Waypoint's Video Strategy


#1

What’s up Waypoint, I am a big fan of your publication and really think that you could do so much better when it comes to video.

I have been following you very closely since you launched, and thanks to the podcast feel like I have in a weird way gotten to know you. When you launched Austin wrote a great article about why you chose “Waypoint” as your name and what it means, additionally your about page states that your mission is “to explore how and why we play”

On the editorial side, I think you are more than succeeding at this goal, some of the work you produce is on-par if not better than Offworld (2015). The same can be said of the podcast.

Sadly I don’t think you are achieving your mission in video. Currently most of the videos you produce are Let’s Plays, which are hardly interesting, unnecessarily long, and more importantly common place in games journalism. Why would anyone choose to watch your Let’s Plays over another publication’s Let’s Plays; what are you bringing to the table in terms of Let’s Plays; who actually need / wants this content? Personally I think your video strategy would be better off if you got rid of Let’s Plays, unless you were able to find a way to actually make them entertaining and meaningfully different.

However Let’s Plays aren’t the only thing you do, you also have the Guide to Games series. This series is awesome, it feels like a natural extension of the editorial side of Waypoint, but the series’ potential is hampered by its length and format. A good model of how to do criticism through video can be found by looking to Game Maker’s Toolkit and Tropes vs Women. Both of these series are proof that criticism does not need to be bite sized; both series are proof of an appetite for deep dives in to games with thoughtful commentary through video.

Guide to Games does not allow you to flesh out your points when all you have is 3 minutes. I am not looking for 1 hour explorations, just 10 - 20 minute explorations. Also the success of Toolkit and Tropes if measured by views and subscribers to their channels, dwarfs your own video content and they produce way less videos than you with what I would assume are also much drastically smaller budgets. In other words your formula is not a winning one.

Another issue I have is the lack of stories or documentary style content. You are a part of Vice. Vice is well known for producing great stories in video format. Why not leverage that skill in to producing great stories about games and the culture and people that surround it. Nobody in games media is doing this in video, for some reason everybody thinks we want Let’s Plays. No.

In essence what I am proposing is a shift in video strategy for Waypoint. This shift would hopefully make your voice consistent across editorial and video by giving us great criticism and stories through video. Currently your video and editorial content feel like they are made by different teams. Waypoint is still new and I think still finding its voice , so I hope you at least try this.


#2

I think this is useful feedback. I enjoy a lot of the more Let’s Play style content, since it fleshes out the personalities of the site. It’s very evocative of Giant Bomb’s approach to video, which produces a lot of strong content and a closely knit ‘cast’ of site contributors.

The short form video stuff is well produced, but often feels like it’s aiming for a broader audience. It’s done in an autoplay style, aiming for viewers who come across it scrolling through a feed. It’s built for social distribution, and I’m curious how it has done for the site.

Longer form video would be great, but that also requires a huge investment in time and resources. Documentary style coverage can produce remarkable stuff (like Danny O Dwyer’s Noclip series), but seems like something that needs to be done as a focal point. I don’t think it’s as simple as ‘less Let’s Plays, more documentaries’. Long form video content might just be outside the site’s current grasp.


#3

I quite like watching the crew get together and play games.

I do wish their other video content was a bit longer though.


#4

Yeah, I think that’s why a lot of the long form content are Let’s Plays, as they are easier to live-stream. I will say that some of the Let’s Plays they do aren’t my jam, but the Stellaris thing was really cool. I really hope that with Rob Zachny on board, they can do more Grognard-y strategy game playthroughs, because I really like those, but I hate watching most Let’s plays of them because a lot of them are single person, as opposed to Multi person that Waypoint often does.


#5

I for one enjoy all of Waypoint’s #Content.

Although I agree I’d love to see more long form video content I understand that takes time & money. However since they fall under the Vice umbrella I imagine a lot more of that long form video will come with working with other members of the Vice family who probably their hands just as full as the Waypoint goofs.


#6

A couple of thoughts of my own:

  1. A lot of this stuff is very subjective, things some enjoy others might not and vice versa. And there are ways of having this conversation without being hostile about it. If we’re going to have that discussion that’s important to keep in mind.

