Hours before Gametrailers (GT) latest stream, Defy Media, which acquired GT from Viacom in 2014, told GT staff that they would be let go from their positions and that the site would be shutting down.
The stream became GT’s staff moment to thank viewers and fans of the site over the last 13 years for their viewership and support.
Founded by Geoffrey Grotz and Brandon Jones in August 2002, it could be argued that Gametrailers was ahead of its time. When the gaming press was still largely focused on written long form sites, GT bucked the trend and focused mostly on video content, the irony here being that video streamers today are the major factor in traditional gaming sites losing popularity. Along with the expected previews, game reviews and general industry news, GT would create popular features such as GT Countdown long before the popularity of Top 10 lists in media. Features such as Pop Fiction, which would explore some gaming’s greatest myths such as if Luigi was really in the original Mario 64 and could you get to the island across the The Dam without hacks in Goldeneye.
GT would also bring in third party features such as ScrewAttack and Cinemassacre’s popular character The Angry Video Game Nerd. While James Rolfe’s creation was already gaining popularity on YouTube, it is unclear if ScrewAttack would gain its mass audience without exposure from GT. ScrewAttack co-founder Craig Skistimas tweeted the following statements:
"What a horrible thing to here. So many good people and amazing memories from @'s time w GameTrailers.
It's safe to say that without GameTrailers ScrewAttack surely would have never been exposed to a mass audience.
We owe a lot to GameTrailers & I know I personally will never forget that. My hearts w @ & his talented team"
GT would also promote user created content, ether in the form of blogs or video content. In 2007 GT highlighted the late Monty Oum’s animated video Haliod. The popularity of his video via GT no doubt led him to working as one of the lead animators for Rooster Teeth, creators of the popular Red vs Blue series.
In 2005 the site was acquired by Viacom for an undisclosed fee. In 2007 GT became the focus for video game related content as part of MTV’s rebranding of Spike.com. GT’s E3 coverage and end of year game awards show would be integrated into Spike’s TV broadcasting, however the results are only now remembered for some arguably cringe moments with celebrities in what was an attempt to garner mass appeal with new audiences, but would only overshadow the reason why the shows existed, to focus on games and the gaming industry.
With the site failing to meet Viacom’s expectation the site was sold to Defy Media in June 2014, again for an undisclosed fee and immediately let go two thirds of GT’s full time staff after the E3 event of that year ended.
Despite the popularity of personalities of Kyle Bosman, the site continued to decline in hits with complaints of the site’s functionality failing and popular features not updating regularly or ceasing entirely.
Today’s news has been met with sadness but given the current climate in gaming news media sites losing popularity it has also not been met with any shock or surprise.
If you will indulge me with some thoughts to end this article:
There was a period of time in my life when I was out of work and was not able to gain employment again for over a year and a half. Two game related things that helped keep my sanity for that year and a half was City of Heroes and ScrewAttack. It was however down to Gametrailers that I would discover ScrewAttack and most of their content that I would watch and be entertained by was what was posted on GT’s site. So for that, GT has my gratitude.
As I have written, this news is not entirely surprising given the state of the gaming news industry but the staff that avoided the savage cull in June 2014 should be given enormous credit for keeping the site going for almost another 2 years in what was clearly a no win scenario through no fault of their own given the sudden lack of resources following Defy Media's acquisition.
At a time where trust in gaming news site is at an all-time low, GT appeared to be one of the few sites around that wasn't subject to ethical concerns from consumers and unlike many who write about the games industry but also harbour disdain for video games in general, the passion for gaming has never been under question with any of the staff at GT.For that, I wish all the staff at GT that have lost their jobs today all the best in the future and hope that they land on their feet real soon.