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Crossing the Chasm: Is VR Gaming Finally on the Precipice of Adoption?

Posted by Josh Fortey

Thu, May 14, 2020

Blog Opener

You’ve heard it countless times: “this is the year for VR,” “2020 is finally the year that VR will break through,” “the VR revolution is upon us.” These messages have consistently reverberated over the past 5 years, but virtual reality (VR) headsets have never quite managed to abandon the hype train. There are three reasons that help to explain why VR has stuttered:

  • Hardware has often been clunky or uncomfortable
  • High cost to entry has detracted many potential adopters
  • A lack of AAA or blockbuster games, experiences, and content

While head-mounted VR displays have existed since the late 1960’s, modern VR headsets as we know them can be more definitively traced back to Palmer Luckey and the initial Oculus Rift prototype. After a $2.4 million kickstart campaign, the company would be purchased in 2014 by Facebook for $2 billion.  Since then, the market has proliferated with offerings from Google, HTC, Samsung, Sony, and Windows Mixed Reality. Despite these heavy hitters pushing the market forward, VR hasn’t quite managed to advance beyond the initial phase of the disruption cycle: “emergence.”

Copy of Crossing the Chasm VR Social Media Micrographic

Now, more than ever, we may have legitimate reason to believe that VR could finally be advancing into the second phase of disruption: “evolution.” In this phase, technology begins to gain more mainstream traction after initial bouts of early adoption and new features, capabilities and advancements begin to proliferate. Here are some reasons to feel renewed optimism about VR’s ability to cross the chasm into mainstream appeal:

Increased dedication to AAA quality content:

VR’s struggle with content has been a huge initial barrier. A VR headset is a significant investment, typically ranging anywhere between $500 to $1000. Compare that to the price of current-gen consoles retailing under $500 or a gaming PC (which on the lower-end may cost you anywhere from $600 to $1,000), and with the more consistent stream of blockbuster AAA and low-budget indie content, it’s no surprise that a console and/or gaming PC purchase might be deemed a safer bet. The high cost to entry for limited content makes VR a niche purchase for those with the appetite and means.

But there is currently an increasing flow of AAA content helping to drive device sales. The announcement of Half-Life: Alyx garnered so much intrigue that it led to global shortages of the higher-end Valve Index device in November (that retails at $999 for the full VR kit). Even now, device shortages mean you’ll need to wait 8 weeks for shipment of the Valve Index. In its 2020 State of the Game Industry report, GDC offers even more hope that game developers are increasingly tantalized by VR. While only 15% of surveyed game developers had stated to have developed their last game for VR (lagging PC on 54% and mobile on 40%), VR as a platform is piquing interest. 27% of game developers claimed to be interested in VR as a platform; this exceeded interest for Xbox’s next-gen device (albeit, at a time when few details were available and it was simply known as “Project Scarlett”), as well as Google’s emerging cloud gaming platform Stadia. 2020 also marks the year where over 100 VR games have hit at least $1 million in revenue, suggesting appealing content is beginning to proliferate.

Device evolution and access democratization

VR headset manufacturers have also remained dedicated to device improvement and innovation. Screen resolutions have dramatically improved; headsets have become smaller and more agile; fields of view have expanded, and more powerful processing units embedded. One of the more pivotal innovations in VR, however, was the release of the Oculus Quest—helping to untether VR headsets from the PC, while maintaining significantly more power than weaker mobile VR headset alternatives. The untethering of the high-end VR device was a critical moment, helping to democratize VR gaming beyond those with VR-ready gaming PCs, a significantly lower price point of $400 also lowered the cost to entry. Sales of the Oculus Quest bear this out, the device is consistently sold out and incredibly difficult to find.

Gamer interest is starting to peak

In our recent self-funded research Pulse, A Gamer’s Journey, we also observed signs of optimism for VR gaming. When asked to rate interest in different emerging gaming technologies, VR trailed only next-gen consoles in interest. The youngest gamers (14-17 years old) interest in VR is almost twice that of the interest that cloud gaming or subscription-based gaming models have.

