Google Unveils ‘Stadia’ Video Game Service

As expected, Google is entering the $140 billion video game business with hopes its cloud-based Stadia service will rival industry benchmarks Xbox (Microsoft), PlayStation (Sony) and Switch (Nintendo) among consumers.

Google announced the new service March 19 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The search behemoth, which plans to roll out the service and cost details later this year, says Stadia would enable users to play games from major developers on most devices via YouTube.

Google Stadia video game controller

“Our ambition is far beyond a single game,” Phil Harrison, VP and GM at Google, told attendees. “The power of instant access is magical, and it’s already transformed the music and movie industries.”

Harrison, who previously held executive positions at Xbox and PlayStation, said Google tested the service (Project Stream) last fall with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey that enabled users to play/stream the triple-A game via Google’s Chrome browser on any applicable device – including smart TV.

“We finally get to share Google’s vision of games,” Harrison said. “Our vision for Stadia is simple. One place for all the games you play.”

In a statement, Yves Guillemot, the co-founder/CEO of Ubisoft, said Google’s global expanse would give “billions” unprecedented opportunities to play video games.

“We are proud to partner with Google on Stadia, building on what we’ve learned with Project Stream via Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” Guillemot said. “This is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to continue collaborating closely with Google on what’s next for Stadia.”

 

Disney Outranks Netflix and Amazon Prime in Brand Study

Disney ranked No. 1 followed by Amazon Prime and Netflix in the media and entertainment industry portion of MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2019 Study.

The study is the largest study of brands based on emotions, according to the company.

Disney rose in the ranking from fifth overall in the 2018 study to first this year.

The remaining brands in the Top 10 for the media & entertainment industry were, in order, PlayStation, YouTube, Xbox, Nintendo, Hulu, HBO and WWE.

MBLM defines Brand Intimacy as “the emotional science that measures the bonds we form with the brands we use and love.” Top intimate brands in the U.S. continued to significantly outperform the top brands in the Fortune 500 and S&P indices in both revenue and profit over the past 10 years, according to the study.

“Media & entertainment continues to be our most intimate industry,” Mario Natarelli, managing partner of MBLM, said in a statement. “The need to escape reality, consume content on demand, and lose ourselves in stories is a powerful combination of factors. Disney is leveraging its nostalgic associations to cultivate stronger bonds with customers. It has also improved its performance with men, while continuing to innovate and expand its offerings.”

Additional findings in the media and entertainment industry were:

  • Disney was the No. 1 brand with both men and women as well respondents aged 45-64;
  • Disney was also the top brand for people making over $100,000;
  • YouTube ranked first for millennials;
  • YouTube also ranked first for those making $35,000-$50,000; and
  • Media and entertainment was also the No. 1 industry for millennials.

The Brand Intimacy 2019 Study is based on the responses of 6,200 consumers and 56,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the United States, Mexico and the UAE. To view the media & entertainment industry findings, please click here. To download the full Brand Intimacy 2019 Study or explore the Data Dashboard click here.

Video Game Industry Eyes Direct-to-Consumer Rewards — and Risks

Taking a cue from the subscription streaming video-on-demand ecosystem, the video game industry has quietly begun offering content to consumers online rather than solely through packaged-media retailers such as GameStop, Best Buy and Target.

Last May game publisher Electronic Arts acquired the cloud gaming technology assets and personnel of a wholly owned subsidiary of GameFly — the online packaged-media rental service that also offers movies and TV shows.

Specifically, EA aims to distribute its games to consumers online without paying license fees to third-party game platforms such as Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo. At last year’s at annual E3 gaming confab, EA bowed a prototype subscription online gaming platforms EA Access and Origin Access.

“Cloud gaming is an exciting frontier that will help us to give even more players the ability to experience games on any device from anywhere,” Ken Moss, chief technology officer at Electronic Arts, said at the time.

Sony, whose five-year-old subscription gaming service – PlayStation Now – features hundreds of catalog games for $99 annual fee, is reportedly considering direct-to-access for new releases following its purchases of online platforms Gaikai and OnLive.

“The greatest disruption of entertainment is the combination of streaming and subscription,” Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts, told Fortune. “More people are engaging, with less friction, through cloud-driven services.”

At the same time, offering consumers online access to hundreds of games for annual or monthly fees (the latter without contract) threatens an established retail market where game publishers often charge and get more than $50 for a single game.

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“I do believe that some subscribers might cancel after finishing the newest game they wanted to play, but the vast majority will keep their subscription because of the online multiplayer component of those same games,” said Greg Potter, an analyst with Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. “Publishers are okay with this model because hit games often have multiple revenue streams other than the purchase at the point-of-sale.”

Indeed, the gaming industry saw revenue reach record $43.8 billion in 2018, up 18% from 2017. That figure dwarfed the global box and SVOD markets.

The latter has Netflix CEO Reed Hastings worried.

In the SVOD pioneer’s recent shareholder letter, Hastings said Netflix controlled about 10% of domestic TV screen time – a tally he said is under threat more from online gaming than other SVOD competitors.

