The Brand Benefits of Publisher Conventions – BlizzCon

Conventions and the video game industry go hand-in-hand: there’s the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), Germany’s Gamescom, Comic-Cons, and more. Other than QuakeCon (and EA Play this year), it’s rare for publishers to host their own consumer-facing “mega event.” Most companies like Capcom, Ubisoft, and Nintendo share the stage and make special reveals during E3 (which is no longer open to the public) and other general gaming events.

Blizzard Entertainment is not like many companies, though as its 10th annual BlizzCon wrapped on November 4-5 celebrating all of the brand’s biggest franchises. Selling out in roughly 10 minutes, it is safe to say this annual convention is one of the most popular in the industry with no signs of slowing down!

Hosting a convention to promote your own properties and celebrate your fan base can be an extremely effective brand marketing strategy — evidenced by Blizzard. Publisher conventions can make fans feel rewarded, important,and valued. It gives attendees a chance to meet the artists and developers behind their favorite games, creating a personal connection that helps strengthen their brand affinity.

In order to understand why publishers should host conventions of their own, TriplePoint takes a look at what makes BlizzCon an impressive marketing tool, unique from other experiences, and what other companies can do to provide that same value. TriplePoint has taken all of this into account and has established five key BlizzCon 2016 brand marketing takeaways:


Surprising Announcements / Unique Information Distribution Structure

Each year, BlizzCon is home to new reveals and big surprises surrounding its IPs (World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch). Key highlights from this year’s BlizzCon included the eagerly awaited new Overwatch hero, Sombra, the Overwatch League announcement, Diablo 3’s upcoming Necromancer class, and Hearthstone’s new expansion Gadgetzan, and more. Interestingly enough this year Blizzard chose to separate its product news from esports news, with product on the first day and esports on the following day.

Blizzard’s strategy to lead its announcements with product news is because unlike product, which has more timing flexibility, esports stories need time to develop — tournaments need to be played and winners need to be determined. Having designated days for both types of stories ensures a steady flow of information for the press and consumers. Press will have enough time to cover, news will be easier to digest, and information won’t get lost — they can dominate the news cycle.


Watch the Best of the Best Play

Esports are another unique aspect of BlizzCon that is surprisingly not explored by other video game conventions.The best players from around the world gather to BlizzCon to showcase their skills and compete for huge prizes. The convention center is split into several parts where each space is devoted to specific tournaments in Blizzard’s gaming library. Having world championship tournaments during BlizzCon generates tournament results and team interview coverage, fandom, and an overall event spectacle.


Green screen by PhotoBoothless, find out more at

Network with Industry Professionals

BlizzCon serves as a mecca, drawing in fans from all over the world and from different backgrounds. Since there is something for everyone, BlizzCon was filled with cosplayers, community managers, artists, press, developers, representatives from other games, tech companies and more. BlizzCon is a dense concentration of video game industry professionals and offers immense opportunity to connect with key industry players.


Get Up Close and Personal with Devs and Artists

One of BlizzCon’s greatest strengths is being able to generate a personal connection with fans through intimate events like Signing Areas and Q&A’s. Often times at conventions developers have little time to talk about their games, only showing cutscenes and trailers of games without being able to provide details on other aspects — not the case at BlizzCon. Not only should developers and artists interact with press, but the community itself is just as crucial. Q&A’s set time aside for the community and helps them understand where developers and artists are coming from when designing a game. Blizzard understands this and does it well.


Hands-On Experiences

BlizzCon had many demo stations for Blizzard’s key titles, filled with new content yet to be released to the public. This concept is not new for video game conventions, but BlizzCon has the advantage of knowing virtually all consumers will be interested in all demo stations; therefore can optimize and personalize the content for the trade show attendees (vs. a content free-for-all at an event such as PAX). BlizzCon’s demo stations allow players to take their time, experience the new changes implemented into franchises they are deeply invested in, and provide valuable feedback. Sure, companies can host events for press to test a demo, but it’s equally important for the game’s community to experience it. It brings insight from different skill levels and backgrounds as well as tests what works and doesn’t work with its most important stakeholders — the fans.


Red Shirt Guy!

BlizzCon is a celebration of not only Blizzard’s video games but also its dedicated community they’ve cultivated for many years. Conventions can serve as an effective marketing tool, providing long-term value and building faith with your audience. In the end, players want games to succeed and to have fun. Personalized trade events such as BlizzCon are a great way to connect and celebrate with the fans.


