The Yogscast are a group of Youtube broadcasters who create gaming related content daily on over 20 channels. The main channel, YOGSCAST Lewis & Simon, was started in 2008 by Lewis Brindley and Simon Lane, grew to become the first in the UK to receive 1 billion views, and is now the second most subscribed channel in the UK, and the most watched.
Lewis, co-founder of the company, took some time to answer some questions around the company, the work process and the industry in general.
How did The Yogscast start?
I met Simon in World of Warcraft, decided he was funny, and wanted to share him with our small community of friends in World of Warcraft. I soon found that a lot of people enjoyed watching our experiences in games, and our channel suddenly exploded in popularity when we started covering Minecraft.
How would you describe your job? If you had to give it a title what would it be?
At it’s most basic, we make stupid videos of ourselves playing games together and post videos of that on the internet. If I wear my sensible hat, I am the managing director of a production company and talent management agency that helps create and sustain digital media.
Was YouTube and internet fame always an aspiration when you started recording videos?
It was never a goal and still isn’t.
When did you decide that game commentary was something you wanted to pursue full time?
I never really made a decision, it just happened. I had previously worked freelance as a journalist and I suddenly found I didn’t have to.
What were the opportunity costs of this?
Who knows? Maybe I would be the prime minister by now, or unemployed and miserable!
What are some of your biggest milestones, or personal achievements you are most proud of?
Raising $1m for charity last Christmas.
Has it become more complicated as you have expanded?
Yes – running a community of people is extremely challenging and complex, but we work hard on understanding everyone’s needs – and I think overall it is absolutely worth it.
What is The Yogscast family, and how do you decide who can become affiliated with you?
As our channel grew, I realized that I wanted to get a lot of my friends involved too, and how much we could benefit from sharing certain resources and supporting one another. That’s since extended to friends of friends, and we now have a large group of content creators who benefit from being in the family in many ways!
Could you explain how YouTube partnerships work, and how that has helped you?
For a long time, YouTube partnership was the only way to get adverts on your videos, and the only way to get partnered as a gaming channel was joining a network. We’ve been with Maker Studios ever since we started and there are many perks and advantages to being in a network.
If there were one thing you could change about your job, what would it be?
I would change nothing! I just wish there was more time in the day!
Is it realistic for young people to expect to live off of YouTube, or is the market saturated? Is there a YouTube bubble?
I think that’s the wrong attitude. We didn’t start with any expectations. We had jobs, careers and lives already. It’s unwise to pin all your hopes on being a professional athlete, just as it’s unwi
se to pin all your hopes on being a professional entertainer or comedian or YouTuber.
What kind of equipment do you use on a day to day basis?
We still use basic stuff. Fraps. Audacity. Headsets that aren’t “gaming headsets” as they have like $5 mics. http://www.themicstore.co.uk/broadcast-headset-mics/audio-technica-bphs-1-broadcast-stereo-headset-with-mic.html
We have some nicer stuff we use in the office sometimes but I really don’t know what it is, you’ll have to ask our sound guy 🙂
How has this changed from when you first started?
We have to release multiple videos every day, 365 days a year. We have shifted our focus from frantic coverage to sustainable, reliable, high quality content, planned and organised at least a week in advance. That way we can be sick or take time off like a normal person.
Did you find the cost of equipment a barrier to entry? What would you recommend to somebody wishing to follow in your footsteps?
When we were at our height, we were playing on £60 headsets and recording through ventrilo. There’s no barrier to entry if you are good, lucky, or satisfy a niche (i.e. right place right time).
You have Yogscast branded computers available from ChillBlast (http://www.chillblast.com/yogscast.html). How did that partnership come to be?
When we got an office we suddenly needed 20 new PCs. I had used Chillblast PCs for years and we got in touch and they were kind enough to set us up with a whole bunch of awesome stuff, so we agreed to have them as our official hardware provider.
You are renowned for your yearly charity drives. Where did this idea come from?
Helping people is one of the founding principles of what we’re trying to do here. Whether this is helping people forget their bad day at work with a fun video or raising money for children in war-torn countries.
How are the charities each year selected?
