partners or sponsors? Yes. The TwitchCon event and sales teams have worked hard to create tailored opportunities and sponsorships that align with our community. Floor space applications have started for those looking to be a part of the expo floor. We also have a variety of sponsorships from presenting sponsors to super fun area activations, such as gaming areas, food trucks, parties and more. There is something for any company who is looking to be part of the show, or we can help craft something as well. Potential exhibitors can connect with us directly at email@example.com. Is the show a useful place to better understand how Twitch can work for a brand? TwitchCon is the perfect place for brands to interact directly with content creators and influencers. By working with Twitch, we can help ensure their presence is aligned with our community so they can maximise
the opportunity. As testament, we had Repucom conduct a study last year to explore how brands at TwitchCon were considered by the community, which had amazing results. The study showed increased brand affinity, likelihood of purchase and referrals all in the 60 per cent to 70 per cent ranges, so our attendees are definitely acknowledging the folks who are investing time, money and resources to help support this show for them. Do the workshops, sessions and panels cover the business side of Twitch, and are you still looking for speakers? We have not released information on our tracks yet, but we will showcase an array of content from all areas of the Twitch community. We will have sessions that will be relevant to the creator, community and industry professional. We are also still accepting session submissions at www.twitch.submittable.com/submit.
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Multi tasking at
MULTIPLAY As Multiplay continues to expand its events and server hosting operations, Katharine Byrne speaks to events director Andy Smith and digital director Paul Manuel about what’s next for the UK games service provider
itching a career in medicine to start a LAN-based events company isn’t the most traditional way of getting into the games industry, but over the last two decades Multiplay founder Craig Fletcher has managed to turn his family-run firm into one of the biggest and most renowned event producers and game service providers in the world. Based out of Southampton, Multiplay started out hosting a small series of LAN events known as Insomnia. Today, Insomnia is the biggest gaming festival in the UK, and following a buy-out from GAME in 2015, it’s since gone on to host the servers for Respawn’s Titanfall 2 and Ready At Dawn’s Deformers. It’s also just launched a new rental arm for gaming hardware – a move that events director Andy Smith tells us has been a long time coming for the company. “We have run both our own and third-party events for many years,” he says. “With this comes expertise and knowledge in not only the best products for each sort of activation, but also what is really important for event organisers. We have actually always carried out this kind of service and decided that now was the right time to openly market the fact we do. Whether it is part of a fully-fledged ‘white label’ event such as Minecon or dry hiring out kit to product launches, our most valuable asset is our staff who have a wealth of experience and expertise in tech. “We have the capabilities to take a job from initial enquiry right through to break down following the event, with all the knowledge that covers every single element in between. Our team is also wonderfully flexible and can quickly adapt to ensure that the client gets everything they require – after all, no event is the same. We are a gaming company at our core and always will be, but this arm of the business is open to the whole events and exhibitions
industry. We have already serviced some big name events outside of the gaming industry, and look forward to our next challenge.” Indeed, having just won the contract for the UK’s Brick Live event, those names don’t come much bigger than Lego. “Being involved in world class gaming events is becoming something of a habit and is central to our future strategy,” Smith continues. “Minecon has also gone from strength to strength since we’ve been involved and it is currently the world’s largest single-game convention.” Of course, the jewel in Multiplay’s events crown is still Insomnia, which just celebrated its 60th show in the UK (dubbed i60) and its second outing in Ireland. “Insomnia went from an annual footfall of roughly 65,000 a year to around 140,000 in the space of 18 months and we’re hugely proud of that,” says Smith. “i60 was arguably our finest event ever, it embodied the evolving nature of gaming events but in a way that perfectly suited our audience. The best talent was there along with the largest Easter LAN event ever and the world-class Call of Duty World League eSports tournament. We also managed to introduce a new theme this time – music – that proved to be hugely popular. We will continue to add new themes to each show and rotate them through events, ensuring that, while gaming is at the centre of all we do, we have something for everyone.”
