Trouble at The Escapist?

It’s always uncomfortable to take a look behind the curtain at the realities of running a commercial media website, and never more so when accusations of running short of money and stiffing indie creators are brought into the mix. The Escapist is probably most widely known among gamers for hosting Yahtzee’s Zero Punctuation reviews, but they also host a lot of other high quality writing and podcasting.

The team behind Extra Credits (a series of smart, and deservedly popular video podcasts) are parting ways with The Escapist in acrimonious terms. The reason? Well, here’s the bboard thread where things play out. It’s a sad story of not being paid, offers that were made unofficially, and arguments over who owns which parts of a charity fund originally set up to help pay for one of the team’s medical costs.

My best summary would be:

  • The EC crew hadn’t been paid for months. The Escapist says that they were told, “”…you can put us to the bottom of the list for right now” so that’s what they did.
  • The EC crew started a charitable fund to raise money for a member’s medical costs. This was wildly successful.
  • There is a disagreement on what should be done with the excess funds after the medical costs were paid. (It looks to me as though the EC crew were fairly upfront about notifying their fans of their plans to create an indie game publisher regularly.)

Note the ‘hadn’t been paid for months’ part. This is what I mean about a glimpse behind the curtain. The Escapist is in trouble. Make up your own minds about the wrongs and rights of this one, but it’s more evidence to me that the economics behind some of these web magazines just don’t add up. It’s a shame, because I enjoy what I’ve read/ seen of the site, but comments on the bboard are very telling. “I’ll take my page hits away from this site,” is sad and all, but it’s not a very strong threat to boycott something you were getting for free anyway.

If you’d like to support Extra Credits, just follow their facebook/ twitter so you can keep watching the show and supporting it wherever it ends up. If you’d like to support The Escapist, go sign up for their site and consider a subscription. These two things are not mutually exclusive.

On another note, aside from exposing the teetering state of at least one popular gaming site, this story shows another angle on the balance between indie creators and publishers. The fact that EC is able to maintain its own brand, fansite, fanbase etc gives them a fair amount of pulling power.