Category Archives: Geeking Out

Pop-Culture Marketing: Banking on the Action

28 Jun , 2016,
Crimson
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In last week’s column, we talked about how Japan was using manga to educate pop-culture fans about their moving options.

This week, we examine how pop-culture is changing the way several banks in Japan – traditionally known to be staid, stuffy, and uninterested in the geek dollar, are selling their credit card and loan products.

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Highschool girls are probably the last thing you’d expect banks to use as their mascots.

Known as the Card Loan Girls, these anthropomorphized cards represent products from consumer financial institutions such as Acom, Lake, Aiful, Orix, Mitsui Sumitomo, Mizuho, Mobit, and Promise, and are the latest in a long, long line of anthropomorphized objects to hit Japan.

Of course, the casual otaku should be no stranger to such things, what with ship girls a la DMM’s Kantai Collection or sword boys from Touken Ranbu dominating the doujin charts and at the forefront of fan consciousness in the past couple years.

What’s interesting though, is the way the Card Loan Girls site uses quality manga style illustrations and a presentation that’s almost akin to a dating SIM to woo the geeky demographic.

Entries even list the character’s height, attributes and favorite activities (which we assume represent a particular lifestyle or hobbies that might align with a particular loan policy).

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With the website's presentation, you might think it's selling a dating SIM.

With the website’s presentation, you might think it’s selling a dating SIM. Also represented above: The Lake mascot Rei Midorikawa.

Of course, www.cardloan-girls.jp does more than just flash waifu material at you.

It aggregates details about the participating bank’s credit cards and loan products such as interest rates, maximum card limits, even participating ATMs and outlets.

The site also lays out the pros and cons of each product in a nutshell, happily helping you to make informed choices about the card that’s most right for your lifestyle, income bracket and spending habits. 

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Car, housing, mortgage, even bridal loans are discussed on the site.

If there’s anything otakus need, it’s probably financial advice and this campaign might actually be doing a pretty good job at dispensing it.

Local banks have already seen the value of tapping on pop-culture. We curated cosplay content and a manga strip for DBS Marina Regatta last year, but we’ve yet to see them embark on something quite as ambitious. Hopefully, with pop-culture emerging as the marketing in-thing, we’ll see more diverse campaigns on the horizon.

Check out the Card Loan Girls site for yourself at http://cardloan-girls.jp.

If you have a lead on a site or campaign that’s a great example of pop-culture marketing, be sure to write us at info[at]neotokyoproject.com to let us know! We’ll be happy to take a look at it, and if it is a great fit for this column, we’d be happy to write about it! 

Pop-Culture Marketing: Telling Moving Stories

23 Jun , 2016,
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Geeks have been identified as one of the biggest spenders globally. They’ve got plenty of disposable income, are incredibly brand loyal when hooked, and as creatures of the Internet, are excellent mouthpieces for your products if you hit all the right notes.

This has led companies to devise new strategies for engaging with a geek audience – strategies that we define as pop-culture marketing.

Such creative campaigns can run the gamut (we’re no strangers to such strategies ourselves), using imaginative ways to spread key marketing messages like animation, comics, cosplay, geeky displays and even memes.

Of course, such ideas aren’t something any advertising suit can come up with.

Case in point being Gumtree’s campaign depicting Cosplay Flyer Distributors that gave the local cosplay community a good laugh with its treatment and botched aesthetics. Also, a casual search on Gumtree will reveal that Cosplay Flyer Distributor is a job that pays abysmally (only $6 to $12 an hour). That’s nowhere near the market rate for costumed appearances (which is typically $30 or more per hour) that cosplayers are generally familiar with. 

Original Image: The Cosplay Chronicles

Would you dress up and slap on make-up for a gig like this?Source: The Cosplay Chronicles

Of course, that’s not to say that companies can’t come up with great ideas and great campaigns.

In fact, we were tipped-off about one from Japan just last month called Hikkoshi More.

hikkoshimore

The Hikkoshi More website is presented in a colorful and charming manner.