Emerging Game Tech Interest Social Media Micrographic

While the youngest gamers demonstrated the strongest interest, we observed strong overall latent demand for VR. Of the 4,000 gamers interviewed, 23% have actively considered a VR device, but there are still some hesitations inhibiting VR purchase. The upside is that many of these barriers feel actionable to overcome. Price remains a continued challenge, even for the more affordable standalone devices. But as the market matures, manufacturers achieve greater economies of scale and competitors potentially begin pushing prices lowers, VR should become more affordable. Increasing the prevalence of opportunities to experience VR (such as in VR arenas, albeit, a significantly more challenging feat in the current lockdown environments), and continued investment in content will help overcome the big barrier of uncertainty, which is also currently blocking growth.

Copy of Gamers Journey VR Micrographic (1)

The reality of it all

As we all continue to adjust to the new reality of isolation, now more than ever, the promise of escapism that VR offers could be as compelling a proposition as it ever has been. Increasingly more high-profile content is being delivered, more headsets are entering the market, and usage statistics from services like Steam are all pointing towards a positive direction. Yet, despite this all, the potential of VR remains divisive: an exchange in Forbes perfectly exemplifies this with a May 4th article proclaiming “VR Headers Are Dying A Lonely Death,” yet on May 5th an impassioned rebuttal rejected the notion that “Virtual Reality is Dying.” While hurdles and barriers exist, this gamer remains cautiously optimistic.


Josh ForteyJosh Fortey is an Account Director at CMB, and avid gamer.

Follow CMB on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest gaming research: A Gamer's Journey | The Virtual Reality Edition. And stayed tuned for more of our findings--VR and beyond.

Explore A Gamer's Journey
Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: path to purchase, Consumer Pulse, growth and innovation, technology, Gaming, AR/VR, Next-Gen Gaming, consumer journey

Find the Truths That Matter Most in Next-Gen Gaming

Posted by Brenda Ng

Tue, Apr 28, 2020

If you’re a studio, developer or marketer of games and/or gaming platforms, you know there are evergreen customer truths in developing a successful product, experience and go-to-market (GTM) strategy. For example, applying an influencer strategy for launches. But do those truths apply to new gaming platforms such as cloud gaming, VR, or the impending next gen consoles?

Some gaming truths are vitally relevant to these nascent platforms. But there are a few new surprises from A Gamer’s Journey. This comprehensive study of nearly 4,000 U.S. gamers rigorously explored how gamers become aware, evaluate, buy, and use traditional and emerging gaming platforms.

The three implications for studios and platformers roll up to partnering and planning even closer together to deliver the best player experience and longevity for the franchise and platform. As you read the below, the dance steps are similar, which makes dancing together much easier.

1. FEED THEIR CURIOSITY & EASE THEIR EFFORT
Even though VR products such as Oculus and Vive debuted in 2016 and cloud gaming has been around even longer, gamers spend significantly more effort in VR purchase journey (and expensive gaming PCs) compared to consoles, games and peripherals.
Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 23
Within this category, comparing and researching products are first and bigger steps compared to more established gaming categories. That’s a lot of motivation and curiosity to feed!
Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 16
With so much time and effort comparing platforms, there’s more receptive ‘reach and frequency’ available to raise awareness of your game if it’s available on multiple VR headsets and cloud gaming services. In other words, if your game isn’t exclusively on a single product or service, it’s in studios’ and platformers’ best interest for the gamers, to feature available games with the core hardware or service specs—not a one or two clicks away or purely separate ads for games.


2. DON'T TREAT EVERYONE THE SAME
If VR and cloud gaming have been around for over four years, what type of gamers do you need to reach, and does it change your GTM strategy? It turns out the biggest detractors are casual gamers.

Next Gen Gaming Blog Slide 6

Most surprisingly, the assumption that everything you do to reach hardcore gamers is not the same for casual gamers. Yes, word-of-mouth is the top purchase trigger. But you can save on advertising with casual gamers because they are less attuned. However, the investment you make in providing available trials and earning solid reviews with hardcore gamers will reverberate and trickle down through word-of-mouth to casual gamers.

