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Bebe Rexha to headline Sims 4 music festival

The Sims developer Maxis has announced Sims Sessions, an in-game music festival taking place in The Sims 4 from 29 June to 7 July.

Sims Sessions features two-time Grammy-nominated pop star Bebe Rexha, who will perform in Simlish, the gibberish language of Sims games, Simlish, as well as Glass Animals’ Dave Bayley and singer-songwriter Joy Oladokun.

The event is free to access for existing The Sims 4 owners, while new players who want to experience Sims Sessions can purchase the game at a discounted rate from 24 to 29 June.

In addition to pre-recorded sets by the three artists, who will appear as in-game avatars, players can buy artist-themed merchandise, man their own concession stands and camp out in virtual tents.

“Sims Sessions is the next evolution of music in The Sims”

Elsewhere, a TikTok challenge, #SimlishSessions, tasks players with joining Rexha and “some of TikTok’s most talented musical personalities” on stage for a karaoke session.

“Sims Sessions is the next evolution of music in The Sims,” said Steve Schnur, worldwide executive and president of music for Maxis parent Electronic Arts (EA). “Nowhere else can players hear and experience these exclusive performances by Bebe, Dave and Joy. With the self-expression destination that is Sims Sessions, EA will once again re-set the bar for gaming, music and global culture.”

The Sims 4 is the latest popular online game to host an online festival or concert, joining the likes of MinecraftFortnite and Roblox. IQ analysis shows that artists can reach an audience of least 750 million gamers across the top 20 online multiplayer games/platforms alone.

 


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K-pop platform Universe records 2.6m viewers for first show

NCSoft Corporation, the South Korean developer behind the long-running online video game Guild Wars, welcomed more than 2.5 million viewers in 164 countries to its first online concert, staged via new artist-to-fan platform Universe on Valentine’s day.

Universe (no relation to the ticketing service) launched earlier this year as an “all-in-one technology platform” to connect Korean fans with their favourite K-pop and ‘idol’ groups.

The app is seen as a rival to Big Hit Entertainment’s Weverse fan platform, which is home to the likes of BTS, GFriend, CL and TXT. Weverse currently holds the record for the biggest-ever ticketed concert live stream, for BTS’s Bang Bang Con: The Live, which recorded 756,000 concurrent viewers last summer.

The concert featured a multi-view mode that allowed fans to watch the acts from five different angles

A total of 2.6m people viewed the free-to-watch debut show, Uni-Kon, which was held at 7pm Korean time yesterday (14 February). Performers included Park Ji Hoon, Iz*One, Monsta X, the Boyz, Kang Daniel, WJSN and AB6ix.

“There haven’t been big concerts recently due to Covid-19, but we could enjoy many artists’ performances today through Universe,” said Daniel during the show, JoongAng Ilbo reports. “I hope today’s Uni-Kon was a gift for the audience.”

The concert featured a multi-view mode that allowed fans to watch the acts from five different angles, as well as ‘extended-reality’ (XR) virtual stage effects. The entire show, as well as interviews and backstage footage, will be made available on the Universe platform in the coming days.

 


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Game on for Czech fest Rock for People

Organisers of Rock for People, one of the biggest music festivals in the Czech Republic, has announced plans for an interactive, 3D virtual festival, Rock for People in the Game, on 31 January.

Open to anyone with an internet connection, webcam and microphone, Rock for People in the Game will allow fans to explore the festival area, sing along with both Czech and international performers, dance in front of the stage and interact with other attendees and festival partners.

The festival will act as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, the main, 30,000-capacity Rock for People event, which is scheduled for 10–12 June with performers including Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer and more.

“It is not a replacement for summer 2021, but a unique get-together in a gaming environment”

“We will move our festival to the online world for one day. It is not a replacement for summer 2021, but a unique get-together in a gaming environment,” explains Rock for People (RfP) festival director Michal Thomes. “Those who know the Festivalpark in Hradec Králové can look forward to well-known places, from hangars to the runway, stages or even RfP merch to buy. You can dance, sing out loud, go to a bar, meet other visitors and our team.”

