The first press release was published in 1906. In the century since, there have been countless changes to the way they are structured, delivered, and received. Today, press releases are “basically the butter knife of the PR writers’ toolkit”. However, innovations in technology and communication mean that these exchanges between journalists and PR professionals happen in a matter of seconds. In fact, according to a survey of 100 journalists in the report "Disrupting the Press Release" by Greentarget, nearly 70% of journalists spend less than one minute reading new press releases. So, how can you make your 60 seconds matter in the mobile games industry? Read on for our top tips!
Create Media Lists
In the mobile games industry, press releases help potential customers understand why they would like this new game. Published pieces and reviews by journalists demonstrate first hand what makes this game unique when compared to similar games. If done well, a press release can:
The key starts with creating a niche media list filled with journalists who cover mobile games and app releases.
Over the past ten years, there has been a noticeable increase in the percentage of people playing mobile games in the United Kingdom. Between 2012 and 2017, the use of mobile phones to play games increased by 10% for 16-24 year olds and 12% for 25-34 year olds.
As the number of individuals playing games on their mobile devices has increased, so has the number of journalists who cover mobile game related news. Large publications like TechCrunch and WiredUK have added sections to their websites dedicated to mobile news. Publications are quickly realizing that adding a mobile section to their platform will attract younger, more technologically-savvy readers.
Razer even launched its Razer Phone 2, built to give users supreme mobile gaming power, in 2018. This marked the beginning of a shift in the mobile gaming market as developers consider smartphones as viable platforms for new, full-fledged experiences.
It is important to craft a media list of journalists who are truly interested in what your story is about. The Digital Marketing Institute suggests:
“One simple, effective way is to email the journalists and bloggers that are the most likely to write about you. Search for your product or industry on Google News, then look for the journalists that write about your industry frequently.”
If a journalist frequently writes about games that are similar to the one your client is launching, then they will be much more likely to respond to your press release. Creating a robust media list with journalists who cover similar stories is integral to ensuring that your press release ends up in the inbox of the people who are most likely to write about it.
Craft Mobile-Friendly Content
Ninety-five percent of UK residents own a smartphone. This staggering percentage means that more work is being conducted on smartphones as well as computer screens. This means that journalists are increasingly likely to read your press release on their phone as well.
In 2014, Forbes posted a piece titled “What Journalists Really Think of Your Press Release”. The piece featured interviews with several executive editors and journalists at major international publications. In her interview, Jennifer Bogo, Executive Editor at Popular Science magazine, advised PR professionals against attaching their press releases as an attachment or a hyperlink. So, in order to increase the likelihood that a journalist sees and picks up your piece, paste your press release in the body of your email.
Embrace the Multimedia Press Release
Multimedia elements will demonstrate to journalists why this product launch or appointment matters. Think of these elements as necessary to transform your press release into something ready for the 21st century. In a press release about a mobile game, this would include relevant images and videos of the game, links to additional information, and other interactive elements that will make customers excited to download the new game.
Use clear and concise language in your press release. Even if the journalist who you are sending your press release to is an expert on that topic, not everyone reading their story is an expert in that subject area. So, keep it simple. If your press release can be said with fewer words, then do so. In an era of busy lives and a bombardment of requests, most journalists don’t have the time it takes to sift through a long and complicated piece.
Start with a strong headline. Headlines should sum up what the press release is about in as few words as possible. In the world of mobile games PR, this would look as simple as: “Client launches Game X in the App Store”. This will help pull in journalists who think their readers and target audience will be interested in what you have to say.
The paragraphs in your press release should move from most important information to least important information. That way if a journalist only reads half of your press release, they will at least read what you want them to read. It is easiest to think about your press release in terms of an inverted triangle: put the bulk of the information first then work your way into the specifics.
The first paragraph of your press release should address what your press release is about, whether that is a new app release, updated levels on an existing app, or an exciting new partnership.
The next paragraph should address why your app or partnership is unique. Think about what makes your app different from similar apps or how it can benefit customers’ lives.