  2. I think Let’s Plays are fun and the group dynamic at Waypoint is a ton of fun too. I think keeping on trying out different series like PERMADEATH and the like is fun. Let’s Plays aren’t for everyone but for a site of fun personalities like Waypoint they are fun to watch.

  3. I’m not the hugest fan of the short form content either, but it is filling a different place in people’s lives than a lot of videos. As far as I’m concerned guide to games, cardboard, etc are twitter timeline videos and while that’s not my thing, it’s not really something I’m seeing other sites doing (and more sites totally should be doing it too). And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sit there on my feed and read-watch them for their brief time. The actual content of the videos is always informative, if brief and sometimes brevity’s nice.

  4. I don’t think people are aware just how time consuming making videos like GMT is. Scripts take lots of time to write as does capturing footage and piecing it together. I would be surprised if Waypoint’s regular non let’s play videos got much longer unless they hired on people to work exclusively on said videos.

  5. I too would love to see more documentary stuff. But documentaries are REALLY time consuming to make. The one’s VICE did on Zoey Quinn and Hyper Light Drifter were really good though.

All in all I’m not the most excited by Waypoint’s short-form series, but that’s fine. They are finding their niche and I like that.

EDIT: changing some wording as I felt I sounded a bit too cynical.


#7

I think this is valid criticism, and I also think the videos that emerged out of Pilot Week were a step in the right direction (though I did have feedback!).

I have some more thoughts on this I’ll try to type up later.


#8

While Let’s Plays in general aren’t my cup of tea (maybe I’m just too old? I dunno) I think that they serve a fundamental purpose for the website. A lot like the podcast, through which you said you feel like you came to know the staff, they exist not just to look at a video game, but to generate and strengthen the culture surrounding Waypoint. Especially with the addition of the forums, WP is more than just “let’s dissect and critique this game”, it’s also a safe, inclusive, space for people of all types to discuss the thing we all love.

While the WP mission statement in terms of coverage if reduced to a mantra is “How we play”, I think it can be said that that’s only half of the mission, the other half is to create a community for people who never felt like they fit in at GiantBomb, GI, RPS, or even r/gaming. Not just in terms of who/how the community chatters, but how the staff’s writing generates a certain tone of voice.

Essentially, I think the let’s play format, while not my personal favorite, is important because it helps to strengthen our community.


#9

I’m really satisfied by the editorial content. I think the latest Guide to Games with Zacny has been their best one yet, too, but I also agree that I don’t feel like most of the video content (outside of the Let’s Plays, which I also don’t find appealing as a form generally, though clearly many do) is meant for me. Waypoint definitely seems to be aimed at both a broad audience in an effort to be inclusive, which is HONESTLY one of its best aspects as a site, but the editorial staff clearly has the chops to kick it into high gear when they need to, such as the responses to the Boghost article.


#10

I would very much not like the lets play stuff to go away as I enjoy seeing that. I also think people misunderstand how. Much longer it takes to make longer videos. Double the length is much more than double the time investment. While the lets play stuff is mostly just recorded then uploaded.


#11

This may not be the case. Game Maker’s Toolkit makes nearly $5,000 per a video via Patreon. Not sure about Tropes vs Women, but they launched their series with a $150,000+ Kickstarter. I absolutely would love to see longer editorial videos from Waypoint, but it’s definitely more expensive to make longer videos and I wouldn’t assume that Vice was financing Waypoint at these levels.

Personally I like the Let’s Plays, and they’re a very low-cost video content strategy that ties into their social media strategy (Play a game live on Twitch and then post the video afterward on YouTube). I think they’re more interesting to watch live on Twitch than after the fact on YouTube, but that’s just me.


#12

Like most of the commenters, I also enjoy the LP style vids and don’t want them to go away, but I do agree that the guide to games is a bit too short-form effort me to get much out of. 10-20 minute deeper dives would be a lot more einteresting (though, also, a lot more work to produce). The nature of waypoint as a vice thing means it’s less transparent and harder to reason about production resources though, vs a site like giant bomb where the production staff is also editorial/part of content.


#13

Yeah, I should have noted, the actual writing, information, and production of the short-form video is great! Cardboard was crazy fun as were the videos dissembling consoles. If their goal for the videos is to spread information outside of their website in an easy way to get more people learning and interested in games, they’re hitting it.


