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.