Hikkoshi More is a site for information on moving services, targeted at young professionals and new families (moving from town to town for school or work is fairly common in Japan). It includes tips for first-timers, articles about how to cope with and smooth over the process of moving to a new town, and even sections on feng shui and interior decor.

Helping to present this information in convenient, bite-sized bits is the page mascot Kuronishiki, a black cat, and his master Momoa (an aspiring artist). Their adventures are serialized in a series of Cat Diary strips, which serve as anecdotes for handy advice such as techniques for packing, lifting bulky items, and even making new cat friends in an unfamiliar place.

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Kuronishiki and Momoa, from Hikkoshi More’s comic strip. Source: http://more-hikkoshi.com

 

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Some handy packing tips before a move. Source: http://more-hikkoshi.com

 

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Do you even lift? Source: http://more-hikkoshi.com

 

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There’s even a strip about Kuronishiki’s origin story, where he is paralleled with the Peach Boy of Japanese folklore. Source: http://more-hikkoshi.com

 

It’s impressive to see how a change in stylistics and treatment can turn an otherwise dry and boring topic like moving into something informative, without losing its essence.

While this campaign has found success in Japan because manga is so intrinsic to the country’s culture, the use of such techniques to sell a service or key marketing message might not be that much of a stretch for international brands either.

We’ll be examining more such examples in the weeks to come, so do check back with us.

Check out the Hikkoshi More site for yourself at http://more-hikkoshi.com.

If you have a lead on a site or campaign that’s a great example of pop-culture marketing, be sure to write us at info[at]neotokyoproject.com to let us know! We’ll be happy to take a look at it, and if it is a great fit for this column, we’d be happy to write about it! 

Monniker: Serving up Steampunk with a Twist

28 Oct , 2015,
Crimson
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We’re always on the lookout for new pop-culture inspired hangouts, and the latest one on the block – the one-month old Monniker – makes for both a fantastic chill-out spot and a place to satisfy your food cravings.

With it’s Steampunk inspired decor, tungsten lighting and wooden furniture, this cozy cafe on Balestier Road is every would-be aeronaut’s dream.

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Check out the awesome atmosphere!

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The cafe is replete with shelves filled with cool paraphernalia like these sweet, sweet goggles.

It evinces the interior of an airship plying the skies in an alternate, Victorian sci-fi reality, and serves up not just hearty breakfasts fit for adventurers, but also some really amazing mains like their signature Chicken Waffle Stack ($19), Fish & Chips ($19) and Ribs ($23).

The Fish & Chips was deliciously fluffy, and scented with a hint of lemon grass mixed into the batter, while the Ribs were succulent, tender, and dripped with BBQ flavored goodness.

The ‘All Ribbed Up’ dish sure lived up to its name.

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The sea bass filet was fluffy beneath the batter, and melted in our mouths.

There was also the sinfully savory Chicken Waffle Stack – buttermilk waffles generously sprinkled with maple syrup sandwiching a chunky slice of cheese-topped chicken. It was served with a fried egg (sunny side-up), and complemented by a homemade mushroom sauce that smelled faintly of truffle.

We have to admit that the Chicken Waffle Stack was our favorite. XD

We have to admit that the Chicken Waffle Stack was our favorite. XD

Monniker also has an amazing assortment of alcoholic beverages, and their barista-in-residence whips up not just amazing coffee and tea, but also Iced Valrhona Chocolate ($7).

Monniker is a great place for a cuppa.

Monniker is a great place for a cuppa.

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Plenty of chocolate shavings and even a chocolate chunk to help with your sweet fix.

All in all, Monniker’s a great place to while away your afternoons, and we’re really excited to see what else they’ll have to offer in the months to come.

If you’d like to check Monniker out (they’re also open for event bookings), they’re situated at:

ADDRESS
387 Balestier Road
Singapore 329795

OPENING HOURS
7:30am – 4:30pm

CONTACT/RESERVATIONS
(+65) 62502433

They’re also holding an Opening Promotion, and a special complimentary drink promotion just for Halloween, so be sure to check out their Facebook Page for more details!