5 Takeaways from The Battle for the Marketing Cloud Event

On Tuesday we helped our friends at DoubleDutch put on a panel discussing what’s next in marketing technology and how startups can capitalize on the skyrocketing CMO tech budget. The event was called “The Battle for the Marketing Cloud,” and it was a hit! CEOs from DoubleDutch (social events platform), KISSmetrics (data analytics), Traackr (influencer marketing) and (marketing automation) spoke to a packed house of startup founders with insightful moderator Mike Maples, one of the valley’s top notch VC’s and managing partner at FLOODGATE.

Reflecting on the discussion, I’d like to share my top takeaways from the event:

1) The “shift” in budget from the CIO to the CMO is not really a shift.

Since Gartner predicted that the CMO’s tech budget will eclipse the CIO’s by 2017, there has been a lot of hullabaloo about these two positions competing for cash. In reality, that’s not the case. CIO’s aren’t losing money for tech to their colleagues in marketing; CMOs are just rapidly gaining budget because new digital tools are making it easier for them to prove ROI on their spends. A classic marketing problem used to be, “I know half of my advertising budget is working, I just don’t know which half.” Trackable, data-driven tools are increasing transparency into what channels and messages work. Hence, the boom in enterprise marketing-focused startups. (Credit: Mike Maples, @m2jr).

2) Cloud software is democratizing the marketing vendor space.

Cloud software is making it easier for startups to quickly deploy solutions, and therefore, it’s very easy for in-house marketers to try many different tools and evaluate them. While this helps create an even playing field to edge out software incumbents like SAP and Oracle, it also means that your solution could be booted as quickly as it was installed. The bottom line: you can get in relatively simply, but your product must be rock solid to keep its place in a CMO’s tech mix. (Credit: Lawrence Coburn, @lawrencecoburn)

3) Complex marketing sales require buy-in from the CIO.

Even though the cloud makes it easier to sell to the CMO, marketing software sales that span a large enterprise usually require buy-in from the IT department as well. In the case of data analytics platform KISSmetrics, penetrating an organization usually starts with a lower level developer or marketing manager. Then, as the product gains advocates, the KISSmetrics sales team can move up the food chain, eventually working with both the CIO and the CMO to develop the most productive, long-term customer relationships. (Credit: Hiten Shah, @hnshah)

4) Integrating point-based marketing solutions is the next big opportunity.

Because the cloud has created a boom in point-based solutions that focus on solving one marketing problem elegantly, marketers are usually dealing with a number of tools that don’t talk to each other. The next wave of truly “disruptive” solutions will integrate data from all tools – social, automation, email, events and more – into one easy-to-understand platform. This new solution would empower marketers to understand how their channels work together with powerful data visualization. (Credit: Pierre-Loic Assayag, @pierreloic and Sam Weber, @SamWeber).

5) The best companies don’t compete.

Mike Maples had so many insights about what makes a startup remarkable, it was hard to choose just one to highlight. However, my top takeaway from Mike is that the best companies don’t compete at all. They are not trying to be the best in their category; they create categories. In this position, a company should develop a provocative point of view that repels those “villains” who you would rather not have as customers and attracts others that share your spirit. For example, Salesforce ran with the “no software” perspective that drove away slow-moving traditional sales departments and excited those looking for a less clunky CRM service.

In Mike’s opinion, capitalism isn’t about competition, it’s quite literally about gaining capital, and those who are the only force in their particular market segment usually win this battle. (Credit: Mike Maples, @m2jr)

A big thank you to DoubleDutch for sponsoring the event and to Mike Maples, Lawrence Coburn, Hiten Shah, Pierre-Loic Assayag and Sam Weber for participating. You can continue the discussion by downloading the DoubleDutch event app here or tweeting me @DianaHSmith.



This evening, the TriplePoint team will be hanging out at The Battle for the Marketing Cloud, a panel on marketing technology hosted by Mike Maples Jr. (managing partner at FLOODGATE, early investor in Lyft and Twitter, and all around good guy) and featuring our friends at DoubleDutch. The panel will run from 6:00 to 9:30 with plenty of time for networking (and an open bar, to boot), and we invite you to tag along! Continue reading THE BATTLE FOR THE MARKETING CLOUD–SEE THE HOTTEST MARKETING TECH START-UPS IN SILICON VALLEY TONIGHT

New Marketing for the Socially Digital Age – TiE CON East 2013

Can a room full of experienced VC’s learn some new tricks about digital marketing, from the perspective of video game PR? That was my hope today as I represented TriplePoint during the 7th annual TiE CON in Boston.

