Think children, what does it all mean?

If you know me, then you also know that I’ve been watching this UGO/1UP situation unfold with something that pretty well exceeds “great interest.” It’s a bummer about the loss of those podcasts and the people involved with them, but as with any acquisition it’s pretty clear now that their relative cost outweighed their benefits and so they had to go. I can only send my best wishes out to all those who suddenly find themselves looking for work in these uncertain times.

I’m writing here now for two reasons. First, I want to share something I read this morning on NeoGAF. A post from 1UP Editorial Director Sam Kennedy, whose job is still intact following the acquisition. It’s a very frank statement, and I think it’s something that’s worth sharing with those unwilling to read through 50 pages of GAF hate to find it. You can check it at the link here or keep reading to find it right… here:

Sam “Capnsmak” Kennedy, via NeoGAF: Hey guys, I haven’t really read through this thread — 50+ pages! — and I probably won’t ever be able to. But I did want to hop in here since, well, this is a pretty fucking big deal, I just lost almost half my staff, and God knows what sort of hate is flying around right now.

There’s no way to rationalize this for most people, and I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. My blog (for anyone that actually read all of it) was sincere — this is a great thing for 1UP. Lord knows we need some better infrastructure and backing. As for many of the podcasts and other shows that we worked so hard on — and the people that produced them — obviously, not so much. And I’m not saying that’s OK, and I’m not saying you should even be remotely fine with that — it kills me (and, to be perfectly honest, even the UGO people), that not everything could be preserved.

And I’m not here to defend this. It freaking sucks. But from my vantage point, UGO did what they could to, what I consider, “save” 1UP. Obviously, all of us would have wanted to see things go differently — most of all me, considering I just lost many of my closest friends as coworkers and employees today.

A couple of things to realize, though:

Fact: 1UP was a business that was losing money.

Fact: This economy sucks and the ad market is diminished.

Fact: Ziff Davis has been trying to offload 1UP for years.

With those sorts of factors playing against us, something had to give. Everyone loved the stuff we did, but our business wasn’t in the best of shape (see: Ziff-Davis files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last summer).

My hope in all of this, over the last year or so, was that some company would come along and be able to buy 1UP — the entire operation — and run with it. And I think UGO had actually originally approached 1UP with those same hopes.

But the reality of the market was that no company, including UGO, was willing to sustain 1UP as it was. And that includes Ziff Davis. I hate to to break it to you, but the sad fact was that there was little hope for 1UP to continue as it had been. Not in this economy. If any company out there would have been willing to support us as we were, they certainly didn’t step up.

The only company that really did was UGO, and they did their very best to continue 1UP.

So like I said, while UGO may appear like the bad guy here, in a lot of ways, they just did what few, if any, other companies would. And, from everything they’ve indicated to us, they are completely supportive of 1UP and its people. Believe me, they were in the office today and were just as distraught about the losses of any of these shows and the people.

Of course, that doesn’t make things any better for any of us. Fact is, we — as in, the games industry, not just 1UP — are losing some great things today. I’m with you in mourning. But I have a commitment from the UGO guys that they — now, actually, we — are going to do whatever we can to help these guys out and look for ways to continue these shows with them and/or to look into possibilities for new shows in the future. I’m not saying everything will be back to “normal” as you knew it anytime soon, but I am saying there should be some good things to look forward to in the future.

But anyway, now’s not the time to think ahead — certainly not for me, at least. Right now I’m just concerned about my friends. I just came back from a night of drinks at our regular spot, where lots of the games industry showed up to show their support for the guys. Honestly, it was so great to see everyone come out for the team. While a part of me is certainly happy about what UGO/Hearst has just done for 1UP — because, like I said, it could have been a lot worse — today was the worst day of my life.

My other reason for writing here this morning is to step in and defend UGO for a minute. As it says up there on the right, I’ve been contributing content there for more than two years now. There’s a GREAT bunch of people running the show there. Games editor Russell Frushtick is a salty industry dog who knows and understands the biz from every angle. He’s got solid journalistic instincts AND ethics, and he’s passionate about delivering the best content he can every single day. Associate editor Chris Plante is equally committed, and is a driving force behind some of the site’s best original content (see here and here).

Then there’s Chris Radtke. This is the man who originally brought me into the UGO fold back in November ’06. He is my own personal hero, not only for having introduced me to this “dream” line of work but also for helping me keep going all this time with the benefit of his experience. He’s had a vision for his team at UGO since the moment I met him, and through the years I’ve watched as he’s worked passionately to hold steady in the face of some pretty rotten stuff. He has a keen understanding of far more than just the video game industry and you should not doubt a single word of what he posted on UGO’s Gamesblog last night. So many people are so easily jumping on the “Die UGO” bandwagon, but you’re forgetting that there are real people in the organization, people who care deeply for both 1UP and the industry we all cover.

