Ryan Schneider is Insomniac’s Chief Brand Officer. He has been with the company since the PS2 Ratchet & Clank days.
I’ve seen many changes in games marketing and PR the last 12 years at Insomniac, perched atop my old-man porch here on the fifth floor in Burbank. We were there for the birth of AAA console community developers. We watched the near-extinction of enthusiast magazines along with the early rise of social media.
But perhaps the biggest shift we’ve experienced has been the emergence of YouTube and Twitch content creators. We’ve seen a gradual shift from press, to developers, and eventually players influencing other players on what to play through their own hosted channels.
Admittedly, Insomniac has been a little late to officially embrace this movement. It’s not because Insomniac hasn’t cared though. The truth is, we weren’t exactly sure how best to interact with content creators — even though we’ve been content creators ourselves for many years producing our own trailers, podcasts, dev diaries, screenshots, music videos and even community day events. We also were watching to see if YouTube and Twitch content creators would be interested in games besides League of Legends, Minecraft, Hearthstone, Call of Duty and Halo. Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive proved to us there’s room for games like ours to catch on with the streaming community.
That’s not to say we’ve been completely on the streaming sidelines all this time. We started experimenting with live streaming way back in the Fuse days almost four years ago, continued with Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault and even tried open development streaming with Slow Down, Bull. We learned how challenging and rewarding live streaming can be, and applied some of those lessons to our weekly in-game “Sunset TV” episodes within Sunset Overdrive starting a couple years ago. And PS4 Ratchet & Clank recently had its own Twitch stream series, hosted by Melonie Mac, to support the launch of the game and film.
While we knew the value of producing our own content, we still didn’t fully understand how to work with fellow YouTube and Twitch content creators. For starters, we weren’t sure if those relationships should be managed through our publishers. (Depends.) Did all content creators require payment to engage with us? (No!) We weren’t sure how to even refer to content creators. Streamers? Twitchers? YouTubers? Influencers? (Consensus from the folks we spoke with seems to be “content creators” so that’s what we’ll go with now.)
Then we stumbled upon a little secret… everyone, including games publishers, is still learning!
A few weeks ago, we hosted a media day event at our Burbank studio where several content creators joined us to experience our 2016 games lineup. We learned so much from our guests at that experience, along with a Ratchet & Clank streaming event hosted by PlayStation a few weeks prior at our studio.
After much discussion internally, we decided to focus more on building relationships with content creators directly. It’s one of the many reasons we love being an independent developer – we can have greater control in how and when we interact with the community at large. Perhaps more relevant, we are taking a closer look at how we make our future games more amenable to content creators wishing to stream our titles, along with players who simply want a fun spectating experience.
If you’re a content creator, how does all this affect you? First and foremost, we understand more how you prefer to be treated. We think we better understand your objectives, and your wide-ranging equipment needs when you visit us to capture content. Most of all, we know we must be flexible to help you produce the best content, treating each of you as unique producers – not merely relying on the same assets we provide more traditional games journalists.
How to Engage with Insomniac
Here’s the tl;dr part…the best way to work with us. While we’d love to be able to support every content creator, it’s just not realistic for us. We will correspond with as many creators as possible, as we try to respond to every inquiry we receive. But we have to be judicious with how we’re able to engage. Therefore, we’ve decided to focus on content creators with a minimum reach of around 10,000 on their combined social media and content channels. Videos should regularly generate more than 1,500 views per episode.
In addition, we will not pay content creators a fee to attend our events or to cover our games. Honestly, we don’t have a budget to do that. It’s also a matter of philosophy. We believe our games and access to the development team is valuable for content creators, and hope that value is apparent. If it’s not, we’re probably not a good fit to work together. And we want fans who watch streams that involve our titles to know that Insomniac is not paying their favorite content creators to praise our games. This feels like the most genuine approach.
Finally, we’ll place a slightly greater emphasis on west-coast based content creators coast since it’s easier from a logistics standpoint if travel to our studios is involved. Full disclosure: At our recent media day events, travel costs were covered for several content creators who flew to our Burbank headquarters from various parts of the US and Canada. This is exactly how journalists are treated for press events.
If you are unsure about where you might stand, please use this brief form (below!) and we’ll get back to you promptly with some guidance. You should also refer to our content creator policy online for our stance on how to properly use or credit Insomniac-generated footage and audio.
Content creators are an important part of the games community and we now feel more equipped at Insomniac to build a meaningful relationship together. We’ll make mistakes along the way. But we’ll learn… and we’ll probably make new mistakes! Especially as we head into the new frontier of VR content creation (aka, help wanted!). We’ll work hard to continually improve though. Please come along for this crazy ride with us.