“We compete with and lose to [online gaming service] ​Fortnite ​more than HBO Now,” Hastings wrote. “When YouTube went down globally for a few minutes in October, our viewing and signups spiked for that time. Hulu is small compared to YouTube for viewing time. Our focus is not on Disney+, Amazon [Prime Video] or others, but on how we can improve our experience for our members.”

 

 

Report: YouTube Top ‘Most Intimate Brand’ Among Millennials

YouTube ranked the “most intimate brand” among millennials for the first time, climbing from third last year, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2019 Study, a study of brands based on emotions.

The firm defines brand intimacy as something that leverages and strengthens the emotional bonds between a person and a brand.

“YouTube ranked 10th with millennials just two short years ago and has steadily made its way to the top,” said Mario Natarelli, managing partner, MBLM, in a statement. “The brand has demonstrated an ability to entertain a diverse millennial audience through its extensive content. It is also continuing its expansion of services, including the launch of YouTube Music in 2018, as it finds new ways to connect with consumers. Millennials in particular bond strongly with the media and entertainment industry, and YouTube is doing a good job at building a brand that caters to the wants and needs of this audience.”

Apple and Netflix ranked as the second and third most intimate brands for this generation. Comparatively, in MBLM’s 2018 study, Apple placed first followed by Disney and YouTube.

The other brands that rounded out the top 10 were, in order: Disney, Nike, Target, Xbox, PlayStation, Google and Walmart. Millennial men selected Xbox, PlayStation and Spotify as their top three and millennial women selected Target, Amazon and Disney.

The Brand Intimacy 2019 Report, to be released in full Feb. 14, contains the most comprehensive rankings of brands based on emotion, analyzing the responses of 6,200 consumers and 56,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the United States, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates, according to MBLM.

Sony Announces 20 Games Pre-Loaded on PlayStation Classic Due Dec. 3

Sony has revealed the lineup of the 20 games that come pre-loaded on the PlayStation Classic  console when it launches in the United States and Canada Dec. 3.

In addition to the previously announced Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3 and Wild Arms, the rest of the games are:

  • Battle Arena Toshinden
  • Cool Boarders 2
  • Destruction Derby
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Intelligent Qube
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Mr Driller
  • Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
  • Rayman
  • Resident Evil Director’s Cut
  • Revelations: Persona
  • Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
  • Syphon Filter
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
  • Twisted Metal

Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google Among Top Brands in Survey

Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Samsung placed among the top brands in a new survey from global consultancy firm Prophet.

The firm released its fourth annual Brand Relevance Index, in which it surveyed 12,694 consumers in the United States across 299 brands in 37 categories.

The top 10 in order were Apple, Amazon, Pinterest, Netflix, Android, Google, Samsung, Kitchen Aid, Spotify and Nike.

Among the top 25, media and entertainment companies included YouTube (No. 12), PlayStation (No. 13), Disney (No. 14), Pixar (No. 15), Sony (No. 21) and Xbox (No. 25).

“It’s clear that to be successful, brands need more than size and ubiquity,” said Scott Davis, chief growth officer, Prophet, in a statement. “They must create a product that people love enough to integrate into their everyday lives. The brands that inspire this level of loyalty will ultimately grow the fastest because they are relevant in the moments that matter most to consumers.”

Netflix and Pixar were among top brands that were most “customer obsessed,” according to the survey, while PlayStation, Marvel and Google were most “pervasively innovative.” Netflix was the category leader in the “Media” segment, PlayStation led in “Electronics & Gaming,” Apple led in “Computing & Software,” Amazon led in “Retailers” and Verizon led in “Telecommunications.”

Apple, Netflix, Pinterest, Amazon and Android were the top brands, in order, among females. Amazon, Apple, PlayStation, Spotify and Samsung, in order, were the top brands among males.

Among millennials, the top brands, in order, were Netflix, Amazon, KitchenAid, Apple and Google. Among non-millennials, top brands, in order, were Apple, Amazon, Pinterest, Android and Netflix.

Facebook (No. 205) was the “biggest mover” in the negative direction.

Sony to Bring Back Original PlayStation Console

Sony Interactive Entertainment on Sept. 19 announced plans to bring back the original PlayStation video game console, launched nearly 25 years ago, “in a new miniaturized version,” according to a blog post by Eric Lempel, SVP of PlayStation worldwide marketing.

The console, due Dec. 3 at a suggested retail price of $99.99, will come pre-loaded with 20 classic titles, including Final Fantasy VIIJumping FlashRidge Racer Type 4Tekken 3, and Wild Arms.

The mini console, Lempel writes is approximately 45% smaller than the original PlayStation, “and it emulates the original’s look and feel by featuring similar controllers and packaging. Long-time fans will appreciate the nostalgia that comes with rediscovering the games they know and love, while gamers who might be new to the platform can enjoy the groundbreaking PlayStation console experience that started it all. All of the pre-loaded games will be playable in their original format.”

Unlike the original, each unit will come with an HDMI cable so players can connect the device to their TVs. The console also will come up with a USB cable and two controllers for local multiplayer within compatible titles.

