Headstream indulge in some 'Retail Therapy'

The girls at Headstream have been indulging in a different type of retail therapy over the weekend, in the form of virtual Facebook game Retail Therapy! The insanely addictive new game from PopSugar enables you to mix and match your favourite brands (including Diane von Furstenberg, Gap, Topshop, Barneys New York, Banana Republic, Juicy Couture, and Tory Burch), play with your friends, and feel the experience of running your very own high-end fashion boutique! You can create and dress up your own avatar, hire your friends (we have all hired each other!) and decorate your store as it grows. As the name suggests, this Facebook game aims to be the Farmville of shopping.

The user selects items to sell from a catalogue of virtual goods which are actually replicas of real life, in-season products from the retail partners (Naomi M actually owns several of the items from Topshop!). Players can buy any of the items in real-life by clicking a link that redirects to the designers’ e-commerce sites. Sugar says that the catalogue of items to choose from will be refreshed frequently to reflect any real world changes such as new product launches. With each new level— there are currently more than 45— you unlock new products for purchase. However, until you hit the higher levels the choice of items to sell can get a bit boring as there is not much variety on each level.

As you can see, some of us (Naomi G) are doing better than others and have mastered the art of the game!

The game has pretty much taken over our lives as timing is key! For example, when you order stock for your store you must make sure you can log-on to unpack the items otherwise they will get eaten by moths!

In order to maximise the game’s potential, it would be more exciting if PopSugar could expand the offering from just fashion items. For example, beauty products could be sold alongside fashion items to make the game more appealing to users who might not be interested solely in fashion.                                                                                                                                                                     It would also be better if you could buy products to sell in your store from other stores, so you can make a profit at your neighbours’ expense! Finally in order to maximise social media, a Twitter account solely for Retail Therapy alongside the Facebook page would ensure fans are updated regularly with news and special time-sensitive offers. For example, a Twitter update giving users the chance to buy a limited-edition item to sell in your shop would help ensure excitement levels are maintained and people are following you religiously!

Unless you are obsessed like us, users may lose interest as it can take a while to jump through the levels and you are not incentivised to keep playing by PopSugar to stay ahead of the fashion pack.

Why not have a go yourself and become our neighbours? We might even employ you to work in our shops!

Girls and online gaming

E3 2010 has seen the big games companies focusing on introducing new people to games. New technology is being released that removes the classic controller for more ‘natural’ control schemes. Nintendo have been doing this for years with their Wii console, and Microsoft and Sony are now trying to get in on the action with their new motion control devices and family-focused marketing. With these developments, the video games audience has been increasing in size and the geeky-teenage male in a bedroom stereotype is slowly becoming outdated. The industry does still have a very male image. If you were to ask a random girl or woman if she is a gamer, the likelihood is that she will say no. She may have played a game or two once upon a time, but she’s not ‘a gamer’.

The female audience has been targeted more in recent years with the majority of the ads being for the Nintendo DS. The image of a girl playing a game about animals has become pretty familiar, as has a woman playing a fashion or brain training game. Of course, not all female casual gamers are on handheld consoles. Since the introduction of Facebook applications, many female gamers (and former non-gamers) have enjoyed games like Farmville on their web browsers. It’s unlikely that this is news to anyone who is on Facebook; it’s hard to miss when your news feed is telling you that “[Friend’s name] has grown an extra large vegetable in Farmville”. It may be surprising, however, that the Facebook games audience is 57.9% female.
Admittedly, these are very casual games. This isn’t the ‘hardcore’ audience of Modern Warfare, Gears of War and Command and Conquer. Hardcore games are often about shooting opponents, conquering territory and killing monsters – far less girl-friendly activities.

One of the most publicised online games for the online hardcore market is World of Warcraft (WoW). It is, perhaps, the best example of an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). In this game, the player takes control of a character in a fantasy world that must fight monsters and enemies. Once enough of these tasks (or quests) have been completed, the player levels up and can gain new abilities and equipment to help complete more difficult quests.