Festivalgoers will be represented by custom-created virtual avatars, while artists including Nothing But Thieves, Crown the Empire, Calva Louise, I Love You Honey Bunny, KennyHoopla and RedZep will play short concert sets.

Despite the events of 2020, Rock for People promoter Ameba Production was able to organise some 25 club and open-air concerts, as well as the Rock for People Home and Kefírek festivals, while showcase event Nouvelle Prague went online. Rock for People, which celebrates its 26th edition this year, is sold out.

 


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Pokémon enlists Katy Perry for 25th anniversary

Pokémon, one of the most popular children’s entertainment franchises in the world, will celebrate its 25th anniversary with the help of Universal Music Group (UMG) artists including Katy Perry.

The franchise, which initially launched in Japan as Pocket Monsters before heading to North America and rebranding, produces video games and animation but is best known for its trading card game.

The classic game, in which players adopt the role of a Pokémon trainer and use those Pokémon to fight their opponents, has sold over 30 billion cards in 13 different languages and, in 2017, accounted for 82% of the trading card market in Europe.

“Expect new songs from a wide range of musicians, featuring rising artists and award-winning superstars like Katy Perry”

The company – founded by Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures – will mark a quarter-century with a ‘global music celebration’ dubbed P25 Music, which will feature new songs from ‘rising artists and award-winning superstars’.

“Of course, every party needs a great playlist, and to that end, we’re teaming up with UMG and some of the biggest names in music to create a global music celebration dubbed P25 Music,” reads a statement from Pokémon. “Expect new songs from a wide range of musicians, featuring rising artists and award-winning superstars like pop icon Katy Perry. More details, including additional performer surprises, will be announced throughout the year.”

“Pokémon has been a constant in my life from playing the original video games on my Game Boy, to trading Pokémon TCG cards at lunch, to the adventures of catching Pokémon on the street with Pokémon GO. I’ve even visited the Pokémon Café in Japan while on tour!” says Perry.

Perry’s collaboration with the franchise comes nearly a decade after her iconic appearance in The Sims 3, for which she recorded a garbled version of her hit ‘Last Friday Night’ in Simlish – a fictional language used by The Sims.

 


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Virtual concert venues top pocket money charts

Roblox and Fortnite, the videogaming phenomena which have hosted some of the biggest virtual concerts to date, have topped a survey of the main ways UK children and teens spend their pocket money.

The 2020 edition of the annual Pocket Money Index found Roblox and Fortnite, which placed first and second respectively, dominating the spending charts as people spent more time at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Minecraft, which has also hosted several music festivals and concerts, placed eighth, while games consoles Xbox and PlayStation were seventh and ninth, respectively.

The pair, whose virtual concert highlights include Lil Nas X (Roblox), Travis Scott (Fortnite) and Marshmello (Fortnite), each rose four places compared to 2019, dethroning books and magazines (RIP) and sweets and chocolate (say it ain’t so!) from the top two spots.

“The pandemic has shifted our spending online, and that’s seen with kids’ spending habits, too”

Roblox and Fortnite were also respectively third and fourth in the top things 4–14-year-olds save their allowance for, behind only Lego and a smartphone.

“The pandemic has shifted our spending online, and that’s seen here with kids’ spending habits, too,” explains Will Carmichael, CEO of Roostermoney, which compiles the Pocket Money Index.

IQ calculated last summer that artists can reach an audience of least 750 million gamers across the top 20 online multiplayer games/platforms alone.

 


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Roblox valued at $30bn ahead of direct listing

Online videogaming platform Roblox, which recently held its first in-world concert, has raised US$520 million in a new funding round which values the company at $30 billion.

The series-H round sees investment companies Altimeter Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group buy into Roblox at a price of $45 per share. The California-based company announced its intention to go public in November, and said yesterday (6 December) it will proceed with a novel Spotify-style direct listing on the stock market in the near future.