It’s a conference that brings together both established and startup entrepreneurs in Technology, Life Sciences, Education, and Cleantech. I lead a boot camp with help from two other marketers, on the topic of New Marketing for the Socially Digital Age. The panel touched upon everything from Facebook and YouTube to email blasts, lead-generation, and timing for advertising campaigns.

Continue reading New Marketing for the Socially Digital Age – TiE CON East 2013

Marketing at SXSW: Go Big Or… Don’t?

This was my second year attending Austin’s SXSW Interactive and I’m surprised to say that I was quite blown away with the growth in attendees and content, even from just one-year prior. There was something for everyone: Nike+ court to get your slam-dunk on? Done. Free BBQ Tacos with wet wipes and antacid accompaniments? Easy. A chance to smash guitars with The Office’s Rainn Wilson? Of course!

The “I’m impressed!” neurotransmitters are stimulated to exhaustion and you still keep coming back for more- wanting bigger, better, shinier, free-er things (meanwhile causing increased use of neolexia). No doubt these big flashy exhibits and parties may momentarily grab your attention, but, to be honest, it was the low-budget marketing, random acts of kindness, and the truly personal touches that left the lasting mark for me. Here are a few of the companies that left a positive impression on me without having to throw down lavishly.

  • AT&T: You’re short one important email, or Foursquare badge to be earned, when you notice a blinking red battery…<gasp> and it’s only noon! We’ve all been in this terrifying 21st century situation. Thanks to AT&T this year, you didn’t have to be – the company offered free cell phone charging stations in guarded lockers. Now that’s some bang for your (marketing dollar) buck!
  • Uber: While they already have a rapidly growing and loyal fan club, it wasn’t Uber’s clever SXSW on demand BBQ that got my attention, it was the team’s generosity. As the happening house party came to an end, our TriplePoint group had a realization – we are far away from anything, it’s raining cats and dogs, and the place is overflowing with people (aka cab-hunting competition). Just as we were about to lose hope, our newly befriended crew from Uber swooped in like a team of Robin Hoods, giving us a ride back to civilization… and winning my business.
  • ToutApp: Tout pulled the best marketing move of all: a product that is actually useful. While SXSW was the beta-testing ground for all manner of apps focused on sales and networking, Tout’s iPhone app shone because it’s as powerful and ubiquitous as email itself. The company recently did a blog post on how Tout can replace business cards (go green!), but it doesn’t have to. Even with traditional business cards, using Tout can dramatically speed up sending and following up on emails. The service is much more than an iPhone app – even if you don’t have an iOS device, Tout offers tight integration with Gmail, SalesForce, and other email clients and CRMs.
  • Netbase: Ice cream cart and t-shirts proclaiming, “We know what women want” (which apparently is ice cream)… in order to promote their product and panel session the following day. Now they have grabbed the attention of both men and women. For a Ben & Jerry’s sampling, of course I’ll tell you what I want. Good move, Netbase.
  • (Honorable mention, but disqualified due to large Google budget) Schemer: (Which I didn’t realize WAS Google until after-the-fact…very clever), had me remembering their name by giving me a mustache. Computer program connected to a small Polaroid printer and voila! – Shockingly realistic image of me with a ‘stache (probably not unlike what my dad looked like in the 70s). Potentially regretfully attaching below.

All in all, no matter the size of your budget you don’t need to feel overshadowed by the Fortune 100 throwing down the (thousands of) Benjamins… Hire well and be creative and you’ll still come out on top.



The Practice of Persuasion: Lessons from Mom [INFOGRAPHIC]

It takes a special breed of influence (and persuasion) to inspire others to WANT something (on their own, for themselves) from within.

Public Relations Prequel

One of the first metaphors – and one of the first PR lessons – I remember was at age 12 when my mom explained how and why I needed to “plant the seed” with my dad about getting a puppy. I did…

Mere weeks later, we got a puppy.

“Planting the seed” is more than just a handy, widely-applicable analogy. It is the heart and soul of persuasion and the foundation of great public relations.

When done correctly, it makes everyone a winner.

The thing is – when you feel passionately about something, it’s hard to fathom any approach (to management or persuasion in general) that doesn’t involve stating your case. Why does it matter so much? When you care, it seems like other people should feel naturally compelled to act. It would be crazy not to be as passionate as you.

If your case is truly worthwhile, this is a valid thought process.