3. LOYALTY STARTS WITHIN
Managing your studio’s or platform’s reputation is reflected by how you treat your employees. With the movement of activist employees in high tech, gamers are noticing, and they care. When asked what is important to a studio’s reputation, all gamers (regardless of age, self-identified gender, platform, core or casual) agreed the top priority for studios is improving treatment of employees: “I’m more likely to buy a game from a studio that treats its employees well.”  This is much more important than managing the perception of putting profit before players or confronting wider societal issues.  People--employees and players--first. Now that’s a welcomed universal truth, pre-COVID-19, that will likely endure.

In a coronavirus world, one thing for certain is the uncertainty of the supply chain hitting next gen consoles’ Holiday 2020 launch timeframe and delivering significant unit volume availability.  And with E3’s cancellation, feeding and managing gamers’ expectations requires intense, dance-like synchronization between studios’ and platformers’ game experience availability.  The good news is this close partnership applies to cloud, PC, VR and mobile gaming too.


Brenda NgBrenda Ng, VP of Strategy, specializes in applying research to product development and GTM strategy and decisions, with expertise and global experience in high tech.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest gaming research: A Gamer's Journey | The Virtual Reality Edition. And stayed tuned for more of our findings--VR and beyond.

Explore A Gamer's Journey

Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: strategy consulting, product development, advertising, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, growth and innovation, customer journey, Market research, technology, engagement strategy, Gaming, AR/VR, Next-Gen Gaming

The Inner Battle Royale: Who Is The Fortnite Fan?

Posted by Josh Fortey

Mon, Dec 16, 2019

Sirens ring out across Dusty Depot. As the ground begins to shake, a rocket erupts from beneath, its pace intensifying as it scars the horizon. Suddenly, the sky cracks and blue rifts appear, rockets raining down; a meteor ruptures the sky, hurtling to the ground. The impact devastates the island as a black rift emerges, engulfing everything that surrounds it. Nothing is left but darkness­­—is this the end?

It is not the end, nor is it a Hollywood movie or HBO fantasy drama. This is Fortnite Battle Royale, the highly disruptive online video game that serves as a barometer for success in this gaming genre. This much-hyped seasonal event attracted a peak 1.6 million viewers on Twitch and a peak 4 million viewers on YouTube. The success of this event is a positive development for the game following recent reports of a 52% decline in in-game spending, lagging viewership figures and general dissatisfaction with the state of its most recent season. Live content spectacles help renew focus away from the all-too-familiar proclamations of a dying game or a dying and oversaturated Battle Royale genre, but Fortnite has a bigger problem that may ultimately destabilize growth: the image of the typical Fortnite player.

In our recent BrandFx 2.0 research, CMB interviewed thousands of gamers regarding more than 30 media, entertainment and gaming brands on this very topic. We found that for players of a game, the most important driver of recommendation is how well the most recent gaming session elicits positive emotion. For non-players, however, the most important driver of considering a game is their perception of that games’ typical player. We also found that for gamers’ who don’t play Fortnite, perceptions of the typical Fortnite player were considerably more negative than perceptions of the typical brand user for prospects of other media brands.

Fortnite_NonUserPerceptionsTypicalUser_Final_JPG

Takeaway #1: The Battle of Divisive Emotions

Among the users and non-users of any of the 33 media brands we tested (and particularly among other gaming brands such as Nintendo, Pokémon and Mario), some of the starkest differences were between how Fortnite players perceive the typical Fortnite player and how non-Fortnite players perceive the typical Fortnite player. This in spite of what is a relatively cohesive perception of audience demographics (i.e. both Fortnite players and non-players perceive the typical Fortnite player as younger male teens).

 Takeaway #2: A Middle School Dance: Fortnite On One Side, Non-Fornite On the Other

Non-Fortnite players are also more likely to view themselves as “very different” to the typical Fortnite player, “very disinterested” in making friends with them and more likely to “really disrespect” the typical Fortnite player. Only two other brands come close to this level of consistent negative perception among non-brand users across all three categories (The Simpsons and Pokémon are the other two).