The final paragraph should contain the “call to action” of the press release. This should explain how to download the app, which app stores it is available on, or how customers can connect with the app.
Edit, Edit, Edit
Before you hit the “Send” button, make sure you double and triple check for grammatical errors in your story. No journalist will take you seriously if your press release is chalked full of grammatical errors. Be sure to take extra care with often misspelled and misused words like they’re/their and its/it’s. Understand how to use commas and semicolons in AP style and take extra caution to adhere to these style rules.
Once your press release is edited to perfection, make sure to include you and your company’s contact information at the bottom of the release. This should include your name, phone number and email.
In the end, one of the most important things to do explain why your app matters. It is important to find the value in your story through the unique qualities of your app. It is hard work to find a creative angle that hasn’t been done before. But, hard work will pay off. According to a 2014 Business Wire Media Survey, 62% of journalists surveyed said that their most sought-after stories related to press releases with interesting story angles. This shows that having a new angle makes journalists increasingly likely to read and write about your release.
Armed with these top tips, you are ready to write a compelling, innovative, 21st-century press release to send to the top industry journalists.
by Charlotte Allard
In contrast to the ‘traditional’ internet, the Internet of Things does not rely on people. Becoming your eyes and your ears, this super smart network is faster than anyone. Thanks to connected devices, sensors and software solutions, enough data can now be gathered in order to improve products and, in turn, help us lead easier and less complicated lifestyles. The IoT is an innovative game changer for many industries that are now able to know more about their products or internal systems to ensure appropriate changes are put in place to improve results.
Amazon have had an IoT platform since 2015: Amazon Web Services. Startup IoT software firm Ayla who have just secured a $60 million series D round of funding are proving how interested investors are in this innovative sector.
Bosch is ahead of the game for home automatisation and connected home devices, while Cisco is in connected-car technology amongst others.
Huawei is focused on smart-city tech IoT: integrated services, communication and video analysis.
Google via Android Things platform allows users to manage their connected devices. The market player list is long and involved in pretty much all business industries.
According to Gartner, the IoT will expand to around 20 billion connected devices by 2020.
By 2018, annual wagers on mobile devices are expected to exceed $62 billion globally. A booming market by 2020, Gartner estimates internet-connected things will outnumber humans 4-to-1, and a recent report by BI Intelligence estimated that more than 24 billion devices will be part of the IoT network globally.
In the digital era, the IoT will completely reshape many industries.
Let’s talk about Fashion Retail: personalisation is the key to success in this industry that is becoming more and more digitised, with the likes of smart shopping apps and AR changing rooms offering the customer a more seamless experience. Ultimately, the IoT will allow retailers to know more about their customer’s journey and offer a hyper-personalised service. Killing two birds with one stone: if the customer experience improves, so will conversion and turnover. One successful example is innowi - an on-the-go checkout platform. Created to reduce the queueing time in the physical store it has developed ChecOut, “a compact mobile device that can process orders and connect with back-end in store systems, cloud services, and payment processors”. This technology is designed to make a transaction easy and quick, thus improving the customer experience by tackling ”Long queues costing retailers up to £12bn a year”.
Mobile & Gaming:
In the eCommerce space, Amazon Go is way ahead of its competitors, offering its consumers a checkout-free experience, in the traditional sense. Using this app, a smartphone connects to the shop and thanks to computer vision, algorithms and sensor fusion to take payment automatically, saving time and the hassle of waiting in a queue.
