The End of The Escapist

The collapse of The Escapist is an object lesson in when SJWs and financial interests take over a previously successful company:

When people ask me how to get into games journalism these days, my main piece of advice is “don’t.” I’m really not kidding, as while I am privileged to be where I am, it’s an almost impossible path to walk given the state of the industry and the instability found within.

Case in point, a wild scene unfolded last night as long-time gaming site The Escapist fired some of its team members, including EIC Nick Calandra, for reportedly not meeting goals set by its parent company Gamurs.

After Calandra was fired, Escapist staff members, contributors and producers all took to Twitter to announce they were also leaving the site, with many of them indicating they would be working on some new project with Calandra directly.

The departures and firings essentially cleaned out the entirety of The Escapist’s video department, including most significantly at all, the departure of Yahtzee Croshaw, the voice of Zero Punctuation, one of the oldest and most famous game criticism video series, and one I grew up watching long before I started doing this for a living. Croshaw resigned, but he does not own the rights to Zero Punctuation itself, so whatever he does next, it will be without that branding. Though it’s obvious the branding can’t survive without him, even if The Escapist retains it.

By all accounts Calandra was a great EIC, and clearly inspired a lot of loyalty in those working for him, given the events of last night. Gamurs feels like yet another company trying to squeeze blood from a stone with likely unreasonable growth targets in an industry where large increases are more or less impossible.

‘The Escapist’ Faces Mass Resignations After EIC Firing, 7 November 2023

Nor is The Escapist the only place where some major shakeups in entertainment journalism are coming. It’s going to be intriguing to see how things develop going forward, as some of our competitors – who shall go unnamed – are similarly structured and are facing similar pressures, which suggests that it may not be too much longer before experiencing similar disruptions forced by the financial interests.

As to why this is suddenly happening among companies that were acquired in the last ten years, the answer is economic: the acquisitions were made with debt that was obtained at historically low interest rates. Now that the interest rates on that debt is rising, the acquisitions are no longer as profitable as the acquiring company expected them to be, thereby leading the acquirers to put pressure on the acquired companies to produce more and more money.

Once these debt finance-driven demands start cutting into the resources required to perform basic functions, and once key personnel start leaving instead of subjecting themselves to the ever-increasing demands of the new owners, the death spiral has begun and the fate of the organization is sealed.

Which, of course, is a very good thing for its stronger, more conservative competitors.