WoW’s figures are impressive. Over 11.5 Million people currently subscribe to this game – more than the population of Cuba. The game also generates over $800 Million in revenue per year. Considering the game’s content, most people would assume that a WoW player would be a teenage male. It is true that the majority of players are male; however the average age is 28.5. Also, a surprising 20% of WoW players are female. It should also be noted that WoW is one game of many in a very large genre. It dominates the market with a whopping 62% share, but there are many others.

The focus of the games industry attracting new girls/women to gaming is still sensible, but so many are already playing games. So when you ask a girl/woman if she is a gamer, why is the response nearly always ‘no’? Perhaps the answer is that casual ones don’t think of themselves as gamers, and the hardcore ones don’t feel comfortable admitting it.

Alasdair Gray – Analyst
twitter.com/AlasdairGray

E3’s games industry buzzword: Social

The fact that these guys and a lot of girls too were engaging in strong communities surrounding their favourite hobby was neither here nor there. There is an argument that these were the first truly online social networks, people just hadn’t thought of the word for it then.

Fast forward to E3 2010 and you cannot escape the mainstream media or the buzz word social. It is simply everywhere and for good reason. The Wii changed everything almost overnight and now Microsoft and Sony want a bit of that action. Plus the advent of Facebook, Twitter and online social games sites such as OMGPOP have made connecting and communicating with your friends and opponents that much easier and fun!

However Nintendo clearly has a very different opinion to its Japanese and American counterparts as to what “social” means. It was very clear from their press conference that they were not going to announce a social network like that of Xbox Live or Playstation Network. Although highly frustrating for this here gamer as I’d love to show off my Mario skills online! What Nintendo were talking about though shows perhaps why they are more successful. They talked about your real life social network of your family and friends and actually getting people together in one place to enjoy their latest titles. This perhaps is where they are still the most exciting company as they are sticking to their values much more resolutely than ever before. They are perhaps still missing a trick though by not having an online network, I would suggest that we may see something when the successor to the Wii comes along in a year or two.

Microsoft and Sony, as well as a large number of the developers and publishers, are all talking about their social networks, social integration and social interaction with their user base. I lost count how many times that word was said at the massive press conferences. Not that it’s a bad thing; it’s fantastic to see these companies doing what the games industry does best and pushing the technology forward.

On the quiet side to this manic week there has been a development that not many people will yet be aware of. Apple’s Game Centre became available to developers hinting that we may well see this new games based social network arriving soon. Taking the well established ideas of achievements, gamertags etc from XBL, PSN and Steam and adding an Apple twist to only further cement the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad as genuinely serious gaming devices.

Social is going to be a corporate buzz word for a long time in the games industry, it may take a back seat to 3D or maybe even “Virtual Reality”, but as long as gamers of both hardcore and casual persuasion want to engage with their friends and enemies online and offline this is now the established standard which games have to be part of. Much like multiplayer, people will question value if their games don’t have social functionality. Let’s hope though that the developers and publishers are clever and don’t just bolt it on as an afterthought, which unfortunately will probably be what we see a lot of the time.

Samuel Hilary – Games Geek
twitter.com/samhilary

E3’s games industry buzzword: Social

The fact that these guys and a lot of girls too were engaging in strong communities surrounding their favourite hobby was neither here nor there. There is an argument that these were the first truly online social networks, people just hadn’t thought of the word for it then.

Fast forward to E3 2010 and you cannot escape the mainstream media or the buzz word social. It is simply everywhere and for good reason. The Wii changed everything almost overnight and now Microsoft and Sony want a bit of that action. Plus the advent of Facebook, Twitter and online social games sites such as OMGPOP have made connecting and communicating with your friends and opponents that much easier and fun!

However Nintendo clearly has a very different opinion to its Japanese and American counterparts as to what “social” means. It was very clear from their press conference that they were not going to announce a social network like that of Xbox Live or Playstation Network. Although highly frustrating for this here gamer as I’d love to show off my Mario skills online! What Nintendo were talking about though shows perhaps why they are more successful. They talked about your real life social network of your family and friends and actually getting people together in one place to enjoy their latest titles. This perhaps is where they are still the most exciting company as they are sticking to their values much more resolutely than ever before. They are perhaps still missing a trick though by not having an online network, I would suggest that we may see something when the successor to the Wii comes along in a year or two.