In terms of entertainment, the IoT has revitalised app services. The IoT allows gaming platforms to measure the satisfaction of players via mobile devices, it could also link the kind of game the player will be attracted by, according to the kind of things he likes to play physically. In that way, the IoT will enable gaming developers to be inspired by players’ habits. With the arrival of the Internet of Things in the gaming industry, it has created an interactive experience via virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
The term PropTech refers to the use of technology in the property sector to improve the services across the industry, with a large amount of this is related to the IoT. As mentioned previously, the customer experience is paramount. Thanks to the IoT, the property industry is now able to provide reality viewings and monitor their sites through drones, whilst AI increases security sites thanks to data and analytics tools, to name but a few examples. The IoT will allow the customer to have a completely connected smart home that is manageable from anywhere, at any time. An example of the undeniable benefits of smart home devices is to reduce energy waste: thanks to more data coming from sensors and analysed by the Cloud, it offers the opportunity to be more efficient in a connected building and to predict maintenance. Making a home smart also involves taking standard household appliances and improving them. For instance, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Mechanical Engineering has developed a smarter, safer power outlet. If you are wondering how a plug could change your life, a smart plug is actually revolutionary for a very reasonable price (from £15). It allows you to control the device connected to it in order to switch it on or off (coffee machine, lights, speakers, for example) wherever you are. Plus, it will certainly reduce your electricity bill at the same time, making it an efficient investment in the long run.
So how is the IoT set to shape businesses of the future? We can be certain it will make a lot of everyday tasks much easier and more secure. The IoT is already present in many aspects of life and will eventually be relevant to every industry. It will undoubtedly be a motor of innovation in the near future. Thanks to this ever-growing technology present in any connected device, the data collected around the world will provide missing key information and clarify some links between things in order to make our objects more efficient.
Dimoso is thrilled to announce its appointment by Paris Retail Week for the event’s 2018 UK media outreach. Dimoso will work alongside its French PR partner Oxygen to ramp up awareness and engagement ahead of the event which is taking place on 10th-12th September in Paris’ renowned exhibition arena - Porte de Versailles.
Dimoso, an award winning PR agency, will bring its wealth of digital expertise and strong international contact base to generate keen interest from the press and media and potential exhibitors from the retail space.
Now in its fourth year, Paris Retail Week is the European global event for retail professionals; a two-in-one event suitable for both the e-commerce and physical store sectors, otherwise known as 360° retail. Over the course of three days, the event expects to host a staggering 40,000 decision-makers; 800 retail industry providers; 350 headline speakers and an awards ceremony.
Dimoso’s current client base spans widely across the UK and Europe, including fashion retail startup EyeFitU; Angry Birds developers Rovio and FinTech platform Lacuna Solutions.
Founder and CEO of Dimoso, Jacki Vause, says: “We are delighted to have been chosen to promote Paris Retail Week. We have a keen passion for retail and technology. Paris Retail Week is one of the most important events in the industry and this year is showcasing some of the very latest technology innovations”.
Director of Paris Retail Week, Arnaud Gallet, says: “I am convinced that our cooperation with Dimoso - a well connected media agency in the UK - will provide the reach and stature that Paris Retail Week deserves on a European scope. Thanks to their combined expertise in events, technology and vertical promotion, Dimoso have all the qualities we are looking for to highlight Paris Retail Week and enhance its brand awareness throughout Europe.
Together we are ready to deliver an outstanding event and we look forward to welcoming all professionals from the retail sector in Paris in September, for three jam-packed days of interesting meetings and business opportunities!”
by Davis Rhodes
Think back to 2010. The iPhone 3GS was the latest and greatest in tech; Blackberry still commanded almost 20% of the global smartphone market; and Samsung had just released its first Galaxy phone (and it didn’t have a touchscreen). It’s fair to say that back then, the tech world was a different place. The iPhone had put a computer into consumers’ pockets — how was anyone going to top that?
Steve Jobs and Apple saw a blue ocean strategy they could employ — “put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn how to use in 20 minutes.” The iPad. Detractors might argue that Jobs was simply describing a larger iPhone, but when it was released in 2010 it was lauded as the tweener device to solve all of your too-big-for-smartphone-yet-too-little-for-desktop problems. It fit perfectly between the two devices. Apple had struck gold in an untapped blue ocean. Instead of trying to make better computers or better iPhones, they pivoted and did something different.
iPads, and the tablet market as a whole, saw tremendous growth initially. In 2010 just over 10 million units were sold, by 2013 sales eclipsed 78 million units. There were an overwhelming amount of options available to consumers in the tablet market by 2013. iPads remained at the upper price point, but Android devices from Samsung and others could be bought for less than £200. 2013 seems to be the year the market hit maturity — amazing considering the market was nonexistent only 3 years prior. Between 2013 and 2017 tablet sales dropped 33% — highlighting the products early maturity and subsequent decline.
