Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary
The Escapist's Bold Experiment

Allen Varney | 6 Jul 2010 09:26
Happy Anniversary - RSS 2.0

Pitts says, "It was one of the smartest moves we ever made. We had to eat that baby - it just had to be done. Do I miss the PDF? Absolutely. I loved it, but it was a stop along the way, not a destination."

The redesign opened The Escapist site to new, different types of content - for instance, to video.

Hurricane Yahtzee

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"Even from 2005, it was clear that video was the place to be," Pitts says. "The trick was finding that one special type of video content. It took us awhile to find it, but when we did, we all knew it was the right fit."

"It" was a couple of reviews - Fable: The Lost Chapters and The Darkness - that Macris spotted on YouTube in July 2007 by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw. "We decided to start an email conversation with Yahtzee," Pitts says, "and, about two hours after we emailed him, had his signature on a contract to develop his 'Fully Ramblomatic' videos into a web series. I recommended 'Punctuation Zero,' which he hated, so I reversed it and he loved it. Three years later, it's still the most dominant videogame web series on the planet in large part because of Yahtzee's amazing talent and insight. He's the best videogame critic working today. Probably the best we've ever seen."

Within four months of its August 2007 launch, Zero Punctuation quadrupled The Escapist's traffic. Pitts says, "From there, the trick was 'How do we follow this unexpected runaway success?' The Escapist Film Festival worked very well for us. Not only did we get talent coming to us with their videos, but it attracted attention. The first year of the Film Festival we had five entries, one of which became a new series. The second year we had 50 entries and two winners, one of which [Unskippable] is still in our top three content lines. Last year we had almost a hundred entries, and the winner is a group from Hollywood.

"Today we have 14 web series; we're involved in the International Academy of Web Television, of which I'm a member; and our internal production team has spun up a successful line of video reviews and an animated series, and has covered events as far reaching as GDC and Tokyo Game Show. We're working with multiple content producers all over the world. LoadingReadyRun, based out of British Columbia, produces four separate video shows for us. Developing a web series with a guy 14 time zones away, or an animated series with a writer in New Zealand, an animator in the UK and actors in the southeastern United States, is something few people have tried. For us that's just business as usual.

"We're providing an outlet for folks like that to get their work in front of an audience and develop a following. We're the new studio."

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