More Mobile & More Social Gaming

Guest Post by Todd Marks, CEO viaPlace

Historically, games were always a social activity.  This began to shift in the 1970s, when arcade games became prevalent and with the introduction of PCs and game consoles, game play became a largely an individual experience.

Today, powered by technology advances and prevalence of social websites like Facebook, digital gaming is reintroducing the social experience into gaming and masses are embracing the shift.  AdWeek’s Mike Shields recently posited that the widespread adoption of social gaming is behind the demise of the soap opera, noting, “When Zynga… arrived on the scene in 2007, both All My Children and One Life to Live were averaging a 1.9 rating among women 25-54.  By 2011 the two shows were averaging 1.3 and 1.4 ratings respectively in that key viewer group. The drop is even steeper for other demographics.”

The newest trend is that digital social gaming allows users to digitize traditional games from the physical world and enhance the social nature of the games by leveraging mobile devices.

Our company, viaPlace, has built a framework to deliver Location Based Services, Augmented Reality, and Social Gaming to mobile applications.  We recently released “TAG”, a game of elimination that has traditionally been played across college campuses using low-tech devices like water guns. Players compete to find and “tag” assassination targets until there is only one player remaining. viaPlace transformed “TAG” into a high-tech game leveraging mobile devices using their digital cameras for the “tag shot.”

Within the game, players also utilize the foursquare check-in API to broadcast their current location at set intervals to help assassins hone in on their targets.  However, this is not just used to seek out potential Targets to “tag.”  By using a Game Wall that aggregates all player activity, locations and comments, TAG increases social engagement across all players both within the game, and in the real world.


Figure 1: Smartphone Usage Leading to a Revolution in Social Gaming

Source: viaPlace


The thirst for social mobile gaming is evident in the growing popularity of mobile games and of the platforms that support them.

Flurry, a mobile application analytics engine, reported in February that 26 million unique users play social mobile games more than 25 minutes a day on average.


Figure 2: Games Dominate iPad Apps

Source: Flurry


Additionally, mobile gaming networks such as OpenFeint enhance mobile games by providing social components via leaderboards and connecting gamers over the Internet.  Last month the network surpassed 73 million registered users, adding new users at a rate of over 4 million per month.  The company currently has over 4,000 combined titles for iPhone and Android including some of the best-selling mobile games of all time, such as Rovio’s Angry Birds which alone recently crossed 100 million downloads.

The biggest reason social gaming has leapt to mobile platforms is because the technology is finally there to support it, providing a better experience than the previous platforms.  Smartphones, in addition to mobile Internet connectivity, now include capabilities such as Augmented Reality, Location Based Services, Near Field Communication, Face Time Communication and Gyroscopic Everything, which have opened the door to a host of newer and cooler games users can play.   Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, recently pointed out that Smartphone utilities are “Augmenting Humanity” with global mobile traffic growing 260% in 2010.

– Guest Post by Todd Marks, CEO viaPlace


Celebrity Influence – and Economy – Grows Online

Guest Post by Ryan Steelberg, CEO Brand Affinity Technologies

Over the last two years, we’ve seen a seismic change in the relationship between celebrities and fans. Online media provides 24/7 access to news, gossip, and anything and everything consumers want to know about their favorite celebrities. Social media takes this dynamic further: people can easily follow commentary directly from stars on Facebook and Twitter.


Brand Affinity Technologies (BAT) has created mechanisms for brands, media companies, and celebrities themselves to monetize this evolving celeb/fan relationship. (We’ve also started to quantify this changing relationship: in a recent survey, we confirmed that 61% of Americans feel more connected to celebrities because of online media and tools.)

Proof point: endorsements ignite social media advertising

To get a sense of the power of celebrities – and a taste of the business opportunity tied to the celeb/fan relationship ─ consider how celebrities boost social media performance.

BAT recently conducted the largest analysis of endorsed and non-endorsed social media advertising to-date. We compared more than 200 Facebook and Twitter endorsements with similar Facebook ads that did not feature celebrities, and found that – for the same spend – messages from celebrities delivered monumental performance lifts.  Click-through rates jumped significantly, and the cost-per-action improved dramatically:

Where we’re headed: deep engagement, personal interaction, meaningful brand opportunities

As the data reveals, much of the hype over celebrity social media endorsements is well-deserved. However, the power of celebrity as a business driver goes far beyond endorsements.  BAT has recently launched a new platform that brings online celebrity engagement to consumers beyond the comparatively closed worlds of Facebook and Twitter.

More than 800,000 fans have downloaded Fantapper since it became available in December 2010, making it one of the fastest growing Web downloads released – outpacing Twitter in early adoption rate. In addition to the free download, leading websites – reaching more than 100 million unique users every month – run the Fantapper application.

Fantapper changes the way consumers experience celebrity and sports content – giving people more of what they want, at the moment they are interested. Fantapper populates celebrity and athlete images and stories – on any website – with relevant, interactive apps, giving people always-on access to YouTube videos, exclusive celebrity info, news, Twitter and Facebook feeds, and more.