Other investors participating in the funding round are the Investment Group of Santa Barbara and, more interestingly, Warner Music Group, whose artist Ava Max participated in a Roblox album launch event in October.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Altimeter, Dragoneer and the other new investors,” comments David Baszucki, CEO and co-founder of Roblox. “We look forward to working with all of them as we continue our mission to build a human co-experience platform that enables shared experience, from play to work and learning, among billions of users.”

“Roblox has built a unique and imaginative virtual experience with a growing, loyal community”

Brad Gerstner, CEO of Altimeter, says: “While once viewed as a gaming platform, Roblox has emerged as a definitive global community connecting millions of people through communication, entertainment and commerce. And, as the world moves toward a hybrid future – where online and offline community and learning co-exist – we are proud to back a values-driven business that takes seriously its obligation to build an inclusive, creative and positive community.”

“Roblox has built a unique and imaginative virtual experience with a growing, loyal community, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to support the company at this stage of its development,” adds Marc Stad, founder and managing partner of Dragoneer. “We look forward to partnering with the Roblox team as they continue to execute on a compelling growth strategy and capitalise on the substantial opportunities ahead.”

Speaking to IQ shortly after Lil Nas X played Roblox’s first virtual show, the company’s head of music, Jon Vlassopulos, predicted a future where fans will no longer need to “pick real world or virtual [concerts] once lockdowns are over – they can have both.” Read the full, in-depth interview, which also touches on lessons learned from the Lil Nas X show, as well as the future of music and entertainment more broadly, here.

Roblox: “The concert market is going to get a lot bigger”


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Roblox: “The concert market is going to get a lot bigger”

In late November, Roblox – a family friendly social videogaming platform with more than 150 million monthly users worldwide – staked a claim as the virtual concert platform to watch with its first in-world live music event.

The headline show, by ‘Old Town Road’ singer Lil Nas X, took full advantage of Roblox’s technical capabilities and diverse, engaged user base to deliver a must-see set by the double Grammy winner which was viewed over 30m times, rivalling Fortnite’s record-breaking Travis Scott event held earlier in the year.

With fresh concerns over the coronavirus already casting a shadow over live music in 2021, IQ caught up with Jon Vlassopulos, Roblox’s global head of music, to discover how artists, promoters, venues, festivals and labels can “reinvent” themselves for an online-first future; how the so-called ‘Metaverse’ will spawn a new wave of digital-native artists; and why the next generation of fans won’t have to choose between virtual and physical shows…


IQ: For the uninitiated, how would you describe Roblox? Is it a game? A way of creating games? A virtual world? Or something else?
JV: All of the above. I’d say Roblox is first and foremost an online community where people come together to play, create and explore millions of 3D virtual worlds together with their friends. Our vision for this online community of shared experiences draws inspiration from gaming, entertainment and social media. People come here to be who they want to be, and we provide them with tools to create their unique identities (avatars).

In addition, most of the virtual worlds on the platform have been created by our developer community – we have built a proprietary, next-gen tech platform that allows anyone to create and experience 3D content, forming the Metaverse, and we have invested heavily to build the technology and infrastructure for that.

You’ve seen huge growth through the Covid-19 pandemic. Why do you think that is, and how do you see that continuing in future?
This year has been an extremely challenging time for our global society. What we’ve seen during physical distancing is that people are turning to Roblox for the social connection, play and learning opportunities that they aren’t getting in their real lives right now.

When we surveyed our community (nearly 3,000 teens responded to the survey) as part of our Digital Civility Initiative, we saw some positive trends around the use of the Roblox platform during this otherwise difficult time. For example, over half (52%) said they were spending the same amount or more time with their real-life friends via Roblox, voice/chat programs and other online gaming platforms during Covid-19. They also reflected on how meaningful online friendships can be for them, with two in five reporting that their relationships with online friends on Roblox got even better during COVID-19. Nearly 30% said parents are showing more interest in their online lives, including learning about and playing Roblox with them, and a similar number of teens reported that they started building their own games or learning how to code during this time.