Microsoft and Sony, as well as a large number of the developers and publishers, are all talking about their social networks, social integration and social interaction with their user base. I lost count how many times that word was said at the massive press conferences. Not that it’s a bad thing; it’s fantastic to see these companies doing what the games industry does best and pushing the technology forward.

On the quiet side to this manic week there has been a development that not many people will yet be aware of. Apple’s Game Centre became available to developers hinting that we may well see this new games based social network arriving soon. Taking the well established ideas of achievements, gamertags etc from XBL, PSN and Steam and adding an Apple twist to only further cement the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad as genuinely serious gaming devices.

Social is going to be a corporate buzz word for a long time in the games industry, it may take a back seat to 3D or maybe even “Virtual Reality”, but as long as gamers of both hardcore and casual persuasion want to engage with their friends and enemies online and offline this is now the established standard which games have to be part of. Much like multiplayer, people will question value if their games don’t have social functionality. Let’s hope though that the developers and publishers are clever and don’t just bolt it on as an afterthought, which unfortunately will probably be what we see a lot of the time.

Samuel Hilary – Games Geek
twitter.com/samhilary

If you weren't lucky enough to be there – E3 covered

It has been an interesting week for games fans so far. E3, the video games expo, has been running this week in Los Angeles with all of the big games companies delivering their announcements to press and fans. Lots of games and new hardware have been announced as is usually expected from the massive event. However, there has been some interesting online social news that has caught our attention.

One of the most surprising has been the news of Virgin planning to return to games with a new online social platform. Virgin Games will enable gamers to enter into tournaments and win cash prizes. They are officially calling it “a convergence of video games, social networking and competitive online gaming.”

Games tournaments are nothing new. For years, ‘hardcore’ gamers have been playing (both solo and in teams) for cash prizes. In fact, there are already many professional gamers who compete in tournaments and are sponsored by companies (usually technology).

Branson and Co. are aiming to bring this action to the wider gaming audience. Players will be able to create a profile and start one of the supported games on their games console. Players pay to enter tournaments and stand to win cash prizes – totalling over £1,000,000 in the first year. Each member will have a profile page where they can track their games. They can also message people and add friends over the service.

Sony has also announced a change to its online service with the introduction of PSN Plus. Up until now, their PlayStation network has been free and enables users to compete with other players across the world. This new premium subscription-based service will offer extra features and content, such as free PSN games, themes, avatars and earlier access to demos.

However, there was a notable absence of a social gaming network that was widely expected to be announced by Nintendo. For now we will give them the benefit of the doubt as the 3DS has probably taken up some of their time…!

There have been differences of opinion on where gaming should go. Microsoft have focused on ‘removing the controller’ in their motion-recognition device, Kinect. Sony and Nintendo have are focusing more on the introduction of 3D gaming.

One thing is clear – online gaming is only getting bigger and better; especially with Onlive’s announcement of a year of free service and Steam still going from strength to strength.

Samuel Hilary – Games Guru
twitter.com/samhilary

Play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for charity? Yes please!

OK, so hands up who’s heard of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2?  You know the biggest entertainment launch in history… bigger than Harry Potter – yep that’s the one!  Well, our entire agency has been buzzing over the last few weeks as we have been working with Activision for the launch of Modern Warfare 2.  Did you know that our partner agency Five by Five created all the digital media across Europe and heavily influenced the global strategy?  Well they did, and because we at Headstream work closely with Activision too on their social media strategy we were called up for social media duty on the GAME for Good campaign.

To give you the back story, GAME for Good was a partnership between Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and GAME stores with the objective of raising money for the awesome charity War Child. The donation, to be made by Activation was up to a cool £250,000 and this was based on the number of unique UK players who play MW2 on Xbox Live between midnight Saturday 5th December to midnight on Sunday 6th December.  So essentially, all those with Xbox LIVE and a copy of Modern Warfare 2 had the excuse to play for 48 hours guilt free knowing that they were doing it all for charity.

To help spread the good word, we delivered a social media campaign that leveraged Facebook and Twitter platforms and included outreach activity amongst influential online forums, blogs and communities.