Sidenote: If you question whether or not my puppy quest was worthwhile, I urge you to Google “child with puppy” and tell me that’s not the happiest collection of photographs you’ve seen all year.

Be Contagious

Whether it’s convincing your dad to get a puppy or convincing a reporter to write about your tech start-up, effective persuasion involves patience – lots of it. (On top of a compelling argument and the strategy, diplomacy and determination needed to communicate it.)

Chances are, the first time you suggest something, people WON’T be compelled to act. Don’t be discouraged. It doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.

Flattering Imitation

The best kind of influence happens weeks or months later, when your message sinks in and people start “stealing” your ideas as their own. If the end result is what you aimed to accomplish, this is (humbling, but) effective.

And if accomplishing your goal isn’t satisfying enough, take comfort in this – as long as you’ve voiced yourself loudly and clearly enough, it doesn’t go unnoticed that you were the seed planter. It doesn’t take long before people take you very seriously.

Wait, what?

It’s usually not until you’ve successfully influenced someone that you realize a seed was ever planted. In fact, the only main difference between my puppy story and day-to-day PR is that in this case, I was consciously aware of planting the seed.

It’s easy to take process for granted when you’re going through the motions. It’s also easy to get discouraged and feel helpless when you’re at the mercy of someone else. But when you practice persuasion objectively, you start to recognize the many times you can’t strong-arm your way through. Perhaps the world’s longest flowchart would be helpful in illustrating real-world application?

You simply can’t expect others to accept your idea as fact right away every time. And that’s not a bad thing. If you’re thinking three steps ahead of everyone else, then it only makes sense they’ll need some time to catch up. And if you’re not forward thinking, you’re going to have trouble influencing people, approach notwithstanding.

Further Reading

How does a 12-year-old seeking puppy compare to a tech startup CEO trying to get coverage for his company? Check out this step-by-step breakdown of persuasion gone right:




Making Music Social: and What It Means for the Future of the Music Industry


Hype, early adopters, and perfect timing: these are the attributes that the newly minted bring to the table, and if you’ve never used it, then you’ve probably heard of it. There’s no question that it’s taking over the social music space in a big, big way. is changing the way music is heard and, more importantly, shared. It’s all completely reliant on the concept that the best way to find music you’ve never heard before is through your own social network– not the radio, random CDs, or a trip to Best Buy. Simply login through Facebook, find a room, and if there’s an empty DJ slot (5 per room maximum), play a song that the rest of the room will hear, then sit back and enjoy the other 4 DJs’ songs before you’re up for your next turn.  Some rooms will be more popular than others, so it can be hard to find a room with both an open DJ spot and a sizeable audience. Mark Zuckerberg has even graced the “Coding” room with his presence and DJed some of his favorite tunes, luring in hundreds to check out the Facebook god’s musical palette.

But what do social music sharing sites like all mean for the music industry’s trends, and what direction is music being taken with the advance of Web 2.0? Some musical artists have taken the hint and realized that one of the only real ways to gain visibility as an artist is to provide some portion of their music for free over the web. Other artists and labels alike have been slow to catch on, suffering major losses in sales and potential revenues as a consequence. Continue reading Making Music Social: and What It Means for the Future of the Music Industry

The Power of Storytelling

In Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars, he emphasizes the power of storytelling. Humans have been storytelling for ages and Godin explains why it is the best way to spread an idea. Too often, marketing focuses on product features and the word doesn’t get out. People want to talk about remarkable products and experiences. Messages that claim slightly better price or improved quality are not that impressive and over-used business jargon can kill a product’s story just as fast. Instead, it is more important how a product’s story makes the person feel. It is the story that will ultimately please the customer, fulfill their desire and make them want to tell their friends about a new product.

Godin explains that it is important to frame an idea to cater to a community’s beliefs and fit a certain worldview. He shares an example of a story framed around a worldview: organic food is better.  Whole Foods has expanded their business surrounding this story, which lets people tell themselves the story that organic food is healthier and better for the environment. Godin explains, “They shop there because it makes them feel good. They buy foods they want, not need. And all of us derive satisfaction from believing we’ve done the right thing.” While not everyone buys into this story, it fits the needs of a certain group of people who share a similar worldview.

However, a story shouldn’t be a lie and it is important to remember that stories must be authentic. In today’s world, if a product doesn’t live up to the story they are telling, word gets around fast. So once you define your story it is important that a product or service live up to that idea, down to the details.

