Peter Ferguson Swarr
It’s no big secret that streaming content has gained significant ground in recent years, especially within the coveted ‘young, single and cash-happy male’ demographic. But while Netflix, YouTube and Hulu get all of the media coverage, another platform with equally impressive numbers has taken root over the past decade and shows no signs of fading away anytime soon. You may not recognize the name ‘Machinima.com,’ but its website boasts that it provides content to 1 in 6 U.S. internet users who stream videos online and racks up 2 billion video views every month. A profile in Wired magazine claimed that the site’s coverage of the 2012 E3 convention – the Sundance Film Festival of the videogame world – earned them 455 million views over the course of a single week, including 14.4 million views for one day alone.
What’s earned Machinima such a following? Unlike Netflix and Hulu, they specialize in user-created content and unlike YouTube, they have honed in on a single, highly-lucrative market: videogames. Essentially, gamers tape themselves playing videogames and providing commentary, often with picture-in-picture videos to show their reactions. These videos get posted on one of Machinima’s YouTube channels, other gamers watch them and the most successful series get picked up for contracts. This simple, yet potent formula has worked so well that Machinima has even started producing original dramatic content, most notably their Microsoft-assisted ‘Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn’ web series and the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ prequel ‘Blood and Chrome.’
‘Halo 4:Forward Unto Dawn’ production still.
While labeling anything ‘the way of the future’ can be risky at best, Machinima’s user-driven approach to creating content does provide an interesting alternative to the traditional top-down methods employed by TV networks and movie studios. One can’t help but wonder what innovations might be achieved if those same industries took note and let the fans take the controls for a change.