Fortnite_NonUserRelationshipWithTypicalUser_Final_JPG

Takeaway #3: Converting Non-Fortnite Players

Ultimately, it could be these typical player perceptions that feed into the negative emotional association to Fortnite among non-players, in turn potentially hindering future player growth.  When asked how they imagine it would feel to play Fortnite, the non-Fortnite gamers are among the strongest of the tested brands to state that they expect the experience to be more "bad" than "good" (35%: +15% vs. media average).

While Fortnite continues to defy critics claims of the game’s death, and hold off fierce competition from the likes of Apex Legends and PUBG, its continued success may hinge on changing the substantial negative perceptions of its user base.


Josh ForteyJosh Fortey is an Account Director at CMB, and avid gamer.

Follow CMB on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, consumer insights, Consumer Pulse, digital media and entertainment research, Market research, Identity, emotion, technology, Gaming

In Tech We Trust

Posted by Chris Neal

Wed, Dec 04, 2019

In the world of corporate reputations, Big Tech companies have had a rough couple of years. As we ramp up full-steam into the 2020 electoral cycle, they are increasingly in the cross-hairs of government regulatory and legal actions.

Big Tech has lost valuable trust among customers, and the general public. Personally, I’ve recently had a lot of conversations with people who are convinced that smartphones are not only monitoring every click, swipe, and direct command, but also eaves-dropping on their general conversations in order to serve targeted ads. E.g., “When I mentioned to a colleague that I was going hiking, I was immediately bombarded with ads for hiking boots.” And in this same vein…if I’m being completely honest…I confess to putting my phone on airplane mode (and often turning it off altogether) for extended periods of time, only booting it up when there is something specific I need to use it for. Paranoia runs deep.

It was no surprise, then, when we just got back some piping hot tasty data from CMB’s latest self-funded BrandFxSM 2.0 study of 20,000+ U.S. consumers and confirmed that – yes – Big Tech has a major trust problem.Brand Trustworthiness_CNeal 2019-4

More specifically, the technology brands we covered had lower association with being “trustworthy” than our bundle of Financial Services brands, despite the financial meltdown of the 2008 Great Recession still in people's collective consciousness, and just two years after the massive Experian credit history data breach. And - yes - social media brands are taking the brunt of this "Trust Fall" of 2018-2019, but this is a “negative halo” effect impacting all of the “Big 5” Tech Brands (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft).

Like most things here at CMB, we don’t just want to proclaim that the sky is falling: we try to sort out what to actually do to prop it back up again. So, we dove deeper into our BrandFxSM data using Bayes Nets analysis to figure out:

  1. What should tech brands focus on to restore valuable trust?
  2. How does trust impact customer loyalty to technology brands in general, and through what mechanisms?
1. How to restore “trust” in tech

Interestingly, the biggest link to “trustworthy” is actually a tech brand’s functional benefits. In other words: people trust a tech company as long as it reliably makes their life easier in some tangible, functional way (see below).

Drivers of Trust Graphic_CNeal2019

Not too far behind this, there are strong links to perceived privacy & security (both as a general brand perception, as well as whether the brand makes people feel secure when they’re using it). There are “rational” ways to boost customer perceptions of your products & services as being secure and guarding their privacy, and while this is important, it is more impactful to get people to feel secure when they use your product. Factual proof-points aren’t enough to achieve this on an emotional level.

On the emotional side of feeling “secure,” we uncovered a strong link here with feeling “respected."

If someone believes a tech company actually respects them as a customer, they are more likely to feel secure when using them (vs. selling all of their intimate data to the highest bidder, regardless of purpose).

On the ”functional” side of brand perceptions around believing that a tech company’s products are private and secure, there is a strong link to believing that the company has a strong mission and values that you agree with.

MissionVisionValues_CNeal2019

If someone believes that the company ultimately has noble goals, they are more likely to perceive them to be good with their data’s security and privacy which makes them more likely to trust the company. 