NY Videogame Critics Invade NY Gaming Meetup, GotY Still at Large

Last night, over one hundred video game players, journalists and scholars braved freezing temperatures to convene in downtown Manhattan and discuss their hobby of choice. December’s NY Gaming Meetup hosted the NY Videogame Critics Circle, a group of journalists committed to establishing an East Coast presence on the global gaming map. Moderated by industry veteran (and group leader) Harold Goldberg, the critics waxed philosophical on the highs, lows, and gooey centers of the 2010 year in gaming. Rising above the ranks of petty fanboyism, the critics touched on a wide range of topics:

  • While 2010 was a good year for gaming, it may not have qualified as a “great” one. With an abundance of sequels, many developers played it safe. Blame the struggling economy for the dearth of new IP’s.
  • The battle between indies and majors rages on. AAA titles like Call of Duty are reliable earners, but rarely grab the attention of this particular crowd, who often favor smaller games with shoestring budgets, games that have not been “developed by a focus group.” One glowing exception was Mass Effect 2, a blockbuster which is sure to get a lot of attention in the annual Game of the Year debates.
  • Some independent games like Super Meat Boy and TriplePoint client LIMBO got love from the critics, illustrating the fact that the burden of proof differs greatly between indie games and titles from major studios. This also scraped the surface of the “rigidity in video game pricing” debate, a complex topic that deserves its own post.
  • Red Dead Redemption was a great game, no contest. It was also responsible for Alan Wake’s disappointing sales. Chock this up to a marketing failure; for future reference, literally no other games should be pitted against a release from Rockstar Games.
  • Red Dead was also a sterling example of the ways that DLC can not only bolster a game’s staying power, but also explore an entirely unique timeline or reality. Undead Nightmare was far more than just a bandwagon-inspired cash-in. Mass Effect 2 was similarly praised for giving players a complete disk-based experience, with DLC that provided a unique spin on familiar characters and settings. If nothing else, 2010 was the year that cemented downloadable content as an unavoidable part of a game’s development and marketing lifecycle.
  • Borrowing the microtransaction model wasn’t the only way that 2010’s console releases were inspired by their social brethren. Players are becoming just as accustomed to in-game payments as they are to maintaining and upgrading virtual real estate. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood offered gamers a chance to rebuild Rome, just as they’d expand an online farm or browser-based pet shop. Expect to see even more cross-promotional games like Gunslingers, the free (hype-generating) Facebook game that lead up to Red Dead’s proper release.
  • Minecraft was considered the year’s Cinderella story. The baffling title came out of left field to build a userbase over 2 million strong. More importantly, over a quarter of those gamers actually paid $13 to play a game that’s still in its alpha stage infancy.

That was the year in games, summed up (and hotly debated) in 90 minutes. Let’s hope that 2011 delivers even more unique gaming experiences and spreads them out across the entire twelve month calendar.

To keep up with the motley crew of Gaming Critics, follow them on Twitter.

Harold Goldberg –  Russ FrushtickEvan NarcisseTracey JohnAndrew Yoon – Not pictured: Stu Horvath Host: Brad Hargreaves

Better Off Flying Solo? Joe Danger and the Risk/Reward of Self-Publication in Downloadable Gaming

A recent keynote at the Develop conference by Hello Games’ Sean Murray cast a harsh light on the realities of publishing downloadable games on home consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade, Sony’s PlayStation Network and Nintendo’s WiiWare Channel. He purports that self-published games like his recently-released critical darling Joe Danger (which sold 50,000 units week one on PSN) are both more successful and more profitable than those of major studios.

Joe Danger, breaking all the rules.

Arguably the most popular digital download channel, Apple’s App Store offers an extremely low barrier to entry – just $99 for a dev-kit and a revamped review process that sees new apps approved or denied in as little as three days. While a few iPhone gaming giants have emerged, there’s still plenty of room for a basement programmer to strike it rich (or at least make the “What’s Hot” list). In contrast, console gaming depends on the distribution models established decades ago by the book publishing industry. In order to get a disk-based game into players’ living rooms, developers must partner with a publisher who sets up the distribution (including dubious deeds like retailer exclusives). Self-publishing a game with a box and a manual is borderline impossible. But even when it comes to the zeroes and ones that comprise downloadable games, Murray perceives major developers as more of a burden than an asset to young development studios.  According to his research, casual card, puzzle and word games make up 31% of the offerings on console download services but less than 5% percent of the sales. This flies in the face of the notion that casual players fuel the download market.  In fact, it’s the long-time, hardcore gamers that are driving downloadable game sales, as evidenced by the top three selling XBLA games of 2009 (multiplayer-only FPS Battlefield 1943, oldschool-inspired beat-‘em-up Castle Crashers, and controller-crushingly difficult dirt bike platformer Trials HD). While the EA-published Battlefield may owe part of its success to the series’ long history, the other two titles were created (and published) by tiny development teams.