You just hosted your first in-world concert. Was music always a focus from the outset, or is this something that’s naturally developed over time?
Music has been present on the platform and embedded in different ways and formats since the beginning. Our developers can access a broad catalogue of music to use in their games, and we have been adding to that recently with great licensed partners like Monstercat. There are also a variety of music-themed worlds on the platform, like the Dance Your Blox Off dance competition game and the AI game Splash: Music World, where people can DJ and create music. Splash actually did a fun collab with Tones & I before Christmas.

When I joined Roblox, mission one was to double down on what we were already doing and grow our music offering significantly so music becomes an organic part of our users’ daily experience on Roblox. We want to connect fans with each other and with their favourite music and artists in new and unprecedented ways. Getting into virtual concerts, like our recent Lil Nas X show, is a natural area of focus for us. We want to make the virtual concert experience even better than the real-world experience for our fans. I’m very excited about what we are going to be rolling out in 2021.

“We want to make the virtual concert experience even better than the real-world experience”

Will the new concert venue be used for other shows in future?
The Lil Nas X concert space was custom-built for this event, but a lot of the new features we debuted will soon be available to the developer community to leverage in their games. We do have our Launch Party product that artists and labels can use to create their own custom [album] launch party on Roblox. Warner and Ava Max used the code to build out a custom venue for the launch of her recent album, Heaven and Hell. It was a big success, with more than 2.5 million visits of the experience.

We have lots of interest from labels to do their own launch parties in 2020. It is such a fun way for the kids and teens on Roblox to get closer to their favourite artists and discover the best new music. We are working towards making the experience turnkey. For example, an artist could choose a pre-made set (ie a stage in the desert or floating in space), drop in some customised merch and then encourage fans to attend and watch their performance or enjoy their new music videos.

For the Lil Nas X event, how many people did you have capacity for?
We are a virtual platform so hopefully don’t have to think about having to turn people away from our events. We had our main concert and three encores, and the total number of visits of the experience has surpassed 33 million. Some people may have come back multiple times to catch additional shows or experience the pre-show events, including the scavenger hunt and Lil Nas X music video performance, but it’s millions of people who were able to experience the artist’s world and performances, which is a unique advantage of these virtual co-experiences.

They represent a massive opportunity for artists to reach their fans around the world and extend their brand into the Metaverse, especially during this time when larger real-world social events and artist tours are not possible.

Was it a pre-record, or was Nas actually performing live?
It was pre-recorded but presented as-live to the Roblox community. There were a lot of engaging real-time features baked into the experience that made it fun to experience live with your friends: You could dance together using custom, exclusive emotes, throw snowballs at each other, dress up in custom merch, hunt for coins, etc. The main concert featured a photorealistic motion-capture avatar of Lil Nas X dancing and singing across four different worlds that tied to his top songs: ‘Old Town Road’, ‘Rodeo’, ‘Panini’ and ‘Holiday’, his new single, which he performed for the first time during the concert.

The different worlds for each song were built using the latest shadowing, lighting, and physically based rendering (PBR) facial-recognition technologies available on the Roblox platform. The entire experience was designed to give Roblox users and Lil Nas X fans a unique way to discover and enjoy music together with their friends and connect with their favourite artist like never before.

“We were encouraged to see seven figures in merch sales for our first concert event”

What is the economic model for a show like this? Is it a straight revenue split on things like merch and other in-game items?
Yes, we split revenue from anything that is sold related to the concert with the artists and the label. It’s a net new revenue stream for our partners in addition to their current sales of physical merch, tickets, sponsorships, etc. We were encouraged to see seven figures in merch sales for our first concert event. Moving forward we plan to experiment with other types of monetisation around concerts and events.

Other virtual worlds/games, such as Fortnite, Minecraft and Sansar, have also hosted virtual shows. How is the Roblox experience different?
First, Roblox is a platform not a game – we have global scale, with millions of people from around the world coming to Roblox to hang out, chat, play, create and explore new places. They love to dress up and check out events together, so concerts are a perfect use case for us. It’s similar to the way kids and teens do in real life, where the majority of them go to shows just to be with their friends or show off a new outfit.

We think we can bring and potentially improve on these real-life shared experiences. We can make discovery of music and artists super-interactive and special for the Roblox community, delivering experiences that may be unattainable in the real world. For example, at a real concert very few fans have the opportunity to do a meet and greet with an artist or dance on stage. We can make these things happen and give our community tentpole moments and connections with their idols that they will hold with them all their lives.

Each of our community members have their own unique identity (avatar) that they take with them as they move across different virtual environments and worlds, which means they get recognised by friends. That means they love customising their look and getting unique merch that will stay in their virtual collection.

Finally, Roblox has millions of developers on the platform, so artists can create their own unique experiences or connect with existing developers to collaborate to reach their fans around the world.

What does the core Roblox user look like?
An average of 36.2m people from around the world come to Roblox every day to connect with friends, and it’s a truly global and diverse community. For example, over 40% of our users are female – this is pretty unique in the world of online gaming. Over half of all kids and teens under the age of 16 in the US are on Roblox. While our user base has historically skewed younger, we are seeing people staying on the platform as they are growing up. Entire families are using Roblox to connect and have shared experiences like the Lil Nas X concert; older demographics attracted by incredible new content.

We are focused on retaining those users and bringing on new demographics to the platform as we continue to innovate in creating more immersive experiences, introducing new realistic avatar technology, spatial audio and other new features available both to our creators and users.

“Virtual shows can be a great way to kick off a real-world artist tour”

More broadly, what do you see as the possibilities for virtual live music events in future? Do you see the trend towards these kind of shows continuing even once we’re all vaccinated against Covid-19?
Absolutely. We believe discovering and enjoying music in the Metaverse together with friends from all over the world is a unique experience that can bring millions of people together, and often can’t be replicated in the physical world. I don’t think fans will need to pick real world or virtual once lockdowns are over – they can have both.

Virtual shows can be a great way to kick off a real-world artist tour. If you can aggregate tens of millions of fans over a weekend online, you can then drive them to buy tickets for the tour. If you attended the virtual concert you could unlock special experiences at the live concert. Then, post-concert, you could go back to Roblox and have a post-show artist experience and meet fellow fans from around the world.

The concert market is going to get a lot bigger and more exciting for fans moving forward. Remember, most concerts are 18+ or 21+, and we have a large community of users under 18, so everything we do is additive. We are helping many of our kids and teens experience a concert for the first time – and no one forgets their first show!

It’s all very exciting. And as the Metaverse expands, we’ll see new forms of entertainment emerge; new Metaverse artists will be able to launch careers virtually without ever having to play a real-world show.

I think it is important to note that we are right at the beginning of a massive new industry. We are just scratching the surface with shows like our Lil Nas X concert. I have been through the birth of the internet in the ’90s and the impact it had on the music industry, then we have had mobile for the last 20 years. I believe the Metaverse has the potential to be bigger than all of them.

Artists, labels, publishers, venue and festival owners, video platforms, etc., all have a chance to reinvent themselves and capture first-mover advantage on platforms like ours. For 2021, we are looking to work with forward-thinking partners who can help us create some amazing case-study experiences that others in the industry can learn from and follow. We look forward to a future where kids can reconnect with music at a very core level, and artists are able to express themselves fully beyond what they can do on streaming platforms. Along with all of this innovation will come new and lucrative new revenue opportunities. If you have creative projects that you think would be a fit for Roblox, please get in touch!

 


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Hong Kong Coliseum created in Minecraft for C Allstar show

Earlier this year, Hong Kong digital entertainment company Kre8Lab launched The Show Must Go On, a new online concert concept designed and built inside online video game Minecraft.

Local boy band C Allstar played the first The Show Must Go On concert, dubbed Make it Happen, in August, and a second edition of the show will launch on Minecraft in late December. For the virtual venue, the Kre8Lab team designed and built a performance venue resembling the 12,500-seat Hong Kong Coliseum.

The August show coincided with the 10th anniversary of C Allstar’s debut, and transformed the band members into Minecraft avatars, while fans enjoyed the “full concert experience”, says Minecraft publisher Microsoft, including simulated ticket checks and temperature-tacking followed by finding a seat.