This belief in the company’s mission, in turn, has strong links to overall Identity Benefits (i.e., “I feel good using [BRAND] because I believe in their mission and values, which align with my own.”)

2. How much does “trust” matter, and in what ways?

Perceptions of a company being "trustworthy" don't have a large direct impact on a customer's future usage intent, but they are linked to several other key things that do drive future usage intent. As we saw earlier, there is a strong linkage between "trustworthy" key emotional benefits like feeling secure, respected, proud, smart, and efficient. These are all important emotions for Tech brands to activate, and emotional benefits are the strongest predictors of future usage intent in this industry. Our analysis also revealed links between "trustworthy" brand perceptions and identity benefits (through privacy/security perception). As major tech companies are all vying to expand into people's everyday lives, consumers are increasingly making choices as to which "tribe" they are loyal to (and will use across many categories). At the moment, privacy, security, and, by association, trust play a significant role in their brand loyalty.

What now? If you’re a tech company, start by elevating your company’s core mission and values in media and PR campaigns. Through your messaging, convey a strong sense of respect for your customer as an individual, including their data privacy and security, because these have a greater impact on brand affinity and customer loyalty than any functional benefit a new product release offers. Consider increasingly innovative ways to give them more direct control over what types of data you can and can’t use, and for what purposes, making clear the benefits they also get by doing so (e.g., more free content or services, better-performing services like virtual assistants that can “learn” from more of your personal data). This way, you can deliver valuable, trusted information, in a way that doesn’t turn off your customers, like an ad freaking out your customers with hiking boots they don’t need.


Christopher NealChris Neal, VP of CMB's Tech & Telecom Practice, has over 20 years of experience in high tech, online, consumer electronics, telecom and media insights, analytics, and consulting.

Follow CMB on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for the latest news and insights.

 

Topics: technology research, brand health and positioning, BrandFx, technology

Detecting Tomorrow’s Patterns at TMRE Las Vegas

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Nov 12, 2019

TMRE Julie and Lori at booth (2)

At TMRE, we were immersed in a world of abundance, showmanship, cacophony, laughter, and glamour. As I checked out of the Mirage Hotel in the wee hours, I wondered why the lights weren’t on in the stunning 60x10 foot aquarium at registration. That’s when I learned that the four marine biologists on staff require lights out until 7:30am because too much light stimulation interrupts the fish feeding rhythms. As we return from another stimulating conference, let’s shine a light on emerging human and technological rhythms:

  • Detecting patterns: Is it good or bad if your technology knows you completely and holistically? We know in order to develop and grow our fan, member, and/or installed base, we need to disrupt ourselves digitally. Kevin Lee, COO of China Youthology talked about Alibaba and our other global tech giants who are shifting their efforts into our homes, cars, and offline lives so they can ‘know’ us completely and holistically. example, stay at FlyZoo hotel, and you can access everything you need through facial recognition. Even when you check out, you can just walk out. Tech giants are seeking to deliver convenient and simplified experiences, and existing data isn’t enough for these challenger brands. As our tech giants acquire entire ecosystems and categories, our data is now the currency of global innovation for a nomad generation. Amy Webb, Professor and Quantitative Futurist & Founder of The Future Today Institute and the Author of The Signals are Talking, discussed the implications of “post big data 1.0” and its fusion of digital data, cultural data, social data, and even our health goals. Her description of our voice-activated microwaves popping popcorn for us on command is pure joy…or is it? What if the microwave detects we’ve been gaining weight? Will it block our command, for our own good?
    Copy of TMRE Twitter Quote Post
  • Show of hands: Who vaults out of bed and can’t wait to get to work? Several of our hands shot up, but we asked questions of one another during the break…is it this particular job that has us vaulting out of bed? Most of us have had other jobs and have always vaulted out of bed. So, essence or environment? How can you become attentive to what is and isn’t happening to live towards the world of 2029? Amy Webb, who also authored The Big Nine, describes three frameworks of thinking patterns in machines, and in people:
    • Optimistic Framers—restless leg folks, who seek interoperability, chart theoretical future states and welcome uncertainty. They seek new structures for exponential growth so they look for new patterns in what is missing, unformed, not yet present.
    • Neutral Framers— those who have limited access because tech platforms aren’t interoperable. They drive solutions that continuously improve their system. These hurdlers rely on their system fluency to drive incremental growth.
    • Catastrophic Framers— those who are trying to improve their paradoxical world through automation but haven’t yet figured out how to reduce the cognitive work stream. Life has resulted in just a lot more work. These framers are panicking and still trying to make linear decisions for everything.