The Facebook brand outpost was the launch pad for all event activity and was restricted to 18+ audiences.  Within the page, fans could network and were encouraged to share their gamertag with others.  This community over the duration of the campaign grew in excess of 16,000 fans and engagement was phenomenal!  Check it out for yourself at: www.facebook.com/gameforgood

We also designed and developed bespoke Facebook tabs and a dedicated GAME for Good facebook application. This application encouraged fans to form a clan by enlisting their friends to play MW2 in multiplayer mode on Xbox LIVE at a specific time on the 5th – 6th December.  Once enlisted, the application automatically posted a live Facebook status update of the event which can be seen by the participant’s friends helping to increase word-of-mouth activity.  The app automatically added a banner to the side of the user’s wall too which displayed their gamertag and the time they were playing online so that any other friends could join in too.

In support of the Facebook page, a dedicated Twitter profile was set up @gameforgood to engage with MW2 fans.  Fans were encouraged to add a GAME for Good Twibbon to their profile helping raise awareness and increase buzz amongst the many game and tech communities on Twitter.

So how did the campaign do?  Well this post by War Child taken from the GAME for Good Facebook page tells all: “More than 1 million Xbox owners in the UK took part in our GAME for Good weekend last weekend – raising us £250,000. That money will transform the lives of children living in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones. THANK YOU everyone who took part.“ 

It was our pleasure!

Targeted approach for MapleStory produces amazing results

Roliana 1

As part of a digital PR strategy to promote a new update to MapleStory – an MMORPG – Headstream has undertaken some targeted social media activity in online forums and communities. Targeting a hard core following of Anime, Manga and comic book fans, Headstream has approached a number of online communities securing promotions and publicity around the game.

This strategy has proven to be a success with over ten key community ambassadors coming on board to actively promote the game, stimulating conversations and generating buzz around the new update.

Roliana 2

One site, Roliana has seen an overwhelming response to a competition to win MapleStory plush characters. With over 18 pages of comments and entries regarding the promotion, this has given Nexon Europe a unique insight into what users really think.

With the campaign in full swing, we can definitely see benefits of social media tactics alongside more traditional methods of promotion. Watch this space for final results on MapleStory soon!

Engaging the gamer

Gamers are among some of the more tech savvy, so it’s no surprise that their ranks were among the early adopters of sites such as Twitter. But, typically they are a poorly targeted bunch, with adverts often relying on busty females to sell products.

However, companies such as Infinity Ward and Activision are keen to reach out to gamers, and join the conversations about their products with transparent, authentic voices.

Infinity Ward developer Robert Bowling, a developer at Infinity Ward and a self professed gamer has been actively engaging his Twitter gamer followers with sneak peeks of new releases and updates about patches. This has proved enormously successful with certain trailer teasers amassing huge numbers of hits on YouTube in a short period of time.

This is the kind of approach that we encourage with our clients, talking to customers on their own level, breaking down the typical sales person vs. customer barriers and fostering conversations that are mutually beneficial. Bowling has shown how successful engaging users can be, with almost 40,000 people listening to his every word.

Experiential marketing and social media

Here at Headstream festival fever has been prolonged as we are incredibly excited to be working with Activision and Guitar Hero supporting their experiential marketing at the 2009 Leeds Festival.

We have developed a social media strategy placing emphasis on brand activation that will support Guitar Hero’s offline event.  By using digital we will further extend the investment Guitar Hero has already made in its festival appearances.

Guitar Hero’s hands-on brand interaction at UK festivals is an incredibly engaging off-line experience, and social media presents a fantastic opportunity to extend this experience.

The strategy has taken into account amplifying Guitar Hero’s presence at Leeds festival with planned activity pre / during and post event. 

Pre-event we will be working with brand ambassadors and their own blogs and social networks to create buzz.

During the event itself Headstream will be creating content that will be optimised for social media so that it can be distributed as far and wide through the social networks of MySpace, Facebook and Flickr as well as Twitter.  At the same time we will be encouraging festival go-ers to produce their own social currency to share with their own social networks.

Post-event we will continue the engagement with more content and conversations – Rock On!