Technology has sped up the product life cycle and rates of diffusion. As quickly as they came, tablets found themselves on the way out. Faster phones and lighter laptops reduced the need to buy a tablet. Is there any space left for tablets to pivot into? Below, we’ll highlight the tablet’s biggest pitfalls and project the future of the product.
Most have an old tablet lying around somewhere at home, but is there an incentive to update it? Most still work well enough to check email, scroll social media and watch Netflix. This presents a massive challenge for companies like Apple and Samsung. Tablets have proven to have longer life cycles than smartphones and consumers aren’t upgrading tablets alongside their phones every 2-3 years. Longer life cycles mean fewer sales, and less of an incentive for consumers to get excited about new tablets.
Smartphones got bigger
The original iPhone had a 3.5 inch screen. To put the number into context, the iPhone X has a 5.8 inch screen. Smartphone screen sizes have ballooned, and tech analysts forecast the 5.5-6 inch range as the “sweet spot” in screen size. Ten inch tablet displays have become a harder sell as consumers are now comfortable watching television shows and movies on their smartphones. The “phablet” sized smartphone is squeezing out the tablet.
Laptops replace desktops
In terms of processing power, laptops are no longer a liability. In 2010, “desktop replacement laptop” was a phrase used to describe only the most beastly laptops. Today, most laptops can handle intensive programs such as Adobe Illustrator without a hiccup. Laptops have enveloped all market space beyond smartphones.
A new USP?
Can tablets find a new unique selling proposition to put themselves back into consumer minds? The basic USP has remained the same since 2010: The smartphone-computer-in-between. As previously mentioned, larger smartphones combined with more powerful laptops have all but dried up this blue ocean. In 2015, Apple released a larger, faster iPad Pro to put some distance between the tablet and larger iPhones. Novel idea, but not exactly a revolutionary pivot for the product.
What we can learn
It may be that tablets were simply a necessary stopgap between smartphones and laptops that technology has outgrown. That doesn’t mean it was a bad product — it just occupied a blue ocean that no longer exists. As technology continues advancing at an exponential pace, we will undoubtedly see more product life cycles like that of the tablet’s. Quick maturity and a more rapidly shrinking market that leads to decline — innovators must adapt to this quick product life cycle and reorient their business models to reflect this new technology market.
Tenjin’s 2017 Ad Spending Report - Facebook and Google dominate; Japanese and US markets highly sought after
by Davis Rhodes
Tenjin just released its 2017 Ad Spending Report and mobile marketers should take notice. The company has condensed its findings into six succinct briefs.
Facebook and Google still on top
The two giants continued to dominate as sources of ad spend. Collectively, Facebook and Google accounted for almost half of total spending.
United States had the most sought-after users
The United States led the way in ad spend for 2017. The UK comes in second with 7.46% of ad spend.
CPI costs are higher on iOS than Android
CPI refers to the cost per install. For example, if your CPI is $3, you are paying $3 for every person that clicks your app advertisement and subsequently downloads said app. Studies have shown that while Android users on average download more apps than their iOS counterparts, iOS users on average spend more money in the App Store. By investing in CPI rather than CPM (cost per thousand impressions) or CPC (cost per click), app developers guarantee that their money is going towards app installs and consequently their app moving up the charts.
CPI = ad spend / # of new app installs
Ad networks with lower average CPI are better at targeting
Networks with lower average CPI are able to be less expensive by finely tuning targets.For example, if you are running an advertising campaign by placing ads in mobile games and measuring based on CPI, ad networks that are able to drive installs from the smallest number of ad placements are going to be the most cost effective. This is achieved through a better understanding of target demographics. Less effective ad networks will require more impressions to drive installs and thus be more expensive.