SERVING A PURPOSE Building communities around physical events isn’t Multiplay’s only speciality, though, as the company’s server hosting business has also formed the backbone of many online communities as well, including Tripwire’s Killing Floor 2 and Bohemia’s DayZ. However, as most developers and publishers have traditionally done their own hosting,
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“Insomnia will continue to grow, but we’re also looking to put the Multiplay stamp on other UK events.” Paul Manuel, Multiplay
Multiplay’s digital director Paul Manuel tells us that breaking into this part of the industry was far from easy. “Part of the challenge has been making sure people know we exist and that there is now an option to fully outsource server hosting and live-ops to a specialist gaming company,” says Manuel. “Over the last two years, we have been laser-focused on bringing a unique proposition to the enterprise market. Server capacity planning is an age-old problem for multiplayer game launches – scaling games quickly, reliably and without breaking the bank is not easy. Still today, hardly a week goes by without a game hitting the news for server issues. Our goal was to solve that problem once and for all, and now I believe we have.” Enter Multiplay’s hybrid cloud orchestration service, created especially for the release of Titanfall 2. “It was the first title to be launched on our cloud orchestration platform,” Manuel continues. “We can now automatically scale globally, across bare metal servers,
and multiple clouds including Google Cloud, AWS and soon Microsoft Azure. Titanfall 2 has been a major success story in respect to the server hosting and without doubt has raised Multiplay’s profile.” Indeed, the next company to coming knocking at Multiplay’s door was the team behind 2015’s PS4 exclusive The Order: 1886, Ready At Dawn, who wanted a partner for the launch of its next title, Deformers. “Our approach with Ready At Dawn was no different to how we win most of our business,” says Manuel. “It comes down to two things – firstly, the Multiplay team is not only deeply passionate about games, but we have 15 years of experience of hosting hundreds of games and a highly consultative approach where we put the developer’s needs first. “Secondly, our technology stack is built for purpose. We only host games and that’s precisely what our platform is built to do. Having access to bare metal and multiple clouds all via a single API means developers no
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longer have to choose one tech over the other. They get the best of both worlds, blending the affordability of bare metal, with the scalability of cloud. “Games don’t always need to be launched in a blaze of glory, they can steadily grow through continuous iteration and new content. From Multiplay’s perspective, we get just as excited launching a new IP as we do managing an established title. In either case, our job is the same; to ensure that the dedicated servers are the furthest thing from the gamer’s mind. We want them to enjoy the game, free of lag, exactly how the developers intended.” The flexibility of Multiplay’s toolset is another reason why partners from around the world are attracted to this UK company. “The exact same features used by Respawn for Titanfall 2 are made available to all our customers,” explains Manuel. “Thanks to the way we have structured our API, the integration steps into our systems are relatively simple. How simple or complex the developer chooses to make the matchmaker however is entirely up to them. “Where we do like to focus, however, is assisting the developers with pre-launch testing. Their matchmaker is just as important as our game servers, so we want to see it forced through a series of eventualities and stress test situations to ensure the whole chain holds up end-toend. For a large launch, we are very hands on and would likely set up a war room alongside the customer.
“We’re not pretending to be ‘the cloud’ – Google, Microsoft and AWS are doing a perfectly good job of that. What we are doing is deep exploration into how to best harness the cloud, knitting the clouds together to create a single fabric for game servers, and providing developers with a toolset that massively simplifies the adoption of this infrastructure.”
EVENT HORIZON Despite having won so much success in recent years, Smith says Multiplay isn’t one to rest on its laurels. The company is already in discussions with “a number of partners” over what new events it might introduce to the market over the next 12 months, and the digital division is only set to go from strength to strength as more publishers and developers choose to extend the life of their titles with substantial online components. “As our digital services business continues to solidify its growing reputation, our events team is expanding its horizons to look at exciting new challenges for us to get our teeth into,” says Smith. “Insomnia will continue to grow and bring more ground-breaking content to our legions of gaming fans, but we’re also looking to put the Multiplay stamp of expertise on other UK events. As long as our partners are committed to delivering world-class experiences and are truly focused on their respective communities, then we’re game.”