The original PlayStation video gaming system was released on Dec. 3, 1994. It went on to become the first video game console to ship 100 million units.

Its successor, the PlayStation 2, was released in 2000, followed by the PlayStation 3 in 2006 and the PlayStation 4 in 2013.

Sony Promotion Includes Limited Edition Blue PS4

Sony Interactive Entertainment is bringing back its Days of Play PlayStation promotion, offering deals June 8-18 at participating retailers across the United States and Canada, while supplies last.

The promotion includes a blue-with-gold-symbol Days of Play Limited Edition PS4 system for $299.99 ($379.99 Canadian) starting June 8. The console features a 1TB hard drive and comes with a matching DualShock 4 wireless controller.

Hardware and peripheral discounts throughout the 11 days include:

  • Jet Black PS4 Pro – $349.99 ($449.99 Canadian)
  • PlayStation VR bundles – starting at $199.99 ($249.99 Canadian)
  • DualShock 4 wireless controller (all colors) – $39.99 ($49.99 Canadian)
  • PlayStation Move motion controller (2 pack) – $79.99 ($99.99 Canadian)
  • PlayStation VR Aim controller (U.S. only) – $49.99

 

PS4 and PS VR title promotions include:

  • God of War: $49.99 ($59.99 Canadian)
  • Gran Turismo Sport: $19.99 ($29.99 Canadian)
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: $19.99 ($29.99 Canadian)
  • MLB The Show 18: $39.99 ($49.99 Canadian)
  • Shadow of the Colossus: $19.99 ($29.99 Canadian)
  • Bravo Team (PS VR): $29.99 ($39.99 Canadian)
  • Farpoint (PS VR): $14.99 ($19.99 Canadian)
  • The Inpatient (PS VR): $14.99 ($19.99 Canadian)

 

The PlayStation Store will be offering promotions on games and network service memberships, including:

  • PlayStation Plus – $49.99 ($59.99 Canadian) for a 12-month PS Plus membership
  • PlayStation Vue (available in the U.S. only) – $10 per month off the Core plan standard price for the first two months ($44.99 per month thereafter)
  • PlayStation Store catalog titles

Best Buy’s Entertainment ‘Switch’

NEWS ANALYSIS – Best Buy has been a go-to retail source for consumer electronics and household appliances – but less so for home entertainment. That changed in 2017.

The Minneapolis, Minn.-based company, which operates about 1,500 stores nationwide, reported a 12.6% increase in same-store entertainment sales through Feb. 3, 2018.

“Comparable sales gain was driven primarily by gaming hardware,” Best Buy said in the fiscal 10Q report.

A notable turnaround from fiscal 2016 (ended Jan. 28, 2017), which saw nearly 14% drop in entertainment sales – driven by declines in sales of video games, music CDs and movie DVDs due to continued industry softness.

Packaged media’s decline at Best Buy has been ongoing for years. CEO Hubert Joly cut back shelf space on DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies shortly after joining the retail chain in 2012.

Billboard earlier this year reported Target would begin selling packaged media on consignment basis instead of buying wholesale from distributors. Best Buy, it said, would phase out packaged music from stores.

So, what prompted Best Buy’s entertainment redux? Long-lost video game manufacturer Nintendo, which jumpstarted its relevance March 3, 2017 with the launch of the Switch platform and related software.

Switch help Nintendo generate $9.2 billion in revenue in 2017 – up 172% from 2016, with Switch hardware accounting for 60% of sales, according to industry data. That compared to 34% of PlayStation hardware revenue for Sony and 26% for Microsoft’s Xbox platform.

“Most remarkable is that Nintendo generated these revenues with hardware and full-game sales only,” video game research firm Newzoo said in a statement.

Indeed, Best Buy saw entertainment revenue top 8% ($3 billion) of domestic revenue, up from 7% ($2.5 billion) in 2016.

“It’s all related to Switch,” said Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

 

Apple, Disney and YouTube Top Millennial Brands in New Report

Apple, Disney and YouTube, respectively, ranked as the top three most “intimate” brands among millennials, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2018 Report, which is the largest study of brands based on emotions. Brand intimacy leverages and strengthens the emotional bonds between a person and a brand.

“We were surprised and pleased to see YouTube as an addition to the top three most intimate brands for millennials this year,” stated Mario Natarelli, managing partner, MBLM. “We believe its rise is due to our culture’s continued need for escape and the brand’s immediate, diverse content, personalities and growing offerings in movies and live TV. YouTube is clearly an established ritual in the lives of many millennials today.”

By comparison, in MBLM’s 2017 report, Disney placed first, followed by Amazon and Netflix.

The other brands that rounded out the top 10 were Target, Amazon, Nintendo, Google, Xbox, Netflix and Whole Foods.

The age group of 18-24-year-olds had a slightly different mix of top companies. The top 10 for that group were Apple, Amazon, YouTube, PlayStation, Starbucks, Nintendo, Google, Netflix, Coca Cola and Walmart.

The report analyzed the responses of 6,000 consumers and 54,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the United States, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. The full report will be released on March 13, 2018.