  • Celebrities benefit as editorial content now opens doors to their Twitter and Facebook feeds, monetization channels (iTunes for musicians, etc.), and in some cases, custom content developed for Fantapper. For the first time, celebrities gain real estate within the content that features them ─ wherever it appears.
  • Consumers experience content in an entirely new way. Immediately, the celebrity and sports content they crave becomes engaging and interactive – giving people what they want at the moment it interests them.
  • Advertisers benefit by being able to insert their brands at the point of engagement and interactivity, as well as include custom apps of their own.  Advertisers such as PepsiCo, Versus & Intuit have created custom Fantapper apps that drive traffic to their sites and include interactive elements such as polls and contests.
  • Websites benefit by providing a better experience for their communities and thus users spend more time on their pages.

As an example, if you’re reading about Kirstie Alley as she competes on Dancing with the Stars, Fantapper appears and provides instant access to related tweets, news stories, video clips – all without leaving the page you’re on.

The takeaway

Consumer passion for celebrity and sports content is boundless – and drives a significant amount of online activity. Consider that 20 months after launch, Twitter had 100k followers; that number went to several million almost immediately once celebs got involved.

Nothing demonstrates the insatiable hunger for celebrity and sports content better than Fantapper. Based on what we’re seeing in terms of the time that people choose to spend interacting with Fantapper apps, there is no saturation point in sight in terms of the ability for celebrities to drive engagement.

Online and social media have changed the relationship between celebrities and fans – creating a closer relationship and amplifying celebrities’ ability to influence consumers.  There is a tremendous market opportunity for brands, media outlets and celebrities that capitalize on this new dynamic.



Democratizing Media: Partnering With BitTorrent To Distribute My Novel Captive

Guest Post by Megan Lisa Jones, Author of “Captive”

My alternate title to this post was How to build a global audience in days, and the story begins with over 400,000 downloads in the first twelve days of the promotion.

Captive was the first book chosen in BitTorrent’s new artist program.

BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol with an active user base of over 100 million people in which, essentially, the more people downloading a file the faster it downloads.  The company has promoted films, shows and bands prior to Captive being in the spotlight.  The last band they chose, Sick of Sarah, had 1.5 million downloads in about six weeks.

Captive is a thriller in which George, a psychologist and interrogator, must get critical information from Khalil, a hardened Algerian terrorist.  Meanwhile, a young Saudi chemistry student is building a related string of bombs when not attending his classes at UCLA.  The book is more pertinent today than when I started writing due to the unrest throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East.

I’m a new writer with a first-time book and can’t afford the type of marketing campaign more established thriller authors have (plus, they already have large built-in audiences).  Despite BitTorrent’s success distributing other media, I was uncertain with respect to potential audience size for a novel since it was limited to those who read English.  Being the first novel promoted, I couldn’t evaluate expected audience based on historical results.

I wanted to reach an audience that would be interested in and enjoy Captive.  I also wanted to do it quickly.  Being from the tech world by birth and profession, I know and understand the business models tech and Internet start-ups are using to build their businesses and scale online.  And it’s more than just “social media marketing”.  Also, I know that model better than I understand the media windows and ins and outs of publishing (which seem so expensive).  But ─ let’s also not ignore that ─ traditional media businesses are struggling while Internet-based social networkers and gamers are scaling.  Media is dependent on scale and writing books is a business like any other.

Then I lucked into the experts.  The people at BitTorrent blow my mind.  The traffic from their promotion soared at announcement and thus far hasn’t let up.  I can’t fully grasp how they reached “my” audience so quickly.  The initial press release somehow lit a fire.  There is a little Twitter, some Facebook and soaring traffic to my site and blogs.  News articles and blogs covering the promotion also helped.  But not over 340,000 worth of audience.

And that’s where the peer-to-peer concept matters.  Sure, some of my audience wants (and does…thanks for the emails and other messages, by the way) to connect with me.  But I’m guessing they would rather discuss the book with each other.  That’s what I do when I read a book I really like or find a great offer.

I’ve had global traffic from most regions of the world including South Africa, to Moscow, to Pakistan, Iraq and Thailand.  I’ve reached Chile, most of the US and Europe and large swaths of Asia.  Australia and New Zealand.  BitTorrent has helped me reach countries (China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt) where a book that addresses terrorism wouldn’t be published.

BitTorrent promotion has allowed Captive to be real media…something with a message that is being shared by all people regardless of where they reside.  And, in this case, the sharing literally was person to person.  No book sitting on a shelf is doing as much.

One other note, I’ve written about the monetization aspect (or lack thereof) of the promotion on both my blogs so won’t belabor the discussion here.  But I will say that I’m getting contacted by numerous readers about the release date of the sequel (2012 unless I start writing faster).  Will they pay for it?  Some will.  Some won’t.  For example, I just told someone about the ending deadline for the promotion.  They told me they’d rather order a hard copy from Amazon.

Moreover, I do trust the streets…they have, do, and will pay for content when the price is fair and the content what they value.  But first, before I can worry about money, I need to find my audience so I can keep reaching and satisfying them in the future.  Doesn’t any value proposition ultimately rely on giving your customer or audience what they want and making them happy?