“Being involved in world class gaming events is becoming a habit and is central to our future strategy.” Andy Smith, Multiplay
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PARTNER, PARKER CONSULTING
E D ! TH R 0 S BI 0 IS Y £1 M RL O F ’T N EA NG O D PER AVI S SU TE RA
“Presentation subjects were spot on to cover the future of gaming, with excellent speakers”
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ROB YESCOMBE, FREELANCE WRITER AND NARRATIVE DIRECTOR, ADVISORY BOARD 2017 MEMBER
BRINGING TOGETHER THE ELITE OF THE INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
INNOVATION, TRANSFORMATION & EVOLUTION 31st October – 1st November 2017 Congress Centre, 28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS
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A NOT SO MICRO COMEBACK
After a long absence, Codemasters is finally bringing Micro Machines back to consoles, and there are a few Hasbro friends coming along for the ride. Seth Barton reports
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ay ‘Micro Machines’ to practically anyone and they’ll come back with one of two responses: Matchbox-like miniature cars – which famously ‘come in collections of five’ – or the head-to-head driving game, which was a huge hit on both Mega Drive and the original PlayStation. Now, Codemasters is returning to one of the most important franchises in its history, with Micro Machines: World Series coming to PS4, Xbox One and PC, some 11 years after its last console outing and many more since its heydey. So why did the company decide to return to table-top racing now? “Mainly because people keep asking for it,” is the straightforward answer from chief game designer Gavin Cooper, who agrees it’s still synonymous with the company as a whole. “When we get people coming to interview at Codemasters, one of the first questions is ‘what do you know about the company?’ and 90 per cent of the time the first thing they mention is Micro Machines.” And it’s not just the games industry that remembers the franchise fondly, Cooper says: “We’ve done research in the past on racing games generally. We got a bunch of people in and asked them questions, and one of the exercises we did was to put a bunch of boxes for driving games down on a table and asked them ‘how does this make you feel?’ and ‘does this feel like something you’d like to play?’ The last time we did this particular research, we used a really early mock-up of Micro Machines: World Series and pretty much every group we got in would latch onto it and go off on a complete tangent, saying ‘I remember this.’” This certainly chimes with our own fond memories of the franchise, with the second Mega Drive title in particular being a platform highlight. The game was great, but its innovative J-Cart design allowed for four-player head-to-head play without a multitap accessory – which made it the most memorable local multiplayer game of its day. That kind of gameplay is still front and centre, but there’s now online multiplayer races as well, plus a range of new battle modes, such as Capture the Flag and King of the Hill. For battles, you need weapons, of course, and here Codemasters has been clever in raiding licensor Hasbro’s toy cupboard to, quite literally, break out the Nerf guns. “We’ve got Nerf for the weapons, plus they let us invent a few weapons that don’t exist – such as the hammer and bomb. We just had to be sympathetic
to the look. Obviously, GI Joe being vehicle-based is great, we have a tank and the Cobra HISS, too,” art director Stuart Campbell explains. “We also have an arena based around the Hungry Hungry Hippos game, which is awesome,” says Cooper. “Hasbro has been really good. They didn’t tell us what we had to use, they gave us a big list of things and said ‘what do you want to use?’” Some purists from the Mega Drive days may balk at the idea of weapons coming into play, even though they have long been part of the franchise. “Weapons were introduced in [1997’s] V3,” says Cooper. “But there are a load of mutators in the new game, which let you tweak the gameplay in different ways. So in local multiplayer you can turn off of all those and have a pure racing experience.” Cooper tells us the mutators will also form the basis of the game’s post-release content: “The mutators you get, along with other ones that we don’t make available [to players], are what we use to create the scheduled special events, so every weekend there’s going to be a new special event, which mixes up the game rules. “Vehicles, tracks and arenas give us avenues to introduce extra content. We haven’t got anything to announce, but the game’s been built in a way that’s sympathetic to that,” Cooper continues. This can be seen in the overall design, with all the vehicles now being usable on all the tracks, rather than the old model of having vehiclespecific tracks for specialist vehicle types. In this regard, Campbell adds: “The hovercraft is the winning vehicle, once you’ve mastered it, as it’s not affected by sticky patches on the track.” Mastering it wasn’t easy, though, in our limited time with the game, thanks to the vehicle’s slippery handling model. With a tempting £24.99 price point, and discounting likely to take that down to £20, Micro Machines: World Series is an impulse buy title with strong retro appeal. Campbell sums it up: “It’s one of those games that is genre-defining. You see a game like this and you’ll say ‘it’s a Micro Machines-like game’, and now it’s coming home, to console, where it was born.”