The charities are selected by a combination of our own choices, fan recommendations, previous years, charities in the industry, and charities that would appeal to our fanbase. Importantly, last year we gave our donators and opportunity to choose where their donation would go, if they preferred one charity over another.
You also release charity records, how does that process work? How do copyright issues affect it?
Music copyright is something we’re more and more aware of. Although a lot of people think “parody” songs are immune and safe – they really aren’t – and under current copyright law a lot of the “parody” songs on YouTube are not parodies at all. We’re going to try and only make original songs from now on to avoid issues in future.
How much money have you raised to date?
I don’t know, but it’s probably somewhere around $2m.
Do you feel that celebrities and personalities have a responsibility to push the support of charities, or is it simply something you personally are committed to?
I think it is the obligation of those who have a lot to help those who have little.
It is fair to say that the gaming sector, and specifically game commentary has exploded in popularity in recent years. Being one of the pioneers of this new career path, how do you feel it has changed over the years.
I wouldn’t say it has really changed at all.
Although you started with YouTube, in recent months you appear to be pushing people towards your own website with the use of early release videos. Why is this?
The website is useful for a number of reasons. Firstly, we don’t have to p
ay google half of the advertising earnings. Secondly, it’s supposed to be a better viewing experience, uncluttered by the numerous problems of YouTube and able to stream in better quality.
Do you feel YouTube is supportive enough to content developers?
Hmm, that’s a big question that is probably too complex to answer in full.
As you undoubtedly know, Twitch has simply exploded since its launch, and was recently purchased by Amazon. What do you think about this purchase? Was there someone you’d rather have snapped it up – Google perhaps?
I am sure YouTube have their own streaming service in the works.
Have you felt that to be successful it is a case of ‘who you know’ more than ‘what you know,’ or is it Twitch has also posed a fantastic platform for game commentators to make a career. Why do you opt for pre-recorded videos over live-streaming?
We knew noone, and in fact YouTube and places like it allow unknowns far more chance to get recognized. Some industries are still dominated by the “who you know” but ours luckily is not. People with raw talent usually rise to the surface.
To answer the second part: Live-streaming and YouTube are very different. If you look at twitch, Hearthstone is more popular than Minecraft, I think that says it all.
Looking more broadly at the gaming industry, there is a noticeable and worrying trend of sexism. What are your thoughts on this, and is there a solution? Does it affect the way you approach things?
I didn’t know about this, but feel free to educate me.
What do you do when not recording videos? How do you relax?
I play dota, watch terrible films and eat ice cream.
What games are you looking forward to in the next 6 months?
Witcher 3, the new Civ game, and actually TUG is shaping up to be really fun once multiplayer is added.
Do you have a side in the “console wars’ or do you game exclusively on PC?
What is one piece of technology you cannot live without?
Dual screen monitors.
Pretending that absolutely anything is possible, what is the one thing you would love The Yogscast to do?
I’d love for us to get a really pimped out modern office, kitted out to smooth and streamline our production and fully optimize the recording/editing process.
If you could give one piece of advice to your 16 year old self, what would it be?
Any advice I gave my 16-year-old self would be ignored by him.
What is next for the Yogscast? Do you have any long term plans for growth or development? Is YouTube still integral to you as a company?
We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, make it sustainable, and do everything better. We want the channels to make the videos that people want to watch. We want our production company to be a useful resource and support structure for growing channels that need it, in whatever form that takes.
How do things like YogDiscovery fit into this plan?
Additional revenue streams are always important and sometimes necessary to small channels to help pay the bills. We have no problem promoting games that are good and would never do anything that would compromise our values.
In an ideal world, where do you see yourself and the company in five years time?
I don’t know, five years is a very long time on YouTube!
Until recently you were developing a branded game, Yogventures. While we don’t need to discuss the intricacies of that particular event, would you ever consider putting your name on another game, or perhaps developing your own?
Who knows? We have a lot of balls in the air 🙂
Do you feel the rapid changes and developments in technology are a threat or an opportunity to you?
I don’t think changes to technology really happen that fast, and when they do, I am delighted to embrace them.
Finally, Shadow of Israphel? Anything you wish to report or announce as an exclusive to Voice?
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions!