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Last week, Weber Shandwick hosted Matt Hooper and Bryce Blum of IME Law, a Seattle-based law firm specializing in interactive media and entertainment law, to familiarize our staff of the many transformations occurring in the entertainment industry today. Specifically, Matt and Bryce focused on the unique role Seattle is playing in this revolution.

By way of introduction, Matt Hooper is a founding partner at IME Law who has recently served as financial counsel for a number of major films, including Lone Survivor (starring Mark Wahlberg), Everest (starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin) and Criminal Activities (starring John Travolta and Dan Stevens).

Matt began with a discussion of an untapped up-and-coming technology: Virtual reality (VR). VR is the next big step in technology and is applicable in a number of areas, including video games and films. Fresh off his time working on Everest, Matt disclosed that a VR experience of climbing Everest will be available for viewing from your couch in about a year. VR has a massive growth potential; however, the biggest barriers are cost and technology equipped with CPUs too small to handle VR.

Another trend in the movie industry is how films are being financed. Matt shared some of the new ways film production is influenced by financial interests, including how international sales agents pre-sell movie rights before the movie is produced, and how some states offer filmmakers rebates or tax credits for filming in the state. (Note: Washington is not one of these.)

The final film trend Matt shared with us is how Deadpool changed the Deadline.com film metrics by including a social media reach section. Deadpool spent 60 percent of its advertising spend on social media and has had killer box office success so far. This demonstrates the realization to the potential that alternate advertising options can have in the film industry, such as YouTube and other interactive media sites. Matt says films should develop social content on an upcoming film, see how the audience reacts to their content, and make adjustments to the script based on the audience’s review.

The Growth of eSports

Bryce Blum is also a founding partner at IME Law, who serves as general counsel for some of the premiere western eSports organizations, represented in games like League of Legends, Dota 2 & Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, along with many others. Bryce says eSports is organized competitive gaming at its finest, with live audiences, pre- and post-match shows, and play-by-play scenes throughout the competitions. Bryce calls eSports the “greatest phenomenon no one has ever heard of.”

The finals of the International Dota 2 championships in 2014, held at Seattle’s KeyArena.

Although the eSports competitive gaming sphere has tremendously increased in popularity in recent years, there are several key points to be aware of when exploring the gaming space.

  1. Organic and strategic engagement with your audience are critical in this space.
  2. There are barriers to entry from a viewership perspective, as some eSports games are more intuitive than others. Think about the difference between watching and learning the game of basketball compared to football or baseball. The same difference in ease of entry applies in eSports games as well.
  3. Addiction & gambling: Both are big issues in the eSports community. Gaming addiction is a very real problem that many face, while skins betting (wagering with reskins of characters or items in game, often offered at a cost by the game developer) is an unlicensed and unregulated practice that often preys on minors.
  4. Gender representation: Bryce stated eSports currently has a demographic balance of 70 percent male and 30 percent female. Even female champions in gaming competitions are less common than male champions. (Can you say HUGE opportunity?)

 

In my opinion, the most interesting part of Bryce’s presentation was “Games for Good,” aimed at positively impacting youth through gaming. The games task players with folding a protein in its most efficient form possible. Doing this allows scientists to create protein blockers, or antigens, which have the potential to stop diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s in their tracks. One scientist in particular spent a year trying to efficiently fold an HIV/AIDS protein under a microscope, while an 18-year-old folded the same protein in the video game in just three weeks!

To learn more about IME Law, check out their website at IMELaw.com.

 

fgAlix Spurgeon is a digital and technology intern at Weber Shandwick and a University of Idaho alumna. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

 Photo credit: Jakob Wells (Flickr)

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