Murray argues that big publishers offer very little to developers in the downloadable games market, and this stems from both lack of experience and lack of effort or interest.  As he puts it, the person in charge of the digital download services at most publishers “is not necessarily the biggest deal for the overall structure of the publisher.” For the time being, Joe Danger is exclusive to PSN – Sony makes their development tools readily accessible, unlike Microsoft and Nintendo. As a passive rebuttal to the PSN Store, Microsoft created the Xbox Live Indie Games channel (née Xbox Live Community Games), and while it’s relatively easy to get a title published there, the games are incredibly difficult to locate, let alone market and promote to fans.

So what’s a developer to do? For PlayStation games like Murray’s Joe Danger, the money saved through self-publishing could be spent on a high-caliber PR agency (ahem) to spread the word and boost downloads. For a game destined for XBLA or WiiWare, write your local congressperson! And be patient. As consumers become more and more comfortable keeping their entertainment in the cloud, the move toward online stores will pressure companies like Microsoft and Nintendo to revise their strategy.

There’s one other major stumbling block – NPD sales data for downloadable games is between difficult and impossible to obtain.  As a result, publishers can’t use existing titles as a reference point to gauge the risk and potential profit of developing a new game.  If the console giants would relinquish this information and break down other barriers to entry, publishers both great and small could bring more creatively adventurous titles to market. With this capitalistic system, gamers would enjoy all types of new options, from big-screen versions of the $.99 bite-size games that dominate the App Store to $30 small entrées that don’t fit the current pricing/distribution mold. With vibrant, fun-focused games like Joe Danger, the reign of the murky brown über -macho FPS may be coming to a close. It’s simply up to us, as the nerdy masses, to e-vote with our digital wallets.

Clap Twice for Pizza: Gesture Recognition Makes this Dream a Reality

It’s no secret that, when it comes to home entertainment, we’re in the midst of a distribution revolution. Content once tied to broadcast airwaves is now being ravenously consumed on the internet via computers, video game consoles and set top devices.

TriplePoint has the privilege of working with some of these new media startups. PlayOn (which recently made the jump to iPhone; CNET link) streams Hulu and other web video onto PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, without the need for a costly Hulu+ account. For those without a video game console, Softkinetic is providing a Microsoft Kinect-like experience to a massive install base via their set top box gesture recognition system.

With two cameras and a powerful microphone, Kinect knows who’s in front of the TV. For games like Dance Central, the technology will track all the poppin’ and lockin’ you can throw at it. But as an entertainment hub, a Kinect-enabled Xbox 360 will change the way that marketers convey their messages. Advertising is the backbone of media, providing the funding for programming and keeping content free for the viewer.

Softkinetic and Microsoft face a major challenge with these user-recognizing innovations. The product must find the right combination of allure, cost and ease-of-use, or at least hit two sides of this triangle. Kinect is rumored to cost $150, putting it well above the $99 impulse-buy sweet spot and closer to the price of a new game console. Softkinetic, on the other hand, will have less features but will also enjoy wider adoption, since the system will piggyback onto cable boxes and not require additional equipment.

As these devices become a fixture of the entertainment centers in dens and rec rooms around the world, ultra-targeted advertising will be commonplace. In order to frame this in a positive light, marketers will highlight the family-friendly aspects of these targeted ad systems.  For instance, “No R-rated movie previews if children are detected,” or, similarly “no beer commercials until the registered account holder turns 21.”  Of course, there are many aspects of these targeted ads that appeal to advertisers, too.  For instance, gender-specific commercials can now be tied to the actual gender of the viewers, rather than the network making educated guesses about the viewing audience based on the channel, program and time of day

Interactive ads are not far behind. Many of today’s preroll web video ads ask if you’d prefer to interrupt your show with 3 traditional thirty-second commercials, or watch a 90 second long-form ad before the show begins.  By giving the viewer a choice, marketers engage the audience and have a better change of holding their attention.