I wish the recently departed members of the 1UP team the best of luck, but I also wish my friends at UGO an equal amount of luck in weathering this Hate Storm and giving one of the Internet’s best gaming resources a sorely needed financial kick in the ass. I’m honestly not sure what my own fate will be following this recent turn of events, but these are simply the times that we live in. I remain loyal to the people who helped me grow to this point; that’s the perspective I bring to this whole fiasco. You Bandwagon Haters out there ought to sit and read through UGO’s Gamesblog, the great work being done there by guys like Russ and Chris. Continue fearing the Reaper, but know that UGO is not it.

UPDATE: I’ve got your related post right here.

28 Responses to “Think children, what does it all mean?”

  1. You know, the internet, the whole thing, should thank you for existing. This climate of woe over the publishing world has been dank and dark for the past couple years. Not many have understood that journalism does take effort and $$$ behind it. It’s not all just personal blogs and whatnot, so keeping a level head about things is rare.

    Honestly, change can suck, but change is better than the absolute destruction of something you love. Knee-jerk reactions are the way to go in a world where your comment on someone else’s blog can be viewed by hundreds in a minute. Hate is an easy way to get some clicks, but being honest and level will get you more respect than 100 clicks is worth.

    Thanks for deserving the respect, and know that you get it from me and the rest of us here. By the way, I haven’t forgotten that I still have your Blu-ray of The Mist.

  2. You know, I agree with you Rene Rosa. I was one of those people who posted a knee-jerk reaction. Mine was motivated over concern for the people who made 1up what it was more than any personal sense of loss. The truth is that times are hard, and after seeing GFW die an honorable death not too long ago, it wasn’t too difficult to see this as an inevitability no matter how much we resisted it. So while it sucks that 1up as we know it is no more, at least for the time being, and that EGM won’t be hitting our mailboxes like clockwork every month any longer, what really set off the panic alarms was the possibility that so many good, talented people were out of a job in the midst of a severe economic downturn. I think I’ll rest easier once it becomes clear where everyone is going, but it was the uncertainty of it all that set me off last night.

    Now that I’ve had time to ruminate on things, and have read some encouraging posts from a few of the good folks effected by this, I can appreciate that UGO isn’t an evil mega-corp, and that this really was the only option we had next to seeing 1up die completely. And while maybe 1up won’t be the same for awhile, I’m glad it’s still there in some form, with some of the same great people remaining on board to hold things together and help retain that sense of cohesiveness and community spirit that 1up prides itself on. And maybe it’s foolish, but I believe in Sam’s promise to do everything he can to pull the team back together in the future. That too gives me hope for the future of 1up. A future that might not have existed had UGO not stepped up and done what nobody else would do.

  3. i like your blog… you should check out http://www.thenoz.wordpress.com

  4. JakeTheFatMan Says:

    “I remain loyal to the people who helped me grow to this point; that’s the perspective I bring to this whole fiasco. ”

    Now try to imagine that exact same statement with regards to 1up, their former personalities and their former fan base. The difference is, UGO is still operating. Knee-jerk reaction or not, 1up/EGM is dead. People have every right to mourn. Most of the content creators, the personalities, the faces of 1up/EGM are gone. While its possible that Sam Kennedy could recreate an even better 1up.com, but the original 1up is gone. It won’t “be the same”. You can’t blame or try to belittle people for feeling the way they do.

  5. [...] The original story from Gamasutra, Joystiq’s full list of the firings, and finally, a blog post by a UGO contributor defending the acquisition, but also containing a forum post made by…. [...]

  6. geminibros Says:

    @JakeTheFatMan:

    Hey, 1UP is still operating too. There were layoffs yesterday, and very high profile ones. Forgive me for not making a bigger deal over that, but in the past two months I’ve watched some very talented people in this industry suffer through the same and without any of the outcry that has highlighted the past 24 hours. EGM is the greatest of the losses. The most talented players on that list of layoffs will find new work quickly enough, but EGM was an institution. I, for one, will miss tearing it open each month and turning directly to the back to worship at the altar of Seanbaby.

    People do indeed have every right to mourn, and I don’t think they should stop. I also recognize that a lot of the hate-spewing out there is rooted in that mourning process. 1UP will clearly not be the same after this. You’re not going to convince me they were perfect before though.

    And for the record, I never once stated that things will “be the same,” nor did I “blame or belittle” anyone for being upset. I’m simply trying to keep things in the proper perspective. It’s easy to hate UGO because they’re the apparent bad guy in this situation. But it’s important to remember that there’s no real “bad guys” or “good guys.” Journalism is a business like any other in our capitalist economy. You either turn a profit or you don’t, and if the latter is true then you’d better hope you have something valuable to offer potential buyers.