Fate/Grand Order

3 Aug , 2015,
Crimson
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I don’t usually play mobile phone games, but for Fate/Grand Order (mostly because the Fate series is my one weeb indulgence), I decided to make an exception.

Grand Order is the latest in Type Moon’s long running Fate franchise. For those of you who have not been exposed to the awesomeness that is Fate, well, think of it as a history lesson for otakus on crack, with a heavy dose of the supernatural thrown in.

In the setting, magicians vie for supremacy in Holy Grail Wars, with the ‘heroic spirits’ of famous persons from the past as their battle companions. These spirits are categorized loosely into RPG style archetypes like Archer, Assassin, Berserker, Caster, Lancer, Rider and Saber, and possess both mysterious powers and arcane relics (called Noble Phantasms) inspired by their real-world legends.

I could go on and on about the setting and all, but it’s really easier to just scoot over to the Type Moon Wiki for a quick look.

Say hello to Mr. Genderswapped Rin Tohsaka.

Say hello to Mr. Genderswapped Rin Tohsaka.

Now, on to the review.

Fate/Grand Order puts you in the role of a fresh recruit in Chaldea, an organization that oversees human history (it’s kinda like S.H.I.E.L.D., but with magic users).

Naturally, being the typical spiky-haired anime-style protagonist that you are, you quickly get embroiled in all sorts of trouble, and have to plunge through time to save the world.

Of course, as in all things Fate, the Master (that’s you) isn’t capable of going it alone since you know, people tend to die when they’re killed. That’s why you’re relegated to more of a support role, slinging heals and buffs while your Servants handle the heavy lifting.

Gameplay switches between a simple map-based navigation, VN style narration, and fights with some repetitive mooks and the occasional stage boss.

The navigation's pretty straightforward. I mean, you can't get more obvious than that.

The navigation’s pretty straightforward. I mean, you can’t get more obvious than that.

The story reads like a visual novel. Also, who woulda thunk your kouhai would be part-Heroic Spirit?

The story reads like a visual novel. Also, who woulda thunk your kouhai would be part-Heroic Spirit?

Attempting stages consumes AP (like any other mobile game), and naturally, you have to conquer stages to progress in the story.

Combat is simple and essentially a spin on the Rock, Paper, Scissors (and in this case also Lizard and Spock) system, coupled with match-3 elements.

You can check out how the Servant classes interact by clicking on Menu. You can also select Menu if you want to Flee the battle.

Check out how Servant classes interact by clicking on Menu. You can also select Menu if you want to Flee the battle.

Each Servant has a predetermined pool of color-coded cards determined by their class, which contain Arts (Blue), Buster (Red) and Quick (Green) moves.

Check out your Servant's status screen to find out what Attack cards he has.

Check out a Servant’s status screen to find out what attacks they possess. Building a team with good synergies can go a long way.

In a nutshell, Arts cards increase the Servant’s NP (Noble Phantasm) gauge, which allows them to pull off their special attacks, Buster cards inflict a large amount of physical damage, and Quick cards add to your Critical chance in the following round, allowing for bigger numbers on a successful hit.

Each round, the game pulls five cards, and after making tactical decisions such as using Servant abilities or Master buffs, you can lock in three of the five cards to form an attack chain.

Plan your moves before you hit the Attack button, because there's no way to go back. Luckily, the cards you're dealt each turn are displayed prominently.

Plan your moves before you hit the Attack button, because there’s no way to go back. Luckily, the cards you’re dealt each turn are displayed prominently.

Chaining the same type of moves can grant a stronger effect (a successful Arts chain fills the NP gauge of all Servants participating in that attack by 20%, for example), while chaining three attacks by the same Servant (by picking 3 similar portraits rather than move types) grants an extra attack. You can combine both move chains and Servant chains for even greater effect, but such occurrences tend to be rare.

Filling up a Servant’s Noble Phantasm gauge lets you use their special attack. These stronger moves also fall under the Arts, Buster, or Quick categories, so chain them strategically to take down difficult enemies.  Each Noble Phantasm activation also comes with animation and cut-ins, so Fate fanboys who’ve always wondered how some of these attacks look like, rejoice.