Travel applications demand the highest average CPI
Placing ads in travel applications this past year proved to be expensive. It makes sense — travel apps have users who are spending large sums of money booking holidays and are therefore an enticing ad platform for app developers. Role playing games are second, which also makes sense considering the amount of time and often money invested by players. Puzzle games have the lowest average CPI at $0.67, presumably because they are harder to monetize.
Japanese users are the most expensive to target based on CPI
In 2017, Japanese users were the most expensive to target based on average CPI. Understanding the costs associated with launching campaigns internationally is tremendously important in crafting an effective, targeted campaign.
Impact on mobile marketing
Tenjin’s report highlights the importance of understanding who you’re trying to target. If you choose CPI as your measurement tool, be sure to understand what markets you are targeting and what mediums they best respond to. In mobile marketing, staying on top of trends is paramount. Tenjin’s roundup of 2017’s ad spending trends is a great way for marketers to pivot their strategy for 2018.
by Davis Rhodes
Technology is advanced by the “Next Big Thing.” HDTV, iPods, iPhones etc. Next Big Things disrupt the market and force competitors to adapt and emulate. But what happens to the Next Big Things that never actually make it big? Sony MiniDiscs, 3D TVs, Google Glass — each entered popular culture with massive expectations and fell short. They never made it past the early adopters stage of the technology adoption lifecycle. Market viability is time-sensitive. Consumers will only wait so long for your product to advance from concept to commercial. For virtual reality, it’s now or never.
Virtual reality and its mainstream adoption has been stuck in purgatory for half a decade. Adoption has hit a snag somewhere in-between innovators and early adopters. “The Year of VR” has been declared over, and over, and over again. 2016 was the year tech giants like Sony and Samsung launched VR headsets. For the first time, VR headsets were being embraced by well-known brands. We saw augmented reality, or AR, introduce itself to the mainstream through Pokemon Go. In 2017, Facebook launched its augmented reality platform.
Yet 2018 has arrived, and still no “must-have” game or feature for VR exists to entice consumers. Software and game development on the platforms has been painfully slow. After Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus, analysts expected it to become the industry leader and bring AAA game developers to embrace VR. In reality, Oculus sold less than half as many headsets as Sony in 2017. International Data Forecasts put headset sales at over 13 million units for 2017, however less than a fifth of sales can be attributed to the “high-end” headsets made by Oculus, Sony and HTC.
The segmentation of platforms and lack of cross-compatibility has made it difficult for game developers to confidently invest capital in VR. Developers like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts are hesitant to embrace VR until a clear headset leader has been established. Why invest millions into game development for the Oculus Rift when in two years the HTC Vive could have the market cornered? That’s where the catch 22 occurs; big game developers are waiting for an established platform, and platform developers need a AAA game to establish themselves. Who will blink first?
Messaging is another big problem for VR. Consumer perception of the technology is all over the place. Virtual reality offerings range from £2 Google Cardboard viewers to £600 HTC Vive headsets. High price points prevent many from ever experiencing “true” VR. Gamers, the target market for high-end headsets, often cannot justify spending £600 for a product without major gaming titles. Cheap, low-tech “viewers,” as they’re known, like Cardboard offer a rudimentary glimpse into the capabilities of VR. They’re good for experiencing panoramic video, but there is no way to interact with the virtual world you’re seeing. One way companies are introducing consumers to high-end VR experiences is through public exhibitions of the technology. It’s a way for people to get a taste of the experience without having to part with much money.
It’s extremely challenging to effectively advertise an experiential product — exacerbated by the fact that few beyond tech insiders have had access to the product, limiting the potential for word of mouth and viral sharing.
The challenge, and solution for the industry: get people in headsets, and the product will sell itself.
By TJ Begg
Snapchat launched in 2011 as an app that lets users send disappearing pictures to each other to communicate. Users would take a photo in the app and then choose an amount of time between one and ten seconds for the recipient to view the image. In a market flooded with different messaging apps and direct messages, Snapchat changed the game twofold by putting the image at the center of discussion and by going against the permanence of the internet. For the first time, users were able to ensure that their messages would go away, without trace, automatically.
