The Escapist Magazine site has been around for a good while but it looks like it won’t be around much longer. They used to be well regarded, as an online magazine with lots of gaming new, comics, editorials and videos.
Yesterday they posted an open letter to all readers. In it they say “As many of you may have noticed by now, there hasn’t been much staff interaction over the last few months. It is with regret that, to our knowledge, that all paid staff have been relieved of their duties, with the apparent exception of Yahtzee, The Escapist’s streaming staff, and Encaen for a few contracted hours a month. We won’t beat around the bush, it is a serious situation. We can’t promise that The Escapist will last forever; it may have years left in it, or it may disappear tomorrow. What we can say is we will do our utmost to keep this site running in an orderly fashion, for as long as it stays online. That said, nearly everything that it does is through volunteer efforts.”
Such an extreme measure does come as a surprise but I think it’s optimistic to say they have years left. The Escapist has been on a downward spiral for a while now.
They have a real problem with keeping people coming back to make content. Zero Punctuation is likely only still going because they own the brand and Yahtzee’s short videos wouldn’t do well on YouTube, with their algorithms favouring longer videos. Jim Sterling got his start on the Escapist but left due to fears of them having too much influence on his content.
He is quoted as having said: “I’ve always considered myself fortunate enough to maintain a lot of distance between myself as a content creator and the marketing departments cutting their brand deals. I’m afraid that the distance, however, is getting smaller and smaller, regardless of my efforts. There are media powerhouses out there that are struggling, and their struggle is leading to changes in business that I am not comfortable with. I don’t want to be under the shadow of corporate entities, and I don’t want to feel my criticism of the games industry exists by their good grace“, shortly after he left and set up a Patreon account.
Extra Credits didn’t have an easy time on the Escapist either. All was going well until their artist ran into medical problems. They did a fundraiser to get money for surgery and managed to get way more than they needed. They wanted to use the extra money to set up an indie publishing company but the Escapist wanted them to put the extra funds towards making more episodes. Extra Credits then moved onto Penny Arcade TV and eventually to YouTube where they continue to produce content.
Those aren’t the only ones to have fled. Loading Ready Run and Miracle of Sound also left to make a career on YouTube. It seems YouTube and Patreon funds are the best way for content producers to make what they want and get paid without having to answer to advertisers and publishers.
With their reputation for treating staff poorly and a generally poor website that barely works on mobile, it seems like the Escapist isn’t going to be around much longer. Honestly I’m surprised they lasted this long but there’s only so long they can ride the coat tails of Zero Punctuation. It remains to be seen where they’ll go from here but it’s not looking good.