Darius III's Noble Phantasm - who doesn't want to be trampled by demonic elephants and hordes of undead?

Darius III’s Noble Phantasm – Athanaton Ten Thousand. Who doesn’t want to be trampled by elephanthulhu and hordes of the undead?

There are currently 59 Servants and 36 Mystic Codes (called Craft Essences in the game) to be collected, and rolling for them is done lottery style through the Grand Summon interface.

These Servants include fan favorites like Arturia, Cu Chulainn and Gilgamesh, as well as brand new ones created just for Grand Order. Nasuverse followers will also recognize Mystic Codes such as the Black Keys, the Kaleidoscope and Rin’s pendant in the Craft Essence pool.

You get a free low-tier summon each day, which may result in a 1-star, 2-star (or extremely rarely) 3-star unit or item. You can also make additional low-tier summons with Friend Points acquired from fighting alongsideton your contact list.

Spend more in-game currency, why don't you?

Making ten premium pulls with 40 Saint Quartz has a guaranteed chance for a 4-star unit or item, so spend more in-game currency, why don’t you?

Expending Saint Quartz (acquired through completing objectives and stages or through real money microtransactions), by comparison, guarantees a 3-star or higher unit.

The cost is fairly prohibitive though, and with the very iffy RNG system (I’ve been rolling more Craft Essences than I have Servants), you’re better off saving them till later when the game gets patched and things become a little more stable.

I-it's not like my Luck stat is E rank or anything right? Right? ><;;

These pulls. T_T I-it’s not like my Luck stat is E rank or anything right? Right? ><;;

Needless to say, this means that while the game has it going with the story, the biggest woes plaguing it right now are all design related.

Fights tend to be repetitive and lacking in variety, the recharge rate for AP is tediously slow (which reduces replay value), and Servant balance is questionable at best.

For example, I’ve pulled some really abysmal 4-star Servants, while most 5-star ones I’ve seen are insanely overpowered, with ridiculous parameters and abilities. 1-star and 2-star Servants, by comparison, are little better than chump blockers and the same disparity applies to Craft Essences as well.

She sure can pull off that dress, but seriously, most underwhelming 4-star unit ever.

Sure, she can pull off that dress, but seriously, most underwhelming 4-star unit ever.

This, of course, begs the question – could the game have been tested more rigorously before release? It’d have definitely mitigated the slew of QQing the devs are seeing on social media to say the least.

Fixing these problems in the first few weeks will be crucial, since player satisfaction and retention pretty much makes or breaks mobile games.

Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if this title manages to take off once the teething pains are over.

While the system lacks in polish, the game is faithful to, and builds upon, the source material. It documents several Holy Grail Wars that never made it onto the small screen, and that’s sure to whet any fan’s appetite. The art is generally pretty, the animation smooth, and the sheer number of new Servants makes for more story and waifu (or husbando) potential. 

Fate/Grand Order is currently gated for Japan (to keep us ignorant gaijin types out), but we all know dedicated fans will find a way. It’s also unlikely that there will ever be an English port, but the game’s intuitive enough that you can manage without knowledge of moon runes. 

Final Verdict: 3.5/5

For more information about the game, check out the Official Site at: http://www.fate-go.jp.

Event Alert: Gundam Docks at Singapore

7 May , 2015,
Crimson
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Gundam Docks at Singapore - Image 1 (Photo credit © SOTSU・SUNRISE)

Photo credit © SOTSU・SUNRISE

If you’re a fan of the Gundam franchise, then you’re in for a treat.

Come June, Bandai Namco Asia and Takashima Department Store will be holding Gundam Docks at Singapore, a 4,000 sqm showcase featuring more than 200 Gundam plamo at Takashimaya Square, B2 and the Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza.

There will also be two 6 meter tall sculptures – Amuro Ray’s iconic RX-78-2 and Char’s Zaku (which goes three times faster) on display. These 1:3 scale statues are the centerpieces for a daily multimedia light show that will bring the dramatic conflict between the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation to life.