Pictured, from top to bottom: Codemasters’ chief game designer Gavin Cooper and art director Stuart Campbell
“There are a load of mutators in the new game, which let you tweak the gameplay in different ways.” June 16 MCV 919 | 35
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gaming merchandise uk
With the release of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy just around the corner, Marie Dealessandri selects some tie-in items launching alongside the game on June 30th
Crash Scented Candle Triple Pack Crate-shaped Crash Bandicoot-scented candles? That sounds like the kind of merch we never knew we wanted. Each fragrance is inspired by the franchise, with the scents of the jungle being the main perfume. SRP: ÂŁ29.99 Manufacturer: Numskull Distributor: Rubber Road Contact: 01707 800 881
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Skylanders Imaginators Thumpin’ Wumpa Islands Adventure Pack – Crash and Neo Cortex While they wait for the launch of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, players can pass the time playing as Crash or Neo Cortex in Skylanders Imaginators. This adventure pack includes the two ﬁgures and unlock the Thumpin’ Wumpa Islands level. This level can also be unlocked when buying the Crash Bandicoot starter pack for Skylanders Imaginators.
Aku Aku Wallet This leather wallet features a nice Aku Aku design on the outside and the Crash Bandicoot logo on the inside, as well as internal space for cards and cash. SRP: £9.99 Manufacturer: Numskull Distributor: Rubber Road Contact: 01707 800 881
SRP: £29.99 Manufacturer: Activision Blizzard Distributor: CentreSoft Contact: 01216 253 388
Aku Aku Witch Doctor T-shirt This unisex T-shirt is one of the ﬁve created by Numskull for its new Crash Bandicoot collection. Other designs include Cortex laboratories, Wumpa juice, N. Sanity Beach (the ﬁrst level of the original Crash Bandicoot) and a simple Crash emblem.
Crash Bandicoot Keychains Numskull has had four Crash Bandicoot keychains made, including these Aku Aku and Crash designs, as well as Neo Cortex and Uka Uka.
SRP: £12.99 Manufacturer: Numskull Distributor: Rubber Road Contact: 01707 800 881
SRP: £4.99 each Manufacturer: Numskull Distributor: Rubber Road Contact: 01707 800 881
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Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood Developer: Square Enix • Publisher: Square Enix • Distributor: Koch Media • Platform(s): PS4, PC • Price: £29.99
Stormblood will feature new jobs, an increased level cap and new locations.
The publisher says...
The press say...
How well will it do?
Initially unveiled at Final Fantasy XIV's Fan Festival in Las Vegas last October, Stormblood is the second expansion for the game since it rebooted as A Realm Reborn in 2013 to massive success. Square Enix has promised loads of new content and features for this expansion, including new jobs (such as the anticipated red mage job), an increased level cap up to level 70, new places to explore, a revamped battle system, new dungeons, a new swimming and diving gameplay mechanic, and much more. From the looks of it, Stormblood will feature as much content as a standalone MMO. n
Previews for Stormblood were generally very positive about the new improvements over previous iterations of the game. PCGamesN's James Pickard particularly appreciated the fact that skills have been "purged" after becoming "unnecessarily overcomplicated" as the level cap increased. He also complimented the new swimming and diving mechanics, as they "open up all new fascinating possibilities for the world." However, the underwater exploration did not convince Polygon's Philip Kollar. He said: "As cool as it might seem to explore underwater, there doesn’t seem to be much to actually do there." n
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has a player base of over six million people and the PS4 version debuted at No.20 in the UK back in April 2014. Its first expansion, Heavensward, entered the charts at No.10 in 2015. This new expansion will appeal to Final Fantasy XIV's core player base, but is unlikely to attract players outside of this pool. This new expansion also marks the end of PS3 support for the MMO. Square Enix will offer a free upgrade service to PS4 for those affected, but it remains to be seen whether players who don't own a PS4 will buy one just for Stormblood, especially as Heavensward still regularly ends up in the PS3 Top 50. n
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biggamereleases Release date: 30/06
Release date: 23/06
Micro Machines: World Series
Developer: Codemasters, Just Add Water Publisher: Codemasters Distributor: Koch Media Platform(s): PS4, XO, PC Price: £24.99
Developer: Grezzo Publisher: Nintendo Distributor: Open Platform(s): 3DS Price: £34.99 Micro Machines: World Series includes 12 customisable cars
Micro Machines is finally making a comeback this month, bringing with it its much-loved racing fun. Classic courses and modes from the original title are set to return, but Codemasters is also introducing new features such as Battle Arenas and Capture the Flag modes. The game features 12 vehicles with over 25 customisation options. Chief game designer Gavin Cooper said: "For the first time in a Micro Machines game, every car has its own entirely distinct personality and arsenal."