In 2013, Facebook unsuccessfully attempted to acquire Snapchat for $3 billion. Since then, there have been numerous occasions in which Facebook has blatantly stolen Snapchat’s features and applied them to Instagram, Whatsapp, or Facebook itself. Most recently, Facebook announced plans to add a streak feature to its messenger app - something that is eerily similar to Snapchat’s analogous feature.
Snapchat blew up over the next few years, eventually finding success in adding unique features to remain innovative. Snapchat grew to allow its users to write and draw on their pictures, send videos or text only messages, and post pictures or videos to their “story,” a visual status update that would be available to each user’s friendlist for 24 hours before being deleted.
Snapchat ranks 15th in the most active users on social network sites worldwide as of September 2017 (via Statista)
Snapchat’s more innovative changes came in the implementation of the Discover tab, Snap Map, and later Context Cards. These features added new channels of communications and highlighted the app’s ability to keep up with teens and young adults.
In September 2016, Snapchat rebranded itself as Snap Inc., a camera company that was trying to get into the wearable tech market. The move was successful in helping the company establish itself as something more than just than an app. However, its accompanied release of Spectacles - glasses that enabled wearers to record what they were seeing to share with others - was a huge failure.
Snap Inc.’s Spectacles via spectacles.com
Snap has had another setback in a poor performance in Q3, but it is poised to turn the tides back in their favour.
In a recent blog post, Snap announced an update and a reaffirmation of its status as a communication app - rather than a social media channel. Snapchat’s plans to rearrange its interface by separating branded content from content made by friends is an attempt to clarify this.
“While blurring the lines between professional content creators and your friends has been an interesting Internet experiment, it has also produced some strange side-effects (such as fake news) and made us feel like we have to perform for our friends rather than just express ourselves.”
This update was posted alongside an op-ed featured on Axios in which Evan Spiegal, co-founder of Snap Inc., emphasises the fact there are no likes, comments, or shares in the app. The idea of Snapchat is not to compete against others, but rather to share life with close friends “free from judgement”.
As Snapchat continues to evolve and define itself as a communication app and not social media, it will be interesting to see how Facebook responds in its clones. Instagram is centered around engagement, so it is unlikely that it will follow the path of genuinity and rawness that Snapchat seems to be pushing. Given previous evidence, I think that it is more likely that Whatsapp steps up to mirror this approach.
With more and more social media - or communication - apps gaining marketshare, it is going to be interesting to see how consumers change their video statuses and interactions on the apps. Will Snap stories become more personal while Instagram stories turn more public? Is the demand for sharing personal videos high enough to sustain multiple pathways for so long, or is Snapchat doomed to fail with this much continual pressure from Facebook?
This is certainly one topic that won’t “disappear” anytime soon.
By Jonathan Lopera
As a father of two, I have constant thoughts when my kids aren’t around “Are they ok?” “I wonder what they’re up to”. “I miss them”. I recall a hot summer’s day in London as a young teenage boy. I offered to watch a friend’s toddler for 5 minutes at a busy outdoor food market and in a split second I lost sight of the little man as he vanished into a crowd of people. My heart sank in disbelief. As I looked everywhere I’ll never forget his father’s words to me before he broke down in tears; “What have you DONE?? I’ll NEVER forgive you!” he yelled.
Today I empathise fully with that father, who was understandably acting out of nothing other than paternal instinct. To my relief, the boy was eventually found safe and well, but it’s an ordeal I wouldn’t wish on any parent.
Nowadays we have access to a number of advanced GPS solutions that can help track the whereabouts of our keys, pets or a lost child in a crowded area to the nearest square foot. So when you combine the clever use of smartphone technology with innovative apps and products, you can begin to appreciate how companies like Tile, Trax Play and hereO2 have all helped to pave the way for a more reassuring world for us parents.
I embrace technology all day long. Not just because I’ve built a career around it but because it’s part of an evolving world that supports our, and our children’s, everyday lives. There will be plenty of people who voice their opinion on the destruction that technology brings to our world and how there were much “simpler times”. I prefer to focus on the good that it can provide for up and coming generations looking to build a better future.