To familiarise new players with Minecraft games, the Kre8Lab spent three months in advance of the show crafting a ‘treasure hunt’ to recreate the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, including the Clock Tower, Star Ferry Pier, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong Space Museum, 1881 Heritage and more.

Meanwhile, brands were invited to set up virtual booths in advance of the show, with Deliveroo, McDonald’s and Reebook among the companies to take advantage.

 


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Lil Nas X to perform first-ever Roblox concert

Lil Nas X, the double Grammy award-winning rapper behind worldwide smash ‘Old Town Road’, will perform live in Roblox this weekend, marking the first in-game concert for the popular online gaming platform.

The show, in partnership with Nas’s label, Columbia Records, will see the star perform his upcoming single, ‘Holiday’, live for the first time. The free-to-access concert experience will air three times: at 1pm PST on Saturday 14 November (for North America), 10pm PST later the same day (for Asia), and at 9am PST on 15 November (5pm GMT on 14 November) for European viewers.

According to Roblox, the concert will feature a set of stages inspired by Lil Nas X’s songs and videos, created using the latest shadowing, lighting and physically based rendering (PBR) facial recognition technologies available on the Roblox platform.

The shows will be preceded by an artist Q&A at 4pm PST on Friday 13 November, with Lil Nas X fielding fan questions from inside the virtual concert venue.

Rather than a single game, Roblox is a collection of more than 50 million user-created video games (sometimes compared to YouTube, but for games rather than videos). The platform’s popularity has exploded this year, particularly among children, and now boasts more than 150m monthly users.

“This partnership is an exciting opportunity to share Lil Nas X’s new music with over 150 million kids and teens globally”

Roblox’s existing moves in the music space include a partnership with dance music label Monstercat and a recent album release party for singer Ava Max which was attended by 1.2m players.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Columbia Records to bring Lil Nas X fans and the Roblox community together in an entirely new way,” says Jon Vlassopulos, global head of music at Roblox. “This concert with Lil Nas X will transport players and their friends into the metaverse, and bring to life the future of what immersive, social experiences can look like.”

Ryan Ruden, SVP of experiential marketing and business development for Columbia Records, adds: “Columbia Records is always driven to find new and innovative ways for our storied artists to share their creative vision. This partnership is an exciting opportunity to share Lil Nas X’s new music with over 150 million kids and teens globally through this first-ever high-fidelity concert experience on Roblox.”

With the show, Roblox becomes the latest online videogame platform to host an in-world concert, following in the footsteps of Fortnite, Animal Crossing, Minecraft and others.

New Roblox users will need to create an account to access the concert venue, which also features mini-games and other activities ahead of the first pre-show event on Friday, as well as a virtual merch store.

 


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Gorillaz, Beck perform in Animal Crossing

Gorillaz and Beck played their new song, ‘The Valley of the Pagans’, on the in-game Animal Crossing talk show on Friday (23 October).

The collaboration, which appears on Gorillaz’ new album, Song Machine Season One: Strange Timez, was performed by Gorillaz vocalist 2-D (aka Damon Albarn) and Beck, who appeared on Animal Talking, a talk show within the popular Nintendo Switch game, as virtual avatars.

The performance followed an interview with Gorillaz creators Albarn and Jamie Hewlett earlier in the programme, which is hosted by screenwriter and author Gary Whitta.

The animated band last week announced a short 2021 European tour, visiting Cologne, Berlin, Luxembourg’s Rockhal and the O2 in London next summer.

Animal Crossing is the latest video game to host a ‘concert’, with Gorillaz joining the growing ranks of artists who have performed as virtual versions of themselves. Notable videogame shows this year include Travis Scott and J Balvin in Fortnite, and several festivals in Minecraft, while 2019 saw Marshmello play Fortnite, Korn play AdventureQuest and the Offspring World of Tanks, among others.

IQ revealed recently that more than three quarters of a billion people – each one of them a potential concertgoer once the live business restarts – play video games regularly.

 


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