Ever Oasis is "reminiscent of the 3DS’s best games"
Unveiled at E3 2016, Nintendo's new action-RPG IP was developed by the team behind the beloved remakes of Majora's Mask and Ocarina of Time on 3DS, as well as Tri Force Heroes. Ever Oasis actually borrows mechanics from the latter, with players being able to switch between characters to use their respective skills to access new parts of the dungeons or caves. Previews for the title are overwhemingly positive with Nintendo Life saying it's "reminiscent of some of the 3DS’s absolute best games."
totaldiscrepair.co.uk Call: 01202 489 500
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Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Developer: Vicarious Visions • Publisher: Activision • Distributor: CentreSoft • Platform(s): PS4 • Price: £34.99
The N. Sane Trilogy is "very true to its source material."
The publisher says...
The press say...
How well will it do?
Activision started talking about the return of Crash Bandicoot as far back as 2011, and six years later it's finally here, in the form of a remaster of 1996's original Crash Bandicoot, 1997's Cortex Strikes Back and 1998's Warped. These new versions support 4K and PS4 Pro HD. The initial announcement said: "Activision and Vicarious Visions are honouring the heritage of Crash in a variety of ways, including a fully remastered game soundtrack, as well as newly-recorded dialogue from some of the familiar voice actors who appeared in the original Crash Bandicoot games, including Jess Harnell and Lex Lang." n
The return of Crash Bandicoot has been long-awaited by fans, and that means critics and players alike are going to have high expectations. In his preview for Trusted Reviews, Brett Phipps noted that this remake is "very true to its source material, which is both a blessing and a curse. How you feel about the original series will determine on which side you’ll fall [come] June 30th." Having liked the original, Phipps enjoyed the N. Sane Trilogy, despite its "sloppy" mechanics. Metro's GameCentral team tried it having no "nostalgic feeling for the originals" and said "we found ourselves happily engrossed by the very precise movements needed [for] combat." n
The N. Sane Trilogy is likely to attract a wealth of players who have been eagerly waiting for Crash to return, and it's clear the game will primarily appeal to its core audience of hardcore Crash fans. How this will translate into sales remains to be seen, as the title has two possible paths ahead. It could have a similar fate to Yooka-Laylee, meaning a decent performance at retail with sales being led by nostagia but not enough to become a hit. Or, it could go down the same route as 2016's Ratchet & Clank remake, which did really well at retail, with Sony attracting old and newcomers alike. We think the former is more likely, but the game could still surprise us. n
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Digital releases The pick of the crop from upcoming digital downloads Sundered
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games Platforms: PS4, PC Price: £15.99 Release date: July
Hand-drawn title Sundered is due to launch this July, having been successfully Kickstarted in January. Starting with a $25,000 goal, the title ended up gathering over $200,000. This Metroidvania game was created by Jotun developers Thunder Lotus Games, which was also crowdfunded back in 2014.
Developer: Supergiant Games Publisher: Supergiant Games Platforms: PS4, PC Price: £14.99 Release date: July 25th
Developer: Kitfox Games Publisher: Kitfox Games Platforms: XO Price: £11.99 Release date: July 19th
Announced via the Square Enix Collective as far back as 2014, and then crowdfunded on Kickstarter, Moon Hunters will finally land on Xbox One on July 19th, after a successful PS4 and PC release last year. In this RPG, each playthrough is less than an hour long as it's been designed for couch co-op.
Developer: Dynamic Pixels Publisher: Tiny Build Games Platforms: XO, PC Price: £23.99 Release date: August 29th
Bastion and Transistor studio Supergiant Games will deliver its next game Pyre on July 25th. It's a party-based RPG that can either be played solo or in local co-op with the Versus Mode, and players must lead a group of exiles to freedom by playing round upon round of mystical football rituals.
Hello Neighbor is a game about something we've all wanted to do at some point: sneaking into our neighbour's house. In this stealth horror title, the player is asked to find out what's hidden in the basement of the house next door. There are no jump scares in Hello Neighbor, but a lot of tension and traps.