With mics and 3D cameras in place, these ads will evolve into mini-games – how many on-screen Pepsi bubbles can you “pop” by waving your hands, before the time runs out? Sponsored gameshow-style quizzes are also possible, since the systems can detect multiple voices in the room. First one to finish this jingle gets 10 points on their gamerscore!  “Plop plop, fizz fizz…”

Social media integration is already built into modern game consoles.  In the future, before the new Top Chef episode streams, you’ll be prompted to invite other online friends who ‘like’ that show on Facebook to join you and watch together, virtually.

During the show, ads will feature music by artists from your account that you’ve “favorited.” Local advertisements will pinpoint your self-identified exact location and give you offers that are relevant to your tastes.  For instance, the Italian restaurant below your apartment is offering double-pepperoni for the price of cheese, and they’ll be open for another 45 minutes.  Since your credit card is on file with your Xbox Live or PSN account, you can literally say the word and have hot pizza at your door before Padma calls the chef’testants to the judge’s table. Are you watching solo, or did you invite the whole gang over? Accordingly, you’ll get promotions ranging from personal-pan pizza to the ultra-jumbo feast.

There’s a great deal riding on the success of these gesture- and user- recognition systems.  Their main strength is in eliminating the “input middleman,” giving users greater control over their own entertainment. They also give marketers new ways to reach consumers. While this new technology is exciting on many levels, it will also present unseen obstacles and take years before adoption is truly mainstream. Only time will tell if the universal remote can survive this Minority Report future.

Social, Casual or Both? PopCap Sells Cows, Gives Away Free Milk

So strangely compelling...
So strangely compelling...

In terms of wide-sweeping brand recognition, Popcap is to casual gaming what Nintendo is to gaming in general.  Your Grandma knows about Nintendo, but your Mom might know a PopCap game or two.  Founded a decade ago, the company does a spectacular job of keeping their games in the public eye and maintaining a friendly, unassuming aesthetic.  It’s as if making boatloads of money is the pleasant side-effect of cranking out highly addictive puzzlers, and to be clear, casual games are doing big business.  Most of their games are available on multiple platforms, with free versions hosted at  Because the games are both robust and replayable, it’s no surprise that their perennial favorite Bejeweled 2 hasn’t left the Top 10 Highest Grossing list on the App Store since that category was unveiled six months ago . Continue reading Social, Casual or Both? PopCap Sells Cows, Gives Away Free Milk

“Zero” Marketing is the Best Marketing: Dark Void Zero and Instant Nostalgia [Updated]

[As noted on Giant Bomb, a Zero or “0” in a game’s title establishes that it’s a prequel or remake, ala Resident Evil 0, Perfect Dark Zero and Metroid: Zero Mission.]

Dark Void Zero is a little game with huge potential – the lovechild of retro fan-service and innovative marketing has become a very compelling title, and is likely to lead the charge for similar games. Available today for a $5 download on the DSiWare Store, it’s clearly designed to build hype for its full-priced “big brother” Dark Void, ironically released today for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC – everything except the Wii. The two games are as different as their native consoles – Dark Void is a 3rd Person Action game (think Gears of War + jetpack) while Zero is a 2D action/platformer with a decidedly old-school look and feel. While it’s easy to write off Dark Void Zero as nothing more than a puffed-up, buyable advertisement, the game’s nostalgic details make it worth a second look.

Cheesy-yet-awesome "box artwork" for Dark Void Zero

Continue reading “Zero” Marketing is the Best Marketing: Dark Void Zero and Instant Nostalgia [Updated]

Marketing High-Tech Products to Mainstream Consumers

How does a new high-tech product become popular and translate from a fad into a lasting trend? It is challenging for high-tech products to achieve widespread success among mainstream consumers. People are notoriously resistant to change and it takes time and a lot of coaxing to covert a new high-tech product used by gadget-obsessed geeks into a product that the masses are comfortable with. Geoffrey Moore, author of BusinessWeek bestseller, Crossing the Chasm, explains that in order for a cutting-edge product to become more than just a passing fad, it must cross the gap, or “chasm” between an early market and mainstream market. If done successfully, a high-tech product can make this transition to achieve great success and explosive sales. If the product fails to reach mainstream success, however, it may fade into obscurity.

