1UP, part 2

Yesterday’s post attracted a lot more attention than I intended or expected:


So just to clear a couple of things up, let me clarify that when I say we were exploring the possibility of buying out 1UP, it wouldn’t have become mine personally — an idea I’ve seen expressed far more than I’m comfortable with. It would have been spun out into a separate company. Something much larger than me or any other single person.

Also, there seems to be some confusion about the nature of the business in general. When I talk about 1UP’s “corporate overlords,” I’m referring to the parent companies that shuffled the property around: Ziff-Davis (twice!), Hearst, Fox/News Corp. UGO and IGN were part of the equation as well, but at a level closer to that of us at 1UP — more editorially focused, down in the trenches, and much more clued in to the realities of our business. You can lay the vast majority of 1UP’s demise at the feet of the parent companies’ decision-makers, because their decisions were almost universally idiotic where 1UP was involved. Which is exactly why…

…one of the best things about 2013 was: The death of 1UP.com.

Now, I’m speaking entirely for myself here. I’m definitely not speaking for anyone who lost a job when the blade fell at last. But for me, after a decade at the site, watching it grow into something tremendous only to be bled to death by a string of asinine business moves, I was honestly relieved to see it laid to rest. It became pretty clear around the time I was required to lay off half the site’s remaining staff that things were never going to get better, but I just couldn’t bring myself to abandon ship. There was still that slim chance that whoever ended up buying IGN might say, “Yes, we love 1UP! Let’s reinvigorate it!” and that we could finally realize all the plans we’d made that had fallen apart under Hearst and Fox. Needless to say, I felt the floor open up beneath me when IGN’s winning suitor turned out to be a company that had already canned 1UP once, but at the same time it came with a touch of relief know the end was so definitively in sight.

The final shuttering of 1UP made for an incredibly bittersweet day. Hard as the news hit, it also came hand-in-hand with hundreds — thousands, possibly, I lost count after about 600 — of messages from people whom the site and its staff had impacted over the years. I was taken aback (in the best way possible) at the number of folks who reached out to tell me that my promoting their blogs or offering them feedback on their writing had helped give them a start on whatever career trajectory their lives had since taken. It really made me stop and appreciate the opportunity to have been part of something far greater than myself. 1UP was good people, and as I’ve said elsewhere, there’s not a single person I worked with at the site I wouldn’t jump at the chance to work with again.

But with the site gone, I felt free to move along. It didn’t take me long to realize that while I like the folks at IGN, it’s not really the right sort of publication for me. Thankfully opportunity came knocking at the perfect time, and it turned out to be a perfect fit. OK, I wouldn’t complain if USgamer had reader blogs, forums, or other deep social hooks, but still — I’m happy to be part of a small team that’s found remarkable success already. Logistics of distance aside, it’s also kind of nice to work for a UK-based company, as its approach to business is 180 degrees from what I experienced under every large American publisher I’ve worked for. They take a slow, conservative approach to growth rather than doubling down on the slightest sign of success, stretching themselves too thin, and developing to a systematic ritual of quarterly layoffs in order to compensate for overconfidence. To my knowledge, Eurogamer has never had layoffs in their 14 years of existence. Can you even imagine? What a fascinating concept in the gaming industry. After a decade of living on pins and needles for fear of my job each month, I just had to see what stability looks like. (Turns out it’s pretty cool.)

I’m happy I had my time at 1UP working with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met. And I’m really glad so many others let a website about something as silly as video games into their lives, too. But I’m also relieved it’s in the past. We tried our best, but in the end you can’t fight city hall.

6 thoughts on “1UP, part 2

  1. Your final sadness and relief is exactly how I felt when Capcom closed our US studio (Studio 8). The situation there had become a total mess due to in-fighting between the US and Japanese heads and no one really knew where we were going.

    Glad to hear your new gig is working out so well for you. I must say that working for a smaller european publisher has worked out well for me as well. I can’t imagine going back to work for a big company again unless it was under my own terms. And even then, the terms would have to be pretty specific.

  2. 1UP def launched my writing career. I wrote all about it last year, but, uh, I can’t find the blog post. Either way I am happy and proud to freelance for USgamer, and I’ve enjoyed working under you in differing capacities these past (counts on fingers) nine…ten…years? Jesus Christ.

  3. It’s a bit refreshing to hear from someone who never signed an NDA when they left. Not that I blame anyone who did, I certainly would’ve if I had been in their shoes.

    Though I still am saddened by the closing of 1up, I am more than happy with the path Retronauts has taken and the content on both this site and USGamer. Keep up the great work.

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