Collectors can also expect to purchase exclusive plamo kits from more than 10 stores in the Civic Plaza, and indulge in their love for Gundam.

Admission for the exhibition is free, and the exhibition will open from 10am to 9.30pm daily. For more updates and details on the exhibition, check out www.gundamdocks.sg.

 

REG in Singapore Vol. 9: More immersive than ever!

4 May , 2015,
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If you’ve been following some of our posts about Real Escape Game in Singapore‘s events, then you’ll know we’re suckers for immersive reality games.

Vivid Creations and SCRAP, the creators of Real Escape Game in Japan, first teased their plans for an island-wide event sometime last year during the press preview for their Shingeki no Kyojin inspired REG, and we’re really glad to know that their latest adventure – Escape from the Conspiracy – will turn the entirety of Singapore’s downtown and heritage belt into a puzzle-lover’s playground!

Check out the trailer below:

Games will run every weekend in June 2015, and get this – there is no time limit! This means that you can play as long as you want and take as long as you want, so long as you’re done within the day.

If you’re interested, check out their ticketing information and website below:

Escape from The Conspiracy

VENUE: Singapore Art Museum (Briefing Location)

DATES: Every Saturday and Sunday in June 2015

TIME: 11:00, 12:00, 13:00 (Game Briefing)

TICKET PRICING:

Limited Early Bird (Single): $22 | Limited Early Bird (Group of 6): $120 | Standard Online (Single): $27 | Standard Online (Group of 6): $150 | At‐the‐door: $30 |
For block / corporate booking, please contact us at 6522‐0527 or shihui@vivid-creations.biz
Tickets are available on PEATIX platforms: http://reg-theconspiracy-day1.peatix.com (Day 1)
For updates and more information, visit our website: http://www.realegame.sg
• No time limit.
• All sessions are conducted in English.

Real Escape Game Vol. 6: Escape From the Moon Base

25 May , 2014,
Crimson
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If you’ve been following the great folks at Real Escape Game in Singapore, you’ll know that they’ve been doing some pretty amazing stuff. These guys popularized Escape the Room games in Singapore, and in just a couple weeks, will be returning with a sixth installment in their line-up.

Dubbed Escape From the Moon Base, this iteration will put players in the role of survivors in a space station disaster, who will have to race against time to complete challenging math, logic, linguistics and visual puzzles before air runs out.

If you’d like to play, here are the details:

Real Escape Game Vol. 6: Escape From the Moon Base

Venue: National Design Center

Dates: 7, 8, 14, 15 June 2014

Session Timings: 

7 JUNE 2014 – 13:00 | 15:30 | 18:30 | 21:00
8 JUNE 2014 – 11:00 | 14:00 | 16:30 | 19:30
14 JUNE 2014 – 11:00 | 14:00 | 16:30 | 19:30
15 JUNE 2014 – 11:00 | 14:00 | 16:30 | 19:30

TICKET PRICING: Limited Early Bird: $22 | Standard: $27 | At‐the‐door: $30

Tickets can be purchased from SISTIC here, and prices listed exclude SISTIC charges.

If you’d like to find out more, be sure to check out the official Real Escape Game in Singapore Facebook page, or email them here for more information. 

The Red & Black Halloween Masquerade

14 Oct , 2013,
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halloweenparty

We’ll be organizing a Halloween party at *SCAPE, so do join us if you’re interested!
Be sure to check out our event page on Facebook (just click on the image above)!

Anatomy of a Photo shoot: Kerrigan & Nova

5 May , 2013,
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Working with a company that you’ve fanboyed over is a geek’s dream come true.

In March  this was made reality when our team, together with our friends from The Art of Mezame, collaborated with Razer to create a series of images featuring Angelus’s Kerrigan and Jazion’s Nova cosplay together with Razer’s new StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm inspired gaming peripherals.

The team also got to play with the Razer Blade gaming laptop and Razer Edge gaming tablet, and the experience was pure heaven!