  7. geminibros Says:

    @ Everyone:

    Thanks for commenting. It’s nice to see some rational thoughts emerging on all of this, even if the dissenting opinions. As Plante pointed out to me this morning, the first page of the comments section in 1UP’s own coverage of this story offered “103 uses of the word ‘fuck'”. I’m not about to start deleting or moderating comments, but it’s nice to see that mess checked at the door here.

  8. Your post here seems to be making the rounds elsewhere, so I think people will calm down about this over time and understand everything that went into it.

    I’m sure it’ll work out fine in the end and I hope everyone finds jobs quickly. I work in an entirely different sector and some of my friends were laid off too. It’s hard now and it’s hard not to be mad at the people making those decisions, but unfortunately it’s just what happens.

    Honestly, given 1up’s lack of profit, if UGO didn’t step in there probably wouldn’t be ANY 1up and EVERYONE would be fired. That doesn’t exactly seem better to me.

  9. Well, I don’t hate UGO, business is business.

    However your claim that UGO is this great site, I’m not seeing the proof of. Maybe I’m just not seeing it but i’m seeing lots of content that is shallow as a bird bath.

    The people they let go were some of the most colorful editorial voices anywhere in games coverage.

    Of course their are going to be cuts when one company takes over another. But these weren’t cuts, this was a gutting of the companies editorial which is nominally what they’re selling and I don’t understand the purpose of supporting someone by firing a majority of the talent.

    I really feel like the unspoken message from so many of these situations to the audience is we think you’re so dumb you can’t tell between a good writer and a bad one and will come back regardless of the quality of the editorial because you want information.

  10. geminibros Says:

    @ Andrew:

    I agree that there’s plenty of shallow content on UGO, but it’s not like the site is freaking Sodom. There are plenty of other sites, and more high-profile ones, which gladly sink even further and get tons of respect nonetheless.

    See, here’s where things get sticky. I’m not about to start badmouthing my colleagues. That’s a terrible road to walk. Nobody’s perfect and we all churn out trash from time to time.

    All I’ll say to address your comparing of UGO to 1UP is this: I would agree that SOME of the people let go in yesterday’s layoffs were among the MORE colorful voices covering this industry, but IMO some fat was definitely trimmed away as well.

    I think you’re off-base in your analysis of the “unspoken message” that those in power believe “[the readers] are so dumb [they] can’t tell between a good writer and a bad one.” If there’s any message here, it’s that popularity does not necessarily enjoy a direct relationship with income. Pleasing the audience is important, but there’s clearly more to it than that. If there weren’t, this entire turn of events never would have come to pass.

  11. What I want to know, from a business perspective, if there was a way for Hearst — UGO.com, more specifically — to trial-run such popular assets as The 1up Show to see just how well it would fare with its new UGO audience, and/or if there was a way to make it profitable. Also, the buzz around is that The 1up Show was a huge, almost singular reason for many who visited 1up to do so in the first place (which I guess is a veiled insult to its editorial content depending on how you see it…), so UGO/1up lost those pairs of eyes. Perhaps the Hearst / UGO brass has a different business management mindset such that it could find ways to improve the financial feasibility of the 1up Show and the podcasts, ways that were undiscovered by the Ziff-Davis overlords. Surely, to bring on the entire GameVideos team might have cost a pretty penny, especially to produce certain video content that wouldn’t really create value — but keeping some staff to work towards building a more feasible 1up Show in conjunction with new management might have been possible. I’m not saying that this didn’t happen or wasn’t considered at all; what bothers me is the mere possibility that it didn’t happen or that it wasn’t considered, and I just want to know.

    What also concerns me is the image that UGO projects. UGO may have fantastic editorial content (to be fair I’ve never read it myself), but the first time I saw the site, I saw a feature focusing on hot babes. Before I get punched, hold on — I bring this up not to slam UGO’s content but to point to a concern over outsiders’ *perception* of UGO. Image is a very tricky thing to consumers both fickle and loyal, and I just think it’d stink if 1up’s image was — fairly or unfairly — tarnished by a knee-jerk reaction of, “OMG TITZ THIS SITE THIKN WERE JUST HORN DOGS!! FUK THEM”. It’s not the fault of anyone who works on UGO-Games’ content, but you can’t deny that there’s a concern to be had. I dabble in freelance for Gamespot, and I hate to admit that every once in awhile I feel like someone’s going to chastise me for a score I give because OMG U GOT MONYHAT FROM EIDOS. It’s discomforting, and it probably would happen if I publicized my e-mail and reviewed more popular games.

    I don’t think UGO is an enemy here, and I think that knee-jerk reactions can definitely be unfounded (hence the knee-jerk… duh), but I do have my concerns for 1up.

  12. geminibros Says:

    @ MrCHUPON: Very well put. Perception is definitely a big issue, and one the UGO/1UP brass are now going to have to wrestle with together. All I can say from my insider’s perspective is that I trust the people on the UGO side.