Release schedule Title
June 16th Arms God Wars Future Past
Switch PS4, Vita
Nintendo NIS America
01753 483700 020 8664 3485
June 20th Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
01256 385 200
June 21st Unbox: Newbies Adventure
01215 069 590
June 23rd Construction Simulator Deluxe Edition Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls Dead by Daylight Ever Oasis RPG Maker Fes
PC PS4 PS4, XO 3DS 3DS
Simulation Action Survival RPG RPG
Excalibur NIS America 505 Games Nintendo NIS America
01869 338 833 020 8664 3485 01215 069 590 01753 483700 020 8664 3485
Contact Sales Open Advantage Open Open
June 27th Elite Dangerous: Legendary Edition
0121 506 9585
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Good riddance to May? Despite May being a disappointing month at retail, some titles managed to perform really well
ast month, the UK games market fell to its lowest point since August last year, with unit sales decreasing 15 per cent month-on-month and value falling 17 per cent. Year-on-year, the market is down a worrying 41 per cent in revenue and 28 per cent in units. However, it’s worth mentioning that May 2016 was a stellar month at retail, with the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief ’s End, Doom, Overwatch and Homefront: The Revolution. Switch figures continued to fall in May, with revenue derived from game sales decreasing 34 per cent monthon-month. The console’s market share (in value) went from 16.4 per cent in April to 13.1 per cent in May,
The UK games market was down 41 per cent in revenue compared to May last year despite the continued success of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe which fell to No.3 last month after being dethroned by two new entries. Warner Bros’ Injustice 2 debuted at No.1, with Bethesda’s Prey right behind. Both titles have done very well on PS4, with over 60 per cent of both games selling on Sony’s machine. Further down the charts, PS VR exclusive Farpoint, which launched alongside Sony’s new Aim controller, debuted at No.13. Sales figures for the title are very respectable, coming in just a little under PlayStation VR Worlds, which was the platform’s best-selling title during its launch month (October 2016). Farpoint’s performance is particularly impressive when you consider that PS VR, which continues to sell for £350 at retail, still has a relatively small install base. The release of the Aim controller alongside Farpoint might have boosted sales for the title, however, as Sony made it very clear in the run-up to launch that this was the best way to enjoy Impulse Gear’s shooter. Elsewhere, Little Nightmares had a great second month in the charts, rising eight places to No.23 after sales grew by 13 per cent. It’s unusual for a game to experience an increase in sales during its second month on shelves, but good reviews plus effective word of mouth certainly seems to have worked in its favour. It’s also worth noting that most of the title’s growth has come from the Xbox One, which was up 66 per cent, compared to a five per cent drop on PS4. Speaking of Microsoft, Gears of War 4 had a huge 189 per cent boost in sales month-on-month, re-entering the
UK MONTHLY PHYSICAL CHART TOP 10
01 Injustice 2 NEW PS4, XO 02 Prey NEW PS4, XO, PC 03 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe NS 04 Grand Theft Auto V PS4, XO, PS3, 360 05 FIFA 17 PS4, XO, PS3, 360 06 Ghost Recon Wildlands PS4, XO 07 Rocket League PS4, XO, PC 08 LEGO Worlds PS4, XO 09 Overwatch PS4, XO, PC 10 Breath of the Wild NS
Warner Bros Bethesda Nintendo Rockstar EA Ubisoft 505 Games Warner Bros Activision Blizzard Nintendo
Source: Ukie/GfK, Period: April 30th to May 27th
charts at No.14 due to a price cut. This could explain the slight increase in the Xbox One’s market share as well, up to 29.7 per cent in May from 28 per cent in April. Other price cut-related comebacks last month included Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, which jumped from No.35 to No.17 with sales up 41 per cent, and Bethesda’s Dishonored 2, which re-entered the charts at No.19 following a 144 per cent boost in sales. Dishonored 2’s good performance, combined with Prey’s position at No.2, allowed Bethesda to come back quite strongly in the publisher charts at No.3, with a decent nine per cent market share in value. Nintendo managed to keep its top spot with a 17.9 per cent market share, while Warner Bros settled for No.2 with 17.4 per cent of the market. Elsewhere, there were three other new entries in May’s charts: 3DS exclusive Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia at No.18, Focus Home Interactive’s The Surge at No.34 and Capcom’s Switch exclusive Ultra Street Fighter II at No.37.
Prey made it to No.2 in May, with 63 per cent of its copies sold on PS4
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This week, we went to E3, MCM Comic Con and the UK Games Expo in Birmingham. Time for a holiday…
E3 2017 Another E3 bites the dust. Whether you’re still on a plane or fighting back the pangs of jet lag, we hope you all had a great show. To give you a brief reminder of what happened, EA kicked things off with a Madden-themed marching band, Microsoft put devs on giant glowing boxes, Miyamoto pretended to shoot Yves Guillemot with a Mario+Rabbids arm cannon and Sony bombarded us with a year’s supply for trailers. Here are our selected highlights.