Take the Duolingo app for instance. It’s renowned for incorporating gamification with learning languages that include Spanish, French, Russian and Vietnamese among others. Earning points for correct answers and racing against a clock might not be a kid’s idea of gripping entertainment, but it certainly puts the fun back into learning and, more to the point, is reflective of the world they live in. So why shouldn’t I want to be a part of that as a father? And don’t we want language skills to play a vital role in our ever more globalised society?
My parents paid for Spanish tuition when I was a boy. I reap the rewards today but GOD was it boring at the time! Nowadays we have an array of fun ways to learn languages alongside younger generations who are willing and able to understand technology that can help them excel further and quicker. For what? 99p on the app store + in app purchases? Take my money.
Hands up any 80s babies who at one time or another heard the phrase “you won’t have a calculator everywhere you go” at school?
Sorry Mr. Shields, things change.
That’s not to say that mental arithmetic isn’t an asset anymore, but there’s no harm in exploring new methods of learning through the clever use of technology.
If a scheduling app like iHomework for iOS helps my son to organise himself better at school, then I’ll encourage him to download it. If PhotoMath for Google and iOS teaches him how to formulate an equation so he can do it better next time, then get Mr. Shields on the phone and assure him that things will be just fine in years to come.
Apps and technology that support children with disabilities and/or learning difficulties are similarly cutting edge and worthwhile. Special Effect, the gamers’ charity that helps people with disabilities to play videogames, does a wonderful job of putting the fun and inclusion back into the lives of people who experience barriers elsewhere. They’ve helped countless people to maximise their abilities; yes to play videogames, but also by levelling the playing field to bring families and friends together, which has a profoundly positive impact on social skills, confidence and rehabilitation.
To me my kids are everything, and if their safety, education and wellbeing is guaranteed for the price of an app, IAP or smart-tech product, then it’s money well spent in my opinion. Tell Mr. Shields I’ll take my chances.
By Thomas Huxter
The news that Facebook has signed 14,000 companies including Wal-Mart to its official business chat app, Workplace, got me thinking about how tech – and in particular instant messaging – has once again fundamentally altered the way we work.
Apps such as the ubiquitous Slack have revolutionised intra and inter-office interaction with colleagues many miles and (more commonly) a few inches away.
Slack has raised $841m of investment and is now valued at around $5bn. Which is kind of weird to anyone who went on MSN Messenger every night as a teenager and thought the world had changed a bit more in the ensuing 15 years.
The pervasiveness of office IM has been a learning curve for me. Having come from a more traditional office environment the option of a communicative medium somewhere in between an email and a chat has been refreshing (and as we all know, Millennials really don’t like using the phone).
From the ‘Dumb PRs’ channels used by journalists to mock rubbish pitches to our own ‘Coffee Club’ group, IM is just as valid a channel for watercooler moments as it is to share a vital presentation.
And that’s its problem. It blurs the distinction between formal and informal, important and trivial. In many ways it formalises triviality, yet makes important messages feel somehow trivial.
I’ve regularly started typing an IM to a colleague before realising I should just have a chat with them. Likewise, I’ve sent emails to multiple colleagues that I immediately wished I’d created an IM group for instead. IM complicates simple discussions and simplifies complex ones.
On the flipside, IM allows us to work from wherever we need to more effectively, keeping us in constant and instantaneous touch with colleagues and clients we would otherwise be comparatively isolated from. 90% of the time it makes flexible and mobile working a non-issue (although the lines between work and home have never been blurrier).
But occasionally there are mistakes. The IMistakes:
Proponents of office IM services point to functions that go well beyond simple messaging. Sharing links and documents, setting reminders, integrating with Google Docs, automating tasks… They’re brilliant and I suspect that many of us barely scratch the surface of their potential.
Britain is a country with notoriously poor workplace productivity, particularly in recent years. It’s certainly not because we don’t have workplace tools at our disposal. Economists might argue that it’s chronic underinvestment in the economy as a whole, longer hours for less pay and working in jobs below our levels of education and training. In the service sector, however, I reckon the Millennial employee just sets a lot of store in the art of choosing a well-timed GIF or emoji.