During this discussion, Amy delineated the difference between bystanders—those who cling to cherished beliefs and are unwilling or unable to see welcome uncertainty—and pathfinders—those who embrace uncertainty, charting theoretical future states, and find patterns in what is missing and not yet formed. No prizes for predicting who will thrive in our increasingly connected and disrupted future.

  • While in Vegas, I netted $40. But is that good? A classic question of perspective. According to growth strategy consulting firm Innosight’s biennial corporate longevity forecast, we need to begin imagining a world in which the average company lasts just 12 years on the S&P 500. Because that’s the reality we will be living in by 2027. Examples of TMRE presenters who openly talk about how they disrupt themselves included:
    • John Copeland, Vice President of Marketing & Consumer Insights at Adobe, described the massive pivot in Adobe’s operating model and the new KPIs needed to measure it all. Adobe underwent a massive digital transformation from packaged products ($2-3k for Photoshop, Illustrator) to Creative Cloud ($20-60/month subscription), to Creative Suite (platform as a service). This re-imagined creative journey has Adobe’s true product as a top 100 global website with 24/7 relationship support. Measurement, hence, must be of the ‘experience platform’ so it measures all 5 phases (1. Discover – free sign ups, 2. Try – download & use, 3. Buy – paid members, 4. Use = engagement score, 5. Renew – retain).
    • Monika Chandra, Research Manager at Facebook, told us that there is ‘no cruising on winding roads.’ At Facebook, she works at getting ‘closer’ to the truth of international market sizing for Facebook Marketplace in order to understand the potential for new products and business areas. Monika gave us sight into her learning process. She described her robust investigation to study with rigor, validate, and consistently measure as well as question what is being measured over time. Are we measuring C2C, B2C, C2B? And share of what? How many of us can reliably report the number of times we bought online in the past week or month? Again, I heard about the human factor of needing to measure both online and offline data to gain a fuller picture and greater insight into our audiences.
  • Changing our Behavior: From answer-centric to learning-centric: We can chart the rise of the nomad generation (under-protected, over-exposed), where data is the currency of innovation. Ashmeed Ali, Senior Director and Head of Marketing & Brand Research at Buzzfeed, says that the new game is re-ordered so now it’s “Publish. Learn. Iterate.” Gen Z is producing much of the listicles, and surveys on Buzzfeed. As companies enter the experimental stage of persistent technological recognition, the insights community must build its own unconventional instrumentation to detect what truly matters. Is the solution in the staffing [anthropologists, 1st year outs (out of college/grad school)]? In the tech instrumentation? In the noticing? In the story telling? Is it in the framing?

And it’s not just people…it is tech too. As technology like Amazon’s Alexa detects a cough, a sharp tone, a voice tremor, that next adjacent business can be spawned. In our $24B global insights industry, Prudential’s Supriya Sanyal’s words echo, as she closed her presentation with these recommendations: a) connect to the mission, b) get executive stakeholder buy in from the start, c) balance flexibility with depth and consistency, d) democratize data, even though data citizens may have varied skills, e) socialize the stories internally and externally, and f) choose your partners wisely. Continuously learn…repeat and reflect.

As the lights dim on TMRE 2019, how are we all going to disrupt ourselves? How are we enlisting people and technology to learn, unlearn and re-learn?


Julie KurdJulie Kurd is the VP, Business Development at CMB.

For more insights, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, conference recap, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation, Market research, professional development, technology