#14

Just wanna briefly hop in here and say that we love to get feedback like this from y’all. Obviously we can’t pull the curtain back all the way, but please know that we’re constantly discussing strategy across every different medium.

Also, since some of you explicitly mentioned wanting to see more docs from us, just wanna make sure you know that we released six of them last year! Here’s my favorite of the bunch:

You can find the rest on our YouTube Channel or our VICE Video page.


#15

I’d like to put my 2 pence in: I’m not a let’s play or Twitch stream fan (mainly because as I’m in the UK they’re at awkward times) but I really like the short form videos because they’re fun and/or interesting and I can watch them on a break.
Just to support the other side a bit…


#16

I don’t really think the length is much of a problem with Guide to Games. Toolkit and Tropes are deep dives into particular subjects, but Guide seems to be aiming more for a broad overview kinda thing, so they do enough to convey the nature of the games they cover and why they feel those specific titles are relevant, which doesn’t necessarily require ten or so minutes. I think it works quite well for what it is.


#17

I see your points, but I’m going to defend the video production as it stands, especially as a video editor by day.

Waypoint might work in VICE, but the resources are allocated differently per VICE vertical.

With this model of let’s plays and short guide to games videos, Waypoint can release content fast and easy, keeping up to date with newer games, and having looks back at older ones without getting bogged down with larger projects. Waypoint doesn’t seem have a full video team of video producers/editors, so the odds of them changing it up to be more like what you’ve suggested is unlikely for now. You need a lot of money to pay for several video editors, and you want to be sure that video will be seen.

With regards to making Guide to Games longer; the longer a video, the more complicated writing/editing/copyright checking/making it fit with the budgetary constraints is. With the way Guide to Games is, they can use footage from one game well, make quick points and not have to pay someone for months of editing and at least get people thinking about a game differently in a very acessible way.

Personally, I like their chill presence in the let’s plays as is! It’s great to hang out with them on twitch. One of the videos that sold me on Waypoint was Austin and Jack playing The Division and really experiencing the drama of a full round of Division Surival. That was only possible with them using Let’s Plays.

I say all of this, but the team definitely has video plans as seen by Pilot Week, and growing a video audience can take years, so I’d say they are doing fine with their content strategy for now!


#18

I feel like Let’s Play/Stream content is so low-impact to produce that it just makes sense for Waypoint to keep doing it. I can’t speak for how things happen at the Vice offices, but as somebody who is a mid-to-low-tier Youtube person (14k subscribers), one of the pieces of advice I hear a lot is to be consistent. Put out a video every day, or every week, or whatever.

Let’s Plays as Waypoint puts them out don’t really seem to require much editing and only take maybe an hour of dedication. It’s fluff, but sometimes having fluff fill the gaps is useful (like how TV shows have reruns as opposed to just going off the air entirely in the off season). It’s sort of a “hey, don’t worry, we still have something for you, but our A-game content is gonna take a sec.” message.

Plus, I’ve actually really been enjoying the Permadeath Zelda videos.


#19

Just wanted to be clear: I am not only asking for criticism in video, but stories too. I am too lazy to look now but there must be examples of some of the stories (again not criticism) that the team has written up, that could have a visual aspect.

Also I agree with those of you who say that some of the Let’s Plays are fun when there is a group, but I think that’s just because of the conversations they have, kinda like the podcast. It’s not the actual video content that’s entertaining.

Oh and funds aside, whether certain video content is hard to make should not dictate whether it gets made. Rather the mentality should be: “is this better?”. If longer and better produced videos are better than the current crop of videos then they should get made. You also don’t have to churn out videos like drones, just a few here and there, even just one a week. Quality matters.

Just look at Motherboard and The Outline as examples of publications that are thoughtful about the video content they produce. Both publications’ videos are natural extensions of their editorial sides.

PLEASE don’t end up like all these other game sites and start chasing numbers by sacrificing quality. I’ve been hurt too many times before.


#20

One video a week is not a small undertaking by any means. People aren’t saying “eh its hard, don’t try”. Just that it requires intensive investment of time, money and effort so it’s understandable if Waypoint does stick to mostly shorter videos and lets plays rather than regularly making longer videos.