Moore argues that a high-tech product shouldn’t be marketed the same way to tech enthusiasts and early adopters as it should be to the mainstream consumer. The early market for a high-tech product consists of people who love to be the first on their block to have a new gadget and who appreciate the benefits of new technology. Think of that friend, neighbor or family member who loves to show off new gadgets that nobody has heard of yet. They don’t mind dealing with a few bugs or inconveniences if they see a chance to get ahead of the competition with a new high-tech product and, often times, they are willing to pay a hefty price tag. Marketing messages that focus on the product and that pinpoint a technological advantage resonate with this early audience. However, the mainstream market needs a bit more convincing. These consumers are more practical and are hesitant to empty their wallets. For the mainstream market, company credibility is important and word-of-mouth recommendations are powerful.

One product that everyone is watching closely and which is emerging into the mainstream market is the Kindle. Up until now, electronic books have failed to “cross the chasm” to become a must-have item for mainstream consumers. Two weeks ago on the TriplePoint blog, Julia Roether explored the rise in Kindle 2’s popularity and noted that while it may seem like an “overnight sensation,” the Kindle has been around for over two years. Furthermore, Brad Stone, who covers consumer technology at the New York Times, pointed out that electronic book devices have been around for a decade but none have really taken off among consumers.

The Kindle seems to be breaking through as an electronic book that is reaching mainstream market success. The Kindle 2 came out with several improvements to the product but mainstream consumers are often less swayed by the promise of new product features. Specifically, consumers in the mainstream market, according to Moore, tend to value market leadership and wait for a high-tech product to prove they are better than the competition before buying. Unlike early market consumers who want to be the first on the block to have a new product, mainstream consumers wait for references from people they trust. The Kindle received recognition from Oprah, one of the most widely respected and trusted references around, which no doubt helped convince hesitant book-lovers to get on board. Furthermore, with sales skyrocketing this holiday season, the Kindle seems to be crossing the chasm.

However, time will tell how the Kindle evolves and if electronic books will become a must-have gadget. It seems that there are still adjustments to be made and more convincing of consumers before the product really takes hold. Moore reminds us that 1/3 of consumers are classified as “conservatives” who are the most resistant to change and who wait for the product to become a standard before adopting new technology. These people are the last to buy new technology, after tech enthusiasts, early adopters and the early majority of mainstream consumers. While the Kindle is becoming more popular, it still must establish credibility among users before capturing this piece of the market.

Put Down Your Magic 8-Ball: Social Media Predictions for 2010


As 2009 nears its end, bloggers are busy posting their predictions about the future of social media. Three of the most prevalent predictions regarding social media’s potential developments in 2010 are: social media functioning as a corporate marketing tool, the rise of new location based applications and networks, and a marked shift from trend to standard in business communication.

As companies wade through the economic recession, social media will continue to grow. In search of new marketing strategies, businesses will realize that social networking can serve as an economically sound marketing tool. In order to reap the greatest benefit from social media, companies will need to regard social media as a relationship rather than a marketing campaign. Companies already reach vast audiences through Twitter feeds and Facebook fan pages. This fluid social environment empowers companies and consumers to distribute, receive, and share information on these social networks. A progressive business will strive to create a symbiotic relationship with its consumer base. A corporate social media presence that can effectively adapt to consumers’ ever-changing needs, wants, and desires will enable both parties to thrive.

In 2010, location based applications and networks may take the lead in the social media movement. This summer, Mashable Online announced that Foursquare showed potential to become the next Twitter. This location-based social network helps connect friends using GPS via a mobile device, as well as an added layer of social gameplay. Earlier this year, Foursquare saw its first major web success at SXSW.  Foursquare does have a growing user base, but remains a  misunderstood service.  Foursquare’s current situation is markedly reminiscent of Twitter’s own situation two years ago. Considering the incredible growth that Twitter has experienced since then, this bodes well for Foursquare.

In addition to specifically location based services, existing successful social networks like Twitter are expanding their location capabilities. iPhone users can find Twitter apps with a “nearby” mode to help them locate people in the area.  Businesses can capitalize on the advantage to more effectively target their consumer base.

The final major shift that we may see in 2010 is social media’s transformation into a solid aspect of business communication. Amidst the recent speculation about Twitter’s possible demise, bloggers predict that the shift in Twitter’s user base may not be a negative one. Twitter should become an everyday communication tool, rather than a new marketing toy. “The technology will begin to fade into the background so that people can focus on the relationships that are created because of the technologies, not the technologies themselves” (@charleneli).  In any case, the web environment should see a subtle yet important shift in social media’s importance and legitimacy in the business world.

Predictions are an aggregate of ideas of people in “the know.” In social media, however, we are the ones who create the experience. So, Tweet this if you wish, and know that ultimately you will create these shifts in our web environment.