    @ Anyone among you who is techno-minded: So this whole personal blog thing is new to me. I see up there that several trackbacks I accepted showed up here as comments. I feel like I’m screwing something up there. If anyone would care to enlighten me in a PM, I’d very much appreciate it.

  13. I think a lot of the trouble here is that UGO’s own identity is so scrambled. It’s evenly divided between really solid content and “b00bz LOL”—between “Gaming Heartbreaks” and “Foxy Fans” (quite possibly the most insulting-to-the-reader feature of all time). And even the good content is marred by a tendency to whore for pageviews, with long lists that have only a few sentences per page. As a result, it’s never quite gotten an identity of its own, and the genuinely good stuff they feature gets overwhelmed by the icky Maxim goo smeared on the sidebars.

    So people are seeing a truly beloved, smart site collapse, and it’s being bought by a site that there’s pretty widespread mistrust of. Now, I agree that the UGO editors are smart, serious guys who won’t try to screw 1UP over. But I’m not so confident in Hearst. So here’s hoping, both that 1UP will survive and that the fired staffers can set up shop elsewhere (I’d be delighted if The 1UP Show” returns as an independent production. And… there’s always Eurogamer!

  14. nintenjoe Says:

    Okay, last night I was angry. I’ve cooled and came to some common sense but still find myself very depressed on the matter. Yes, I have to keep going to 1up because there are still very excellent editors still there(so far) Garnett Lee, Scott Sharkey, and Jeremy Parish to name the ones I can think of. HOWEVER, the reason I’m most depressed of it? The podcasts, the somewhat more personal interactions(PAX 1up Yours), etc. We got to know these personalities even more than just the writings on the site. These were podcasts that have been going for 3 some years. They seem to be going to the wayside from this aquisition. The biggest reason I visited 1up was I eagerly awaited the next 1up Yours, the 1up Show, Retronauts, back in the day CGW/GFW Live podcast, etc. These are all GONE! Editors I loved are gone and their personalities like Milky and Shane and Skip and so many others! I don’t know exactly why I would go back except to at least help out the editors I previously mentioned, as they are also amazing guys. Just the site won’t be the same without all the rest… and I don’t know if I can find myself going back as frequently as I did without their amazing podcasts.

  15. [...] Think children, what does it all mean? If you know me, then you also know that I’ve been watching this UGO/1UP situation unfold with something that [...] [...]

  16. It’s really depressing that 1up is going down. The gaming industry seems to be changing so much lately.

  17. I think another thing that people don’t seem to realize is that UGO didn’t fire anyone. ZD cleaned house and UGO picked up the pieces and then hired those they could without the intention of of a shady takeover.

    I can understand being passionate about something you enjoy but to focus all your anger and hatred on the people that are actually responsible for keeping some form of it alive, albeit a smaller/different version for now, just makes no sense.

  18. Is this how it really went down, Rene? (I’m not challenging you; rather, I just want confirmation of some sort.) From what I’ve seen and been through myself it’s more often than not the purchasing company that surveys the incoming (purchased) staff and determines who to axe and who to keep, a la “The Bobs” from Office Space. (As I’m a consultant myself, I was talking with a colleague of mine who had to do exactly what “The Bobs” did, and it freaked him out a bit…)

  19. Sam Kennedy can speak so level headed because it wasn’t his ass just shoved out the door with a security guard escort..

    No one is say that business isint business, but what we have here is corporate culture at it’s worst, showing that the talent behind a publication isint worth a damn, and that, if they could, they’d have a magazine consisting of nothing but ads.

    Pretty soon what’s left of 1up will be a tits and ass site, then I want to see how many of your UGO defenders still believe the nonsense that I’m reading here..

  20. geminibros Says:

    @ JRiv:

    Your argument is a bit misinformed. UGO bought 1up, not EGM and not the cost-ineffective podcasts. Those layoffs were Ziff’s doing and they happened (broadly) because of the publisher’s mismanagement of the property. A wider range of ads, and from non-gaming companies, could have earned EGM more dollars. Those popular podcasts also could have been leveraged better – i.e. at all – to provide revenue.

    I don’t know why changes like these didn’t (or couldn’t) happen, but UGO certainly had nothing to do with it. They simply bought a potentially excellent gaming news/criticism destination which was mired by the weight of its own fail. How things go from here remains to be seen, but I think you’re going to be waiting a lot longer for 1up T&A than you believe.

  21. So it appears that 1up has indeed remained largely the same in spite of our worst fears. The Milkman has returned, and things seem to be rolling along much the same as they did before the buy-out. So…it seems that for the most-part, our fears were premature. I guess that Rosenberg was really on to something here after all.

  22. Great blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused .. Any suggestions? Thanks a lot!

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