Mailvox: no market for a game channel

An industry veteran explains why it doesn’t make sense for us to create a game review site and channel:

Hey Vox – There is a hole in the community, but it’s not a hole in the market. Because there’s no market for games journalism.

Games journalism traditionally offered three things:

  1. New information about games that ordinary people couldn’t get
  2. Credible reviews of games that could guide purchase
  3. In-depth features, interviews, and editorial
#1 collapsed for AAA games because the game companies now all employ large community management teams to communicate directly with their fans. They don’t need or want game journalists as gatekeepers. #2 collapsed for AAA games, too. The rise of review aggregator sites meant that gamers just visited the review aggregator rather than any particular reviewer. The pressure on game journalists to have access and ads made reviews less credible, teaching people to ignore journalist reviews and just look at user reviews. And the rise of Let’s Plays on Twitch made reviews irrelevant because you don’t need to read about how a game plays, you can watch it be played in real time with live commentary.
The result of these trends was that game journalists who wanted to do #1 and #2 had to turn to indie games. That’s how you get Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest being something worth talking about. But nobody really cares about indie games outside of that small niche. If they did care, they wouldn’t be indy. So the journalists all ended up cramming into category #3 and focusing on features, interviews, and editorial.
But here they ran into a problem, too. If you try to do Rolling Stone type content, you discover that game publishers simply don’t let their game developers be rockstar/celebrity/talent the way other creative industry does. You’re simply never going to get to talk to a game designer and get real truths anymore. And if you do manage to talk to them, it turns out gamers don’t really care anyway, because it’s a participatory medium and they’d rather be playing. The only thing that gets traffic is outrage, so you trigger outrage. But if you trigger outrage about anything meaningful, you lose your ad dollars and what little access you have left. So it becomes all faux outrage all the time. Meanwhile, fewer and fewer readers and more and more people just watching YouTube and Twitch. 
Meanwhile, even if you say “yes, we’ll ignore all that and focus on great personalities who don’t worry about ads and make money from subscriptions”, then you run into problem #4. Gamers don’t want to spend money on content. They get outraged if a mobile game costs more than $2.99. They are furious about having to pay $60 for a game that gives them 60 hours of joy. They angrily rant about DLC. And even so, such money as they have, they do spend it all on games. They don’t spend it on subscriptions. And to the extent they do, it’s clustered into a tiny number of top streamers like Pewdie Pie. Then it becomes a dry well. To put it into perspective, a gaming site doing 60 million page views per month, with multiple million-view streams per week, earning $1M in ad sales, might earn perhaps 1{de336c7190f620554615b98f51c6a13b1cc922a472176e2638084251692035b3} of its revenue from subscriptions. .
Jeremy Hambly of The Quartering has been trying to make it work, with a new site; as has One Angry Gamer and a bunch of others. No one is having any major financial success. There’s a community, there’s just no market.