In a few years’ time we might decide that it’s cutting edge to, you know, talk to each other again. At which point services like Discord may have their time in the sun. Until then, /giphy.
By Thomas Huxter
In-game microtransactions have been around for long enough to be a gaming staple. Any mobile gamer has considered spending a small amount of real money to ‘earn’ more lives or better items; or just to avoid watching an ad or waiting half an hour to play again.
More recently, microtransactions have inevitably made their way into PC and console gaming, even to AAA games which tend to cost £45-60 outright.
Now I don’t necessarily have a problem with microtransactions on console and PC, even where they create an element of ‘pay to win’ in a game. In my experience, the most skilled players tend to triumph regardless.
For me, a potential issue arises when people, often children and teenagers, are exchanging real currency for a chance at better in-game items.
Amongst others, this is the case for:
What unites them is that you don’t know exactly what you’re getting from the transaction, or even what the chance of getting something good actually is. You’re purchasing something on the basis that it could be a pandora’s box, but is more likely to resemble a set of items you recently gave to a charity shop.
There’s a chance that it contains an awesome Knife Skin or a Cristiano Ronaldo player card. In that case, you’ll probably run around your house yelling until your mother or significant other tells you to shut up.
That’s why chance-related microtransactions can be so tantalising – they give players with limited resource the chance to get lucky and access content that is normally the preserve of the top players.
But this is a lucrative commercial enterprise and, for it to continue to be so, more often than not you’ll have to come away disappointed.
FIFA Ultimate Team – a case study
Let’s look at packs in FIFA; the ‘jumbo rare player pack’ to be precise. It’s one of the most popular and expensive and contains, according to EA Sports “the most unique top-rated players, all in a single pack. Includes 24 items, all players, all gold, all rare”.
Awesome! Right? I mean you might not get Messi in every pack, but surely you can expect to see Boateng or Fabregas pop out pretty regularly.
Well, not necessarily. Because, “rare” is a word assigned to players which can be as low rated as 75 out of 99. And the odds of finding one of these 75s are exponentially higher than one in the high 80s.
This is partly because low-rated players are far more numerous (according to the official database there are currently over 200 rare gold cards rated 75-76 and 12 rated 89-90) and partly because EA assigns a “pack weight” – effectively the odds of finding each player in any given pack. Pack contents are generated automatically at the time the pack is opened and the associated weights may not be consistent throughout the game’s lifecycle.
A trend that’s here to stay?
This type of microtransaction makes money for the biggest and best publishers. They’re not mandatory – players have a choice whether to engage with them or not. And clearly many, many of us are choosing to do so.
But there was an interesting development in 2016 when China legislated that, from 2017, all publishers would have to reveal the odds associated with in-game microtransactions.
Does this represent an unnecessary, draconian move or is it the start of something that could see Western nations introduce greater regulation of microtransactions? As ever, there are legitimate arguments on both sides.
Making the case for greater regulation, one could argue that whilst gaming has mutated from a children’s pastime to offer something for everyone, games like FIFA are designated for ages 3+ and the associated marketing is probably most impactful amongst teens. Combine this with pack reaction videos and gleeful Tweeting from YouTubers who spend many thousands of dollars each year and the temptation is all too much.
But, again, these transactions are not mandatory. Publishers would argue that their consumers do know exactly what they’re buying. “24 items, all players, all gold, all rare”, remember? They could also legitimately state that in-game items do not have monetary value (this is true in that its terms of service forbid selling of players or account, but there is a thriving black market).
The picture isn’t clear, the lines not clearly defined. Policymaking rarely keeps up with technology. But with products like League of Legends ($1.7bn) and FIFA Ultimate Team ($800m) grossing vast amounts each year from microtransactions and platforms like fixed odds betting terminals attracting public and political interest, I suspect in-game microtransactions will face greater scrutiny as our awareness and understanding of them increases.