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endgame MCM Comic Con The first MCM Comic Con of 2017 welcomed over 130,000 fans to London’s ExCel Centre at the end of last month, with event manager Josh Denham calling it “one of our best London events yet.” Now in its 31st edition, MCM Comic Con has become “Europe’s leading comic con and the third largest event of its kind in the world,” Denham continues. Headlining the event was Star Wars: Rogue One actor Donnie Yen and Doctor Who companion Catherine Tate, but other attractions included VidfestUK, the European event for online video and web series fans, a range of eSports tournaments and plenty of hands-on time with the latest games.
Photo by Juliette Crawford
Gotta beat ’em all The official Pokémon trading card game and video game Regional Championships took place in Birmingham earlier this month as part of the UK Games Expo. Over 650 players joined in the event, making Birmingham the biggest Regional Championships event in Europe in the 2016/2017 season. Congratulations to all the winners!
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House of Cards
thedraft industry appointments
The 11th edition of the UK Games Expo, the UK’s largest hobby games convention, took place earlier this month at Birmingham’s NEC. Over the course of the three-day event, there were dozens of card, board, role-playing, miniature and family games on show for attendees to try and buy, plus a host of tournaments, talks and special guests.
The cat’s meow-naphos To celebrate the launch of RuneScape’s first ever expansion, Menaphos: The Golden City, Jagex commissioned a giant cat playhouse – dubbed the ‘Meownaphos’ – inspired by the game’s grand pyramid. Featuring four obelisk-style scratching posts and a small sphinx cut-out for cats to clamber in and out of, the pyramid has now been installed at the Wood Green Rehoming Centre in London.
Following the departure of Ben Maxwell, Edge Magazine has appointed Official PlayStation Magazine’s JEN SIMPKINS (above left) as deputy editor. She said “it’s an honour to be part of crafting the world’s best video game magazine,” adding that she’s “also looking forward to helping grow Edge’s colossal database of banned words and phrases. It’s already been updated to include ‘dank’, even in its original context.” Filling Jen’s shoes on OPM is BEN TYRER (above right), who’s been promoted from staff writer to games editor. “I’m incredibly excited to pretend to know what I’m doing at a higher level on the magazine and continue the fantastic work Jen has done in the role,” he said.
Improbable has welcomed former Disney vice president BILL ROPER (above left) as chief creative officer and JASON JHONSON (above right) as chief marketing officer. CEO and cofounder Herman Narula said he was “delighted” to have “these two critical hires” on board.
Marketing agency Substance Global has appointed GameSpot’s SARAH LYNCH (above left) as project manager,
RealD and MCM Comic Con’s CHARLI HAYNES as EMEA social media manager, and has promoted ELISHA BROWN (above right) to senior social media executive. Substance Global’s account director Kayleigh Watson said she was “hugely excited to have Sarah and Charli on board,” and that “Elisha has gone from strength to strength.” CHRIS WHITE has joined Think Jam. Previously 2K’s junior international PR and events manager on BioShock and XCOM, White said: “Jam’s expansion into gaming has produced amazing campaigns and events, and I look forward to being part of the effort to deliver more of the same in 2017.” Sybo Games has appointed DANIEL PERSSON has its new head of games. Formerly head of studio at King, Persson said “it was an easy choice for me to join Sybo.” CEO Mathias Gredal added Persson was “a one-of-a-kind guy who can motivate, inspire and challenge colleagues at every level.” STEPHEN HEY, formerly of EA Chillingo, has set up his own games marketing consultancy, HeyStephenHey. He commented: “I’ve always wanted to work with independent developers who are rich in ideas but don’t necessarily have the resources for full time marketing teams.”
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Eye on the ball A games industry team featuring representatives from The Gamer Network, First Touch Games, Sheridans, Devolver and Xbox took to the pitch at the League 1 Northampton Town’s Sixfrields stadium earlier this month in aid of SpecialEffect. Taking on a team of supporters from the Twin Town car rally event, who also support SpecialEffect, the match raised a fantastic £2,600 with the games industry team losing in a 4-3 thriller.
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