Nova and Kerrigan fight over phat Razer lewt!

It’s no secret that Angelus and Jazion were working on StarCraft costumes.

For Angelus, creating Kerrigan was both a challenge and an homage. The Queen of Blades was strong and independent, exactly the sort of heroine she aspired to be. What’s more, this was an opportunity for Angelus to step out of her comfort zone – to try her hand at creating a fully organic suit out of latex and silicone.

Nova’s tale was the catalyst for Jazion’s love affair with creative writing, and recreating the costume was a tribute to the psychic assassin that’s been her inspiration since childhood. Nova was also her most ambitious project to date, and a first when it came to experimenting with fresh techniques and materials.

*          *          *

Sci-fi is probably one of the hardest genres to shoot in Singapore. No matter how you frame it or light it, Singapore is still pretty much an urban sprawl with limited spaces that can evince the look and feel of a space port, an alien planet, or simply something that’s completely out of this world.

Our first choice for a venue, the gallery at Marina Barrage, was a no-go because they’d had bad run-ins with cosplayers in the past. That got us scrambling for a new shoot location, which was a warehouse in the East.

Dat excavator shot. :3

Turned out the warehouse was perfect!

There was enough heavy machinery and scrap lying around to simulate the interior of a ruined Terran depot, power so we didn’t need to lug batteries around for the lights, and get this, a frickin’ excavator so we could try something really cool and crazy.

Shooting two psychics in battle isn’t as easy as it looks!

Getting that top down shot.

“We experimented a lot with lighting, shadows and space manipulation to recreate a battle between these [iconic] StarCraft heroes. – Mezame, photographer and art director”

Mezame was a gamer too, so we knew we were in good hands. It’s also amazing just how he managed to achieve the things he did with just three LED  lamps, two flashes, and some filters.

Putting all the elements in the scene together.

And here’s how the final shot turned out.

We also used lots and lots of baby powder and spray bottles filled with water to create mists that simulated the psionic effects, which turned out pretty cool!

Overall, we’re really happy with how the shoot turned out, and grateful for Razer’s patronage. It truly was an honor to work with such a prestigious and established brand on this project!

Check out the rest of the shots in our gallery on Facebook here!

Also, don’t forget to visit The Art of Mezame. We’ll be collaborating with them on another project pretty soon too, and that’s gonna take place end May, so keep your eyes peeled!

You can also take a look at the images used on the official Razer page here.

We’d like to thank The Art of Mezame for the behind-the-scenes pictures used in this post. 

Happy birthday to us!

1 Jan , 2013,
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It’s 1 Jan 2013, and it’s our birthday!

This site was founded on New Year’s Day two years ago, and thanks to everyone’s support, we’ve grown exponentially from being just a humble cosplay blog into a pretty successful community events and media start-up!

Yes, 2012 was a super exciting year for us to be sure.

We organized International Cosplay Day Singapore, our very first fully featured con in August with the super awesome Yaya Han as one of our guests-of-honor, collaborated with Fish & Co. Singapore and RobotsGoneBad to run Singapore’s first Cosplay Zombie Walk for Halloween, and with Make-A-Wish Foundation for their flag day earlier this year.

2012 saw us producing and directing Singapore’s Annual Cosplay Chess again, and this time, we upped the ante with stage ninjas and a bigger set. NTP was also nominated for the Singapore Blog Awards (we didn’t get a prize, but we sure made a lot of new friends in the blogging community), appeared on national TV a couple times, made the press, and did pretty well at various competitions.

On the international front, we’ve started collaborating with correspondents from around the globe, to bring better event coverage and cosplay know-how to you. We’ve got a five figure readership from 19 countries around the world now, so we want to do our best!

We expanded our team in 2012, and we’re looking to expand it even more in 2013.

Also, because we’re actually pretty big on gaming here at NTP, expect us to write a whole lot more on gaming on top of the fun cosplay things we do. We’ll also be making more gaming related costumes this year, and for a start, look out for something cool come March 2013!

So once again, thank you all for a great year, and here’s to a great year ahead!